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05 February 2013 @ 09:21 pm
Munching in Michigan: A coney, a pig, and a Dagwood  

Originally published at Scott Edelman. Please leave any comments there.

As you know, I was one of the Guests of Honor at Immortal ConFusion a few weeks back, which means there’s one thing you’ve all been wondering since then …

How was the food?

Because when I wasn’t pontificating on panels, getting intimate with a kaffeeklatsch, hanging in the bar, or leading new friends in a ukulele singalong, I was out on the streets of Michigan seeing what gustatory delights could be found. I didn’t get out much—after all, I was in Michigan on the con’s dime, and I wanted to make sure they got their money’s worth—but still, I did manage to visit three restaurants, thanks to the kindness of the committee.

Joe’s Coney Dog

I’m not sure I’m the best judge of what makes a good coney dog. I grew up in Brooklyn, for several years living about a mile from Coney Island. To me, a Coney Island hot dog means a Nathan’s hot dog with mustard, sauerkraut, and nothing else. Others might add a little relish, but little else, with the dog itself being a major player in the concoction.

So when I found myself in Dearborn, surrounded by dozens of restaurants proclaiming a Coney Island heritage, I knew I had to see what this was all about. I prevailed upon my hosts to bring me face to bun with a coney, and so on Saturday, we hit the road and ended up at Joe’s Top Dog.

I ordered the Jim Padilla special—which is a hot dog topped with ground beef, chili, mustard, and onion—for the full experience, and when it arrived, I stared at it and thought, “How the heck am I supposed to eat this thing?”

JoesConeyDog

I also thought, “Is there really a hot dog under all those toppings?”

So I dug in—and when I say I dug in, I mean I really had to dig, because there was no way I could have lifted this monster to my mouth without it collapsing into my lap. It definitely had to be eaten with a knife and fork.

What did I think of it? Let’s just say I was anthropologically satisfied, but not gustatorially satisfied. I was glad to have gotten to Joe’s so I could say I’d had a coney, but in terms of the flavor, it was all a big shrug to me. I’ve had more delicious hot dogs, heartier chili, more flavorful ground beef, and buns with more intestinal fortitude. So none of the individual components blew me away. And the hot dog itself was barely even a supporting player, lost under all of the other ingredients!

But—maybe that’s not the point of a coney dog. The people I was with didn’t seem at all disappointed, so perhaps the Platonic ideal of what a coney dog is supposed to be was fulfilled. As for me, though, it’s something that having done, I felt no need to do again. I’m willing to admit this just might not be for me, so I have no problem with you taking everything I’ve written here with a grain of salt.

However, the fries and onion rings were good, the servers were friendly … and other than that, I’m probably way out of line.

But what do you expect out of a kid from Brooklyn raised down the street from Coney Island?

Slow’s BBQ

When I knew I’d be heading to the Detroit area, the first thing I told my hosts was—you’ve got to get me to Slow’s BBQ. I’d seen Adam Richman eat a Triple Threat Pork sandwich—applewood bacon, pulled pork and ham—on Man. v. Food, and I needed one of those in my belly. So we headed there on a Sunday night, even though we were told there’d be a 90-minute wait. Because the food looked as if it would be worth that wait.

It was.

By the time we arrived, the promised wait had lengthened to two hours. I was still willing to wait. I knew that any restaurant that knew what it was doing would over-estimate the wait time to its customers, knowing that if you waited a long time, but it was less than what you were warned, you’d feel happy.

Which is what happened. We got seated 53 minutes from the moment we walked in, which thanks to the psychological trick played on us, we were OK with. If we’d been told half an hour, and it had taken 53 minutes, we’d have cursed, but since we got to our table in half the time promised, we were upbeat. So kudos to Slow’s for understanding the way waiting works and affects your mood.

Also affecting our mood—the staff. All were friendly and professional, adding to the overall pleasant experience.

SlowsBBQ

I knew I’d wanted that Triple Threat Pork sandwich, but since I didn’t know when I’d ever be back, I felt I had to order more, so I also got a You Choose combo of half a slab of St. Louis Ribs and Sliced Brisket. For the sides, I ordered cornbread and waffle fries. Plus I split a Split Pea and Okra Fritters. (Actually, I also split the sandwich and gave away a couple of the ribs. There’s only so much even I can eat.)

To start with what brought me to Slow’s—that Triple Threat was about as great a sandwich as I’ve ever eaten. The flavor of each ingredient and the way they combined was pretty orgasmic. I want another right now!

In fact, if I ever got the chance for a return visit, I’d skip those St. Louis Ribs, which while OK, weren’t great, and get a Triple Threat all to myself. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t agreed to share while ordering. It was that good. Definitely one of the peak sandwich experiences of my life. Oh, and the brisket was pretty amazing as well, fatty the way I like it, with a good bark.

As for the sides and appetizers, the fritters were worth my time, with a good kick, the fries, while good, were not among the most memorable I’ve ever had, and the corn bread was, even with the butter, a little too dry for my taste.

But, oh, that sandwich and that brisket! Those were unquestionably 5-star experiences! Slow’s is definitely worth a visit, however long a wait you’re told. If I ever make it to Detroit again, a return to Slow’s will be mandatory.

Dagwood’s Deli

There’s no way I’d have discovered Dagwood’s Deli on my own, and it turned out to be a delightful surprise. We only ended up there because I was advised I should visit Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum while in town, and someone kindly offered to drive me from where I was staying in Dearborn all the way over to Farmington, where she grew up. And since we we’d need to have lunch, she suggested her hometown favorite.

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much. I figured it would be your typical sandwich shop, but when I got a look at the menu, I could see they’d assembled some pretty creative choices. However, as much as I was tempted by the Girl Talk (Ham, Swiss cheese, Pineapple and Honey Butter on Grilled Cinnamon Bread) and The Promotion (Smoked Turkey, Cream Cheese, Colby Cheese, Onion, Tomato, Lettuce and Guacamole on Pumpernickel), I felt I had to order their signature sandwich—Dagwood’s Midnight Snack, which got top billing on the menu and was a 2-pound monster of a sandwich made with Roast Beef, Ham, Turkey, Colby Cheese, Swiss cheese, Tomato, Lettuce and Special Sauce on 4 slices of Marble Bread.

DagwoodsDeli

The cold cuts were quality, but what was additionally welcome (as well as surprising) was how good the bread was. Often, the bread at sandwich shops lacks intestinal fortitude (which as you can tell from my having used the phrase twice here, I look for in bread), and falls apart when loaded up with ingredients, especially the condiments. But the Marble held up and had some personality, with a good flavor and crust.

I didn’t finish the whole thing, but that wasn’t because I didn’t want to. It was just too much for any one person. (Well, too much for this one person.) So we asked for a to-go box and my friend got the chance to make another meal of it. The sandwich was $11.50, but we definitely got what we paid for.

So as you can tell, not only did I have a good science fictional weekend, but a good foodie weekend as well. And what more could one ask for?