Ginaz BBQ Kitchen, a fresh take on old-school smoked brisket, layer it hot and sweet

FLINT, Michigan—Driving north on Dort highway, red bold letters pop off the side of a building on Flint's eastside. Sitting with a stack of freshly chopped mesquite, snow or shine, Ginaz BBQ Kitchen juts into the scenery, sending plumes of smoke perfuming across the nearby state streets. 

“You start with something you care about and you make sure its quality. You make sure it’s fresh. It’s all people want,” says Nick Zalinski, a stout man standing behind the counter. Zalinski is the chef and co-owner along with William Kitsonas, who managed the building when it was exclusively a taco cafe, before the switch to barbecue. 

“We named the place after my daughter because getting all this started was really all about her,” Zalinski said. “I was working in Sterling Heights at Aerospace Fabrication as a plant supervisor,” he said. When the company had to rollback the workforce, Zalinski’s position was cut.

“It was tough,” says the Detroit native, “but you know, that’s also why this place had to be named that, because I took one look at her and knew that I couldn’t fail.” 

“I thought long and hard about what to do next,” he says. Complemented by friends and family for his brisket, Zalinski began to take the idea of going into business seriously. “I would bring something to the plant sometimes or to a cookout and I’d get the same reactions, like, ‘Dude, you need to sell this.’”

After relocating to the area so his daughter would be closer to family, Zalinski saw the property at 1401 North Dort Highway. “That is when I met Kitsonas,” he says. It was 2012 and Kitsonas was looking to find a new direction for the site. After talking and tasting some of Zalinski’s brisket, the idea for quality barbecue took shape.

Biting into a cutlet, fresh out of the smoker bathed in sauce, the outside layer is a touch crispy and yet tender. “I have other people from barbecue joints come in here to try the product and they always leave with the brisket,” says Zalinski, whose his stare, like his tone, stays even and set. 

“I’m telling you, dude, they come in here from all over the place, Detroit, all different parts of Michigan, and they all say the same thing: ‘Man, the brisket rocks.’”

The sauce comes in two flavors hot and sweet. “Once you taste my sauce you’ll see why two is all you need,” Zalinski says, then gives a nod. “Dude, trust me.”  

He’s right. The sweet smoke-laced sauce rolls from the lips to the tongue and grows in strength with every bite. “Heat is hot, but it ain’t gonna burn ya,” he says with a another nod. 

Other top sellers are the rib tips and barbecue chicken tacos. The fries are house cut and come in a selection of nine seasonings including parmesan garlic, lime pepper and jamaican jerk. The menu also includes the likes of  Atlantic cod, shrimp dinner, and ribs. Sandwiches and sides all are made to order.

“There are folks that want quality. They want something made fresh, and if you look around, people are starting to seek that out,” says Zalinski about why his customers keep coming back. “We need people to start coming back to Flint, and one way is showing people what we got here that’s good—and trust me, dude, this stuff if good.”

Ginaz is open 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It is located at 1401 N. Dort Highway—“or if you’re familiar with the area, just on North Dort along the state streets, between Missouri and Ohio,” Zalinski says with a nod. 

For more information, check out Ginaz’s Facebook page.

Read more articles by Jake Carah.

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