New BBQ Restaurant Satchel’s Finds Success on Washtenaw
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Hidden behind the large, colorful signs advertising sales at the adjacent Verizon store while lying beneath the shadows of the colossal Whole Foods store next door, Satchel’s BBQ would not appear to be the first destination for travelers looking for a bite to eat. Yet since its opening on February 18th, Satchel’s has had a steady flow of customers, and is packed during mealtimes.
The idea of Satchel’s BBQ originated with Hugh Morgan, its owner.
Morgan is a former finance worker who had cooked barbecue food before, but had no restaurant experience. Instead, the idea came to Morgan based on a pressing need in Ann Arbor. “[Living in Ann Arbor] I would find, there are really not a ton of alternatives for barbecue.” Morgan also felt that the idea would work, regardless of who did it. “The idea of a relatively cheap barbecue place where you could go in, grab a quick sandwich and leave just seems like a good idea,” said Morgan- “Can Ann Arbor support 20 places like this? Maybe not, but good lord it can support one.”
When pulling into the parking lot of Satchel’s, customers are immediately greeted by the sight of a large wood-burning smoker. Morgan says this is a large part of what makes his restaurant stand out. “[The burner’s] the big thing, we cook [the food] over hardwood all day long and well into the night,” said Morgan. “When people eat the meat, they’re like, ‘Wow, this meat is real barbecue.’” The whole property is filled with the smells of barbecue, making the hungry even hungrier.
Upon entering, you will be greeted as a long-time customer, even though most who enter are visiting for the first time. The long wooden tables with accompanying chairs would seem perfect for a summer camp dining hall, and present the perfect opportunity to sit with strangers and make new friends. Country and folk music plays throughout the restaurant, giving it a southern vibe to go with the food.
Satchel’s is a counter service restaurant instead of a traditional sit-down. This allows customers to get their food in an eerily quick fashion, often getting full plates of food in 5-10 minutes. The efficiency is nice, but many find that the friendly and relaxed atmosphere makes sitting down seem like a more attractive option.
As far as the food itself is concerned, Satchel’s is an absolute must-try for any barbecue fans in the area. Even those less-educated on the works of barbecue food will appreciate a simple menu with delicious food.
There are four main meal choices; Ribs, Beef Brisket, Pulled Pork and Pulled Chicken. All four are cooked on the two wood-burning smokers outside, giving them a refreshingly authentic classic barbecue taste. The meat can either be served as a sandwich (excluding ribs), or as a plate, which includes two sides, a large drink and a slice of Texas toast for just $4 more.
Since opening, Satchel’s has seen a surprising amount of success, by far exceeding Morgan and his workers’ expectations. “Those first couple weeks we kind of got crushed. I mean, we even sold out of food a couple of nights,” Morgan said “We just didn’t anticipate that many people walking in the door.” Satchel’s quickly adjusted, and there haven’t been any shortages of food since.
Despite the success, Morgan has no immediate plans for expansion. He seems perfectly content with the way things are. “I love going to work, I love the people I work with, I love my customers,” Morgan declared. “I just want to have people sit down and say, ‘Hey this is awesome, this is great!’” So far, Satchel’s BBQ has done just that.