Clarkston is not a part of Michigan I ever found myself in while spending the first 22 years of my life in the state. Yet, Union Woodshop wasn’t there for any of those 22 years either. It’s there now though, a modern BBQ spot fully endorsed by hometown hero Kid Rock (although not owned by him in any way despite popular contrary opinion), and thus I finally made my way there as well. And it should probably be noted that while I don’t really listen to Kid Rock’s music, he does seem like he would like the same food as me.
There’s are few things more American than good BBQ, and when I came back from a night in Canada to figuratively kiss the ground of the land of the free, the first thing I did was head to Smoke on the Water in Tonawanda. Situated on Ellicott Creek by the Erie Canal, the place looks more like a bar than BBQ, but the menu tells a different story. Filled with things you would expect from a BBQ joint, plus some things you wouldn’t.
In my continuing quest for Buffalo’s best BBQ, I made my way to Fat Bob’s Smokehouse with a few guys. Unlike Dinosaur, Fat Bob’s is a Buffalo native with only one location in Buffalo. Like some other BBQ places, Fat Bob’s doesn’t seem to have an actual specialty, unless you count their mac and cheese. Fortunately, this one has combo platters to ensure an unvegan like me can sample around.
Buffalo might have a few specialty foods, but BBQ is not one of them. In fact, one of their supposed best spots isn’t even home grown, coming in from world famous BBQ hotspot Rochester. It’s called Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and despite having absolutely no actual dinosaur on the menu (what the hell?!), the little paleontologist inside of me was still eager to find out how good it was.
It seems like oh so long ago that I paid a visit to Point Brugge, a nice little Belgian spot in my neighborhood. At the time, I was perfectly aware that the place had a sister restaurant called Park Bruges (so tricky with those mixed up spellings) in Highland Park, but saw no reason to drive to a place so similar to one in walking distance. But, when attempting to grab brunch at the former on Saturday, we were informed that the two restaurants split up their brunch days and only Park Bruges would be serving brunch that day. So, like any brunch seekers, we packed into the car and made our way to the park side of Belgium.
A quick look at a map may make you think that Indianapolis is a part of The North. You know, the part of the country that won the Civil War. But just a weekend in the city made me think otherwise. When we went to restaurants, we were lambasted for wearing Michigan shirts, because everyone (even the locals) seemed to be Kentucky fans. Yet, there are benefits to The South. Like BBQ. And Indianapolis had a spot called Squealers Barbeque that I just had to try.
It’s no secret that Squirrel Hill is the heart of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community. Typically such a place would be froth with delis, bagel shops and falafel, but not Squirrel Hill. Sure, some of those places exist, but not like one might expect. Luckily, though, this has left room for a new type of Jewish restaurant, called Nu. Calling itself a “Modern Jewish Bistro,” Nu means “well…?” in Yiddish and came into town at the end of last year from the people who brought the world Pamela’s. Since then, it has set about redefining Jewish food. After all, it’s time for a creative take on tradition.
Pittsburgh is quite a unique place. So unique, in fact, that when I arrived I was given a crash course in how to speak Pittsburghese. I’ll spare the details, aside from the fact that Pittsburgh has its own version of “y’all.” That word is “yinz” and people who speak in Pittsburghese are referred to as “Yinzers.” With that in mind, you can now rest easy knowing that the BBQ you are about to read about is a play on “yinz” and not some obscure Civil War battle. And now, onto the BBQ.
Down in East Liberty is a barbecue joint that has been infused with a fair amount of hipster twist. It’s called Union Pig & Chicken, and its minimalist tables and whiskey/bourbon oriented bar do a good job of selling that intersection of barbecue and hipsterness. The menu is full of meaty offerings that go beyond the animals known as pig and chicken, but I suppose Union Pig, Chicken and Cow simply didn’t have the same ring to it.
Growing up in West Bloomfield, Michigan was kind of like growing up in a bubble. When we did eat out, it was rarely beyond a two mile radius from home. Often, it feels like I missed out on a lot of food, but then I remember that I would have eaten a grilled cheese no matter where we went, so there was no real point in venturing out. When I go back home, though, I try to venture out just as much as I like to eat away at nostalgia. That’s how I ended up at Local Kitchen for Brunch in Ferndale, far outside the bubble.