The relish recipe’s a family secret, and one of the reasons US 31 Bar-B-Q in Muskegon has survived for more than 70 years: A mix of finely chopped cabbage and sweet pickles are the main ingredients in the slightly sweet sauce that tops a choice of three sandwiches: pork, beef, or ham—or a combination of two or three meats.
I went with the pork and was treated to a sandwich that’s pleased palates since 1939: Tender, thinly sliced meat piled on a soft white bun crowned with that tasty sauce, served in a paper wrapper. Simple, classic, and just sloppy enough to require a fork for cleaning up stray bits.
Oh, there are sides. The chili and real milkshakes get rave reviews, but I chose an order of fries, and they were hot and perfectly crunchy on the outside, soft inside.
At about 2 p.m. there was a steady stream of US 31 fans but plenty of seats open; be prepared to wait for a booth or a stool at the counter during prime lunch and dinner hours.
Paul Buris started the restaurant in 1939 at another Muskegon site and his son George took it over in the 1950s; the octogenarian still shows up to work six days a week (the diner is closed on Sunday).
George relocated to the current location 47 years ago and I imagine the joint, with its handful of booths, simple counter and chrome stools and tile, looks very much as it did when it was new in the Sixties.
We know the food is the same. Groovy.
US 31 Bar-B-Que has no website.
151 W. Muskegon Ave., Muskegon, MI 49441
Visitor Info Clicks: Muskegon
Travel Michigan: Pure Michigan