Friday, November 25, 2011

Urban Revival

Call it a sign. Call it coincidence. Call it dumb luck. Whatever you call it you have to admit there did seem to be some cosmic forces at work to point me in the direction of Slows Bar B Q in Detroit.
Less than a week before we depart on our Thanksgiving trip (which takes us through Detroit) I see Adam Richman and the Man vs. Food crew showing off the Triple Threat Pork sandwich at this down town Detroit establishment. As if that wasn’t enough to put it on my radar a day before we leave I notice someone hailing the TTP sandwich as one of Detroit’s top 10. It had to be a sign.

I always approach BBQ joints north of the Mason Dixon Line (or Ohio River) with trepidation. Far too many places up north don’t get it. Old school, down home BBQ is an art form. Something, sadly, most northern joints can’t seem to master. Part of that is simply experience. You don’t just pop a couple shoulders and a few racks of ribs into a smoker and poof!! Great BBQ. Nope, truly awesome Q takes years upon years to master. The big BBQ craze afoot has seen many Johnny Come Lately’s who figure mastering a grill is all the prerequisite they need. Top it off with northerner’s pension for wanting to “Upgrade” and it most often falls well short. Why try to reinvent the wheel, right?? But we feel the idea of three types of pig in one convenient package was enough to warrant a stop in Motown at Slows.002

I’ve always viewed Detroit with both contempt and sadness. I’ve looked down my nose at the “Shit hole” I see from the interstate. Murder capital and all that it is, wondering why anyone would live there. The thing is, as I’ve ventured off the interstate and down to ground level sniffing out food, a different Detroit reveals itself. A once vibrant city sits in ruins yet those who’ve remained are voraciously proud. To people who’ve never been, I’ve likened it to Muhammad Ali. Once great now ravage by time and circumstance. A once hulking champion now regarded with sadness. Well enter businesses like Slows. Leading the charge in the rebirth of Detroit headed by part owner Phillip Cooley. Cooley has been named chairman of the mayor’s Detroit Works Project. Helping to map out Detroit’s potential future. Just one of several boards on which Cooley sits. He isn’t alone and his efforts to return Motown to it’s former glory aren’t going un-noticed. Slowly, very slowly people are returning to the city. They see bargains and find them a little too good to pass up. The architecture is beautiful albeit blighted. Nothing some TLC won’t fix though. Take the Michigan Central Railway station across the street from Slows as a microcosm. Majestic yet sits derelict. Waiting to be returned to its former glory. Much like the city itself.

The rebuild is taking place in the Corktown area where Slows has grown to the point of bursting. Long line ups are a common sight in the evening and on weekends. Arriving after 1pm on a Monday saw the place very crowded but no line. The smallish dining room has a nice warehouse feel to it with exposed brick and beams. Perfectly complimenting the late Victorian Era exterior. Opening the front door I was sadly not met with the smell of smoke hanging in the air. Boo. There was however the unmistakable smell of pig fat that I was more than eager to drink in. Yea!!003

So how was it?? Oddly enough we stayed with the more traditional style offerings and we were quite pleasantly satiated. The more normal Q offerings would have to wait for another day.

First, let’s talk sauces. Slows makes 5 of them. All good but two really stood out. Although the Apple and Sweet were nice, the Spicy (while not very spicy) was even better. The NC and Mustard sauces were however the clear winners. The NC hinted strongly at Buffalo Chicken Wing sauce and seemed clear that it would be terrific on poultry. The mustard sauce had a nice honey like sweetness to it for great balance. Perfect for pork.008

The Brisket Enchiladas were good but not the homerun that AR made them out to be. Not good enough for a second try but certainly satisfying. One criticism I have is that the beef had very little Q taste. It tasted like beef but no real Q hints.006

You seldom see fish on a southern BBQ menu and certainly not battered and fried. But Mrs. Sippi loves catfish and tempura so she couldn’t resist. It was simply outstanding. Crispy on the outside with melt in your mouth fish inside. The lighter tempura didn’t over power the delicate flavour of the fish and the creole mustard remoulade was an excellent compliment.007

Then of course there’s the whole reason for the visit. The Triple Threat Pork sandwich. Bacon, pulled pork and ham stacked on top of each other. Fabulous right off the line it was made even better with the mustard sauce. A truly outstanding sandwich worthy of the praise heaped upon it.005 
I will point out a couple things about the pulled pork since a few large pieces fell out and were consumed al a carte. It doesn’t have the big smoke flavour that I prefer and didn’t really scream “Rub” or anything like that. What it did have was an incredible pig flavour. The meat itself was some of the best tasting pork I’ve had.

So all in all, my views on BBQ and especially northern joints has taken an uptick. Seems you can do this nouveau Q thing and make it work. As I’ve always said, taste trumps all.

You can find Slows in Detroit’s Corktown district at 2138 Michigan Ave.

You can also find them on the web, facebook and twitter.
 Slows Bar BQ on Urbanspoon

Well that's all for now folks. See ya next time in the food court.

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