Esther Allweiss Ingber
J.B.’s Smokehouse in Canton, a half-hour’s drive from Farmington Hills, is a leading contender for best informal dining this summer.
Open since March 17, the restaurant-bar is off to a fine start for several reasons. Executive Chef Brandon Clark, formerly with Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, serves a from-scratch menu of satisfying comfort food. His popular Southern Style Mac ’n’ Cheese is made with Béchamel cream, to which beef brisket, pulled pork and barbecued chicken or veggies may be added.
The friendliness of Clark and General Manager Megan Burke Panchame sets the tone for staff. J.B.’s bar is well-stocked; the décor is fun (more about both later) and live music is offered 6-10 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
J.B.’s also has the distinction of being inside Busch’s Fresh Food Market. The independently owned food retailer in southeast Michigan owns 17 stores with a workforce of 1,700.
The restaurant’s name pays homage to the late Joe Busch (J.B.). Prior to starting his grocery business in 1952, he operated a smokehouse in his rural hometown of Clinton. Three of the six Busch children co-own the family business today: President/CEO John Busch and his brothers, Doug and Tim Busch.
J.B.’s, with a separate entrance, has access to fresh local produce and specialty items from the supermarket. The restaurant adds to customer convenience, noted Doug Busch, the company’s coordinator of community events.
Guests can pick up items in the store after visiting J.B.’s, or relax with a beverage while a companion is shopping.
Those who imbibe will appreciate the 22 Michigan craft beers and two hard ciders on tap. Among six seasonal cocktails is Staff Favorite Grilled Sangria with a garnish of grilled citrus.
J.B.’s seats 170, including on indoor and outdoor patios. The dining room features black subway tiles and boxy wall drawings that look like white chalk on a blackboard. Detroit references and sports teams are subjects. I liked the pyramid of a chicken atop a pig, atop a steer.
Wood for the dining room’s communal high-top table came from an old factory in Clinton.
My daughter Julie and I celebrated her recent birthday at J.B.’s. She ordered the BBQ Chicken Club, substituting avocado for the bacon.
“It was real tasty and a good portion,” Julie said. “I liked dipping my fries in their chipotle sauce.”
I picked a Combo Platter with beef brisket and one-quarter rib rack. Both were delicious, but I preferred the moist brisket. Vinegary Carolina coleslaw was one of two sides I chose from a list of 15. Brisket and pulled pork take 10-14 hours to prepare in the Busch’s Meat Department smoker; ribs and chicken are ready in three hours.
Accompanying our orders was a pack of five locally made barbecue sauces in bottles. My favorites were thick, robust Bourbon Molasses and sweet Kona Teriyaki. The others are Carolina Style Mustard, Red Hot Chipotle Honey and Cherry Ale.
For dessert, Julie got Banana Nilla Puddin’ and mine was Bourbon Bread Pudding. Our EarthChoice to-go boxes got mixed up, but as Julie said later, “At least we both had good ones.”
225 S. Canton Center Road
Canton, MI 48188
$$½ out of $$$$$