After a long day of slumming through the Arizona Desert Sonora Museum, Madge, Boris and I headed back to Phoenix. The quick 90 minute ride was uneventful and we reached our destination. We decided to regroup after a bit of freshening up and then head to dinner.
It was about 8:15 PM and we decided to try for some BBQ. We weren't looking for the best in Arizona, just something competent. After searching a bit on the Internets, we found something promising called Lovejoy's KansAZ City Bar-B-Q along Bell Road near 7th Street in North Phoenix. We loaded up in the car, hit the 51 and headed north.
We arrived shortly before 9 PM and pulled into the parking lot. Lovejoy's is a stand-alone building in a strip mall. The building faces Bell Road and parking was plentiful. There were several cars in the lot and it was a Saturday night, so we knew the place wouldn't be dead. We walked in and looked for someplace to sit.
A few tables were taken and we hunted for a booth. Our first choice was a tight squeeze. I know I am a pretty big guy, but the space was ridiculous. None of us could fit in the booth and we tried for a second one. It was only marginally better. We would have taken a table with chairs in the secondary dining room, but the place was a mess and hadn't been bussed (or so we thought, but more on that later).
Our waitress gave us menus and took our drink order. We tried one more seating arrangement and settled for the last booth in the place near the entrance to the restrooms. Our waitress brought us our drinks: 2 Diet Cokes ($1.50 each) and an Iced Tea for Boris ($1.50). We surveyed the menus and the usual suspects were accounted for.
After some talk, we each decided to have the 3-Meat BBQ Dinner Platter ($13.95 each). With this option, you got a choice of three of the following items: Beef Ribs, Pork Ribs, Rib Tips, Beef Brisket, Pork, Ham, Chicken, Burnt Ends, Hot Links, and Sausage. You also got to choose two sides from: Cole Slaw, Potato Salad, BBQ Beans, Black Beans, Onion Rings or Fries. I ordered first and selected the Pork Ribs, Pork, and Burnt Ends with Cole Slaw and BBQ Beans. Madge chose the Beef Brisket, the Hot Links and the Sausage with Double Fries. Boris decided to go with the Pork, Beef Brisket and Ham. He had originally selected Chicken, but the restaurant was out. Boris also went with the Onion Rings and Black Beans.
We waited for a bit and chatted about our trip to Tucson. About 15 minutes passed and our meals arrived. My plate was sat down and I was immediately struck with how sloppy the presentation was.
Everything had been piled up next to each other and the drippings from the meats formed a puddle on my plate which made the accompanying roll a soggy mess. It was a disappointing impression that could have easily been prevented with some attention from the kitchen. Next up was Madge's plate.
Madge's dinner had a much better presentation than mine, but, again, the meats were all sort of piled up in the middle. The fries were substantial in volume and covered over half the plate. Next up was Boris.
Boris' plate was like the others, but the onion rings looked pretty decent. The black beans, however, looked awful. I know this is a BBQ joint with the hokey faux gingham tableclothes, but that doesn't excuse the lame presentations.
Our server left and then returned with my beans and slaw. The BBQ Beans looked tasty and the Cole Slaw looked very fresh. We were also given two bottles of BBQ sauce to adorn our meal. One was regular and one was spicy. We dressed our meals, got some extra napkins ready and got ready to inhale BBQ.
My first attack was the Burnt Ends. These were the ends of the brisket after cooking that were a bit too well done to be sliced and served. I enjoy debris meats and had no problem that they were well done. The taste was decent. The problem was the Burnt Ends had gone from Burnt to ice cold in seconds flat. You know temperature is a problem when the room temperature sauce actually warms your dish.
Next up was the sliced pork. This was a winner. Hot, tender, juicy and slathered in sauce, I was very pleased with the melt-in-your-mouth meat. Boris also chimed in that the pork was very good.
The last item on my plate were the Pork Ribs. They were meaty and cooked well. Again, temperature was a problem as they were cold and the meat was not as tender as it could have been. Sadly, these could have been a success if the kitchen paid a little attention to them.
I turned my attention to the cole slaw and it was decent. Cold, crisp and creamy, it was fresh and tasty. It wouldn't win any awards, but it was competent. The BBQ Beans had a nice taste, but was another victim of the Snow Miser. Cold, cold, cold.
Boris was busy eating his meal when I asked for his take on the food. He did enjoy the pork and stated the ham was okay, but was not heated through. The arctic chill from my plate was clearly spreading fast over the table. He did say the Beef Brisket was okay as well, but wasn't as good as it could have been. He said the onion rings and black beans were "institutional."
Madge, unfortunately, seems to have gotten the short end of the deal because she had only marginal words to say about her meal. She agreed with Boris that the Beef Brisket was okay. However, she felt cheated by the Hot Links and Sausage. The shrugging of her shoulders and the "eh" that left her lips when I asked her about them was all I needed to know. She did say the fries were decent. Toward the end of the meal, I tried them and clearly they were meant to compliment my meal because they were completely cold.
The roll that was served with each of our meals was an afterthought and clearly from the Brown 'n' Serve collection from your local supermarket.
We decided to tempt fate and try some desserts. I am a peach cobbler fan, so I chose the Peach Cobbler a la Mode ($3.50). Madge isn't a fan of peaches and chose the Blackberry Cobbler a la Mode ($3.50) instead. Boris thought he would mix up the choices and went for the Bread Pudding ($3.50). We only waited a few moments before they were brought to our table. Madge's blackberry treat was set down first.
It actually looked pretty good. I was very happy at what I saw. Next up was my peach cobbler.
It looked pretty good as well and I was hopeful that we would leave with at least a small smile on our faces. Boris' bread pudding was then set down on the table.
This looked great because the presentation was half-way decent with drizzles of caramel sauce all over the pudding and the plate. If only our entrees had been treated with this care.
I dove into my peach cobbler and it was good. I would have preferred a bit more warmth to the cobbler, but the pastry was flaky and good. The ice cream was standard, but the peach sauce made it taste great. The peaches were canned, but I have no qualms regarding that since you aren't going to get fresh peaches in February in Arizona. I was happy, though. Madge also liked her cobbler, particularly the tartness of the berries being offset by the ice cream.
The big winner for dessert, however, was the bread pudding. Hot, flavorful, rich, and delicious. I was envious of Boris' selection because it really stood out. (-1 point for Boris for having the best dessert.)
We finished up and waited for our bill. Service was decent, but nothing spectacular.
This next observation has weighed on my mind since we ate at Lovejoy's. Madge and Boris said it was fair game for a review, but I fear coming across as cold as my dinner. However, I think people who are going to dinner have a right to know what to expect.
During our meal, we were a bit put off by the fact that we kept seeing kids running back and forth down the aisles of the restaurant. They would run into the bathrooms and then more kids would follow telling them to go back. This was repeated several times throughout our meal. They were joined by a small baby that was continually crying very loudly for over 45 minutes.
As it turned out, the kids running back and forth, along with the crying baby, were the children of the staff of Lovejoy's. Since it was approaching 10 PM, I wasn't surprised to hear the baby crying so loudly. What did surprise me was that the secondary dining room was not bussed because it was being used as a nursery/playroom for the children.
I will let everyone make their own judgements, but I will suggest that it probably is not good for business nor appropriate to have a dining room double as a playroom.
In any event, our bill was $61.48 which included tax. All in all, this was not a very good experience. It could have been a better experience if the kitchen had spent put more effort in making the temperature consistent and had a little creativity with the presentation. When bread pudding is the big standout, this isn't a restaurant I will return to, even if the sliced BBQ pork was very good and the bread pudding excellent.
I only wish it had been better. Like the food, I was left feel cold by the entire experience.
Lovejoy's KansAZ City Bar-B-Q
735 East Bell Road
Phoenix, AZ 85022