Roast of the town

Slows Bar BQ opened last year in the city of Detroit in an area that would have been Exhibit A for many of the city's detractors. Located amid several long-vacant, abandoned structures, including Tiger Stadium and the dilapidated train station, this building was resurrected by Brian Perrone, Phillip Cooley and Dean St. Souver, whose commitment to Detroit is illustrated by the striking interior of their popular new barbecue joint.

Their barbecue is the real deal: ribs, chicken, pulled pork and brisket, all cooked in a Southern Pride smoker over hickory and apple wood. There is a sauce for every palate, although the flavor of the meats will stand on its own.

Metro Times: Barbecue is a passion of mine, so talking to a 'cue expert like you is what makes my job fun.

Brian Perrone: It's a fun food. My brother turned me on to barbecue. He lived in Argentina for a few years. When he came back, he lived in Boston. When I went to visit him, he said that we had to go to this barbecue place, Redbones. It was good, really good. Lots of really good beers. It is what I was looking at for this place — comfortable, good food, good beer, good prices and, of course, a line out the door. On the menu, there is a sandwich called "The Reason." My brother said, "Dude, I need you to make me a pulled pork sandwich with pickles and slaw on it." So I did, and after tasting it, we decided that it was a reason to open a barbecue.

MT: What was your culinary background?

Perrone: I got my training in Chicago; then I moved back here and began selling burritos at the Lager House for a while; then went to work as a sous chef at the No. VI Chophouse in Novi, got promoted to chef de cuisine and did that until I got burned out. It was a long drive for me anyway.

MT: Are there any barbecue books that you recommend?

Perrone: Robb Walsh's Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook is my favorite. I've got a stack of others that I haven't had a chance to look at yet. I also went to a national barbecue conference where I met a lot of legendary pit bosses who love to talk about 'cue, but I found I benefited most from experimentation.

MT: Let's talk about the neighborhood. Did you pick the location because you live here or the real estate prices are comparatively low, or the types of people who live nearby, like the artists who I'm told are around here.

Perrone: It's all of the above. When I first moved back from Chicago, I noticed all of these decayed buildings that were all boarded up and I saw this building — in 2001 — and thought that this would be a cool place for a restaurant and I could live upstairs, which I now do.

MT: Who eats at Slows? There appears to be a pretty diverse clientele here.

Perrone: Everybody. We're getting people from the surrounding neighborhood, the suburbs, downtown Detroit, chefs from other restaurants. The diversity makes it an interesting place to be. At the same time, we have regulars who are here several times a week.

MT: Do you think that this neighborhood is going to lose its character and become too gentrified?

Perrone: It certainly will change and improve, but it will likely retain an urban feel. We're waiting to see what will happen with Tiger Stadium and the train station. Those vacant dinosaurs give a look of blight to the area. Once people know what is going to happen with them, there should be a lot more interest for residents and businesses.

MT: I love your sauces. I was surprised that you hit the mark on all five. I never liked North Carolina sauce before yours. Are they "secret" recipes that people shared with you, or did you develop them over the years?

Perrone: Actually, they are combinations of a little research and my own taste buds. I'm glad you like them. I probably shouldn't admit this, but I've never had North Carolina sauce anywhere but here.

MT: What about the name Slows?

Perrone: There's a movement toward slow cooking, letting the flavors develop. That's what barbecue is all about. You can't rush it, especially with brisket and pork. Barbecue evolved in the old South, when the only meats available to poor folks were lesser cuts that required skill to make them edible. Now they are considered a delicacy.


Slows Bar BQ is at 2138 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-962-9828. Opens at 11 a.m. Monday-Friday, at noon Saturday and Sunday. Kitchen closes at 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, at midnight Friday and Saturday, and at 10 p.m. Sunday.

Jeff Broder does this twice-monthly interview for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]
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