Detroit’s dank gourmet

Sampling some edibles and trying our hand at making weed-infused pulled pork sandwiches

Dank Godz

13014 Gratiot Ave., Detroit; 313-939-2873; 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday-Saturday. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. $4-$20. Wheelchair accessible.

With Michigan making medical marijuana legal in 2008, the dispensary industry is still in its early stages. The some 150 establishments in the city of Detroit can mostly be found on Eight Mile Road, as well as Gratiot Avenue on the city's east side. Many of them are marked by no more than a green cross, the classic telltale sign that medicine, albeit alternative medicine, is being practiced there. Others are more elaborate in their décor. One outlet on Gratiot, for example, looks like it used to be a Coney Island or Taco Bell. Painted bright green, it's pretty apparent now that procuring cheesy gordita crunches is not the aim there, though once you're finished with the gram of whatever you've purchased, you may want to be on the hunt for one later.

Just before Christmas, we made a last-minute shopping run at one such establishment, called Dank Godz. It sits in a small strip mall, next to an LA Insurance on Gratiot. When you walk up to the poorly numbered place, its windows tinted black, you'll be greeted by one of several burly security guards who will ask who you're looking for. We tell the guard, "Shorty," the name of the proprietor. We wait a few moments while he checks in with the boss (note: Don't ask for Shorty unless you know him and he's expecting you. Instead, be prepared to display your medical marijuana card for entry).

Walking in could easily transport any stoner to their first days of smoking, when one was invited to that sketchy, older kid's house, whose basement was transformed into his own personal stoner's lair. Everything reeks of weed. If you're not used to it, it may take you aback momentarily. But instead of coming from an old hand-me-down couch that's regularly getting bong water spilled on it, or from your BFF who's toking away in a corner from a handcrafted apple pipe, the aroma is coming straight from the merchandise. And unlike your old slacker friend's place, the ambiance (once you get past security) is welcoming and fun, with splashy murals of emojis adorning the walls and a staff eager to share their knowledge with customers.

We could easily detail the numerous strains of kush or indica that can be acquired here, but we're going straight to what stood out most: the edibles. As is common in most dispensaries, edibles are the veritable icing on the cake in the medical marijuana game. Designed, in part, to appeal to those whose ailments call for a dosage of THC but who cannot tolerate the overpowering smoke that fills the lungs, edibles come in a variety textures and flavors. Looking for something fruity? Go for a highly potent gummy or rock candy. How about a bit of dessert? The "cannabutter"-infused cereal bars may do the trick. If salty snacks are your thing, take home a bag of weed Doritos-style corn chips or Cheetos-inspired cheesy doodles, in both regular or flaming hot. Or perhaps you'd rather sip your weed instead, in which case take home a batch of handcrafted "koolaid" that comes in a large mason jar.

We wanted to get a robust experience and tried a number of goodies. Let's just say that these snacks really are meant for nibbling. Highly potent, the edibles found at Dank Godz range from 45 milligrams of THC per serving to 150. To put that into perspective, if you were to smoke a gram of cannabis, that's the equivalent of about 300 milligrams of THC. If consumed too quickly, you may end up with a bad trip, and really, how therapeutic is that anyway?

We started off by sampling the Trix-flavored cereal bar (they come in a variety of kid cereal flavors). Instead of using melted marshmallow as the cohesive, the treat was held together with cannabutter, a sticky, creamy substance that leaves that unmistakable aftertaste of cannabis in your mouth. We ate about a quarter of it and were already feeling iree.

We took our time with the gummy, which at 150 milligrams per serving, seemed to have the THC sprinkled on top. Think of it like Gummy Cokes, with a little spice. We also sampled a Neapolitan-style chocolate bar. Divided like a Hershey's, we only needed one small rectangle piece to get the desired effect. The weed chips... wow, we really can't get over how much they taste like the real Frito Lays, right down to the orangish glow left on your fingers that commands you to lick 'em clean.

But enough with the kiddie-style snackage. What really grabbed our attention was the marijuana-infused barbeque sauce. It came in small vials, amounting to 150 milligrams of THC per bottle. We took two and informed Shorty we would be making pulled pork with it. We asked if he had any recommendations for cooking with edibles. He had none, telling us he prefers smoking, the old-fashioned way.

With 300 milligrams of the stuff in our hands, we headed to Eastern Market to purchase four pounds of pork butt. We opted for a sweeter rub of brown sugar, cinnamon, chili powder, cumin, and salt for the pork, since the sauce itself is on the sweeter side. We added thinly sliced onion and garlic, a cup of chicken stock, and tossed it all in a Crock-Pot for six hours. The result was a classic, tender pulled pork, perfect for sliders. We topped ours off with McClure's relish, giving a vinegary balance and a bit of crunch. Trouble here is that only one slider is recommended at a time, at least in the outset. Makes for an interesting catch-22. Eat it because it's delicious. Eat it because you're getting stoned. Just eat it slowly, maybe one per hour. We estimate that the recipe was enough for about 20 to 30 sliders. That means each serving has got about 5 to 10 milligrams of THC in it.

What Shorty's was lacking was an expert who could guide us through the ins and outs of purchasing the right goodies for our desired effect. And that perhaps speaks to the young age of Michigan's medical marijuana industry. Prior to our visit to Dank Godz, we visited Colorado, the first state in the country to fully legalize it. At a dispensary in Aspen, we came across several highly trained staff members, who, much like sommeliers in a wine bar, were quick to recommend different treats that would produce different effects. Looking for a body high? Try the bite-sized brownies. Want a more traditional buzz that one might get from taking a toke from a joint, the gummies will do the trick. The space was decidedly brighter, doors were unlocked, and product was neatly arranged in much the same way as one would find the layout of a jewelry store.

Then again, we're not in Colorado, which has a stringent infrastructure in place to regulate the quality of the products that are sold. Dispensaries in Michigan are still viewed as seedy, frequented by folks who will seek to obtain medical marijuana cards by any means necessary so they can justify their smoking habit. With the addition of Dank Godz (which, along with Shorty, is co-owned by rapper Icewear Vezzo), that stigma is being chipped away. The duo hires young men and women in the neighborhood. And they long for the day when marijuana culture in Michigan starts to be embraced. As for us, we recommend this spot for both its charm and its excellent munchie selection — in moderation and with card in hand, of course.

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