BLUES and BBQ

A match made at midnight

Food truck Midnight Blues BBQ offers classic side dishes like potato salad and beans to accompany meal options like pulled pork sandwiches, above, and pulled pork nachos, below. The truck has been in the Marquette area since May, and owners expect to remain serving food here through mid-September. (Photos courtesy of Midnight Blues BBQ)

By RYAN JARVI

Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — It’s not unusual for people to seek out comfort food when they’re feeling down. And no one knows the blues like R.J. Bragg and Teresa Howes.

The couple owns and operates the food truck Midnight Blues BBQ, which has been roving the Marquette County area since May, serving up backyard, hometown favorites like pulled pork, barbecued chicken, ribs, brisket and the classic side dishes.

“It’s all barbecue. We don’t do any deepfried stuff,” Bragg said.

“Everything is homemade except for the bags of chips,” Howes said, later adding, “The potato salad is not your grandma’s potato salad, I can tell you that.”

A popular choice lately, they said, has been the southwest style pulled pork. But the truck also has a more unique option, called MB sliders. In case you couldn’t guess it, the “MB” stands for Midnight Blues, but it also has another meaning.

“It also stands for a Meat Bomb slider,” Bragg said. “What I do is I take all the ingredients — and part of the ingredients is brisket and sausage — and then I make it into a loaf, wrap it in bacon and then I smoke it, and then I slice it and it perfectly fits on a slider roll. … It’s spicy a little bit, but it’s so good.”

It’s the second year the couple has operated the truck, but they’ve been cooking for friends and barbecuing for much longer than that.

“It kind of all came together a couple years ago when we found this truck, and bought it, and decided to quit our jobs and go for it,” Bragg said.

The couple is from near Alpena. Bragg worked as an airplane mechanic and later an inspector for 17 years, and Howes was employed as a science technician at Alpena Community College for 20 years before she was laid off four years ago. She then started bartending.

Bragg said quitting their jobs was a “gutsy move,” but the food truck business has been going well.

“Everybody up here in the community has really accepted us, so it’s really been great,” he said.

Drawing on her work as a science technician, Howes said she knows all about diseases and food-borne illnesses — and ways to avoid them — and she’s got the bartending and cooking experience that comes in handy at Midnight Blues BBQ.

Meanwhile, Bragg said he “started out just being a self-proclaimed backyard barbecuer.”

“And every time that we were on road trips, when I was working for the airlines, all the guys would want me to do some barbecuing. I had no problem with that,” he recalled. “I just love doing it and I enjoy watching people enjoy the food. That’s my biggest thing, and I think that’s about 100 percent of what it should be.”

The couple’s passion for barbecue may only be surpassed by their passion for motorcycles and blues music, which can often be heard coming out of the food truck when it’s open for business.

For the past eight years or so, they’ve been taking their bikes up from the Alpena area to the Marquette Area Blues Fest, typically held around Labor Day weekend, for one “last long ride of the season,” Bragg said.

“That’s why we decided this area (to operate the food truck), because we liked it so much,” Howes said.

That’s also part of the story behind the food truck’s name.

A few years back at the blues festival, Bragg and Howes made friends with some Canadians, and the group later decided to take a motorcycle trip down south to the North Carolina and Tennessee area, Bragg said.

“One day we were out riding, and we came back and I was cooking ribs on the Weber … and it was midnight before we were able to eat,” Bragg said. “We were just sitting around, joking around, and we were listening to the blues … and I said, ‘midnight blues barbecue’ — it works.”

Bragg and Howes said they plan to operate Midnight Blues BBQ in Marquette County until around mid-September, and hope to make it back north for the summer season next year.

Schedules and locations are typically posted online at www.facebook. com/MidnightBluesBBQ/.

For more information, visit howest01.wixsite. com/midnightbluesbbq.

Ryan Jarvi can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 270. His email address is rjarvi@miningjournal .net.