Michigan’s Best Local Eats: Bomba’s BBQ’s award-winning ribs find their way to Kalamazoo

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KALAMAZOO, MI – “It’s not a sad story, it’s not a story of getting poor, it’s just a story of two brothers making it happen,” Matt Trevino said, as he stood behind the counter at Bomba’s barbecue.

This story began in 2013 when Matt, then a chef at a restaurant in Battle Creek, and his brother Abe, a mechanical engineer, decided to cook ribs for Kalamazoo’s annual Rib Fest.

“It was the first year they allowed local vendors to do this, so I met Abe and said, ‘Let’s try this,'” Matt Trevino recalled. “We ended up doing one day (of the festival), stayed up all night cooking and that’s how the business started.”

Abe Trevino added: “People just liked our food. We started having a lot of questions about whether we had a real business.

The following year, the brothers, alongside their late brother Joseph – who died of cancer in 2021 but had been there every step of the way before – bought their first food truck and the name Bomba was born.

The truck, parked regularly at the time along East Main Street in Kalamazoo, soon began making its way to food truck rallies, festivals, and competitive culinary events throughout Southwest Michigan.

When the brothers returned to Rib Fest in 2015, they won first place for Best Ribs, a feat they’ve since repeated three times. Since then, they’ve also won awards for their homemade salsa and won first place twice for their mac and cheese and jalapeno at Kalamazoo’s annual Mac and Cheese Fest.

It wasn’t long after hitting the road with their tender, smoky Texas-style barbecue, sprinkled with a bit of Midwestern flair, that the Trevinos found themselves swapping their original food truck for a more pleasant. The next move was to open their first brick and mortar, a drive-thru called The Shack in Lawton.

This location is temporarily closed as the brothers embarked on their latest business, but are expected to be open seasonally in the future, Abe Trevino said.

The brothers’ latest venture is the first full-scale restaurant Bomba’s, which opened in February in the Trevinos’ hometown of Kalamazoo at 2814 Portage St. in the city’s Edison neighborhood. The building was originally built to house a Wendy’s and for a time served as the home of Ramen and Rice.

“Our whole plan has been to go back to Kalamazoo for a while. It was just the right time,” said Abe Trevino. “We grew up here and both of our families live here.”

The brothers now operate from the largest kitchen they have had to date and have the capacity to produce more food and more types of food than before, he said.

“We smoke all our meat daily and make our own sauces,” Abe Trevino said. “Here, everything is done by hand. »

In addition to ribs, the brothers offer brisket, pork and chicken tacos, smokehouse quesadillas with the same smoked meat options, and chicken wings that come in four different styles — with dry seasoning, a sweet sauce, hot sauce or Nashville hot sauce, the latter is similar to a Buffalo style.

The Bomba Burger pulled pork sandwich and short ribs are also popular, Abe Trevino said. All items come with a choice of side, with options including mac jalapeno, creamy coleslaw, baby street corn, collard greens, fries, barbecue charro beans and tortilla chips and homemade salsa.

The Texas style was passed down from the brothers’ father from Texas, while the duo added their own Midwestern flair, creating tender, lightly smoky meat, favoring cherry and maple woods for most meats, and saving Hickory for the chest, says Matt Trevino.

No alcohol is served at Bomba’s, but patrons can choose from Coke products from the fountain or enjoy a can of Faygo with their meal. Although not on the main menu, fried ice cream is usually available for dessert, Abe Trevino said.

Other off-menu items include weekly specials such as turkey legs on Saturdays. Customers should arrive early if they want to get their hands on one, as they sell out every week.

In the years they ran the food truck and operated The Shack, the brothers had already gotten used to working with local vendors and shopping at area farmers’ markets, which they plan to continue. .

“We just had fun all the time, met a lot of people, and little by little it got more serious, we ended up with a bigger truck, then we gradually got busier to the point where we couldn’t. no longer do he was no longer part-time and had to give him a fair chance,” Abe Trevino said.

“So far, the neighborhood has loved us. We’re always looking for a few more employees, but we’re happy to just try to be a positive part of the community. Everyone we’ve hired so far is from here in Edison’s neighborhood.

The restaurant’s website is under construction at BombasTexMexBBQ.com, but people can also follow Bomba on Facebook. Bomba’s is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday. Contact the restaurant at (269) 359-7100.

For more on other Kalamazoo area restaurants featured on MLive’s weekly Local Eats, Click here. If you have a favorite local restaurant, brewery or cafe, contact journalist Ryan Boldrey at [email protected].

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