Cafe Reviews

Who's Ya Daddy's BBQ Demands Your Respect

For most, the Valley's light-rail system stands for progress, but for Harold Sublett Sr., owner of Who's Ya Daddy's BBQ and a downtown Phoenix resident for all 62 years of his life, it's been anything but.

"When that light rail came in, I lost 60 percent of my business," Sublett says of his five-year-old restaurant.

Because the closest rail stop is blocks away and the parking lot is obscured, there's every reason to forgo Sublett's barbecue in search of more easily accessible eats.

Don't do it.

Get there. Get there for tender pork ribs that fall off the bone, get there for homemade spicy potato salad, but most of all, get there for the Barbecue Beef Hot Link Sandwich.

This chunky que-chew stares you down after you open the lid of its Styrofoam home. With smoked barbecued beef and spicy sausage barely contained within four pieces of white bread serving as both sauce soakers and sandwich shells, this hefty hunk means business — and it ain't for the nibblish. Devour it, savor it, respect it.

Like his food, Sublett doesn't mess around. Straightforward, confident, and a little edgy, the man is his meat. Growing up behind the building he's owned for 30 years, Sublett started slingin' BBQ for family and friends 15 years ago, outside the barbershop where he still gives the occasional trim.

"Everyone kept tellin' me I should open my own place," Sublett says. "Since I owned the building, it was easy to do."

Years of trial-and-error grilling reflect a man who stopped worrying long ago whether he was doing things "right." The homemade rub, the 14 signature sauces (rotated regularly based on Sublett's mood and customer preference), and even the Arkansas hickory hauled in from the Natural State by a family friend (a chunk of the wood stands proudly on the counter) and used for the meat's smoky flavor boast barbecue bathed in experience.

While the food speaks for itself, the walls at Who's Your Daddy's talk, too. Sublett and his sole co-worker, Leslie Wilson, a retired shoe salesman whose friends used to call him "the black Al Bundy" ("But I had it worse: I was single with children") are happy to talk you through the photographs from Sublett's past that decorate the joint's spotless interior, giving you a taste of delicious downtown history, all while you wonder why the hell it took you so long to stop by.

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Laura Hahnefeld
Contact: Laura Hahnefeld