Trevor Aronson honors his dad, Jack, and serves up delicious smoked meats through Jack’s Roadside BBQ.
Photos courtesy of Jack’s Roadside BBQ
Jack’s Roadside BBQ in Clarkston catered a much-talked-about lunch for guests this fall at Durfee Innovation Society, formerly a Detroit public school.
On Nov. 7, the first Metro Youth Club in Wayne County was dedicated at Durfee. The club was named in honor of U.S. Sen. Carl Levin and U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, both retired, and Detroit philanthropist James Comer. They joined fellow Durfee alumni, students, family members and friends at the celebration.
Obviously, the club’s dedication was a huge deal, but what about that memorable lunch?
“At the Durfee event, we served jerk chicken, brisket, pulled pork, pit beans, slaw and mac and cheese,” said Trevor Aronson, 45, of Clarkston, the owner of Jack’s Roadside BBQ. He and his wife, Angela, have four children.
Aronson’s barbecue food truck and catering operation is based in Clarkston. His truck, parked on Dixie Highway, is open from April-October. Otherwise, Aronson caters out of his commercial kitchen “for anywhere from 20 to 300 people — from football tailgate parties to weddings.”
Describing her meal at Durfee, a guest noted that “his brisket had a really good char with deep smoke lines. It smelled great and was very tender. The chicken, too, was very smoky, tender and a bit spicy.”
This weight-watching commentator added that her one bite of Jack’s mac and cheese was “very good and had lots of cheese. The meal had a smoky smell you could sense from outside the room.”
A Family Tradition
Aronson named Jack’s Roadside BBQ for Jack Aronson, his father and mentor. Jack and Trevor’s mother, Annette, were co-founders in 1998 of Garden Fresh Gourmet. Best known for its salsas, Garden Fresh in Ferndale employed more than 400 employees at its peak. Campbell Soup Company kept the manufacturing facility in place after buying the business in 2015.
According to Trevor, “the purchase was part of Campbell’s ill-fated strategy to diversify its product lines.” In February 2019, Campbell announced Garden Fresh Gourmet would be sold.
Three years before founding their company, the Aronsons opened Clubhouse Bar-B-Q in Ferndale. A popular salsa recipe Jack created in his kitchen drew them into manufacturing.
Trevor grew up in Waterford, graduating from Waterford Kettering High School. He worked with his four siblings at both family businesses.
After 16 years, Trevor quit Garden Fresh in October 2018 to “follow my passion for barbecue.” Why barbecue? Because every year, the Aronsons went to “visit our family in Arkansas and we always visit a hole-in-the-wall barbecue joint.” Trevor loved it.
“I’ve been cooking since I was just a kid,” he said, appreciative of the “hands-on experience” he got from his father.
Trevor watched Jack win awards at barbecue cook-offs and competitions, and he also sampled food from other top barbecue chefs. After some recipe trial and error — “I’ve ruined plenty of meats during my early days” — Trevor became an expert in how to “properly stoke and maintain a smoker at the ideal heat and with just the right seasoned hardwoods.”
Jack’s Roadside BBQ smokes its meats between 12 and 14 hours. Enhancing the flavor are complex rubs and mouthwatering sauces Trevor developed.
“It’s a very simple menu,” he said. “We sell sandwiches and meat by the pound.” Choices are brisket, ribs, pulled pork and Jamaican jerk chicken.
The award-winning jerk chicken, “a family recipe from over 20 years ago,” is a customer favorite. So are the brisket and mac and cheese, made fresh daily with five varieties of cheese.
More side dishes are dirty rice and smoked beans.
“The beans are smoked for four hours,” Trevor said. “I add peaches to them, which everybody likes.” Cornbread is available only on the catering menu, and the creamy coleslaw is only served on the truck. Jack’s doesn’t offer potato salad or dessert.
Jack Aronson is enjoying Trevor’s business success “from afar, but he likes giving me tips. He’s like a kid when it comes to barbecue.”
Jack’s Roadside BBQ
10063 Dixie Highway
Clarkston, MI 48348