TRAVERSE CITY — Northern Michigan residents may see many spring and summer event cancellations, but they can still find one festival and fair staple — the food.
Steve Randell and his family run Steve’s Smokin’ BBQ, which usually serves the crowd-pleasing turkey legs at the National Cherry Festival.
He said they decided to open the truck at their home near Deering’s Market on Barlow Street with a basic menu. Items include pulled pork, St. Louis-style ribs and a pork bowl — which is a tray with beans on the bottom, pork in the middle and coleslaw on top.
“It’s a meal in itself,” he said.
Currently, beef brisket is available, but Randell said with the increasing prices, they may not be able to keep it on the menu.
Randell said the turkey takes three or four hours in the smoker and they even smoke a loaded potato dish made with cheese, chives, bacon and sour cream. People can get the toppings on the side if they want to add them later.
“It adds a very unique flavor,” he said of their process. “We use only wood for heat and for flavoring.”
Randell said their homemade barbecue sauces include a cherry variety, which often accompanies a chicken dish.
“It’s something we came up with for the Cherry Festival,” he said. “It has become a very popular barbecue sauce here. It’s available as a side for other dishes.”
Soon, customers can take advantage of daily specials. Randell said they are experimenting with a macaroni and cheese made with pork and bacon bits as well as a turkey leg with hot sauce, a favorite at their events in western states like Arizona.
“It’s a unique kind of barbecue wing, only it’s a turkey leg,” he said.
Randell said they also offer hot dogs for the kids, who may be pickier than their parents.
Gibby’s Concessions Owner Jamie Hansen said they brought their trailer to Menards on May 13 and plan to stay at least through the end of the month.
“We saw our friends downstate were doing similar pop-ups so we decided to try one,” she said. “Our events through the middle of August are canceled. We’re finding ways to make some money and get ourselves working.”
Of course, Gibby’s fries headline the menu, but Hansen said they also make hot dogs and corn dogs to make it a lunch or dinner.
Though they saw success during their first week open, Hansen said there were some wait times because the corn dog machine only holds 12 at once.
“The corn dogs are cooked separate from the fries, so sometimes there is a longer turnaround,” she said. “We were noticing large orders coming through. They were ordering for their family.”
Their concessions umbrella, Hansen said, also includes an elephant ear trailer. People can get the traditional fair dessert — fried dough covered with cinnamon sugar — or try the deep fried Oreos.
Despite the lines, Hansen said the Menards parking lot is large enough for people to keep their distance. Many customers eat in their vehicles, but she said some brought picnic tables on nicer days.
“It’s something that makes it feel a little bit normal,” she said.
Though the Northwestern Michigan Fair organizers are not making a decision about this year’s event until June, folks can get some of the food this weekend at the fairgrounds.
“We’re going to try to do a drive-thru or drive-up to get your food,” said Fair President Joe Hubbell. “The Hudsonville Fair tried this and it was a huge success. We’re looking to keep some of the vendors afloat.”
Hubbell said Clarke Concessions and Fasel Concessions are selling brats, hot dogs, corn dogs and homemade chips.
“They do a lot of homemade buns,” he added. “You can come there and have a whole meal.”
Noble Concessions and Gibby’s plan to visit on a later date.