It’s not very often I work days. In fact, I worked more day shifts last week than I have in the previous four years combined. It’s hard to do with a child at home as J and I have our work shifts set up so we don’t need daycare, but her mom was in town and a co-worker asked if I could cover his shift in exchange for him working my Sunday shift. An actual weekend? I’ll take it.
My assignments on Friday kept me in Grand Rapids all day and with a little bit of spare time. Around lunchtime, I decided I was going to head over to Founders Brewing and get a sandwich. That was the plan anyway. I got distracted by something else.
Several months ago, there was a string of BBQ shops opening up in Grand Rapids. First, it was Two Scotts on the Westside. Then Horseshoe Smokehouse near downtown. Finally, Slows BBQ opened at the Downtown Market. Two Scotts and Horseshoe were hard to get to in the beginning due to the fact they closed well before my usual dinner break. I eventually noticed Two Scotts started staying open later, but I don’t drive by Horseshoe very much. When I drove by it on my way to Founders, I suddenly got an urge for BBQ.
Horseshoe Smokehouse is on Grandville Avenue just north of Wealthy Street. There’s a lot of great history behind the space that the smokehouse now occupies. The building used to be the Lamar Hotel and the restaurant is in the space that was the Horseshoe Bar….a jazz bar that closed in the 70’s. The space hasn’t been used for a business since. The smokehouse took the name of the bar when they moved in earlier this year. There’s actually a pretty good history of the place in the Grand Rapids Press article from when they opened.
I pulled up a menu after I found a place to park….which was a little harder than I thought it would be. There’s a lot of metered parking around the building, but it was all pretty much full. I had to park a couple blocks away and walk back. Since I didn’t know what kind of service they offered, so I called to see if I could put in a carry-out order. The lady who answered the phone told me they don’t do call ahead orders. I was right outside anyway, so I just walked in and found it to be a counter service restaurant.
The dining room is wide open with hardwood floors left over from the original use of the building. Tables are scattered throughout with some picnic tables complementing the more standard table and chair set up. Almost all of them are covered in the red and white picnic table cloths that you find at so many southern BBQ joints.
By a little after 12:30, they were out of pork spare ribs but they still had the rest of their meats. I decided the best value and the way for me to try the most was to go for The Frankie Combo. At $14, this option gets you three meat and two side choices. The three meats left were the Buttermilk Chicken Wings, Beef Brisket, and Pork Butt. For the sides, I chose waffle fries and Bacon Squash Hash.
The total with tax and tip came out to just under $18. I took a seat at one of the nearby tables and waited for my name to be called.
I easily could have eaten there, but I decided to go back to work and eat in the break room. For some reason, I started in on the fries first. I had grabbed a couple cups of the sauce with no intention of using them on the meat. I wanted to try them and I used the fries for that. The fries were crispy yet soft in the middle and covered with Kosher salt and black pepper. They were the perfect delivery vehicles for the sauces…all of which were fantastic.
The first meat I started in on was the beef brisket. I got a couple of the good fatty pieces that just melted in my mouth. The beef had a spicy, crunchy ring around it from the dry rub used in the smoking. Brisket has been the thing I’ve been craving a lot lately and this brisket was delicious.
Next up, I tried the wings. They were super juicy and very tender. The meat easily ripped away from the bone. They looked like there was some kind of seasoning on them, but nothing really came through. They were really good, but also could have carried a little more flavor.
The pork butt was up next. This was probably the biggest portion of meat in the Styrofoam container and I was quite OK with that. The pork butt was so tender and packed a lot of flavor in to every little shred of meat. I was getting pretty full by this point, but couldn’t let something so delicious go to waste, so I shouldered on.
The Bacon Squash Hash was kind of a hail mary on my part. I don’t really like squash, but I wanted to give it a try. I think if you like squash, you will like this a lot more than I did. Not saying it was bad…just saying it’s not my thing.
I was so happy with my decision to stop at Horseshoe Smokehouse. I’ve been eating a lot at one of the other BBQ joints (you know which one) and while I love it, the prices tend to be a little high. I got so much more food at Horseshoe and it was just as good. It appears they are open until 7:00 most nights now, so I may be able to squeeze in more visits on my dinner break.