Satchel’s BBQ opened downtown on Valentine’s Day, seven years to the day after Hugh Morgan’s first location opened on Washtenaw.
Both eateries are named for Morgan’s dog, who is in turn named for legendary Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige. Though Morgan describes his barbecue as “closest to Memphis style,” he grew up in Alabama and speaks in a modest southern twang.
Morgan loves his new location, the onetime gas station at Liberty and First most recently home to Pizza Pino. “This corner is just a hoot and a holler,” he laughs, after a man on a Segway zooms past the window.
After what Morgan calls “extensive cosmetic work,” the interior is a combination of sleek and down-home touches: cement flooring with a wood-covered accent wall, artwork of farm animals, and chairs in Satchel’s signature bright-orange color.
Outside, a large smoker sits on the edge of the driveway. Custom made, it’s bigger and hotter than the two at the original location, though Morgan says that shouldn’t change the flavor. The driveway has room for a couple of cars, so customers can grab to-go orders without paying for parking.
The menu mirrors the original location’s: pulled pork, pulled chicken, sliced brisket, ribs, kielbasa, coleslaw, potato salad, black beans, red beans and rice, mac and cheese, black-eyed peas, greens, mashed potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Morgan says the idea is to keep it simple and familiar. “Most people, they know the menu before they even walk in. You just tell me what you want–it’s a barbecue place!”
When the Washtenaw Satchel’s opened, barbecue joints were scarce in Ann Arbor, and Morgan saw an opportunity. “To me the idea of a very simple southern-style barbecue restaurant is a pretty obviously good idea, and one that this community at that time didn’t really have much of.” Now, the second Satchel’s is joining a larger group that includes Westside Barbecue and the newly opened Dickey’s Barbecue franchise.
Morgan says the competition doesn’t worry him much. “The more [barbecue] places pop up, the more that people are gonna think of all of us instead of thinking of other food types like sandwiches or pizza.”
He says some regulars from Washtenaw have dropped in, but the new place is developing its own clientele, with more young people and women. He’s looking to buy a liquor license for the downtown location and add private events.
Satchel’s BBQ, 221 W. Liberty. 929-4240. Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Closed Sun. satchelsbbq.com