Sparks BBQ in downtown Traverse City started with a passion for backyard grilling. Encouraged by family and friends’ endless compliments, owner and pitmaster Dean Sparks opened up a food truck at The Little Fleet. Serving slow smoked pulled pork, baby back ribs, and sandwiches topped with homemade coleslaw; the truck was a flaming success. Today, barbecue lovers can find Dean at his brick-and-mortar restaurant at 201 E. Front St. Or fulfill your grill desires at home with a few of Dean’s favorite recipes.

Bacon Bowl


  • 1 pound standard cut bacon
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (each cut into 1/4)
  • 2 kids cheese mozzarella cheese sticks, sliced into 1/4″ rings (fresh mozzarella would be tastier but more expensive)
  • 10 leaves fresh basil (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup thin slices red onion
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh garlic chopped
  • 1 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Bacon bowl

Form a sheet of heavy duty foil around a 2 cup measuring cup with straight sides, not one that flares out. Remove foil template and set measuring cup to the side. Create a bacon weave basket over the aluminum foil and secure with toothpicks. Start with the bottom of the bowl and drape six strips of bacon in a radial pattern creating a solid bottom and overlapping in the center. To build the side walls, take a strip of bacon and begin weaving it around the sides starting at the base. Secure each end of bacon by sticking a toothpick through the foil. Three strips of bacon should create a finished bowl approximately 3 inches tall. Grill bacon bowl template over indirect heat on a grill until bacon is cooked and firms up, making sure bacon doesn’t shrink to the point of creating gaps in the weave. Remove from heat, remove bacon from the aluminum and set aside to cool. Trim top of bowl with scissors to make a level rim.


Toss remaining ingredients. Pour contents into bacon bowl and garnish with bacon trimmings from the rim.

Grilled Asparagus Wraps


  • 1 pound asparagus, washed & trimmed
  • 1 pound sliced deli ham (rectangle shaped)
  • 16 thin slices of smoked Gouda cheese


Place one slice of cheese on one slice of ham. Lay 2 to 3 stalks of asparagus on ham, roll up and stick with a toothpick. Cook on a grill over medium heat until cheese starts to melt and ham begins to darken in color. Remove and serve immediately.

Onion with Blue Cheese and Bacon


  • 2 large sweet onions
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup cooked, crumbled bacon
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 1 tablespoon softened butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Slice off the top of the onions, remove outer skin, leaving root intact. Using a tablespoon, begin to core out the center of the onion to create a basin for fillings, approximately the size of a half tennis ball. Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl and fill onions. Wrap onions in heavy duty foil, and cook directly in the coals of a bonfire or charcoal grill, making sure mixture is up. Remove after 45 to 60 minutes and set in a bowl to cool. Rest for 15 minutes, remove foil and any charred layers of the onion and serve.

Find more grilling ideas in MyNorth’s recipe directory!

More Northern Michigan Food & Drink

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Photo(s) by Dean Sparks