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Oct 20, 2010 04:29 PM

Union Woodshop Clarkston MI

I tried this place the other day....I thought the brisket rivaled Slows BBQ - anyone else been there? It is really good, but too far north for me to visit regularly.

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  1. Is there such a thing as "too far to go," for great brisket? ;-)
    Thanks for the reaffirming report. I've been meaning to head up there. Might give it a shot this weekend.

    2 Replies
    1. re: vtombrown

      You are right, vtombrown, for truly great brisket there is no such thing as "too far". Mr MomsKitchen and I went there to celebrate our anniversary a few weeks ago, The wait was a modest 10 minutes or so on a Sunday night, so my recommendation is to go on a Sunday. Brisket is my "control" dish for BBQ restaurant testing, but I'll be sure to try the pork next time.

      1. re: momskitchen

        And pulled pork is my "control" dish for the same. It's actually kind of rare that I go for the brisket...I kind of surprise myself when I do that, sometimes. I've *really* got to be craving beef, if that's the case.

        I'll keep your Sunday night rec in, it's a *lot* more likely that the Idiots Of The World will have their children at home on Sunday night, rather than on Friday or Saturday night.

        UW is honestly only about 10 minutes from my house, so it's a place I really should have been to already.

    2. I really like this place.Their smoked meats are right on along with their wide variety of bbq sauces. :D

      1. Okay, Momskitchen put this place in my brain, and I just HAD to go tonight. All I needed to do to get my wife’s blessing was agree to bring our 4 yr old with me, such that the wife could get a little “her time” alone at home for eve. Fair enough.

        I’d wanted to check it out ever since I saw Molly Abraham’s review a year ago (a couple months after Woodshop’s opening). Boy, have I been missing out, in the meanwhile. I second Momskitchen’s assertion that the brisket is in the same league as Slow’s. I’d say it is just a cut below, particularly since it seems to sit in a covered steam tray before serving, which gives it a bit of a water-logged tinge. But, I’ll give it a 93 out of 100, particularly for the quality of the beef (source=?) which is much better than my score for Lazybones (a place I like and used to love). The smoke was very evident and interesting, and only a real smoke lush would find it significantly lacking.

        The pulled pork rates even higher (95 out of 100). Really, the only thing that could have been improved there is the salvaging of a little more melted pork fat, and inclusion of a few more pieces of burnt crispy bark mixed into my generous pull—a pile that was served on an ugly aluminum tray with an undersized piece of delicious cornbread, and two sides (SUBLIME mashed sweet potatoes, and far-better-than-it-sounds simple red cabbage buttermilk coleslaw).

        This pork combo cost $13. A great price, given the regional league with which Woodshop barbecue hangs, and given the accompanying groovy atmosphere offering good music, well selected beer and wine options, not to mention a good number of well-fed, cute, 30-something, Clarkston/AuburnHills single women (not that I noticed) decorating the seats.

        By the way, my kid’s aforementioned brisket came with their “signature” artisan cheese / béchamel mac-n-cheese (which I liked more for its ingredient quality than its execution), as well as thoughtfully created, subtly flavored, barbecued beans…and more of that nice cornbread. $13, too.

        I should note that there were five interesting sauces on the table and two more available free upon request. One of the request sauces featured capsaicin extract and indeed would be fiery enough to evoke a nod from JanPrimus. I enjoyed each except for their “NYC Chinatown Sauce,” seemingly hoisin-based. All the sauces are named after geographic locations. The capsaicin hot BBQ sauce was humorously attributed to Hell, MI. Menu:

        As you might imagine, given the weight class in which Woodshop punches, waiting lines can involve twenty minutes for dinner at non-peak day/hrs, and well more than an hour during the Fri/Sat peaks, I’m told. But, as Momskitchen raises, this place certainly warrants some Chowhound experimentation and discussion. PS—can someone tell me how are the burnt ends, ribs and home stuffed wieners? (Thx!) …Doesn’t Sir Boagman currently live in Waterford?...where is his review?

        3 Replies
        1. re: vtombrown

          Sir Boagman has tried to eat here at least once, and was severely put off by the wait time for a table on one of those Saturday night peaks. I was already hungry, and the estimated 45-60 wait time for a table, coupled with the fact that there were copious amounts of idiot parents letting their hopefully-soon-to-be-killed spawn run around the place squealing like stuck pigs, we chose to dine elsewhere that evening. The place we went to was pretty lousy, but by that point, I didn't honestly care...I just needed to get some food in me. Taco Bell probably would have been just as fine.

          I'm actually still open to going to the Woodshop, though I fully admit to being put off *in general* by the long wait times that can come with places like this, or Slows, or wherever. Since this place is linked with the Clarkston Union (same ownership), and the last time I was at the Union I wasn't really impressed, it's not been too high a priority to get back there. Perhaps I should try it sooner rather than later, considering just how bad this area is, culinarily-speaking.

          I'll get to it soon, VTB.

          1. re: boagman

            If you don't go on a Friday or Saturday there will be no wait at all.
            This is a gem in the culinary wasteland known as Clarkston/Waterford.
            The service is very hit or miss, and more miss then hit (same as the Union). I've been very critical of the service at the Union, the Clarkston Cafe (and now the Woodshop).

          2. re: vtombrown

            The burnt ends are awesome.
            The caeser salads are generally awesome with your choice of smoked protein (shrimp, brisket, pulled pork or chicken).
            Added bonus? - if you go here on a regular basis (like I do), you are sure to run into kid rock and his entourage (which usually includes several lovely ladies).

          3. Finally got there Wednesday night. I'll start out by saying that the original post I started writing on Wednesday night was so jam-packed full of vitriol about the service that it would have approached "deletion status" by the mods, or darned near to it. The wait was long (again), the service was non-existent (really), and I got up to talk to the manager, who happened to be the bartendress who was *supposed* to be serving me and everyone else but wasn't, turned out to be the manager!

            And here's the unbelievable part: she *totally* turned the night around, and CHANGED MY MIND! Write down the day and the time, people: she did such a good job from that point on, that I tipped out at around 30%, and that's quite something considering how ticked off I was at the start. I mean, it's probably nothing short of a Modern Day Miracle Of Science, here. Her name was Carrie, or Kerrie, or Kerry, or however you spell it. Trust me: once she got traction, she was just fine, and I was quite happy with the whole experience.

            I had the pulled pork sandwich, which is served with potato salad, but other sides can be subbed out for that. I really, really liked the pulled pork sandwich, even without sauce, but with 5 of the 6 sauces being quite good ('bama is a horseradish/mayo combo which I found disgustingly awful), I was able to enjoy it that way, too. I ordered my sandwich without sauce and added my own as I went along. Texas, Tennessee, NYC, SC, and Hell sauces were all good, but the SC (mustard-based) and NYC sauces seemed to be the best match with the pork. Texas and Tenn. were fine, but I liked the other two with pork just a bit more.

            The potato salad, however, was just plain *nasty*, at least to my tastes, and I'll totally own that. The potato salad at the Woodshop is just a major-league dill fest, and while I like dill as a spice, that much dill is just awful. Some people may like it, and that's fine...but I found it inedible.

            Carrie to the rescue! She saw my reaction to the first bite of potato salad from a couple of people away, and knew something was wrong immediately, and came over to find out what it was. I told her, and she immediately offered me a different side, and I asked about a couple different ones, until I saw "hand-dipped onion rings", which I knew I had to try. She ordered them, and when they got to me, they were piping hot. They're good, but they're not in the league of, say, Scotty Simpson's or Redcoat Tavern. However, their price point of $3, added to the fact that they'd be a superior app for a table of four, *and* the fact that they serve as a great delivery system for the myriad sauces (I preferred the Hell sauce on these, and really enjoyed them that way) makes them a very, very good option.

            After the initial lapse in service, my pop glass only ever reached the bottom once with me just having to catch Carrie's eye and let her know, and it was immediately rectified, which isn't a problem at all, especially considering that I also had a glass of water brought to me *without being asked*, which hardly ever happens anymore, and is actually a very nice touch, I thought. Plus, it gives that buffer in case my pop glass empties prematurely, see? Carrie was on top of her game, and she was non-intrusively friendly, and was actually working her butt off. She'd had a call-in, so she was managing, tending bar, *and* waiting tables. It's amazing that she was able to balance it all.

            So! What have I learned? Woodshop *can* be worth the wait, since the food does appear pretty worthy at first glance. Service this night was spectacular after the initial problem, and it was more than made up for with the stellar service from then on. Fair's fair, right? Gotta be even-handed about this stuff.

            In the end, Carrie didn't even charge me for the pop, even when I pointed out that it wasn't on the bill. She was tipped well, and I'll be back for certain. What a very nice surprise, and a welcome addition to what can still only be described as The Culinary Wasteland. Now, a bit less so, I'd say.

            10 Replies
            1. re: boagman

              Boagman, Reading that review was quite the adventure. You're an ambitious customer and a big tipper to match.

              1. re: boagman

                I went back again tonight, and walked away mighty happy once again, as did my roommate Alex. No initial service problem this time, either. And, it's entirely possible that the pulled pork sandwich was a bit *better* than last time. They're definitely earned their continued existence over at the Woodshop.

                I cannot put into words how happy it makes me to have this place up in this culinary wasteland.

                1. re: boagman

                  i better get back there myself! thx for the reminder.
                  ps--ever try Bar Louie at Great Lakes Crossing?

                  1. re: VTB

                    Can't do Bar Louie, VTB. Its "Hooters-esqueness" makes it a place I can't patronize, no matter the quality of the food.

                    1. re: boagman

                      Okay, got it.
                      fyi-- the Bar Louie at Great Lakes Crossing is one of the few that is privately owned, rather than corp HQ owned...The corp HQ owned B.L.'s are more conservative with regards to floor staff uniforms.

                      1. re: boagman

                        Hmmm....the Bar Louie in Ann Arbor isn't Hooters-esque at you mean buxom waitresses? Ours is more of a dark sleek singles bar.

                        1. re: momskitchen

                          No...I'm referring to the way they're outfitted. I've no objection to pretty servers at all. It's the way they're, um, "used" that puts me off. From what I've seen at Great Lakes Crossing Mall, the servers at the Bar Louie there look like the place is really, *really* trying to whore them out, and I haven't seen anything that ridiculously pandering to the lowest common denominator since Lucky Strike in Novi, which basically does the exact same thing.

                          I don't go to strip clubs, either, but at least strip clubs are blatantly honest about what they do.

                          1. re: boagman

                            Amen to that Boagman!!! We thought that the wait satff at Bar Louie GL Crossing were a bit too objectified for our liking as well. Funny thing is we went to one in Chicago that was not nearly as bad in that regard.

                            1. re: Jack Freeman

                              Hmm. So apparently, not all Bar Louies are like the one at GLC, then. I'll have to remember that if I'm somewhere else.

                            2. re: boagman

                              They don't dress like that at the Ann Arbor fact, I think I had a male waiter the last time I was there.

                  2. I realize everyone has their own opinion and they often don't agree so....I found the Union Woodshop to have terrible brisket. It came out cod and rubbery and their side dishes were awful. The black beans tased like they opened a can and threw them in a bowl. I couldn't possibly even compare it to Slows. Slows (again in my opinion) is the Detroit areas BEST bbq place hands down. Lazybones in Roseville is pretty tasty too. I agree that there is no "too far" to go for excellent food but driving 35 minutes and waiting another 60 to sit down and be fed one of the worst meals I have had was a complete disappointment. When we pulled the server aside and explained that the brisket was cold ..she whisked our pllates away only to bring them back obviously microwaved. I realize that restaurants can't hit a home run everytime but when they don't they should at least attempt to make it right. It is owned by the same people that own the Union and at first I loved that place but I think their menu now lacks imagination and even worse...follow through. I realize I may sound harsh but it really is a rare restaurant that turns me off so instantly but I will NEVER go back ..there are way too many great places to eat in the area!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Jack Freeman

                      Hi Jack Freeman. Welcome aboard!
                      I had a great experience at Union Workshop. Granted, it was only a single visit / datapoint. It seems possible that Woodshop just had a bad day when you visited, or maybe they have chronic issues with inconsistency? I don't know. But, I do hope to go back and collect more data!

                      1. re: vtombrown

                        Thanks! I'm really enjoying reading all the boards and the comments! Regarding the Woodshop, normally we are willing to give a restaurant three tries before we declare it horrible,because I do realize every restaurant has bad days, perhaps our visit may still be too fresh in my mind to go back for a second try soon. But I'm sure we eventually we will and I will attempt to be open minded!!!

                        1. re: Jack Freeman

                          Welcome to our little corner of the Ubernets!