September 26, 2009

Barbecue restaurants in Flagstaff (Updated 01/11/10)

As a Texas native, barbeque is an essential meal in my rotation. Going without those slow cooked, tender meats smoked for hours with love would just be a shame. So it’s no surprise then that for me nothing says summer more than great barbeque eaten outdoors on a picnic table. While Flagstaff’s barbeque restaurants don’t actually have outdoor seating, you can still find that down home feeling in their food.

Big John’s Texas BBQ
1740 E Rte 66 (just east of Enterprise)
Call ahead for hours at 928-699-2707

I was so excited when I found Big John’s Texas BBQ. He’s not an official restaurant by any means. Big John runs his joint from a movable trailer with a giant smoker attached. He parks his rig-slash-movable restaurant on Route 66 just east of Enterprise three days a week (usually). Most Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays when the weather is good, you can smell that sweet, sweet smoke in the air as you drive near. And the taste of Big John’s brisket is even better. He takes is B-B-Q-ing seriously and you can taste that careful slow cookin’ in every bite. Big John’s also serves up ribs, pork, great potato salad, barbequed baked beans, and Texas sweet tea. Mmmm Mmmm good! You can buy the meat by the pound (which is how I like to do it for a great family meal) or you can get a sandwich.

Flagstaff BBQ & Catering Co. (Formerly known as Pig in a Poke BBQ)
9001 North Highway 89 at Silver Saddle Rd
About eight miles from downtown sits the modest Flagstaff BBQ (formerly known as Pig in a Poke BBQ). Next to a gas station/ convenience store – this place has that southern barbeque feel as you drive up. Flagstaff BBQ cooks up Kansas City style que. It’s the place to come for a great deal and great tasting barbequed chicken dinner. For just $5.99 you get a half chicken and two sides. Their onion rings and curly fries may add to your thighs but they taste great and compliment the chicken nicely. The brisket sandwich is too try for my liking so I’d opt for Big Johns or The Smokehouse if that’s what you’re craving. Flagstaff BBQ is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Big Foot Bar-B-Q
Basement of the Old Town Shops, downtown Flagstaff at Leroux & Birch
Menu at:
Big Foot has been rated the best barbeque restaurant in Flagstaff for several years running. But truth be told, they really haven’t had much competition until recently. Big Foot boasts on its menu that their “truck stop creations” are “influenced, inspired and outright stolen from some of the most auspicious gas stations across the south.” I’ve eaten at many of those gas stations they compare their grub to and Big Foot doesn’t come close. Still, Big Foot does have a lot to offer. The best things here are the sides. I don’t think I’ve tasted better onion rings or fried okra anywhere in town and they could definitely give some of the sides at real southern joints a run for their money. Their brisket and ribs are in need of moisture but the sauce is sweet and tangy and definitely spices up the meat enough to make a good meal. The atmosphere at Big Foot is really casual and relaxed. You never feel rushed and you leave feeling happy and full, definitely adding to the charm.

129 E Arrowhead, just of Route 66, Flagstaff, AZ
Menu online at: satchmosaz.comSatchmo's is a KC barbeque meets Louisiana style of joint and has lots of loyal eaters. They're claim to fame here: the pulled pork bbq sandwich. Ribs are also a fan fav and can sell out. (They're only made one day a week). In my experience the portions are smaller than advertised and not as tasty as the hype machine would have you believe. The barbecued turkey tastes more like Thanksgiving turkey than the traditional smoky barbecued turkey but its nice and moist.  The meat has a nice flavor. Sauces are okay. Read my full review of Satchmo's HERE.

The Smokehouse (Updated 1/11/10)
3510 E. Route 66
website (but no current menu) at: 

The Smokehouse is a far cry from its successful, moist, flavorful tasty roots. They were among my fav Flag bbq joints, but no longer. The meats we've gotten on our last few trips here (ever since opening in the new location) are really dried out tasting. The meats are served cold - like they've been reheated but not well and they're dried out, again like they've been reheated over and over. The sauces are the best thing about The Smokehouse. They're homemade and lean towards sweet more than spicy. You can see how good they used to be at the bottom of this review. It's sad to see how far down the rung they've gone.
UPDATED AGAIN 09/2009: We ate at the Smokehouse at its new location and were disappointed. The food wasn't as good (and a little cold, not fresh out of the smoker), portions were smaller and it costs a few bucks more per entree. The service was poor as well and the location isn't as charming as the old trailer. I hope these were just some kinks and not the future of The Smokehouse.
UPDATE 08/2009: The Smokehouse has temporarily closed down its trailer at the Museum Club and will be opening a brand new real restaurant along Route 66 in September. Watch for an updated review of The Smokehouse at that time, because it's worth waiting for!)
The Smokehouse has been around for about two years but only recently came into my world – and I’m so glad. Their meats melt in your mouth and are slow cooked in the back of this trailer-turned-smokehouse restaurant. Like Big John’s there’s nowhere to eat at The Smokehouse itself. It’s drive up and go – which makes for a great picnic. The owner/ chef – who hails from Austin, Texas - makes both the tasty and tangy mild and spicy sauces himself in the back of the place, along with his cole slaw and spicy pinto beans, and, of course, all the meats which are smoked up there too. The choices here are plentiful – and like all the best Texas barbeque spots – makes sliced turkey brisket, along with other classics like beef brisket, sausage, pork, ribs and more, if you can believe it. For the back of a trailer this place serves up lots of great stuff!

September 24, 2009

Flagstaff's best calzones and stromboli

By Angele Sionna

If pizza and sandwiches had a baby – it would be the calzone… or its cousin the stromboli. The popular pizza alternatives are sometimes mistaken for each other as they’re so similar and delicious. Calzones are "a stuffed pizza that resembles a large turnover" that originated in Naples, Italy, according to the food dictionary. Strombolis, on the other hand, they say, is a specialty of Philadelphia and is rolled to resemble a loaf as opposed to the calzones’ crescent-moon shape. Some insist that a calzone has ricotta whereas the stromboli does not. Whatever you want to call them – calzones and stromboli maximize the flavors of the ingredients in different ways then their pizza parents. Here’s a look at some of Flagstaff’s best…

New Jersey Pizza Company
2224 E Cedar #6
New Jersey Pizza Company has by far the best calzones in town. They are created with the freshest ingredients – which are mostly locally made/grown and organic- with flavors that pop to perfection with each bite. The calzones here come in two sizes – regular ($8) and large ($11). The regular is perfect for a filling lunch or dinner at about a foot long, 4 inches-ish wide and an inch or so thick. New Jersey’s calzones include mozzarella and reggiano cheeses and your choice of three ingredients. My suggestions: mushrooms, fresh tomatoes and ricotta fresca. It tastes fresh from the garden and the oven.
The sauce (which tastes like its made with just off the vine tomatoes) is served at room temperature on the side. That’s a little weird at first – but the taste blows you away. The ingredients are perfectly proportioned and delish!

Fratelli Pizza
119 W. Phoenix Ave and 2120 North 4th Street
As you’d expect from this popular pizzeria, Fratelli’s serves up calzones as good as their beloved pizza pies. They have several pre-designed “Giant Calzones” ($8.50) on their menu or you can create your own by putting together any 4 fillings plus mozzarella cheese. The Veggie – which has mushrooms, broccoli, tomato, artichoke hearts and mozzarella- and The Big H – with pepperoni, Italian sausage, meatballs, mushrooms and mozzarella- are the ones to get here. All come with Fratelli’s yum sauce on the side for dipping. That sauce is the key to the greatness of this dish… and they’ll even cook you a special calzone with the sauce inside as well as on the side if you’re like me and love it saucy.

Roma Pizza
1800 S. Milton Rd.
Roma serves up both “Gigantic Calzones” ($9.75) and “Gigantic Stromboli” ($9.75). Yes, those are their official names – and they’re fitting because these babies are huge and filled with toppings galore. The crust is light and airy and just the right amount to hold in all those ingredients. But this big of calzone needs a little more sauce on the side for optimum enjoyment and I’d like to see a little more cheese sneak inside there as well. You can order a calzone with up to four toppings plus mozzarella and sauce or pick one of their menu favs. Good options to try at Roma - the Three-Cheese Calzone or the more unique Pesto Calzone.

Dominic’s Italian Bistro
1850 N. Fort Valley Road
Dominic’s is the place to go in Flag if you’re feeling a stromboli calling your name. And true to definition they are indeed a long, thick rectangular loaf filled with the delight of a pizza inside. If you’re big on sauce, these strombolis ($8.95) are for you, as they’re filled with a nice helping of sauce inside along with the other fillings. The breading on these is more like that of a crusty Italian loaf then your traditional pizza dough, which really adds to the unique flavor. Here I recommend trying Dominic’s Favorite, which is stuffed with sausage, pepperoni, onion and bell peppers. Other choices include veggie or meatball strombolis or a 5 topping design your own option.

*Note: This article originally was published (and written by me for) Flagstaff Live!)

September 5, 2009

Satchmo's barbecue in Flagstaff

  • Satchmo's
  • 129 E Arrowhead, just of Route 66, Flagstaff, AZ
  • Menu online at:

The Food (taste/flavor/quality of food & drinks)
>>>= good, but not great

The Atmosphere (environment, wait staff, comfortableness)
x= if the food’s good enough, still worth going, otherwise forget it

Price (what to generally expect to pay per person per entree)
$$ $10

Value (what you get for your money)
* = overpriced period, food isn’t good enough to make up for the cost

Satchmo's is a relative newcomer to Flagstaff, located just off of Route 66 a few miles east of downtown, in a small building with a drive thru and walk up window. There are two tables outside to sit at if you opt to "dine in." They have limited hours/days they're open - Wednesdays thru Saturdays from 11am-2pm and 4-7pm.

Satchmo's serves up barbequed sandwiches and pork ribs plus gumbo and jambalaya. The ribs are only available from 4-7pm on Saturday nights. They say they do run out, so go early if you're craving ribs. The sandwich options include pulled pork and beef plus smoked turkey. Sides include Kansas City Pit style baked beans, red potato salad, cornbread and slaw.

Satchmo's has a lot of hype, so it is a place I had to try. But ever time I've gone I've left feeling hungry and disappointed. I've tried their large beef sandwich, large turkey sandwich and small jambalaya. I asked the difference between the small and large sandwiches besides the $1.50 price - I was told the small was 1/4 pound of meat and the large was 1/2 pound. So I was expecting a nice size sandwich for my $7 a pop -no sides included, but that was not the case. The portions were far from generous and our large sandwiches looked much closer to a quarter pounder. (For only $12 you can get a full pound of meat over at Big John's down the street. And his pound of meat is way more than double of what's on Satchmo's large sandwich.)

As far as taste goes, the beef has good flavor on its own. It is seasoned well and a touch towards the salty side. But the sauces don't add much. The sweet barbeque sauce is thick and the better choice here, as the spicy sauce doesn't taste like barbeque sauce at all. It tastes more like chili powder in a watery tomato base. The turkey was tender and good. But again I was disappointed because it tastes more like Thanksgiving turkey than the smoky flavor of barbequed turkey.

As for the jambalaya, I would expect a small for $3 to be somewhat filling, as jumbalyaya is commonly served as a dish on its own in the south. But the small is definitely more of a side dish here. It wouldn't be filling for anyone but a little kid. Makes me wonder how large the large is. The flavor was spicy but was missing the big ol chunks of stuff. Instead the sausage and celery was in really small bits.

All in all Satchmo's was a let down when considering price, portions and taste. The flavorings were decent but there's several places in town with just as good or better taste where you also get more for your money.

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