Our food-line-averse critic finally gets her first taste of the Valley low-and-slow legend.
Impatience is my middle name. I wouldn’t stand in line for the Second Coming, much less a meal at a restaurant, which explains why I have never – gasp! – set foot inside the original Little Miss BBQ in Central Phoenix, universally lauded as the best ’cue joint in the Valley, if not the Western Hemisphere. I’d heard the horror stories about the interminable waits and the bad parking and the kitchen selling out of the famous brisket before customers who’d been waiting for an hour could even get a crack at it, and none of it sounded doable to me, a self-avowed hothead who lacks the deep stores of forbearance required. I’ve had LMB off-premises, mind you, but a secondhand experience is not the same thing.
After a recent visit to the second Little Miss BBQ location, a larger, handsomer and quicker-paced operation which opened last fall in a former bank building on Seventh Street in Sunnyslope, I must admit, I completely understand what all the fuss is about. Line or no line, this really is the best barbecue in town.
With the help of his super friendly crew, owner and pitmaster Scott Holmes turns out the minimally rubbed, oak- and pecan-smoked barbecue of Central Texas, where beef is king and sauce comes on the side. His brisket, sourced from a family farm in Minnesota, is outrageously good, particularly the fatty version, which boasts an unctuous layer of fat cap resting between pink smoke rings and crusty, complex bark. The shimmering meat itself is robustly beefy, its texture firm but so lusciously loose it seems to melt in the mouth. Holmes’ pulled pork is every bit as good, offering up the fattiness, silken texture and smoky sweetness that make the staple so irresistible. It’s the best pulled pork I can remember.
Neither meat needs the dark molasses-tinged barbecue sauces (one regular, one spicy) or the tangy Carolina-style mustard sauce provided at the table – although they’re awfully good drizzled on the piled-high pulled pork sandwich, the meat nestled between two shiny Kona buns from Noble.
The only disappointment for me is the pork ribs, which need more chew and seem too plain, weaned as I was on the sauce-basted “wet” ribs of Memphis. However, The Jefe – a two-meats-of-your-choice sandwich that, in this case, combines ultra-moist, black pepper-sparked turkey with house-made pork- and beef-stuffed sausage link, wrapped in snappy casing and dripping with juices – is phenomenal, especially with its topper of sweet, vinegar-bright slaw.
All the sides are excellent, too. Love the mild, creamy mac and cheese (do I taste Velveeta?); the cubed, skins-on potato salad, sweetened with pickle; the sturdy jalapeño-cheddar grits; and the earthiest, most perfectly seasoned ranch-style beans, threaded with pulled pork, on the planet. Holmes has also concocted a great little bar, stocked with local craft beer and fun, pre-batched cocktails.
How I love Little Miss! Duh. Better late than never.
Little Miss BBQ
Contact: 8901 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, 602-314-6922, littlemissbbq.com
Hours: Tu-Th 11 a.m.-8 p.m., F-Sa 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Su 10 a.m.-3 p.m., M 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Highlights: Brisket (sandwich, $9.75, plate $14 or $17); pulled pork sandwich ($9.50); two-meat plate ($16); house-made sausage ($4.25 per pound); The Jefe sandwich ($10.50); ranch-style beans (pint, $5); mac and cheese (pint, $6)