Saddleback barbecue review: Michigan barbecue sauce

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  • Based in Lansing, Michigan, Saddleback BBQ specializes in slow smoked meats and mouthwatering sauces.
  • During the pandemic, the company stepped up its support for the community.
  • Saddleback paid off lunch debt for 9 districts, raised money for struggling restaurants, and more.

Kansas City. Texas. Caroline. These are the areas commonly mentioned in discussions about a good barbecue. But, I would like to hook up Lansing, Michigan. This courageous blue-collar town of 112,000 inhabitants offers an impressive selection of barbecues. And, as the founder of the group of local foodies with over 23,000 members, I can unequivocally say that none of the local restaurants do more for the community than Saddleback barbecue.

The company

Matt Gillett and Travis Stoliker outside Saddleback's REO Town store

Matt Gillett and Travis Stoliker outside the REO Town store in Saddleback.

Saddleback barbecue

Owners Matt Gillett and Travis Stoliker launched Saddleback in 2015 in the REO town of Lansing. Saddleback is one of the many companies that have helped revitalize this neighborhood, which was once home to Oldsmobile.

Gillett is the brain behind the food. He spent most of his life in the food industry and traveled to Georgia to develop his barbecue chops. Stoliker quit a technical job to join Gillett in launching Saddleback and is handling the business side. With the success of the REO Town location, the two opened a second location in the Lansing suburb of Okemos in 2017.

The dining room at Saddleback's Okemos location with no customers.

The dining room at Saddleback’s Okemos location.

James Brains / Insider

These are the facts of the business. But, what’s most interesting about Saddleback is what it did for the Lansing community during the pandemic. Here are some of the ways she has helped make the pandemic more bearable for many:

  • With the help of donations, Saddleback paid off the school meal debt of nine school districts.
  • The restaurant raised over $ 1,000 each for seven recently burgled local restaurants.
  • It offered free pork rinds to anyone with a vaccination card and paid employees a bonus of $ 100 to get vaccinated.
  • Saddleback donated over 2,100 meals to community members in need and first responders.
  • The company has helped struggling local restaurants buy supplies and advertising to stay afloat.

We’ve always felt like the rising tides lift all boats and we’re all in the same boat as a community, ”said Stoliker. “When the pandemic hit, we just wanted to do anything to help a community that has done so much for us. “

A photo taken from the parking lot showing the storefront of Saddleback's Okemos store.

Saddleback’s Okemos showcase.

James Brains / Insider

Saddleback also takes care of its employees. In Michigan, the minimum wage for tipped employees is $ 3.67 an hour. Saddleback pays $ 9.65 plus an equal share of tips earned. This translated into a low minimum hourly wage of $ 14 per hour in October 2020 and a high in December of $ 20 per hour. This is particularly impressive when you consider the low cost of living in Lansing. More, the company is completely transparent about the amount it pays.

The food

The Saddleback Sample Platter, featuring chicken fillets, fries, sausage, fries, brisket, ribs and sauces.

The Saddleback sampler tray.

James Brains / Insider

In July, I interviewed members of Lansing Foodies to find the best barbecue joint in town, and Saddleback won a hotly contested race. One evening, Gillett took me around the smokers behind the REO Town store and explained to me that smoking meat is a 24/7 operation. At 10:00 p.m. each night, the overnight person begins to smoke the meat for the next day. It can be especially brutal on snowy winter mornings.

My favorite at Saddleback is the plump chest that’s melt-in-your-mouth. But I also think the teams are some of the best in town. Specifically, corn cakes are like a softer version of your typical cornbread and served with a spoon. Don’t skip the pork rinds. Served fresh and seasoned, they are perfect for snacking.

Saddleback pulled pork pączki sandwiches in a silver serving tray

Saddleback pulled pork pączki sandwiches.

James Brains / Insider

Saddleback is also known for its specialties. When the McRib is in season, Saddleback counter with a rib sandwich that helps you forget about the existence of fast food chains. And Mardi Gras isn’t complete without a pulled pork pączki sandwich.

Barbecue sauce

Two bottles of Saddleback BBQ sauce

Saddleback BBQ sauce.

James Brains / Insider

This is not a barbecue without sauce. And Saddleback’s BBQ sauce is what I’m looking for. It is sold in local stores and on Amazon. There are two varieties: Sweet & Savory and Michigan Mustard. My favorite is the sweet and savory as it brings any taste to the table with its tangy sweetness, salty lightness, a hint of heat and a mouth-watering umami. It’s a viscous sauce that I like to brush all over my meal.

My wife is sensitive to tomatoes and prefers Michigan mustard, which does not contain tomatoes. It tastes more like vinegar and of course a lot of mustard. It’s delicious on the barbecue and I dip fried foods like chicken and fries in it.

Saddleback BBQ Sauce, Breast, Sausage & Corn Cake

Saddleback BBQ Sauce, Breast, Sausage & Corn Cake.

James Brains / Insider

Members of Lansing Foodies regularly praise Saddleback for what he does for the local food scene. Melody Teodoro-Kurtis, a Lansing Gourmet Ambassador, appreciates its support to the local food community. “I admire Matt and Travis for their selfless support to their fellow small business restaurateurs and local food entrepreneurs,” she said. “They regularly spotlight local culinary spots that need help.”

Rachel Osborn, Member of Lansing Foodies, said: “Saddleback’s barbecue sauce is absolutely amazing. And what they did for the restaurants that got broken into was so awesome. They constantly give back to the community. And they pay their employees. a living wage and mapped it all out on a public message for everyone to see. “

Matt Gillett works the smoker behind Saddleback's REO Town location

Matt Gillett works the smoker behind Saddleback’s REO Town location.

James Brains / Insider

“Matt and Travis are great people to do whatever they do,” said Dan Polcyn, another member of Lansing Foodies. “What sets them apart is the real pit barbecue. Big Bubba is the secret in the back. Service and food quality are always a 10.”

The bottom line

An aerial shot of the Saddleback barbecue sample tray

Saddleback sampler tray.

James Brains / Insider

Saddleback BBQ is a one-of-a-kind business that demonstrates how competing, paying workers a living wage, and helping the community can help a business thrive. I hope more businesses will follow their plan. If you want to support Saddleback and love barbecue sauce, grab a bottle or two of their sauce from Amazon or stop by the next time you’re in Mittens State.

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