Adventurous barbecue lovers can strike gold in the Wild West at Bryan’s Black Mountain Barbecue.
“We talk about Bryan's in February when we’re home freezing in Wisconsin,” said loyal customer Marilyn Boland.
Bryan’s is tucked away in the scenic mountains of Cave Creek, Arizona, about an hour drive north of Phoenix. It’s a hot spot for tourists and locals, drawn to this former gold mining town's authentic feel. It looks like a scene out of Western movie, with a mile-long drag of saloons, restaurants and tasteful boutiques.
Bryan's is one of the main attractions, with its down home Western decor and handcrafted food served in plastic baskets.
“We serve about 600-700 people on busy days starting at 11 a.m. when we open,” said restaurant spokeswoman Leslie Bay. “There are times when the line snakes outside and around the corner.”
Bryan’s biggest seller is its traditional pulled pork and barbecue sandwiches, but it’s the unconventional items, like the vegan BBQ sandwich, fried frog legs, olive coleslaw --and even bison testicles on a waffle-- that attract curious customers.
Owner Bryan Dooley, a Culinary Institute of America grad, created most of the tasty menu.
“Bryan puts his own twist on everything he does,” Bay said.
Before opening Bryan's, Dooley was a chef at the five-star Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort in nearby Scottsdale for 13 years. But he had a yearning to inject some of his unique gourmet flavor into traditional barbecue, and so he traded in the chic resort kitchen for something more rustic he can call his own.
For vegetarians or the adventurous, the vegan barbecue sandwich is sliced squash, seared and placed on a toasted bun and topped with Bryan’s barbecue sauce. It’s delicious and tastes surprisingly like real meat.
“The best feedback is that our BBQ is as good or better than the BBQ from home and they are all from the BBQ regions- Kansas City, Texas, Memphis and the Carolinas,” Dooley said.
The frog legs are breaded, deep-fried and served with fresh lemon zest. They originally were served by request only, but are now a staple on “Frog Leg Fridays.”
There are plenty of specialty desserts too, like homemade ice cream sandwiches, and deep fried corn on the cob served with an agave caramel sauce.
Dooley says that what best personifies this place is, “Old West talent, New West spirit.”
Matt Finn is a Fox News correspondent based in the Chicago bureau. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFinnFNC