Listings of many notable barbecue joints throughout metro Detroit
Published: July 17, 2013
Aunt Bessie’s BBQ Ribs and Soul 1141 E. Seven Mile Rd., Detroit; 313-575-5332; auntbessiesribs.com: Carryout and cash only. Originally started in a vacant lot on the corner of Wyoming and Lyndon to fundraise for a political campaign, Aunt Bessie’s grew a following rapidly, and became an established barbecue joint in 1980. Thirty years later, and it happily remains with us, with a refined barbecue menu made up of family recipes from Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Detroit. You’ll find such classics as pork chops and ribs, as well as more adventurous fare that includes pigs feet, plus a number of homemade sides to accompany. When you’ve finished your meal, there are 10 desserts to choose among, including cakes, cobblers and pies.
Bad Brad’s BBQ 35611 Green St., New Baltimore; 586-716-9977; 6525 23 Mile Rd., Shelby Twp.; 586-254-7010; badbradsbbq.net: Bad Brad’s motto is “From our smoker to your plate,” summing up their intention to give diners the best barbecue possible. They start every day at 5 a.m., cooking beef brisket and pork shoulder in fruit wood and hickory smoke for as long as 14 hours. Get a taste of the meat in one of their many cleverly named sandwiches (all $9) or choose among sliced or chopped brisket, pulled pork or chicken, or pork sausage. You can also go “whole hog” with a half ($16) or a full ($25) slab of St. Louis-style ribs.
Bert’s Marketplace 2727 Russell St., Detroit; 313-567-2030: On summer Saturdays, Eastern Market seems to be bursting at every seam. Stalls and sheds overflow with colorful produce as merchants set up shop along Russell Street. And Bert’s is not only a great place to sit and do some Eastern Market people-watching, you can also enjoy some serious barbecue. (You also get a front seat to some of the most unusual karaoke performances ever!) In keeping with Bert’s bare-bones, working-class atmosphere, their food is more down-home than much of the soul food you find in restaurants, which has often been upgraded from its humble origins. The menu runs from catfish to ’cue, and on warm market days when the grillmasters are in full view outside, you’ll be able to see before you buy!
Billy Sims BBQ 25025 Telegraph Rd., Southfield; 248-809-2861; see billysimsbbq.com for locations in Lincoln Park and Troy: Former Lions running back Billy Sims retired back in 1984, but he’s still scoring touchdowns for the city of Detroit. Last summer, the down-to-earth legend, who started his culinary run 10 years ago in Tulsa, Okla., brought it back home by opening Billy Sims BBQ in Southfield. With more than 20 locations throughout Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas and now Michigan, Sims doesn’t own the restaurants, but he’s heavily involved in the process, making sure the food is nothing less than delicious. The restaurant staff takes pride in not using any ovens or fryers to cook the meats. Everything is smoked over pecan wood to achieve that down South, Texas-Oklahoma feel. Billy Sims BBQ’s Jasmyn Dunlap tells us, “We do all of our meats with a dry rub and we smoke them for about seven to nine hours a day.” The barbecue mini-empire offers nine types of smoked meats: brisket (sliced or chopped), pulled pork, chicken or turkey breast, hot links, Polish sausage, bologna and ribs. Customers also have the option of building their own combo plates by choosing two, three or four of any of the nine smoked meats. Specialty dishes include “The Heisman,” which features “piled high” chopped brisket or pulled pork, a slice of bologna and a hot link, as well as “The Triple 20,” with pulled pork topped with coleslaw and provolone cheese and drizzled in a secret sauce. There’s also a variety of “sideliners” (get it?) to choose from, including potato salad, baked beans, baked potatoes, green beans, coleslaw and chips. “We’re about to open one in Ann Arbor and in Ford Field within the coming months, so before the end of the year,” Dunlap says. “I know they plan to do another one in Westland before the end of the year also.” Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
Blue Tractor 207 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-222-4095; bluetractor.net: Looking the part is important for any restaurant, and Blue Tractor does it well. Decorated in wood and rough metalwork, it exudes the feel of a big, rustic barn, ideally suited for serving up barbecue to 100 close friends. A long bar stretches across one wall, the establishment’s house-brewed beers listed next to its respectable bourbon selection. The menu is full of down-home fixings, and inventive specials year-round keep switching it up. The barbecue? Mostly slow-cooked proteins that get a douse of rub or sauce during final grilling, including baby-back ribs, Carolina pulled pork, barbecue “beer can” chicken, and even some more interesting-sounding choices, such as bacon-wrapped meatloaf, apricot-mustard turkey and smoked barbecue duck. The spare ribs stand out for being extraordinarily moist.
Bone Yard Bar-B-Q 7010 N. Telegraph Rd., Dearborn Heights; 313-561-0102; 13100 Hall Rd., Sterling Heights; 586-731-1600; see theboneyardbbq.com for more locations: Since 1972, the Bone Yard has been cooking up barbecued ribs using open-flame rotisseries, racking up awards over the course of 41 years. The ribs are the house specialty, natch, and the slabs run from about six bones for $11.45 to about 15 bones for $22.65. Even the Bone Yard’s starters seem formidable, with such choices as jalapeño poppers and mozzarella sticks, yes, but the Bone Yard sampler (ribs, wings, tenders, mozz sticks and onion rings), “Pork Slammers” and the “Onion Tower,” hand-cut Spanish onions breaded and gently fried, piled up and served with the restaurant’s original sauce.
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