Slows brings a burst of fabulousness and community spirit to central Detroit.
Andrew McFarlaneSlows in central Detroit.

I travel a good bit for my job. It may sound glamorous, but it can be quite grueling: long days in conference halls and meeting rooms tend to suck my brain dry. My consolation comes when I hit the streets in search of food. Over the past year, I’ve had terrific meals at unique, local-minded restaurants from Austin to Seattle to Boston. I’m usually too worn out from the meeting-world to write much about them. (Exception: a paean to sandwich shops in Brooklyn and New Orleans; and a tribute to the street food at San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Market.)

The holiday lull has given me the chance to reflect on another good year in road grub. On the following pages I rave about my favorites, in no particular order.

Slows Bar-B-Q
Detroit, Mich.

Housemade potato chips.
Jonathan McintoshHousemade potato chips.

Not far from downtown, on what was until recently just another abandoned block, Slows Bar-B-Q brings a burst of fabulousness and community spirit to central Detroit. The place is owned and run by Phil Cooley, who grew up in the city’s suburbs before heading off to New York to launch a modeling career. He retained a passion for Detroit’s crumbling grandeur and a vision for the bustling place it could become again. Returning to launch Slow’s in 2005, he’s created a relaxed but buzzy atmosphere that appeals to the city’s new class of hipsters — black and white — along with suburbanites fleeing stripmall world. The decor is urban-rustic: upcycled wood and metal from all over the neighborhood. The menu I’ll sum up like this: you can get a delectable barbecue sandwich, from pulled Niman Ranch pork, for $8. (My brother, vegetarian, swears by the mac ‘n’ cheese.) The beer list is splendid. I love this place.

Don’t miss: Split “The Big Three” — pulled pork, pulled chicken, and sliced brisket — with a friend.