And a number of local favorites and heavy hitters have big plans for 2019. If you eat barbecue in the Valley, you’ll want to take note of the following four news items — all hints on how our barbecue culture will continue to develop.
Unless you’ve been living under a cord of pecan wood, you know that Little Miss 2.0 is up and running. Scott Holmes has the goal of opening for dinner, lunch, and brunch, but so far is open just for dinner. Meats are the same, but Holmes plans to roll out other meat specials, potentially smoked pork belly and lamb neck, in time.
There are two new sides: vegetables cooked in brisket fat and an ultra-cheesy mac and cheese. At this location, unlike the other, you can sip drink drinks. Solid wine and beer options await, as well as Mason jar cocktails. How does the smoked meat stack up? Oh, we have a whole review devoted to that.
Since I covered this tiny south Phoenix smokery helmed by James Lewis, an Arkansan who barbecues bologna and claims to make “the best pulled pork in the country,” things have progressed. The main change has been the addition of smoked pork belly. More recently, Lewis has added tacos and nachos to his menu. You pick your meat for both. The nachos come with meat, cheese, jalapenos, a slaw blend, and barbecue sauce. Tortillas, both soft and chipped, come from the venerable La Sonorense Tortilla Factory on Central Avenue.
But the big news is this: In March or April, Lewis will be bringing his old and new menu items to a Peoria location almost twice the size of his south Phoenix spot.
Similarly, NakedQ will be continuing a slow-and-low expansion that has turned into an eastward trek. Oren Hartman’s reliably satisfying barbecue first became available in north Phoenix, then Scottsdale, and will be landing in Chandler this spring. Menu items will be close to the same.
In the meantime, Hartman has been tinkering with his links. Unsatisfied with his previous two versions, Hartman tested 20 purveyors (on his own and with willing customers) before settling on new sausages from a provider in Texas. They are made from beef and pork, have a pleasantly pungent spice blend, and offer a nice, slow-rising heat.
Now moving deeper into its third decade, Gilbert stalwart Joe’s Real BBQ has just rolled out several changes. Owner Joe Johnson has put his formidable engineering chops to use, tweaking how his team monitors smoke opacities and other precision metrics. The menu has evolved. For one, there are more vegan options. You can now substitute smoked jackfruit for any meat. There are more vegan sides, including a beet salad, spicy slaw, and braised greens from nearby Agritopia.
A new large-format sandwich called the Big Bad Wolf unites pulled pork, pit ham, and rib meat. It comes on Texas Toast stuck through with a knife. Johnson, too, has added a $58 combination platter of meats and sides, which, he says will “easily feed four.”