Thanks to a very shareable Channel 7 News video, Victory Smokehouse pit master Chris Callender is slammed with holiday orders at 11 a.m. Fragrant smoke wafts through the parking lot at the Victory Inn where Callender parks his mobile cart enticing would-be customers ready for the lunch hour.
We put a lot of effort into delineating ourselves from the other things around here.
His vacuum-packed holiday brisket, a customer favorite, is currently winging its way from Warren across the U.S. to places as far away as Florida and Texas. Simple instructions he says make the brisket perfect for Christmas dinners. People simply unpack and reheat the juicy blackened meat in a piece of foil.
Callender and his assistant have been awake since Thursday afternoon at 7:30 p.m. when he fired up his custom-made, wood-burning smoker. He visits Eastern Market weekly at 2 a.m. to pick up the meat used in his smoker, occasionally adding something a little out of the ordinary to the menu. Today's special is tri-tip. He also smokes pork belly to make his own thick-cut bacon.
Callender aims to make "authentic, humble" barbecue, which, to him, means never using propane. The smoker is kept fed with wood and hickory logs, aged for a year at a farm in Northville. Each month he goes through around a cord of wood keeping the fires burning.
In the spring the company plans to make good on the promise to construct a brick-and-mortar smokehouse in the same location where the cart is parked—a quick turnaround for a business that just opened a few months ago.
Currently, customers order from the cart's list of meats, sandwiches outdoors, and take their food inside to pickup the sides at the Victory Inn—a Warren staple since 1946. However, Callender and his investors at the Inn plan on expanding out of the restaurant's east wall to make room for the smokehouse. Just last week, the company received preliminary drawings of the new restaurant, which include bay doors.
As a new business attached to a local favorite, winning the hearts of regulars hasn't been an easy task says Callender. "We put a lot of effort into delineating ourselves from the other things around here," he says. "You've got some hard nosed regulars here. It's been a tough crowd to win over, but it's already been a month and we have some pretty loyal customers already built up."
Victory Smokehouse is open Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. until they sellout. The cart is located in the parking lot of the Victory Inn Restaurant at 28950 Mound Road in Warren. You can also find them at Eastern Market on Lions game days.