Cafe Reviews

Second Helpings

'Cue Tips: Nobody likes criticism. And not too many of us accept it with class and good grace. Two who do are Joe Johnston and Tim Peelen. They're proprietors of Joe's Real BBQ, at 301 North Gilbert Road, 503-3805, in "downtown" Gilbert.

A few weeks back, I reviewed their new enterprise. I thought the setting, a beautifully restored 1929 brick building, was smashing. I wasn't as impressed with some of the fare. I thought the ribs weren't tender; I thought the barbecue sauce was too middle-of-the-road; I thought the beef brisket was too dry; and I thought the beef-pork sausage was too nondescript.

(What did I like? Pulled pork, smoked turkey, turkey/jalapeno sausage and great sides, especially the beans and skin-on, cheese-drenched potatoes.) I also suggested that the two partners--they were the geniuses behind Coffee Plantation in the late 1980s--might be cloning their operation around the Valley.

Here's Joe Johnston's response:

Thank you for your recent review of our restaurant. We appreciate both the praises and the constructive criticism. I wanted to respond to some of those items.

First, the barbecue sauce--Tim and I developed it to our personal liking and so we don't plan on changing it. It was designed to go well with all nine meats that we serve. Realizing that many people do want something with more "punch," we also serve an "I Dare You" sauce which is a richer, spicier version (habaneros provide the heat) at our self-serve sauce island.

Similarly, we like the flavor of the beef-pork sausage and understand that others may not share that liking, given that sausage or hot links differ greatly in style.

The ribs are cooked by smoking only and are not boiled or grilled. We think this is a more traditional approach, but it doesn't produce "fall off the bone" tenderness. Instead, there remains a meat texture, but if yours was not easy to chew we screwed up! We are increasing the quantity of rub to help with intensifying the flavor.

The dry brisket is also unacceptable. While the lean portion does tend to be drier than the upper, juicier part, it should still be moist and tasty. You can request "upper only" and it will be strictly the juicy part (that's my favorite).

As an aside, there will not be another Joe's Real BBQ. It is a personal restaurant in a very unusual building and location. After being in a multi-unit environment, Tim and I have no desire to do that again. We are more interested in having one great place and a rewarding family life (one of the reasons we're closed on Sundays). Again, we thank you for your review and think it fair. Hopefully, on your next visits you will see improvements in those areas which were disappointing.

Thanks for the straight-up letter, guys. I'm looking forward to making another visit.

--Howard Seftel

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Howard Seftel