* Buck-A-Rue Bar-B-Que, 15840 North Cave Creek Road, Phoenix, 971-6107. A nondescript storefront in a nondescript strip mall, with some very descript barbecue. The guy behind the counter called the ribs "kick-ass," and he's right. Great barbecue sauce, too--more tart than sweet. If pork isn't for you, the smoked-turkey sandwich is the best in town.
* Hap's Real Pit Barbecue, 101 South 24th Street, Phonix, 267-0181. Hap's is just a trailer parked on the southeast corner of 24th Street and Jefferson, on a car-repair lot. But the food here doesn't need any work. Ribs are first-rate, touched up by a sweet-tart barbecue sauce that also has some bite. The pulled-pork sandwich is close to phenomenal. Excellent go-withs, too, particularly the beans.
* Honey Bear's BBQ, 5012 East Van Buren, Phoenix, 273-9148. Honey Bear's is a local barbecue landmark. Great Tennessee-style ribs, slathered with a thick, zippy, slightly sweet and citrusy sauce. The charred barbecued beef sandwich shares top billing. "Cowbro" beans, boosted with smoked sausage, and sweet potato pie are also noteworthy.
* Thee Pitt's "Again," 14620 North Cave Creek Road, Phoenix, 996-7488. High-quality ribs, deftly smoked and paired with a slightly sweet barbecue sauce, make gnawing easy. The pulled-pork sandwich and moist, sizzling barbecued chicken are winning alternatives.
Java Man: A few months ago, I gave Coffee Plantation a bit of a pounding. I'd stopped in at the branch by the Harkins Theatres complex on Shea Boulevard and gotten some execrable espresso and inferior coffee. I wondered whether company growth was interfering with the quality of the product.
I quickly heard from both corporate and local management. They each promised to restore order and asked for a revisit.
So I recently went back and discovered, to my pleasure, that somebody had gotten the message. Here was the quality I expected the first time--a well-prepared espresso and a strong, fresh-brewed cup of joe. (And one bonus, too: a polite, efficient staff.)
Thomas Jefferson once wrote that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. In the Valley's competitive coffee-house market, eternal vigilance is the price of staying in business.
Restaurant Update: For years I've been stumping for someone to open an Indonesian restaurant. It looks like I may finally get my wish. I hear that a rijsttafel parlor plans to set up shop in Tempe. In restaurants, you can't have too much ethnic diversity.
Health Fest: If you're into organic food and vegetarian fare, check out Foodstock '96. It's billed as a "festival of healthy living and vegetarian foods," and it runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, October 27, at Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix.
Several of the Valley's top chefs, including RoxSand, Razz Kamnitzer and Chris Bianco, will be offering a cooking demonstration from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event is free, too. For more info, call 241-9778.
Suggestions? Write me at New Times, P.O. Box 2510, Phoenix,