Well, well, Detroit! Aren't we just coming into our own on the national scene?
First, we get some love for our fabulous Detroit-style pizzas from GQ. Then, MORE pizza-love (and a little bit of taco love, and love for this very blog) from the New York Post. And now--the one, the ONLY, Bon Appetit magazine has named not one but TWO Michigan restaurants as being the tops in "relatively new" BBQ joints.
Of course, "relative" is relative--both Slows Bar BQ in Detroit and Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor have been around enough years to no longer constitute as "new." (And hell, in restaurant years--at 4 and 5 years open, respectively--these places might as well have historic designations.) However, I am certainly not about to look a gifthorse in the mouth, especially since I know horses bite.
I will conspicuously avoid speaking on Zingerman's as I continue to have myself convinced that Ann Arbor just simply isn't an extended part of metro Detroit, even though it is becoming increasingly obvious that indeed it really is.
So...Slows. Grats! While I do think this place is wonderful, I think it is wonderful in that "Gee I'm really glad we have a fun eclectic trendy popular place like this in Detroit" sort of way and not so much in that "This just might be some of the best BBQ food in all of North America" sort of way.
BUT. As far as fun eclectic trendy popular places go, this one is certainly on par with any such place you might find in more major-er cities, and in fact might even be hard-pressed to find such a fun eclectic trendy popular place as this in cities like the mysteriously meat-phobic L.A. or Manhattan, where "BBQ" might as well be a four-letter word. And while the food is good--perhaps even really good--I'd still bet a brisket that the whole of the giddy-up South does it better.
BUT. What makes Slows so great isn't necessarily the food--it is how quintessentially Detroit it is, right down to the Ghettoblaster on tap and the bar full of shaggy-haired Detroit hipsters (up to and including shaggy-haired hipster Phillip Cooley, the owner of the joint and a genuine Detroit booster, making a reputation for himself as the guy to go to for help when you want to start a business--just ask anyone who has started a business in the last two years). The music you'll hear will always be a mix of of indie rock, new and old--from Bob Dylan to the Hard Lessons and every bit of rock-and-roll randomness in between.
Trendy, yes. But in that anti-trendy trendy way that is so entirely Detroit. The beers on tap are a fine selection of boutique breweries, representing a number of Michigan brews as well as beer from Oregon, Pennsylvania, and even Sri Lanka. The menu is a clever take on classic deep-South BBQ joint dishes, from the meat, meat, and more meat to the comfort food favorite mac-and-cheese (the one dish here that probably gets more lip service than the piles of meat). The crowd is a revolving collection of hipsters, foodies and Tigers fans. The vibe is 100% Detroit, pure and simple.
There might be better restaurants. And there might be better places for BBQ grub. But if this is the place that has been chosen to rep our city in the national media (presenting Detroit in an all-too-uncommon fun and trendy light), I think Detroit has done pretty well for itself.
Congratulations again, Slows, and thanks for making it work for the rest of us.