We went to the Eastern Market in Detroit last Saturday with our intrepid friends, Michelle and Ali, and B.'s long-time friend (also NY jazz musician), Henry. We've been wanting to see Eastern Market (in the triangle bordered by Mack Ave., I-75, and Gratiot) in full swing to learn how much of what they have comes from Michigan. We were also hoping to look in on the pastry business of a friend's wife. I've heard this area called the "terminal" but the sign on the building we went in says "Shed 2." This market is covered - so warm and operational in winter, right? I'd like to see some nice produce there in the cold months.
After learning that our friend's French pastries had sold out an hour before and they were enjoying a leisurely late brunch at the cafe next door, we were too dispirited to look around much. Ali, observing Ramadan, had really been looking forward to trying the pastries after sundown, while I, piggishly, had really been looking forward to enjoying them immediately. We popped in to the Spice Shop for some Clancy's Fancy sauce and then a quick circuit around Shed 2.
We found a bustling crowd, from many parts of the world it seemed. It made me notice how white Ann Arbor is by comparison. Duh. It's a great space with natural light, soaring roof lines and exposed iron supports - it looks like many solid WPA-built projects. Plenty of space for many vendors and long aisles of produce and flowers. Lots of odd things for autumn in Michigan - like strawberries, bananas and mangos. There was also some Michigan produce that I haven't seen much in Ann Arbor - fennel bulbs, fresh pinto beans, okra. Perhaps half of the vendors appeared to be selling Michigan produce. A number of vendors had signs saying they accept EBT/Bridge Card tokens, part of Michigan's food assistance program. People use the Bridge Card to purchase Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) tokens for $1 each which can then be used at participating farm vendors for fresh produce. Maybe some of that Greening of Detroit stuff is helping too.
Slow's is a good excuse to go to Detroit. It's one of the only excuses that will drag B. out of The Bubble. If you like ribs and beer, you need to go. It's in the groovy Corktown area where the cool artsy people in Detroit probably hang out. There was a flea market a couple of doors down when we were there.
Lots of things make this a very appealing place. First of all, they have a great logo. That alone makes me want to eat there. And their space is really excellent - lots of wood, brick and windows designed into a great renovation that somehow manages to also feel historic. Be sure to check out the bathroom sinks. I love those. Everything in the place feels solid in an industrial way that is still very comfortable.
And then of course, the food and drink. Hundreds of beers, many on draft and many local or obscure artisanal brews. They have a Slow's Beer Group that meets with monthly tastings and guest speakers for the true beer geek. But of course, the food is the real reason to drive out of The Bubble. They appear to have some pretty expert knowledge of the art and craft of bar-b-que, with different kinds of meats - pork, chicken, beef, catfish - in lots of different styles. Each more tender and delicious than the others. And they have great sides like black-eyed peas, mac and cheese, sweet potatoes, cornbread. Somehow no collards though. I had the soup on special - dill pickle. It was great - creamy and thick with lots of slivers of tart dill pickles, onion and cabbage.
B. and I split an entree with the St. Louis style ribs and the brisket which came with sides of sweet potatoes and baked beans. Definitely enough for 2 people, though he hogged the sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes were superior - fluffy like mashed potatoes and not artificially too-sweet. The baked bean were not as good as my mom makes. The ribs are given a medium-spicy dry rub (I guess that's the St. Louis style) and they were appealingly crisp and dry-ish but also falling-off-the-bone tender. The brisket is cooked long and slow so it is very tender and juicy - try to get some of the salty, crispy crusty end bits. They put 8 bottles of different BBQ sauces on your table, so you can try out whether you like the peppery-vinegar kinds or the thick-sweet-ketchup-y styles.
I was a bit disappointed to find out that they currently get all of their meat from Sysco. But I heard from someone knowledgeable that they are trying to find a source for local chickens. I hope they do and that they start some more demand for local beef and pork too. I would feel a lot less guilty about enjoying it so much.