I did a ton of research for ‘Lost Restaurants of Tucson’ at the Arizona Historical Society. The Research Library there has files and files of information about Tucson’s history; all of Arizona, the Southwest and northern Mexico, as well. And the photos I used from their archives are stunning in the stories they tell.
As part of the agreement, if you use AHS for research for a book, you are required to donate a book, so I headed down there today. I hadn’t had a chance to check out Red’s Smokehouse and Taproom, Chef Ramiro Scavo’s newest venture on University Boulevard.
So I headed there with an empty stomach and high hopes (due in part to the lovely aroma that could be smelled for blocks). My good buddy, CJ Hamm is the manager so it was fun seeing him again; it’s been awhile.Scavo’s other venue, Pasco Kitchen & Lounge is across the street.
The dining room is long and narrow with an open kitchen in one corner and a bar that opens to a walkway off University. Trimmed out in black and red, the space is modern and industrial, yet warm and inviting.
The menu has all the usual BBQ suspects, but in the hands of Scavo and crew there is a definite Tucson flavor. I ordered a half-rack of baby back ribs and a side of cornbread.
All I can say is “My, oh my!”
Served on a metal tray lined with white parchment paper, the ribs paint a beautiful picture. On the side was a mix of grilled goodies – jalapeno, orange slice, onions etc. came with the order. Two of the house sauces – one vinegar based; the other tomato based – were also on the tray. And, of course, the cornbread.
The ribs were big and meaty and fell off the bone with barely a nudge. Scavo wet rubs them with “Tucson” seasonings including guajillo and agave making them spicy, sweet and slightly sticky. They were heavenly and totally unlike others I’ve had. You really didn’t need the sauces, but they added interesting twists, each in their own way.
The cornbread was crumbly as all good cornbread should be. There was a hint of sweet that was balanced by light peppery compound butter that melted on top.
Red’s Smokehouse & Taproom has only been open 3 weeks, so some of the dishes are still in the experimental stage, but in all honesty, I wouldn’t change a thing with any of the food I tasted.
i see great things in the future for this place.
I’ll be back.