I was hoping to post this sooner, but I was having some problems with editing. For whatever reason none of my revisions were saved and I was trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. Eventually I figured it out so I apologize for being behind on posts. But I digress. . . On to my story. . .
I am a car nut. Not a gear head, mind you, because I can barely change a tire. I can do stuff like switch out headlamps, but adding some forced induction to boost performance is way, way, way over my head. I just love driving them (one of my favorite pastimes [I think that’s spelled wrong] is going out for test drives of new cars). I like seeing what’s new and improved, seeing what sexy concepts are coming, and following all the latest automotive news. And one of the great things about living in SE Michigan is that the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) is held every January right in downtown Detroit. Luckily I got a chance to go on the last day of the 2012 show on Sunday, January 22nd. Now if you love cars, this is one of the best shows in the country, if not THE best. Over the past couple of years, the NAIAS saw a drop which coincided with the economic downturn. Automotive companies withdrew from the show, major debuts and premieres were shifted to places like Chicago, New York, or Geneva, and attendance dropped. But from the looks of everything, the show has come back in a big way.
Another great thing about SE Michigan is Slow’s BBQ. For the past couple of years, our new tradition has been to go to the auto show and afterwards head on down to Slow’s for some beers and a meal of barbecued deliciousness. Slow’s has generated a big name for itself not just among locals, but across the country. There was even a nice article in the New York Times about how Slow’s is helping to revitalize downtown Detroit.
So let’s get down to business. . . after hanging out at the auto show for a few hours, we got in around lunchtime (like around 1:00), so it was packed with an hour wait (the crowd does thin out around 3:00 so that could be a good time to go). You could try and get a seat at the bar, but I wanted a table and didn’t mind the wait. Besides, it gave me a chance to look over all the pics from the auto show. Plus, I get a chance to figure out what beers I want to try — they have about 60 bottles and 20 beers on tap.
We started out with the Fried Catfish Appetizer and a couple of beers — specifically Bell’s Hopslam and Short’s Sour Puss. These are two of my favorite breweries and if you come across either of these two I definitely suggest you try them. The Hopslam is hoppy, and bright, and has strong flavor of grapefruit (especially on the aftertaste). This is another one of the Bell’s beers that has a cult-like following, especially since it’s available for only about one month out of the year. It is a lot stronger than your average ale, with a 10% alcohol rating. Now, as for the Sour Puss, I was not familiar with it and I couldn’t find any info about it at all on their website. So I had to drop the brewery a line; I haven’t heard back from Short’s so your guess is as good as mine. But I will be scouring stores in my area to see if I can get my hands on some. No surprise, but there is a very strong sour flavor and it was unlike anything I’ve ever tried before. It was layered and complex, but I have no frame of reference for me to compare. I just know that I loved it! Unfortunately for a lot of y’all, Short’s beers are available only in Michigan, and they don’t have any plans to change that any time soon. But hey, that’s a great reason to come and visit the state and visit Short’s Pub in Bellaire, MI.
So, on to the catfish. . . these morsels were perfectly cooked and served hot with a side of remoulade. These were described as having a “tempura” batter, but that really wasn’t the case. It was a lot more substantial than you would find in a tempura, but it didn’t overpower the fish. I think that the cornmeal in the batter helped out with that.
Another round of beers. . . another Hopslam and this time I wanted to try the Firkin of Pineapple Ale. Again, I don’t know much about this one and didn’t think to ask. I’m still learning how to be a restaurant critic so I will try to remember to be more inquisitive. . . and to bring a pen and paper because using the notepad on my phone is a pain! Now I’d say that this ale is closest to an IPA but on the sweeter side. I didn’t quite catch flavors of pineapple, but I did get apple and citrus notes. Since it was served closer to room temperature, the other flavors were easier to pick up. Now this is definitely a better choice for the meal, because the Sour Puss might probably overpower the rest of the meal with its intensity.
And now for the main course. . . we got the Longhorn sandwich with a side of waffle fries and the Big Three entrée with a side of green beans and the delicious Mac and Cheese. The Longhorn is a sandwich with sliced beef brisket, onion marmalade, and shredded smoked Gouda. The Big Three is pretty much a sampler platter of their barbeque offerings — pulled pork, pulled chicken, and the brisket. Honestly, I think the brisket is the star. You can get some of the crispy charring on the outside coupled with flavors with some of the fat on the beef (the fat is where the flavor is at!). So not only do you get the layers of flavors, but also layers of texture which add a great deal to the experience. I definitely think the brisket could stand on its own without any additional sauces or additions, but of course, that didn’t stop me from trying different combinations! Don’t get me wrong — I love the pork and the chicken, but they can be a little bit on the lean side which means they are perfect vehicles for Slow’s selection of sauces.
There’s a selection of four sauces — Apple, Sweet, Spicy, and North Carolina. In my opinion, the best all-arounders would be the smokey, sweet Apple and the vinegary North Carolina. I think the Spicy works best with the pulled pork, and the Sweet goes well with the chicken. Keep in mind that there are other dishes there, like the ribs, salmon, jambalaya, even vegetarian options, so these sauces could strut their stuff with other pairings. Maybe one of these days I’ll opt for the ribs and a side of the black-eyed peas. And maybe one of these days, I’ll remember to leave room for dessert.
Slow’s BBQ is quickly becoming an Michigan culinary institution, if it isn’t one already. I think that over hour wait that you’re likely to encounter when you get here attests to that. But if you can wrangle up 5 of your friends, you can call ahead for a table because they take reservations for parties of 6 or more. I love Slow’s and I recommend you checking them out. If you’re careful, your bill doesn’t have to be exorbitant like mine tends to be. But I get here once a year, and what can I say? — I’m a sucker for great food and great beer!