Thursday, January 14, 2010

Call it Wild West Funk

Cave Creek has become one of our favorite areas in the Greater Phoenix Metro area.

With its combination of cowboy history and modern quirk, it has something to satisfy every mood. It is the home of the Horny Toad, Big Earl’s Greasy Eats, and the Town Dump, and on a recent Saturday, we discovered Bryan’s Black Mountain Barbecue and The Lazy Lizard Consignment Store.

Bryan’s also has, according to Phoenix Magazine, one of the Phoenix area’s Top Twenty-One Sandwiches--the pulled spaghetti squash on a bun with barbecue sauce. I give the restaurant credit for trying to accommodate vegetarian diners, but I will take a pass on this. I get a mental image of eating mashed potatoes on a roll, and it isn’t pretty. But our recent lunch satisfied our carnivore instincts.

Bryan’s is relatively small with both patio and indoor seating. Seating was at a premium during our visit and remained so for the duration of our meal. The line was long and remained long, but turnover was relatively quick. This isn’t a linger-over-your-meal kind of place.

The menu is short with pulled pork, pulled chicken, and brisket sandwiches joining the spaghetti squash – with your choice of one side. Platters include barbecue chicken, ribs, and the aforementioned meats as either single meats or combos. And sides include baked potato salad, olive cole slaw, fries, beans, and chips.

For Chuck it was the pulled pork sandwich with fries and an order of the beans. My choice was the pulled chicken with baked potato salad and olive cole slaw.

Waiting for our order to be filled gave us time to appreciate the interior of Bryan's. In addition to the neon restaurant name on the wall, there were posters of western movies and movie stars. The conversation probably would have turned to Tom Mix and the team of Roy Rogers and Gabby Hayes and quickly to Chuck's impression of Gabby Hayes, but, fortunately our attention was diverted.

On the screen near our table a silent film was being shown--a Western. Had it been after dark, the movie would have captured more of Chuck's attention, but the sun's rays reduced the sharpness of the picture.

The sandwiches are advertized as containing a quarter of a pound of meat, but I would swear that both of ours vastly exceeded that quota. In both cases, the meat had been smoked just enough to give a real wood-smoked flavor without obscuring the natural taste of each meat. It was pulled into large chunks and not into smaller shreds, again letting you taste the meat. In both cases, the meat was moist and tender. Also, the meat had not been mixed with the sauce and, therefore, was not overwhelmed by the sauce. If I had any complaint about the sandwich (left), it was that the house barbecue sauce was a little sweeter than I prefer. This was easily corrected by adding some of Bryant’s spicy sauce as an additional condiment.

The sides were a mixed bag. Chuck’s fries were quite good, as was my olive cole slaw. The latter was a shredded slaw mixed with green olive bits in a light creamy dressing. If you are not an olive fan, you probably wouldn’t like this. I, on the other hand, love olives, and so I loved this slaw variation. My potato salad tasted great with a sour-cream-based dressing, but some of the larger potato chunks weren’t totally cooked. When the plastic fork won’t pierce the potato, it needs a longer cooking time. Chuck’s beans were a bit heavy on some spicy seasoning. The first few mouthfuls tasted good, but after that the spice was just too much.

We agree that our sandwiches (did I mention that they came on toasted buns?) earned 5.0 Addies with the sides only earning 4.0 Addies. But Bryan's is certainly a spot to which we’ll return on our next visit to Cave Creek, AZ.

We had parked half a block away from the restaurant, so our return to the truck led us past The Lazy Lizard. With the variety of items at the entrance, we just had to "look around."

The store was very crowded, mainly with locals who were getting caught up on the town's current events.

Chuck caught this table with its four chairs, but by the time he had retrieved me to "just take a look at this table over here," three of the chairs had been packed in a pick-up at the door. The last of the foursome and the table were soon reunited with the other three chairs and secured for the trip to a new home.

His next request to "look at this" was less serious, but no less colorful. The saddle stools were a bit on the unusual side, but he insisted that "in the right setting, the would look great."

I didn't ask.

Then a third call brought forth this statement: "This is one of the pieces made especially for the Lizard by a guy in Phoenix. It's covered in some type of microfiber" was Chuck's report.

He had returned to "Earth-Tone Man."

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