Ah, barbecue. It’s as quintessential to summer as flip-flops and tank tops. We poked around northern Arizona for the best barbecue joints, and we came up with these six. A note to our vegetarian readers: You might want to skip to the next section.
BBQ Ribs (Half Rack) – $16.95
For more than 25 years, the name Sally’s has been synonymous with barbecue in Sedona, but it’s not exactly easy to locate. Sally’s walk-up window can be found at the end of a corridor between two gift shops in the Felsot Building in Uptown Sedona. Picnic tables line the corridor. Place your order at a window surrounded by Polaroids of diners who came before you. And FYI: Study the menu and make your decision before you reach the window. The staff is friendly, but they are busy, so do everyone a favor and don’t dillydally. Take note that the “complaint button” situated near the window is actually a mousetrap.
Sally’s smokes all its meats daily, and the restaurant is known for its barbecue sauce and barbecue rub (both can be purchased on-site). The menu is heavy on barbecue favorites: beef brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken breast sandwiches. The eatery also offers up daily specials not found on the regular menu, like spicy sausage and steak sandwiches. But our favorite item is the St. Louis-style barbecue ribs, available as a full rack (10 ribs) or half-rack (5 ribs). The entrée comes with your choice of two sides, and we highly recommend the greasy-in-a-good-way fries and the baked beans, which include chunks of bacon swimming alongside the beans in a slightly sweet sauce. Place your order, and take a seat at one of the tables in the corridor or inside the adjacent – and tiny – dining room filled with picnic tables covered in red-and-white checkered cloths. A wooden floor, Old Thyme photos and ads, and stills from modern Westerns such as Tombstone and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly complete the picture. You’ll find squeeze bottles of Sally’s sauce at each table, along with a big roll of paper towels. You’ll need ’em.
Ambience: You have to seek out Sally’s BBQ – it just might be Uptown’s best-kept secret. Look for the signs depicting blonde-haired Sally, and then wander down a passageway between two buildings to locate the joint. If you’re on Jordan Road, it’s directly across from the Fat Tire Bike Shop and Arizona Safari Jeep Tours. We love this no-frills location with its walk-up order window and separate cozy dining room that makes you feel like you’re eating in your grandmother’s pantry. (Check out the cotton window valances featuring cow skulls – we bet one of Sally’s relatives is responsible for those.) Sally’s also offers takeout.
Sally’s BBQ, 250 Jordan Road in Uptown (928-282-6533)
BBQ Beef Sandwich – $10 or Half Rack of Ribs – $12
Good barbecue must be sought out, hunted by the committed connoisseur. It’s never located next the grocery store. Satchmo’s in Flagstaff is on the east side of town and obscured by a Shell gas station, but it was definitely worth the U-turn. And as soon as we placed our order and walked into the dining room, it was obvious locals know exactly where to find the good stuff. At 6 p.m. on a Wednesday night, we snagged the last table.
Owned by a husband and wife from Missouri, the menu features as many Cajun specialties (think gumbo and jambalaya) as barbecue items. They also feature Flagstaff brews on tap, perfect for washing down both barbecue and Cajun cuisine. We ordered the barbecue beef sandwich and the half-rack of ribs. The beef brisket is smoked for 10 hours and arrives sans sauce on a soft bun. It’s your task to dress your meat in either the sweet or spicy barbecue sauce located at your table. We loved them both, but the sweet sauce won our hearts. For sides, we chose a heaping portion of sweet-potato fries ($0.50 extra) and the tangy smoked beans studded with chunks of pork and beef. And for you hearty eaters, the sandwiches at Satchmo’s come in two sizes: regular and large. (The regular size was plenty big for us.)
The ribs, which are also slow smoked, quite honestly fell off the bone the moment we picked them up, and we wished we’d ordered the full rack. We ordered seasoned tater tots (why not?) and coleslaw to complement the ribs, and the coleslaw had both of us waxing poetic. Instead of mayo, Satchmo’s uses a vinegar dressing, and the bits of jalapeno gave the slaw a Southwest flavor. Next time, we’re ordering a pint of the slaw and trucking it back to Sedona.
Ambience: Order at the counter and take a seat in a dining room decorated with jazz posters, murals and even a few instruments. Comedy-and-tragedy garland wraps around lamps that hang over tables covered in white butcher paper. Get cozy in blue vinyl booths and orange plastic chairs. For the young at heart, you’ll find triangle-shaped crayons at the table, so draw on the paper to your heart’s content. The bathroom features Louis Armstrong quotes stenciled on the walls. The décor is basic and plain, and it lets the food speak for itself.
Satchmo’s, 2320 N. 4th Street in Flagstaff at the corner of East 7th Avenue (928-774-7292)