For years, the Old Town commercial scene has been, in a word, quaint (we’re casting a blind eye, Fish Ladder Tattoo and Golden Harvest). The charming boutique district, largely composed of art galleries and specialty retail and antique shops, is a mecca of tasteful décor but has thus-far been an antithetical hangout for red-blooded ‘merican males.
But wait a second, what’s that smoky aroma in the air? In a bold move, two entrepreneurs have given Turner Street a notable shot of testosterone with their new barbecue joint, Meat Southern BBQ & Carnivore Cuisine.
“We want to be a sort of husband day care,” said Tim McPharlin, who co-owns Meat with his partner, Sean Johnson. “We’ll have ESPN on all the time, and men can hang out while their wives go antiquing or boutiquing. We’re proud to be a part of this great community, and we’re hoping to attract a whole new crowd down here to keep the Old Town momentum going.”
The two men are lifelong friends who had been kicking around the idea of opening a restaurant together for years. Johnson honed his chops managing local businesses, while McPharlin attended culinary school and worked at Atlanta’s 5 Seasons Brewing Co., the biggest brewpub in the southeastern U.S., before moving back to Michigan.
“We started catering and perfecting our barbecue recipes in case we ever decided to go through with it and open a place,” Johnson said. “We knew that if you wait ‘til you’re ready, you’ll never do it. And then earlier this year, something just lit a fire under us.”
Johnson credits a fortuitous walk through Old Town the same week that the short-lived Wild Rose Café closed (also the site of the former Mama Bear’s Café), and he says they basically “fell into” the location. All of Meat’s meat is prepared in a massive wood-burning rotisserie stove — nicknamed “The Beast” — that can slow-cook 600 pounds of beef brisket, pulled pork and ribs at any time. The Beast represents the restaurant’s single-biggest investment and required the construction of a separate weather-proof shed out back to hold it. The food is smoked for 20 hours, resulting in a buttery-soft texture that McPharlin says diners won’t find anywhere else.
“It’s all about the carnivore experience,” he said. “The way we prepare it, you’ll have juices dripping down your chin. Bring your bib.”
Johnson says that obtaining a liquor license is in the works (“I can’t imagine eating barbecue without beer — it’s a crime”), and hints that weekend and breakfast hours are possible as well. But for now, it’s just a matter of staking the claim of being the neighborhood’s resident apex predator.
Meat Southern BBQ & Carnivore Cuisine
1224 N. Turner St.
Old Town Lansing
Temporary hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday