Barbecue is taking over Chandler almost as quickly as craft beer is taking over Tempe (seriously, there are at least a half-dozen new bars/breweries in the works). You can't throw an imaginary rock without hitting a smoked brisket or full-on festival in this particular part of the Southeast Valley.
Let's take two new Chandler franchises, for example -- Rudy's Country Store & BBQ and Can't Stop Smokin'. They are right across the effing street from each other!
Which makes them perfect for this week's battle.
Smoked sausage, brisket, ribs, pulled pork, cole slaw, barbecued beans, potatoes -- we didn't think it was fair to single out one important barbecue aspect, so we tried it all.
May the best barbecue win.
In This Corner: Rudy's Country Market & BBQ
The Setup: Texas BBQ franchise Rudy's opened its doors to Chandler's BBQ-loving masses in May and hasn't had a slow day since. The barn-like restaurant functions as a store where you buy your meat by the pound and your sides then find a spot at one of the checkered tables to chow down. You won't find a plate in sight (your food comes wrapped in your "plate") and with lines that can wrap around the building finding a spot to eat in the loud hall can be difficult.
The Good: The smoky aroma at Rudy's is enough to make any mouth water for a nice smoked piece of meat. Their tender pork ribs with a lightly peppered exterior were definitely the star of our meat show. And after they were slathered in Rudy's slightly spicy original "sause" we immediately wished we'd order more than two. The pinto beans had a nice kick of green chile, and the brisket was moist and tender.
The Bad: Oh, my, where do we even start? Aside from the ribs, everything else we ordered was mediocre at best. The brisket was so fatty we could only eat about half of it. The pulled pork was a greasy mush. And the sausage was so dry and flavorless we ended up feeding it to our puppies. The potatoes were nothing more than boiled potatoes sitting in a pool of melted butter and the cole slaw was a boring cup of bland cabbage. And don't even get us started on the line -- it took us almost an hour to make to the front and since there was no place to sit, we ended up having to bring our food home.
In The Other Corner: Can't Stop Smokin'
The Setup: The very first Arizona location of this New Mexico barbecue franchise opened up directly across the street from their competition last month. The cabin-like interior is welcoming and spacious with nice booths and big tables. You can order your meat by the pound or you can choose from several combo options. They also offer sandwiches and big slices of homemade pie. The folks behind the counter can be a bit surly but they add a bit of charm to their woodsy joint.
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SHOW ME HOW
The Good: The sausage was smoky, the savory brisket was tender moist, the pulled pork was flavorful, and the barbecue beans were outstanding. Our favorite meat on the plate was the pulled pork, especially after we added the finger lickin' good spicy sauce. We were almost bummed we didn't just order a whole plate of that stuff. The beans had a nice kick and we used the green chile-infused corn bread to sop up every last drop.
The Bad: The ribs sucked. For a barbecue place, they were almost offensive. Dry and tough and almost inedible, the sauce we liked so much couldn't even save these guys. The cole slaw was as bad as Rudy's and our potatoes, although tasty, were ice cold.
The Verdict: Neither of the two was an amazing barbecue experience, and we would actually rather drive an hour to Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue in Cave Creek, but since we have to pick one, we would skip the the Rudy's hype and go next door to Can't Stop Smokin'. While Rudy's ribs were almost hour-long-wait worthy, Can't Stop Smokin' far exceeded their neighbor in the sausage, pulled pork and sides categories.