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Posted on Sat, Nov 27, 2010 : 6 a.m.

Satchel's BBQ to open on Washtenaw in Ann Arbor in early 2011

By Paula Gardner

A first-time restaurant operator chose a former retail space on the busy Washtenaw Avenue corridor near Huron Village for Ann Arbor’s newest BBQ spot.

Satchel’s BBQ should open in January, said owner Hugh Morgan of Ann Arbor. That depends on steady progress on extensive renovations needed to convert the space into a restaurant, he added.

The restaurant, located at 3035 Washtenaw, is the second in Washtenaw County to make news this month about starting a BBQ format. In early November, the new buyer of TC’s Speakeasy in Ypsilanti outlined plans to convert it into the Red Rock Downtown Barbecue.

While that establishment will also offer live music and full bar, Satchell’s is focusing on a simpler experience for customers, including carryout.

“My goal is to deliver Southern-style barbecue at a value price,” Morgan said. “I want you to be able to go there very comfortably and feel like you’ve eaten good food.”

Morgan describes himself as “a hillbilly by nature,” who has catered events for up to 30 people just because he likes to make BBQ and people like it.

He has no restaurant-business background, but realized that his career in finance didn’t hit his passion: BBQ in the Southern tradition, like where he grew up in Alabama.

“One day I came home and thought: There’s a tremendous opportunity to have a good BBQ restaurant in this town,” Morgan said.

That idea grew into a business plan over the past year, as Morgan researched the idea and what it would take - from the real estate to the health department requirements - to make it happen.


The Morgan family will open their first restaurant in early 2011.

From Hugh Morgan

And as he dug further into the possibility, he “got more and more wedded to the idea.”

The location came about because of the high traffic counts nearby - the intersection of Washtenaw and Huron Parkway, just to the east, is among one of the most-traveled areas in Washtenaw County.

The building he chose is occupied by a Verizon store across the front, leaving a 1,500-square-foot space on the east side the building.

That spot - visible from the entrance to Whole Foods - comes with some visibility challenges, Morgan said.

He put up the sign touting the new restaurant early this month, and now is working on his strategy to get people to slow down long enough to realize there’s a reason to stop there.

“There’s going to be a wood-burning BBQ smoker here,” he said. “… There’s something to catch your eye. It’s not something you typically see.”

The atmosphere will have a “simple, Southern-style BBQ feel,” Morgan said. “… They don’t overwhelm you with ambience.”

The dining area will have a raised wood ceiling and casual décor, while prices will stay under $10 for the typical meal.

The restaurant will have counter service, instead of a waitstaff, with a condiment area for customers to customize their food.

Morgan said the effort will involve his entire family, including Alice, his wife; and kids Porter, Hugh and Spencer.

The next several weeks will be spent getting the space ready. By mid-December, he’s hoping to hire 1 or 2 people to help run it.

As for the name, it’s something he’s used before: His dog shares the name Satchel.

“I just liked that name,” he said. “I wanted it to sound like a name of a place you’d grab some BBQ.”

Paula Gardner is Business News Director of Contact her at 734-623-2586 or by email. Sign up for the weekly Business Review newsletter, distributed every Thursday, here.


Rib Queen

Mon, Aug 8, 2011 : 8:11 p.m.

I like the food but the interior needs some sophistication. Also would like to see a neon sign on the roof! Something kitchy and cool! Look like you plan on staying awhile!, Hugh. The sides need a little work==mac and cheese is gluey The sauces were too thin and vinigery for my taste. Call Randy's in the Irish Hills and find out what he uses!! He is fending the crowds off! Love your music sound system!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 10:58 p.m.

This food is awesome. The House Sauce was fantastic the sides were great, all made from scratch. I just started to eat healthy too, it all ended when I walked in here.


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 2:47 p.m.

Will be stopping by today for some delicious BBQ, and I can't wait!

Edward Vielmetti

Sun, Feb 20, 2011 : 6:44 p.m.

Report from Twitter (via John Hritz) is that a grand opening is going on now.


Tue, Dec 28, 2010 : 7:29 p.m.

Excited to try it! Three words for you Hugh. "Man vs. Food" I'm guessing you've seen the show! I know the show has already come to Ann Arbor but I also know the show is in need of new angles. How about you create your own food challenge and invite Adam, (the shows host) to be the first to attempt it? Your location is a tough one but boy oh boy could that be a publicity booster. A restaurant with a food challenge offered could be just the ticket for your location since you are located right between U of M and E.M.U. Just an idea, best of luck and I plan on trying some of your BBQ real soon. Fire roasted corn on the menu????????


Tue, Nov 30, 2010 : 7:10 p.m.

I have faith in the future success of it all :)


Sun, Nov 28, 2010 : 10:36 p.m.

As a long-time friend of the Morgans, I've had Hugh's Pulled Pork several times. Ann Arbor, you are in for an amazing treat -- Hugh is a great chef and fun host.


Sun, Nov 28, 2010 : 9:22 p.m.

Cannot wait to try it. Please sign up with Upromise and their dining program, it will get you more business and very loyal customers.


Sun, Nov 28, 2010 : 9:19 p.m.

Cannot wait to try it. Please sign up with Upromise and their dining program, it will get you more business and very loyal customers.


Sun, Nov 28, 2010 : 7:17 p.m.

I too would love to see eastern-style North Carolina barbecue on the menu. Regardless, I look forward to being a regular customer!


Sun, Nov 28, 2010 : 1:24 p.m.

As a discriminating BBQ aficionado, I can say from direct experience that Morgan's BBQ recipes are fantastic! Melt in your mouth tender beef and chicken and a passion for the craft. Can't wait!


Sat, Nov 27, 2010 : 11:18 p.m.

I wish this place all the luck in the world, but there has been a tremendous BBQ place in town in Smokehouse Blues. For years they have been the only BBQ place around, so I am glad there will now be a "southern" style around, and the carryout will be a nice feature.


Sat, Nov 27, 2010 : 5:47 p.m.

WISH them Luck But???????????????????????????

Stephen J. Gill

Sat, Nov 27, 2010 : 4:56 p.m.

If it's a Hugh Morgan business, I'm sure it will be successful. He has already contributed a great deal to our community. I wish Hugh and his family much success. I'll be there as soon as it opens.

Jeff Alson

Sat, Nov 27, 2010 : 4:19 p.m.

I wish the Morgan's the best of luck with Satchel's. It's a great location for our family, and I hope others will also turn out to support a local, family-owned and operated restaurant.


Sat, Nov 27, 2010 : 11:30 a.m.

Three hopes for Satchel's: first, offer the option of Eastern North Carolina-style pulled pork (vinegar-based sauce), and second, note which items on the menu are gluten-free. Finally, genuine sweet tea by the gallon to accompany the carry-out would complete the meal!


Sat, Nov 27, 2010 : 9:53 a.m.

More Business in Ann Arbor! More jobs, more taxes, more people!


Sat, Nov 27, 2010 : 9:41 a.m.

I drive down to Toledo for City BBQ all the time from Ann Arbor. Good fresh bbq and good prices and good simple food and good all around. Can not wait.

David Ham

Sat, Nov 27, 2010 : 7:33 a.m.

Alice/Hugh - Just want to wish you all the best with the restaurant. A mutual friend who has sampled Hugh's cooking has told me how great this restaurant is going to be. I can't wait to try it myself!


Sat, Nov 27, 2010 : 7:22 a.m.

I can't wait to try it. I love barbecue, and if Alabama style has anything close to the pulled pork I grew up with it will easily be the best place in town.


Sat, Nov 27, 2010 : 7:14 a.m.

That "former retail space" has housed restaurants more years than it has retail establishments, I believe. Most recently food service was provided there by a Chinese buffet, where incidentally a rather spectacular armed robbery occurred one day in which the bumbling bad guys accidentally blew the windshield out of their own get-away car with a shotgun as responding police cut them off in the driveway. Dinner theater really can be entertaining... Prior to that it was Holly's Steak & Four, which was a favored place for us. Best wishes to the Morgan's in their endeavor there. Although we've moved from that area now, we'll have to plan on stopping in for some ribs or chicken after they've opened.


Sat, Nov 27, 2010 : 6:22 a.m.

A nice touch having the carry out aspect. It'll be nice to pick up a meal on the way home from work or before a game.