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Tried Mudgie's Deli in Detroit, MI tonight...

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...and the phrase "Majoring in the minors." comes to mind first.

Overall, I enjoyed my fare there, but in kind of a backwards way. I found the soup to be fantastic, the sides to be quite nice, the beverage to be pretty decent, and the main events? From simply okay, to downright bad.

To start out: I went in around 7PM tonight (Tuesday), and the place was positively dead empty. I was literally the only customer in the store, which I was fine with, even if it is a bit initially disconcerting (if it's so good a place, why am I the *only* one here, at 7PM?). I was warmly and casually greeted by Melissa, my hostess/server, and the service, especially when the place was empty, was great. The service level never dropped below good, even when several other people ended up coming in to the place while I dined in. It just wasn't as meticulous as it had been when I was alone, and that's *completely* understandable. Once I ceased to be the only table she had to worry about, there were other considerations to be taken, which I totally get. Regardless, she was pretty helpful with the food and drink discussion, and she talked me into (it didn't take much arm-twisting at all...) getting the house-made lemonade (with basil!) to start out with. The small sample closed the deal.

Now, I should say this: I liked it, especially the initial sip. The problem with the initial sip (as I noted to Melissa) was that it was at room temp, and it needed to be cold. She said, "No problem! It won't be when I pour it over a glass full of ice!" So, yes, it got cold...but it also got diluted quite a bit, and the initial "pop" of the flavors was muted as a result. For $3, with no refill (I didn't anticipate that there would be), it didn't quite satisfy me. Had the lemonade been chilled to begin with, and ice not been necessary, this would have been *extremely* satisfying for $3. I guess I just don't understand why they wouldn't chill it from the outset. I can tell you this: on a day as humid as this one, the undiluted product would have been an *excellent* thirst-quencher, and a full, non-ice-reduced glass of it would have been worth every red cent of $3. As I had it? Maybe not, but I didn't regret my decision to get it. It was followed by a glass of water midway through the meal.

I'd kind of gone in with the mindset of having the roast beef dinner, with potatoes and a portobello gravy. It sounded good. It's served with a side salad or coleslaw, and while the coleslaw is quite good, I opted for the side salad, which was just okay. I asked for a raspberry vinaigrette dressing initially, and was taken aback at the severe lack of raspberry in it. It was practically all vinegar, and I wasn't really wanting a balsamic. I then asked for the maurice dressing, and it was good, but not as good as Hudson's/Macy's/whatever-you-want-to-call-it-these-days. Certainly far better than the initial choice. The greens themselves were fine, and seemed fresh.

One of the draws of Mudgie's, according to JP, is the soup selection they have. For me, one of the draws of the roast beef entree was the fact that you can tack on a cup of soup for $2 or $2.50 or something like that. Today they had two different types of gazpacho, and I wanted to try the one with the beef broth base. What an *excellent* choice this was. Tons and tons of flavor, with the vegetables retaining much of their natural crunch, and the spice level of the soup was extremely satisfying. I could eat this stuff once a week and never get tired of it. It's every bit in the league of the best soups in the area. I can see why JP touts them so. I wish I'd gotten a bowl of it. Or two.

The roast beef entree came out, and it had promise. The first thing I had was the potatoes and gravy, and really, really liked them. Properly done skin-on potatoes, with an excellent gravy. They could have sold these to me as a side, and I've have loved them, good and proper.

But then, the beef. I took my first bite, and was honestly hoping that it was a problem piece. Tough. *Very* tough. Extremely chewy, and not in a good way. I tried another bite, and it was the same. I tried from a different piece on the plate, and I honestly had trouble *cutting* the stuff with fork and knife. I asked Melissa if they'd microwaved the beef or something. She said that they hadn't, that it had been prepared in a pan. That poor pan...the things it's blamed for. I had to send it back, wistfully disappointed that the potatoes were going to have to go with it. This really surprised me, that a deli would get the meat wrong/overcooked/tough. That's...strange.

But no matter! I'll try something different! Though I thought about getting the hot turkey entree, I decided that I'd take a different tack and go with a sandwich. I really wanted to try the Magill (with turkey and bacon), but Melissa said "The avocado *makes* that sandwich...", and I knew it wasn't for me. I was going to ditch the avocado and cheese, and so I stuck with the traditional corned beef with coleslaw and Russian dressing, served on an onion roll, with a new dill pickle. To go with it, I ordered a side of their potato salad. The potato salad came, and I really liked it a good bit. It's a different take on potato salad, with potatoes, apples, basil, stone-ground beer mustard...it was really good, and it was $3. Melissa had given me a sample of the macaroni salad to try, and while it, too, was good, potato salad was the better choice for me. Still, neither one was a slouch.

Sandwich time...and, it's functional. At $9, it's pretty darned small, or at least lacking in the meat department. It was just okay, and again: I find it funny that a *deli* is getting far higher marks from me for the soup, sides, and such (minors), than for the sandwiches and entrees (majors). I ate the entire thing, yes, but there was nothing truly remarkable or memorable about it, save the smallish amount of meat and the fact that it should have been sliced thinner. I've had far better corned beef sandwiches at Stage, Plaza, Star, etc. Had I gone to Mudgie's planning on eating lunch and being filled up by a corned beef sandwich for $9, I would have been *majorly*, um, "put out". I guess that's the polite way of saying it. Considering the price and size, this sandwich kind of scratches the same territory as Kirk's BBQ in Birmingham does...

I was *going to* have myself a Calder's Dairy ice cream cone, but they were out of cones, and that's just the way things go sometimes. It's hardly a deal-breaker, and I was fine as it was. I had a gift certificate from Oy that had a $20 value that I paid $10 for, and my total bill came out to $19.87, tax included. They can keep the $.13, on me. I tipped Melissa $4, and felt she deserved it, even though service as the evening went on wasn't as personal as when I first walked in...that can't be helped, and she never made me feel neglected at all. She genuinely seemed to enjoy her job, but when I left, she was the only one covering several tables, and they really could have used someone else waiting tables as well. She was stretched a bit too thin at that point, I thought.

Overall, I'd definitely go back, for those minors. Knowing what I do now, I'd skip the sandwiches and entrees almost wholesale, and go for the soups and/or side items. I'd be apprehensive about heading there famished and expecting to not spend a ton, but if I could do, say, a bowl or two of soup, and a side or two of something or other, that'd be about $11, and I think it'd fill me up. It's strange to say, but I just don't really trust them with meat, and that's a bit loopy for a deli in my book. Meat should be Job One for them, and as much as it wasn't, those sides and soup were really right up my alley.

B-minus, I'd say. Nothing earth-shattering, but nothing really bad, either. They succeed greatly in some things, and in other (more anticipated?) ways, they seem to be a bit bewildered.

Do *not* miss out on the soup, and you'll at least walk away with some good stuff.

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Mudgie's
1300 Porter St, Detroit, MI 48226

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  1. I happened to eat at Mudgie's last night also and came in around 7:15 when it was starting to get a little busier and we were the last to leave before close. There are a couple things boagman stated that I agree with and a couple that I just do not. Overall I'd give the experience a B+/A-. With his experience pushing it up towards an A- actually.

    I would disagree about the feeling that the waitress was spread too thin. Melissa was very attentive to our table and made no mistakes and we certainly didn't lack any attention when needed or helpful recommendations. At most there were 8-10 tables and did not see anyone complain or have to raise a hand to get her attention. I could see them needing two waiters/waitresses during a busy lunch rush or brunch, but not on a half-full Tuesday night.

    Where I can agree with him is the cost. Some of the items at our table seemed a little small for the cost. But when I think about how most of it, if not all, is sourced locally, organically and humanely and then prepared fresh in house as opposed to a lot of delis where its just stacking as much meat as possible on some rye bread, you can understand the extra buck or two. These aren't huge Bread Basket sandwiches and they don't claim to be. They claim "Authentic Artisan Deli" and I think that's what most of the options are.

    I also got the lemonade and it came cold......so don't know what the deal was there. We had a mix of sandwiches ranging from the Special of the day: a spicy sausage with sauerkraut on a sub bun, the great Gutty V2.0 with all the meats, to a vegetarian wrap. We also tried a couple soups, salads, and the spinach dip. The only complaint made was about the size to cost ratio. We enjoyed the taste thoroughly. I do agree that the food is not amazingly remarkable but definitely ranks as above average for me. I think maybe boagman's opinion of the corned beef is a personal preference thing. He's correct, It's not thin cut, but to say that "it should have been sliced thinner", is something I disagree with. I think that's a preference thing and many deli's that are seasoning and roasting their meat in-house do slice it that thick or thicker. I found mine to be a good thickness, very tender and well seasoned.

    Finally, maybe I'm off base commenting about this, but the way these groupons, livingsocial, oy deals work is that the restaurant gets about 1/2 of what you paid for it. To send food back because the meat was tough and her being happy to get something else, complaining because the dressing wasn't raspberry enough and her again getting something else, being given samples of things, complaining about the lemonade getting diluted over ice and then touting that you felt she deserved the what I'm assuming is being considered a generous $4 tip seems to be impossibly high standards for her. Mudgie's probably gave out $30+ dollars of food and helpful, nice service, along with trying to make the customer as happy as possible for what is probably $5 they get from the coupon, plus a couple bucks you probably went over and the $4 tip. To me that sounds like a pretty darn good local place concerned about local products, and their customers happiness that has a great support staff who can deal with a picky customer with patience and a smile. That's why they get the A- from me.

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    Bread Basket
    17740 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48203

    Mudgie's
    1300 Porter St, Detroit, MI 48226

    1. Boagman, I have always appreciated your reviews but all I can think after reading this...poor waitress!!! Exactly how many times did she have to trod back and forth to your table for a mere 4 dollars? She deserved well more than that about for simply carting out the numerous samples. Get a grip Boagman you paid 10 dollars. What are you 90 years old? Quality food, sourced locally is not the same as a strap the feed bag on type deli that has no clue who raises their meat. Quality food costs!!!! I'm sorry but seriously..complaining about ice in lemonade diluting it? WOW. I can understand sending meat back that is improperly cooked but sampling all kinds of things and then patting yourself on the back for leaving 4 bucks? Are you this demanding always? Remind me never to sup with you!

      4 Replies
      1. re: Jack Freeman

        BTW, my feathers were so ruffled there that I forgot to mention that we eat at Mudgie's regularly and while I agree that not every dish is a hit it out of the park homer..it's quality food, served by a very nice group of people. I applaud the owner of Mudgie's for keeping it local! The Fudgie Mudgie is the best!!!

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        Mudgie's
        1300 Porter St, Detroit, MI 48226

        1. re: Jack Freeman

          Jack and Cheeeeese, I've reread my initial post, and I'm going to stick by it. I never, ever stated that service was bad, or anywhere close to it. Melissa did a fine job, even when things were getting busier for her. When I indicated that she was stretched a bit too thin at the end of my evening, it was simply to say that her smile wasn't as prevalent as it had been earlier, and considering that there appeared to be several other people working at the same time she was, it seemed that she was having to shoulder a bit too much of the workload herself, and it may have been affecting that nice smile she had. You'll note that several times in my post, I indicated that her performance was good (at worst) to great. You'll also note that even when I did make a note about the lemonade, I was still glad that I'd gotten it. There's nothing, absolutely *nothing*, in my post that would indicate that Melissa didn't do a good job.

          As for the other points, Jack: $4 on a $19 tab is over 21%. For me, a 20% tip is for darned good work. So far as I understand it, even the most staunch "Server's rights!" apologists recognize that 20% is more than adequate. I was over that, *and* I didn't stiff her on the "coupon price", as many people do. You won't find me apologizing for tipping the way I did, here. It's completely within the bounds of graciousness *as defined by others*, much less myself.

          As for the my sampling things, I'll defend it two ways:

          1. It's a deli. You sample things at a deli. It's always been that way, it'll always *be* that way. Better to try a bite and decline, than to get an entire order of something and decline it. That's the purpose, and that's the way things are at every deli I've been to. Stage, Star, Plaza, Zingerman's, etc. While sampling is certainly encouraged by Zingerman's to a far greater degree, every deli would rather you try first, and then decide.

          2. It's not like I was eating my way through the store, heavy-handed, and not responding to my server's suggestions. That lemonade she was trying to sell to me? Guess what: it *worked*. I bought it, based primarily on the sample I had. She understood, and so did I, the way things worked. It's not like I asked for a sample of Rack of Lamb Genghis Khan...no, I sampled the lemonade, and the pasta salad (and maybe one other thing? I forget...). You may not choose to do this, but when I'm in a deli? You bet I will.

          I guess I'm left wondering what was so awful about what I said about the place. I'm going back (I said I would, anyway), and I praised a *lot* more things than I panned. Even the things I panned weren't that big a deal, though I was certainly surprised that a deli wouldn't get them right. It's hardly a deal-breaker, but it needed to be said.

          You're pretty wrong to fly off the handle about the "poor waitress" and my alleged bad treatment of her. I don't care if I'm using a coupon or not: *the establishment* is the one that issued the coupon, as a form of marketing/advertisement. It got me in the door, didn't it? Money well spent on their part, if you ask me. The waitress/hostess was compensed more than fairly, and I evaluated Mudgie's using the same scale as I would any other place. Coupons, discounts, two-for-ones, fully comped meals, full-priced meals...it doesn't matter to me. The bar is the bar, and you meet it, or you don't. Mudgie's does, but they're not flawless.

          Sorry to ruffle your feathers, but if that's the case, then I should remind you: never sup with me. I don't foresee myself changing any time soon. I'm glad you're a fan of Mudgie's. So am I. That doesn't mean that it's perfect. Nor you. Nor me.

          Cheers.

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          Mudgie's
          1300 Porter St, Detroit, MI 48226

        2. So I went back on Tuesday of this past week, and it turns out that my B-minus rating is basically right on the money. Service was definitely worse (bill was wrong, items were forgotten, problems with basic math/change, some menu items not available [no mashed potatoes at 6:30PM? Really?], etc.).

          On the plus side, my friend and I started out with the chips and salsa appetizer, and both of us thought that it was very good. Worth every bit of the $4 they charge. Moving on, the sandwiches we had were both bigger than the last time I was there, I'm sure of that. I'm sure it helped that we'd started with the chips and salsa, but I started with soup last time, so that's a wash. Either way, both sandwiches were bigger than I thought they'd be, and I liked my sandwich better than the one I had last time, for sure.

          We both agreed, though, that the sandwiches were quite dry. They needed more sauce or something, and that was one of the things that wasn't brought to the table until I mentioned it, even though it stated directly on the menu that my sandwich comes with a side of mustard for dipping. While they might have been dry, they certainly were better tasting than the sandwich I had last time I was there. I had the That's Jared, which has both corned beef and their potato salad. It's rather a mess, but that's just fine...I don't care about messy. The corned beef was *absolutely* better than the last time, though still sliced too thick. The potato salad on the sandwich wasn't as impressive as I remembered it being, but it was still fine. The pickle that came with the sandwiches was plenty good.

          Really odd: I had ordered mashed potatoes with gravy from their dinner specials menu (which again: we had to ask for), and at least 10 minutes later the waitress stopped by to say "The idiots back there didn't tell me until just now that we're out of mashed potatoes...", which took some of the wind out of my sails. I was *really* looking forward to those, but as it turned out, it didn't matter, as we both had plenty of food with the app and the sandwiches. Still, the whole service thing that night was weird, and to a certain degree, bad. Nothing earth-shattering, but kind of a "What's going on back there?" kind of experience. Seriously: to be out of an item at 6:30PM that you only started selling at 4PM, and you've still got 2.5 hours until closing? It's time to make some mashed potatoes, people, not excuses!

          No coupons or anything this time, but the bill was certainly an exercise in patience. She overcharged us, then she "underchanged" me, saying she was "out of" change. Really, really odd. We still gave her a $5 tip on a $22 bill, so no one can whine about us shortchanging her, or using a coupon, or whatever.

          B-minus at best. Confirmed. I'll still go back, but honestly: I'll temper my expectations, because at this point, the experiences have been pretty different from each other, but both have had their highs and lows. Is the service going to be very good, or lousy? Will the sandwich be good, or edible? Will they have XXXX item? Ya pays to play, and ya takes yer chances!