Bobby D’s BBQ at the English Kitchen Jerome Restaurant Review

English Kitchen
English Kitchen – Originally built using adobe blocks by Charley Hong to replace his Connor Hotel kitchen that went up in flames in 1899, was open until 2007. Until then, it was the longest-running restaurant in Arizona. Despite its name, they served Chinese food when Charley ran the place.

To coerce Queen Anne to join me on a photo outing, I have to bribe her with something precious—like food or ice cream. If I schedule everything carefully, I can get away with having to pay for only one meal while we’re on the road. I wanted to shoot in Jerome in the good afternoon light and the drive from our house is a little over a couple of hours, so my cheapest bet was to buy her lunch. When we travel we use the TripAdvisor rankings to see what the popular restaurants are at our destination. It eliminates some guesswork picking out a place to eat. We look at the best reviews and then try to find them when we get to town and for our Jerome trip, Bobby D’s BBQ was their top pick.

Bobby’s is in the English Kitchen Building directly across the street from the Liberty Theater. The old building has hosted various restaurants since Charley Hong built it in 1899, according to the story on the back of the menu. I enjoyed reading the part about the English Kitchen name because—being a Chinese restaurant—it never served traditional British fare. If unwitting diners ordered an English breakfast, they were more likely served a dish of chop suey.

The interior of the original building is simple with about dozen wooden tables and historic Jerome photos decorating the wall. There’s not much room inside and since it was a pleasant day, we opted for seats on the deck. Our friendly hostess quickly found a spot at one of the many picnic tables. We enjoyed a nice breeze in the shade of the orange canopies and gawked at the Verde Valley panorama while the aroma of the smokers seduced our appetites. Our pleasant waitress brought menus and took our drink orders before we finished looking around.

Bobby D’s is a BBQ joint and the staff proudly proclaims that they’ve won a Best in Arizona award. The first page of the menu is all BBQ, but we weren’t that hungry so instead, we split the Arizona Cheesesteak from the second page. It consisted of brisket, sautéed onions, pepper jack cheese and (Ortega) chilies stuffed into a hoagie. It sounded different. It came to the table dry along with four house-made sauces for us to sample.

I’m a guy that likes BBQ and I’ve cooked a mean rib a time or two. I like a lot of flavor. A good sauce should singe your nose hairs but leave a sweet taste. The sandwich was good, but it surprised me at how little smoke and rub seasoning was in the meat. While I’m picking nits here, the mild chilies they use are lost in such a bold sandwich as this—jalapeños would have been a better choice. Their BBQ is southern style so one of the sauces is mustard-based, but it was too reminiscent of honey-mustard dressing for me. A second blend they have is called Jalapeño Molasses and again the chilies were missing in the sweet syrup. That leaves their Little Miss Tango sauce as my pick among the three. Anne liked it too—so that alone shows that it wasn’t spicy enough.

Bobby D’s is a good place in Jerome for lunch or an early dinner. It’s fun to eat in and learn about the historic diner. Our service was very good, and the staff was attentive. The food was also very good even if I felt it was on the bland side. Is this the best restaurant in Jerome? The reviews say it is, but I haven’t tried the others. Is it the best BBQ in Arizona? I’ve had better, but BBQ is always a safe bet. Because Jerome isn’t an overnight destination, many of its restaurants close by 2:00 while Bobby’s is open until 6:00. If this were a Yelp or TripAdvisor review, I’d offer four out of five stars.

Until next time — jw

School Bus 11 Picture of the Week

The Summer of Love was 51 years ago. It was 1967 when a hundred-thousand flower children converged on San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury District and challenged our worldly perceptions. At the time, I was on duty overseas, so I missed it. When I returned to the States the next year, I got married and had to pass up the free sex movement. Four years later my first wife divorced me and by that time, the movement was over. My timing has always been impeccable.

School Bus 11
School Bus 11 – An old school bus repurposed for other uses reminded me of the Summer of Love.

Before we retired, Queen Anne and I had the pleasure of attending seminars in the Bay area several times. On our last visit, we signed up for a walking tour of the historic old houses. On the tour, we learned that a by-product of the hippie period was the Painted Ladies. Needing a place to live, the invaders bought the cheap dilapidated Victorian homes that no one else wanted. Like any respectable homeowner, they began to restore and personalize the homes by painting them. Instead of using the traditional way—one muted-tone color—they made the house’s details pop with bright contrasting colors. These paint schemes shocked traditionalist, but it drew attention to how much craftsmanship went into building these old houses. It gave them character and made you appreciate them more, so the style of painting Victorian homes in multiple colors has become the norm. We even painted the shed we bought here in Congress with three colors and that shocked the neighborhood then.

Last month, when I turned a corner in Jerome and saw this repurposed bus, it reminded me of those resourceful hippies and when I first visited the ghost town. There was a bit of tension in the old towns like Jerome and Bisbee then. People of my generation rejected the social norms and consumerist values of the period. They didn’t want to live in ticky-tacky tract homes and instead wanted a house that had character. They moved into Phoenix’s Encanto district and the abandoned shacks they found in these historic towns. They were perfect for making arts and crafts away from the rat race in Phoenix. The entrenched community pushed back. “We don’t want those weirdos living here, they’ll ruin everything.” Town hall meetings were often very heated and vocal and sometimes even made news in the Phoenix papers (yes, at one time, there were two papers). The conflict seems to have eased and there’s no apparent evidence of tension in today’s Jerome. It’s become a nice place to visit with the family, shop for mementos, and enjoy history—sort of a light version of Main Street, Disneyland.

The photo of the bus that triggered these recollections is called School Bus 11 and it’s my picture of the week. In it, I’m showing the essence of the school bus and its colors. The lights, the faded yellow, the rust, and the graphics tell stories about school children and—to me—the flower children of my past. I moved in to emphasize the patina, faded paint, and letters. From this close perspective, they become the composition and a story of yesterday.

You can see a larger version of School Bus 11 on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing my newest entry and come back next week when we move onto a new location for July.

Until next time — jw

Above the Yardarm Photography Tip

Bartlett Hotel
Bartlett Hotel – The ruins of the Bartlett Hotel in Jerome. Summertime shooting in the southwest deserts means being ready when the light comes in.

Spring is ending and there are signs of its imminent demise everywhere. This year’s crop of quail chicks, which looked like gray dust bunnies a few weeks ago, has already grown to three-quarter size. I’ve seen normally wary jackrabbits come in off the desert looking for water. Tropical storm Bud managed to bring rain throughout the valley except at the airport where the Weather Service records official measurements. It brought a welcome break from the heat and an early arrival of the summer monsoon storms. As far as I’m concerned, summer started when the thermometer exceeded the century mark several weeks ago. The Summer Solstice is tomorrow—the official start of summer and the longest day of the year. You’d think that all this extra daylight would be better for picture-taking. Not in the Sonoran Desert—not for me.

As an art-photographer, I consider myself average at best. The reason is partly that I’m not that creative and I’m too lazy to really work hard at it, and partly because I work too fast. I’m comfortable knowing this, but to compensate I use every advantage I can. I use high megapixel cameras so I have lots of margins when editing. I print on high-quality paper and mat to museum standards so my product has lasting value. I’m learning to make my own frames to differentiate them from cheap import stuff. And finally, I only shoot when the light is best—the Golden Hour or the Blue Hour—the short period before or after the sun transits the horizon. The rest of the time, the sun is over the yardarm—the term sailors on tall ships used when it was time to go below deck and drink rum. In photography, the light has lost color. The landscape goes flat, there’s too much contrast, and—especially in the desert—there’s too much glare. Photographers say, “We’ve lost the light.”

In the desert southwest, there are still periods when the light is pleasing in spring and summer, they’re just very short. I joke when I say, “morning’s golden hour lasts 5 minutes,” but I’m not far off. I don’t have the luxury of wandering around and shooting multiple subjects; I must plan and be there when the light is right. The reason for this phenomenon—here in the desert—is the sun’s angle. Because we’re so close to having the sun directly overhead this time of the year, the light comes straight through the atmosphere and that’s when the sun’s light is the whitest. The lack of humidity here plays havoc too. In the dry air, light reflects off objects which washes out the colors. Just wear a pair of polarized sunglasses to see what I mean.

This light thing doesn’t happen globally. I’ve read internet posts, written by northern photographers, longing for the long summer days and better light. The first time I noticed a difference was when Queen Anne and I visited New Zealand. As we explored the islands, we agreed on a schedule where I could shoot in the morning then travel to a new place where I could shoot again at day’s end. I kept messing up our plans because the light was still good and I was still working at 11:00 am; something I normally wouldn’t do. I had the point really hammered home to me a couple of years ago when we were traveling through Idaho. While there, I got up before sunrise to shoot a grain elevator and as I walked to the scene, I looked for the brightest part of the sky to guess where the sun would come up. It surprised me to find that the sun didn’t rise that day—at least vertically like I’m used to—instead it slid west along the horizon for several degrees before clearing some distant trees. The light on the grain elevator was a different angle than I expected and I had to move the camera to compensate. I got my shot went back to the trailer and, before 6:00 am, I crawled back in the sack. When we packed and left later that morning, we drove by that old building and the light was still good. I could have slept in, had a cup of coffee and still got my shot.

Madison Grain Silo
Madison Grain Silo – In northern latitudes, the golden hour takes its time.

My argument can be condensed into this; the working length of good light changes with latitude during summer. It’s longer in the north and shorter here in the south (yes, in the southern hemisphere the water circles the toilet backward). It all has to do with the sun’s light angle through the atmosphere. Evidently, this isn’t a new idea because I found this neat sun-angle calculator on the Internet. It’s really slick. You put in the day and place, and the map will display the angle of sunrise and sunset. Then you can move the pointer north or south and watch as the angles change.

To get through this period of long (hot) days, I have a couple of strategies that get me by. I slow down my productivity. As I said, instead of wandering and looking for something to photograph, I’ll scout sites out. After finding a good subject, I’ll go back at a time when the light will be right. If I have all the details worked out, I’m out and back within an hour. You could call it, Hit and Run shooting. My favorite coping mechanism is to go where the light is better. If the light won’t come to you, then you go to the mountain. In Arizona, we have an old tribal word for such behavior—snowbird.

Until next time — jw

Art and Flowers Picture of the Week

Jerome Iris
Jerome Iris – One of my better selling images. It was taken in 2004 on a Jerome trip I made with my friend, Russ Good.

I took this photo of iris in front of a cracked foundation wall in 2004 when my friend, Russ Good and I went to Jerome on a photo-shoot. It’s a popular image and has sold well. The photo’s story is the contrast—the softness of iris petals against the hardness of the concrete foundation and the vibrant purple flowers in front of dull concrete. It also speaks about longevity. The family that planted the flowers and the house they decorated are gone but the bulbs put out new flowers each spring without a caretaker. Getting this shot was difficult. I remember lying on my stomach in the street to focus the image on my 4×5’s ground glass while Russ stood guard over me. Each time I visit Jerome, I look for similar setups and I found another one that is this week’s image.

Art and Flowers
Art and Flowers – Not just a pretty flower picture. Someone watches that you don’t pick them.

I titled it Art and Flowers and I shot it from the sidewalk in front of the Hilltop Deli building on SR-89. Because my newer camera has a folding view-screen, I didn’t have to get down on the ground this time. Getting down is one thing but—at my age—getting up is another set of variables entirely. The hollyhocks seem to be popular in Jerome this year, they were in gardens everywhere. I selected this specimen because of the jagged wall behind it and the dark crawl space it frames. As you study the image, does it seem like someone is watching you? Well … you’re right. As I was shooting this, I tried different angles and in the middle of shifting positions, I noticed a painting on the wall inside the crawl space. It’s a portrait of a young lady—her chin resting in her hands—painted inside the opening in such a way that you don’t see it as you walk along the sidewalk. I don’t know who the artist was or how long it’s been there, but it’s not just graffiti. After I saw it, I knew I had to frame my last shot so that the hollyhock was in front—but not obscuring the painting—and I set my exposure to make the eyes barely visible in the background. It’s like one of the apparitions that Jerome is famous for. If you visit the version on my home-page—while this image is on display there this month—more of her shape revels as the image lightens.

You can see a larger version of Art and Flowers on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing my newest entry and come back next week when I post another Jerome photograph.

Until next time — jw

Ps: Thanks to Glenda Meyers and Sharon Roberts for flower identification.

This Bud’s For You

Bud's rain washes down our street
Bud’s rain washes down our street – It started with a drizzle that pinged the vent covers but continued steadily for more than an hour. Coffee on the back porch overlooking the lake. Notice the river flowing down the street complete with our personal rapid (right).

After 97 days without rain, tropical storm Bud brought us a six-pack this morning.

Enjoy – jw

WPA Sidewalk Picture of the Week

By now, you know that I’m a history buff—or perhaps I’m only interested in trivia. I don’t see the distinction, but I know I’m not cut out to be a scholar. I don’t have the patience to spend months in the Vatican Library tracing the origins of … anything. If Google or Wikipedia doesn’t explain, I move on. However, if someone mentions Hannibal, I think of elephants, not fava beans. I even watched all the James Burke’s Connections series—twice. I’m the only person that I know who has a personal copy of Arizona Place Names—and uses it. This probably explains why I write blog posts instead of novels, and it is the reason behind this thought I had when I published this week’s image—I wonder how many young people know the history of the sidewalk’s stamp.

While scurrying up and down Jerome’s hilly streets last week, I went into the Holy Family Catholic Church on Country Road for an interior shot. After that, because the day was late and I was out of breath, I returned to Main Street, where Queen Anne awaited me. A few stairs were at the end of the street, so I looked down to prevent falling. That’s when I first saw the stamping and decided that I needed to take another photograph. I call it WPA Sidewalk.

WPA Sidewalk
This section of sidewalk in Jerome is a museum piece that people walk on daily.

This is only the second existing example of a Works Progress Administration—renamed in 1939 as the Works Project Administration; it was the depression era program that employed people for public works projects—that I have cataloged in my brain’s world map. The other is a bridge on the US89 north of Flagstaff. (Maybe finding and shooting WPA sites would be a book-worthy photography project.) Jerome has already replaced many of its walkways with ADA-compliant versions. They had to because of age, winter freezing, and earth movement, but this one is still in good shape and used daily. With the hand-scribed lines (for better footing?), it’s certainly different from the sterile versions that machines spit out today. Since it’s over fifty years old, it probably qualifies for protection under the American Antiquities Act. This sidewalk is the only museum piece I know you can leisurely stroll down.

You can see a larger version of WPA Sidewalk on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing my newest entry and return next week when I post another Jerome photograph.

Until next time — jw

Jerome, Arizona In Yavapai County

When I first moved to Arizona in 1972, I hung out at a certain Scottsdale Restaurant. It was a trendy steakhouse that had a minimalist décor of white walls with dark wood trim and original oil paintings—on loan from a gallery—decorated the walls. One painting in particular that impressed me was of an eagle emblem with a broken wing positioned over the word Liberty. The design was simple enough to be a graphic poster, but the style was photorealistic and it looked as though it could be a building sign. This was back when we all had long hair and wore bellbottom pants, so I thought it was a political statement when I first saw it.

“Oh no, that’s the Liberty Theater in Jerome,” my waitress corrected.

“Jerome, what’s that?” I asked.

“It’s the ghost town near Sedona. You’ll have to go there sometime.”

Jerome's Liberty Theater
Jerome’s Liberty Theater-My introduction to Jerome came about from a painting of this façade. Back then, part of the eagle and lettering hadn’t fallen off.

So I did, and as I wandered the streets of the old copper mine town, I felt strangely comfortable—like I had always known this place. There was something familiar about its terraced streets lined with white clapboard row-houses. Jerome reminded me of the Pittsburgh neighborhood where my great-grandmother’s—Busha—apartment house was, and where my family lived until I was in the first grade. I remember it was on Bigelow Boulevard—a wide thoroughfare that ran east from downtown up a long grade onto Pollock-Hill—the local slur for the neighborhood. Just like Jerome, laborers built our community on a mountainside on unsuitable plots and walked to work up and down endless staircases. Our apartment at Busha’s was on the second floor if you came through the front entry, but from the backyard, we were on the fourth floor of a five-story building.

Growing up in neighborhoods like these isn’t for the feeble. My preschool playmates and I would test our balance by walking along the top of the retaining wall supporting the boulevard. It was a couple of feet wide, but the sheer drops would have killed us had we fallen. Another example of peril was in our apartment’s backyard. It was paved with bricks and the neighbor’s yard was low enough that we could jump from our fence rail, over a three-foot gap, and onto the neighbor’s wood-shed roof, which—as kids always do—we double-dog dared each other to do. The jump to the roof was easy. Just climb to the top of the railing and leap onto the roof. However, the return flight required clearing the four-foot rail. I mastered the jump several times before I missed and crashed head-on into the guardrail. As gravity drug me down, I saved myself by grabbing and holding onto the railing’s bottom pipe. I hung on for dear life above the abyss and started screaming so loud that my mother could hear me four flights away. I almost lost my grip when she finally came to my rescue and as she started to pull me up, she couldn’t hold on and I became a human pachinko ball as I ricocheted between the concrete retaining wall and the shed siding. I survived the fall but not without a slight scar under my right eye that is only noticeable as a bag under my eye when I’m tired. Then, my eye has a noticeable bag under it. I don’t know what hurt worse, the bloody cut or the beating I got when my dad got home.

Flatiron Building
Flatiron Building – The Flatiron is located below downtown and it is where AZ-89 divides into two one-way streets. In the background is the House of Joy Brothel that was one of Arizona’s best places for dinner.

It’s been more than ten years since we’ve been to Jerome, and a couple of things struck me when Queen Anne and I visited last week. I didn’t understand at first, but there is a sense of openness now. Most of the abandoned homes have been torn down. Jerome was full of decaying houses that had crumbling foundations, sagging roofs, and signs on them that said, “Condemned – Danger – Keep Out.”  Those are gone now. The buildings that remain have been extensively restored and reinforced. There are a few new homes built on the vacant lots, and that’s good to see.

The other big change is disappointing to me. It’s the closing of the House of Joy. The historic brothel was once one of Arizona’s première restaurants but it’s closed now and the building is for sale. Eating at the House of Joy was a big occasion and a good reason for spending a night in Jerome. I’m sad that I missed the chance to dine there. Most of the current eateries are open only for breakfast and lunch, so except for the geezer cover-bands playing at the Spirit Room, evenings in town must be quiet.

Spirit Room
Spirit Room – The bar is in the Connor Hotel building. On weekends, dozens of motorcycles fill the parking spaces while middle-aged professionals are inside having a beer while listening to a geezer cover-band playing classic rock songs.

Jerome is still a great place to spend a day out of the valley. There are plenty of stores on Main Street to buy a tee-shirt, try on jewelry, admire local art, enjoy an ice cream cone, or relax with a cold beer. There are more haunted buildings than ever, and the museums and mine are worth visiting. Jerome, as always, is one of the spots that you take your eastern relatives so they’ll get an idea of Arizona’s history and geographical diversity. It’s just … the old ghost town is more refined now and not the rough and tumble kind of place I first knew.

Until next time – jw