Cafe Reviews

Second Helpings

Let's Give Them Something to Pork About: Although the northeast Valley may be somewhat barbecue-challenged (see this week's Cafe review), that doesn't mean barbecue lovers are stranded in the desert. Here are four places that smoke up some mean bones:

* Buck-A-Rue Bar-B-Que, 15840 North Cave Creek Road, Phoenix, 971-6107. A nondescript storefront in a nondescript strip mall, with some very descript barbecue. The guy behind the counter called the ribs "kick-ass," and he's right. Great barbecue sauce, too--more tart than sweet. If pork isn't for you, the smoked-turkey sandwich is the best in town.

* Hap's Real Pit Barbecue, 101 South 24th Street, Phonix, 267-0181. Hap's is just a trailer parked on the southeast corner of 24th Street and Jefferson, on a car-repair lot. But the food here doesn't need any work. Ribs are first-rate, touched up by a sweet-tart barbecue sauce that also has some bite. The pulled-pork sandwich is close to phenomenal. Excellent go-withs, too, particularly the beans.

* Honey Bear's BBQ, 5012 East Van Buren, Phoenix, 273-9148. Honey Bear's is a local barbecue landmark. Great Tennessee-style ribs, slathered with a thick, zippy, slightly sweet and citrusy sauce. The charred barbecued beef sandwich shares top billing. "Cowbro" beans, boosted with smoked sausage, and sweet potato pie are also noteworthy.

* Thee Pitt's "Again," 14620 North Cave Creek Road, Phoenix, 996-7488. High-quality ribs, deftly smoked and paired with a slightly sweet barbecue sauce, make gnawing easy. The pulled-pork sandwich and moist, sizzling barbecued chicken are winning alternatives.

Java Man: A few months ago, I gave Coffee Plantation a bit of a pounding. I'd stopped in at the branch by the Harkins Theatres complex on Shea Boulevard and gotten some execrable espresso and inferior coffee. I wondered whether company growth was interfering with the quality of the product.

I quickly heard from both corporate and local management. They each promised to restore order and asked for a revisit.

So I recently went back and discovered, to my pleasure, that somebody had gotten the message. Here was the quality I expected the first time--a well-prepared espresso and a strong, fresh-brewed cup of joe. (And one bonus, too: a polite, efficient staff.)

Thomas Jefferson once wrote that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. In the Valley's competitive coffee-house market, eternal vigilance is the price of staying in business.

Restaurant Update: For years I've been stumping for someone to open an Indonesian restaurant. It looks like I may finally get my wish. I hear that a rijsttafel parlor plans to set up shop in Tempe. In restaurants, you can't have too much ethnic diversity.

Health Fest: If you're into organic food and vegetarian fare, check out Foodstock '96. It's billed as a "festival of healthy living and vegetarian foods," and it runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, October 27, at Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix.

Several of the Valley's top chefs, including RoxSand, Razz Kamnitzer and Chris Bianco, will be offering a cooking demonstration from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event is free, too. For more info, call 241-9778.

--Howard Seftel

Suggestions? Write me at New Times, P.O. Box 2510, Phoenix,

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Howard Seftel