Lockhart’s BBQ is a full-service BBQ restaurant that focuses on traditional Texas-style BBQ.
“When Lockhart’s first opened, customers would literally throw the white bread, pickles and onions back at me and say ‘what is this!’” said Drew Ciora, owner of Lockhart’s BBQ. When Lockhart’s opened in 2010, there was a bit of a learning curve for Michiganders when it came to traditional Texan BBQ. Now, we all seem to adequately have the hang of it, eating our brisket sandwiches with our massive side of dill pickles. “There were not a lot of choices for this in 2009 and 2010 so we were fortunate to arrive on the scene when we did,” Ciora said. Ciora credits popularity of the food-centric reality shows that have come and gone over the years with educating Michiganders about traditional-style BBQ. “Television and food shows have definitely raised the bar,” Ciora confides. “When we first decided on this concept, we deliberately turned down the volume,” giving Michiganders a chance to acclimate to the cuisine that Drew imported from more BBQ-savvy places.
Lockhart’s BBQ is located at 202 E. Third Street in Downtown Royal Oak, around the corner from Ciora’s first business, the Royal Oak Brewery, which opened in 1995. Lockhart’s is located in an old bank building, which was gutted and fashioned into a massive dining hall. It has remarkably high ceilings, a kitchen located in the center of the room that is equipped with a custom smoker shipped all the way from Mesquite, Texas. “It uses only wood to produce the heat and smoke. This is the traditional way to smoke and yields the best full flavored smoked meats that are tender and juicy,” says Ciora. Since it began, Lockhart’s has been dedicated to making the best smoked meat in Michigan. It is actually the only full-service restaurant that employs two full-time pit masters who focus on nothing but smoking meat. Ciora is originally from Texas. He came to Michigan over twenty years ago to start his businesses in Royal Oak. “I have always loved making great BBQ,” he added.
Ciora admits that the business presents a steady challenge of consistency. “Making consistent BBQ for the large number of patrons is a challenge. Cooking a brisket or pork butt in our backyard is one thing, but smoking 4,000-5,000 lbs of meat per week is a whole new ball game.” The sheer volume of food produced presents tremendous difficulty when trying to ensure quality. “Since every cut of brisket, pork butt, or ribs are unique and different, we needed to create techniques that allow us to smoke them consistently.” There was a lot of innovation to address this challenge. “We spent the first year changing and updating our procedures to ensure a consistent product.”
“We immediately took advantage of social media and showed folks the great food we were serving.” This drove a hugely successful word-of-mouth campaign that established Lockhart’s as a successful BBQ leader in the area. “Most of our business comes from within a 20 minute radius of us, but a fair amount is from out-of-state, especially from Texas and the South.”
Lockhart’s may specialize in BBQ, but the open secret is that they serve an amazing brunch on Sundays. “Most people wouldn’t think of a BBQ for brunch. We worked very hard to create dishes with a BBQ twist and serve traditional brunch items as well,” said Ciora.
Lockhart’s BBQ is open Monday through Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Thursday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.