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Nov 30, 2006 12:45 AM

Slow's BBQ - Detroit (long)

In the interest of getting more about Detroit on here, here is the first of what are hopefully many reviews of local places.

I’ve been looking for good bar-b-que since I left Memphis nearly 10 years ago. I’ve found lots of places to eat, but few places that do it well. Most is edible, but little makes me want to go back again. I guess most people haven’t been to a real BBQ place and are happy to make Famous Dave’s successful and many other small places too. I’d heard about Slow’s online and convinced my wife it would be a good trip to make. It was about 30-35 minutes from our house, and my first time driving the route....

First Impressions: My first time in the old Tiger Stadium area, and while it looked a little run-down it definitely wasn’t what people had led me to believe. I wish that place were still open, I keep hearing about seeing a ballgame there. They offer valet parking (at $7), but we parked across 14th Street in an empty lot. Our car was still there when we left.

You walk into Slow’s through a big wooden door that doesn’t give much of an idea of what to expect. We walked into a modern looking place, light wood everywhere and a very inviting bar. We left our names and were told there would be about a 45 minute wait. I thought, no problem, they have a huge list of bourbons and beers that I want to taste.

We ordered 2 drinks, one Booker’s that was a great pour and more than I expected and a Capitan/Diet. Booker's is pretty smooth for what it is, but still has a nice bite and flavor, moreso than Baker's. Not an everyday Bourbon, but a perfect drink. Soon after we found seats at the bar and decided to order an appetizer.

BBQ Wings: 4 good sized real wings that were covered in spices and had a great smoky taste to them. They had been finished on the grill to give them a good char and that grilled flavor. It was a good sized appetizer, probably comparable to 10 wings in another bar, and it let us taste the sauces for the first time. My wife preferred the Spicy Sauce, I liked the Spicy+Sweet combination with the Wings. The mustard sauce was good, but not for the wings, same with the Apple BBQ.

After the appetizer, we decided that we might as well eat at the bar since we were comfortable. My wife as ordered a Martini, which she said was very well made. (More on Martini’s later about other places)

Another side note: Chairs with backs are great for actually sitting at the bar and eating. These barstools were great.

Texas Style Beef Brisket: I’ve always found brisket to be incredibly difficult to do. I’m always disappointed in how it comes out and usually need to cover it in sauce to make it edible. This was not the case at Slow’s. The meat was tender and smoky, and didn’t need any sauce to be good. It was even better with a bit of sauce and as leftovers the next day. The size of the portion was great, probably nearly a pound of meat on the plate. I thought the sweet sauce went really well with this and the mustard sauce also. The spicy was a bit much for the brisket.

Chicken Strut: My wife was convinced by the Wings to order the chicken, and was not disappointed. It was different from the wings, but still very good. It had a great smoky flavor and went really well with all of the sauces. The meat was flavorful and still juicy, really a perfectly done bird. It was a big half-chicken, and we still only had a little bit left to take home.

Mac-n-Cheese: Great side dish, very creamy and heavy, but with good flavor and comes in a nice baked style. Crispy top, clearly something that is at least finished to order.
Beans: overly sweet to me, although some people really like the brown sugar, I prefer less.
Waffle Fries: very crispy fries and had good flavor, not really hot, but that didn’t matter as we finished them
Cornbread: good cornbread, a nice sized slice, but nothing exceptional with it

Overall, a great experience in Detroit. If you’re looking for good bar-b-que, as I know many people are, this place is worth the trip. Still more bourbons and beers left on the list for me to taste, and with that BBQ, I know that I’ll be back for more.

Slow’s Bar-B-Que
PHONE: 313-962-9828
At the corner of Michigan Ave and 14th Street

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  1. Ha! I always sit at the bar when I go there, too. Shows you how little things like good ergonomics can put the finishing touches on a place.

    Anyone wondering about lighter meals can rest assured that this place has some great sandwiches along with the big BBQ plates. The neighborhood down there is on the way up, with good communication between residents and police--don't walk down the street swinging jewelry in the air, but the restaurant is on a major, well-traveled avenue and really does not feel unsafe.

    1. Great review, wonderin.

      1. good review. i really like the place.

        check out lazybones in roseville. it's a carryout place but their bbq is good.

        1. Thanks for the review. I've been looking forward to getting down there, but it is quite a hike for me, and it really isn't in the best part of town. Then again, neither is Scotty Simpson's Fish and Chips, and I go there all the time!

          I've been wanting some good 'cue for quite some time. Time to make the trip.

          1. Wonderin, thank you again for the review! I was there last night with four friends, all of us trying the place for the first time. Color us impressed.

            Having made a reservation for six of us at 5:45PM, we showed up on-time, minus one person we thought would be coming with. It wasn't a problem, as the *really* heavy traffic hadn't started coming in yet. They sat the five of us immediately at one of the few (if not the only) circular tables in the place. Everything was clean and inviting. When we got to the table, there were only two bottles (out of the normal six) of BBQ sauce there, which was quickly corrected. Our server, Nancy, was not only hospitable, but was knowledgable about the menu items, and did her job with gusto. We never felt neglected.

            The smoke factor was negligable, even though we were seated just a few feet away from the bar (which pretty much applies to every table in the place). They must have some ultra-high-powered (yet deadly silent) smoke filtering system, because I really only smelled smoke once while I was there, and it really didn't bother me. I'm pretty smoke-sensitive, and being seated so close to the bar did worry me, but it wasn't anything of consequence. The bar was almost always completely full, and when we ended up leaving, there was a good wait for table *and* the bar area. The word is, apparently, getting around.

            We started out with drinks (a surprisingly inexpensive DiSorrono sour for me was only $5, and was quite well-made), and two of my friends had a "Dead Guy" beer, which they said was pretty good. There's no "ordinary" beer at the place, so if you're the Miller Lite-type, you're going to be forced into a much-needed adventure trying some of their 21 unique beers. Nancy even offered to give another friend a sample of one to try when my friend asked if they had St. Pauly Girl. This was a subtle, yet appreciated, touch. Points scored for service, and not just for this. Service was great the whole night.

            We also went with the Split Pea and Okra Fritter appetizer, which was a hit all around the table. It sounded intriguing, and Nancy said that it was, by far, their best appetizer (and I've always been turned off by "typical" appetizers such as wings, potato skins, and the like). The deep-fried fritter was very nicely prepared, topped with dill pickles, and everything was atop what they describe as their "sassy sauce," which isn't in any of the six bottles you'll find on the table. This appetizer bode well for the food to come, as impressive as it was. It even looked pretty! As a note of caution: one fritter among five people isn't really enough. Two, however, would be adequate, if everybody's chipping in and splitting things.

            Almost everyone ordered something different, and we were all trying various different side dishes with our various entrees. I had the "You Choose" with a half slab of ribs and pulled pork, and chose the cole slaw and Mom's green beans for my sides. While everything was very good, my half slab was off the end of the slab, and the first several ribs were too dry to enjoy, but the other side was good. When I mentioned this, Nancy got her manager to ask me what else I would like instead, and having sampled my friend's fried catfish with remoulade, I asked for a piece of that, with the remoulade. Anyone who goes to this place and gets the catfish will *not* be disappointed, I'll say that! I literally ate every single piece of food I was served. The Mom's green beans were great, as was the cole slaw and the pulled pork. The various sauces allow you to try a great deal of differing tastes, and I steered clear of the vinegar-based NC sauce, which I knew I wouldn't like. Everyone was in agreement: this food rocked!

            Dessert was also good, though choices are limited to three: a peach/raspberry cobbler a la mode, some kind of Oreo fudge pie (which, when I remarked that it sounded like a "typical dessert at TGIFriday's, I was told that I was *completely* wrong, and that they're all made in-house, which made it more tempting), and banana pudding. I split the cobbler with a friend, which was plenty for two, and we thought it was quite good. The only thing I think could have improved it would have been if the peaches were fresh instead of canned. Alas, it's the wrong time of year for fresh peaches, and it was quite good all the same. Another friend had the banana pudding, which was a hit. I tried it, but having never truly appreciated banana-based desserts, it didn't do much for me. Everyone else who tried it was impressed, though.

            Overall, I was impressed and relieved. Impressed with the experience, the quality of the food, and the service (including the aforementioned manager, who was decidedly down-to-earth and friendly). Relieved in that I had picked this place as a new joint for all five of us to experience for the first time, and it exceeded all of our expectations.

            Detroit-area folks, it's time to hurry up and get to Slows! All of us left with smiles on our faces, knowing full well we'd be back.

            3 Replies
            1. re: boagman

              I've eaten there a couple of times. Both times I had very good service and the meals are good portions and very tasty. My only complaint, the food comes way to fast. I like to sit and relax between courses but no time. I guess it's so they can serve many people a night with the limited tables. I would suggest you eat here at least once. You will retun. The apple BBQ sauce is my fav. The area is not bad at all, Nothing to worry about. Just enjoy. Happy eating.

              1. re: vam

                Yep. I've been back several (6? 7?) times, and I've enjoyed the food every time I've been there. I was there this past Friday, and I see what you mean about the food arriving too fast...actually, I'd say that it arrived "timed wrong," in that our appetizer (that wonderful fritter again) arrived *with* our entrees, which was a bit off-putting. Still, all the food was great.

                And I, too, enjoy the apple BBQ sauce best. It really does wonders.

                Anyone who hasn't tried this place yet should, and if you want to avoid very long waits (we ate at the bar on Friday to avoid the 90 minute table wait), go on a weekday. You won't be sorry.

                1. re: boagman

                  Yeah, I'll second that. If you take the afternoon off and hit a museum or sporting event, this makes a great place to do a late lunch at 1:30 or 2. You can really relax and try a bunch of dishes and drinks.

                  That fritter, I think, is made fresh every time. I'll take it whenever they want to bring it out.