Friday, November 25, 2005

Famous Dave’s
36601 Warren Road
Westland, MI 48185
(734) 595-1000

After a quick visit to the Westland Mall on 11/25/05, my wife Linda and I stopped by the Famous Dave’s restaurant for lunch.

As we entered the front door, we immediately noticed that the interior decorators had gone to a great deal of trouble in an attempt to duplicate the atmosphere one might discover in a bon-a-fide southern-style BBQ place, even though most of the items appeared to be reproduction items. I’m sure it’s hard to find genuine southern artifacts for display like that, but some of the items were obvious store-bought wannabe antiques.

We were greeted by the hostess and seated at a booth in the front dining room. The booths, tables and chairs in the dining room were made of wood and covered in red and white vinyl checker table cloths and floor was very clean. The numerous windows let in lots of natural sunlight and made a very pleasant impression. The dining room was filled with blues music emanating from several stereo speakers mounted strategically throughout the dining room. Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimmy Vaughn, Buddy Guy, B.B. King and Albert Collins were some of the artists I recognized.

Linda made a comment to me that for a bbq restaurant there was an absence of any smokey aroma she expected. When the waitress arrived at the table after we’d been seated a short time, Linda asked, “How come I don’t smell any smoke?” The waitress replied, “Did you want to set in the smoking section?” Neither Linda nor I smoke cigarettes, but after Linda explained that she was referring to bbq smoke from burning wood or charcoal, the waitress struggled to explain that she shouldn’t expect to “smell” smoke because the smoker was “in the back”. I think the waitress missed the point of the question entirely, but after a period of awkward silence and Linda trying to explain that she thought bbq cooked with burning wood or charcoal would produce at least some amount of smoke fragrance, we proceeded to place our order.

The waitress did an excellent job explaining the main menu items and accompanying side order choices. The restaurant menu has a lunch section and a dinner section, but customers can order from either one. The waitress explained that the lunch items are served in smaller portion sizes and are slightly less expensive. Famous Dave’s offers appetizers, soups, salads, fish, burgers in addition to the “classic” bbq items. The “All-American BBQ Feast” serves 4-5 people for $53 and the menu also detailed a ”Feast for Two” for $30 in addition to various other combinations annotated as “combos”.

Linda chose the “Georgia Chopped Pork” sandwich and I ordered the “Texas Beef Brisket”. Side choices included corn bread muffin, potato salad, creamy coleslaw, corn-on-the-cob, fries, apples, baked potato or beans. We both had the beans, and I added potato salad.

As we waited for our order we sampled the selection of sauces on the table which included traditional Heinz ketchup, “Devil’s Spit”, “Texas Style”, “Georgia Mustard”, “Rich and Sassy” and “Sweet and Sassy”. I liked the two sassy selections best.

After just a very few minutes the waitress brought our meals. The chopped pork was served on a traditional hamburger bun and sauced with the “Sweet and Sassy” barbecue sauce. My brisket slices were served on a slice of Texas toast, with a little “Rich and Sassy” barbecue sauce on top, and accompanied by a corn muffin and corn-on-the-cob in addition to the potato salad and beans I ordered. The chopped pork sandwich looked very tasty and Linda confirmed that it exceeded what she has come to expect from a commercial bbq restaurant. My sliced brisket was a little different from what I would cook at home and had no visible “bark” or bbq spice rub whatsoever, but it was good nonetheless. We were both satisfied with the meal and agreed that it’s head and shoulders above any other barbecue we’ve sampled since moving to the Detroit area.

The waitress brought Coke and Diet Coke refills without us having to ask and the receipt totalled $21. We left a $3 tip and left, pleasantly surprised.

On a scale of 1 through 10, I’d rate the overall dining experience an “8.5″ and the barbecue as “good”. Linda made several positive comments on the way back to the truck regarding the good quality of service provided by the waitress.

Brian Pearcy
“The BBQ Guy”
Member Kansas City Barbecue Society
Member Florida Barbecue Association


Anonymous said...

Brian and Linda,

I read your review with interest as there is a Famous Dave's not far from my house that I have been to several times without having a bad meal. I've heard so many negative comments about them I'm surprised when someone actually likes the place.

If you ever go back, you MUST have their Bread Pudding. It is absolutely to die for. It's tough to eat after having dinner there, so if you're ever have a little sweet tooth some night run over and get dessert. I swear you will not be disappointed.


The BBQ Guy said...

Hi Bruce,

It was our first visit to Famous Dave's. We too have heard many negative comments about the chain in the past, but based on my experience at the Westland, MI location, I do not share those views. Famous Dave's compares positively to any of the other restaurant prepared bbq I've had in the Detroit area. On my bbq restaurant scale of poor, average, good and very good--it rates "good". On my bbq judge scale, it would rate much lower. For Linda and I, comparing restaurant bbq to competition bbq is like comparing apples and oranges.

Anonymous said...

$3 tip on $21 bill? Not even 15%?

The BBQ Guy said...

I don't worry about 10%, 15%, 20%. I tip based on the service level I receive.

And, the same goes for haircuts. I've tipped $10 for a $15 haircut many times.