Lochart’s BBQ, Royal Oak, Michigan

Lochart’s BBQ, Royal Oak, Michigan

The Detroit-area barbecue scene has gotten more competitive recently. My favorite barbecue place, Slows Bar BQ, in downtown Detroit (near the old Tiger’s Stadium) has been given a run for its money by Lochart’s BBQ .

Josh and I recently made a visit to this relative newcomer that opened last year in the hip, artsy town of Royal Oak, Michigan. It’s about a 45 minute trip from our home in Ypsilanti, but they did not disappoint. I would classify the interior of this restaurant as casual, modern industrial. With thick wood tables with natural splits to the exposed brick walls and stainless steel counters, open kitchen and large windows allowing light to pour inside.

The server was well versed on the menu and ready to help with any questions. He also brought out a nice complimentary jar of sweet and fiery pickle chips in a glass jar to start off our meals.

I ordered the Carolina Pulled Pork sandwich which came on a Kaiser roll with the signature Lochart’s signature  barbecue sauce which was smokey sweet with a hint of spicy and topped with coleslaw. The meat was very tender and juicy and I loved the creaminess of the coleslaw as a compliment to the pork. I had my choice of a side and went for their classic mac and cheese which was creamy and had a nice cheesy quality, but still fell a bit short of Slows fantastically gooey, rich version. Josh also loved his go-to choice of a beef brisket sandwich as well.

We had really wanted to try dessert but couldn’t get past the fact that we were filled to the brim with barbecue goodness on this particular day. Sweet endings will have to wait until our next visit. The trick will be to decide on one amongst a lot of great choices, including: Pecan Pie, Berry Cobbler and Chocolate Dr. Pepper Cake.

 

Smokehouse Blues, Ypsilanti, MI

Smokehouse Blues, Ypsilanti, MI

Admittedly, I sometimes forget that there’s a pretty tasty barbecue restaurant in my own neck of the woods here in Ypsilanti. Smokehouse Blues has been able to avoid the curse of previous restaurants that have occupied its current space on Washtenaw just east of Carpenter and US-23. I’ve found consistently good service and good barbecue dishes here. They also have beautiful and fun murals of blues musicians on the wall.

We stopped in for dinner on a whim on a recent Friday night. Although they’re typically busier on Friday and Saturday nights there’s usually not a wait for a table, which is nice. We were seated right away on this visit and greeted by a very personable waiter who took our order.

As long as I can remember, they’ve always served a basket of hot buttered rolls with meals at Smokehouse Blues. On this last visit the bread had changed to more of an herb pull-apart loaf, but it was still hot and fresh. I think I prefer the old version though which was more like a yeast roll.

I ordered the barbecue chicken for my main dish which came with a choice of two sides. Even with the rolls, I love my starches so I ordered the jalapeno corn bread and mac and cheese. The chicken was fall-off-the-bone tender with a nice smokey-sweet flavor. The cornbread wasn’t too special, a little on the dry side, but had a nice bit of heat to balance out the sweetness. I was surprised at how much I liked the mac and cheese. It didn’t look all that exciting when it arrived on the pale side. I also usually prefer shredded cheese as opposed to a liquid cheese sauce, but it turned out to be really flavorful and delicous. Looks can be deceiving!

Holy Smoke BBQ (North Market), Columbus, OH

North Market in Columbus has an overwhelming selection of food choices when you’re hungry for lunch. For those familiar with the first floor of Kerrytown Shops in Ann Arbor, North Market is similar, but on a much larger scale. We took an out of town friend here on this visit so I showed her the ropes of how to choose where to eat: always make a loop around the whole market before making a final decision so you don’t miss anything. On this day both my husband and I decided I wanted to try out Holy Smoke BBQ while our friend settled on Indian. The three of us took our food up to the second floor to find a table to enjoy our goods.

I had ordered a beef brisket sandwich which I topped with their sweet barbecue sauce and a side of coleslaw (they had already sold out of their potato salad by the time we ordered at 1pm). The beef had been smoked for more than 15 hours and was very tender. It’s served in a deliciously soft hoagie-type roll. The coleslaw was fine, but nothing to write home about. My husband had also ordered the beef brisket sandwich, but went with the baked beans for the side. They were alright, but a bit on the vinegary side. It seems that Holy Smoke’s talent lies mostly with the meat based on this experience. Maybe their potato salad is an exception since it sold out so early in the day.

I’d give this place a try on another visit. Their BBQ is not the best I’ve had, but the brisket was pretty tasty. I’d like to try the potato salad on the next visit to see if that changes my opinion of the sides.

Weber’s Grill, Chicago, IL

We ate lunch at the Weber Grill Restaurant in downtown Chicago and it was fantastic. Okay, I’m breaking my rule about chain restaurants again, but it’s worth it (plus, this one only spans two states and has four locations – so is it really a chain?).
We arrived at prime lunch time, about noon. We only had to wait 10 minutes for a table in the dining area, though we could have been seated right away in the bar. Service from the start was extremely attentive and personable. Our waiter was very helpful with suggestions on the menu when I had trouble deciding between three items and helped me settle on just the right one.
Before our meal were were served fresh pretzel buns with traditional sweet cream butter and a cheddar butter. If you’ve read my blog postings before you may know that I have a special weakness for pretzel bread that’s done well, and this was. The rolls had that unique pretzel flavor with a warm and soft interior. The cheddar butter was an interesting change and the cheddar flavor wasn’t overwhelming. The sweet cream butter also went well.
I ordered the barbecue chicken entree which included corn bread (my deciding factor on this dish), baked beans and coleslaw. There indoor grilling method on the specially designed Weber grills in the restaurant really did the trick. You would never know that this chicken was prepared indoors. It had the flavor of an expertly prepared outdoor grilled dish with perfect char lines while keeping the meat moist and tender. The barbecue sauce was a sweet tomato based version with nice flavor balance. The cornbread was lightly sweetened and the coleslaw was simple, but good. The baked beans which had a few bits of pork shoulder for richness and texture were a special treat. Sweet and smoky flavors with a mix of kidney beans and white beans for a nice contrast.
I got much more than I expected from this restaurant. It will be a regular stop when I’m back in Chicago.

Brand BBQ Market, Chicago, IL

My husband and I were really excited about eating at Brand BBQ Market when we visited Chicago last week. I had seen good online reviews and there menu was an unusual mix of traditional and unusual flavors for barbecue.
We went on a Monday night around 7:30pm. There were only a couple of other customers, but the service was slow and unenthusiastic. Up until then I thought it was hard to find poor service in Chicago because there are so many restaurants competing, but I was wrong. It certainly was not the worst service I’ve received by far, but it left a lot to be desired in a town of unending restaurant options.
I ordered the pulled duck sandwich confit style with a side of burnt ends mac and cheese and coleslaw. The duck was greasy and lacked flavor of quality barbecued meat. The Sweet Southern Peach barbecue sauce was the saving grace; it had a nice sweetness level and was the only way to add flavor to this sandwich. The burnt ends topped mac and cheese was really tasty and interesting. The “burnt ends” which are the dark smoked tips of the brisket are coveted by many barbecue connoisseurs. They also use an uncommon mix of smoked Gouda and sharp cheddar adding a rich complexity. The coleslaw was vinegar based and uninteresting. The cabbage was too finely chopped and the dressing was minimal.
They only serve one option for dessert, which changes daily. They may want to consider expanding that to include two or three more selections.
Overall, I was unimpressed. Slow’s BBQ in Detroit is ten times better than what I had that night, and with much better service.

Aubree’s Pizza & Tavern, Ypsilanti, MI

I don’t make it out to Aubree’s Pizza and Tavern on Whittaker Rd. in Ypsilanti very often, partly because even though their pizza is good, it’s a bit pricey. However, after I received my annual “free large specialty pizza” coupon for my birthday the other week it was an easy decision to go.
I ordered a house salad to start because their breadsticks in the past have come out hollow inside. I asked for a side of their creamy cucumber dill dressing. The dressing was incredibly thick, almost dip-like, but was a nice change from the standard dressing choices. I might suggest a little more buttermilk to thin it out a bit. The salad itself was a fresh mix of field greens, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and shredded cheddar and went well with the flavors in the dressing.
We ordered a deep dish BBQ Chicken pizza, minus the red onions. As always, it was really good. They use a sweet local barbecue sauce, Frog Island, in place of tomato sauce and top it with grilled chicken, lots of bacon and a four-cheese blend. The chicken somehow stays moist and there’s plenty of crisp bacon to satisfy any meat-lover. I’d order it more often, but it would probably clog my arteries if I ate it regularly. Plus, at $16.99 for a large it puts a bit of a strain on my wallet when it’s not “free”.
The Whittaker Rd. location has a more sophisticated and upscale feel than the one in Depot Town which is more of a college kid destination. The staff is efficient and pleasant. On a past visit we had problem resolved by the general manager in a very professional and friendly manner.

If you haven’t already, you should stop in for a change of pace from the Depot Town location. Also, make sure to sign up for their email list to get a free pizza during the week of your birthday (dine-in only).