First Taste

Bryan's Barbecue Wrangles Up Bison Ribs and Artichoke Po'Boys this Fall

Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue turns to the open range for autumn inspiration and brings home tasty Bison Ribs and Artichoke Po'Boys starting September 1. Chef Bryan Dooley broke out the recipes a little early to give New Times a taste of what's coming to Cave Creek this fall, and we're telling you now: plan a trip.

"I'm not a beef rib fan," says Dooley. "They're too fatty. Bison is just so much leaner, healthier and tastes better."

And lean, meaty and tasty the Bison Ribs are. Our carnivorous tasting companion bit into these bad boys and was instantly impressed by the complex flavors, tenderness and sheer amount of meat on the bone. A recently relocated Memphian, he said, "This completely blows [legendary Memphis barbecue joint] Rendezvous away."

Dooley slow smokes the Bison Ribs over pecan wood to infuse them with a subtle nuttiness and a softer smoke flavor. The slow-cooking method allows Dooley to achieve a nice char on the meat to seal in the tenderness without getting overdone.

Click through for more mouth-watering barbecue.

"The meat should take a little bite, so you get the feeling of eating ribs," Dooley says. "We don't want it to fall off the bone."

For fall, Dooley rubs the bison in sage and juniper and coats, but doesn't smother, the ribs in a sweet persimmon glaze. "I'm looking to complement the meat, not drown it out with sauce," Dooley says.

For those who are looking for a little more sloppiness in their barbecue, Bryan's has two sauce pumps - one mild and one spicy - so diners can smother it on to their liking. The spicy sauce gives anything on the menu an extra zip with a not-too-hot heat that simply oomphs up the tastiness quotient.

The seasonal Bison Ribs aren't the only thing rolling in to Bryan's, either. Dooley, a favorite with vegetarian barbecue fans for his to-die-for Pulled Squash Sandwich, always keeps the other half in mind.

"In a lot of restaurants, the vegetarian items are afterthoughts, but at Bryan's we want to make them a main event," Dooley says. "Any one can slap a Portobello on a bun and call it a veggie sandwich, but we really focus on the tastes, flavors and textures of our vegetarian items just as we would anything else on the menu."

The Artichoke Po'boy coming to the menu this fall combines seasonal, fresh ingredients with a creative twist to mimic the mouth feel of a fried shrimp po'boy just as the Pulled Squash Sandwich mimics pulled pork.

Dooley lightly batters artichoke hearts in rice flour and deep-fries them to achieve an airy crispness that stands out against the smoky tomato remoulade and toasty buttered bun.

Getting creative with the texture of the veg options does not mean masking the flavor of the ingredients - there's no masquerading as meats here. The artichoke is the make event in the po'boy with its distinct earthiness coming through, and the squash shines in the sandwich, lightly seasoned with smoked sea salt and Bryan's signature barbecue sauce.

 meat-eating friend polished off about half of the pulled squash sandwich, in awe that the vegetarian option could be so unabashedly tasty. Dooley recommended we try a fried egg on top to take the experience to another level entirely.

"We try to bring that barbecue flavor to everything, even the veg options," Dooley says.

Dooley, who worked as the executive chef at the Scottsdale Fairmont Princess for 13 years before opening Bryan's Barbecue a year and a half ago, says, "It takes the same attention to detail and the same quality ingredients to do good barbeque as it does to do fine dining."

Sides like Baked Potato Salad, with hunks of skin-on baked potatoes, sour cream and dill, and Six-Pack Baked Beans, with a six pack of beer in every batch, showcase that creativity just as much as the signature Bryan's Barbecue sauce that Dooley cooked up over countless hours in his own backyard.

The kitschy Western feel of Bryan's, with boars' heads, antlers and old Westerns plastering the walls, is good, old-fashioned family fun. Dooley's always glad to recommend a craft beer to complement your dinner - he has more than 40 options available - or to shake the hand of a satisfied significant other who devoured a set of ribs while their partner happily scarffed down real barbecue sans meat.

With summer items like the Tomato Sandwich and Watermelon Dessert disappearing at the end of August, and Bison Ribs and the Artichoke Po'Boy arriving on the menu September 1, Bryan's Barbecue is worth the long haul from CenPho -- twice (even if it is just to sit at the counter circling the giant, glowing green Saguaro on the patio.)

Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue
6130 East Cave Creek Road #2
Cave Creek

Edit: The original article incorrectly noted Dooley as the executive chef at the Scottsdale Fairmont Princess where he worked as a chef for many years.

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Hannah E Williams