They came for delicious smoked meat. They left having found long lines for some of the worst barbecue served this side of the Mississippi.
If you follow a lot of local foodies on twitter -- or if you're otherwise plugged in to the world of barbecue -- you've probably heard that the Chandler BBQ Throwdown was a disaster.
At least we got in and had a few samples. Though the festival was scheduled to go until 9 p.m. organizers stopped selling tickets around 1 p.m. Actually, maybe those turned away without paying $10 for five sample tickets were the lucky ones: We left without using the fifth ticket, our bellies too full of disappointment to accommodate more substandard smoked meat.
The Chandler festival has already taken its lumps in the blogosphere. Good Greasy Eats showed up halfway through the scheduled times and was turned away at the door -- the blog likened the experience to an encounter with Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi" episode.
Jess Harter of the East Valley Tribune calls it "a victim of its own popularity" and says there was "very little actual barbecue to be found at the Downtown Chandler" festival.
Al Putnam tweets: "Something noticeably missing at the Chandler BBQ Throwdown. Namely, barbeque samples - most teams ran out."
BooBoo_Love tweets: "Wow!!! drove all the way out to chandler to come to a bbq showdown on a harly davidson.... we end up gettin pizza! wat a waste..."
What BooBoo is trying to say, we think, is that if you're gonna tell people you have barbecue someplace you damned well better have it! Coming for 'cue and leaving with pizza? That's the sort of thing people will tend to remember when they see a flier for next year's event.
Of the samples we tried, only SanTan Brewing delivered something legitimately good. Since the Chandler brewpub is right across the street from where the festival took place, and pretty much anything on the menu would be better than what the teams served up at the Throwdown, it's hard to justify all the hoopla.
Did organizers know what they were getting themselves into? Hard to say, but the fact that the professional booths -- places like SanTan and Big Green Egg, were the only ones left standing shows that someone had an idea of what was coming. After all, if you're promoting a $1,500 backyard smoker
you're probably not going to run out of samples. If you're getting your $10 up front? Well, yeah, just tell everyone to bring about 60 pounds of meat...
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Since everything was so bad we hate to single anyone out, but a few teams are worth mentioning by name, including Chandler's Karnivorous BBQ Team.
Props to the Karnies for having brisket when everyone else was out, even if that intensely-dry brisket tasted a lot like licking a leather purse. We've made a little barbecue ourselves over the years, and, sad to say, the first brisket we ever smoked was better than this. Good job having enough, though.
Also, Totally Que-Less Barbeque Team would have been a hilarious coincidence ("Totally que-less," no samples after noon... Get it?) if it actually had been true. Nope. They had que! When you're turning people away and saying you're all out of food, it's just rude to have a giant pile of moist brisket, sitting on your table. Presumably that brisket is for judges and/or team consumption, but one of the three guys yakking under the team tarp could have gotten up and hidden the food at least.
Sadly, the Totally Que-Less team would make an excellent mascot for the Chandler festival -- for reasons both punny and not.