Big Earl’s Greasy Eats doesn’t sound like a place you want to spend two seconds, much less eat lunch, but you’ll be missing a great lunch if you don’t pull up to the converted gas station and enjoy a meal. Full address: 6135 East Cave Creek Road
Cave Creek, AZ 85331
Big Earl’s is in Cave Creek, Arizona. It’s cleverly located on Cave Creek Highway, about three miles north of Carefree Highway. Yes, that Carefree Highway. The restaurant is about 10 miles north of state highway 101, which is a freeway surrounding Phoenix. Out here we call it “the 101” It’s a Western thing.
It’s hard to miss Big Earl’s because the tent-like roof is bright red, as are the seats and the old gas pumps. You walk into what used to be the station and the menu is about what you’d expect–hamburgers, shakes, fountain drinks. You can eat greasy, but you can get a great low-cholesterol lunch. Incidentally, Big Earl’s serves a garden burger and a number of salads, so take a vegetarian to lunch.
Try the buffalo burger. Buffalo meat is low in cholesterol and has a good umami flavor. You can get cheese, onions, tomatoes and lettuce in any combination you like. The fries to have with this are sweet potato fries. Crisp and hot, but not greasy, the sweet potato fries are a great mix of sweet and savory. It’s a frequent stop for motocryclists, which is how I got there. There’s always a friendly conversation to have and new people to meet under the red roof.
While the food is consistently good, what I love about Big Earl’s is that I have never had anything except polite, fast service. Even in the heat. Even with a big rush. The patio and the inside is always clean. It’s a fun place to eat–and I know they serve breakfast, although I’ve never been in Cave Creek that early in the morning.
Cave Creek is a stop on the way to great hiking, two lakes with breath-taking views and shopping at some of the most interesting places to shop, even if you’ve lived in Arizona for your whole life.
—Quinn McDonald is a motorcycle rider, writer and trainer.