...and the phrase "Majoring in the minors." comes to mind first.
Overall, I enjoyed my fare there, but in kind of a backwards way. I found the soup to be fantastic, the sides to be quite nice, the beverage to be pretty decent, and the main events? From simply okay, to downright bad.
To start out: I went in around 7PM tonight (Tuesday), and the place was positively dead empty. I was literally the only customer in the store, which I was fine with, even if it is a bit initially disconcerting (if it's so good a place, why am I the *only* one here, at 7PM?). I was warmly and casually greeted by Melissa, my hostess/server, and the service, especially when the place was empty, was great. The service level never dropped below good, even when several other people ended up coming in to the place while I dined in. It just wasn't as meticulous as it had been when I was alone, and that's *completely* understandable. Once I ceased to be the only table she had to worry about, there were other considerations to be taken, which I totally get. Regardless, she was pretty helpful with the food and drink discussion, and she talked me into (it didn't take much arm-twisting at all...) getting the house-made lemonade (with basil!) to start out with. The small sample closed the deal.
Now, I should say this: I liked it, especially the initial sip. The problem with the initial sip (as I noted to Melissa) was that it was at room temp, and it needed to be cold. She said, "No problem! It won't be when I pour it over a glass full of ice!" So, yes, it got cold...but it also got diluted quite a bit, and the initial "pop" of the flavors was muted as a result. For $3, with no refill (I didn't anticipate that there would be), it didn't quite satisfy me. Had the lemonade been chilled to begin with, and ice not been necessary, this would have been *extremely* satisfying for $3. I guess I just don't understand why they wouldn't chill it from the outset. I can tell you this: on a day as humid as this one, the undiluted product would have been an *excellent* thirst-quencher, and a full, non-ice-reduced glass of it would have been worth every red cent of $3. As I had it? Maybe not, but I didn't regret my decision to get it. It was followed by a glass of water midway through the meal.
I'd kind of gone in with the mindset of having the roast beef dinner, with potatoes and a portobello gravy. It sounded good. It's served with a side salad or coleslaw, and while the coleslaw is quite good, I opted for the side salad, which was just okay. I asked for a raspberry vinaigrette dressing initially, and was taken aback at the severe lack of raspberry in it. It was practically all vinegar, and I wasn't really wanting a balsamic. I then asked for the maurice dressing, and it was good, but not as good as Hudson's/Macy's/whatever-you-want-to-call-it-these-days. Certainly far better than the initial choice. The greens themselves were fine, and seemed fresh.
One of the draws of Mudgie's, according to JP, is the soup selection they have. For me, one of the draws of the roast beef entree was the fact that you can tack on a cup of soup for $2 or $2.50 or something like that. Today they had two different types of gazpacho, and I wanted to try the one with the beef broth base. What an *excellent* choice this was. Tons and tons of flavor, with the vegetables retaining much of their natural crunch, and the spice level of the soup was extremely satisfying. I could eat this stuff once a week and never get tired of it. It's every bit in the league of the best soups in the area. I can see why JP touts them so. I wish I'd gotten a bowl of it. Or two.
The roast beef entree came out, and it had promise. The first thing I had was the potatoes and gravy, and really, really liked them. Properly done skin-on potatoes, with an excellent gravy. They could have sold these to me as a side, and I've have loved them, good and proper.
But then, the beef. I took my first bite, and was honestly hoping that it was a problem piece. Tough. *Very* tough. Extremely chewy, and not in a good way. I tried another bite, and it was the same. I tried from a different piece on the plate, and I honestly had trouble *cutting* the stuff with fork and knife. I asked Melissa if they'd microwaved the beef or something. She said that they hadn't, that it had been prepared in a pan. That poor pan...the things it's blamed for. I had to send it back, wistfully disappointed that the potatoes were going to have to go with it. This really surprised me, that a deli would get the meat wrong/overcooked/tough. That's...strange.
But no matter! I'll try something different! Though I thought about getting the hot turkey entree, I decided that I'd take a different tack and go with a sandwich. I really wanted to try the Magill (with turkey and bacon), but Melissa said "The avocado *makes* that sandwich...", and I knew it wasn't for me. I was going to ditch the avocado and cheese, and so I stuck with the traditional corned beef with coleslaw and Russian dressing, served on an onion roll, with a new dill pickle. To go with it, I ordered a side of their potato salad. The potato salad came, and I really liked it a good bit. It's a different take on potato salad, with potatoes, apples, basil, stone-ground beer mustard...it was really good, and it was $3. Melissa had given me a sample of the macaroni salad to try, and while it, too, was good, potato salad was the better choice for me. Still, neither one was a slouch.
Sandwich time...and, it's functional. At $9, it's pretty darned small, or at least lacking in the meat department. It was just okay, and again: I find it funny that a *deli* is getting far higher marks from me for the soup, sides, and such (minors), than for the sandwiches and entrees (majors). I ate the entire thing, yes, but there was nothing truly remarkable or memorable about it, save the smallish amount of meat and the fact that it should have been sliced thinner. I've had far better corned beef sandwiches at Stage, Plaza, Star, etc. Had I gone to Mudgie's planning on eating lunch and being filled up by a corned beef sandwich for $9, I would have been *majorly*, um, "put out". I guess that's the polite way of saying it. Considering the price and size, this sandwich kind of scratches the same territory as Kirk's BBQ in Birmingham does...
I was *going to* have myself a Calder's Dairy ice cream cone, but they were out of cones, and that's just the way things go sometimes. It's hardly a deal-breaker, and I was fine as it was. I had a gift certificate from Oy that had a $20 value that I paid $10 for, and my total bill came out to $19.87, tax included. They can keep the $.13, on me. I tipped Melissa $4, and felt she deserved it, even though service as the evening went on wasn't as personal as when I first walked in...that can't be helped, and she never made me feel neglected at all. She genuinely seemed to enjoy her job, but when I left, she was the only one covering several tables, and they really could have used someone else waiting tables as well. She was stretched a bit too thin at that point, I thought.
Overall, I'd definitely go back, for those minors. Knowing what I do now, I'd skip the sandwiches and entrees almost wholesale, and go for the soups and/or side items. I'd be apprehensive about heading there famished and expecting to not spend a ton, but if I could do, say, a bowl or two of soup, and a side or two of something or other, that'd be about $11, and I think it'd fill me up. It's strange to say, but I just don't really trust them with meat, and that's a bit loopy for a deli in my book. Meat should be Job One for them, and as much as it wasn't, those sides and soup were really right up my alley.
B-minus, I'd say. Nothing earth-shattering, but nothing really bad, either. They succeed greatly in some things, and in other (more anticipated?) ways, they seem to be a bit bewildered.
Do *not* miss out on the soup, and you'll at least walk away with some good stuff.
1300 Porter St, Detroit, MI 48226