The smell of smoking meat wafted across West Boston Street in downtown Chandler on a recent weekday morning outside a new barbecue restaurant that offers patrons Tennessee-style comfort food.
On the patio behind the entrance to West Alley BBQ, longtime pit boss Jim Dandy tended to large hunks of brisket, turkey, pork and other meat on three large smokers.
The restaurant on West Boston Street, which opened in December, mimics the Brantley family’s original West Alley BBQ in Jackson, Tennessee – which received a four-and-a-half-star rating for moderately-priced restaurants on TripAdvisor.
Many visitors to the Chandler eatery are already praising West Alley’s tender brisket, seasoned fries, Tennessee-type thin barbecue sauce created by Dandy and vinegar-based coleslaw.
The new restaurant drew more than 4,000 customers over the first 30 days it was open, said Bardo Brantley, West Alley BBQ president and founder of the Chandler and Jackson restaurants.
The large menu offers a wide range of hearty meals with meats to suit different tastes, including pulled pork sandwiches, half- and full racks of ribs, brisket, pulled chicken, chicken wings and sliced turkey. Southern fried fish is also a well-liked item on the menu.
Customers can feast on loaded French fries, loaded nachos and loaded smoked potatoes topped with bacon plus their choice of pork, chicken, turkey or brisket.
Cheese, chives, sour cream and a drizzle of hot or mild barbecue sauce are also piled on these loaded entrees. The loaded smoked fries or nachos are $10.99 plus an extra $3 for brisket and the loaded smoked potatoes are $11.99 plus an additional $3 if the customer wants brisket.
“We have a huge menu,” said Christian Brantley, vice president of operations and also co-owner for West Alley. “We want to cater to everyone who loves our barbecue but everyone else, as well. We take hours to cook our meat. It is tender. We take the time to value each plate and make sure it comes out right. Jim’s been barbecuing over 30 years.
“We keep our head forward. We do what we do best. Our portions are huge. You’re gonna be full.”
West Alley BBQ’s popular pulled pork sandwiches come with a vinegar-based coleslaw on top and hot or mild barbecue sauce. Christian and Bardo say it’s unusual for a restaurant to offer the coleslaw as part of the sandwich and not charge extra for it. The vinegar-based coleslaw is a Tennessee thing, the father-and-son restaurant duo added.
The pulled pork sandwich with fries and a drink during lunch, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, is $9.99. West Alley’s BBQ Jim Dandy Sandwich adds a slice of bologna with pulled pork, creamy coleslaw and BBQ sauce on top for $9.99.
Even veggie lovers can beef up their lunches or dinners at West Alley with the many salads that feature meat.
But patrons can easily forget veggies. Here, meat is king.
“Barbecue is a delicacy,” said Bardo, who can still recall eating Dandy’s barbecue as a boy in Jackson. “It takes a lot of preparation, a lot of know-how. Jim is responsible for the sauce and meat presentation. We’ve got amazing food. It’s sensory overload in a good way.”
Cooking is in Dandy’s blood and is his longtime passion.
Growing up in Jackson, he said his grandmother taught him how to cook, often making meals out of the hogs and pigs they raised. His father showed him how to make barbecue sauce. Dandy and his brother used to own two restaurants in Jackson.
Dandy, who gets help from assistant pit boss Eric Stewart, said he typically makes four pots of barbecue sauce a day at West Alley.
Christian said diners “can’t go anywhere in the world” and find BBQ sauce like Dandy’s creation.
The brisket at West Alley comes from the “premier part” of a cow, Christian and Bardo said. “We cook it low and slow,” Bardo said, explaining it takes 10 to 12 hours to cook.
The meats cook over almond wood and charcoal in smokers, while some barbecue restaurants use hickory wood. It’s easy to smell the wood burning on the patio.
Platters at West Alley BBQ come with one or two choices of meat and two side items.
The meat is stacked high and comes with buttered Texas toast, the hot or mild barbecue sauce and a crunchy dill pickle, as well as fried sliced pickles as garnishes.
Every Friday for a limited time West Alley, will offer all-you-can-eat fried fish with one side item from 4 to 7 p.m. for $9.99.
The Chandler restaurant also offers a ribs special, where diners can get a half rack of ribs for $9.99 4-7 p.m. on Tuesdays, also for a limited time.
Jennifer Maholovich Fay said she and her husband are from Alabama and the brisket at West Alley was “the best brisket we’ve tried” in the Valley so far.
“Everything just tasted like it was made from scratch,” Maholovich Fay said. “Not sure what their secret is on the brisket but the flavors and tenderness was on point!”
Kaija Godoy visited West Alley with her husband and 4-year-old son and also got excited about the brisket there, saying it “was very tender.”
“My husband chose the brisket plate with coleslaw and baked beans,” Godoy posted. “We both thought the beans were the best we’ve had in a long time.”
Gregory Dickson raved, “Finally...real BBQ in Downtown Chandler! Great staff and awesome food. How about that sauce? Nice! Finished my night upstairs with a cigar at Puro...killer combo for a great evening!”
Christian and Bardo say they also attract many customers from Puro Cigar Bar upstairs, who smell the meat cooking and can’t resist ordering chicken wings.
The staff at West Alley brings the food up to customers there. Wings with the lemon pepper seasoning are popular. Customers can order batter-dipped or batter-free, deep-fried wings and choose their sauce.
The new Chandler barbecue joint is also drawing crowds for its live music.
Bands playing blues, country and other types of music hit the stage at West Alley BBQ Friday and Saturday nights. Big Daddy D and the Dynamites, Jim Bachmann, True Flavor Blues and The Sugar Thieves have performed at the Chandler venue. The live music starts at 8 p.m. and there is no cover charge.
Customers can grab the mic during karaoke Thursdays at West Alley BBQ.
“For us you come for the food, you stay for the music,” Bardo said.
He and Christian are thrilled and grateful for all the support they have received.
“We’re overwhelmed at the immediate response we’ve gotten,” he said. “It’s been so positive.”
Bardo and his wife, Sandy, had been visiting Chandler for several years as they like the weather here and now live in Chandler full-time. Christian travels back and forth between Chandler and Jackson.
“We’re thankful for the customers,” Christian said. “Word of mouth has been explosive for us.”
West Alley BBQ is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursdays, from 11 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.