Good old-fashioned barbecue was one category that I realized was missing from the food reviews I’ve done so far. So this week, my mom and I trekked across town to Mr. K’s Barbeque at its new location on the corner of N. Stone Ave. and River Road.
Their website dubs them as ‘Tucson’s Best BBQ.’ Read on, and in their self-description they claim to have some of the best BBQ in the Southwest.
While K’s definitely has the potential to back up these claims, I think they have some work to do.
The menu is straightforward and divided into eight categories: 1/2 Pound Sandwiches, Jumbo Baked Potatoes, House Salads, Meals, Que By The Pound (which basically means a la carte), Kid’s Menu, Sides, and Desserts.
Let’s start with the positives. My mom ordered the Pulled Pork Sandwich ($7) and I opted for the 3 Meat Rib Meal ($14). The meat was good.
General Manager Steve Sargent attributed this to the two smokers ‘out back’ that collectively hold up to 3,000 pounds of meat. The brisket remains in the smoker for 16 hours, and the ribs stay for 18, leaving the meat with a distinctively smoky flavor. The ribs were slathered with a thick, somewhat tangy barbecue sauce (I unknowingly asked for more, sticking to my mantra that less is not more when it comes to sauce). And the pulled pork was presented on a gigantic bun.
As I said, we were mostly impressed with the meat. Though I will note that the ribs ended up being bonier and fattier than I usually prefer because Mr. K’s only offers spareribs, and not baby back ribs. Also, when you order the ribs in a meal, and not a la carte, they come sliced instead of intact. The sauce was only mediocre; it was mostly too thick and lacking in complexity compared to other barbecue sauces that I’ve tried in my day.
Another qualm was that, while the pulled pork was very tasty, the bun was cold. It would have been much more enjoyable had it been served warm.
Sargent also told me that Mr. K’s prides itself on making homemade sides, and there was quite a selection to choose from (another plus). My rib meal included two, and I couldn’t resist the Green Chili Corn Bread and Mac n Cheese. For $1 more my mom added a side onto her meal, and she asked specifically for hot fries. The person taking our order kindly offered to make a fresh batch, saying he would bring us the fries when they were ready.
Perhaps this was a foreshadowing. Although the steak fries were delightful, and the server provided excellent service in this respect, my sides fell short—they were very cold. This was disappointing because I could taste the potential in these dishes, especially the corn bread, but it couldn’t come through because the food had been sitting under heat lamps for seemingly too long. If K’s wants to be known as a citywide favorite, it would be wise to ensure hot food.
I’m not saying I wouldn’t eat there again—K’s has many components that I deem important in an overall good barbecue experience. The atmosphere is both casual and charming, as guests receive their food in a cafeteria-style format, with lunch trays included. Picnic tables with red and white checked tablecloths also inhabit the two large dining rooms, making for an even more ‘down home’ feel. And an old, refurbished piano stands in the middle of the ordering area—one that guests can play, provided they are advanced pianists or professional musicians. These are all positive components of Mr. K’s.
According to Sargent, “The smoked turkey is one of the hidden favorites.”
This is one item on the menu I would not think to order, and would definitely like to try at some point. However, I’m going to give this establishment a little more time to settle in and focus on the fundamentals before I give it another shot.
Mr. K’s Barbeque
4911 N. Stone Ave., 408-7427
Rating: ★★ or ★★½
Recommended Dishes: Pulled Pork Sandwich, Green Chili Corn Bread
Price Range: ½ lb. Sandwich, $7; Jumbo Baked Potato, $5 Stuffed with Meat $8; Salad, $5; Meals, $10 to $14; Kids Meals, $5; Que by the LB, $11 to $22; Sides, $2 or $7; Desserts, $4
What the stars mean: Ratings range from zero to four stars and reflect the reviewer’s response to the food, ambience, and service. Prices are taken into consideration.