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Posted on Mon, May 21, 2012 : 11:20 a.m.

The quest for Michigan's Best BBQ, Ann Arbor edition - tell us your favorites

By Jessica Webster


A rib plate from Blue Tractor in Ann Arbor. What's your favorite BBQ joint?

Chris Asadian |

Hot on the heels of the statewide Michigan Coney Dog Project, John Gonzalez—entertainment reporter at MLive, our statewide partner website — has decided that it's time to launch the search for the best barbecue in Michigan.

Whether you spell it BBQ, barbeque or barbecue, whether you're a griller or a smoker, chances are you have an opinion on the restaurant that does it best in Washtenaw County.

Me? I've been known to frequent Satchel's BBQ on Washtenaw. I'm a big fan of Zingerman's Roadhouse and their Thursday Blue Plate BBQ special, and I'm dying to make it out to the new Red Rock Downtown Barbecue in Ypsilanti. Friends swear it will be my new favorite.

Now it's your turn. We want to direct Gonzo to the best barbecue joint in Washtenaw County. Share your favorite in the comments below, or email your suggestion to Based on these suggestions, we'll do a readers' poll on Wednesday where you can vote for your favorite.

Jessica Webster leads the Food & Grocery section for You can reach her at



Thu, May 24, 2012 : 2:41 a.m.

What amazes me is how BBQ joints have sprung up out of nowhere around here. 7 years ago there was the place that is now Brahma Steak house and I can't think of anything else without going to Wayne county. Then suddenly Romanoff's old place had Ron's Roadside in addition to his brother's Toy soldier sales. We love stopping at Ron's either on the way to or from my in-laws in South Lyon. It's a dive, but good food. Maybe Guy Fieri should stop by there. Next Zingermans and Blue Tractor came up and now the list is pretty long. Satchel's was good food, and one of these days we'll get to Red Rock. Of course, the last BBQ I had was a Texas Brisket in San Antonio. Yummy


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 5:08 p.m.

The worst part about this thread is how hungry it is making me. lol Or... maybe that's the best part?


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 10:37 a.m.

Red Rock all the way! We used to frequent Bone Head's but their food and service has been extremely disappointing as of late. Red Rock has wonderful sides and the pulled pork and brisket is to die for. The option to sauce your meat by region is fantastic.


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 10:33 a.m.

Head east on Michigan Avenue, and keep driving until you get to Slows BBQ is Detroit. Ann Arbor has few good donut places and few good BBQ joints.


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 10:10 a.m.

Gotta say Red Rock at this point... spent lots of time in Mississippi at the Little Dewey and while it's not the same style, they're going in the right direction. Loved the greens and the sweet potato fries as sides!!! And yes, we all miss DeLongs...


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 4:33 a.m.

I'm a NC native and partial to Western NC (Lexington Style) pulled pork. My favorite in the area is Slow's - mainly beacause they use fruit wood (apple/cherry) and they don't wreck it by slathering sauce all over it. They also use a very high-quality meat. Zingerman's Roadhouse is a close second and my favorite of all of the Washtenaw County restaurants that I've tried. The "Z" has a product that is better than some I've eaten at restaurants in NC. I have not tried Red Rock yet. Bone Heads is okay - but I don't like their sauce and they use too much of it. Satchel's is only fair and I think it's way over-smoked. For fans of traditional NC pit-cooked barbecue, Zingerman's Roadhouse is serving the real deal. They make it every day just like they do in Raleigh-Durham, Smithfield or Rocky Mount.

EMU Prof

Wed, May 23, 2012 : 12:02 a.m.

Red Rock. 'Nuff said.

Jay baxter

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 11:18 p.m.

For resturant BBQ the Red Rock in Ypsi is outstanding .Better than Slows in Detroit . For take out you can't beat Cuppy's on East Michigan Ave.

Christopher Sorel

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 11:01 p.m.

Okay drive out to Royal Oak to Lockharts for the best in Michigan or boogie woogie for 2nd. Or get yourself a Big Green Egg to make yourself the best BBQ you will ever have.

Alan Black

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 10:40 p.m.

I gave Red Rock two tries and was pretty dissapointed both times. It's nice that they have a good beer selection, but it's not amazing. And most of the food was mediocre to bad, and the service wasn't too much better. After seeing all of the praise for Red Rock I thought maybe I just didn't know what good BBQ was if everyone loved Red Rock. But then I had the chance to try Bad Brads out in New Baltimore. Really great BBQ, up there with Slows no doubt. I would love to give Red Rock another try but I think they've gotten enough of my money at this point.

Ellis Freatman

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 11:25 p.m.

you should give RR another try. the service has been very friendly when I've been there. They seem very eager to please.

Christopher Sorel

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 11 p.m.

agree after two strikes they are out for me as well. Sticking with making myself or going to Royal Oak to see bubba at Lockharts.


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 10:35 p.m.

Satchels is pretty solid, but certainly not the best. I was actually pretty disapointed in Red Rocks. The brisket was kinda pedestrian and the service was weak, but the cowboy beans were good. Blue Tractor is a good restaurant, but I don't know if I'd call it a good BBQ restaurant. By far the best BBQ I've had in Washtenaw County is Ron's Roadside.

Brian Hill

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 9:05 p.m.

I like Blue Tractor, Especially the Beef Brisket sandwich.


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 8:03 p.m.

Cuppy's Best in Ypsi. Great BBQ and soul food.

Allison Camara

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 6:01 p.m.

Rons roadside on Pontiac trail has the best baked beans, I dream about them and crave them, their ribs are good but sometimes have a little to much fat, but it helps with the flavor, also I just went to Red Rock and their brisket is to die for I know people have been saying it's dry and such but mine was nice and juicy and I'm glad their sauces aren't too hot I am not a big fan of burning my mouth with my food.


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 5:56 p.m.

Zingerman's Roadhouse. Yum,yum,yum,yum,yum!

rob b

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 5:35 p.m.

Burroughs Tavern near Brighton is the hands down winner. Smoked baby backs and brisket are so much more tender and flavorful than some of the others mentioned earlier that I used to frequent. Really no comparison. Also smoked chicken and St. Louis ribs are also wonderful.

Dave Gear

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 4:17 p.m.

Blue Tractor

Leah Hollier-Kerr

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 2:54 p.m.

Slows BBQ in detroit


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 2:13 p.m.

Overall, I like Satchel's the most, though that may change once I venture out to Red Rock in Ypsi. Zingerman's Roadhouse does a pretty good pulled pork sandwich, but I'm not sure it's quite good enough to pay $13.50 for it on a regular basis. Blue Tractor has been hit or miss for me. If they could get their service issues sorted out, and bring some level of consistency to their food quality, they'd have a real winner.


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 2:10 p.m.

I love Red Rocks. I think it's a great spot. They have pretty good pulled pork and some tasty sides. The space itself is cozy. The folks are amazingly nice, too. But if you're talking BBQ... the place is near the top around here simply because you're grading on a curve. Sadly, there's just no place around here that is coming any where near southern BBQ. But just focusing on HERE... I honestly think the best spot in or near Ann Arbor for ribs is Z-Roadhouse. They cook 'em right, and - here's a key - the sauce AND meat itself has great flavor. (Red Rocks just doesn't have flavor and quality of meat that Roadhouse does, in my humble opinion.) But after RR and ZR... there's a HUGE drop off. All these other spots people are naming are waaaaaaaay down the list for me. To the point of never needing to go back. lol Fun conversation though! Makes me anxious for summer time. (When I can make some myself! Always the best.)


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

Everybody's jumping on the Red Rock bandwagon -- I haven't been there yet, but they're going to have to go a long way to beat Hawkins, also in Ypsilanti. Sure, it's not a trendy restaurant, in fact it's take-out only. And sure, it's not in the greatest neatest part of town. But this is barbecue we're talking about, right? So who cares?


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

Boogie Woogie Bar bq in Hamburg.


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 1:26 p.m.

Satchels is a solid product. . no problems from staff experienced from this household. I do hope they can survive with such an atrocious logistical location behind a cell phone store and limited parking. The cancerous plague that is the Whole Foods parking situation is a sad, sad commentary on the planning ability (cough) of our city leaders. Whole Foods has to actually rent space on ajoining properties for parking while vast stretches of vacamt pavement sit empty waiting for the throngs of shoppers at Babies R US on the Carpenter road corridor.


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 1:26 p.m.

Yes, Ron's Roadside is AMAZING, and not too's easy to feed a family there. Well worth the drive!

Jonathan Cassino

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 1:03 p.m.

Red Rock for me - Great brisket, chicken, pulled pork, and service. Can't comment on their ribs because I'm not a rib guy myself.


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 10:12 a.m.

Loved the brisket at Red Rock!!!

Simon Green

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 12:23 p.m.

Ron's Roadside, hands down. He has the best ribs and pulled pork around and he even makes his own bread. You can't beat that. His chili, baked beans, and german potato salad are also top notch.


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 10:47 a.m.

I've been going to Slows since it opened. For me, Red Rock is giving Slows a run for its money. Best BBQ in the immediate area, hands down.


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 3:23 p.m.

I went to Red Rock a couple weeks ago for the first time. Everyone I was with thought it was the best in our area. Pulled pork, ribs, beans and sweet potato fries were delicious!


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 2:53 a.m.

I'd like to know if there is anyone here who has eaten at Slow's in Detroit and ranks another bbq restaurant ahead of it. I sure has heck do not. Slow's is the best in MI, by far.


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 3:46 a.m.

Slow's is my favorite of all I've tried in SE Michigan - but Zingerman's Roadhouse is a close second. This is mainly because Chef Alex at the Roadhouse uses an Eastern NC style sauce that is a bit on the hot side (spicy). That style of sauce is true to the Eastern tradition, but I prefer Western NC style that uses a milder sauce. Both are cooked very well using the pit-cooked method. Slow's uses apple and cherry wood which I really like. Zingerman's brought pitmaster Ed Mitchell up here to train them to make authentic NC barbecue and it's better than some I've had in restaurants located in eastern NC. As you might guess from the name I'm a NC native and have eaten tons of traditional pit-cooked barbecue (pulled pork) all over the state. Slow's and the Roadhouse both have a very authentic product.

Top Cat

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 5:22 p.m.

Agreed that Slow's in the best in SE Michigan. Going to Red Rock tomorrow to check it out.


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 3:14 p.m.

@greg You really seem to have an issue with Red Rock, don't you? I've eaten pure, real s. bbq in the hills of NC and GA countless times. You're right, it doesn't compare, but nothing does around here, including Slows. I have also eaten at both Slows and Red Rock. Slows does do a little better with smoke, but Red Rock is not far behind. Based on my experiences at Red Rock, I no longer have to drive to Detroit to get quality BBQ. Maybe you went on an off night. For me, it's a great choice to fill that craving. Nothing in AA really does it for me (Satchel's is OK at best, BT is not very good at all). I did like RR sauce a lot more than Slows. Both Carolina style sauces were excellent. They're house was pretty darn good too.

Jonathan Cassino

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 12:55 p.m.

If you like Slow's you'll like Red Rock!

Adam Jaskiewicz

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 11:46 a.m.

Slows is awesome. Best I've had in Michigan, certainly. It looks like I need to try this Red Rock place, though...


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 2:36 a.m.

oh how I miss Mr. Rib's soul on a roll


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 8:47 p.m.

Me Three

Jessica Webster

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 5:53 p.m.

Me too.


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 2:48 a.m.

I was waiting for this one. Jesse made the best bbq ever. Wish he were still with us.


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 2:32 a.m.

The Boneyard restaurants are worth a drive


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 2:12 a.m.

The Red Rock in Ypsilanti is our new favorite! The ribs are fantastic, the pulled pork is delicious and all of the sides kick butt. They have the very best sweet potato fries and their collard greens and cowboy beans are superb. We can't stop going back.


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 10:13 a.m.

Like who has greens on the menu anymore? Awesome!!!


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 1:54 a.m.



Tue, May 22, 2012 : 1:29 a.m.

I too remember deLong's lovingly, but Red Rock in Ypsilanti gets my vote when I'm in town. We have some good bar bq in the Southwest, but for some reason, West of the Mississippi, the sides are lousy! Don't know why. That all has me thinking about Red Rock with longing.


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 10:14 a.m.

It doesn't yet beat Mississippi BBQ, but it sure comes close... !!!


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 1:04 a.m.

I'm still waiting for some place to measure up to DeLongs. Sigh. That was great......


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 10:15 a.m.

Miss it... right near Commie High!


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 2:31 a.m.

Oh yes it was, under the original owners.


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 12:44 a.m.

Agree with Janelle -- you Ann Arborites have never been near Hamburg's Boogie Woogie, where Chef Chris (formerly of Northfield Roadhouse) holds forth. Not only fabulous pulled pork, but great beef brisket. And for sides -- his collard greens are to die for.

Top Cat

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 5:21 p.m.

Nice to finally find out where Chef Chris landed.

information please

Mon, May 21, 2012 : 11:59 p.m.

Sorry, I have to leave Washtenaw County to get to Famous Dave's in Novi. I know it's a chain, and I want to love all the local places listed, but none have measured up in my book.


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 10:25 p.m.

My oven with Shake and Bake BBQ. Great with chicken. We don't do anyone elses.


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 2:34 p.m.

Well, if you don't like Shake and Bake BBQ, Sweet Baby Rays Spicy is great alternative. But sadly no, we don't do anyone elses. Much cheaper to do your own BBQ at home.


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 11:59 p.m.

they are not kidding which is scary


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 11:06 p.m.

You're kidding... right?

Erin Cicero

Mon, May 21, 2012 : 8:27 p.m.

Red Rock gets my vote!! Go there for Happy Hour and get 1/2 off appetizers and $1.00 off beer! Hmmmm, I'm thinking that sounds good for dinner! Try It!! It's also great news for Ypsi!!


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 7:57 p.m.

Satchells here in A2 ain't bad also try Randy's out in the Irish hills on US 12

Scott Spooner

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

Agree. Randy's Roadside BBQ on US-12 just before MIS. They started off in a little trailer and then moved into a restaurant just down the road. Brisket, ribs and pulled pork almost as good as Arthur Bryant's in Kasas City. Plus the sides and cornbread are excellent.


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 7:52 p.m.

The only good BBQ to be had in Ann Arbor comes off backyard grills. I can't think of a single restaurant that can serve up a consistently good BBQ, pork or Brisket. Can't figure it out, either, BBQ is not that hard.


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 6:03 a.m.

totally agree - i find the ann wrgor restaurant scene grossly overrated


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 10:26 p.m.

Someone else that agrees with me.

Tom Teague

Mon, May 21, 2012 : 7:41 p.m.

Based on all these recommendations, this southern expat is trying Red Rock real soon.


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 10:19 a.m.

Similar in Mississippi NCTerry... Only had the brisket and ribs at Red Rock so far, can't speak to the pulled pork yet but I did enjoy what I had.


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 3:31 a.m.

I haven't tried Red Rock yet, but Zingerman's Roadhouse has very authentic Eastern NC style pulled pork. I'm from Greensboro so I prefer Western NC style. That's why I like Slow's better than any of the others around here. They don't put the sauce on their pulled pork (they let you choose which to use) so it is a lot like the Lexington style that I prefer. Alas - they don't have hushpuppies. I plan to try RR soon.

greg, too

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

As a former NC resident myself, I would be interested to hear your thoughts. I thought it was mediocre at best.


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 11:42 p.m.

I hope you like it, Tom. My sons and I love it.....hope you do too.


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 7:33 p.m.

Red Rock BBQ. The best sweet potato mash I've had outside of New Orleans, meaty cowboy beans, incredible slaw with apples and dried cherries, perfect consistency corn bread, tips, brisket, chicken, and pork smoked to perfection, an incredible selection of beers, and a fantastic owner and accommodating staff. A simply marvelous place I eat at and recommend often.


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 7:32 p.m.

Plum Market! Nieman Ranch meat.


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 11:43 a.m.



Mon, May 21, 2012 : 7:22 p.m.

Roys in Milan has the best BBQ pork sandwich hands down and is well worth the drive. Sauce is UNBELIEVABLE and is not mixed in (the only way to eat BBQ), topped off with slaw and a handful of napkins! YUM-O


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 7:21 p.m.

Satchel's in AA is good. That said, there is no good Eastern North Carolina-style pulled pork to be found here. That's hickory smoke, slow and low, with a vinegar sauce. Brilliant with slaw and hot hushpuppies, washed with either sweet tea or beer....


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 3:20 a.m.

Zingerman's Roadhouse has authentic Eastern NC pit-cooked barbecue. Pitmaster Ed Mitchell came to Michigan and taught them how to do it just like it is done down there. I'm a NC native and Zingerman's is better than some that I've eaten at restaurants in eastern NC. I'm from Greensboro and so I prefer western style - but the Roadhouse has the real thing. Their slaw is not as authentic - but then slaw varies from place to place. Unfortunately, they don't have hushpuppies - but they do have really good grits.

Thomas Jones

Mon, May 21, 2012 : 7:12 p.m.

Red Rock Hands down!!!!!!! BEST!!!!!!!!!!!


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 7:11 p.m.

Not Sachels on Washtenaw - ornery staff - out of ribs - will not accept living social purchase price even though it cleary states purchase value good until 2016. Living Social is trying to work this out. What a pain! Terrible parking as they sell the spaces to Whole Foods personnel.


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 3:13 p.m.

First time at Satchel's was great. Second time the brisket and pulled pork were dried out and the beans had a burnt flavor. Haven't been back since.


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 12:29 p.m.

Never had any problem with either parking or the staff. They've always been cheerful and helpful with me.

Britain W.

Mon, May 21, 2012 : 8:15 p.m.

I've always had good experiences at Satchel's [though I always go at lunchtime, not exactly peak Whole Foods shopping time, and I've always enjoyed sandwiches, not ribs]. I think it fills an inexpensive-quick-service BBQ niche we haven't had around here in a while -- maybe since Mr. Rib ran that counter out at Airport Market. The fine print on those LivingSocial vouchers mean they're worth the eight bucks you spent until 2016. That's the way all these deal thingies work. They're good for the advertised value for the first few months, then they're worth what you paid for them. I used my LS voucher a week ago today with no trouble.

Christopher Sorel

Mon, May 21, 2012 : 7:24 p.m.

agree with the stafff and being way too ornery


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 7 p.m.

Red Rock Downtown contest. Smoked to perfection.

Dawn Zuber

Mon, May 21, 2012 : 6:42 p.m.

It's definitely not Blue Tractor. Bad service, mediocre food, and no beer.


Tue, May 22, 2012 : 2:06 p.m.

No beer? Did you happen to go there the one day that their on-site brewery was broken?


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 6:17 p.m.

Red Rock Downtown Barbecue on West Michigan Avenue in Ypsilanti ... just fabulous pulled pork and brisket sandwiches. 20 beers on tap too, mostly Michigan beers. Can't get much better!!!

greg, too

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 2:56 p.m.

Um, yeah you can. Having lived with the real thing for years, Red Rock is pretty mediocre at best. Nice beer selection, though. I would rank it as one of the better bars in Ypsi, that just happens to have bbq as well.


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 5:17 p.m.

Anyone that thinks that there's good barbecue in Ann Arbor has never had good barbecue.


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 7:13 p.m.

Try Red Roc in Ypsilanti. I can't speak to it personally but, there sure is quite a buzz going on about them.

Christopher Sorel

Mon, May 21, 2012 : 7:07 p.m.

agree with you on that so much hope but too many are not true BBQ

John Hritz

Mon, May 21, 2012 : 5:11 p.m.

As with many food items that tie back to people's upbringing, there are many schools of thought on BBQ. For me, BBQ is primarily about smoke not sauce. There are lots of places around Ann Arbor that do a reasonable pulled pork or ribs, but they fail when it comes to getting the smoke right. A marker for a good BBQ place in my estimation is that the sauce comes on the side instead of being mixed in.

dirty irish

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 9:15 p.m.

dousing ribs in sauce does not barbeque make. sadly this is what we've come to expect around here. smoke is the key, and right now i think Satchel's does it the best (plus they do sausage). i really need to give Zingerman's another try because the smell of their smoker out back drives me crazy whenever i'm there. Red Rock is maybe too new, but i honestly was unimpressed (great beer selection though). They do have burnt ends however, so i'll give them one more try.

Tom Teague

Mon, May 21, 2012 : 7:31 p.m.

A few of my fellow southern expats living here have discussed this very phenomenon. The ingredients are the same, everything looks right, and most of the local places serve what would be tolerably good barbecue back south. Some of them will even put the slaw right on the pulled pork sandwich without looking at us as if we're crazy for asking. But some unexplainable thing is usually missing, leading some of us to believe that it's the differences in the wood used for smoking. All that said, I plan to keep on eating - and enjoying - local barbecue.


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 5:10 p.m.

The best BBQ that I have come across is Boogie Woogie BBQ in Hamburg township on M36. They have great pulled pork sandwiches and the best red potato salad around. They add blueberries to their baked beans which makes it even more delicious!

Sam Abuelsamid

Mon, May 21, 2012 : 5:08 p.m.

Red Rock Downtown Barbeque on Michigan Ave in downtown Ypsi. The smoked Reuben is absolutely amazing and don't forget the cowboy beans and cornbread on the side

greg, too

Tue, May 22, 2012 : 2:54 p.m.

If dried out meat, bad service, weak sauces, and small portions are good bbq, then Red Rock wins hands down. If those aren't the criteria, it isn't even in the same league as Slowes. Ron's is quite good, but the building is scary.

Top Cat

Mon, May 21, 2012 : 3:56 p.m.

For pulled pork sandwiches, Biercamp in Ann Arbor, Ron's Roadside and the Dexter Pub. For ribs, the Whitmore Lake Tavern. I have not yet been to Bone Heads.


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 3:41 p.m.

it starts and ends with Bone Heads BBQ on Willis Road ... best briscuit and sides in the county


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

I was looking at their menu and it said the brisket was smoked and glazed with a bbq sauce. Will have to pass on that. Good brisket stands alone with sauce.