During our yearlong barbecue tour of the Valley, I wrote a lot about the question of Arizona's spot in this field. We found a few places bringing Arizonan elements to barbecue. We found local tendencies, local chiles, local woods. But the best barbecue joint in town, Little Miss BBQ, remained steadfastly central Texan with its menu. Well, not anymore.
Little Miss BBQ has rolled out green chile burritos. They are available for lunch on Mondays from 10:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (or until sold out) at both locations.
This burrito is the first major foray that the Phoenix barbecue stalwart has made beyond central Texas and the cardinal loopholes of the barbecue belt. It is the first time Little Miss has used tortillas, toasted and de-stemmed Hatch chiles, and channeled the spirit of the Southwest.
It couldn’t be more different than its other specials. The two classic Little Miss specials are beef short ribs (Fridays and Saturdays) and beef brisket pastrami (Thursdays). On occasion, owner and smoke virtuoso Scott Holmes recently has served irregular specials like pork belly and smoked lamb neck.
The green chile burrito is a regular, one bound to become a staple like the beef rib and pastrami.
Before he opened Little Miss BBQ in 2014, Holmes’ former work often took him east, out to places like Superior and Globe. When out that way, he formed a habit of eating green chile burritos.
“I would pick up two or three burritos and I’d eat them on the drive back,” he says. A hobbyist smoker at the time, Holmes started to work on a smoked green chile burrito recipe, which he cooked for the inaugural Arizona Barbecue Festival in 2012.
That recipe is virtually the same one that Little Miss uses today. The only difference is that Holmes now uses poblano chiles in addition to Anaheim and Hatch. The recipe, though, has a built-in variable. It’s that the smoked meat combination Holmes uses will change.
“We put in brisket, pulled pork, short ribs, sausage, turkey,” Holmes says. “If we have anything left over during the week, it goes into the green chile burritos on Monday.”
You pull up to University. You park. You get right inside this time, as on Mondays there hasn’t been a line. The options are cheese or no cheese, and do you want sour cream on the side? You say yes to both. An employee will pull a hot, pliant tortilla floppy as a slice of deli cheese from the warmer, which is built into the wall behind the wooden cutting block. He or she will plop the tortilla down, scoop pale green chile onto shredded cheddar (initiating melting), and wrap the soupy package like it’s a crying baby.
Outside at the picnic tables, even before noon, people have communed to scarf burrito specials.
Since their release, Holmes has been tinkering slightly with ratios. He has kept the burrito on the runnier side, closer to the consistency of a Rito's green chile burrito. “It’s still that soupy burrito where, man, you’re not going to eat that thing in your car,” Holmes says. “I love that.”
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(Note: He used to eat these in his car anyway.)
All said, the smoked green chile burrito is about a pound, with a half-pound of meat. Considering the source, this is a deal at $8.50.
Every element of the burrito has been hacked toward softness. The craggy lunar flour tortillas aren’t toasted at University (though they are browned in the broiler at Sunnyslope), leaving them less chewy. But though they still do have a whisper of thickness and chew, they rupture easily, releasing the molten flow of chile and long-stewed smoked meat, more melting than any other meat on the regular menu.
The balanced smoke and mellow chile-heat cruise in the same lane, joyriding along, bite after bite, and you can taste both on your lips long after your burro is gone.