Canyon City Barbeque
347 N San Gabriel Ave
Azusa, CA 91702
Canyon City has some of the most divergent opinions of any barbecue joint I have ever come across. The people who love it talk about it in terms that I have rarely heard about barbecue in California. The people who hate it can't understand why anyone would possibly call it good barbecue. The other day I was going to lunch with my parents, we were planning to go to Zeke's in Montrose, and I suggested trying Canyon City instead.
This was actually my third trip to Canyon City, although it's the first time I've ever eaten there. The first time I went, about a year ago, I walked inside and stood there for perhaps ten minutes without any recognition. Waitresses were passing by and looking at me and not saying anything. Not one "hi" or even "I'll be right with you." So I left.
About two months ago, on Election Day, my brother and I voted together then went out for lunch. Canyon City was closed, however. Apparently they are closed on Tuesdays. So we went to Matt Denny's instead.
This time when we walked in we were greeted immediately by not one but two women. The inside is decorated with posters from barbecue festivals around the country. I looked for Memphis in May but did not see it. I ordered a pulled pork sandwich, with slaw on it, and some sweet potato fries. My dad ordered a larger version of the pulled pork sandwich, and my mom ordered the brisket sandwich.
I cannot believe I did not make more of an effort to try this place sooner. It was the best pulled pork sandwich I have had in the San Gabriel Valley. There was visible smoke ring on the pork and no noticeable fat. The bun was the perfect accompaniment for a barbecue sandwich: soft enough not to get in the way but sturdy enough not to fall apart. I ate about a quarter of my mom's sandwich and it was fantastic, too. I'm not a huge brisket fan but I could eat this every day. My sweet potato fries were above average; not the best I've had but better than most places.
My one complaint - and it seems petty to complain but this is something that could turn this restaurant into a legend - are the sauces. There are two on the table, and, as usually happens around here, they both tasted the same. The "spicy" sauce was just a slightly spicier version of the ketchup-tasting "regular" sauce. A mustard sauce or a vinegar sauce like Beechwood BBQ would make this place indistinguishable from a Southern barbecue shack. Well, that and some sweet ice tea.