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Restaurants & Bars 16

Ramen or Real BBQ in the Detroit Area?

david de berkeley | Jan 7, 200601:46 PM

Apologies for the weird conflation of topics, but I just had a terrible eating experience. So I woke up this morning, in the mood for ramen, actual ramen with a pork broth and maybe some butter and corn. I do some research and Noodle House in Novi seems like a good bet. Being an idiot, I don't call ahead to see if the place even exists. After driving a half hour to Novi, I get to the correct address and find . . . New York Thai Restaurant (strange name). I talk to the owner of the Korean market in the same plaza, and he explains that Noodle House has been closed for a while. There is one Japanese restaurant in the plaza, but my rule of thumb is that I do not order ramen at a restaurant that does not specialize in ramen. Disappointed, I try to think of some place to eat lunch in the area (I didn't drive twenty miles for nothing). On my way over to Noodle House, I noticed a new building with a sign that said, "Red, Hot, and Blue: Memphis Pit Barbeque." I think that this could be promising, so I stop by.

The first bad sign was that there was not a waft of smoke to be found emanating from the building. I walked around the building, sniffing (this probably looked weird to people pulling in to the parking lot), and got nothing. I walked inside, and there were a ton of awards and kudos for the RHB in MEMPHIS. There was also an article from the Free Press that gave the place in Novi three stars. I thought that while a chain is usually a bad sign, I was willing to settle for even mediocre barbeque at this point. I get the menu, and the second bad sign hits: the menu reads like TGI Fridays, with a section for "smoked meats." The third bad sign is that they did not offer rib tips. But a good sign was that they offered the ribs dry. But the fourth bad sign was that they served their individual beverages in these mini novelty pitchers. But a good sign is that they offered sweet tea. So I order ribs, pulled pork, and brisket, wondering what was going to come out. What did arrive from the kitchen was uniformly awful. I would wager that the meats before me had never been within twenty miles of an actual smoker, let alone a barbeque pit. The probable main cooking method for all three meats was boiling, maybe braising, but definitely not smoking. Both the pulled pork and brisket were covered in sweet sauce that was also terrible. The ribs had a "rub" that was pretty much paprika and cayenne thrown on right before serving. I cannot fully describe how far this food was from actual barbeque. The server came by and asked if the food was good, and I nodded my head, my mouth shriveling in horror at what was currently being chewed therein (if I complained, could the server have produced a barbeque pit?). As I was leaving, I took a closer look at the Free Press article, and it was pretty obvious that the reviewer did not know what the hell s/he was talking about.

If I wasn't so busy at work, I would genuinely entertain the idea of suing this place for false advertising or fraud. When a meat is categorized as smoked, it should be smoked. If I order fried chicken, I do not want stewed chicken. I know, many places parboil ribs and then finish on a grill, but these places do not advertise the ribs as smoked, but as barbequed (which I guess has become an adjective meaning covered in barbeque sauce). A restaurant should not be allowed to have the subtitle "Memphis Pit Barbeque" and not have a barbeque pit. I know, I should have derived from the fact that there was no smoke outside the building that there was no smoke inside the building. Call it the inner optimist in me, but I desperately wanted to believe that I had stumbled upon actual barbeque in my failed ramen quest.

So that was a long-winded way of asking these two questions: First, is there a place in the Detroit area that serves good ramen. I prefer a ramen house, but if someone knows of just a Japanese restaurant that serves a good version, that will work as well. Second, is there a good place for barbeque in the area? I've been to Slows, and Memphis Smoke has also been recommended, but I'm looking for something a little more hole-in-the-wall-ish. A barrier of bullet proof glass between myself and the smoker is always a good sign, in my book. Any help is greatly appreciated. And never eat at Red, Hot, and Blue in Novi, although I am now determined to eat at the one in Memphis.

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