If you’ve been around long enough to fondly recall the old roadside BBQ stands of Mr. Rib on North Main and DeLong’s on North Fifth Avenue, you’ll be glad to know that a new meat’s-the-thing joint has appeared to carry on in their low-key style. Look for it on Washtenaw just west of Whole Foods, behind the Verizon store. Or roll down your window, close your eyes (assuming you’re not driving), and follow the sweet aroma of wood-smoked ribs up to Satchel’s front door—or at least to one of its big black outdoor smokers when they’re fired up and wreathed in nearly edible wisps of dinner-to-come.
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!'”
Sure, there’s a sign outside that points the way to Satchel’s BBQ; its flames leap up, yellow-orange on black, to say you’ve reached your destination. But it’s your nose, taking an olfactory cue from the wood-smoker fired up out front, that really leads you to Satchel’s, tucked away behind a Verizon store just west of Whole Foods on Washtenaw Avenue.
Open since early mid-February, Satchel’s is the smoky love child of Hugh Morgan, a Michigander via Alabama who took up mitt and cleaver to fill a near-void in the city’s culinary scene with honest-to-goodness Southern barbecue.
“My goal is to deliver Southern-style barbecue at a value price,” Morgan said. “I want you to be able to go there very comfortably and feel like you’ve eaten good food.” Morgan describes himself as “a hillbilly by nature,” who has catered events for up to 30 people just because he likes to make BBQ and people like it.