A smokin' good time

. February 1, 2013.

Satchel’s BBQ
3035 Washtenaw Ave.

Hours: Mon-Sun 11am-9pm

It was a hot summer. I have survived hotter, though. That’s because my husband and I previously lived in North Carolina, where we endured brutal heat and humidity. In Michigan, you cool down by taking a dip and sipping Faygo, when in North Carolina we turned to barbeque and sweet tea.

Cool casual

Thus, it was no surprise we recently found ourselves at Satchel’s BBQ. Opened earlier this year, Satchel’s strives to provide high-quality barbeque at an affordable price. Located on Washtenaw just west of Whole Foods, Satchel’s appears kid-friendly inside and out. A huge black smoker in the parking lot beckons with the tantalizing smell of wood, smoke and meat. The inside of this casual, counter-service restaurant is tucked behind a telecommunications store. Split rail fence decorates the walls, picnic tables with checkered tablecloths provide seating and the sound system pulses with blues music.

 Satchel’s offers pulled chicken, pork and brisket sandwiches ($6-8) or half or full slabs of ribs ($13-$22). Combo plates ($10-25) include any of the aforementioned meat plus two sides and cornbread. Sides ($1.25 each) include mac and cheese, corn on the cob, baked beans, beans and rice, coleslaw, greens, corn bread and potato salad. Fresh brewed sweet tea, fountain drinks and bottled beverages are available.

Creating a kid's menu

Satchel’s does not have a children’s menu. My husband and I debated what to get our kids, ages eight and four. Our four-year-old sampled the pulled chicken, but shook her head no. We created their meals from the sides menu: mac and cheese and corn on the cob. “Adults, kids—they all love our mac and cheese,” assured the staff. We ordered a pork combo plate for me, a half-slab combo plate for my husband, then grabbed some drinks and picked the cleanest table.

“Something’s wrong with my mac and cheese,” my eight-year-old said. “It tastes weird.” The rest of us found it cheesy and creamy. Perhaps its natural color threw my blue-box loving kid for a loop.

My pulled pork was somewhat greasy, but in a flavorful way, with an authentic vinegar kick. I experimented with different sauces (house, hot, sweet, Carolina vinegar and mustard) and found the house most interesting and pleasing. My sides, greens and baked beans, were sweet and savory and meaty and tangy, respectively. I found the sweet tea just sweet enough, but perhaps over brewed.

My husband liked his greens and corn, but raved about his ribs, especially the dry rub. He went to request the ingredients from the staff, but returned defeated. “They said, ‘No way. Top secret.’” My daughter loved the ribs, too, and kept stealing rib meat off his plate.

My son did not revisit his mac and cheese and abstained from trying our meats. His dinner consisted of orange pop, corn and a mouthful of cornbread. He and I brainstormed about what Satchel’s could offer kids who don’t like their mac and cheese. He suggested a chicken leg. I thought a couple of ribs might work. It should be easy enough to create kid's meals, and with some more high chairs (there was only one) and changing tables in the restrooms, Satchel’s could be even more welcoming to families.

For my son, Satchel’s was not his cup of sweet tea. Yet the rest of us enjoyed our BBQ and found it to be a quick and tasty run.

Katy M. Clark is a freelance writer from Saline.

More yes than no
To avoid wait You may only wait in line to order: it’s counter service
Noise level high
Bathroom amenities No changing tables
High chairs One (!)
Got milk Only chocolate
Kids’ menu No
Anything healthy for kids Corn on the cob, beans and rice
Food allergy concerns The staff will take precautions such as washing hands and serving those with allergies separately. The staff was not aware of any ingredients which came in contact with peanuts.