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Posted on Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 6:30 p.m.

Smokehouse 52 barbecue restaurant opens in former Chelsea Market location

By Kody Klein


Smokehouse 52 is located at 125 S. Main St., in downtown Chelsea, next to the corner of Park Street and Main Street.

Joseph Tobianski |

Phil Tolliver said there were two pieces of wisdom that convinced him to open his own restaurant.

The first was former President Ronald Reagan's, "America's too great for small dreams," and the second was from rapper Young Jeezy, "scared money don't make money."

Tolliver's Smokehouse 52 opened Wednesday at 125 Main St., the space formerly occupied by the New Chelsea Market.

The New Chelsea Market moved to Chelsea Shopping Center on South Main Street near I-94. previously reported the move was after the owners were forced to relocate the business when their landlord sold the Main Street building.


Owners Jennifer and Phil Tolliver sit inside at their new barbecue restaurant Smokehouse 52 in downtown Chelsea.

Joseph Tobianski |

Although the menu includes other items, the restaurant will emphasize what Tolliver called the "four food groups" — slow-cooked barbecue cuisine, beef brisket and pulled pork, smoked chicken and St. Louis ribs.

"It’s getting to that throwback, slower cooked kind of food," he said.

Tolliver takes "slow-cooked" seriously — he cooks those staple dishes for up to 18 hours in two bole hickory pits he bought handmade from a company in Missouri.

"We’ll be known for our barbecue," he said. "From the very beginning, I said I want to be great at a few things — I don’t want to be good at everything."

Though he emphasized the traditional barbeque items, the menu will feature other entrees such as smoked portobello mushrooms, fried chicken, burgers, salads, steak, cedar-roasted salmon, and pimento bacon macaroni and cheese baked to order.

Although some higher-end entrees exceed $20, Tolliver said most of the items are between $10 and $12.

"I didn’t want to break anybody’s bank," he said. "I wanted the whole family to be able to afford some barbecue."

The Wednesday opening is considered informal and will be followed by an official opening once the restaurant receives its liquor license, sometime in the next few weeks.


The inside of Smokehouse 52 located at 125 S. Main St. in downtown Chelsea.

Joseph Tobianski |

Once the bar is open, Tolliver said he'll have seven craft Michigan beers on tap, as well as a selection of wine and liquor drinks.

"Barbecue and bourbon always go pretty hand in hand, so we’ll have a nice bourbon selection," he said.

Hours of operation haven't been set in stone yet and will be determined based on the flow of customers. For now, the restaurant will open at 5 p.m. and stay open until customers stop coming in.

"We’ll kind of just see how it shakes out," he said.

By the weekend, the restaurant will be opening at 11 a.m. for lunch.

The restaurant seats 174 and will not be accepting reservations. If at capacity, Tolliver said a server will ask for a cellphone number from the waiting party and will then "tell them to go enjoy downtown Chelsea instead of sitting there staring at each other."

Kody Klein is an intern for Reach him at



Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 2:33 p.m.

We ate there last week. The pulled pork was heavenly, the greens the best..not mushy, very tasty. Waitstaff will hopefully learn to get a fire under their feet. And I hope the Tollivers get a strong dehumidifier, like Mani in Ann Arbor has....the very sweaty windows are detractors. We want to see inside! when walking or driving by :) Very excited for this family and their's a LOT of hard work and time.


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 6:23 p.m.

My wife and I eat out a lot and decided to try Smokehouse 52. Service was slow and with about a dozen people in the restaurant it took 47 minutes to get our order. We found the food bland and under seasoned. Chili was not something that tasted like chili and was way to thick and lacked punch. The rese of our order was average and nothing to crow about. The final bill for 3 was $63.00 without the tip. A bit pricy. Last week we ate at Mitchell's Sea Food for $9.00 more. I consider Common Grill and Cleary's a better value regarding their menu.

Mike Bean

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 5:40 p.m.

We ate at Smokehouse 52 last night and had a fantatic dinner.

T Wall

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 6:18 p.m.

Phil Toliver is an extremely hard worker an a wonderful husband and father. I know he will be successful because he cares deeply about customer satisfaction. Our family is looking forward to eating soon at Smokehouse 52.

Lizzy Alfs

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:49 p.m.

I really like the facade and the sign. Business owners are getting very clever with that - it reminds me of the "babo" frying pan sign in downtown Ann Arbor.

Kyle Mattson

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 7:41 p.m.

Thanks for sharing that bit of history Boo and Doug.

Boo Radley

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 4:44 p.m.

Exactly .... the cow was hung there by Chef Craig Common when he first opened the Common Market at that location. If I remember right, he had to battle the village over zoning issues with the sign before prevailing.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 4:12 p.m.

The cow figure is a vintage artifact and Chelsea landmark that has hung outside the market for years. The Tollivers are smart enough to keep it.

John Counts

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:48 p.m.

I was walking my dog. Rudy, past the Smokehouse 52 a month or so ago when the hickory pits from Missouri were being delivered. I was certainly impressed. Both Rudy and I were licking our chops at the possibilities of deliciousness that could spring forth from such hickory pits. I will surely check it out. And Rudy will get the leftovers, of course.

Kyle Mattson

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:29 p.m.

"scared money don't make money"...probably one of the best quotes from an entrepreneur I've heard in a long time. Good luck to the Tollivers. I believe this addition gives most of the downtowns in the county a BBQ destination, Red Rock in Ypsi, Hotel Hickman's in Dexter, Blue Tractor in A2, I'm a bit surprised Saline doesn't have anything in the works...

Kyle Mattson

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 2:08 p.m.

It is in a smaller building in the former Hazel's Home Cookin' location:


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 1:44 p.m.

Hotel Hickman's in Dexter? Where is that?


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

Very cool. If it's anywhere decent, it'll give Common Grill a run for the food dollar. Best of luck to them.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.



Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 11:51 a.m.

Good luck Phil! Can't wait to try your restaurant!


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:02 a.m.

Can't wait to try this restaurant! Congrats, and thanks for bringing more interesting and tasty food to Chelsea.

An Arborigine

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 12:29 a.m.

Sounds great, I'm there and understand they actually have parking in Chelsea. Nice alternative to the upscale ann arbor fair where you can't park to save your life.


Sat, Feb 23, 2013 : 4:45 p.m.

Yes, and parking is free in Chelsea. Bonus!


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 10:13 p.m.

Bet: 90% of the people who complain about parking in A2 are those who hate walking period. Anything beyond 10 yards is just too much. lol


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:57 p.m.

I moved here from Chicago and it took me a while to figure out why all the fuss about parking in Ann Arbor. You mean there is a parking deck within three blocks of my destination that costs $1.30/hr, not $20/hr? That's practically free parking! I still don't get it. When I go to downtown AA I just head right into the parking deck and have never found one full.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:21 a.m.

It's never fun to park in Ann Arbor, but it can always be done.

Steve Burling

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:58 a.m.

That's nonsense. I park in downtown Ann Arbor all the time. I drive to where I want to go, and I park.

buvda fray

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:24 a.m.

That is inaccurate. You CAN park to save your life in Ann Arbor, but when you are done saving your life your car will have been towed and you will be responsible for a variety of extortion fees before you get it back.