All posts in restaurant

What my Grand Rapids BBQ restaurant would look like…

Wood burning pit barbecue

I stumbled across this great blog; Full Custom Gospel BBQ.  The blogger is a Texas-based gentleman. Pretty good ‘que in Texas and he knows his stuff.

Barbecue Blog

Authentic BBQ Advice

The specific post that caught my attention was about the types of smokers used in barbecue restaurants.

I had earlier posted a question on  the BBQ Forum, asking what BBQ joints still serve “authentic barbecue”?

I had a variety of answers, but the debate veered to “what is authentic barbecue”?

Well, in my humble opinion, this blog did the best job of answering the question.

Authentic barbecue needs to be wood fired…no gas or electric assist.  Period.

The debate wasn’t cut and dry though.  It was pointed out that good BBQ is good BBQ…it doesn’t matter how it is cooked.  OK…I buy that.  But in my opinion, it is not authentic.

My follow up question was, what types of pits do most BBQ joints use? Southern Pride and Ole Hickory were mentioned several times.  Rightfully so.  Very well made, efficient and modern.  Both use wood, with either gas or electric.  In the case of Southern Pride, their smokers are used in many of the top BBQ chains in the country (someone told me Slows BBQ in Detroit is Southern Pride-powered, but I can’t confirm).

However, as the Gospel BBQ blog points out, that is probably a good reason to avoid those units!  Why be like everyone else?

In the end, the recommended smoker, that is wood only is The Oyler Pit. Made in Texas.

The Oyler Pit

Authentic Pit BBQ

With the recent emergence of a hot BBQ scene in Detroit, led by Slows, I’ve been daydreaming about the possibilities of someone opening a BBQ joint in downtown Grand Rapids.   What would this look like?

Well here you go:

  • Authentic pit barbecue. Wood-fired, no gas or electric assist. Probably the Oyler Pit.  Maybe use apple or other local fruit woods.

  • Standard BBQ fare: pulled pork, beef brisket, St. Louis-style ribs, chicken, hot-links and probably turkey, maybe some lamb and/or salmon. When feasible, meat would be sourced locally.

  • Side dishes.  All made from scratch. NO food service product.  Cole slaw, beans, mac and cheese, cornbread, fries.  Probably have jars of small-batch pickles and peppers on each table.

  • Sauce: On the side.  House recipe, a few styles: mustard based, thick and sweet, and thin and peppery.

  • Dessert: Homemade pies, crisps,  homemade ice cream (bought locally)

  • Beverage: Michigan’s finest microbrews, rootbeer, lemonade,  ice tea.

  • Simple setting. Unpretentious.

  • Lunch: $5.95 – $9.95

  • Dinner: $9.95 – $14. 95

So, what do you think?  Boom or bust?

Disclosure.  Although I know, love and am obsessed by BBQ, I have absolutely no experience in the restaurant industry…so it remains a dream.

Grilladelic does Argentina


Argentina takes their beef seriously.  In fact, Las Lilas is beef first, restaurant second.  Plenty of reviews cover the basics of this famous restaurant.   Reading the history behind the brand is very interesting.  For business minded folks, this would be a great example of “vertical integration”.

For grassfed-beef enthusiasts, this has to be on your bucket list.

Here is a translated version of the description of the restaurant:

Cabaña Las Lilas restaurant

Culminating with this effort, and treasuring the chain started in raising their own production lines of high quality arising in our Pampas grasslands, then opened its doors in 1997 in the city of Buenos Aires the first Restaurant Cabaña Las Lilas, the most demanding benchmark good food tasters Argentina. On its walls shine with great pride many great champions earned on world-famous Exhibition of Palermo, as a tribute to the blood they gave their genetics for the tasty and tender meat are served here are real.

Fernanda is Grilladelic’s second foreign correspondant .  She shared some photos and a short description of her experience at Cababa Las Lilas.  Thanks Fernanda!

“The place was right by Puerto Madero, which is an awesome view. The meat was amazing! We ordered Ojo de Bife (how its called in spanish) and we also had Kobe. It was very different from all the other meats I’ve ever tried. The fat was within the meat, which made it delicious. All the side orders and the starters were also very tasty – they had a range variety of rice, salads, mash potatoes, french fries, pasta, bread and etc”.

The Wide, Wide, World of Grilladelic


What a great world we live in!  You can “travel every road in this here land” and you will surely find families and friends celebrating the joys of cooking over an open fire!

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law just returned from a family trip to Maine and shared these photos from a traditional lobster bake. They were hosted by the folks who own the Kaler’s Crab & Lobster House in Boothbay Harbor.


On the ocean.

An open fire.

Good people.

Fresh lobster.

You can easily search for lobster bake recipes and techniques online, but the the Certified Grilladelic experience requires a little effort!

(photo’s courtesy of Jessie Challa)

Dailey’s Kitchen


Just discovered a hidden gem in downtown Allegan:  Dailey’s Kitchen.   100% Certified Grilladelic

You sit, order and eat in a kitchen.  Literally.  It is tight quarters with a basic menu but very fresh ingredients:  Us, “are the tomatoes fresh?”  Them: “Jack just got them at the farmer’s market”.  Nice.
I had a terrific reuben,,,and as a reuben snob, this was top notch, especially with the homemade 1000 Island dressing.  Scot’s veggie pizza was a work of art.  Perhaps the biggest compliment; my brother’s take on the potato salad, “tastes just like mom’s”  (trust me on this, compliments like this do not come often)
My prediction, you will be hearing great things about Dailey’s Kitchen soon, probably in the same breath as other small town eateries like Salt of the Earth and The London Grill.

Posted via email from johnrumery’s in search of the secret sauce

Grand Rapids BBQ- A Review of Sandmanns

I’ve delayed reviewing the local BBQ scene, but GRGrub is certainly one of the best sources of honest reviews of west Michigan food establishments.

Take this with a grain of kosher salt, because I have not eaten at Sandmanns yet, but the “word-on-the-street” among a few barbecue aficionado is that, even though Sandmanns is good, it doesn’t have that wood infused, smoky “low-and-slow” taste to it.  Which is also a common symptom of all Grand Rapids BBQ joints.  That style of BBQ is just not in our DNA.
I suppose it is a business issue.  It is certainly not very economical to use a wood-burner with 6-18 hour cooks to produce your pulled pork and brisket.  Right?

Posted via email from johnrumery’s in search of the secret sauce

BBQ Field Notes 1/22-23/10

BBQ Test:  Heffron Farms
The sky’s were gray.
Temperature between 35-40 degrees.
Winds light
Coals hot
The meat was frozen
Family hungryAlthough I have known of Heffron Farms for many years and really admire their entrepreneurial spirit, I have never bought any of their products for the grill.  I have a bias against frozen product.  No good reason.�

However I have become very curious about the entire process of sustainability and agribusiness, especially as it relates to the different meats I buy for the grill.  I was disappointed last summer with some baby back ribs (pork) that I bought at the downtown farmer’s market.  Far to lean and not enough meat on the bone to make it worth barbecuing.  But as I continued to read and talk to people about the differences between organic, grassfed, natural and CAFO’s, I am convinced that there is a significant difference in products.  So this gets us to where I was at last weekend; time to put the meat on the grill.

First, here is the official Heffron Farm description and philosophy:

We welcome you to Heffron Farms Markets. We take great pride in making available products that are raised without the use of growth hormones, preservatives, dyes and antibiotics on a daily basis (see FAQ) and raised in a humane way. While working with other local farmers, Heffron Farms Markets bring our customers a variety of naturally raised beef, pork, chicken, turkey, dairy products, eggs and much more. Currently our stores are in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. We also ship products throughout the United States.

All of our meats are USDA or state inspected, vacuum packaged and frozen to ensure freshness that lasts as long as a year or more in a well maintained freezer.

Q. Is our beef grass-fed?
A. Yes. Some may call it grass, farmer terminology is hay.

Our cattle are fed an all vegetarian diet that consist of both grains and roughage. This allows for our cattle to have a balanced, nutritious diet that their bodies are designed to handle.

To continue, I bought:

  • 1 flank steak (approx. $9.99/lb)
  • 1 skirt steak (approx. $4.99/lb)
  • 2 boneless pork shoulders (approx. $3.99/lb)

All the meat products were frozen, so you were limited a bit in selection (I like having a butcher cut my steaks to order.  I also like having the ability to order my pork shoulder either bone-in or boneless and also specify the size)  I thought the pricing was about 10-20% higher than what I could get elsewhere)

I grilled the flank and skirt steak on Friday night.


The flank steak was OK/good. Maybe a little tougher than what I get at a butcher.  The fact I tried to thaw it out quickly so I could grill it that night maybe made a difference (it might not of been completely thawed when I was ready to grill) �

The skirt steak was a different story.  Without a doubt, it was the tastiest steak I have grilled in a long time.  It was also a great value.  I typically have a hard time finding skirt steak on short notice.  Knowing that I can get it anytime at Heffron Farms will put me fajita heaven on a regular basis.�

For the two boneless pork shoulders (about 3.5 lbs each), I used two techniques:  I brined one in a simple salt and brown sugar solution.  The other one, I only used a seasoned salt.  I put both shoulders on Saturday (Weber kettle, Lazzari lump, pecan chips)  around 2:00 and pulled around 6:30.   I did not use an internal temperature gauge, instead relied on my instinct.  A small mistake.  Both shoulders were done, but I never reached the “magical pulling internal temperature” range of approx. 195 degrees. Instead I had to  slice and chop.  I think this had to do with the meat being frozen.  I think the core temperature was still very cold when I put it on the grill.  I could of waited, but in reality, BBQ is a fickle mistress, and she waits for no one.

The meat was terrific.  The brined shoulder a bit moister.  (I used Penzey’s BBQ Rub for the first time too; good and a bit spicy)

I attached pictures of this experiment.  Please note the beautiful smoke ring on the pork.  I actually liked the chopped pork better than pulled pork.�


I still prefer non-frozen meat.  Allows for more spontaneity.  However, the pork and the skirt steak were great.  I would recommend Heffron Farms to anyone.

My next post will focus on the differences between natural, grassfed, grain-finished, organic, and CAFO products…from the perspective of a consumer.


Posted via email from johnrumery’s in search of the secret sauce

Grand Rapids Barbecue? Fact or Fiction

As I begin mapping out my 2010 Grilladelic Resolutions, first on the list is to review the local barbecue joints in Grand Rapids.  Even before I begin this pilgrimage, I have two impressions: 

1. These cats need some serious help with their online marketing
2. The Grand Rapids barbecue scene is wide open.

Here is how I came to those conclusions.�

In the year 2010, where is the first place someone would begin their search for “barbecue in Grand Rapids”?
Correct. Google it.  Or Bing it.  Or just search on-line.�

The attached screen shots show the online results.  Only one real local “Q” establishment (Sandmanns). Several “chains”, but PLEASE don’t insult authentic barbecue with a BW3. Please.  There was no real *funk to speak of.  In fact, I know of at least three local locations that did not make the initial search;

So where to begin.  Probably Sandmanns this week, but after that???  Any ideas?

* By the way, this is BBQ funk [youtube=]

Posted via email from johnrumery’s in search of the secret sauce

Michigan Scores Two “Best of New BBQ Restaurants”


Two Michigan restaurants scored a mention in the July issue of Bon Appetit


The Yardbird sandwich (pulled chicken) from Detroit’s Slow Bar BQ

From the magazine:

Zingerman’s Roadhouse
Ann Arbor, Michigan
This eclectic eatery—part of a deli and mail-order empire—is known for its regional American dishes. So it’s no surprise that their barbecue (whole hog, chicken, brisket), pit-roasted over Michigan hardwood, is well worth a road trip. 2501 Jackson Avenue; 734-663-3663

Slows Bar BQ
At this sleek Corktown neighborhood favorite, be sure to try the Yardbird sandwich (pictured), which is piled with juicy smoked pulled chicken tossed with mushrooms and cheddar and topped with applewood bacon. Traditionalists will find comfort in an order of St. Louis-style spareribs or Texas-style beef brisket. 2138 Michigan Avenue; 313-962-9828


I’ve always believed Michigan has a rich tradition in “Q”,  but it certainly is never mentioned among the usual “best of” suspects: Texas, the Carolina’s, Tennessee…

Speaking of which, I haven’t tried the fare yet, but Sandmann’s and Crudups are a couple of good looking BBQ joints on Wealthy St.   Local smoke.

Soon:  Grand Rapids: home of the arts, white water rafting, minor league sports mecca, and world class BBQ!

Acts of Random BBQ and Smoke


Grilladelic now has Facebook group.  It really is for folks from the west Michigan area, as it’s goal is to promote local food sources and butchers, BBQ entrepreneurs, and share recipes,techniques and experiences- but anyone can join and contribute.

These next few months, I plan to make a pilgrimage to all the BBQ  joints and restaurants in the Grand Rapids Area.

Last night I visited Jimmy’s on Plainfield.  It was OK.  Ordered the ribs and chicken. HEAVY sauce.  Ribs were tender (parboiled tender?). I like wet ribs, but these were a bit too much.  Several of my BBQ mentors have always warned against over saucing.  It hides the smoke ring and doesn’t let the seasoned, crispy skin add texture and flavor to the “Q”.  As the music director at WYCE told me about reviewing CD’s, “our philosophy is that all music is good.  It just might not be what you like.”  I will leave it that.

Next on my list Grillmaster BBQ . I have bumped into Don several times over the last two years as he was preparing to open his business.  So I took it as a fate, when he was at a conference I spoke at.  He gave me his card and we set a date.  I’ll let you know the results.


Also on my list are Sandmans and Rhodes Rib Crib.

Sorry no chains or franchises.  Looking for true Q…

If you have any suggestions or comments, just post and I will follow up.

The Best BBQ in Texas (?)

Trillin BBQ Dept.L.indd

Here is an article from The New Yorker, about the best barbecue in Texas.

I have read many article over the years, identifying “the best barbecue”.  Typically, these lists are Texas or Kansas City based.  Sometimes, the Carolina’s, Kentucky, Memphis, Alabama and Georgia establishments are thrown in, but typically it is Texas and K.C.

This has always left me wondering, why hasn’t anyone been able to create a barbecue joint in west Michigan that is mentioned with the legendary places like Snow’s Barbecue, Kreutz Market, Smittys, Sonny Bryan, Arthur Bryants, Rendezvous, Dreamland, Lexington, Big Bob Gibsons, and many others that are often more pilgrimages than just a BBQ restaurant.

What makes me wonder, is the dirty secret about barbecue:  it ain’t that difficult!

Is there anyone from west Michigan that knows of GREAT barbecue around here?