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Review: Stacy's Smokehouse - Phoenix (w/ photos!)

Seth Chadwick Apr 14, 2008 07:18 PM

At least twice a week, I get emails asking me to check out particular restaurants in the Valley. Most are just places that people tried and thought I might be interested, which I usually am. Some turn our great, some not so great and some end up closed before I even get a chance to try them.

However, in the past two weeks, I have had more input on a tiny little restaurant on East Indian School Road than any other restaurant in recent memory. Even a member of our governing board at work asked me if I had been to this new place. With that much interest, I decided to give the place a try.

When I mentioned the place was called Stacy’s Smokehouse and featured BBQ, Dad did the puppy dog face thing so I invited him along. We got into the car and headed out to try Stacy’s.

Pulling into the back of the building where the parking was, we found a lot that was almost completely full. We got the last spot and walked into the little building that used to house Memphx and, before that, Turk’s Fish and Chips. There were no tables available, and some people were standing around waiting for their to-go orders.

Dad and I waited our turn, but before we ordered, I spotted a couple of Valley chowhounds dining on an assortment of goodies from the kitchen. I asked them how the food was and they told me the sandwiches were terrific. Dad spotted a basket of sweet potato fries on the table and inquired about them. “They’re pretty limp,” they said while picking up one that immediately drooped.

It was time for us to order, so we headed back to the counter to order our food and then wait for a table to open up. We scanned the menu and ended up with two BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches ($5.25 each) and I ordered a piece of the fried chicken ($1.99). For our sides, I got the Green Beans ($1.50) and the Mac & Cheese ($1.50). Dad got the Cole Slaw ($1.50) and the Onion Rings ($1.99). We got two bottles of Diet Coke ($1.50 each) to wash it all down.

The total for our bill was $26.50 including tax and we were given our drinks and cups of ice. Dad and I took a seat on some chairs against the wall and waited for a table. The interior of the place was exceptionally small holding only five tables. The place was bright and cheery and the big windows let the sunlight stream in.

We were offered the two-top table the other Chowhounds were at and we settled in waiting for our food. Our table, however, along with another one near to us were clearly in need of some maintenance. Dad and I struggled with our table as the top was loose and would be at a 15% incline depending on who had their arms on the table weighting it down.

http://i28.photobucket.com/albums/c208/sethchadwick/stacysbbqpork.jpg

After about a 20 minute wait, our food arrived. The first thing we did was attack the BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches. The soft, hot, sesame seed buns were filled with plenty of pulled pork that had been slathered in BBQ sauce. Thankfully, they didn’t drown the meat in the sauce, but gave it a good treatment. We put the top of the bun on the sandwich and dove in. Dad was the first to say, “This is outstanding.” And it certainly was. The pork was incredibly moist and very tender. The sauce was thick, rich, and had a slight sweetness to it that really set the flavors apart and made the whole thing shine. Dad and I agreed that this was really an excellent sandwich and the taste was exceptional. It was some of the best BBQ pork in the Valley.

Our attention turned to the basket that contained the Onion Rings and the Fried Chicken. A small mound of the rings were somewhat covering the fried chicken thigh I had requests. Dad and I each tried an onion ring and we were quite pleased. They were hot, crispy and the onions were not mushy. Whoever was operating the fryer was doing a very good job. I also liked the fact that they allowed the rings to cook a little bit longer than normal, giving the cooked batter a deep caramel color. We didn’t even bother with the ketchup as the rings were flavorful enough to support themselves.

I then tried my fried chicken thigh. One bite and I was hooked. The batter was crunchy and the chicken was falling off the bone. This was stellar. The batter was not oily or greasy, but had a delicious fried flavor and the chicken was scrumptious. Dad had a small bite and said he had a tough time deciding if he liked the BBQ pork or the fried chicken better.

http://i28.photobucket.com/albums/c208/sethchadwick/stacyscoleslaw.jpg

Dad’s Cole Slaw looked pretty good and I liked the fact that course black pepper had been added to the dressing or slaw itself. Seasoning for the win! I asked Dad what he thought and his first comment was, “Pretty decent.” I said that didn’t sound like a ringing endorsement and he said that while the flavor was good and the cabbage fresh, he really hated the fact that there was far too much dressing on the slaw almost killing any taste of the cabbage.

The Mac & Cheese looked promising. In the white Styrofoam cup, the orange color of the Mac & Cheese really popped out. I picked up a forkful of the side and liked the gooey nature of the dish. However, my first bite was … vacant. Without conveying any opinion, I asked Dad to try a bite and tell me his thoughts. After tasting a big bite, Dad just said it like it was: “It doesn’t taste like anything.” He was absolutely correct. While the gooey texture was great and the look very appealing, I simply couldn’t taste anything in this side dish. It wasn’t good or bad. It just wasn’t. I also wasn’t thrilled with the fact that in the bottom of the cup, a good quarter inch of oil was marinading the rest of the pasta. This was very disappointing.

http://i28.photobucket.com/albums/c208/sethchadwick/stacysgreenbeans.jpg

But as disappointing as the Mac & Cheese was, nothing could salvage the green beans. I was somewhat taken aback that they would serve these things because all they did was open a can and heat them up. There was no seasoning, no butter, no bacon or salt pork or anything else. I was completely perplexed as to why they would even bother. Would it have been so terrible to say, “Well, since we can’t really get good green beans right now, we are serving canned” or something to warn patrons that this dish was really just being called in? After one bite, I simply pushed them aside and I am sure my grimace was visible from across the room.

After we finished our meals, I asked Dad what he thought. He said the BBQ and fried chicken were top of the line. The onion rings were excellent and the cole slaw good. “I think their weak point are their side dishes.” Then it occurred to me that my Chowhound acquaintances had mentioned the limp sweet potato fries. I also noticed that several to go orders were simply for the meats with no side orders. It could be just coincidence, but who doesn’t like good BBQ with a couple of sides?

I was somewhat torn by Stacy’s. I will go back, simply because that BBQ Pork sandwich was killer. That combined with a side of onion rings and a drink would be an excellent lunch. I also thought the prices were insanely inexpensive and I want to try their ribs. And, certainly, everyone of the staff we encountered were very friendly and helpful. However, they need to do a little due diligence in fixing the tables and reviewing the side dishes.

Stacy’s is a great addition to that neighborhood and I am keeping my fingers crossed that they will fix a few of the things that I found lackluster.

If they did, they would certainly be looking for a new home to expand because they would have lines out the door.

Stacy’s Smokehouse
1650 East Indian School Road
Phoenix, AZ 85016
Dress: Casual
Hours: Monday through Saturday - 11 AM to 9 PM; Closed Sundays.
Notes: Cash only. Parking is in back of the building.
Alcohol: None.

Additional photos can be found at www.feastinginphoenix.com

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Stacy's Smokehouse
1650 E Indian School Road, Phoenix, AZ

  1. azhotdish Apr 14, 2008 08:15 PM

    Good thing we didn't order the mac-n-cheese! Sorry about the table, we should have warned you about that. The staff provided fairly oblivious service, and we needed to beg for more napkins and salt in an attempt to revive the fries (it didn't). Hopefully someone has mentioned the tables needing attention, and hopefully they remembered.

    On the food, I'm holding out hope on the fried okra (no one has commented on that yet, to my knowledge) and the grilled corn. The meats were downright fantastic, so I'm not worried about that.

    One thing I do wonder - will they take to-go orders over the phone? Since I will be primarily visiting them for lunch, this is a major concern of mine. If not, I probably will be sitting at that wobbly table, with mouth watering.

    Thanks for the review...

    3 Replies
    1. re: azhotdish
      Seth Chadwick Apr 14, 2008 08:19 PM

      I just gave them a call and they said they are more than happy to take to-go orders over the phone. 602-230-6724.

      No problem about the table. It was just funny watching Dad and I contort ourselves to keep everything level.

      1. re: Seth Chadwick
        azhotdish Apr 14, 2008 08:50 PM

        Thanks Seth - you're a gentleman. Looking forward to a return visit soon.

      2. re: azhotdish
        Firenza00 Apr 14, 2008 09:26 PM

        You guys had the table I mentioned in my review. :) I wonder if I'd get a free meal if I brought my cordless drill and some screws...

        We saw a ton of people who'd phoned in their order when we were there. Even at 9pm, their nominal closing time, people were still coming in.

      3. johnseberg Apr 14, 2008 08:45 PM

        My observation about sweet potato fries is that 1) they're limp or 2) they've had the flavor fried out of them. I'll take them a little limp.

        I knew feastinginphoenix was big, but, you have a governing board? :^)

        1 Reply
        1. re: johnseberg
          Firenza00 Apr 14, 2008 09:27 PM

          They have a governing board, but I believe Madge still has the final say... :-D

        2. azhotdish Apr 15, 2008 12:02 PM

          I went back for lunch today and had a BBQ pork sandwich, fried okra and coleslaw. The sandwich was great again, of course. The cole slaw was good, nice and peppery, but I agree with your dad, there was a little too much dressing. The okra was just ok - it was fried well enough with cornmeal batter but I could tell it wasn't super fresh because it didn't have the bite and texture okra normally has. For $8 and change (after $1 off coupon, courtesy of LunchClub.com), it's a great value. Probably the biggest negative I've found after two visits is that it's too close to my office....

          4 Replies
          1. re: azhotdish
            Firenza00 Apr 15, 2008 01:37 PM

            Yeah, it sounds like it's almost time for an intervention. :) I really need to try one of those sandwiches. Did you call ahead or just order when you got there? What was the turnaround time for lunch?

            1. re: Firenza00
              azhotdish Apr 15, 2008 01:49 PM

              I called ahead - I asked how long it would be and they said "by the time you get here it'll be ready". They were right, and I'm about five minutes away. Mind you, this was around 11am, and it was empty. I'm guessing had I gone 30 mins later, this would not have been the case.

              1. re: azhotdish
                Firenza00 Apr 15, 2008 08:47 PM

                Did you get the food to go? I'm curious how the sandwich stood-up to travel. Seems like it might get soggy.

                1. re: Firenza00
                  azhotdish Apr 15, 2008 09:18 PM

                  Yes I got it to go, and I was actually surprised it held up fairly well, probably thanks to the slightly more substantial bun on the large sandwich. I probably ate it within 15 mins though, so too much longer and it might be slightly harder to eat.

          2. Bill Hunt Apr 15, 2008 07:54 PM

            Great review. Had not heard of Stacy's. In that general neighborhood, we usually have opted for Honey Bear's.

            Tell me more on the cole slaw. Was it chipped, or shreded? I like my pulled-pork with slaw on top, a la lettuce on a burger, and chipped is much better for this. It is common practice in western North Carolina to do pork sandwiches this way.

            Sounds like some of the dishes might translate better to dining in, than out. Also, I do enjoy my sides, and it sounds like much more work is needed there.

            Again, thanks,
            Hunt

            3 Replies
            1. re: Bill Hunt
              Seth Chadwick Apr 15, 2008 08:44 PM

              The slaw is chipped. I have had BBQ pork sandwiches with the slaw topping and think it is great. However, for Stacy's there is just too much dressing on the slaw.

              1. re: Seth Chadwick
                azhotdish Apr 15, 2008 09:23 PM

                Unfortunately, I agree, too much dressing on the slaw for that. I've only had slaw on bbq pork with a Piedmont-style sauce though...something they do not have.

                1. re: azhotdish
                  Bill Hunt Apr 16, 2008 06:03 PM

                  Bummer. I like my chipped slaw on the dry side, but that is probably a Carolina-thing. Wife buys a slaw mix (from AJ's), runs it through her mini-Cuisinart, and then uses about 1/4 of the dressing. It bonds the chipped cabbage nicely, plus she'll add a few small slices of carrot.

                  Thanks for the info,
                  Hunt

            2. hohokam Apr 15, 2008 08:46 PM

              The way you guys (I've noticed that this is a male-only thread, so far) are talking up the meat at Stacy's, I might just give it a go, but maybe at an off-peak time. ;-)

              ps. I would be very surprised if they were able to get really fresh okra at this time of year. Maybe things will improve once okra comes into season?

              1. azhotdish Apr 19, 2008 09:30 PM

                I went to Urban Campfire today for their pulled pork to compare it to Stacy's since I had it twice last week - I have to give the nod to Stacy's in this department. IMHO, there are three reasons:

                1) it's smokier
                2) more crunchy bits
                3) the bbq sauce is superior - too much ketchup and vinegar in UC's version

                UC has better rolls (the bbq pork in sandwich form comes as three "sliders") and the yam planks kick a**, but on the meat alone, Stacy's wins.

                1 Reply
                1. re: azhotdish
                  Bill Hunt Apr 20, 2008 07:28 PM

                  Thanks for the comments. Have not dined at either, though I have to add that the vinegar aspect is a big plus for me, based on my Carolina B'BQ past. Pork & chicken seem to benefit from more vinegar in the base, though sauces are *always* served on the side with either Eastern, or Western Carolina fare. Still, I do appreciate the descriptions and have learned to live with, and enjoy, the distinctions.

                  Thanks,
                  Hunt

                  PS Just say "yam planks." Whoa, that would up the ante!

                2. azhotdish May 7, 2008 01:35 PM

                  I went back to Stacy's today, hoping to find a good side dish to match the delicious pulled pork....

                  The onion rings were thick and nicely fried, so no complaints there. The hush puppies were very disappointing - way too dense with little discernible flavor even though there was evidence of onion inside.

                  Still love their meats, but I haven't found a really good side yet...

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: azhotdish
                    Firenza00 May 7, 2008 03:07 PM

                    I'm glad to hear they've reopened after their "technical difficulties" last week.

                    1. re: Firenza00
                      azhotdish May 7, 2008 03:14 PM

                      Please explain, I didn't hear about this.

                      1. re: azhotdish
                        Firenza00 May 7, 2008 03:18 PM

                        It might have been posted on Seth's blog's comments. Someone tried to go to Stacy's last week and a sign was on the door saying closed due to technical difficulties. We swung by over the weekend and saw the same sign. No clue what the issue was. I'm guessing it's fixed now, though.

                        1. re: Firenza00
                          azhotdish May 7, 2008 04:09 PM

                          Interesting. Did you happened to notice if their smoker trailer was there when you stopped?

                          1. re: azhotdish
                            Firenza00 May 7, 2008 04:10 PM

                            I think it was. I remember seeing the front of a trailer with some wood on it.

                  2. azhotdish Aug 2, 2008 12:15 AM

                    Firenza00 had told me Stacy's had fried pickles, so I had to given them a try - not that impressed, I actually prefer them fried in flour/cornmeal, and these were all-cornmeal battered. Also, since their large sandwich is $5.25, paying $4.99 for a bag of fried pickles isn't really a value; their other sides are $2.99. That said, of course the pulled pork is still excellent. Wish they'd work on the sides!

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: azhotdish
                      Firenza00 Aug 2, 2008 09:38 AM

                      Sorry, AZHotdish. I thought I'd mentioned that we'd tried the pickles and Tara wasn't a fan, either. Definitely not worth the price. I found them really salty. Loved the pork sandwich, though. We're still trying to figure out how to get sides from Joe's and meat from Stacey's. :)

                      1. re: Firenza00
                        Seth Chadwick Aug 2, 2008 10:33 AM

                        I wish Stacy's would grab a bit of a clue on the side dish issue. I have sent friends and colleagues over for lunch or dinner with a stern warning of the side dishes, but they try them anyway and the response is universally that the meats are outstanding and the sides are terrible.

                        I would like to think the owners know this, but you never know.

                        1. re: Seth Chadwick
                          Firenza00 Aug 2, 2008 11:37 AM

                          I read that at least for their mac and cheese, which I've never tried, it's the recipe that Stacy's mother made and it's the way he likes it. Not sure about the other sides, though. It is such a strange disconnect that they have such amazing meats and sub-par sides. I'm always afraid to say anything lest I offend someone and get banned. :)

                          1. re: Firenza00
                            drewb123 Aug 3, 2008 11:23 AM

                            The mac and cheese was excellent!

                          2. re: Seth Chadwick
                            azhotdish Aug 2, 2008 01:51 PM

                            I've never said anything either about the sides, but I wish they'd figure it out. Firenza I agree, if we could get the beans from Joe's and the yam planks from UC, I'd be set. :D

                      2. azhotdish Sep 8, 2008 10:34 AM

                        Finally tried the fried chicken on Saturday night and agree with those who have said that it is quite good. We also got a half rack of the pork ribs and they were very meaty and delicious; pulled pork and catfish was excellent, as usual. I am very glad that I usually get take-out from there, however, because even with only a few people sitting down, the service is really, really slow.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: azhotdish
                          bluecat Oct 7, 2008 10:13 PM

                          Stopped in at 2 for a pulled pork sandwich and it was terrific. Hot, moist, warm bbq sauce- really great. Friendly, clean....and got a chuckle out of the light switch being outside the bathroom door.

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