Writer Amanda Christmann
Photography by Bryan Black

[dropcap]A[/dropcap] lot can happen in 10 years.

Who would have thought when the last decade began that iPads would change how we live and work, or that Toys R Us would disappear? Who could have guessed that driverless vehicles would make their debut in Phoenix, or that Larry Fitzgerald would still be standin’ by his man, Bill Bidwell, despite a roller coaster of seasons for the Arizona Cardinals?

For Chef Bryan Dooley, the last 10 years have been nothing less than sweet. 

In late 2008, Dooley and his wife Donna opened the doors of Cave Creek’s Bryan’s Black Mountain Barbecue. The very fact that he put his own name on the sign was telling: Dooley put it all on the line, and he’s continued to pour his heart and soul (and a little bit of tangy sauce) into his work.

Ten years of slow pecan-smoked goodness later, he’s decided that it’s time to celebrate.

Though its rustic décor in the dining room compliment the downtown Cave Creek vibe, there’s nothing ordinary about what Dooley is plating up.

On any given day, the dining room at Bryan’s is full of visitors from all over the world. That’s due in large part to rave reviews on Yelp, and in Phoenix New Times and USA Today. It’s become a must-experience spot for tourists and winter visitors alike.

Perhaps more importantly though, it’s a favorite among locals. There’s a wise old saying that asserts that, if you want to know where the best food is, look for local cars in the parking lot. Bryan’s Black Mountain Barbecue is a local gathering spot for people of all ages because Creekers know that, no matter what they order, it’s going to be good.

First-time patrons are often surprised by the variety found in the menu. In addition to the standard brisket, pulled pork and other traditional barbecue fare served on buttered, griddle-fried rolls, Bryan’s offers frogs’ legs, pulled spaghetti squash sandwiches and their famous olive cole slaw. 

The foundation for it all is Bryan’s pecan-smoked meats. For Dooley, barbecue is an art, and every day he takes pride in using a palate of heat, wood and smoke to create something wonderful.

Bryan’s menu and quality are often unexpected for those who walk through the door for the first time, but Dooley is no common pit master. 

After graduating from New York’s prestigious Culinary Institute of America, he dished up delicious at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort for 13 years.

A broken leg led Dooley to reconsider his path. Forced to remain in his Cave Creek home for weeks, he and Donna began to reconstruct their future, adding a few more tablespoons of passion and more than a few pinches of purpose and love. 

His chef background gave him a more imaginative range of possibilities to work from, and he ran with it—in a most unpredictable direction.

Bryan returned to his Midwest roots, focusing on the memories and skills earned and learned on his grandfather’s farm. He grew up in a culture where barbecue means business and family recipes are deathbed confessions, and he drew from those secrets to develop and hone his own take on barbecue.

He’s also put significant thought into pairing his main ideas. Pickled jalapenos, cowboy beans and dozens of craft beers are among the hugely popular sides and drinks available. Topped off with homemade ice cream sandwiches or sarsaparilla floats (spelled “sasparilla,” the cowboy way), Dooley manages to blend the West and the Midwest in tasty harmony.

He’s never kept his strategy secret. He even published a cookbook of all of his recipes in 2011 called “Stories and Recipes from Bryan’s Black Mountain Barbecue.” Available in the store and on Amazon, it’s still a popular item for those who want to give great barbecue a shot at home.

Those first few weeks in 2008 were a little daunting. After all, the Dooleys had no idea if their ideas and hard work would be well received. But people came. Ten years later, they still keep coming through the doors of Bryan’s Black Mountain Barbecue.

Bryan’s Black Mountain Barbecue 10-Year Anniversary
Saturday, April 6 | 5:30–8:30 p.m. | 6130 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek | Live music provided by Chuck Hall and Hans Olson | Taste a variety of local and craft beers | 480-575-7155 | bryansbarbecue.com