PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – Right in the heart of thriving Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix sits a unique barbecue joint that’s worth checking out. It’s a traditional BBQ spread with seasonings that bring new flavors and a distinct experience for any foodie or ‘BBQie’ searching for new pitmaster creations. You can find that at Trapp Haus BBQ, where pitmaster Phil Johnson aka “Phil the Grill,” combines various New York City influences, seasoning, dressings, and love into his food.
“I always loved to cook from a young age. I was always cooking, making my own breakfast and my own food. I was a latchkey kid, so I cooked for myself a lot!” Johnson said with a chuckle. “I just liked Sundays, being with the family, watching football, and just throwing on a big piece of meat out on the smoker, and it just became something that I enjoyed, working with my hands and seeing the finished results.”
Walking into the hip BBQ joint along Roosevelt Row between 3rd and 7th streets, you immediately know you’re in for some great food and great vibes. Colorful artwork and designs line the walls, echoing the hip vibe associated with the vibrant Roosevelt Row outside. Johnson and his team are slicing and dicing meats straight off the smoker and grill, delivering patrons fresh and steaming piles of juicy smoked meat. Johnson, also known as the “Jay Z of barbecue,” is a veteran of the competitive barbecue circuit and adds an urban influence from his youth growing up in New York City to the meats he makes for all to enjoy today.
“What I like to do with my barbecue is use a lot of the ethnic backgrounds that I grew up within New York. There was Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, and Jamaican influence, so there’s a lot of different seasonings that I use that nobody else uses in the barbecue world, and that’s what makes me different. I cook with love and with the ethnic background that I was raised with,” Johnson explained.
Get an inside look at Trapp Haus BBQ in the video player below:
Johnson says after 9/11, he was ready for a change. He wanted to see different places and came out to Arizona to visit a friend. Johnson says he fell in love with Arizona and the warmth and would rather shovel sunshine than snow any day. It didn’t take long for him to establish a barbecue presence in Arizona. The meats and sides that Johnson serves up is a culmination of his passion for cooking, love, and barbecue.
“Barbecue means... it’s another way of soul food. I just love cooking with love. So that’s what it means to me. It’s a passion; it’s a drive,” Johnson said. “Being from New York a lot of people say New Yorkers don’t know about good barbecue, you gotta from Texas, you gotta be from other places of the world where it’s known for barbecue, but it’s just cooking with your flavors that you grew up with and things that you like to put onto the table.”
If you find yourself walking along Roosevelt Row, it’s worth making a pit stop into Trapp Haus BBQ. One of the best eats you’ll enjoy at this spot is Phil’s award-winning Philly Crack Wings. Phil smokes them first, then flash fries them, which gives the wings an excellent crispy crunch and smokey flavor in every bite. Phil’s house seasoning blend is out-of-this-world on these wings, a must-try! The ribs come with just the right amount of sauce, giving the perfect mix of meat and sauce with each bite. The ribs were sweet and savory, with a hint of heat at the end from Phil’s seasoning expertise. Phil’s 12-hour brisket pulls apart well and has a combination of spice, sauce, and heat that any patron would enjoy. If you’re looking for something truly unique, check out Phil’s house-made beef pastrami! It is moist, tender, and melts in your mouth, a heavenly seasoned piece of meat.
When it comes to the sides and appetizers (or Trappetizers) at Trapp Haus BBQ, you’ll fall in love with more than just the wings. Phil blends in the Arizona-fusion with his baked beans, my personal favorite among the sides. The flavors were far beyond expectation from traditional BBQ baked beans, truly making this side stand out. Phil adds his concoction of seasonings, bits of sausage, green chilis, a touch of salt, and smokes the beans, resulting in a stellar side. Phil also smokes the mac n’ cheese, another classic side! As someone who lived in Alabama for over two years, I must say the collard greens at Trapp Haus BBQ are some of the best I’ve had outside of the Deep South. The dish has the perfect amount of dressing, giving the greens flavor but not saturating them too much. Once again, Phil’s unique blending of spices adds a wow factor to the dish. Even if you’re not a fan of greens, these collard greens are not going to disappoint!
The fresh take and concepts that Phil brings to his food come from the bottom of his heart. Phil’s love for the food and bringing smiles to his patron’s faces is apparent and really shows in the quality of the food he’s serving up. With his mastery of seasoning and house-made sauces, his barbecue has found a home in Arizona and downtown Phoenix. Trapp Haus BBQ carves its own path and brings with it the sense of community, togetherness, and enjoyment of traditional barbecue in Arizona.
This is the second segment in a series on barbecue in the Phoenix metro. Arizona’s Family Foodie is taking a look at how pitmasters have fused traditional American BBQ with Southwestern heat and spices, creating almost a new style within its own right. Barbecue brings people and communities together, so let’s focus on the food and find new, great restaurants to support and enjoy together!