From the firehouse to the kitchen, former Highland Park fireman opens BBQ spot in Utica

Eddie Smoke's BBQ is gearing up for its grand opening celebration on Saturday, Jan. 6. Barbecue-lovers are in luck, however, as Eddie Smoke's has been operating under a soft opening for several weeks now, and is currently offering its barbecue carry out on a daily basis.

Eddie Smoke is Eddie Armstrong, a former Highland Park fireman-turned-entrepreneur. Armstrong started smoking meats at just 10 years old. Following an incident when Eddie burnt a hole in the bottom of his dad's gas grill by using charcoal, Armstrong's father chose to stoke his son's interest in the art of barbecue rather than discourage it, and bought his son a meat smoker.

Armstrong pursued barbecue as a hobby, often cooking for his firehouse in Highland Park, where he served for ten years. As interest in his hobby grew, Eddie began to cater events, and would eventually purchase a food trailer. He would soon begin to pursue his business full-time and retire from the Highland Park Fire Department.

Armstrong first christened his business Pig Out BBQ, and could often be found staked out at the intersection of Southfield Road and I-696. Though business went well in the summer months, the cold rain and snow of Michigan's other seasons proved difficult for an outdoor barbecue trailer.

"We did extremely well when it was warm out but not when we were in bad weather. We needed a brick and mortar location to serve our customers year-round," Eddie says. "We picked Utica because of the location. Our intersection, Hall, and Schoenherr is one of the busiest in Macomb County."

With the move, Armstrong re-branded as Eddie Smoke's BBQ, and he's now begun to build a new customer base in a new town. They serve a wide range of barbecue in a uniquely Eddie Smoke-style, taking barbecue methods from all over the country and combining pieces of them to make its own style.

Their ribs are their specialty, Eddie says, though he's also proud of their chicken tips, a unique spin on the old rib tip standby.

Eddie Smoke's BBQ is located at 13461 Hall Rd. in Utica.

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Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.
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