The Best Of Metro Detroit's Rude Food
Long gone are the days of uppity French restaurants that treat their customers as if they should feel privileged for being permitted the honor of eating. As the worldwide hospitality industry has come to understand that the surest way to success is through quality customer service, pompous behavior has mostly become widely unacceptable. Even in the City of Light, the snooty shtick has almost disappeared entirely. Restaurants that have a reputation for rudeness are often more popular for their patented ostentatiousness than for their food; those with delicacies worth social indignity are increasingly rare.
We've all had experiences at popular restaurants that have left a bad taste in our mouths, and for some we wave those experiences like badges of honor, a show of just how dedicated we are to good food.
"I once waited almost three hours for a table at Slows," a friend told me while we were discussing our favorite Detroit diners.
When I squawked at her proud admission and asked, "But WHY?!?", she gushed, "Because it's sooooooo good."Slows Bar BQ
has been rated one of the Top 10 New BBQ Restaurants
in the country by Bon Appétit
. With its eclectic décor reminiscent of a deep-South BBQ joint gone urban chic, as well as its inexplicable hipster appeal and some mighty tasty grub to boot, Slows has become known around town as Metro Detroit's favorite place for beer and BBQ ...and also as one of Detroit's pokiest restaurants.
That’s right: it's not just a clever name. Repeat trips to Slows have proven their service to be exceptionally, well, slow. It is not uncommon for a party of, say, two or more to wait inside the restaurant (crammed between the backs of people gathered at the bar and tables of people trying to eat) for hours just to be seated. Add to that another hour or more before the completion of their meal and you better have an epic commitment to BBQ. And you definitely get the sense that the staff knows how good their food is. They KNOW you're going to wait for it.
For years, people have been raving about Slows' decadently creamy Mac-n-Cheese and they're oh-so right. Ditto on their classic pile 'o pulled pork slathered in your choice of sauce (there's an autumn-hued rainbow of selections on every table), a meat-lover's dream.
Maybe when Slows open their new carry-out location in Midtown some of those long waits and slow service frustrations will be alleviated, but until then, you're still going to wait, aren't you? Yeah…you will.
If barbeque grub isn't your thing, but you enjoy a hearty homemade soup and stacks of corned beef on fresh-baked rye bread, then perhaps you've heard of the Stage Deli
in West Bloomfield? The Stage Deli is a traditional Jewish deli that has been owned and operated by the same family for three generations. They offer a variety of Kosher favorites such as matzo ball soup, beet borscht, potato latkes, and the most extensive lox menu in all of Metro Detroit. Oy, you've never seen so much lox. They are also known for having some of the best corned beef anywhere.
They're also known for being in no great hurry to serve you.
Stage Deli has a loyal fan base which keeps the dining room packed at all hours of the day (and don't even bother dropping in on a Saturday). Repeat visits reveal service to be, to be kind, a constant surprise: Sometimes welcoming and friendly, sometimes disinterested and downright rude, one thing is always certain: it will be s-l-o-w. Even when the dining room isn't at capacity (with a wait at the door), Stage Deli is likely to give you the most leisurely soup-and-sandwich experience of your life.
But a dining experience worth bragging about doesn’t always mean self-righteously slow service. Sometimes you're attracted to a place for the sheer joy of being shouted at by a stranger.Miller's Bar
in Dearborn looks like something straight out of The Big Lebowski
. It is decidedly dingy, "filthy" some might even say, but it's the kind of joint that has its own unique charm. Plus they have the #8 Burger You Must Eat Before You Die
according to GQ
magazine, so there is a reason that diners choose to accept their..er... eccentricities.
What eccentricities, you ask? Well, if there is a wait for a table, you must stand in a single-file line at the door. There are no plates, no menus, no guest checks, and credit cards are not accepted. Your accoutrement choices are pickles, ketchup, and mustard. Oh, and there is a charge for water.
A greasy burger with next-to-no topping selections served on nothing but wax paper might not appeal to most self-avowed gourmands, but burger aficionados everywhere hail this place as one of the best. And at the end of your meal, you tell the bartender what you had and pay him (a cash-only honors system). There are burgers, onion rings, and fries. That's it.
And people love it, despite the film of decades-old grease that hangs in the air. (One Yelper even postulates, "The reason they have the best burgers is because they never clean the grill, so the taste never leaves the grill.")
Miller's Bar is not recommended for those fussy about cleanliness, personal service, variety, and/or healthful options. It is a grease laden island unto its own.
If it's variety you want, then Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger
in Ann Arbor is where to find it.
Blimpy Burger proudly touts 2,147,483,648 different possible combinations, and is not only known for making great burgers (all meat is fresh ground daily and never frozen); it's also famous for having a rude 'tude.
A featured burger joint on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives
, Blimpy's nationally-recognized patties are served with a patented shtick that makes the trip to Ann Arbor a Metro Detroit rite of passage.
For the uninitiated: Customers MUST know how to order properly. You MUST order your own burger (no having anyone order on your behalf). You MUST choose your toppings in the correct order (God help you if you get it wrong). You MUST stay in line until your order is served (no grabbing a table while someone else waits for you). Should you get ANY of these rules wrong, you WILL be reprimanded by the staff, and embarrassed publicly for the amusement of those who ordered correctly. Needless to say, this tends to increase the anxiety of those who follow. The story that gets most frequently repeated is of the very pregnant woman who sat down to rest only to be told she'd better get back up and wait in line to order her own food. Dave Askew, the little loudmouth behind the grill, could give Seinfeld's Soup Nazi a run for his money.
But when it comes to comfort food, we want what we want. And maybe, deep down, we're gluttons for punishment. In a country where good customer service (fast, friendly, unflappably corporate) is considered the cornerstone of a successful business, we find the devil-may-care-and-he-can-go-home-if-he-doesn't-like-it attitude unexpectedly refreshing. Maybe we seek these negative experiences as a common bond, a badge of honor that we gastronomes are properly committed to the art of eating, no matter what the cost (financially…physically…emotionally). Or maybe like primitive man, we're looking to swap survival stories about our hunt for sustenance. No matter how you serve it, the promise of a good meal makes us willing to suffer through innumerable indignities, and there's nothing we love more than sharing them with others.
Nicole Rupersburg likes Detroit and to eat. She also writes this blog:
diningindetroit.blogspot.com. Her previous article for Metromode was Metro Detroit's Crepe Expectations
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Slows BBQ sauces
Stage Deli's corned beef sandwich
Customer waits for his carry out at Stage Deli
The grille at Miller's
Miller'sPhotographs by Detroit Photographer Marvin Shaouni Marvin Shaouni is the Managing Photographer for Metromode & Model D
Contact Marvin here