Matthew Gillett believes in the power of barbecue to bring people together. That, and the strength of a great neighborhood.
So when the vacated Vintage Café came up for lease, Gillett and his business partner Travis Stoliker were there, putting things in place to open Saddleback Barbecue
in REO Town.
"It all happened so quick," says Gillett. "I couldn't be happier with the decision. Everyone is so supportive and welcoming. We hope to bring as much to the table as we can and help grow the area."
By the end of May, Gillett and Stoliker plan to open an authentic smoked southern barbecue venue at 1147 S. Washington Ave. The 1,200-foot restaurant will serve barbecue ribs, brisket, pulled pork and smoked chicken, and will offer a small selection of beverages and made-from-scratch sides like baked beans, mac-and-cheese, coleslaw, potato salad and fries.
"Mostly, we just want to focus on the meat," says Gillett. "That's our game."
Gillett will draw on 15 years of experience in the restaurant businesses and a "food sabbatical" that took him to Georgia to learn from a professional barbecue team. After observing competitions, studying recipes, and trying things out with a smoker, he was ready to bring it on home to Lansing.
Gillett began a small weekend catering venture that he balanced with his full-time job. He supplied meats for sporting events and fundraisers, and built a following for his savory fare.
When he heard of the spot in REO Town, Gillett decided it was time to start smoking on his own turf. His smoker, he says, will run 24-hours-a-day, allowing him to serve meats that are smoked to perfection over two days.
"Our love of the product will show through our smoking style and attention to detail," he says. "I want people to see what they're getting is above and beyond."
Although technically southern cuisine, Gillette says barbecue is a perfect fit for northern climes and for Lansing.
"Most people have some sort-of tie-in—be it tailgating, camping, the backyard patio and the grill," says Gillett. "Growing up in Michigan, we suffer through winters, and enjoy our summers. Barbecue is part of that."
The Saddleback Barbecue will seat 31 people and employ up to eight people—including the "night-shift" smoker. For starters, the restaurant will be open for lunch and early dinners, Monday through Saturday.
Source: Matt Gillett, Owner and Operator, Saddleback Barbecue
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
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