At this point in history, it might finally be safe to say that there is something more American than apple pie.


BBQ has become such an integral part of American culture that it seems to have developed its own subculture. The result of our BBQ obsession is the countless hordes of spirited chefs who dedicate their lives to building the right combination of tender, slow-cooked meat, spiced and smothered with tangy sauce as they relentlessly strive to create the perfect bite of barbecue bliss.

While Detroit is rampant with out-of-this-world BBQ spots, it might come as a surprise that we do not actually have style that is uniquely Detroit. You can travel the country, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a restaurant that dons the name “Detroit Style BBQ.”

And while Detroit may not have its own style of barbecue per se, it has been an integral part of the city’s culinary culture since the Great Migration when hundreds of thousands of African Americans migrated from the South to the industrial powerhouses of Detroit, Chicago and New York City.

With Tunde Wey’s Lagos Nigerian BBQ pop-up coming to Revolver, the hip Hamtramck pop-up dining space, August 28-30, we wanted to explore and celebrate all the ways to eat BBQ in the D.

1. Nigerian

This Sunday, August 30 at 7 p.m. at Hamtramck’s Revolver is your only chance to try Nigerian BBQ in its truest form, so buy tickets now. Tunde Wey’s pop-up has already sold-out this Friday and Saturday, so Sunday is your opportunity.

It is $45 a ticket, but it might be worth it just for bragging rights to your foodie friends. You can’t get more authentic than the Peppered Goat, which is Tunde’s specialty. Peppered Goat, or “Asun,” is traditionally cooked during a happy celebration.

The goat is covered in seasonings and spices and cooked using smoke, which is essential to its authentic flavor. We are also very intrigued by his melon seed soup thickened with locust beans.

Egusi seeds and goat Photo by Tunde Wey from his Lagos Restaurant Instagram
Egusi seeds and goat Photo by Tunde Wey from his Lagos Restaurant Instagram

2. St. Louis

When a menu at Bert’s Marketplace or Southern Smokehouse say, “St. Louis Slab” or “St. Louise Ribs”, it’s talking about the rib cut. A St. Louis slab is squared off by removing the rib tips. You will see this shape a lot if you ever go to a BBQ competition.

3. Texas

A BBQ joint can’t claim it specializes in Texas-style BBQ without including brisket on the menu. Few other styles can make brisket so delicious. Find true Texas-style BBQ brisket at Lockhart’s BBQ in Royal Oak. It is so tough, it can only be cooked low and slow. It is unspoken Texas etiquette to use as little sauce as possible when eating. The integrity of the meat speaks for itself.

Brisket for breakfast at Lockhart's in Royal Oak
Brisket for breakfast at Lockhart’s in Royal Oak

4. Kansas City Style

Kansas City style is known for serving burnt ends, the crispy tips off the main cut of meat. This style is also known for its syrupy tomato and molasses-based sauce. Try it at the Smoke Ring BBQ food truck, which drives all over Metro Detroit and pops up at festivals. In the BBQ world, a smoke ring is the pinkish ring of color found when near the edges of the meat, which signifies well-smoked meat.

5. Mix of Everywhere (North Carolina, Texas, Kansas, Memphis)

Why stick to one style when you can have them all? Most of Detroit’s most popular BBQ places, like Slows, Redsmoke, Zeke’s, and R.U.B. BBQ Pub, let you have it your way with a range of sauces from each BBQ region. A round of applause for R.U.B., which makes its own Detroit sauce, which is similar to their sweet Memphis sauce, but spicier.

6. Their Own Thing

Word on the street is the closest Detroit has to its own BBQ identity can be found at Parks Old-Style BBQ and Nunn’s BBQ. Each place marches to its own culinary drum, claiming that no region’s BBQ influences what they serve. Both places grill their meat instead of smoking it for that signature taste. Nunn’s steams their meat after it is on the grill to make sure it is fall-of-the-bone tender.

Parks Oldstyle BBQ
Parks Oldstyle BBQ

7. Caribbean

The Floridians running the Caribbean Jerk BBQ and Seafood food stall only come to Detroit in the summer. They appear at major Detroit festivals like this Labor Day’s Arts, Beats and Eats, the African World Festival and the Ribs and R&B Music Festival. You have to splurge on their $15 seafood paella, which is slow-cooked for hours in an epic paella dish. We can’t bring up Caribbean BBQ without mentioning meat loaded with jerk spice, known for its use of allspice mixed with scotch bonnet peppers.

Giant paella pans measured in feet, not inches.
Giant paella pans measured in feet, not inches.

8. Korean

Korean BBQ is the ultimate date night dining activity. It is intimate, it forces you to talk to your date and the smell that comes while the meat is cooking really gets you in the mood, to eat at least. You get to flip and turn thinly sliced meat over a gas or charcoal grill built inside the dining table. And the servers always top off the kimchee when it is running low. Great Korean BBQ places include New Seoul Garden and Chung Ki Wa.

9. Mongolian (Kinda)

I hate to break it to you, but Mongolian BBQ is mostly a marketing term. The cooking style comes from Taiwan, not Mongolia. It just barely qualifies as BBQ because the food is stir-fried on a Mongolian griddle, which legend has it, started when Mongolian warriors cooked food inside a shield over an open fire. Besides the bd’s Mongolian BBQ locations all over Metro Detroit, you can find Mongolian BBQ at Palette Dining Studio in Detroit’s MGM Grand Casino.

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