By Kelly Vaughn | Photograph by John Burcham
Charley Hong built the English Kitchen in 1899, after his original restaurant at the Connor Hotel burned down. Miners, settlers and visitors considered it the best Chinese restaurant in Jerome, and despite a strong anti-Asian sentiment in the early 20th century, the restaurant thrived — as it continued to do even after several changes in ownership and iterations (including as a pizza parlor).
In 2007, though, the English Kitchen shut its doors for good, ending its tenure as the oldest continuously operated restaurant in Arizona.
Luckily, the Conlin family has owned the building since the mid-1980s, so after some renovations and a menu overhaul, Bobby Conlin and his sister, Kathryn, opened Bobby D’s BBQ — the “D” in the restaurant’s name stands for Douglas, Bobby’s middle name — in the spring of 2011.
“I grew up in the Verde Valley,” Bobby Conlin says. “I was born in Phoenix, but my parents moved up here when I was 5, so I feel a strong pull to the place.”
That’s why, he adds, the pecan wood he piles into his pit smoker each morning comes from Camp Verde. It’s also why he’s retained so much of the building’s charm. The beveled mirrors are original, as are the bar stools. The booths and the bird’s-eye maple floor are true, too. And while the building’s décor is charming, it’s the food that keeps people coming back over and over again.
On a Thursday afternoon in early January, the streets of Jerome are quiet, awaiting the onslaught of weekend tourists. But Bobby D’s is full. The servers make sweet small talk with customers while they place heaping plates of onion rings and chicken wings in front of them. Beer-battered and thick, the rings are served with barbecue mayonnaise, and they’re substantial enough to eat as a meal — well, a partial meal.
If you’re smart, you’ll save room for rich slices of brisket, decadent pulled pork, smoked chicken or ribs, paired with sides of fries, coleslaw, beans, or mac and cheese. And there are burgers, too — even a house-made veggie burger that one vegetarian describes as “savory.” Salads, sandwiches and craft cocktails round out the menu, as does a rich turtle cheesecake.
It’s a menu reflective of Conlin’s passion for the barbecue craft, but also of his affection for Jerome. “Everything we do is done with a lot of care and a lot of love,” he says.
Bobby D's BBQ is located at 119 E. Jerome Avenue in Jerome. For more information, call 928-634-6235 or visit www.bobbydsbbqjerome.com.