BEST PLACE TO WAX NOSTALGIC ABOUT PHOENIX Phoenix 2006 - Bill Johnson's Big Apple
Fifty years ago, former circus trapeze artist Bill Johnson threw open the doors on what would become one of the best-known and longest-running restaurants in the Valley, and the place that bears his name has been dishing out chops and barbecue ever since. The rustic interior of Bill Johnson's Big Apple is still hung with Western memorabilia, its servers still dress in cowboy drag, and it's still run by the Johnson family (Bill died in 1966, after which his kids took over). All these things add up to a place perfect for the sentimentalist in us. Because Phoenix's first theme restaurant has changed so little over the years, we can head to the Big Apple and relive favorite memories of a late-night post-prom dinner date; a brother's long-ago "just divorced" party; or merely the memory of an exceptional slice of deep-dish apple pie, a specialty of the house. The sign out front features a giant steer's head and the legend "Let's Eat!" But we visit Bill Johnson's for more than grub; we go there to remember our ? and Phoenix's ? past.