Greg Mudge calls his little spot in one of the oldest buildings in Corktown an "authentic artisan deli," and he can back up that statement. The food served is pretty much made from scratch. Even the ketchup and the eight, yes, eight, salad dressings are Mudgie productions.
And that's impressive, especially in an unpretentious restaurant tucked into a neighborhood a few blocks away from the more visible Corktown establishments on Michigan Avenue.
Anything that isn't housemade at Mudgie's is identified on the menu, and as much as possible is local, from the Better Made pretzel sticks served with a mustard dip to the Slow Jams strawberry preserves, the Calder Dairy ice cream and the Great Lakes coffee, Corktown blend, of course.
Signature sandwiches are the menu basics. Sy Ginsberg gets credit for the corned beef, but it is roasted in-house as is the turkey breast. The list of sandwiches goes on and on – but in case nothing appeals, there's a virtual encyclopedia of ingredients, including meats, breads, greens, cheeses, vegetables, fruits and condiments that may be accessed to make a custom-designed sandwich.
You might think the kitchen crew would hate that, but au contraire. Mudge says that they not only enjoy putting together the sometimes weird combinations chosen by the guests (meat loaf and smoked salmon on kaiser roll?) but they'd rather do that than have to deal with requests to leave the tomato out of the O'Leary or the beer cheese out of the Brooklyn. All the sandwiches have names.
Soups are offered in multiples, and looking around the tiny space, you might wonder, "How can they possibly offer so many?" However they do it, there are at least three, often four, sturdy varieties every day. As Mudge puts it, "We always make sure to have soup that fits everyone's diet needs, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian and a meat soup. During the summer months we offer several cold soups including many different twists on the classic gazpacho."
Among the most popular: Southwest Detroit chowder, a spin-off of Manhattan clam chowder made with tilapia, chorizo and hominy, and Ghetto Blaster French Onion Mudge calls "a classic French onion made with Ghetto Blaster beer from Motor City Brewing Works." A bowl of soup and a half sandwich is among the most popular combinations, and it's a value at $10.
The one-room setting with tables for just 35 includes the original cooler from the early 1900s days when the building was a grocery store. The cooler now houses 150 bottled beers. A number of reasonably priced wines are displayed in a collection of wooden crates against one wall. And there's another interesting beverage in addition to local soft drinks – housemade sangria served for a modest $6.
The friendly, accommodating staff is one of the reasons why Mudgie's has been a popular lunch spot since 2008, when it was converted from the former Eph McNally's. They navigate around the closely packed tables with seeming ease.
Upcoming for Mudgie's is a rear patio that will add a few more seats.
1300 Porter Street, Detroit | Call: (313) 961-2000 | Web:www.mudgiesdeli.com
Rating:★★★ | Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat., brunch 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sun.
Prices: Starters and sides $3-$7.50, soups $4-$5.50, salads $8-$10.50,
sandwiches $9-$12.50, desserts $1.50-$7.50
Credit cards: All major | Liquor: Beer, wine and mead | Noise level: Moderate to high
Parking: Street | Wheelchair access: One step at entrance