|© J. Adrian Wylie|
Blink, and you'll miss it. Sniff, and you won't. Satchel's BBQ opened on Valentine's Day on Washtenaw next to Whole Foods. It's hidden behind Verizon Wireless, but "we've got a big wood-burning smoker out by the sidewalk in front of the building that's blowing out smoke all the time," says owner Hugh Morgan. "The most common thing we hear when people walk in is, 'Man, it's smoky out there, and I had to come in and try it!'"
Morgan says business is split about fifty-fifty between dine-in and takeout, and it has been significantly brisker than he thought it would be: "We sold out of food two out of the first five days we were open, and we sold out a third time the following week." Pulled pork and beef brisket sandwiches start at $6, and a half slab of barbecued ribs is $12. Sides, $1.50, include baked beans, corn bread, and greens.
Morgan, forty-five, doesn't have any restaurant experience--he describes himself as "just a hillbilly from Alabama who likes to cook a lot of barbecue." He moved to Michigan in 1989 for a teaching job and went on to work in banking and finance, but his passion has always been barbecue. "About a year ago I just kind of had this epiphany that my personal interest in barbecue happened to coincide perfectly with a fabulous market opportunity in Ann Arbor," he says. "You go down south to places like Nashville, Charlotte, and Atlanta, and they've got half a dozen to a dozen barbecue places scattered all over the place where you can just go grab a quick barbecue meal and be done." He says up here we have plenty of pizza and sandwich places, but no barbecue places--"not a bar, not a restaurant, but just a little barbecue place where all they do is barbecue. You don't go there for a beer. You don't go for a night on the town."
As for the name, Morgan says, "Satchel's the name of my dog, it's the name of my son's favorite baseball player [Satchel Paige], and it just sounded like a good name for a barbecue place. Like a man would turn to his wife and say, 'Let's go to Satchel's for barbecue.'"
Satchel's BBQ, 3035 Washtenaw. 971-5100. Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. noon-8 p.m. satchelsbbq.com
[Originally published in April, 2011.]
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