Eat at Joe's Barbecue is located at 17809 Highway 93 in Wikieup. For more information, call 928-765-2287 or visit www.eatatjoesbarbecue.com.
© Peter Schwepker
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It's in His BonesJoe Heslin is a patient man, especially when it comes to prepping his barbecued ribs. Indeed, good things come to those who wait. That's why people are flocking to Eat at Joe's in Wikieup.
By Roger Naylor
Wikieup As Joe Heslin prepared to open Eat at Joe's Barbecue in Wikieup, he set his sights on a rare J & R Oyler smoker. The guy who owned it never stood a chance.
"I was buying restaurant supplies in Phoenix and saw this big, beautiful smoker hidden in the corner," Heslin recalls. "It was from the '60s and they just don't make 'em like that anymore. I asked the price, but it wasn't for sale. So I kept shopping and dragging things out and I kept coming back to the smoker, but the guy was adamant. Finally, after three hours, I told him, 'I'm going to Walmart, buying a sleeping bag, and I'm going to camp out here until you sell it to me.' "
If you're wondering how the test of wills came out, walk around back of Eat at Joe's and admire the Oyler. The moral: Never try to outlast a pitman. Someone who customarily preps meat for 16-24 hours doesn't lack patience.
"I've been barbecuing since I was a kid," Heslin says. "And I've tried barbecue from across the country, seeing what worked and what didn't. What I do here is simple: I use the best meats I can get my hands on and throw it in the smoker with locally cut mesquite and nothing else."
Eat at Joe's dishes up meaty racks of baby back ribs that are tender but not helpless. They offer just a hint of resistance, refusing to surrender without a bite. That texture makes them all the more delicious.
In addition to hearty pulled pork shoulder and melt-in-your-mouth beef brisket, the menu offers some surprises, such as Boudain, a Cajun specialty, and Mojoes, a full pound of exquisitely seasoned and slow-smoked pork sausage.
Heslin serves everything with sauce on the side. Customers have a chance to savor the quality of the meat itself and the smoky notes that permeate it.
"Barbecue joints that drench their food with sauce are hiding something," Heslin proclaims.
His place is simple and inviting, operated solely by Heslin and his wife, Rose. A dining room that's not much more than a screened-in porch is lined with picnic tables built by a neighbor. Instead of napkins, washcloths adorn the tables. Because if all you require after chowing down is a dainty dab, you didn't have real barbecue.
"I'm determined to serve barbecue that people always remember," Heslin says.
And we know how things turn out when the man puts his mind to something.