By Sheryl Oswalt
It was a sunny and seventy-degree October morning that I headed out for this month’s food interview. Much like the rarity of the weather we’ve been experiencing; so is Bowmans BBQ & Meat Market. I think you will be pleasantly surprised with this unique eating establishment nestled inside what used to be the Spartan grocery store just outside Climax on ON Avenue.
Along with owning and operating a custom butchering operation for the past 20 years, Frank Bowman and his wife, Susan, have been doing catering. As the business grew to its limits at the butcher facility, Frank decided to take his craft to the next level. Along with cooking in competitions and catering, he found himself smoking and preparing meats in a restaurant setting in Battle Creek.
After getting his feet wet in the restaurant business and liking it, it didn’t take long for the couple to decide to take the leap and return to Climax when the town’s only grocery store closed. Rather than leave the locals with little option but to drive to Battle Creek or Galesburg to get groceries and incidentals, Frank decided to see if Climax was ready for a restaurant-store combination.
Along with the typical small grocery offerings, this store carries a wide variety of spices, rubs, and seasonings for barbequing and smoking meats. Frank doesn’t shy away from competition; he hopes to become a go-to place for meat-smoking supplies for those of us learning the craft.
There are so many wonderful things in the meat case that I can’t even cover them all. Smoked Louisiana style sausages are a specialty; andouille and Boudin (pronounced boo-dahn) crawfish sausages, just to name a couple. Blueberry maple breakfast sausage, apple brats (seasonally), tasso ham, sugar-cured hickory smoked bacon – regular, pepper and Cajun. Home-made jerky and snack sticks, chorizo, corned beef, home-made hot dogs and bologna fill the shelves too.
Whether you shop before or after is up to you, but don’t make the drive without planning time to eat. The meats are amazing and so are the sides. Like most popular barbeque specialty places, you purchase your meat option and the sides are separate; add as many or as few as you like. They are also made from scratch at the market. Right now you can try their sweet heat salsa – made of pepper relish, no tomatoes. It was awesome but it is something you only want to try if you like hot stuff; the heat sneaks up on you. The peppers were grown at special request at Avalon Farms in Climax.
In addition to the popular smoked and barbeque entrees, they have found their wings and pizza very popular as well. If you choose to eat in the newly remodeled eating area, you can take in all the beautiful photographs on display and for sale. Be sure to try one or two of the 80 beers including many local micro-brews or one of the six beers on tap. He has plans to add six more taps soon.
While Frank has gotten out of the slaughter and butchering business, Bowmans is still processing your venison and other meats into specialty game meat products. You can purchase whole hog roasting pigs from them and they still offer full-service catering. Stop in and talk to Ron Miller, the meat department manager, and see what they can do for you.
Winter hours for Bowmans are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. They are closed on Sundays. A great night to see the place for yourself is Thursday where from 7-10 p.m. you can participate in karaoke. Check out their Facebook page for entertainment on the weekends.
Frank would like to see Michigan gain notoriety for their great barbeque. After tasting a few of his dishes, I think he is well on his way. Take your taste buds on a road trip this fall and check out this very unique establishment. Where else can you enjoy fantastic barbeque with a beer, shop for custom meats, grab your meat smoking and barbequing supplies, pick up a few groceries and, finally, grab an ice cream cone on the way out, all in the same building!