Starlite BBQ and Whiskey Bar offers up some impressive barbecue and a bar that’s a whiskey fan’s dream; but the weekend brunch will have you wanting to sleep in the parking lot after a night out in nearby Old Town.
When discussing Starlite BBQ, it’s a good idea to start with the team behind it. All you have to say is “The executive chef from Ocotillo in Phoenix opened a restaurant” and a lot of restaurant-goers in the Valley will come running – for good reason. That chef, Walter Sterling, also brought Ocotillo vet Alex Levine to be the chef de cuisine. Their desire to bring something unique to the area with no regard to some purists’ strict rules about barbecue, where the only real requirement is being delicious, is apparent in so many dishes.
The vibe at Starlite is casual but trendy. The design is clean with straight lines and a long bar. Torched cedar makes up the ceiling and acts like a roadway to the liquor shelves prominently displayed behind the bar. General Manager/Partner Brad Twigg has accrued a whiskey list sure to have connoisseurs drooling. Rarities, cult favorites, special editions and classics line the shelves. Not content to let them sit and look pretty, Twigg uses selections like Whistle Pig 10 Year Rye and Stagg Jr. Cask Strength Bourbon in some of the house cocktails.
About those house cocktails… if you or someone you know is that person that takes forever to decide what to order, you may want to have them spend some time with the cocktail list ahead of time. Between 15-20 signature drinks with varying liquors make up Starlite’s menu. Certain drinks, like the Whiskey River and the Piñata Punch, have considerable heat that stands up to any spice you may encounter in your meal. Other selections, like the C’est La Vie and the Unicorn Tears are citrus in nature and go down fast and smooth. For those who don’t like the hard stuff, a selection of wine and beer is available.
There’s a lot to choose from on the menu – even more when you go during Starlite’s weekend brunch with bottomless mimosas for $15. If you do go for brunch, you may want to stick to that menu since there are multiple can’t miss dishes that aren’t always available. The Smoco Loco is Sterling’s take on a Hawaiian favorite that includes an extremely tender double-smoked meatloaf, two eggs, gravy and white rice. It’s a great alternative to a steak and eggs breakfast. Adding fried chicken to the Cornbread Pancake is a must. It makes for a good change from a standard chicken and waffles. If you choose the Starlite Benedict, just be prepared. It’s hard not to eat the whole thing, and if you eat the whole thing, your day is over. The amount of flavor bursting from all the components will have you taking a nap on your couch dreaming about eating it all over again.
Just talking about all those dishes makes me want to eat healthy. Thankfully, there are some tasty health-conscious choices at Starlite BBQ. The Grilled cauliflower benefits from green goddess dressing and picks up extra flavor from the grilling. Grilled Squash makes an appearance also with a dark mole sauce.
Ok, that’s enough of the healthy stuff. There are more fit foods and salads to choose from, but I just remembered they have Grilled Bacon Steak and I’m done caring about my health. Starlite’s bacon steak is an appetizer but there’s plenty to enjoy and it comes with Whistle Pig Maple Syrup. The Smoked Chicken Wings are both familiar and, much like the rest of the menu, distinct. They’re also addictive, so if you’re sharing amongst the table be prepared to place a second order.
The best BBQ restaurants usually have one thing in common – a large selection of sides. Starlite is no different in that regard and all the favorites are there – mac and cheese, pork and beans and more. There are also all kinds of meaty sandwiches to choose from, including a hot fried chicken and a smoked and grilled meatloaf.
The Large Plates section of Starlite’s menu covers all of the BBQ. Ribs and brisket and chicken dishes, oh my. The Brontosaurus Rib (for two) brings back memories of The Flintstone’s opening credits. It’s two pounds of smoked goodness. The tables are already adorned with three sauces to choose from so you can mix and match and see what your favorite is.
It’ll take a few trips to Starlite BBQ to make it through the whole menu and choose your favorites. It’s a good thing the research is rewarding.
Starlite BBQ is open Wednesday through Sunday for dinner with Happy Hour 4pm to 6pm and brunch every Saturday and Sunday 10am to 4pm. For more information, visit starlitebbq.com.