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Tastemakers: SlabtownCafe & Burgers Slabby Patty/Guiness Foreign Extra Stout

Rick Coates - February 14th, 2011
Slabtown Cafe & Burgers Slabby Patty
Trying to find the best burger in Northern Michigan is no easy task. In my travels I have come across many with Bubba’s, Mulligan’s and Don’s Drive In among my favorites in Traverse City. Certainly the Side Door Saloon and the recently opened Bay Burger in Petoskey are regular stops for me as well. My all time favorites have been the McMode Burger from Mode’s Bum Steer in Traverse City and the Tally Burger at Tally’s in Lewiston. 

Now Miller’s Bar in Dearborn is considered by many a connoisseur to be not only the best burger in Michigan but among the best in the country. Recently GQ Magazine cited Miller’s as one of the 20 best burgers in America. For the past several years it has won just about every people’s choice award in the Detroit area for best burger. The Miller burger is basic, no flair but juicy served on paper, the place is a poster child for Guy Fieri’s show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

Sure, there is no shortage of great burgers up here in the North country and now enter into the mix the Slabby Patty from Slabtown Cafe & Burgers on West Front Street in Traverse City. Owned by Jeff “Pungi” Pownell and Toni Dye who, in just two short years, have found themselves among the top burger joints in the region.

While there is literally a burger for everyone on the menu (plus assorted sandwiches, soups and salads) the Slabby Patty ranks among the favorites. The half pound burger is stuffed with American cheese and topped with ketchup, mustard, pickle, onion, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. Order medium well for a juicy, flavorful burger, toss in a side of fresh cut fries or onion rings with one of the local Northwoods Sodas on tap, and you are out the door for under $10. Inspired by Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, Pownell and Dye serve their burgers in paper bags. 

The combination of a flavorful burger, fresh ingredients and quick service (five to ten minutes at most) has made Slabtown Cafe & Burgers a happening place. While summertime affords outside dining during, these winter months indoor seating is limited, but the etiquette of the place requires you to share your table if you have empty seats. The secret at lunch time is to arrive early by 11:30 or order to go. 

While there are many tempting items on the menu, if you go for dinner, try the Slabtown Surf and Turf that consists of a healthy portion of smelt along with a cheeseburger, and large drink for $8.50.

Slabtown Cafe and Burgers is located at 826 W. Front St. in Traverse City. to see their menu check out or find them on Facebook. To order take out call 231.932.1760.

--Rick Coates

Guinness Foreign 
Extra Stout

ast October Guinness reintroduced its Foreign Extra Stout (FES) into the United States. Guinness has been one of the most popular beers in the world since the brewery opened in Dublin, Ireland in 1759. Guinness is so popular that over 10 million glasses are sold every day around the world, and 1.8 billion pints are sold every year. Guinness  is available in over 100 countries, and while the flagship brewery is the St. James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin, it is brewed at 45 breweries around the world to ensure freshness. 

I was introduced to Guinness Extra Stout while in college during an oyster eating contest when it was recommended to me by the bartender as the best beer to drink while eating oysters. I have been a fan ever since. Guinness is my plane crash beer. This is the time of year that I attend several beverage trade shows where there are hundreds of beers and wines available for tasting. Since it is impossible to taste everything being offered, I ask each vendor to tell me if I am on a plane that is crashing and I have time to enjoy one glass of wine or beer, which one should it be? This is my way to get them to tell me what’s best at their table. If I was on a plane and they announced we were crashing, I would want a Guinness to be my last beer.

Guinness FES is not a new beer, it was first brewed in 1801, made its way to the United States in 1817, and was discontinued in 1920 when Prohibition started. Foreign Extra Stout was originally brewed with extra hops, giving the beer a more intense flavor. The extra hops also acted as a natural preservative allowing it to survive long journeys overseas. Today FES is not only brewed with extra hops but a generous portion  of roasted barley resulting in a  bittersweet mouthfeel and a full-flavored, natural bite. 

Best enjoyed in a beer goblet to allow the aromas to swirl, Guinness FES pairs great with clam chowder, grilled seafood and chocolate dessert. It is available throughout Northern Michigan at retailers who sell specialty beers. --Rick Coates
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