Down River barbecue, not Down South

Slow-cooked specialties and a strong lineup of appetizers and side dishes add to the appeal of The Round House BBQ in Trenton

It’s Saturday night in Trenton — not quite dinner time, but there’s already a waiting list at The Round House BBQ.

There’s a good reason folks are lining up at the corner where West Road meets West Jefferson Avenue. For nearly five years, The Round House — a block or so from the Detroit River and its view of Grosse Isle — has been slow cooking up some of Downriver’s best barbecue.

The place got its start when Chris Hancock took stock of his future. After all, for someone in the building trades, the economic downturn of 2008 “looked like the world was coming to an end,” he says. So the owner of Hancock Construction on Grosse Isle took possession of a shuttered restaurant and got cooking.

After a year of experimenting (about “60 sauces later,” he claims), he and his team settled on the lineup of six sauces, incorporating influences from great barbecue regions around the country, including Carolina and Kansas City styles.

Meat is the main order of business. There are ribs done three ways — Round House rack, baby back, and St. Louis-style. Other specialties include pulled pork, beef brisket, a pork rib-eye, hand-carved smoked turkey, and barbecued chicken. A meatloaf comes in a cast-iron skillet.

There are also sandwiches and burgers, plus a sampling of seafood options — smoked salmon, lemon pepper tilapia, or a more traditional catfish dinner.

Appetizers include hickory-smoked wings in several varieties of heat, nachos, quesadillas, and a smoked trout dip served with toast points.

And while Brussels sprouts may be all the rage lately, The Round House still offers a slew of good old-fashioned potato skins — called “boats” here — filled with beef brisket, pulled pork, or chicken, then topped with applewood-smoked bacon.

There’s a combo platter piled with onion rings, chicken wings, BBQ egg rolls, cheese sticks, and smoked sausage.

Did we say BBQ egg rolls? Oh yes, we did.

While agreeing that the unique mash-up might sound odd, Hancock says the pork-stuffed egg rolls are so popular, he’s added different versions — including mac and cheese and shepherd’s pie-type beef filling.

Where The Round House BBQ really stands out is in its nearly 20 side dishes. There are the usual suspects — baked beans, coleslaw, potatoes several ways, green beans, and a creamy mac and cheese. But one of the true stars should probably be listed as a dessert. Corn fritters dotted with powdered sugar are served with cinnamon butter syrup that leaves them melt-in-your-mouth amazing. (Yes, there are other desserts, including bread pudding bites.)

The Round House also serves hearty breakfasts, like a brisket hash, biscuits and gravy, Western skillets, and multigrain flapjacks. The kid-friendly place has Texas toast hot dogs, grilled cheese, and chicken tenders. The full-service bar is adult-friendly — with a decent selection of craft beer.

Hancock says the fairly small and intimate restaurant has churned out “crazy” annual growth since it opened in 2010. But it’s the catering side of the business that’s really booming, leaving him a little less time for that construction business he was so worried about back in 2008.

2760 W. Jefferson Ave., Trenton; 734-671-6100. B, L, & D daily. $13