Bowmans BBQ & Meat Market
I used to watch a lot of Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives when it first premiered on the Food Network in 2007. I just loved the ideas of all these hidden gems hiding in plain sight. Some of my favorite where the ones that were part of something else. They were delicious little restaurants tucked in the back of a hardware store or a grocery store that you would never even thought about if someone hadn’t told you how great they were.
J and I really wanted to take the kids to Binder Park Zoo one last time before they close for the season. We’ve been talking about it for a few weeks, but the threat of rain has kept us away. When J got home from work…and L got home from school on Friday, we decided now is as good of a time as ever, so we headed over to Battle Creek to feed the giraffes one more time this year.
We got there pretty late in the day, so as they were starting to close up near 5:00, we were making our way back to the car. I asked J what she wanted to do for dinner. I had a pizza option in Battle Creek or a BBQ option in Climax. No surprise to me, she chose the BBQ option even though it was just a little bit out of the way on our trip back to Kalamazoo.
Now, this is where my Triple D comments come in to play. We pulled in to the parking lot of Bowmans BBQ & Meat Market just west of the Village of Climax. J seemed confused. It’s a grocery store. It’s an IGA grocery store. She was willing to give me the benefit of the doubt and we grabbed the kids and headed in.
Bowmans was actually a recommendation to me from Bill Broderick of the Battle Creek Enquirer. I knew going in they had delicious BBQ and there was some seating, but I just assumed it was counter service with a few tables. I was wrong. It’s a full service restaurant with a wait staff, a huge beer list, hand dipped ice cream, and karaoke on Thursday nights. Yup. Karaoke. In a grocery store. On Thursday nights.
J wasn’t expecting to eat in so she didn’t grab her diaper bag, but once we saw it was table service, we decided to sit down and eat. There were a couple menus on the table already and we sat at a four top near the back of the space. The dining room is actually quite large and has a row of booths and a pretty big bar along one side with a huge glass cooler filled with beer. A small wall separates the restaurant from the grocery store.
I grabbed the draft list off the table and noticed they had Oracle on tap, so I got one of those. There’s not many places I’ve seen that on tap and I only purchased a few bottles this year, so getting one of those for dinner was nice.
J asked for any kind of cider. The waitress offered up two varieties of Redd’s (which isn’t cider, BTW and, more importantly for some people, isn’t gluten free). She chose the Redd’s Green Apple Ale. The funny thing here is the waitress carded both of us. I had to run back out to the car to get J’s diaper bag and wallet to get her ID.
The menu at Bowmans is kind of crazy. The really good stuff isn’t available until after 5:00. That would include the ribs, brisket, chicken, and pulled pork. The rest of the day, they have pizzas, sandwiches (they do have pulled pork on this menu…it’s just not available in the 1/2 lb dinner), fried fish, burgers, and rib tips among other things.
J and I both knew what we wanted immediately, so there was no sense in wasting time with an appetizer.
I ordered the 1/2 lb. of beef brisket and an order of french fries. You can make the BBQ’d meats a meal and add on two sides, but fries aren’t one of the side options. I just ordered both things a la carte so I could get the meal I wanted.
I’ll start with the brisket. Holy cow. This brisket was amazing. It was served on a real plate with a bottle of “Brisket Sauce” on the side. This meat needed no sauce. It was fall apart tender and had a salty, peppery crust that provided more than enough flavor. There was essentially three long strips of beef on the plate, but it was impossible to pick each strip up whole. It felt more like six pieces of meat. Just out of curiousity, I tried the sauce with the meat. It was a tasty, sweet, thin sauce, but, as I mentioned, the meat really didn’t need any sauce…..it was that good on it’s own.
The fries came in a separate basket and while nice and crispy, they were really, really salty. I actually some of the brisket sauce on them to combat the saltiness a little bit. They were skinny restaurant style fries that had a really great crispy outside on them…just a little too much salt.
J went with one of the sandwich options ordering the Carolina Pork Sandwich. This is one of three pulled pork options on the menu. The others being a plain pork sandwich and Carolina Gold which is made with a mustard BBQ sauce. The Carolina Pork Sandwich is pulled pork tossed in a vinegar/pepper BBQ sauce and topped with coleslaw. This style of sauce is pretty common to the Carolina’s and is a pretty thin sauce. Typically, J prefers a thicker, sweeter, Memphis style sauce, but she didn’t have any complaints about this sandwich at all. In fact, neither did B. She gave him some of the pulled pork to munch on while we ate and he polished it off and kept asking for more. As for J, she loved this sandwich…calling it the best pulled pork she’s had in Michigan. The meat wasn’t pulled into really small chunks like she usually likes it, but it was so tender and didn’t have that “meaty” taste that turns her off to a lot of pulled pork. The slaw on top was house made and very crunchy and the whole thing was served on a toasted hamburger bun.
J chose to make her sandwich a meal adding on sides of macaroni salad and baked beans. Both were served in small plastic cups. I think I remember her saying the beans were really good, but other than that she didn’t say much. She was too busy raving about the BBQ.
Bowmans has a little bit of a kid’s menu, but all L wanted was mac & cheese so we got her a side of that and some applesauce. Both came in the same little cups that J’s sides came out. I thought she’d get a little bit bigger portion, but it turned out to be just about right. L ate 3/4 of the mac & cheese and about the same of the applesauce…but here’s the big news. She ate a clearly home made mac & cheese for the first time in months. Recently, she’s only eaten Kraft, but this mac & cheese was so creamy and so cheesy, she ate it up without a fight and without us having to ask her to.
I mentioned earlier the hand-dipped ice cream. Well, L did eat so well, J took her over to get a scoop of ice cream before we left. They have Ashby’s Ice Cream in a little counter at the back of the restaurant space. If you’re just buying ice cream, it’s cash only, but because we had food, our waitress offered to put it on the bill so we could just put it on the card. L chose the cotton candy ice cream and ate the whole dang thing. Again, something she hasn’t been doing very often.
Our bill came to around $35 before tip and it was worth every. single. penny. J called it one of the best places we’ve ever eaten at in Michigan and I’m not going to argue with her. It was damn good. I never would have expected to find such a delicious restaurant in a small town grocery store, but we did. I kept putting this place off thinking someday, I’d have a reason to go to Climax and I’d stop in then, but it’s 100% worth the trip to Climax just to go eat BBQ at Bowmans.