Whole Smoked Turkeys from the Roadhouse

A long-standing Texas tradition comes to the west side of town!

by Ari WeinzweigCoffee spice rubbed turkey at Zingerman's Roadhouse.

Smoked turkey in Michigan is mostly just about Deli sandwiches. But down in Texas, whole smoked turkey has been one of the strongest Thanksgiving traditions in the state for nearly 70 years. While the election seems to have caused a fair bit of controversy, it seems like serving smoked turkey at Thanksgiving is a non-partisan Texas tradition. People of all races, ethnicities, ages and political persuasion have long been sold on it. For good reason—a beautiful whole smoked bird on the table looks and tastes terrific!

Historically speaking, the smoked turkey tradition in the Lone Star state dates back to the middle part of the 20th century. For reasons I don’t really know—it seems to have sprung up strong with Jewish merchants. Rose Diamond, the Greenberg family (still the most famous Texas turkey smokers) and one “Mrs. Potishman” get the early credit. The Greenberg family originally used only kosher turkeys (Samuel Greenberg was a kosher “shochet”) but that part of the tradition fell away ages ago. At Greenberg’s, to this day, people of all backgrounds literally line up outside for days to get their smoked turkeys for the family table, so many that they could fill every seat at Michigan Stadium. If you want a non-Texan take on it, Oprah put whole smoked turkey on her holiday favorites list last year!

The Roadhouse, being focused, as you know, on bringing all sorts of long-standing American food traditions here to Ann Arbor has added this Texas treat to our annual routine on the pit. Whole, free-range turkeys (about 18 pounds each) from Peacock’s Poultry Farm, that we rub with extra virgin olive oil, fresh garlic, and our Spicy Coffee Spice Rub. (It’s a great seasoning—ground Roadhouse Joe coffee, Turkish Urfa pepper, black Tellicherry pepper, cloves, and sea salt. It’s excellent on potatoes, fish, and steak, too!) The turkeys are smoked over smoldering oak on the Roadhouse pit for about four hours. They come off looking lovely—dark, almost chocolate brown skin speckled with the spice rub.  The meat stays moist; the flavor stays big!

Like the Deli and Cornman Farms, the Roadhouse crew have a whole array of stuffing, mashed potatoes, pies from the Bakehouse, and a plethora of other really good things! And you can order it all online for pick-up at the Roadshow! They’re also doing more typical-for-the-Midwest oven-roasted turkey—if you’ve got a good sized family, having one smoked and one from the oven is a great way to go! That Roadhouse mac and cheese makes a marvelous side dish, as does pimento cheese, green bean casserole, and buttermilk biscuits. There’s a long list of options on the website!

Order your Thanksgiving To-Go from the Roadhouse!