Though Arizona may not be a barbecue destination like Texas or Tennesse, lovers of smoked meats have had luck in the past few years with joints including Little Miss BBQ and Naked BBQ popping up and providing some excellent 'cue to the Valley of the Sun.
Now, there's another dog in the Valley's barbecue fight: north Phoenix's Danky's BBQ, located at the intersection of 47th Street and Bell Road.
Like many of our favorite barbecue spots, Danky's won't draw any business from its exterior alone, but the interior is charming, with checkered tableclothes covering wooden tables adjacent to the ordering counter. Even better, the kitchen and smokers are visible from the dining area, so any shortcomings in atmosphere are overwhelmed by the smell of smoked meats anyway.
The food, however, is where Danky's really shines, both in quality and variety. There's a standard array of meats here — brisket, pulled pork, ribs, hot links, and smoked chicken breast and thigh — but there are also some less common options, including andouille sausage and a formidable smoked fried chicken drumstick. Meats come as part of the aptly named Big Dank Plates, which allow up to three meats (for $13.49), plus corn bread and a second side of the diner's choice.
If this isn't enough, Danky's also has a menu of pork, chicken, and beef sandwiches with a variety of toppings and accoutrements, as well as some alcoholic beverages, though there isn't a bar as much as a beer-and-liquor fridge.
We ordered a Dank Plate with pulled pork, brisket, the smoked fried drumstick, and a split side of mac 'n' cheese and pit beans.
Our Big Dank Plate came on a butcher paper-lined metal pan, as good barbecue should, followed shortly by our sandwich. We started with the brisket, which blew us away. Smokey and supple, it was a little leaner than other briskets in town, but still boasted plenty of flavor, courtesy of mesquite chips used in the smoking process. It was a tiny bit on the dry end, but this was easily remedied with a serving of the house spicy barbecue sauce.
The pulled pork was passable. A nice, round smoky flavor and some crispy skin bits were present throughout, but the meat was drier and chewier than we'd like and lacked the complexity we were craving.
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The biggest surprise of the meal was the smoked fried chicken drumstick, which gets points for uniqueness and flavor. A crispy, blackened, and well-spiced outer shell gave way to exquisitely smoked poultry. The meat was tender and the outside of the drumstick locked in moisture.
The sides were great as well, particularly the barbecue beans. Tangy, meaty, and mixed with bits of pork belly, these were some of the best pit beans we've had in the Valley.
All in all, Danky's featured reasonable prices, pleasant employees, and no crazy lines, making this a solid and accessible barbecue option for Valley diners.