Part two of our look at how low-and-slow barbecue has become a burning passion throughout metro Detroit
Published: January 30, 2013
Parks Old-Style Bar-B-Q7444 Beaubien St., Detroit; 313-873-7444; parksoldstylebar-b-q.com; Tucked away from East Grand Boulevard on the edge of New Center and the old North End, Parks Old-Style stands between Custer and Horton streets, on the east side of Beaubien. It was built, from the ground up, in 1963-1964 and has stood the test of time. Unusual for many inner-city barbecue joints, it actually has seating for customers. Parks also stands out due to the vinegar-based sauce on its trimmed ribs ($19.90 a slab), though behind it are subtler flavors, including mustard and perhaps cayenne. Owner Roderick Parks admits it perhaps is an acquired taste, though he points out it has “delighted the multitudes since 1964,” adding that Parks “also features a ‘sweet’ sauce for the sensitive palate and an extremely hot sauce for the more venturesome.” You also get the Parks promise: “I’ll put my ribs, chicken and sauce up against anyone, anytime.”
R.U.B. BBQ 18 W. Adams St., Detroit; 313-964-0782; rubbbqdetroit.com: The stars are the meats, of course, and R.U.B. does better on those than on its sides. Fabulously tasty is an appetizer of wings that come with the sauce cooked on instead of letting the diner choose. If the correct formula for rib tenderness has the meat splitting down the middle, rather than cleaving cleanly away from the bone (and there are so many rules in this world, aren’t there?), R.U.B. has accomplished that goal with its baby backs, which leave some shreds for gnawing. They’re a little tougher than some. Also pleasing are the pulled items, both mellow pork and smoky chicken moist as can be. Prominent in each booth is a six-pack of squeeze-bottle sauces. R.U.B. is proud of its home-state dedication, including a collection of more than 20 Michigan brews.
Real BBQ 42452 Ford Rd., Canton; 734-667-3996; realbarbq.com: Opened just last year, they tout their high-quality smoked meats, which include choice Angus beef, Southern-style ribs, chicken and pulled pork sandwiches, as well as a host of sides, including baked beans and mac ‘n’ cheese. The sandwiches are affordably priced — all less than $8.
Red Rock Barbecue 207 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti; 734-340-2381; redrockypsi.com: At Red Rock, the menu is meaty: Even the starters are heavy on the protein. Sliders — traditional, brisket or pulled pork — are available at $2.50 each. The burnt ends of the brisket are served in bite-sized chunks ($9). They’re naturally quite dry given the preparation, but with a little sauce, they’re delicious. And Red Rock also serves a basket of eight chicken wings ($9) with a great crispy exterior. Four homemade sauces adorn the table, all straightforward but made very well: A vinegar-based sauce, a simple tomato-based sauce, a mustard sauce, and a sweet and spicy, the last of which is arguably the most interesting. There’s a gentle sweetness to the dry rub on the St. Louis-style spare ribs, available in a half ($17) or full slab ($23), and when we ordered, they were cooked to that ideal point where they’re still moist and not yet falling off the bone. For entrées, Red Rock also prepares a smoked half-chicken ($12), pulled pork ($13), thinly sliced brisket ($15), and a large portion of their mac ‘n’ cheese ($10), which arrives quite creamy underneath a perfect amount of crusty, singed cheese.
Red Smoke Barbecue 573 Monroe St., Detroit; 313-962-2100; redsmokebarbeque.com: Red Smoke, located in Greektown, serves up barbecue that’s somewhat upscale. The decor is clean and modern, with comfortably soft lighting. The brick walls are finished with a thin layer of translucent plaster, and the open kitchen sports shiny, rust-colored ceramic tiles and a wheeled cart full of split hickory logs. Order a plate of pulled pork to try out all the sauces. There is sweet and smoky Mississippi mud, tangy honey mustard, fruity cherry molasses, smoky roasted poblano, and the spiciest sauce of them all carries the house moniker. The beef brisket is also fork-tender, and the pork ribs are dry-rubbed and far tastier. The meat has just enough connective tissue left to keep it attached to the bone but it comes right off in the teeth.
Round House BBQ 2760 W. Jefferson Ave., Trenton; 734-671-6100; roundhousebbq.com: Architecturally unique, Round House BBQ is entered via a breezeway connecting a stainless steel diner to a round-shaped former ice-cream parlor. The stainless steel number is part-kitchen, part high-key dining area, whereas the round house has a moodier setup with a small bar. Either way, it’s a family restaurant and a crowd-pleaser at that, thanks to the quality barbecue. Our pulled pork could have been a little crispier (we love the burnt ends), but the brisket was perfect — a hard feat to accomplish — the ribs were excellent, and the sides were pretty darn good too. Try the corn fritters, which come with a cinnamon dipping sauce, or the baked beans, freshened up with bits of bacon, rib and onion.
Slows Bar BQ 2138 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-962-9828; slowsbarbq.com: There’s a reason the owners named the place Bar BQ — the ambience is more bar than restaurant. Yet the food gets just as much attention as the beers and the informative, reasonably priced wine list. Slows’ baby back ribs are appropriately tender and succulent. “Slows Spicy” sauce goes best on these; it’s fruity and hot but doesn’t go overboard. The correct cooking and saucing of pulled pork is an obsession in North Carolina, and on that you’d use “NC Sauce.” St. Louis spare ribs are done blacker than the back ribs; many would like “Sweet Slows” sauce on these, with its woodsy tang. Beef-eaters can try hickory-smoked short ribs or a pound of thin-sliced brisket. All of this food keeps the place packed, and a steady crowd waits at the bar.
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