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Where Arizona BBQ meets Family Traditions

Come explore the best BBQ places in town

Article by Krista Carpenter-Beasley

Photography by Krista Carpenter-Beasley

Originally published in Gilbert City Lifestyle

When the sun comes out and the temperature rises, Americans across the country gather around their grills and smokers for a classic barbecue feast. But "barbecue" is more than just a cooking method or a social gathering. It's a culinary tradition that has roots in indigenous communities of the Caribbean and has been influenced by African American culture, Mexican outdoor cooking, and the meat-making traditions of German and Czech immigrants, truly representing the diverse flavors and culinary heritage of America and centers around the heart and soul of its people - family. While Arizona may not hold the title of the BBQ capital of the world, we do have some incredibly talented pitmasters right here in our own backyard, and this article serves as an open declaration of love for some of our special, saucy establishments right here in Gilbert. 

Caldwell County

Nestled along Higley, just off the 202 and across from the American Furniture Warehouse, Caldwell County BBQ stands as a beacon of Arizona's finest barbecue. 

During peak hours, you might find yourself in line, but fear not; the wait is brief, and trust me, it's well worth an extra minute or two of anticipation. For the full experience, I highly recommend indulging in a bit of everything. Whatever you do, do not miss out on the jalapeno cheddar sausage, the cornbread casserole, or the mac and cheese — which, by the way, happens to be our absolute favorite in town. 

Once you've secured your tray of barbecue goodness, take a seat indoors or head outside to a picnic table. Prepare to be immersed in a world of juicy, tender, smoky, and downright tantalizing flavors. You know it's a truly exceptional meal when conversation, even about the food itself, falls to a hush, punctuated only by the occasional "wow" or muffled, ecstatic "mmmm." While plastic utensils often struggle against hearty beef and pork, here they effortlessly slice through the savory and succulent brisket, adorned with a delightful char and that coveted pink smoke ring that can only come from "low and slow" cooking. The sausage is equally impressive, boasting a thin, crispy skin, firm texture, robust flavor, and a hint of smokiness that feels almost heavenly on the palate.

And let's not forget about the sauces. Caldwell County offers a range of options, from the Hot and Sweet style to the tantalizing Arizona Gold, not to mention their incredibly satisfying House Sauce. Personally, I'm usually a purist when it comes to barbecue, preferring the meat to stand on its own. However, there's something undeniably special about the Arizona Gold sauce that compelled me to take a bottle home for later enjoyment.

And don't forget to check out their newest location at Pecan Lake in Queen Creek for an experience that promises not only incredibly delicious food but also a fun-filled outing for the whole family.

Joe's Real BBQ 

In the heart of Downtown Gilbert, Arizona, where the sun-soaked streets echo with the aroma of smoked meats and the laughter of patrons, there's a special place where BBQ isn't just about the food—it's about family. At Joe's Real BBQ, the true essence of barbecue is embodied not just in their savory ribs and brisket, but in the values and traditions that have been passed down through generations. As you step into the converted 1929 grocery store, the inviting scent of slow-smoked meats greets you, setting the stage for an experience that goes beyond the culinary.

Founded in 1998, Joe's Real BBQ in Downtown Gilbert is more than just another restaurant; it's a labor of love that began with Joe Johnston's passion for barbecue. What started as a backyard hobby grew into a full-fledged eatery, with Joe's commitment to quality and authenticity at its core. But Joe didn't embark on this journey alone; he was joined by his family every step of the way. Today, as you sit down at a table at Joe's Real BBQ, you're not just enjoying a meal; you're becoming part of a legacy. You're savoring the fruits of a family's labor, passed down from one generation to the next. In every bite of tender brisket and every dollop of tangy sauce, you can taste the history and the heart that goes into each dish.

The next time you find yourself in Downtown Gilbert, make your way to Joe's Real BBQ. Experience more than just a meal; experience the warmth of family, the richness of tradition, and the true essence of barbecue. At Joe's, it's not just about the food—it's about coming home. It's a place where families gather for celebrations, friends meet for a casual meal, and strangers become friends over a shared love of barbecue. The sense of belonging is palpable, serving as a reminder of the importance of coming together around a table. 

Flying K BBQ Food Truck

In the bustling food scene of Gilbert, Arizona, there's a food truck that stands out not just for its mouthwatering barbecue but for the rich heritage and dedication that fuels its fire. Meet the Flying K BBQ food truck, a true gem in the culinary landscape. This Gilbert family-owned and operated venture, led by Chef Ken Davis and his wife Heather, not only brings award-winning Arizona-Style BBQ to the table but also embodies the spirit of service and tradition.

Chef Ken Davis, a talented Arizona native and award-winning pitmaster, doesn't just create barbecue — he crafts experiences. Hailing from a long line of settlers in Northern Arizona, Ken's roots run deep in the state's history. But before donning his chef's hat, Ken served in the Army and fought fires as a Hotshot for the U.S. Forest Service and it's this background of service and dedication that now drives his mission to serve the local community through his love of food. In 2012, Chef Ken honed his skills and developed a unique style of barbecue that has become legendary, and this isn't just any barbecue; it's an original Arizona-Style BBQ that locals and visitors alike can't get enough of. Whether it's the perfectly smoked brisket, or a smokey, snappy sausage, each bite tells a story of passion and expertise. But behind every great pitmaster is a great partner, and in Ken's case, it's his equally skilled wife, Heather. A culinary powerhouse in her own right, Heather brings 17 years of experience in the Hospitality and Food and Beverage Industry to the table. 

Flying K BBQ isn't just about serving up delicious meals; it's about forging connections with the community. Whether they're catering events, hosting pop-ups, or serving hungry customers from their vibrant food truck at a local feastival, Ken and Heather create an atmosphere where guests feel like family. And while rooted in tradition, Flying K BBQ is also a place of innovation. Ken and Heather are always experimenting with flavors and techniques, keeping their menu fresh and exciting. From classic brisket to inventive twists on sides like loaded Mac and a sauce imagined up by the couple’s daughter, there's always something new to discover.

Follow them on social media for updates on their latest locations and upcoming

We do have some incredibly talented pitmasters right here in our own backyard.

  • Joe's Real BBQ
  • Joe's Real BBQ

Businesses featured in this article