The Chef: Bryan Dooley The Restaurant: Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue The Animal: Frog The Dish: Frog legs with lemon tartar sauce
Though they're not exactly common fare in the southwest, frog legs are a staple of French, Cantonese, and American southern cuisines. Popular types of preparation range from being sauteed with pepper, butter, and garlic, to being battered and fried. The later is the style offered right now at Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue. Chef Bryan Dooley has taken a famous Midwestern dish and given it a modern update and local twist.
Oftentimes frog legs are compared in flavor to chicken and no matter what you think about the impossibility of that comparison, it's pretty accurate. Frog meat has a very mild, chicken-like flavor and is a moist meat, similar to chicken wings. The texture falls somewhere in between a chicken wing and white fish, as it can be fairly oily. Overall it's a rather inoffensive meat for those who might not be very adventurous diners.
What's likely more of a turnoff than the taste is the fact that frog legs contain a number of small bones and stretchy tendons that make eating them a less than flattering activity.
Chef Bryan Dooley, raised in Illinois, was inspired to start Frog Leg Fridays at his Cave Creek restaurant by childhood memories of famous Chicago restaurant Phil Smidt & Son. From 1910 until it closed in 2007, the restaurant was a go-to spot for frog's legs and tartar sauce. According to the Chicago Tribune, the restaurant served more than 35,000 pairs of the legs and 12 gallons of tartar sauce a month during its best days.
Phil Smidt & Son's dish featured flour-dusted frog legs fried in butter-flavored cooking oil and served with a side of housemade parsleyed tartar sauce. Dooley's created a similar dish, but with a southwestern twist.
The frog leg's at Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue are dusted in mesquite flour and sauteed, then served with a side of preserved lemon tartar sauce. The mesquite flour gives the dish a very nice, nutty, barely sweet flavor that might remind you of buttermilk. It works perfectly with the acidity of the bright, lemon tartar sauce.
The only downside is that the batter has a habit of sliding off the moist meat and taking the tartar sauce with it. You'll be enjoying this dish with your hands anyway, so the easy solution is to pick it back up and place it on top of the meat.
A single order, $12.99, comes with a dozen frog leg's easily enough (or more than enough) food for one diner.
There's no word on how long Frog Leg Fridays will continue at Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue, so we recommend you act fast. And while you're there, you may as well also order the coffee-barbecue chitterling sandwich, which features rapini, red onion, roasted jalapeño vinaigrette, and, of course, pig intestine.