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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 mind...plus, 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: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clarkst...

        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 all....do 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 location....in 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!

                    2. Went to the Woodshop for lunch today. Got there a few minutes early so I visited Rudy's across the street. Beer selection like few others. Back on topic, Brisket with mac&cheese, sweet potato mash and a sidecar of big boy ribs. The brisket is almost better than the other 7 posts I have made on bbq and if I didn't have the wonderful rib taster I wouldn't have had any leftovers. The sauce spectrum was very good and playing with them was part of the fun. I tried the NC (2nd hottest) but passed on the ghost chili. They have to bring those from the back with a warning to accompany.

                      Great atmosphere ( almost ski lodgish with the Clarkston downtown and snow falling on a Saturday). Terrific beer selection (though I had O'doul's as the driver).

                      As a closer the jalapeno cornbread was more desert than cornbread but was a sweet treat to finish.

                      Other than the crowds (what can really be worse than Slow's) I will be back for the Jucy Lucy burger and pulled pork.

                      1. We had to make a quick trip to Detroit from up north yesterday and decided to make the Woodshop our last stop on the way home. Arriving at 6ish on a Monday night, there were plenty of tables available. Our server was competent and knowledgeable, which rounded out a very enjoyable experience.
                        We started with the fried pickle spears, which I loved but my husband only liked. The spears had a nice crunch and the flavor was fresh, so the batter did not overpower it with "fried" taste. The batter was a little thick in a couple of spots, so that made it a bit doughy for a couple of bites, which is what put my husband off. It did not deter me, though! Served with 'Memphis mayo', which I thought was a little bland, so I added more of the 'Tennessee' bbq sauce to it. At $2.50 for 4 hand-dipped spears, this is a bargain.
                        My husband got the pulled pork platter which must have contained no less than a pound of pork. He ate maybe a third. It was rich with melted pork fat and had good flavor. I agree with VTB, I wish there were more crusty bits, and overall it did have a little soggy quality. Nonetheless, my husband LOVED his meal and is looking forward to a pile of pulled pork for lunch today. He went with the sweet potato mash, which he loved (there was some hesitation about the charred jalepeno since he only likes mild spice, but it wasn't spicy at all. A really nice complement to the maple syrup.) His second side was the mac-n-cheese. Very good flavor, lots of crunchy topping, but this isn't creamy dripping-with-cheese baked macaroni (actually it's penne). It's not dry, but definitely not saucy. I would say it wins points for flavor over texture.
                        Our server kindly brought a sidecar (a '$3 portion') of burnt ends, though it's only on the menu as an appetizer for $4.95. A deal either way. We enjoyed them, but here again I was hoping for more of a crusty quality and these come smothered with Tennessee bbq sauce which the ends have been kept warm in, so.. no crust.
                        I could not resist trying the Juicy Lucy burger (after goatgolfer's post on that topic) and was not disappointed. The only topping on this burger is pickled onion and it doesn't need anything more. That being said, I was looking for a vehicle for the South Carolina sauce (mustard-based) and this burger was a perfect fit. The bun is small and light, but didn't get soggy or fall apart (amazingly). The burger was served with a pile of hand-cut fries to match my husband's pullled pork. They were good, but I only ate a fraction of them.
                        As for the bbq sauce at the Woodshop, we sampled four of the five that are provided on the table. We didn't care for the NYC sauce (hoisin-based) or the Texas (chipotle), so we stuck with the basic Tennessee sauce and, as mentioned, the South Carolina (mustard-based) sauce (which I also added to the 'Memphis mayo' that came with the fries.)
                        The house-made desserts were tempting and, for fear I never make it back to Clarkston, I had to get an order of the Butterscotch Pudding to go. It's described as layered with smoked sea salt and fresh whipped cream. Yum. Salty caramely goodness. Even after four hours in the car (in a cooler), it was a delicious nighcap.
                        If we make it back in the future, there are a few other sides we'd like to try - would like to know how the collard greens and bbq baked beans rate for example- and, if we can somehow manage to save room for it, the fresh-baked made-from-scratch skillet brownie. Our server forewarned us to order it early, as it takes 15 minutes to bake.
                        I'm going to start eating healthier today. Seriously.

                        1. So. The wise folk at the Freep selected Union Woodshop Restaurant Of The Year 2011.

                          I'm kind of perplexed by this choice because I don't consider Clarkston a part of metro Detroit.

                          What say other local 'hounds?

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: RedTop

                            Clarkston is definitely part of metro Detroit.
                            But, I am still perplexed by the selection, though I love the Woodshop.
                            The food and concept are fine; I just have issues with the service, which is definitely not worthy of restaurant of the year consideration.

                            1. re: RedTop

                              I am astounded by this choice. Union Woodshop, in my opinion, should NEVER have been named Restaurant of the Year. Unlike many Chowhounders I have never had a good experience there. I have eaten there on three separate occasions and found the wait unbearable, the service terrible and the food simply ok.

                              There are so so many restaurants in the Detroit area that are far more deserving of the title. Who decided this the Freep Staff? So annoying!!

                              1. re: RedTop

                                Maybe it has more to do with the spirit behind the place. It appeared evident to me that the owners put considerable thought into providing an interesting menu and environment while keeping prices refreshingly reasonable. In the current economic climate, they seem to have made good choices. It's not perfect, but I came away feeling they are making a worthy effort. Then again, I've only been there once, had no wait, and an excellent server! :)

                                1. re: RedTop

                                  I have mixed emotions re: the selection. The location is "fine" for me, but I'm in WB and freq in
                                  Watertucky ... so Clarkston is not too inconvenient. I can understand that others might feel

                                  I've not yet had a defect-free visit ... they always seem to significantly miss on one aspect; but
                                  not always the same aspect. For me, it's been a pick-two place; where the choices are food,
                                  wait and service (pick two).

                                  I am glad that the business adapted and survived.

                                  1. re: RedTop

                                    Like others have said, it's a shocking choice. But I do applaud that, given our current state of economic affairs, the Freep chose a more "affordable" restaurant. At the very least, it's sort of an interesting break from the usual suspects (Roast, Opus One, Iridescence, Coach Insignia, Whitney, etc. -- places where people would STILL take issue with service and consistent food quality).

                                  2. As I said before, ....I thought the brisket at the Union Woodshop rivaled Slows BBQ - and the service way better than Slows.

                                    I'm glad they picked an offordable restaurant for once. Here's the FREEP list from the past few years...what are your thoughts?

                                    2010 Forest Grill - still haven't been there, but am going to try it next month
                                    2009 Roast - still haven't been there, need to go
                                    2008 Salt Water - still haven't been there, probably never will because I don't like casinos
                                    2007: Beverly Hills Grill, Beverly Hills - never heard of it, is it good?
                                    2006: Seldom Blues, Detroit - gone Daddy gone
                                    2005: Five Lakes Grill, Milford - ditto
                                    2004: Jeremy Restaurant & Bar, Keego Harbor - never heard of it, is it good?
                                    2003: The Grill, Ritz-Carlton, Dearborn - gone Daddy gone
                                    2002: Cuisine, Detroit - haven't been there yet
                                    2001: The Hill, Grosse Pointe Farms - never heard of it is it good?

                                    2000: Tribute, Farmington Hills

                                    Five Lakes Grill
                                    424 N Main St, Milford, MI 48381

                                    Pointe Cafe
                                    1881 Seven Mile Dr, New Philadelphia, OH 44663

                                    Beverly Hills Grill
                                    31471 Southfield Rd, Beverly Hills, MI 48025

                                    Forest Grill Restaurant
                                    735 Forest Ave Ste 100, Birmingham, MI 48009

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: momskitchen

                                      bh grill, jeremy, and the hill are all good.

                                      bill roberts owns bh grill. he also owns streetside seafood in b'ham or town tavern in royal oak.

                                    2. So all the Freep & chowhound talk about the Woodshop made me go back there today for the first time in a while. It was terribly mediocre and disappointing.

                                      Got there at 4:00, just as they were opening. The place was already lined up -- apparently the Freep coverage has people coming from all over to try them. When we left at 4:50ish, there was already a half-hour wait. Ridiculous.

                                      The food was completely dumbed-down from what I remember. Flavor was completely absent from everything.

                                      Pulled pork -- tender and well-made, but lacked the nice smokiness that it used to have

                                      Mac & cheese -- still good and creamy, but the "crust" on top was more of a heavy layer of baked/burnt cheese rather than the breadcrumby crisp crust it used to have

                                      Chicken burrito -- decent, but served with a bland, mushy pile of waaaaay overcooked "Mexican rice" (so bad that stuff was inedible, and should NEVER have left their kitchen)

                                      3AM special (smoked ribeye, swiss cheese, fried egg on top of sourdough toast) -- a nice unique dish, but the ribeye had no smoke flavor (nor any flavor whatsoever), and the entire dish was drowned in an oniony sauce that was both bland and too sweet at the same time. I had to salt & pepper this dish excessively.

                                      BBQ sauces -- Tennessee sauce tasted like plain ol' ketchup. Alabama white sauce too thin. "Spicy" sauce had too much grape jelly. Plus, none of the sauce bottles had been refilled since lunch, so all the sauces on my table were nearly empty.

                                      Decent enough food, but not worth the prices they're charging for it. I'd say the sauces and pulled pork are as good as one gets from just about any ol' BBQ joint. I used to love their food, but today was quite disappointing. Wouldn't bother going back unless I hear that the crowds thin out and the food gets back on its game.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: jjspw

                                        I really don't understand the mixed reviews this place gets. I was pleasantly surprised.

                                        My husband and I had dinner there on a Thursday evening. We arrived at 7pm 'ish and were seated around 8pm 'ish. The place was packed so we sat in the bar and waited for a table. Being from LA, the wait didn't really bother me.

                                        I was pleasantly surprised by the decor and atmosphere. Growing up in LA, most of the barbeque joints I have eaten at were little more than a hole-in-the-wall. This place was upscale in comparison. Not what I expected at all.

                                        Anyway, we started with the headcheese appetizer. I thought it an unusual choice of appetizer for a BBQ restaurant, but I tried it. It was absolutely amazing. It had a slightly smoky flavor, with a subtle herbal taste that was amazing. The herbs used went well with the earthy taste of the headcheese. I was also impressed that the chef came out to talk to us about the dish. He was very proud of it and described the care and craft that he put in to the dish. I was impressed by his enthusiasm and dedication to his food. It showed in the result.

                                        The pace of the service was just right. When I go out to eat, I like dinner to last 1.5 to 2 hours at least. I did not feel rushed in the least. Our waiter was attentive and he was easy to find at all times.

                                        I ordered the brisket with collards and mac & cheese. The brisket was so tender and juicy and had a slightly smoky taste, not over-powering. It was very well prepared. The collards were well cooked and seasoned. The mac & cheese was actually a mostaccioli with several cheeses and baked to a drier consistency. I do not like wet and goopy M&C. This was perfect for me. I asked our waiter to bring out the Hell sauce and I mixed that with the Tennessee sauce for the perfect BBQ sauce.

                                        My husband had the ribeye which was delicious (I of course had to try it), beans, and onion rings. I didn't try any of the beans since my husband consumed them before I could reach my fork across the table. The onion rings, however, were amazing. They were painfully hot from the deep fryer (I love my food steaming hot) and the coating was crispy and light. The coating was pleasantly seasoned as well.

                                        For desert we had the brownie and apple cobbler with ice cream. We took this home to enjoy since we were quite full from dinner. I didn't try the brownie, but my husband said it was a little on the sweet side. The apple cobbler was delicious, although it was more of an apple crumble, but was tart and not overly sweet -- and not overly cooked. The apples were well cooked on the outside with a hint of crispness toward the middle of each slice. Delicious.

                                        Oh, and we only spent $58 which was amazing compared to what we usually spend for dinner.

                                        Overall, eating at the Union Woodshop was one of the best dining experiences I have had in the Metro Detroit area. Well done! My husband and I cannot wait to return for our next meal.

                                        1. re: VBHres

                                          Excellent review. Thank you for contributing.

                                      2. So, expect the long waits to ge teven worse then the Free Press press has done ...
                                        Guy Fierri from Food Network was at the Woodshop and Union yesterday.
                                        I have a nice pic of Guy and Kid Rock on my Iphone, and if I am successful it will be attached.
                                        Kurt seems to be a master at marketing - I give him a lot of credit. This should bring the customers in droves, and will probably not hurt the new launch at Vinsetta.

                                        Anyway, the brisket was exceptional. I had to try some good Woodshop brisket and puleld pork because, tonight, I am putting my first pork butt and brisket into the smoker. Needed a comparison/target.

                                        1. This place is so compleley overrated. The food is average at best. The fact that two celebrities visited makes absolutely no difference to me. I have been there a total of four times and have had horrible service and terrible food twice and simply ok the other two. For the life of me I cannot understand why everybody is so hyped about this place. There is nothing unique about this establishment and certainly nothing noteworthy in the food department. Granted, Clarkston doesn't have a lot of food choices and the same people own them all! Let's save the neverending praise for something worthwhile.

                                          13 Replies
                                          1. re: Jack Freeman

                                            Neverending? Jack, you're reading too much into things, I'd say. Not everything they do is out of this world (see my comments on such things as their potato salad, and onion rings [which are good, but not in the league of Scotty's or RCT]), and I think that just about everyone to the person has had hit-or-miss service (myself included...all in the same night!), and excruciating waits.

                                            For the most part, though? They're better than solid...they're good! I enjoy their pulled pork (and find the sandwich-and-side to be a pretty good value), their brisket, their ribeye, and some of their sides. I'll spot that the wait time issue is probably a bit easier for me to handle since I sometimes will just go there by myself and belly on up to the bar and eat right there. Saves me a *ton* of headaches with waiting, and it's not hard at all to find a single open bar seat, or wait a maximum of five minutes for one to open up.

                                            I will spot you that it scores better on the bell curve because of its location and because of the wow factor of its association with Kid Rock and whatnot, but I can be pretty picky, and I'm here to tell you that the *original post* I was going to write about the place would have been so filled with hate, it would have been deleted by the mods. That they were able to turn it around *that very night* is uber-impressive to me. Anyone who can make me turn a 180 in the scope of a night has pulled a pretty impressive turn...for better or for worse, depending on how they performed! ;)

                                            Is it the bestest thing ever in the whole wide world? Heck, no! Is it better than the average BBQ joint? Absolutely, without a doubt.

                                            1. re: boagman

                                              Boagman, sorry, I didn't see your post or I would have noted it in my earlier response. I guess the neverending thing is from people I know going there and raving, it drives me nuts. If I had even one decent meal there I would be a bit kinder but I haven't and I will leave it at that. I don't doubt that at some points their food is probably good...apparently they wait for times when I am nowhere to be found. Some places evoke a passionate response because of a personal experience, I have noted your disdain for Inn Season in past posts and I can respect that even if I don't agree. I happen to love it but I did not experience what you did there and I believe you would be fair in your review...so another case of agree to disagree!!!

                                            2. re: Jack Freeman

                                              You know Jack, you do have some valid points (I just re-read your review).
                                              A lot of people (myself included) have mentioned the service issues many times, though I'll argue that the service at Slows can be just as bad and worse, and better - depends on the server and the time/date.
                                              I'll also admit I've had brisket that wasn't hot, but when i have brisket that people have smoked it is not always hot either.
                                              I'll also admit the sides are very hit or miss. My favorites are the cheesy potatoes and green bean casarole, but I've known others to hate the GBC, and my last cheesy potatoes were half hot and half cold.

                                              I'll just add that I wanted the main point of my post yesterday (without being too obvious) to be the incredible marketing skills of the Union/Woodshop owners - from the well-placed Wall Street Journal article about the "stolen" mac n cheese recipe, to the FREEP award to this upcoming feature on Food Network - the guy knows how to get the pub, and it brings in the customers.
                                              And I'll add that I never wait at the Woodshop, so that has never been an issue for me. It would be if it ever happened to me - but I'll bet my last 6-8 meals there have been at the bar on a weekday.

                                              1. re: Markcron

                                                Markcron, Let me preface this entire comment by saying I perhaps reacted passionately because I cannot stand Guy F. His.."Winner, Winner..chicken dinner" etc. remarks make me want to throw something at the tv.

                                                You are 100% correct that the Union Woodshop does an excellent job of marketing. I can say with confidence that if that restaurant was in another suburb where there were more food choices there wouldn't be the hype or wait. I realize that taste is completely subjective and that what I find mediocre at best will be another person's cup of tea. I feel like it's franchise bbq, actually I like some franchise bbq more!

                                                I guess we are very lucky because we have never had poor service at Slows and we have never had anything but great food. The wait is a pain but we know that when we go or manage to wrangle up enough friends to make a reservation.

                                                But this isn't a Woodshop vs Slows smackdown, as that has been done time and time again on Chowhound!

                                                I will say in defense of Union Woodshop that there sides are not great but I'm not in love with the sides at Slows either.

                                                Now there is an idea..A great bbq place with great sides and good service! Winner..winner...you know the rest! UGH

                                                1. re: Jack Freeman

                                                  Hey Jack, I just wanted to add that Guy F annoys the crap out of me as well.

                                              2. re: Jack Freeman

                                                What the hell happened?

                                                I am so disappointed with this restaurant. This is the second time that my husband and I ate here and I truly don't know what happened.

                                                Let me caveat my review by stating that I was raised on good barbeque and can cook barbeque better than 90% of the population of the world. Oh yes, I am that confident of my skills.

                                                Firstly, the prices seemed to have doubled on some items and the menu changed slightly (the headcheese that I had so enjoyed was no longer on the menu). In the winter during our last visit, the ribeye was $14.95, which was a reasonable price for what you get. Yesterday (8/27/11) the price was $24.95. My husband was going to order the ribeye, but passed due to price. I made the mistake of ordering the blackened catfish because to be truthful, the smoke that I was smelling did not have a good aroma. The catfish was well prepared, but the portion size was ridiculous. It looked as if I was served a half of a filet. I was thankful that I ordered a side of collard greens and mac and cheese otherwise I would have left hungry. My husband had the pulled pork which was an adequate portion, but tasted of nothing but smoke this time. Not a good preparation at all. The restaurant purports to smoke its meat with green wood and the result tastes bitter and harsh.

                                                The sides were terrible this time. The BBQ beans had a good flavor, but were not cooked consistently throughout. I found undercooked beans which were crunchy in the one bite that I took. The collards were flavorless and harsh as was the mac and cheese. The only flavor I tasted in the mac and cheese was the bitterness of the sharp cheddar cheese and salt. The side was also more greasy than on my previous visit. Also, the rice that came with the catfish was just awful. Flavorless as was the "remoulade" sauce that came with the dish.

                                                Now a word about the service: HORRENDOUS. We arrived at the restaurant a little before 6pm and there was already a 50-minute wait. I was able to watch the hostesses as they appeared to seat people who walked in with no reservations, but might have been regulars. How the seating was decided seemed very haphazard. When the promised 50 minutes had passed and my buzzer/light thingy had still not gone off, I approached the waitress. We still had about three people ahead of us to be seated, so I opted to take an outside table. What a mistake that was!

                                                From the minute we sat down my husband and I were bombarded with black flies, noseums, and mosquitoes. I waved them away, but my husband was unable to eat his meal (he's very sensitive like that although he can damn near eat out of a garbage can and not get food poisoning). The waitstaff did nothing to keep the flies away. We also waited a very long time for our meal, which was expected, but after a few refills of iced tea, I could get neither the attention of the waitress or her helper. After we received our meal, I couldn't get the attention of the waitress for additional iced tea either. It didn't matter to me since I finished my food in three minutes since the portions were so small, but my poor husband had to choke down his pulled pork without anything to drink.

                                                Finally, I asked the helper for a box to take my husband's food and the check. I didn't want dessert, I just wanted to escaped the fly-ridden hell that was Union Workshop. Jesus H. Christ I was displeased.

                                                To summarize, don't waste your money or time eating at this restaurant. If you want barbeque, experiment at home. It's a far better use of your time and money in this economy.

                                                Thanks for nothing Kid Rip-off!

                                                1. re: VBHres

                                                  This sounds like a truly lousy experience, VBHres, but I do have to chime in with a couple of points:

                                                  1. The ribeye was never $14.95. It may very well have been cheaper than the $24.95 it is now, but it wasn't $14.95. I can't find a $14.95 ribeye *anywhere*, and had they had a $14.95 ribeye at the Woodshop, I highly doubt I would have eaten anything else.

                                                  2. This is the part that truly confuses me: what were the staff supposed to be doing about the bugs in the *outdoor seating area*? I mean, seriously? Out-stinking-side?

                                                  Regardless, it sounds like you've had a stomach-turning experience on your second time there, and you really should have taken it up with a manager. So sorry for your difficulty.

                                                  1. re: boagman

                                                    Perhaps it was a mistake on the bill, but my husband distinctly remembered the ribeye priced at $14.95.

                                                    A bug zapper or fly reservoir would have helped. why have outside tables if flies are rampant?

                                                    I had lost all patience by the time I received my dinner so conversation with management would have been very unproductive.

                                                    1. re: VBHres

                                                      Not trying to poke the hibernating bear, but I cannot ever remember the ribeye being that cheap. That $14.95 price is so low that I can't imagine them selling it for anywhere near that...they'd probably go broke, what with all the guys grabbing that bad boy up. I know I'd have been there only too often. Who's going to order pulled pork when, for $2 more, you can have the ribeye?

                                                      As for the flies/bugs, it's just part of the "charm" of outdoor seating. I was eating at Mesquite Creek over the weekend in their outdoor seating area, and sure enough: the mosquitoes were starting to come out in force at dusk. I don't hold any establishment's feet to the fire over nature's creatures, within reason. Granted, I don't want to be eaten by rabid wolves, but bugs? I'm going to own that as part-and-parcel of eating outside, just like sudden cloudbursts, or changes in temperature.

                                                      That being said: there's *no* excuse for you folks not being able to find a server to quench your thirst, and if nothing else, management should have been told about this. Believe me, they'd be concerned: if they're not doing this, think about how many ultra-high-profit, easy-to-serve alcoholic beverages they're missing out on the sales of.

                                                      Now that you've had the rest of the weekend to recover, I'd kindly suggest that you call them back on Monday and relay your experience to them. Speak to Carrie, if possible. She's the manager with whom I'm familiar, and she'll probably want to make things right. Perhaps your tempered conversation with her *will be* productive.

                                                      Hope it helps, and sorry that your second visit was the polar opposite of your first one!

                                                      Mesquite Creek
                                                      7228 N. Main Street, Clarkston, MI 48346

                                                      1. re: boagman

                                                        About the ribeye: exactly. When we first ate at UW we thought it was great that the ribeye was so inexpensive. Did they have a winter or weekday menu back in February? Or was there some special running? The menu was definitely different this time.

                                                        I've eaten outdoors plenty of times. I have never encountered this many flies in my life, except when fishing on Lake Michigan. It was truly awful.

                                                        I may give Carrie a call. Normally, when I am displeased with service, I either send my food back and say that I am so nauseated that I can't eat and then leave; or I never go back and recommend that none of my friends or acquaintances eat at the establishment. The food wasn't nauseating, but the overall experience was such a change from the first that I was insulted (and angry).

                                                  2. re: VBHres

                                                    Poor service is typical at the Woodshop. YMMV. I have given up trying to expect better when sitting at a table, it is just so hit and miss.
                                                    The outdoor service definitely can be worse, I can see that.
                                                    As boagman has stated, the Ribeye has never been $14.95. I'll add that it has always been $24.95. I'll also add that the two times I have had it, I considered it a good deal at $25.
                                                    I'm just starting to BBQ myself, and have one brisket and one pork butt under my belt. My brisket is no where near Woodshop/Slows quality yet, but I hope someday it will be.
                                                    I'll keep going to Woodshop, as I am always treated well sitting by myself at the bar.

                                                    1701 S Neil St, Champaign, IL 61820

                                                    1. re: Markcron

                                                      Very curious. There must have been a mistake on our bill then. $10 is not accounted for.

                                                    2. re: VBHres

                                                      > service: HORRENDOUS

                                                      When the staff's service or the kitchen's performance is unacceptable; you need to inform

                                                      Whenever I cannot find the real managers onsite; I call or email. The (lack of?) response
                                                      tells me what I need to know. I've spoken with mgt twice & email once. Since things don't
                                                      seem to change, I assume they consider the operation to be performing acceptably.

                                                      Me? I typically give restaurants two [2] chances. I should probably give'm three chances,
                                                      but I tend to grade quite hard (too hard?) on the 3rd visit.

                                                      WRT Union Woodshop. It's just too damn inconsistent for my greenbacks. In my multiple
                                                      visits (5? 6?), there has ALWAYS been something that falls far short of "satisfactory." Ergo;
                                                      I consider it a "Pick 2" place. You can have:

                                                      1) Good food.
                                                      2) Good service
                                                      3) Predictable wait

                                                      Sadly; they only seem to execute satisfactorily on two of three ... and they are inconsistent
                                                      with which two of three. So why do we return? We have friends in the area and they are
                                                      creatures of habit and it's their habit.

                                                      It seems that at least one restaurant critic is gonna begin grading 'service' harder: