Gabe Golub wraps ribs.

“It’s the first time we’ll be on our own,” Frank Fejeran says of Ricewood Maple, the barbecue place he opened in early May with his co-owner and brother, Gabe Golub. “We don’t have ‘Daddy York’ helping us out.” 

Tommy York had helped the brothers get their start in 2015 when they launched Ricewood out of a food truck behind Morgan & York. After York renovated and revamped his business with new partners, the brothers moved inside the renamed York in 2019 to sell out of a permanent space. “He’s the unsung hero of Ricewood,” Fejeran says.

With brisk business from the start—“I remember we had about fifty people in line opening day” at the truck, says Golub—they’ve served up their signature barbecue-topped rice bowls that feature finadene, a soy-vinegar sauce with tomatoes and scallions. It’s a dish inspired by Fejeran’s Guamanian heritage. 

Fejeran, thirty-seven, had worked as a Chicago chef and brought his culinary skills to Ann Arbor’s Ravens Club before he decided he wanted more time with his young son. He recruited Golub, thirty, who’d just returned home after four years in the army, and together they launched the food truck, serving weekday lunches. 

“It was very cool,” Golub says, “like putting on a performance every day.” He spent a winter at Leroy and Louis, the famed Texas barbecue joint, “hanging out on the truck and working for free” to glean more barbecue secrets.  

“We are meticulous” about barbecue, says Fejeran. “A lot of people set it and forget it. We check [the meat] every fifteen, twenty minutes.” Their days start as early as five or six in the morning and end after close at 8 p.m. Ricewood offers brisket, pulled pork, spareribs, and Szechuan chicken, as well as veggie options and sides, sandwiches, and meat by the pound.

Their four-month buildout of the former GNC space features two brightly colored murals—including “Side of Rice” by local artist Gary Horton—and seating for sixteen. 

Unlike Packard, the new location has a fryer that’s already being used for waffle fries and, eventually, for a fried chicken sandwich special. 

Fejeran is still waiting on an exterior sign for the building but says “the diehards have already found us” across the parking lot from Plum Market. He says they’d eventually like to open a Ricewood on Ann Arbor’s north side, with a goal of four or five locations, possibly expanding to Brighton or Plymouth. 

Ricewood Maple, 245 N. Maple (Maple Village), (734) 9295405. Tues.Sat. 11 a.m.8 p.m. (or until sold out). Closed Sun. & Mon.