Rim Country BBQ owner/general manager Robert Santoro said predicting how much barbecue they’ll sell each day isn’t an exact science.

“We’re just learning right now,” Santoro said on Tuesday afternoon. “We start cooking at 1 in the morning to be ready to serve at 11 a.m. and you don’t want to cook too many and you want to have enough for everyone, so it’s hard to judge. We made 25 16-pounders of brisket (last night) and we got hit hard (at lunch).”

They may be learning how much brisket and pulled pork they need to smoke, but they’ve got the smoking/cooking process figured out thanks to the experience of both Santoro and pit master Steve Wilson.

The two met playing cards.

That night changed Santoro’s life. It’s not that he won so much money that it transformed his life or anything like that.

No, it was meeting Wilson that did it.

Wilson is a veteran barbecue pit master used to competing with the best. Wilson placed second for beef brisket and fifth for pork ribs in the 2018 Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue.

Santoro is also no stranger to competition.

“We’ve both competed for years and we combined our recipes,” Santoro said.

“We brought my kitchen knowledge and barbecue knowledge and Steve brought his competition knowledge. I sent him back to Atlanta to Georgia Spice to formulate our spices.

He said the meat sells itself, even without adding extra sauce.

“Great brisket does not need barbecue sauce,” Santoro said. “We want people to try it without sauce where you can actually taste the meat and not drown it out with sauce.”

Rim Country BBQ is Santoro’s first restaurant. He has spent four decades working as a Hollywood teamster transportation coordinator.

“My background is Food Network kitchens,” he said. “They have mobile kitchens because they couldn’t cook on a soundstage. So, we’d build mobile stainless kitchens for a variety of Food Network shows.

“I’m in the motion picture business. I started driving a truck in 1982 and a friend got me in the business and in 1999 I got into management and have been managing shows as a coordinator from then until now.

“I’ve never had my own restaurant, but I cooked for whatever shows I worked in Hollywood for the crews as fun, as a hobby.”

He and his wife, Deborah, sold their Santa Barbara, Calif. ranch and moved to Payson partly because of The Rim Club’s premier golf course and because they couldn’t get enough of this little town.

“I got tired of California and me and my wife fell in love with Payson,” he said.

“We wanted to open the best barbecue place in all of Arizona, and it’s right here in Payson. I actually did it to take care of the locals in Payson. For two years I’ve cooked and donated (food) to the Humane Society (of Central Arizona), a veterans tournament, Time Out Shelter, the Payson High School volleyball team and retirement events for Bobby Davis and LaRon Garrett. So, we’ve donated a lot of food and time for two-and-a-half years to let them know how we cook and it paid off.”

Rim Country BBQ is located at 202 W. Main St..

They held their grand opening weekend Friday, March 19-Saturday, March 20. They’re open from 11 a.m. Tuesday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Monday). Closing time isn’t set in stone. April Lynn manages the full-service bar.

“It’s when the last customer leaves the bar,” Santoro said of when they close.

He hopes their food helps bring people to Payson and to Main Street.

“We want to become a destination and have people come up to Payson and we need to improve Main Street,” he said. “We want to get more people on Main Street in the historical part of town.”

The menu is loaded with savory items from brisket, pulled pork and smoked turkey breast dishes and sandwiches. The sauces include sweet and savory and Carolina pork. They also feature cranberry citrus relish, a variety of salads, baked potatoes, potato salad, coleslaw, cowboy baked beans, buttered sweet corn and macaroni and cheese, including loaded mac ’n’ cheese. Appetizers include pork medallions, pork belly burnt ends, garlic bread, brisket burnt ends, potato skins and Arizona bar nuts.

They have a kids menu and desserts like soft serve ice cream, fruit cobbler and bread pudding.

Check out their daily specials.

They also offer catering service with 48-hour notice.

They kept the many historical photos left in the building when they bought it.

“There were about 60 pictures of all the pioneers of Payson on the wall,” he said. “Thank God they left them. I reframed them and we’ve got quite a collection of old pictures.”

For more information, call 928-472-2BBQ (227) or like their Facebook page.

Contact the reporter at kmorris@payson.com

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(1) comment

Tim Hughes

Went there Tuesday for lunch and had loaded potato with chopped briskit. It was excellent and the only thing that was needed was more butter for the potato. Glad this restaurant is open and highly recommend it!!!

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