Chow Bella

Pulled Squash Sandwich at Bryan's Black Mountain BBQ

"Vegetarian barbecue" sounds like an oxymoron. Even beans - a staple in most vegetarian diets - are loaded up in BBQ joints with bacon or brisket. There are countless varieties of barbecue, but whether slathered with a sweet sauce or a vinegary one, pulled pork sandwiches are always a popular choice. But, there's no tofu or seitan version, so what's a vegetarian who's suffering from an all-American BBQ craving to do?

Head to Cave Creek to check out Bryan's Black Mountain BBQ. Along with great options for carnivores, Bryan's has a Vegetarian "Pulled" Squash Sandwich. Skip over the side of Cowboy Beans, which do indeed have brisket, and choose from French fries or "Famous" Olive Coleslaw.

Spaghetti squash might not immediately seem like the best replacement for pork, but it works surprisingly well. Just look at that picture; you know you want a big bite of that sandwich. Chef Bryan Dooley, graduate of the Culinary Institute in America (the other CIA), knows what he's doing. In fact, if you want in on some of his secrets, he offers them up in Stories and Recipes from Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue.

The "pulled" squash, served on a nicely toasted bun, is tender without being mushy, and the texture is very close to pulled pork. Of course it doesn't taste at all like pork or any other kind of meat, but the fresh flavor of the squash offers a lighter side to barbecue. The sauce it's topped with is mostly sweet with just a little note of smokiness. The only real drawback is that there isn't a line-up of BBQ sauces to choose from.

The side dishes are winners too. After a few French fries, I said, "Mmm...this is what French fries should taste like." At the end of lunch, we were making sure that the fries didn't go to waste (of course), and I said it again. Crispy on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside, thick-cut French fries really don't get any better than this.

Since Cave Creek is known for the Queen Creek Olive Mill, it's a nice local touch to add green olives to the coleslaw. Admittedly, I don't like olives or coleslaw, but even I could stand a few bites of Bryan's "Famous" Olive Coleslaw. It's fresh with a kind of bright flavor, it doesn't taste too much like mayonnaise, and the olives aren't overpowering.

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Dominique Chatterjee