Friday, May 4, 2012

Tunnel Bar-B-Q

In high school we used to frequent the famous Tunnel Bar-B-Q in Windsor. Rumor was that Lions star Billy Sims (who, as it turns out, is now the owner of a chain of Oklahoma barbecue places) used to eat there all the time, although we never saw him (and he was unmistakable with that haircut). 

The best thing about the TBQ—besides the late hours—was the sauce, a spicy tomato-based condiment with a hint of sweetness. My friend Anne used to slather it on toasted tomato sandwiches in our poor student days in Toronto, and I loved it on French fries.

I took Worldwide there during a Michigan trip about ten years ago, and after we had exhausted the two jars I bought in the gift shop, I wondered if I might be able to find the recipe on the Internet. There were a few attempts, but the recipe below seems a pretty good approximation of the real thing, and it strikes me as exactly the kind of thing that a Greek Canadian might have come up with in 1941.  

I’ve been making it regularly over the last decade. I’m going to use it on some barbecued chicken legs tonight. Give it a try, and let me know what you think—especially my Rose City readers.

TBQ Sauce

1/2 cup Ketchup
1/2 cup prepared mustard
1/2 cup vinegar white
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper 

1 1/2 teaspoon chile powder 
1/4 cup white sugar


  1. It occurs to me that I have never asked you about the "T" in the TBQ sauce. I take it the restaurant is located near the tunnel between Detroit and Windsor?

    1. It's the first thing you see when you come out of Canadian customs. Thankfully Billy Sims didn't need his passport back in 1980 .

  2. Anne Kane JeffriesMay 6, 2012 at 7:57 AM

    Assuming I'm the Anne, I don't think I've ever had a toasted tomato sandwich in my life. But they sure do remind me of my mom, who so proudly enjoyed the Leamington tomatoes fresh from the field. In fact, I never liked tomatoes until LD and I went to Greece but we were working by then (still poor, but not student poor). I imagine I slathered it on just about everything else though. I'll have to get Stu to try your recipe. Brian, you should add more recipes to your blog - I'm sure you've got lots of good ones, including your dad's salad dressing.

  3. Nice to see that the Big Tomato is still going strong (

    Funny how vivid that incorrect memory is. I have a mental picture of eating them with you, either at the apartment, or 112 Wells (i'm not sure). It's been awhile.