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Best BBQ

Jack's Original Barbeque
3643 N. Campbell Ave.
5250 E. 22nd St.

READERS' PICK: Although Jack's has been Tucson's treasure since the 1970s, thanks to a listing in a national travel guide it has put us on the BBQ map with the big guys--Kansas City and Memphis. Who'd have guessed? Owned and operated by Steven Boccardio, who claims that Jack's BBQ was his first solid food (his parents took him to Jack's as soon as he could sit in a high chair), Jack's Original BBQ is barbecue nirvana. The ambiance at both locations is clean and casual, an indoor picnic complete with checked vinyl table cloths. But the food is what will keep your car swinging into Jack's parking lot. The sauce is a perfect complement to these high-quality meats. An extensive menu includes beef, pork, chicken, sloppy Joe, hot links, ribs and ham. There are fried seafood platters and even tacos. The ranch beans are tender and flavorful, but not sweet. The coleslaw is fresh, crisp and spicy, without leaving a pool of dressing in its wake. And if you're in the mood for a complete lard-overload, order a side of onion rings, French fries, fried okra, or jalapeño poppers. Top it off with a fabulous piece of pecan or sweet potato pie à la mode. You may add a few pounds, but what a way to get there!

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Rod's KC BBQ, 601 N. Fourth Ave. (See Best Hot Links, this page.)

CLUE IN: Located just a stone's throw from Jack's 22nd Street location, Tom's BBQ (5443 E. 22nd St.) boasts Chicago-style barbecue in a clean, well-lighted place. Tom's is an Arizona chain that began in Chandler and now has 11 locations in that valley northwest of us, in addition to its sole Tucson outpost. The meats are predominantly Midwestern beef and pork, smoked and served with your choice of mild or spicy sauce. Both sauces are balanced combinations of smoky, sweet, and tangy flavors. The salads are made on the premises, the star being an excellent cole slaw which is crisp and flavorful and not overdressed. Although prices are higher than the standard drive-thru fare at the burger chains, Tom's is a bargain compared to the cost of taking the family out for pizza. Family meals start at $10.99 for an 8-piece chicken dinner with cole slaw, beans, and rolls.

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