It's official: Metro Detroit is barbecue-crazy!
Published: February 1, 2012
Nunn's Barbecue Restaurant 19196 Conant St., Detroit; 313-893-7210: Another one of Detroit's old-line barbecue joints, Nunn's (or, Nunn's II as it's called; the first Nunn's burned down) churns out a steady diet of pit-style ribs cooked to perfection, all ready for your carry-out order. No sit-down here, but the ribs are supreme — one rib aficionado we know says they're the best ribs on the east side. We also recommend the Kenta Cake, a unique specialty at Nunn's.
Parks Old-Style Bar-B-Q 7444 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 "pig wings," though they 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 3695 Dix-Toledo Rd., Lincoln Park; 313-769-5010; realbarbq.com: Opened just last year, they tout their high-quality smoked meats, which include choice Angus beef, Southern-style ribs, chicken, turkey, sausage 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 $7. Their "Smokehouse Combo Four" offers four meats atop hand-cut fries for $24.99.
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 ambiance 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.
Slows to Go 4107 Cass Ave., Detroit; 877-569-7246; slowstogo.com: Anybody who has dropped in to Slows Bar-B-Q for one of their famous slow-cooked barbecue dishes knows it can be hard to find a table. Or a seat at the bar. Or even a place to stand, sometimes! Well, things changed with the opening last year of Slows to Go, where 'cue-hungry devotees of Slows can get their orders to go between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. With a smoker capacity seven times that of the sit-down restaurant and a menu nearly as extensive, Slows to Go is an affordable ($9.95 for a pound of rib tips), quick, and saucily delicious alternative to the Corktown location.
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