I still crave the shredded beef from my shuttered Mexican hangout in Phoenix, and I still long for the chopped liver from the departed deli down the street, but this one’s really gonna hurt.
Top Notch Barbeque, the Weekly’s pick for the Valley’s best barbecue joint in 2013, and my pick for most mind-blowing ribs ever, has closed, chef and owner Jimmy Cole announced this morning on Facebook.
Cole, who previously served his Cincinnati-style ’cue from a food truck, opened Top Notch last December, at the corner of Eastern and Serene in Henderson. The space, attached to a Doc Holliday’s Saloon, never felt ideal—it was tough to spot and overly large—and in the end, Cole explained, it didn't pencil out financially.
"We put everything we had into making it work," he said by phone today. "I'm bummed out, but at the end of the day, am I happy we did it? Yes, because at my next restaurant we'll know what to do better." In the meantime, he said, he'll be available to cater private events through Top Notch's Facebook page or at 883-1555.
Top Notch’s ending came suddenly, but it didn’t come as a total surprise. The signs were there: quiet lunches, reduced hours, a Groupon deal. The last time I dined there, they were out of three of four things my group tried to order. But the food was so good, all else was forgiven.
The pulled pork was outrageously flavorful. The chili cheese fries were worth feeling full the rest of the week for. The sweet potato casserole was a pie in side-dish clothing. And the ribs, well, those simply weren’t of this earth, massive chunks of tender meat falling off the bone, coated with Cole’s ungodly dry-rub. Once, when I asked Weekly food editor Brock Radke how he'd rate another barbecue joint he’d just visited, he said it just made him want to go back to Top Notch.
I want to go back right now, and eat those ribs for breakfast. They’ll haunt me in dreams for the rest of my life—or until Cole finds a new spot to smoke more.