Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Slows Bar B Q, Detroit




I think nearly any American expat living in France would offer up the same response when asked the question, "What food do you miss the most from home?" The answer would be: Mexican. Or more specifically, Real Mexican Food as yes, Old El Paso can be bought even at my local grocery store in Arles and that isn't even food let alone authentic. My Mom knows this and so whipped up her crispy quesadillas with tomatillo salsa within an hour or so of my arrival in the States. For that, not to mention the glass of wine that was immediately placed in my hand, I thank her. I am also grateful for her truly infallible food radar, one that the military would covet if only they could figure out how to transform it into say, a heat-seeking missile.


So when she kept suggesting that we take a road trip down to Detroit (not even 45 minutes from Ann Arbor) for BBQ, I listened. In the realm of expatatia, great BBQ is beyond what one can even hope for and so is often left off the list. And yet somehow before we knew it, my trip was almost over. But my Mom is a wily one and nothing will stop her from good food even if she has to take a personal day off from work to get it (shhh). This is after all, the woman who said that I had a dentist appointment one day when I was in high school so that I could attend a traditional Indonesian luncheon at India Joze in Santa Cruz, California (rightfully feeling that I would learn more from the experience that I would that day in school). So soon, off we went, barrelling down the highway with her companion, Leonard in his big Lincoln that we affectionately call "the Boat."



Later, when folks would hear that we went to Slows Bar B Q, they would immediately ask, "How long  was your wait?" Turns out, Slows is famous. But it also just so happened that luck was on our side. Even though it was already past 1:30pm when we heaved open the heavy front door, we were initially told by the hostess (who is heading to Paris next April) that it would be 45 minutes but to come back for our beeper (ah, only in America!) in fifteen. Back in ten as it was too cold to wander, we were seated straight away.



It says a lot about "the what" we were about to dive into that the beer menu in the bar area suggested to "Buy a six pack for the kitchen" for $5.95. Well, they do have to smoke and roast all of the meats on the menu for hours--hence the name Slows--I suppose they could use a little encouragement from time to time. That there were four different types of sauce, including the vinegary North Carolina style (David Terry, are you listening?) on the table also had me curious.


Need I mention the...perfume...of what was so clearly the real deal that permeated the room? I leaned my head back and murmured a drawn out "Baar--beee-quuuue"...


We noticed the mix of customers from business men with their ties flung over their shoulders to big tables of families to sociable students, all united by one factor: they all looked supremely content. The conviviality was encouraged by the staff, our waiter was a charmer and steered us where we needed to go on the menu. 


A $7 glass of excellent Crozes-Hermitage to start? No wonder these folks were serious about putting the Bar back into BBQ. Don't mind if I do. The most fulfilling, smokiest gumbo that I have ever had outside of New Orleans? Ditto.


Not being fools, my Mom and I decided to share an order of the Carolina Style Pulled Pork (at only $12.95 the buy of the century) rather than attempting plates of our own, most especially as it came with two quite copious sides. We choose a bowl of earthy baked beans spiked with jalapenos and coriander...


...and of course, of course, the gooiest, creamiest Mac-n-cheese, the one that I will be longing for almost as much as that pork...roasted with the bone left in, falling apart, perfectly pulled, lightly sauced and tender as can be. You know how we wanna be Frenchies love our sucré-salé and the spice rub used fit the bill perfectly. 


We did our best.


And although we are not fools, we are indeed gluttons. The proof is in the (banana) pudding that my Mom finally caved it to ordering "just to have a little nibble of something sweet, you know." I do, Mom, I do. Did I need that second glass of Crozes to finish it off with? Perhaps not but I was on vacation after all...


I raise that now imaginary glass to Slows. When we ambled out into the big city of Detroit (more of that to follow soon), we all were surprised by the happiness, just that, happiness that we felt. A wonderful hour or two, catching the contagious good times of what is now my favorite BBQ joint in the nation. I am already mentally planning what I will order when next I go back. For certainly, this is not goodbye but simply au revoir...

Slows BBQ
2138 Michigan Avenue
Detroit, Michigan
Tel.: (1) 313-962-9828
And for you lucky fools that are in the region: http://slowstogo.com/
Now, if only I can convince them to Fedex some Slows my way...

33 comments:

  1. Yummy! That's all I can say. Food looks so delicious that now I'm craving Miami's famous Shorty's BBQ where you can prepare to stand in line outside for over one hour on a good day!
    Food and family...nothing beats that, right?
    Keep'em coming
    :)
    Sylvia S.

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    1. Food and family? Perfectly said Sylvia. Especially in my family where the two are linked like shaking hands! I have never been to Miami although I might in the future so will keep your Shorty's suggestion in mind! Merci!

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  2. Ohhh forgot to say that the beer for the kitchen is a great touch, but I wonder how alcohol and cooking go together? hahaha...I should know.

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    1. As long as it isn't over the top, a bit of wine while cooking works for me!

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  3. Is there anyone who doesn't like Mexican? For us, it's Tex-Mex & I could eat it everyday. Love you !!

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    1. I could eat sushi, bbq and Mexican everyday. But now that would be one heck of a diet now wouldn't it? :O
      Bisous!

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  4. There is nothing like the comfort of home and the familiar. As Dr Seuss says. "life is a great balancing act" ............ especially when you have 2 homes on different continents with different languages. Enjoy. Bisous

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    1. Beautifully said, Elizabeth. Merci beaucoup, beaucoup.
      Bisous à toi aussi!

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  5. Hello Heather - I can just see you motoring down to Detroit in your big lincoln. This all looks delicious. Mike was born in Windsor, Ontario, just across the bridge/tunnel from Detroit. Next time we visit, I shall be crossing to visit Slows BBQ
    Now you have me craving Mac-n-cheese.
    Helen xx

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    1. Oooh, Helen I had forgotten the Ontario connection! Yes, really do go. But please do use the guarded parking lot which is behind the Mercury Bar across the street. The neighborhood is up and coming, so to speak. And I would suggest following the meal with a stroll around the amazing Detroit Institute of the Arts (I will post about it soon) which blew me away in the little of it that I saw, let alone for you...

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  6. Your Mum sounds like a real foodie and knows just the right food for the right occasion ...I am not familiar with Mexican food but it sure looks a treat and I'm sure if I were ever anywhere near Detroit I would be certainly programing my GPS to "Slows BBQ"

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    1. Dianne! Mexican and BBQ are not the same! :-) Which makes me think that you have not have awesome examples of either which would be surprising in all of your travels...hmmm...something to take care of! And my Mum IS a true down to the roots foodie and I love her for it!

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  7. ... and of course this... ahem... feast, was followed by a two-hour long [energetic] walk even though dear old Ben was not there to keep you company?! :-) That is the only way I could have fallen asleep that night, or even for the rest of the week... Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

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    1. Hey Miss Smarty Pants! I'll have you know that is was followed by such a long walk (one I will post on soon) and that because my Mom and I split the main, it was...dealable. We felt full but not at all comatose. Really! :)

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  8. Mmmmm - I can't believe I had to miss this!! It looks crazy delicious and worth all of the fuss - I've got to work out a trip to Detroit sooner than later! Miss you, foodie sister!

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    1. Miss you too!!! Sigh. And you really need to make this happen sooner than later!!! It is sooo worth it.

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  9. Oh, Heather.....

    I haven't been exactly "listening", but I have been reading (in addition to rolling up and packaging three small paintings that will, tomorrow, be shipped off to you and Remi "Mr Britches in the House" Benali.....let's all pray to our various gods that they arrive at your house within the next thirteen days).

    that said?....yes, I know full-well about North Carolina "Style" barbecue, and all the various, disorientingly INTENSE feuds about the various styles.....Texas, Chicago, North Carolina, etcetera. I'm good friends with John Shelton and Dale Reed (well-known food writers you might know of, who recently published "Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue"....a wonderfully interesting sociological/"foodie" book that delves deeply into the overwrought division between Eastern Carolina barbecue "style" AND Western North Carolina barbecue "style").

    Who knew that folks could so intense (the only term for it) over danged BARBECUE??????...and let's not even get into Texas versus Kansas City "style" versus chicago "style", etcetera.

    Of course, this (North Carolina) is the state in which folks will argue for HOURS AND DAYS AND YEARS over the rivalry between Duke and UNC basketball. The two campusses (sp?) are about twelve miles apart....and the two different "styles" of barbecue are, insofar as I can figure, differentiated only by the fact of one's adding tomatoes or not. all in all, I don't tend to involve myself in the fuss.

    Still?.....folks will argue about these matters FOREVER. My good guess (I should emphasize that I couldn't care less about either basketball or barbecue) is that folks invariably and eternally need something to argue about.

    As for "Slow's"???.....

    I'll go to their website, but I doubt I need to do so to confirm my instant-assumption.....the restaurant was started (so to speak) by Southern blacks who moved up North sometime after 1940? I took one look at the "sides"....and I can promise you that, whoever the owners were, they came from west of Nashville before ending up in Michigan (or, for that matter, Chicago....this is quite like listening to a chicago blues-man and KNOWING instantly that his grandfather came from Mississippi). this is food that came up from the Delta, perhaps took a stop-over in Cincinatti or St. Louis...and then ended up being duly (if sentimentally) loved in a place like Detroit or Chicago. You might enjoy the website for the Southern Foodways Alliance.

    It's the same with Indian restaurants.....whether they be in London or New york......you can (if you know your stuff) do nothing more than simply read the menu.....and you KNOW from where the owner's grandparents emigrated.

    Advisedly yours as ever,

    david Terry
    www.davidterryart.com

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  10. Heather wow that mac and cheese. Everything looks great! We DO have some great Barbeque here in Kansas City as well!

    2012 Artists Series,
    xoxo
    Karena

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    1. Arthur Bryant's. Well, it was about fifteen years ago that my ex spoke of it as if it were the Grail of BBQ but how I did wish that I had tasted it...

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  11. Oh.....I just googled the joint. Turns out it's about 5 years old, turned 1.8 million in revenue during the first year of operation, and is owned by a very smart white guy who's quite obviously done his homework.

    What I want to know now is....has Aretha decided to notice "Slows" exists and come by for lunch?

    Until that happens, it's still just a flash in the pan.....


    ----david terry

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    1. Hmmm. That is a good question. Although I am not so certain that Aretha sightings are so common these days, unfortunately. And as you most likely saw, the whole thing has a lot going for it in every way. Well thought out and giving back. Dude is serious about what he is doing even though you happily don't feel it in any sort of heavy way when you are there. And I do believe it will last...

      As for the local/regional arguments, bah, child's play compared to France. Ask Hervé if you need to, which I doubt.
      xo
      H

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    2. Oh....(and regarding your last comment)... France (which I know full well without consulting Herve) doesn't necessarily have anything on the American South (to be distinguished from the rest of the USA, as I'm scarcely the first to have done throughout his life) when it comes to culinary chauvinism.

      ----david terry

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  12. Great Mexican food can be addictive as great barbecue. Your mom sounds like a fun mother and Leonard is her partner in fun...:) I'd say you've done good by not leaving Michigan without enjoying a great all American barbecue dinner. That should last you for a while, unless Slows fed ex to Provence.

    XO
    Amelia

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    1. It is true, Amelia, just looking at these photos is allllmost like tasting it again. Almost!
      Put my tree up today!
      Bisous,
      H

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    2. Bravo! Bien fait. I bet the tree looks amazing. "Oh Christmas Tree....how lovely are your branches."

      Gros bisous,
      Amelia

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  13. Even living in 'the States' we find ourselves craving certain authentic foods (and drinks). We've been dreaming of the tamarindo margaritas we drank in the tiny Mexican hill town last spring; asking bartenders throughout our Western Road Trip if they had them. No one did; one said he thought they might offer them as seasonal specials (couldn't remember when though) and then when we least expected it. . .at Wisdom's Cafe some 19 miles north of Nogales, 'our' margaritas were on the menu. . .and by then we were too stuffed with the good Mexican food to drink one. Ahhh, but next time. . .

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    1. Now you have me dreaming of them too and I don't even know what they taste like!

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  14. Oh my GOSH. I thought I didn't really like bbq, but this makes me realize that I don't know BBQ. Thanks for the introduction, Heather! So glad you had such a fun and delicious meal with your mom!

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    1. Ann! A supreme foodie like yourself deserves to discover the transcendent qualities of great BBQ. Really. At its best it is fine, fine and complex. Right up your alley.
      Not to mention that there has to be something good in your new neighborhood. Has to.
      Bisous,
      H

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  15. This sounds like the kind of place that my husband would love. These type of restaurants are so homely and welcoming. I wanted to thank you for your latest comment. Your words warm up my heart.

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    1. Loree, you are a wonderful writer and like the best of them, make it look so easy. I think that you would have loved such a lunch as this and I know your honey would have too!
      xo,
      H

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  16. Boy, you are indulging in the comfort foods of home. It's amazing what we miss when it's not available. When we are in Maine, I get real hungry for Mexican food, but folks there haven't figured out how to make it yet. You can bet the first night back in Houston we head for one of our favorite places.

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  17. My mouth is watering! Seriously, it's watering! The only thing I miss as much as Mexican is some good BBQ and holy cow, that stuff looks GOOD!
    And your mom sounds like my kind of lady :) x

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