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Food & Drink > Short Order

Smokin' hot 'cue!

Places for enjoying barbecue in metro Detroit

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Published 5/5/2010

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. But Bert's is different. Not only do you have a great place to sit, do some Eastern Market people-watching and enjoy some serious barbecue, you get a front seat to some of the most unusual karaoke performances ever! 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!

Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewery 205 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-222-4095; $$: Our readers just told us that this is their favorite barbecue stop in Washtenaw County. But more than a place to shove barbecue down your neck, this new favorite melds together a lot of great things. The menu is full of down-home fixings, the beers are pure contemporary craft, the interior is warm and quirky, and inventive specials year-round keep switching it up. And the barbecue? It's mostly slow-cooked proteins that get a douse of rub or sauce during final grilling, and includes baby-back ribs, Carolina pulled pork, barbecue "beer can" chicken, and even some more interesting-sounding choices, such as bacon-wrapped meat loaf, apricot-mustard turkey and smoked barbecued duck.

BoneYard 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 BoneYard has been cooking up barbecued ribs using their open-flame rotisserie, racking up awards over the course of 38 years. The ribs are the house specialty, natch, and the slabs run from six bones for $10 to about 15 bones for $20. All ribs come basted with the house sauce, and come with coleslaw, garlic bread and more. Chicken options include barbecued and broasted (pressure-fried), and you can mix it all up with combos that combine a belly-pleasing mixture of your favorite proteins. Even the BoneYard'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. See also their kids' and catering menus.

Bo's Brewery & Bistro 51 N. Saginaw St., Pontiac; 248-338-6200; $$: With three separate levels occupying almost 12,000 square feet, Bo's Brewery & Bistro offers patrons full bar service, billiards and more. As many as 40 people can sit at the bar and enjoy such Michigan craft beers as Bell's and King's, followed by special desserts every week. Climb up to the third floor during the week for dance classes. And then there's the barbecue: They will be expanding their menu this year to include more smokehouse meats, including beef and pork.

Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar Fifteen locations in metro Detroit; see buffalowildwings.com for info; $$: Ah, B-dubs. When you're surrounded by beers the size of your forearm, an army of high-def TVs, and buckets upon buckets of chicken wings (and a host of other deep-fired thingies) you're probably sitting in a Buffalo Wild Wings. The bar's mid-day and late-night happy hours show that it's recession friendly, and it flies flags of local pro and college sports teams so that when you're too broke for game tickets, the next best place to be is inside one of these joints, where friends gather, drink, steal some Wet-Naps, and maybe catch some action on the television.

Cleary's Pub 113 S. Main St., Chelsea; 734-475-1922; $$: This small joint in the center of downtown Chelsea has 19 tables, three booths and a full bar — as well as a couple of TV sets with Keno. The kitchen usually serves until 11 p.m. and is extensive with fish (sometimes serving frog legs), ribs, salads, sandwiches and burgers. The clear favorite among barbecue offerings would be the baby-back ribs with homemade Jack Daniels sauce. Sorry, no happy hour, because they're always happy! Any draft beer is on special for $2.25 all day every day!

Famous Dave's 20300 E. 13 Mile Rd., Roseville; 586-293-2900; $: Why is Famous Dave's so famous? The barbecue, of course! Serving hot-smoked ribs straight out of the Southern Pride Rotisserie Smoker, you'll need lots of Wet-Naps, a cool beverage and probably a 'slice of heaven,' a homemade bread pudding. The bar seats 10, and there's Blue Moon on tap. They offer $1 pints on Wednesdays and $3 you-call-it drinks on Thursdays. No, it doesn't get much sweeter.

Fishbone's Rhythm Kitchen Cafe 400 Monroe St., 313-965-4600; 23722 Jefferson Ave., St. Clair Shores; 586-498-3000; 29244 Northwestern Hwy., Southfield; 248-351-2925; $$: What began as a Creole-Cajun sort of establishment has now branched out in all directions, offering not just Nawlins-influenced fare but American and sushi as well. And Fishbone's has earned its reputation for doing things in a big way. Belly up to one of the two bars for drinks, or sit in the spacious main dining area. Its Cajun and Creole dishes go beyond jambalaya and fried catfish. The main event is their huge weekly brunch, and then there are those rich soup choices, including such specials as clam chowder (Fridays), lobster bisque (Saturdays) and roux-y gumbos. But then there's the barbecued meat, which includes baby-back ribs ($16 for a half-slap, $24 for a full) and roasted chicken.

Irene's Southern Cookin' 18680 W. Eight Mile Rd., Southfield; 248-423-0988; $: A little neighborhood place with all the virtues and vices of down-home cooking. Entrées include chicken (fried, smothered or barbecued), pork chops (ditto), country-fried steak, catfish, perch, wing-dings, shrimp, meat loaf and ribs. All the usual soul food side dishes can be found here. If you don't want gravy, be sure to say so.

Lazybones Smokehouse 27475 Groesbeck Hwy., Roseville; 586-775-7427; $$: Our readers say this is the best barbecue joint in Macomb County. Why? Because this east side joint has sandwiches starting around $7 and $17.99 for a slab of ribs. But the prices get nicer at lunch every Wednesday; for $7.99, you get to stuff a three-compartment polystyrene container with choices that can range from smoked chicken to chopped pork. Lazybones boasts Black Angus beef, Grade-A fresh pork, and Amish country chickens, done broasted, pit-smoked or grill-ready for pick-up. And for those who want to throw a home party without running the grill, Lazybones can cater to your wishes, with party pans big enough to hold 100 ribs or the equivalent in pulled pork.

Lenny's Ribs and Chicken 15405 Gratiot Ave., Suite 100, Detroit; 313-527-0000; $$: Years ago, it was Kenny's Ribs and Chicken; only the first letter in the name has changed. Located at Eight Mile Road, it's a big building with one level serving up hot ribs, chicken, fish and non-alcoholic beverages. (Hey, have a lemonade for once!) Most popular barbecue order: Rib tips!

Memphis Smoke 100 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-543-4300; $$: Memphis Smoke just earned our readers' nod for Best Barbecue in Oakland County? And the gang at Memphis Smoke did it by offering more than juicy ribs and pulled pork po' boys — they also play a gracious host to many of the area's best blues and rock acts every night but Monday. If you're not feeling the live music spot, grab a stool or picnic table on the roof and enjoy the view and the breeze as you sip shots of Patron and draft beer. Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m., but if that's not enough to keep you satisfied, come down on Sundays for all-you-can-eat crab legs!

Milt's Gourmet Bar-B-Que 19143 Kelly Rd., Detroit; 313-521-5959; $: Just because it's gourmet doesn't mean you're not gonna get it on your shirt. The family-style restaurant seats 45, but it's more or less there for the carryout connoisseurs. Barbecued ribs with homemade sauce and desserts offer patrons finger-lickin' good 'cue for cheap.

Red, Hot and Blue 33800 Van Dyke Ave., Sterling Heights; 586-979-6400; $$: Here are some formidable meals. You can get sandwiches, ranging from the pulled pork and chicken versions to the smoked sausage sandwich and on to something called the "Pig Squealin' Combo." There are also ribs (wet, dry or sweet), platters ("Five Meat Treat," "Delta Double" and "Tennessee Triple"), as well as such Southern faves as catfish, ribs and crispers, and fried gulf shrimp. Sides include sweet potatoes, garlic-mashed potatoes, beans and more.

Rib City Grill 1686 John R Rd., Troy; 248-740-9944; $$: With their motto — 'If you have to pick up a knife to eat our baby back ribs, then we'll pick up your meal!' — Rib City promises the most tender ribs around, and they're picky about their cooking methods — the Bar-B-Q Beef is smoked over "blackjack oak," and the recommended baby back is also done over wood. They've recently added delicious, homemade mac 'n' cheese to their menu as well as a little entertainment on the side. It may be a chain, but with only 25 locations in the country and a family restaurant feel, plenty of folks claim Rib City has got the best they've ever had.

The Rib Rack 5304 Dixie Hwy., Waterford; 248-623-4800; 28601 Southfield Rd., Lathrup Village; 248-483-7427; $$: The Rib Rack is a place where you can enjoy the outdoor barbeque atmosphere at picnic tables and choose from a variety of traditional but tasty barbecue. Their specialty, of course, is ribs, infused with flavorful barbecue sauce and with meat that practically falls off the bone. The menu also includes a variety of specialty sides, including the house-made "Rib Rack Potatoes." The Rack could even provide the food for your next tailgating party if you'd rather drink instead of barbecuing. Just see their catering menu.

Slows Bar-BQ 2138 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-962-9828; $$: A few blocks west of Tiger Stadium, in a meticulously revamped 1880s building, Slows caters to a mix of hipsters, folks from area businesses, and suburban brewheads. Slows has excellent barbecue, a mac and cheese that's a satisfying combination of sharp and creamy, and potato salad that could have come straight out of an Alabama picnic basket. There's also a generous list of appetizers, salads, sandwiches and soups, including chili, and gumbo with andouille and shellfish. On busy weeknights after work, the joint fills up quickly, but the bar, fortunately, is a beer-lover's paradise, with more than 20 beers on tap, usually featuring at least a dozen brewed in Michigan (including Bell's, Arcadia, Founder's and Dragonmead), and a pages-long beer menu, featuring anywhere between 60 and 80 bottles depending on the season. All of which keeps the place packed, with a steady crowd waiting at the bar. And fans of Slows may soon have less of a wait, as Slows Express & Catering is slated to offer carryout service in Midtown in the future.

Smoke & Spice Southern Barbecue 1515 Ottawa St., Windsor; 519-977-0112; $$: French-cuisine-trained Ryan Odette moved from one concept of cool to another when he closed his tiny Bistro and opened a crowd-pleasing barbecue joint. No more roasted apricots and fig jus: Now it's ribs, wings and pulled pork, playing to a full, and much bigger, house. These ribs appear rather dry-looking, but in the mouth they are multifaceted chunks of meat, a combination of smoke, tenderness and earthy animal goodness. As for sauces, there's the slightly sweet, mostly tangy tomato-based barbecue sauce, the chipotle, and the runny mustard that's the most unusual and complex of the three. What's more, the wings are not an afterthought, luscious and meaty, smokier than most wings. Pulled pork and beef brisket round it out, though there's also a mild and tender catfish with remoulade and spicy breading, and an apple wood-smoked half chicken worth checking out.

Smoke House Blues 4855 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-434-5554; $$: For 10 years Smoke House Blues has had customers tear themselves apart when it comes time to order — choosing between ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket or gumbo — and their revamped menu still has all the old favorites. And Smoke House Blues also offers full catering and throws a helluva tailgate party. They have daily specials and a happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. nightly. Cool your smoky palate with sweet potato pie and some of Aunt Gina's homemade rice pudding.

Sweetwater Tavern 400 E. Congress St., Detroit, 313-962-2210; $$: Downtown in the shadow of the towering Millinder Center, this venerable Detroit business, in a 116-year-old historic building that's been recently renovated, is famous for its Sweetwater Wings. And that's no surprise when the wings come in fresh from Eastern Market and are marinated in their special spices for 24 hours. Sweetwater doesn't offer a huge variety of different barbeque sauces, but their single sauce definitely doesn't disappoint. Their pulled-pork sandwich, dubbed "The Big Pig," uses only tender pork that's been slow-cooked in spices before being pulled off the bone, piled on a roll and served with a slice of onion and coleslaw. The atmosphere is great for any sports-lover, with HD TVs showcasing the Detroit teams while you enjoy a few dozen of their famous wings.

Three-Star Bar B Que and Lounge 11941 Joseph Campau; 313-365-9494; $: Good old-fashioned comfort food in an environment your parents might approve of. But that's hardly a strike against it. Three-Star offers dine-in, carry out, delivery and a full-service bar that adds a "lounge" feel into the evening. Hearty breakfasts start at 7 a.m. and drinking hours extend until 11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and until midnight on Friday and Saturday. For the most part, this is a diner, not a barbecue destination, but remember, in that hard-drinking town, Three-Star's ribs lay an excellent base for an ambitious pub crawl.

Tunnel Bar-B-Q 58 Park St., Windsor; 519-258-3663; $: Visible pretty much the second you leave the tunnel, the TBQ has a full line of sauces and spices to light the fire in your food-life. If all those original recipes aren't enough, get a load of the bakery ' strawberry romanoff, deep dish pecan pie, any number of home-made desserts. Ten varieties of bottled beer will wet your whistle, enjoyed at the restaurant's new bar (a former smoking room). Just remember your passport.

Zingerman's Roadhouse 2501 Jackson Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-663-3663; $$: Zingerman's Roadhouse presents "unusually good American food," or so declares a neon sign over the roof. It all happens in a setting that harks back to the day when weary travelers could recharge with a comforting meal by the roadside. The Roadhouse is a sprawling place with a semi-open kitchen, full bar, two dining rooms and — yes, indeed —very good food, which includes pit-smoked beef brisket, chicken-friend steak, pit-smoked spare ribs, and a barbecued pork entrée that's blended with your choice of barbecue sauce, including "Eastern North Carolina Vinegar BBQ Sauce," "Memphis Tomato BBQ Sauce" and "South Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce."

See any inaccuracies in our listings? Let us know! Call 313-202-8043 or e-mail mjackman@metrotimes.com.

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