There’s a place in Fenton where all the meats are cooked “low and slow” and the results are absolutely delicious. Beale St. Smokehouse BBQ recently moved to a new location, the former John’s Pizzeria & Restaurant. Co-owned by Phil Canup and his daughter Lisa Reading, the eatery has been serving real Memphis-style slow-smoked pork, brisket, ribs and chicken since 2006.
Until May of this year, Beale St. was located off U.S. 23 Exit 80 behind Smitty’s gas station in Fenton. “It was Lisa’s idea to buy the old Johnny’s,” Canup shares. John’s Pizzeria was a family-owned restaurant that had many loyal and longtime customers for 58 years. “It’s all about local, family businesses and we want to continue that tradition.”
”It was a good move! We want to thank all of the people who supported us through this transition.”
And this business is all about family. Canup’s granddaughter, Emma Reading, is the bartender and grandson, Matthew Reading is the manager. “We consider our staff as family, too,” he admits. “I created the look and feel of the restaurant and Lisa has an extensive background in the restaurant business.”
According to Canup, moving to the new location took a lot of hard work and a lot more time than they planned. “We wanted to open in December or January but it was delayed; the City of Fenton required us to do more work on the kitchen,” he explains. “We had to get bids from contractors and approval from the city and redo the kitchen. But when we finally opened for business, it was a lot more efficient. The kitchen is larger, we have a larger staff and three times as many customers!”
The new Beale St. Smokehouse BBQ has a large dining room and a banquet room for rental. “We have already hosted several banquets here,” Canup says. “It’s been really busy. We’ve had a full restaurant and a banquet going on at the same time.” The restaurant also offers full-service, on-site catering for all kinds of occasions such as wedding receptions, birthdays, corporate events, graduation parties and reunions. The full bar has 16 beer taps, 16 seats and a small dining area; it is known for a large variety of Michigan craft beers, bourbon cocktails and specialty drinks served in Mason jars.
On Friday and Saturday evenings, Beale St. comes alive with blues and Memphis rock ‘n’ roll music. Musicians perform on a new stage that was built in the bar dining room, with the stage backdrop that was moved from the old restaurant location. The entranceway wall is lined with photos of the bands that have performed there, including Sweet Willie Tea, Twelve Above, Stu & Friends, Elizabeth Reed, Delta Twins, Larry B & the Boomers, Greg Ellis, Out of the Blue and many others.
While Beale St.’s address and decor have changed, one thing hasn’t: the food. The Memphis-style ribs and brisket are customer favorites – smoked in one of three large smokers that run continuously, 24 hours a day. Specialty sandwiches are also popular such as the Big Bad Wolf, a succulent half-pound Angus burger stacked with juicy, slow-smoked brisket, fiery ghost pepper cheese, crispy onion straws and spicy chipotle mayo. “Our specialty sandwiches are really, really good,” says the co-owner.
Smoked chicken wings are becoming extremely popular, especially for carryout on big game days. “We smoke whole bone-in wings with dry rub and then deep-fry them for extra crispiness,” Canup shares. “They are a new favorite.” Diners may soon see some new additions to the menu: shrimp, fish and hush puppies.
When driving by the new Beale St., the first thing you’ll see is the building’s bright exterior decorated with colorful murals. The music-themed artwork was painted by a graffiti artist from Flint who happened to stop by the restaurant one day looking for a side job. “He was phenomenal!” Canup exclaims.
Beale St. Smokehouse BBQ has many loyal customers who love the new look and the new location. “It was a good move!” Canup asserts. “People still came to the old place during the move and with the support of the community, our business was able to survive. I want to thank all of the people who supported us through this transition.”