Cowboy-Casual Cuisine

The regulars love the friendly, no-frills service and masterfully prepared meats at Cody's Beef 'n' Beans

Cody's Beef 'n' Beans is all about just that--beef and beans. Housed in a nondescript midtown strip mall, Cody's has been serving up steaks and such (cut and ground in-house, mind you) for more than 25 years. It's the kind of place you head for when you're hankering for a piece of quality red meat.

We stopped by on a Friday evening--no reservations necessary--to find the place has not changed much since our last visit several years ago. "Cowboy casual" is the only way to describe Cody's. Weathered barn paneling lines the walls, and cowboy paraphernalia hangs everywhere--lassos, horseshoes, lanterns, Western art, cow skulls, a cowhide and the largest set of steer horns I've ever seen. This is not the place to take your vegetarian friends. The booths look like fancy "stalls" with tables topped in vinyl and standard-issue restaurant chairs. There wasn't any country music playing, though, which seemed a bit odd considering all the other cowboy regalia about.

The placemats--which list 30-some great places to visit in Arizona, Cody's being No. 31--are a cute touch and fun to read while you're waiting for your meal. (Count how many places you've visited!)

Service is exactly what you might expect from a place decked out like a well-kept barn: There are no hovering servers anticipating your every thought, just down-home, no-frills service. Friendly, too.

Wine lovers might cringe at the choices. The only wine available comes in a carafe, half-carafe or by the glass. There's also a 187-ml wine for one--jug wine at its finest. The beer list is a little lengthier, with both domestics and imports available by bottle or on tap. We ordered two beers, neither of which came in the "boot glass"--a Cody's trademark.

We skipped appetizers because everything was breaded and deep-fried--the usual onion rings, zucchini and cheese sticks.

Dinner comes with your choice of soup or salad, cowboy beans, bread and your choice of ranch fries or baked potato. (Baked potatoes are only available after 4 p.m.) There are plenty of steak choices; rib eye ($13.95) is one of John's favorite cuts, so that's what he ordered, with the baked potato. I ordered the full rack of baby back pork ribs ($14.75) that promised to be "juicy and tender--not like mom used to make," and the ranch fries.

Along with the other usual steak cuts, Cody's also offers prime rib in three sizes, ranging in price from $10.95-$17.50 (the priciest cut of all on the menu).

Our salads arrived in good time, but were nothing to write home about--mostly iceberg lettuce with a tomato slice and a couple of carrot sticks, and we both thought the dressings were a little blah. John's blue was watery, and my Italian was way vinegary tasting. But then again, I doubt Gabby Hayes ever served up a salad out of the chuck wagon. The bread slices were thick slabs of white, sort of Texas toast before it's been toasted.

Then came the entrées and all those side dishes, and it was immediately apparent why Cody's has such a devoted following. John's rib eye was not only appealing to the eye, but also was juicy, tender and beefy. My ribs were subtly seasoned and married with a nice undertone of smoke. The house-made barbecue sauce added another spicy layer of flavor. If you're a rib lover, I'd definitely order these.

The baked potato was just an ordinary baked potato, and the ranch fries were tasty, but nothing too different. On the other hand, the beans were superb. Tender, tender beans were in a sauce thick with spices and rich in color. They'd make a great meal with a hunk of cornbread, which, surprisingly, Cody's doesn't have on the menu.

It was hard to tell from the dessert list if anything was made in-house, but upon further research, we discovered that several of them are. All of the desserts seemed to have a "pie" theme, and the majority of the items included ice cream of one kind or another. We ordered the Mile High Mud Pie ($3.75)--a monster piece of chocolate upon chocolate upon chocolate. It was really quite good, although more than either of us could handle.

At lunch a few weeks later, beef again was the star. John ordered the famous Codyburger ($6.25) and cowboy beans. I ordered the French Dip sandwich ($6.25) and the ranch fries. As before, service was no-nonsense and pleasant.

John enjoyed his burger, one-third of a pound of grilled ground sirloin cooked to a tee. He proclaimed it to be "a good burger on a good bun." It was! The handmade patty was juicy and tender with just the right amount of char to it. The sesame bun was thick and able to stay with the burger.

My French dip was supposed to be "shaved" beef, but the slices were just a tad thicker than shaved. This was a nice change, because sometimes the flavor is "shaved" right out of the meat, leaving the taste is dependent on the au jus (which is usually just beef bullion that's way too salty). There is some heft to Cody's version of this classic sandwich, and the au jus was the real thing, with enough of the tasty stuff to last through the entire sandwich and then some. The au jus must come from all that prime rib in the back.

There was a soundtrack this time; not all country music, either.

On both visits, there was a decent crowd. The banter between some of the other patrons and the staff indicated the type of familiarity that comes with a regular customer base. That's not surprising. The atmosphere, the food and the prices at Cody's Beef 'n' Beans are the kinds of things that bring folks back in.

By the way, if you don't know who Gabby Hayes is, you might want to ask your server. Yessiree, Bob!

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