Friday, June 24, 2016

"Wait...That Tiki Bar On Broadway Serves Food! Really? I Didn't Know That."

You probably haven't been here since college. know this place.

Kon Tiki.

Yeah, that Polynesian themed island getaway bar that serves up some serious drinks in kitchy goblets and steins up on Broadway and Swan. You know, Kon Tiki. Remember? You 'member.

In college you most likely came here because the drinks were huge and strong and they had a happy hour that dished out some free grub. You were young, you were broke, you wanted to get faced so this was the place you probably ended up in.



The free happy hour, thanks but no thanks, although the meatballs were good

But now you're all grown up and you haven't been back since you graduated. You have a real adult job, you drink real adult drinks, you eat at real adult places with white linen set tables or tolerate locations that have jungle gyms and Whack-A-Moles for your kids to play with as you talk about adult things with your adult friends as you sip those adult drinks.

Why should you go back to Kon Tiki after all these years? That's, era you. Right?

So why a feature on Kon Tiki, a bar most Tucson residents have been to at least once, be it voluntarily or talked into by ne'er-do-well roommates?

Uh...because of the food, dude. It's good.

Real good.

Real adults drinking, um...well they're drinking all right

Honestly, we kind of forgot about Kon Tiki too and the fact that they actually served food there. No, seriously.

A few years back, when the Homeskillet was just a once in a while / if we felt like posting 'blog lite', we did a feature on Kon Tiki as part of a short lived series where we buy a Groupon for random places, eat there and talk about it. We did like one or two, maybe three, Groupon article things then just moved on, or forgot about doing it all together. Anyway, even back then we were all "Oh yeah, the food here is great."

So you're probably reading this going, "C'mon, the food can't be that good. Kon Tiki?  It's a weird drunky bar and that buffet kind of sucks. Even if it is free."

Work with us here people.

Monkeys On A Stick, a classic and oh so tasty

True. The gratis fare isn't the subject here. That happy hour buffet is just free vittles for folks that need a bit of a buffer when it comes to quaffing much of their hell grog and it's cool that they do it in the first place. Its just chips, veggies, some dip...stuff like that. But they do put out some of their BBQ meatballs and those are pretty tight. Honestly its just some bits of bites, cheap as free, to keep you going and that's that.

No, you gotta order off the real food menu here kids. Trust us.

Okay, look...check this out.

Hawaiian fish tacos...just like the god Tangaroa used to make

If you can recall Homeskilleteers, a few weeks back we ended up eating the self-proclaimed "Best Burger and Burrito in Tucson"...and they sucked. So bad in fact that we needed booze immediately. Just a few blocks up was Kon Tiki, so we got ourselves a large vessel filled with all of the alcohol and some well needed tasty food.

"Oh wow," we all sort of said as we bit into our nibbles. "The food here is good. Maybe we should write about it."


And here we go!

The Loko Moko, a delicious burger with an egg on tropical!

So in true Tucson Homeskillet fashion we gathered up some of our closest and bravest friends and decided to order, oh, one of each from the menu.

Both the drink and food menu. C'mon, what else would you expect?

Anyway, here are the results:

JB looking concerned as Rizz slurps down another sacrificial mind drink

First, yeah, the drinks were really strong, as expected. Probably just as strong as when Kon Tiki first opened in the '60s and when you used to come here with a fake I.D. once finals were over with.

We got something called the Pele, named after the pissed off goddess of volcanoes and, boy howdy, did that thing live up to its name. Fiery, powerful and sort of lava like as it went down the gullet. Another called the 'Greenpeace' which felt like washing down a fine lawn mulch but with a distinct fruity alcohol kick to the cajones. Then there was the Fog Cutter, something called Lights Out, the Creepy Tiki, Maiden's Downfall and so forth, all of which did not list ingredients (which is probably for the best) but instead came equipped with brief descriptions of just how you might feel after you finish one:

"If strength you need, drink and it shall be granted!"

"Virgins beware!"

"The original drink was intended for a sacred ceremony until some white man found the recipe!"

Stuff like that. You get the picture.

Moa Nui chicken in coconut sauce...amazing

The crew was getting a bit tipsy but then the plethora of food arrived.

The ton of appetizers was daunting, but oh so delicious. The egg rolls were deep fried yet filled with a garden of vegetables and served with a mighty teriyaki and a sweet and sour sauce so there was a fun balance between decadent and sort of, kind of, "healthy". The BBQ ribs were hearty and sticky and fall off the bone tender. We got our pot stickers steamed which counter balanced the amount of weighty fare that was spread before us. Really good, stuffed full of savory pork with a good chew to the dumpling casing.

Then, of course, there was the classic: The Monkeys on a Stick. Tender, marinated bites of perfectly cooked medium rare steak served mini kebab style. This is essentially what saved us after eating crap food just a few blocks away. Accompanied with a stout viscid dipping sauce this dish is what you need on a daily basis.

So good.

Angry volcano deity sized pile o' rings

As people were queuing up for the free fare at the buffet, we were getting looks from all sorts; bug eyed at the amount of food we had on the table.

"Wait, they serve food here?", I overheard a portly guy ask his doppelganger wife as they glooped ranch dressing on mini carrots and ruffly potato chips atop their drooping paper plates.

Well, we hate to say it buffet jockeys, but you are officially eating food here, so, yes, they do serve "food". But if you mean like burgers, steaks, ribs, shrimp and lobster tails? Yes. Yes, Kon Tiki serves food.

And not just any kind of food, really tasty food with a distinct tropical influence.

So what are you waiting for? Do what we did and dive in!

Possibly some of the best egg rolls in town

The Loko Moko is a half pound burger of good ground beef, seasoned and cooked to order with a nice runny egg on top; it was really hefty, juicy and delicious.

There was also an order of fantastic fish tacos that were tangy and flaky with a crisp slaw and finished with a spicy aioli drizzled over. The house club sandwich could feed about three people but one of us took it down in no time flat. Piled high and served with piping hot fries, this one made us want to join whatever club they had going on, one where we would look like that Israel Kamakawiwo'ole guy in no time flat if we kept eating the way we were.

In fact, all of the plates were generous and all of it really yummy.

No really.

Jana happy/nervous about the size of her chef salad

More drinks, more food, more weird looks from bar patrons.

There was ten of us, but the feast on our tables mashed together looked as if we were on some sort of medieval gorge feast, one that would encourage many trips to the vomitorium so we can continue with the eat-a-thon.

"What did you order?"

"Oh, this is the Moa Nui."

"What's that?"

"It's, uh, a big chicken breast served with this amazing coconut sauce with a side of perfectly cooked rice and a ton of seasoned grilled vegetables."


*not responding because of shoveling more food in face*

The Tucson Homeskillet eating all of the foods

Alright, here is where we have to give some kind of critique.

Our server was amazing, but she was the only one on the floor so sometimes our orders took a bit longer than expected. Big whoop, it happens.

But here's the clincher:

Kon Tiki does not have a modern computer POS ticket service, something that like 90% of busy establishments utilize because, oh, we don't know, it's the 21st century and efficiency is as easy as pushing a few buttons. Sure it might cost a few extra (thousand) dollars but in the end it is so worth it. Our poor but awesome server had to divvy up the five separate checks BY HAND, doing the math, tax and all that using her brain and a small calculator, all the while juggling other demanding tables. So, yeah, we had to wait a while for the bills to arrive seeing as the place was jumping but not totally full and chaotic...enough to keep her very busy let's just say. It wasn't a big problem with us because we ordered more drinks straight from the bar and we were happy to do so, but if this was a table of people that didn't know how hard it is to be a server in a busy restaurant or empathize with a young person, probably in their like first or second job, ever, doing all they can to make things right, it could have gotten ugly.

So, Kon Tiki, this is the Tucson Homeskillet advising you to get a POS system for your servers. It'll make it easier on them, on you in the long run and you'll thank us and your patrons will thank you because of this.

You're welcome.

Metal Mark just had to get in on Jack and Chili's third Scorpion Bowl

Other than that, yes...Kon Tiki serves food. Not just bobbles of celery and broken pretzel fingers on the buffet table, but real authentic and fantastic food.

When you were going to the U of A you probably ate nothing but ramen or crap corporate pizza when you scored a coupon from the bookstore and, at the time, couldn't afford the "adult" prices from the Kon Tiki menu. Not that we're saying Kon Tiki is pricey, oh no, not even close, but when you are 19 with nothing but loose change in your pocket and school debt piling up, a $12 steak might as well be a Bugatti sports car. Thing is, you can't eat a Bugatti sports car. So...where's the fun in that?

Yeah. We don't know either.

Now you know, you gotta go

Now that you are all grow'd up and adulting like a mofo, you should go back to ye olde stomping grounds of Kon Tiki, get yourself a proper drink and order up some really grand food. It's fun, it's local, it's kind of a Tucson tradition and most importantly it's really scrumptious.

Unless you're still in college and are broke as all living heck so you just might have to wait a while. If you ask us we suggest dropping out of school, selling all of your text books and then just blowing it all on a drink and food fest at Kon Tiki. If you do decide to do this, just call us up and we'll show you how its done.

Just kidding. Stay in school kids.

Forget that. Have you had the Mahi-Mahi here? Oh my gosh, so good.

Whatever. You're an adult, you make the decision. But if we were you, we'd just eat Monkey Sticks all day and drink Zombies till we start walking like one. That, of course, is up to you.

Uh huh. Just what we thought.

See you here...

Thanks Kon Tiki!

Camera, Typing and Eating
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
At the Summer Solstice, 2016

Metal Influence: 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Metal Mark Celebrates the Memory of His Dad Through A Small Kitchen Item He Thought Was Long Gone...

My Dad was a great guy.

According to the picture below, he was the king. In high school, my Dad was "King of the Twist", a popular dance back in the early '60s and was also king of the school's theater department, as an actor and resident artist.

Pretty cool, yeah?

My Dad...the king

My Dad was born in West Virginia but moved to Southern California with his parents and younger brother when he was a teenager. He fit in pretty quickly, not with the popular crowd or the jocks but with the creative types, the artists, the actors, back then basically known as Beatniks, later to be called Hippies.

Even as a young guy my Dad knew he was different, which is why he fit in nicely with the "weirdos".

After high school my Dad was drafted into the Army and almost went to Vietnam. According to him, he was so bad at driving Jeeps and throwing grenades that they decided to pardon him and send him back home.

If you knew my Dad, I can't picture him driving military vehicles or tossing bombs at people either. He was a real loving and peaceful sort, the total opposite of what was going on overseas at the time.

Early acting shenanigans

After the Army, my Dad ended up moving to the central coast of California, winding up in a (then) quaint little beach town called Carmel. Nowadays it's a playground and residence for the very wealthy but in the late '60s it was still a funky coastal city filled with artists and beach bums. He fit right in.

It was around this time living around the Monterey Peninsula that my Dad began to excel at his acting and became a locally popular cartoonist and painter. He was involved with a traveling children's theater troupe and did all of the artwork on the flyers and posters for their shows.

 When my Dad met my Mom, who was a very talented costume designer and maker, he knew she was the one and shortly after they were married in a small, and very 1960's, ceremony on the coast. My Dad's wedding shirt had embroidered mirrors in it. Yeah. 

Not too long after, I came along.

Dad in "A Christmas Carol"

My parents moved back to Los Angeles to try and make it in their craft, my Mom the costume designer and my Dad the actor/artist, but just ended up getting divorced. I was four.

My Mom at the time was really busy with fashion school so my Dad got custody of me. He did all he could to raise me but ended up not acting as much and taking a full time job. He still liked to doodle though. That was something he never gave up on.

After I graduated elementary school, my Dad and I moved back to the central coast and ended up in a (then) agriculture city called Salinas. It was here that he got back into acting as I developed my obsession with hardcore Punk and Metal. I was a good kid but my hair, clothes and records I owned made him roll his eyes on a daily basis.

Still, we were best pals.

My Dad, me and my Xmas Big Wheel (check the carton of smokes on the old tube TV...70's style)

By the time I graduated high school my Dad officially came out to me as a gay man. At first I was confused and worried about what my friends would say, but I knew all along of who he was and what he was. When I got into theater school myself, surrounded by gay people and folks from all various walks of life, I totally embraced him and was proud of his lifestyle. And when he met his soon to be husband, Richard, all I wanted was for my Dad to be happy.

And he was.

Richard and my Dad had a commitment ceremony in Carmel in 1990 and then moved to Palm Springs soon after. In 2013, after the same sex marriage law passed, they were officially and legally married.

As the year progressed Richard's health diminished and in early 2014 he died from complications of Alzheimer's. My Dad was devastated, heartbroken, and when She-Ra and I went to visit him after his loss, we kind of knew what was to happen next.


My Dad died a month later, literally from a broken heart, so I immediately went back to their place in Palm Springs to start to take care of things. I ended up donating most of their stuff to local charities and selling some antiques and the car to collectors. Honestly, after all the time I had to hang out with my Dad, I only kept a few small items for myself: A painting of him as Mordred when he was in "Camelot", some vintage 3-D glasses and Hollywood memorabilia he had in storage seeing as he loved old movie posters and gimmicks, some cast iron pots and pans as Richard was a southern boy and loved to cook good down home do we, so cooking with his trusted cast iron skillets meant we were keeping that tradition going.

Unexpectedly, in a fit of sadness clearing out more of their stuff, I ended up keeping just one other thing. A strange yet oddly significant item from the past that I thought was long gone.

It was my Dad's old recipe box.

The little recipe box

Here's the thing: My Dad kind of didn't like food.

He hated all condiments such as mustard, ketchup, relish and mayo. All of it really. Tomatoes made him barf because he couldn't get over the squishy jelly in them. "It looks like they're in the larval stage," he would say. Plus most any "exotic" or "ethnic" food made him cringe. Growing up in the 'burbs of Los Angeles, I was lucky to have all sorts of diverse friends, Black, Asian, Jewish, Mexican etc, so when I hung out at their homes or spent the night there I was treated to tastes and foods that I would otherwise never get a chance to try.

It was here that my food fanaticism began to take over.

When I tried sushi and loved it and told him about it, my Dad simply said "You don't like sushi." Or when I discovered pastrami and knew I would be in love with it for the rest of my life, he would scoff "You don't like pastrami," as he dished up another Swanson's TV dinner. On and on. It wasn't until I lit out on my own that he gave in and accepted my culinary adventurousness, especially my time working as a chef.

Which makes this small yellow recipe box such a curiosity.

Pecos Pasta, a favorite of his to cook since it was easy, hearty and cheap

It's always been in the house, always somewhere in the kitchen, usually on top of the fridge. I have never known a day when this square case with mushrooms etched on the sides wasn't around in his, or my, life. The fact that he kept it all these years is a flummox too. In his later years, my Dad rarely if ever cooked. I knew Richard did, but my Dad? Not so much.

Thing is, when I was flipping through the dozen or so recipes filed away, I did start to recall him cooking up dishes from the little yellow box. He often made something called Pecos Pasta, which was literally elbow macaroni covered in chili and cheese and he did like to make vasts of his spaghetti sauce, which kept my spazzy little self fed for days after hours of playing outside or skateboarding til just after dark. Just add some noodles and cheese and, blammo, you got yourself a meal.

Oh, I see it now. Cheese, some kind of sauce and pasta. That was the mainstay of recipes in that little yellow box.


My Dad seems to be having more fun at Disneyland than I was

Funny thing is, there really isn't much to my Dad's old recipe box. A few handwritten dishes, some cut outs from magazines, my grandmother's (his mom's) recipe for fudge and my Mom's secret recipe for her lemon cheese bars that she makes every holiday season.

On the last day of being in my Dad's house after he passed, before coming back to Tucson, I found the old recipe box hidden away in a cabinet in the kitchen. I just stood there, in the nearly empty shell of their Palm Springs bungalow, in that kitchen, staring at the object from my childhood, this old recipe box, crying. Losing one Dad and then my real Dad in less than two months? I too was devastated. But for some reason finding this little object that was a staple in our kitchens, be it in Los Angeles, Salinas, Carmel or Palm Springs, made me know he was still with me and it now has a home with us in Tucson.

It sits on the windowsill in our own little kitchen in Tucson, surrounded by my weird regrowth experiments such as green onion nubs, lettuce bulbs and such, seeing if life will grow from their scraps. I can see the little yellow recipe box every morning when I open the curtains to let the early light in. Its a simple little thing, square and very '70s with its bright color and that mushroom motif, but it makes me smile every time I see it because it reminds me of my Dad and how awesome he was, even if he was a bit frightened of food.

For that factor alone its size becomes immeasurable.

But I have yet to make his famous "Nacho Fondue". I mean, I live in Tucson, so...

Well maybe someday.

Just some of the recipes from that funky yellow box

Thank you Dad for trying your best to raise me and thanks for all of the food you made from that little yellow recipe box. You will be missed but now that I have it safe and in sight in our own home, I know you are always there every time I let the morning sun into our favorite room in our home:

The kitchen.

Happy Father's Day everyone! Now go hug your Dad and make some chili. Then throw it on some pasta and top it with cheese.

It's what my Dad would want.


That's my Dad...he was one of a kind

Camera, Uploads and Remembering
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
Right before Father's Day, 2016

Metal Tribute:

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Best Burger AND The Best Burrito In Tucson? Alright...Let's Do This.

Okay, we almost feel bad about posting this article.

We at the Tucson Homeskillet are not in the food blog game to put anybody down, smear against restaurants that we deem shameful and gross or even turn our nose up at places that make us mad because the service sucks as well as the food. If the place doesn't do it for us we just move on and focus on the stuff that does make us happy.

Yeah, we did feature what we knew to be the worst burrito in Tucson but...we didn't give out the name of the place and we never will. And, sorry, it was kind of funny.

That's sort of the case here.

Well, a lot of you have been asking if we could do this particular challenge and, yes, we did (with a heavy sigh) and to not let you down we went ahead and published the results. So without further ado, here is our take on a place that claims to have the best burger and burrito in Tucson!

(Apologies to those who know who we are talking about and more apologies to the place in particular...because you know who you are. But maybe this can be an inspiration to not ride on the results of a readers poll from years past. Just sayin'...)

Well...the chips and salsa were good, so...that's a positive

The Tucson Homeskillet has been meaning to do this piece for a while. Since winning a readers poll back in 2013 for Best Burger in Tucson, this casual Mexican concept up on Broadway also won the same poll for Best Burrito in 2015.

Best burrito and best burger in town? Now that, my friends and dear readers, is quite the boast in a city literally overflowing with amazing burritos and burgers. So on a rather hot afternoon, the Homeskillet crew rolled in to see if the food lived up to the hype.

The mole was choco-chocked and that's about it

The place itself is nice. Its clean with easy to follow instructions on how to order and a menu that is extensive without being overbearing. Thing is, it was high lunchtime on a Wednesday and the restaurant was nearly empty. Not always the best sign, especially for a eatery that is boasting the best burrito and burger in Tucson.

The best huh? Man, this establishment should be booming then. Lines out the door even. If you have huge banners outside advertising the fact that you make the ultimate burrito and burger you'd think folks would be beating at the doors and windows trying to get in.

Nope. Just us, two old ladies and an Asian man on his laptop who looked rather confused about something. Possibly his food.

We give you: The Best Burrito in Tucson!

We get to the counter and order the burger, the winner, medium rare, and the burrito, the winner's circle one as well.

Since there was three of us and two items didn't seem like enough, we also got the mole fries appetizer and the chicken flautas, because if you are a Mexican food joint and screw up flautas, you need to rethink what you're doing and just go into the pest control industry or something.

And...the best burger?

The first item up was the mole fries. Seemed like a decent enough start to the judging of the restaurant's bold claims. We love poutine and fries covered in a good spicy mole sauce sounded pretty good at the time seeing as we were all rather darn hungry.

Let's just say our stomachs were in control and definitely not the brain. Or tongue.

The mole was weird. No real flavor or spice but a definitive chocolate taste overcame the thick black gravy. It clung to the piping hot crispy fries for dear life much like caked mud on a boot. The dish just didn't make any sense. In fact, it just kind of made us sad. It was as if they melted down some Hershey's Kisses into a paste and sprinkled sesame seeds on top. Really odd and really flat.

"Maybe if I just keep powering through my tastebuds wont mind after a while," Chili said as he chomped another tarred up pile of fries.

Nope. It didn't help. So we left the bowl half consumed hoping the entrees would live up to all the hoopla.

The presentation was nice and it stopped there

The flautas were the next to arrive and, sadly, they didn't help much.

The side of rice was cooked nice and the greens were fresh, but the black beans (much like the mole) were gloppy and tedious, without any real flavor and kind of a pain to eat.

The worst though was the flautas themselves.

"Tastes like dog food," chimed She-Ra as she threw one down on the plate, laughing in spite of her spite. So I took a bite and confirmed her observation.

"Yeah," I said wincing. "This beef is terrible."

"Um, that's chicken," she reminded with a grin and grimace.

Oh yeah. Oh wow. Man, so far this place isn't doing us any proper. Oh no.

But the burrito and burger...c'mon, they have to be good, right? No...the best!


Oh, there it is...yeah, it's kind of medium rare, if you squint

Eventually the two winners of a Tucson reader's poll arrived.

The burrito looked really good and was presented nicely; cut in half and stacked on top of itself with some greens, radishes and salsa on the side. As did the burger, smothered in a chipotle aioli on a decent looking brioche bun and, yes, served with those fries. Sans mole.

But the results on the actual taste of both the (supposed) best burger and the best burrito in Tucson?


Not good. Sorry.

Chili says: These fries put the poo in poutine

First off the burger was not cooked medium rare, not even close. It was "cooked", that we knew, but it didn't have a red center until we got deep down into it, and then only if you looked hard enough for it. The bun was okay, the chipotle aioli was fine but the meat seasoning was not all that great and at the bottom of it all was a collection of mystery "greens".

They looked a bit like watercress, didn't really have a distinct flavor but one thing was for sure they were really tough, so much it made cutting the sandwich in half quite a chore. Was it...grass? It might have been grass. Anyway, the patty was juicy enough to pass for acceptable but it was a far cry from being the best burger in Tucson. By far! Most dive bars with kitchens and old school steakhouses put this meager meat flounder to shame. A lot has changed since 2013 and the Tucson burger game is a tough one to beat. Getting people to vote for you via social media seemed to have worked once but I doubt this'll hold up against the magnitude and magnificence of the burgers we have here today.

Might be time to take that banner down.

Please let it end

But what about the burrito?

Yeah, what about it?

The first thing we got was salt. It was really salty. Packed with grilled vegetables such as corn, carrots and red onions, it was also filled with grilled chicken, rice and black beans. what? That's it? That's all you got? C'mon best burrito in Tucson.

It was bland. But salty.

How can this be the best Tucson? TUCSON! We are basically Mexico and the Mexican food here in unreal. I've had amazing burritos from small carts parked outside of gas stations, burritos ten times better than this one, one that garnered a "readers poll best of" over three years ago. There was absolutely nothing outstanding about the burrito or the burger, in any capacity. There are way, way better options out there and waiting for you.

Trust us here.

See, we went into this assignment with a bit of hope; we wanted to like the burger and we wanted to like the burrito. A small family run establishment beaming about how they hold the trophy for best burger and best burrito in Tucson? Great! Let's see what you got.

Unfortunately we had to stop what we were doing and just call it a day. This challenge was a bit of a fail, so we left a bit grumpy, a little hungry, and crawled into the oven like car to try and find some immediate salvation.

Sorry little place up on Broadway but the Tucson Homeskillet didn't like your food. And good luck with holding onto the "Best Of" votes for that burger and burrito. We just...yeah.


It says John on my shirt and that's where this food belongs

Anyway, our salvation came in a large icy goblet filled with rum, gin, brandy and lots of fruit juices from a dark and cool lounge just up the street. The Scorpion Bowl at Kon Tiki put us back in order and put smiles back on our faces.

Huh...and the food here is good too. Did you know that?

But that is another story all together.


This goblet of firewater made the bad man go away...temporarily

Camera, Typing and (unfortunately) Eating
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
Early June, 2016

Metal Influence:

Friday, June 3, 2016

New York Style BBQ Comes To Tucson Via A Wee Red Truck

Finally Tucson is getting into the BBQ groove. For some bizarre reason it's taken this town a while to get down with slow cooked meats, dry or wet rubs and fall off the bone deliciousness. I've seen lots of fantastic BBQ joints come and go; for some reason here in the Old Pueblo, a city resplendent with amazing and diverse cuisine, true BBQ never really seemed to take hold.

Sure there are a smattering of eateries offering up a selection of BBQ fare, even a local chain that (for whatever reason) keeps winning "Best Bar-B-Que in Tucson" year after year but, honestly, there are far better options to get your slather on.

We're looking at you Red's Smokehouse!

Heck, about a year ago, the Homeskillet discovered Mr. Cookman's, a small orange truck that churns out some of the tastiest Louisiana inspired BBQ and how he has found mobile success and is considering going landlocked with his own brick and mortar.  

So when we spotted a small red truck with a blackboard that simply said "BBQ" scrawled on it in multi-colored chalk parked in a dusty lot, we just had to pull over and see if we can discover this guy before he gets big.

That is...if the food is any good.

Michael on the grill applying nothing but love to his food was amazing.

We ordered the ribs and, oh man, the taste was a sensation. Fatty, meaty, gnaw your fingers off trying to get every succulent bite in savory perfection. The cornbread it was served with was light and flavorful with a good crumble yet pliable enough to sop up some of the tangy sauce that was on our faces and hands. As a bonus, you get a bacon wrapped cheese stuffed chili pepper that was a good spicy accompaniment to the rest of the dish.

So we ordered more food. The pork sliders melted in our mouths with a zesty slaw to round it all out. But then we were treated to the catfish sliders. Oh crap. This is when the situation got real. Not since travels through the deep south have we come across catfish done so correct. Flaky, flavorful, seasoned with care and fried to a golden perfection, it was here that we had to get to know the dude behind the BBQ madness.

Standing tall in a very tight space was a man named Michael Eure Jr., a New York transplant that now calls Tucson is home. Along with raising a family, Michael is new to the local food truck scene but with his skill and passion for what he does, we know he will go pretty darn far in the Tucson BBQ game. And what this guy can pull off in a small space? Yeah, if he ever expands he will most definitely be a contender in the local food scene.

Maybe he already is.

Well...we're about to find out.

Yes please!

"I was born and raised in New York", Michael says as he sauces up the ribs in the cramped confines of his truck, titled The Bronx Tale. "I served six years in the air force and was stationed here at the air base. After spending just one year here in Tucson...I knew this was the place for me."

"At first I ended up here due to military duty but, honestly, I stayed because of love."

And that love would be his wife and, eventually, his kids.

But we're also hoping it is his love of BBQ and serving the good people of Tucson amazing food.

Now that's love.

I think you get the idea by just looking at this rib-majesty

As Michael prepped our sliders and checked the pulled pork, we had to know how he made his way into the BBQ culinary scene in the first place.

"I got into cooking because the good Lord gave me the appetite of a competitive eater; I could never wait to eat," notes Eure Jr. in a fog bank of smoke coming off of his grill. "My grandmother is a phenomenal cook and inspired me to do more than just make things edible. I wanted to make things delectable."

Yeah. That's a good word for his food: Delectable.

I'm sure Robert De Niro would be fine with this

"Ironically, there wasn't just one experience that made me want to open a Bar-B-Que restaurant, it was more of a lack of," when we asked about what got him into the BBQ business initially and our city's lack of abundance of the style of cooking. "Tucson is a culinary melting pot and a great place to be embraced when introducing something that may seem like an oxymoron such as New York style BBQ."

It's true. We've never heard of New York style BBQ, but if it tastes anything like the creations Michael has come up with, we're sold.

So go ahead and get your rope...

Probably some of the best catfish you'll find in Tucson, or anywhere really

So Michael, what do you consider real authentic BBQ?

"In regards to real BBQ it's simple, smoking meats over hard woods over long periods of time at a low temperature. Meat that can stand alone and needs no sauce," he says with authority and a nod.

With such a paired down menu, what would you regard as a signature dish?

"I'd have to say my signature dish is the catfish sliders. But at a close second is my strawberry cornbread."

Luckily, we all had both. And, yes, we couldn't decide either.

Michael is a big man holding it down in a small space

"The food culture here in Tucson is much more diverse than the demographics might show and people are daring when it comes to trying out new things," when asked about the culinary scene of his adopted desert city.

So what about getting a food truck business up and running?

"The mobile kitchen idea came about from trial and error," Michael states as he puts the finishing touches on our sliders. "Prior to this I attempted to start my own brick and mortar restaurant, but the start up fees and tremendous overhead is what geared us toward this avenue.

"The challenges in operating a food truck is exposure to the elements and finding a sound location to park or a partnership with another business where we compliment each other. The reward is simple: I am able to apply my God-given gift in a way that has me connect with scores of people potentially everyday to spread the good news."

Amen to that!

Pulled pork sliders...yes, you need these in your life

With a fantastic food product and an even better outlook on life, we were curious as to what Michael thought the future of his cooking career and The Bronx Tale just might be.

"The future for us is a simple one. As long as I love my neighbor and put people before monetary success; I'm on a narrow path following the Almighty, giving honor, praise and glory through my works!

"That's real..."

Mike is real, his food is real (really exciting and delicious) and now you really need to find him and The Bronx Tale and see, and eat, for yourself.

You can follow him and The Bronx Tale online and track them down HERE.

Good luck. And don't blame us if you get addicted to The Bronx Tale's New York style BBQ. Even Robert De Niro can't help you with that.

For real...

Trust this man and trust his food...Mike has got you

Camera, Typing & Eating
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
Last Day in May, 2016

Metal Influence: