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Tried Noble Pig in GPF, MI (Detroit area)...

b
boagman Jan 13, 2013 12:02 AM

So believe it or not, it's taken me this long to get over to Brandon Kahlich's new place in GPF, he of the oh-so-fantastic crab cakes I've come to love and revere over the years. Donna and I had a friend's dad's visitation to go to at the nearby Peters Funeral Home, and I couldn't think of a better thing to do than have dinner beforehand at Noble Pig and head on over to the funeral home, sated. Makes life easier for me, anyway.

Donna had had his mac-and-cheese years before and loved it, so she was excited to try it, and I was just wanting the crab cakes again. I think I'll do this review in the style of one of my favorite spaghetti westerns.

The Good: the food that we had is still plenty good, and those crab cakes are still the best ones I've ever eaten, by at least one full letter grade. They're thick, they're prefectly cooked, and they taste fantastic. I'm not as sure about the idea of serving them as the meat of a sandwich, as they're doing here, but the whole thing, stem-to-stern, was consumed by me, and I can again highly recommend it. Donna's mac-and-cheese was also plenty good, but she said it wasn't as good as she remembered it being. She ended up taking a portion of the pint home with her. I'm *positive* it didn't go to waste. The rosemary fries I had with my sandwich were good, but they'd be better as steak fries, I think...thicker/bigger would be better. The service was pretty good.

The Bad: currently, it seems they're pretty disorganized in terms of necessities. On this Friday night, they were only offering carryout, and person after person kept coming in and asking for a carryout menu, which they'd run out of...on a Friday night. "It's on our website..." really isn't a solid answer when the customer has stopped by, even if it's still a pretty convenient way to check out the menu. When a customer comes in to a carryout place, there *needs* to be menus for them to take with.

The Ugly: had the food not been as good as it was, and had they not made a concession for Donna and me, I would have been absolutely *livid* with the place. The disorganization I referred to earlier seems to go a bit deeper, too: they really don't know what they're trying to be, yet. Or at least it doesn't appear that way. For some unknown reason (Mrs. Kahlich did try to explain it a bit, but I admit that Donna and I had difficulty understanding a lot of what she said...not necessarily her fault), Noble Pig has decided to be a carryout *only* place on the weekends, and they only recently started this out. By this I mean that there are *no tables* to eat at...that's right, they pull them all out and leave the chairs for people to wait in for their carryouts. I'm not talking about no table service...that'd be fine by me. I'm talking about them literally having *no place to eat but your lap*. There was no notice of this. There's no indication of this on their website, their Facebook page...nothing. It's just what they've done...on the *weekends*. Thankfully, when they realized that Donna and I were going to literally *have to* eat our meals on our laps, they graciously allowed a table to be brought out for us to be able to eat our meals in a somewhat civilized fashion. It was a nice gesture on their part, and we were awfully grateful for it, but it seems so, so backwards to have had the issue pop up in the first place.

Fair's fair: I will be back, as I was happy with my food, and in the end, I was happy that they saw the issue we were having, and did something kind to accommodate us. We really didn't have much of a choice at that point to go anywhere else to eat, and they recognized that and solved the issue for us. This, to my view, is good service. The fact that they're still searching for what they're trying to be? Yeah, that's still an issue, as is the general organization issue. Facts are facts, though, and the food's still really good.

There were *lots* of people coming in that night, too. This was *not* a dead place...I can't understand why they'd want people to not eat while there at any time of day. I doubly can't understand why, in trying to be carryout only, they'd run out of carryout menus. It's quite the dichotomy, that.

So, my recommendation? Go, but *do call first* and find out what the what is on any particular day/night. Will they have tables to eat at? Is there anything specific you should know before you make a trip out there so you don't have a family of five show up with nowhere to sit, or even be, really? Will the wait for carryout be very long, if that's what you have to end up with? Are there carryout menus available?

I know it sounds like I'm being hypercritical about the tables thing, but really...the food was great, and I was happy *after* I was done eating. Before? Well, let's just say that the pot was beginning to boil, per Donna's observations. Making the whole thing a bit more amusing was the fact that *as soon as* we left, a young couple walked in and *immediately* beelined for the table that Donna and I had vacated (the only one in the place, obviously), unbussed though it was. They were promptly told that it really wasn't available, apparently much to their confused chagrin. I can't blame them, as I feel it's a bit ridiculous myself, and I would have done the *exact same thing* that they had were I in their shoes. It's honestly baffling, and I hope that whatever this experiment is that they're doing will end as quickly as it's begun. Bass-ackwards, really. Edited to add a quote from Molly Abraham's review in the Detroit News a couple weeks ago: "It offers just 14 seats at white linen-covered tables, with white linen napkins." You can see easily why confusion is happening.

Great food, good prices, gracious service...really odd experience. I'll be going back, though, I can promise you that!

  1. r
    RedTop Jan 13, 2013 06:26 AM

    Pretty small space they're shoe-horned into. And carry out- anything is a deal killer for me. So hope the Kahlichs figure out an efficient was to serve "dine in" consistently.

    Great review, boagman.

    1. v
      VTB Jan 13, 2013 06:44 AM

      Yikes.
      Anyone try the prime burger or bbq??

      2 Replies
      1. re: VTB
        b
        boagman Jan 13, 2013 04:47 PM

        Not yet, VTB. I promise I'll be trying the bbq in the near future, especially since my east side mainstay, Weekday Cafe, is now no more. I'm especially interested in the pulled pork and the Carolina mustard bbq sauce. I've been very surprised at how well I like mustard-based bbq sauces!

        1. re: boagman
          v
          VTB Jan 13, 2013 07:57 PM

          Heheee, what's next, cheese? It looks like they try to specially select meat. Supposedly grass fed beef, berkshire pork, etc.. So, i'm kinda curious.

      2. h
        HillsofBeverly Jan 13, 2013 10:31 AM

        Wow. All I can think of is trying to save money on hiring waitstaff, but I'd think that they would be losing more potential business than saving money with this practice. No dining in on weekends ABSOLUTELY should be conveyed very clearly on everything they have!!!

        2 Replies
        1. re: HillsofBeverly
          m
          Markcron Jan 13, 2013 02:15 PM

          According to their website, they are open for dinner for 3 hours. For a 14 seat restaurant, that would cost them about $15 (?) for the one waiter needed.
          So it can't be about saving money.
          Their website is basically nothing - it would be a good idea for the website to state carryout only on Fridays or whatever.

          1. re: Markcron
            b
            boagman Jan 13, 2013 11:51 PM

            This just popped up on the website within the past several hours:

            "During our construction we will NOT have seating for dinner Friday and Saturday.
            We will ONLY have carry out Friday and Saturday evening.

            Please be patient as we work to make our restaurant better for our patrons."

            The last sentence, on the website, is in italics, but didn't translate here with my copy-and-paste.

            I would consider that to be, at the very least, a partial-to-decent addressing of the issue. Perhaps they're reading Chow, and/or perhaps they just realized the issue on their own. Either way, I think that this is a positive step, and it certainly does sound like it isn't a permanent thing. That's good, because I really, really want to like this place as much as his previous places. This is a step in the correct direction, even if it's still an inconvenience.

            Communication beforehand helps expectations be more realistic, I think.

        2. b
          boagman Apr 4, 2013 10:37 PM

          So everyone knows, I've been back ex post facto, and they're now offering in-house dining every night they're open. So that's taken care of.

          I also had the opportunity to try the pulled pork, and liked it quite a bit. The sauces that came with it were decent, though I wish there'd been a mustard sauce as well. Perhaps there was one and I didn't catch it (you do have to pick your sauces from the four-or-so offerings), but the two I had were good enough.

          I bought it for my poker group as a make-the-sandwich-yourself deal, along with some cheapie hamburger buns that I bought at the party store next door, and they went over quite well.

          I'm going back yet again. I look forward to the dine-in experience.

          3 Replies
          1. re: boagman
            rainsux Apr 5, 2013 02:08 PM

            > I bought ... cheapie hamburger buns

            Cough, gaaak, sputter, cough, AHEM ...

            Who are you; and what have you done with Boagman?

            1. re: rainsux
              v
              VTB Apr 5, 2013 04:15 PM

              Agreed! That being said, authentic barbecue, at least in Kansas City, nearly always is served with WonderBread-ish crap. I never 'got' that concept. Bad Brad's industrial tortillas ain't much better, i might add.

              1. re: rainsux
                b
                boagman Apr 5, 2013 07:16 PM

                Time of day certainly played into it, as well as not knowing the location of where good ones could be procured. Couple those factors with the facts that the good ones would cost more, and nobody but myself would really notice any difference, and the cheapies were the choice. The only choice at the time, really.

            2. b
              boagman Jul 22, 2013 01:57 AM

              Went back for some lunch this week, and the crab cakes are still outstanding. Service was very good, as well. I enjoyed the visit *except* for the fact that they were clearly having a problem with their air conditioning (I'm sure it's been fixed by now...), and the place was nothing shy of sweltering. When I left, the thermostat read 83 degrees Fahrenheit, and I'd been sweating the whole time I was there. It was actually more pleasant *outside*, and this was on one of those ridiculously hot days we had this week. I cannot even imagine how bad it must have felt to be working in that kitchen.

              Thankfully, due to the good service, they refilled my ginger ale several times, and the food that I had was refreshing and summer-like, so the heat didn't seem quite as awful as it did before I started getting drinks. It's really not fair that his crab cakes are this good...it makes it so hard for everyone else to measure up.

              I'll get the pulled pork sandwich next time, though, or possibly the Thai Asian chicken wrap. Bonus points for allowing the crab cakes to be ordered individually for $5 a piece, for those of us who just don't want to be without them.

              They also offer a few salads that sound pretty nice with a mandarin-sesame dressing I'll probably be a sucker for. The problem with most salads, though, is that 3 hours later, I'm hungry again, and salads aren't all that cheap, considering.

              Yes, it's a different type of place than Bambu was, but it's still quite good. Even better now, considering that Weekday Cafe is gone.

              1. b
                boagman Feb 13, 2014 12:52 PM

                Went back two days ago, and it was pretty much glorious. Once again had the crab cakes, and I was once again reminded of why I learned to love crab cakes: because Brandon's crab cakes are just so, so great. I'll bet they're 95% pure crab meat (or more) as they can *barely* stay together, and the sweet pickle remoulade that comes with them, along with the other sandwich ingredients, just rock. I had this with a side of their pretty-darned-good (nothing earth-shattering, but certainly good) for $10.25, and was very happy.

                I also did something I don't normally do: I had dessert. They've started making their own ice cream here (approximately 8 assorted flavors), and I tried their chocolate, as is my bent. Very, very good. Didn't displace Baskin-Robbins as my favorite, but was certainly a valiant effort. Belgian chocolate-flavored ice cream is my preference, and this certainly qualifies. Not too sweet, not too dark. A bit pricey at $2.95 for a single scoop, but it's plenty good, and a decent portion for a single scoop.

                Walked out really, really happy that they're still here, offering crab cakes, making them better than *anyone* else, and they're still trying new things, like the ice cream.

                Good stuff, Maynard.

                2 Replies
                1. re: boagman
                  a
                  ak994 Feb 16, 2014 07:39 AM

                  I'm a big fan of crab cakes (possibly spoiled by those from the late, great Muer's on Gratiot) and live nearby, but had never tried any of Kahlich's prior eateries. Based on the discussion here I went in and ordered crab cakes, to go. Got them home only to find they were burned-- and that was that. :-(

                  1. re: ak994
                    b
                    boagman Feb 16, 2014 08:56 PM

                    Oh, well, I'm sorry to hear that. I will say that they do tend to look a bit charred, but I've never had them be burned at all, nor taste/feel that way, either. In fact, I've never had them from Kahlich be anything but fantastic.

                    Could I make a recommendation? And this goes for any place, anywhere: never get fried food to go and judge it at home. I just don't think it's a fair fight at all. Too much can (and does) happen in the transit time, even under the best packaging circumstances. Nothing's going to solve "burned", but eating them there may have averted the problem, too, since you could have sent them back.

                    Again: sorry for your issue. You might want to call them, tell them about it, and see if they'll make it right. You'll have to wait until Tuesday, though...they're closed on Mondays.

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