I headed out to the northern part of Macomb County to a quaint little village called Romeo. A village with good-hearted people and a good share of restaurants of all types that many small towns would be jealous to have. My heart was set on a great barbeque sandwich, and that is exactly what I found.
I ran into Denise and Sarah Stanko, a couple of locals looking to make a purchase at the Jayell Smoke House at 221 ½ N Bailey in Romeo. I decided to ask them, “Why this barbeque restaurant?” They turned to me with big friendly smiles and said they have literally tried everything there, and it is all good. They really like the place because Dave or his wife Erin are the ones making the food and waiting on them. The service and food are always consistently good. They really like that it is family-owned and that they sell many Michigan-made products.
I had a chance to sit down and talk with Dave Leidlein, the owner of Jayell Smoke House. It was one of the coldest days of the year, and I was happy to be inside smelling great-tasting barbeque and having a cold black cherry cola out of a bottle. You have to go with a glass bottle when drinking ice cold pop, and Dave had plenty to choose from. I’m sorry to all my aluminum can and plastic bottle friends, but that is no way to have a black cherry cola. It is like putting a fine wine into a sippy cup – how dastardly!
A fun fact is that Dave actually was going to school for political science since his grandfather and father were in politics, and this brought him to southeastern Michigan. Lucky for all the barbeque food lovers, Dave did not get into politics and started to follow his passion for food. He made the decision to get into the food industry, first working for a distribution company in sales and then catering out of a business in Macomb County. He finally pulled the trigger after being on the news with his product line of rubs and BBQ sauce, and Dave opened Jayell Smoke House in July 2017.
He started with about five rubs and BBQ sauces and grew really fast to 12 sauces and 40 rubs. They work with Sherwood Brewery for the Roger City Porter BBQ sauce and IPA rub. They have good customer traffic and want to be part of the beautiful community. They had the patio open for the Romeo Peach Festival, and try to include themselves in any fun event downtown.
They are known to use Michigan landmarks for their BBQ names like the Romeo Peach Habanero which is the No. 1 seller. On the website, you can purchase rubs and BBQ sauces along with joining the rub club to have products sent to your house once a month. Tell me that is not a perfect present for your Uncle Billy who thinks he is a pitmaster with rib meat that falls right off the bone.
The mostly takeout restaurant has a great feel with metal and warm, dark wood and enough space for about three people to sit down to have a quick sandwich. In the summer, you can stretch your legs more and dine outside on their patio which sits back far off the road. You can relax and talk with your friends while having a great meal and at times listen to some guitar playing from a local musician. They also do special menu pricing and events. For example, on Jan. 7 they had special pricing on a slab of ribs. How lucky where those customers when they found that out?
The most important thing for you to know about this fine story is that when I ate that cut brisket sandwich, I had a huge smile on my face and actually said out loud, “This is amazing.” Somebody told me once that anybody can make a pulled pork sandwich, but only people who know what they are doing can make a good brisket sandwich. Well I’m here to say Jayell Smoke House is doing it right, and if you know what’s right, you’ll make your way out there!
Jack Johns is a project coordinator within the economic development services group. He specializes in serving the food and agricultural industry as well as automation, robotics, connected vehicles, energy and retail businesses.