by Mary Cokenour
Knowing I was moving to the Southwest, my biggest anticipation was, “Yes! All the barbeque I could ever want!” But that was not to be.
In fact, there was a severe lack of this form of culinary delight within San Juan County. Karen and Doug Whipple, owners of the Peace Tree Café and Juice Bar restaurants decided it was time to rectify this atrocity upon diners.
Property for sale across from the Monticello Peace Tree had just dropped in price, and they pounced on this like a mountain lion had stalked an Abert’s squirrel.
Purchase the property they did, and the planning began. While plumbing may have been in Doug’s and son Eli’s blood, so was food…good food, lip smacking, finger licking, I want more of this, food!
The Whipples are foodies, so is it any wonder they get along so well with other foodies, like the Cokenours?!
Reading through books geared towards smoking (they and I agree that Smoke and Spice by Cheryl and Bill Jamison is the Bible of smoking foods), experimentation began.
What is the best wood to use? Eli states it’s dried hardwood of oak found on our beloved Abajo Mountains.
Any additives to the water used to soak the wood, like alcohol or carbonated beverages? No! Pure wood and water is all there should be for a perfect smoke.
Up at 3 a.m., the smoker is stoked, and by 5 a.m., a temperature of 225F is achieved. It must stay consistent for twelve hours to achieve meat nirvana.
After brisket reaches an internal temperature of 175F, it is wrapped in a special butcher paper specific for smoking brisket. By 3 p.m., the brisket has reached an internal temperature of 200F. Out of the smoker, it is placed inside a “hot box” to rest for two hours.
Upon unwrapping the paper and setting the brisket onto a cutting board, the aroma assails the nostrils, causing salivation immediately. The crust of a secret spice mixture is glistening; the ends cut off to be saved for other uses.
Eli begins slicing; a watchful eye keeps the hand steady for 1/8-1/4 inch slices of heavenly goodness. He cuts against the grain, never with. Taking a bite out of the first slice, the flavorful, tender meat begins to dissolve inside the mouth. There are shivers as angels sing the “Hallelujah” chorus.
Alright, so I’m exaggerating a tad, but it could happen. Anyway, I have tried brisket at many a barbeque joint, and Doug’s has the most outstanding!
Oh, the ribs. The ribs could make the devil himself bow down to the Whipples. These are St. Louis style ribs; again a secret spice mixture, but it’s the honey glaze that makes you want to hug a bee and kiss its mandibles.
The ribs go through a similar smoking process as the brisket, sans the paper, and Doug does a basting of apple juice. They are so tender. With just an ever so slight tug of the teeth, your mouth fills with yumminess so good you won’t feel bad about stabbing someone’s hand if they reach for your plate.
Eli and Greg are a dynamic duo of “Grill Masters” who have turned “flipping burgers” into an art form.
These burgers are half-pounders – a mixture of 1/3 beef short rib, 1/3 ground chuck, and 1/3 ground brisket. Even after cooking, they are easily a half-inch thick!
Oh, the char. The char brings to mind grilling in the outdoors, the lick of flames as moisture drips down.
A digital thermometer is used to monitor internal cooking temperatures and obtain the customer’s desired doneness. From rare to medium-well, your wish is their command.
Don’t dare ask for well done. There are no hockey pucks served on buns here. You’ll find those on the television screens that feature games of football, baseball, hockey, and racing.
That’s right, Doug’s is not only a family friendly restaurant, but can double as a sports bar. Want to see a big game but have no room at home? Bring the gang down to Doug’s and order platters of bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers. They’re filled with smoked apple cheddar (sourced from Apple Beehive in Ogden, UT) and cream cheese, wrapped in a full slice of crispy bacon.
These poppers are smoky and sweet with heat. Barbecue sauce and ranch dressing are your dipping sauces.
Then there are the Smoked Nachos – crispy tortilla chips piled high with pinto beans, melted cheddar cheese, and your choice of pulled pork, chicken, or brisket. They are served with salsa and guacamole. Get a wheel barrel. You’ll need it to get yourself out to your vehicle!
Pitchers of Moab Brewery beer will make it all slide down your gullet so smooth and easily – that is until the opposing team scores a touchdown.
Hankering for a mixed cocktail? Bartender and mixologist Nicole will put a punch in your punch, a dance in your step, and bring a smile to your lips. This sassy sweetheart knows her liquors and how to mix them up just right.
Fancy a margarita? That salt around the rim is Holyoak Smoked Salts (they make pure vanilla extract and bath soaps as well) located right here in Monticello. Now that’s local sourcing!
Remember those burgers I mentioned before? Indulge in a Greg’s Burger – juicy meat topped with grilled Anaheim chile peppers, bacon, pepper jack cheese, and chipotle mayo.
First you taste the char, oh that wonderful char. The heat from the peppers tickles the taste buds, but the creamy cheese and mayo snap a whip to tame the heat... and then it’s bacon!
Even though it comes with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and onions on the side, adding these would blaspheme the burger. They make a nice side salad, though.
Joe’s Burger has luscious grilled mushrooms and onions, bacon – yes I said bacon again – and melty cheddar cheese.
Eli’s Burger features provolone cheese, red onion slices, BBQ sauce, and that mouth-watering brisket sent down from heaven itself. Hungry yet?
Want the other white meat? The pulled pork is out of this world. It’s smoky, tender, and juicy. The perfect pairing for the platter is rich and silky mac n’ cheese with a drizzle of barbecue sauce (well, that’s what I put on them).
Then there is the half chicken. The flavorful seasoning on the skin permeates the meat right down to the bone. Pair this baby with au gratin potatoes chock full of cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses, or baked pinto beans with maple syrup and another secret seasoning mixture.
With all this talk about Doug, Eli, and Greg, poor Karen must feel a bit left out. She’s working closely and diligently with her head chef Michael Pipkin, inventing house-made salad dressings sauces, and side dishes. Chef Pipkin has 35 years of culinary experience and belongs to the Moab Pipkin clan.
Think sweet potatoes are only good for Thanksgiving casseroles and pies? Not when they’re tenderly cooked, diced, and mixed with diced sweet apple, honey, mayo, ginger, and diced celery.
Karen’s corn muffins are also to die for. These are not typical corn muffins that are usually dry and crumbly to the touch. Oh no.
These are less dense, light, and stay together as they are spread with creamy butter and then drizzled with honey. Oh Lordy, there goes those singing angels again!
Doug’s Steak and BBQ does a good amount of their food sourcing from local businesses, but if they cannot find an ingredient they must have, it’s Utah only, like Applewood Beehive.
Doug and Karen Whipple love what they do. They love food. The camaraderie of the staff is wonderful. They’re like a big family.
Their pride shows through the atmosphere they portray to their guests in their sincere and outright friendliness and the quality in the food products.
The wait staff, including RJ, Lucinda, and Jens, are amazing and go out of their way to give guests the best experience. It’s not unusual, though, to see owner Karen and bartender Nicole carrying platters to hungry patrons or filling up water glasses.
Everyone gives a helping hand and no one stands alone. This ain’t no ballet company full of divas, each vying to be prima ballerina. Oh no, this is a TEAM with a unified goal: SUCCESS!!!
You might be asking why. Why do they all care so much? It’s simple really. The sustainability of a small town relies on its businesses.
From locals to visitors, showing passion encourages people to come and come often. It encourages Monticello visitors to stay, play, eat, and have a grand time.
Let’s put it all in a nutshell. Doug’s Steak and BBQ is family friendly, casual dining, perfect for sports enthusiasts.Large groups are always welcome, and catering is available for parties and events.
If you have not visited Doug’s yet, here’s your invitation. What are you waiting for? Get on over there and eat up!
Doug’s Steak and BBQ is located at 496 North Main Street (Hwy 191) in Monticello, UT. www.dougssteakandbbq.com, phone: 435-587-2255.
Hours of operation: Thursday thru Monday, 5-10 p.m., closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.