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Posted on Fri, Mar 4, 2011 : 7:55 a.m.

Renovations under way at Ypsilanti's Red Rock Barbecue as opening moves back to summer

By Tom Perkins

Shawn Cool recently exited his still-to-open barbecue restaurant on Michigan Avenue in downtown Ypsilanti and was stopped by a pedestrian.

The man said he'd frequented T.C.’s Speakeasy, which used to be occupy the space, and had read a previous article about Red Rock Downtown Barbecue opening. He asked if he could take a look inside.


City of Ypsilanti web site

Cool said the man was surprised by the changes - and he hopes to inspire a similar reaction among others once he opens.

“He took a look and said ‘Wow! This looks nothing like it used to,’” Cool said.

Major interior renovations are under way at the 207-209 West Michigan Avenue location, and Cool said he doesn’t expect anyone to recognize it as the spot that once housed the old T.C.’s.

When the new restaurant opens, the smell of greasy food and cigarette smoke will be replaced with the smell of new signature dishes: slow-cooked rotisserie chicken, pulled pork and beef brisket, Cool said.

Those three meats will comprise the backbone of the menu from which other plates and sandwiches are built. Although the menu’s details are still being decided, Cool said diners can expect a variety of Southern-style sides. Around a half dozen barbecue sauces will be prepared in-house and set out on the table for diners to choose from.

Red Rock also purchased the former bar's liquor license and will offer full bar service. Cool said patrons can expect live music several nights a week.

The building was purchased out of foreclosure by Cool and his parents, John and Nancy Cool. In November, a 20-month closing process concluded and work has been under way to some degree since.

Cool was first hoping to open on St. Patrick’s Day, but the process has moved slower than he expected. He received his business permit from the city last week, allowing him to move forward with more significant renovations.

Cool said workers pulled up five layers of carpet and flooring in excavating the original hard wood floor, which he will refinish and leave exposed. The drywall also has come down and the brick will stay exposed, and a mason is installing brick archways in several spots throughout the restaurant.

The kitchen is being expanded, a new bathroom is being installed and upgrades are being made to the electrical and plumbing systems, Cool said.

Cool declined to say how much he is investing, but he was helped by a Redevelopment Liquor License approved by the Ypsilanti City Council. The special license is available at less cost than a regular liquor license for those investing at least $75,000 in a city's downtown.

Red Rock is one of several new businesses in Ypsilanti. Most recently Café Ollie opened in Depot Town where Café Luwak once was and B-24’s recently opened in the old Bombadill’s storefront.

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Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 1:16 p.m.

@Andrew Jason Clock and @Bogie - I'm happy to see that it appears listened to its readers and updated the photo after I made the comment. It looks somewhat better now.


Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 4:43 a.m.

Actually regarding the photo, if you just read underneath it you'll see it's not from anyones cell phone, it's from the "City of Ypsilanti" web site.


Fri, Mar 4, 2011 : 11:50 p.m.

@Karen- Nice photo Tom. It looks like the old TC Speakeasy, I see everytime I drive down Michigan ave. If you used your phone, I'm even more impressed. By the way, How much does it cost to view Ann I thought it was free, so I appreciate all the work you guys do. LOOKIN' FORWARD TO A SUMMER BIKE RIDE WITH A STOP AT RED ROCK!


Fri, Mar 4, 2011 : 11:11 p.m.

How do I get my own sneak peek inside? Real talk!

Top Cat

Fri, Mar 4, 2011 : 5:54 p.m.

What are "burnt ends" ? Have I been missing something wonderful ?


Fri, Mar 4, 2011 : 11:44 p.m.

Burnt ends are the outside of the meat that are charred from the cooking process. Most people call the crusty outside "bark" and the burnt ends are usually some of the darkest bark. It's called "ends" because after it is sliced and/or chopped there are usually pieces that have a large portion of the outside, or the cooking side. These ends have a very intense flavor from a combination of the smoky fire and the carmelization that takes place during cooking. There are those that really don't like the "burned" taste, but serious barbecue fans love the intense flavor. In many restaurants the burnt ends are sold at a premium.


Fri, Mar 4, 2011 : 6:50 p.m.

Yes you have. It is the end of the beef brisket, in little pieces. Phenomenal! If you do ever get out to Lockharts(sp), put them on their house salad, which is called a Loretta.


Fri, Mar 4, 2011 : 5:29 p.m.

This sounds great. Just wondering if he will be "smoking" the meats, especially the brisket. I look forward to their opening.

dirty irish

Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 12:14 a.m.

agreed! too often, slapping sauce on a piece of meat is what passes for BBQ around here. hoping for the real deal!!!


Fri, Mar 4, 2011 : 4:08 p.m.

regarding the photo: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Regarding the opening, I always wonder if its going to go well when a restaurant opens right @ summer, when a college town is losing the student population for the next 3 or 4 months.


Fri, Mar 4, 2011 : 3:10 p.m.

I hope they put &quot;burnt ends&quot; on the menu. I have had them at Lockhart's BBQ in Royal Oak recently, and they are simply fabulous.


Fri, Mar 4, 2011 : 2:55 p.m.

Looking forward to eating here . .Ypsilanti needs a good BBQ place


Fri, Mar 4, 2011 : 2:24 p.m.

Tom, Good article. Thanks for the update. I had heard this was opening St Patrick's Day so I appreciate the update. I am sure hoping they can make it.

Andrew Jason Clock

Fri, Mar 4, 2011 : 2:07 p.m.

Look closer, Karen. Thats not poor quality you're seeing in that photograph, that's AGE and poor quality. Look at the Tap room next door. You'll notice it's still sporting its &quot;Louis Cafe&quot; sign-age, used when it was the separate &quot;Tap Room Annex&quot;. I'd say that photo dates from just after TC's closed, at best.


Fri, Mar 4, 2011 : 1:48 p.m.

If they open in time for the Summer Beer Fest, they could get a nice boost in sales and introduce themselves to a larger customer base.


Fri, Mar 4, 2011 : 1:45 p.m.

It seems that has little value for good photography to support their news stories. They appear to allow their freelance reporters and journalists to simply snap a poor image with their cell phones. It would be nice to see some value shown to the photos used with articles on this site.

Top Cat

Fri, Mar 4, 2011 : 1:20 p.m.

I would hope to see a good selection of Michigan craft beer offered as well. They should do well. There are many good BBQ joints in the area but no great ones.