4 October, 2022, 22:42

Red Desert BBQ Food Truck to Open Brick & Mortar on West Prince Road

Local barbecue is blooming in Tucson and the west side is finally jumping into the game.

Food truck and caterer Red Desert BBQ is moving into the 1,400-square-foot restaurant space at 918 W. Prince Rd., which previously housed Polo’s Taqueria.

“There’s no barbecue around for about five miles,” said David Martin, owner and pitmaster of Red Desert BBQ.

Born in Joliet, Illinois, Martin moved to Tucson in 1978. With a bachelor’s degree from the now-closed Scottsdale Culinary Institute, Martin’s culinary background ranged from Long John Silver’s to the five-diamond (also now-closed) Mary Elaine’s at The Phoenician.

Martin’s 20 years of barbecue experience began as a backyard hobby, but eating at the now-closed Bobby Dean’s Hickory BBQ food truck inspired him to open his own food truck.

After working in mining for eight years to pay off student loans, Martin took the leap and purchased a food truck in 2015.

Red Desert BBQ began with catering gigs for friends, but developed a following with regular stints at Three Canyon Beer & Wine Garden and Corona de Tucson.

Martin’s recipe doesn’t adhere to any one style or region of barbecue. He uses a blend of hickory and charcoal to highlight the meat.

“You should be able to taste the meat, smoke, and rub,” Martin said.

Martin’s Georgia-style pulled pork and and smoked half-chicken feature his signature rub. His Texas-influenced brisket is treated simply with salt, pepper, and garlic. Sausages will be provided by Forbes Meat Company. Red’s Kansas-inspired baby back ribs – Martin’s only sauced meat – are glazed during the last 15 minutes of cooking.

While he keeps his signature rub a closely-guarded secret, his sauce isn’t — it’s Sweet Baby Ray’s. Although he has experimented with countless recipes, he hasn’t been able to create his own sauce that he enjoys as much as Sweet Baby Ray’s.

The new restaurant space will feature the addition of hot dogs, fries, and tater tots. Additionally, burgers will be ‘beasts’ with barbecued meats on top.

Martin’s signature side is smoked beans with drippings from pulled pork, barbecue sauce, hot sauce, and green chiles. An unusual side will be cucumbers made with pickling lime.

The liquor license is pending, but the restaurant is expected to open by early October. Operating hours will be 10:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. or until the food runs out.

Red Desert BBQ is located at 918 W. Prince Rd. Keep up with Red Desert BBQ on Facebook.

Jackie is a food writer and photographer native to Tucson. He loves corgis and still thinks rickrolling is funny. If you'd like to stalk him, visit jackietran.com and his Instagram @jackie_tran_.