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Meat and Greet: Pride of Detroit gets a ‘Taste of the Lions’

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Jerry Mallory reviews the 2018 charity event.

The sixth annual “Taste of the Lions” event took place Wednesday night at Ford Field, and the timing couldn’t have been any better. Unless you’re a fan of the Detroit Tigers’ youth movement (I’m a card holding member of the Jeimer Candelario fan club by the way), there isn’t much to be excited about right now on the Detroit sports scene. Besides, after the coach scandals and crushed NBA Lottery dreams of the past few weeks, we all are in need of a sports pick-me-up.

This event delivered. It combined two of the best F-words (Football and Food) and is sandwiched between the buzz of the NFL Draft and Training Camp. In terms of the quality of the food and football goodness, the Lions get a thumbs up on both regards.

As I wandered from vendor to vendor, stuffing my face in ecstasy, I couldn’t help but make comparisons between some of the restaurants and several of the Detroit Lions players. If I ruled the world, the players that came to mind would’ve been at each of those spots serving up the food... or at least a cardboard cut out of them. But even more crucial than player placement at each vendor is where you decide to eat and when you decide to eat there. This is vital to satisfy your beloved palate.

It’s all about strategy with so many good options. Think of how you strategize at a buffet. Don’t waste time on bread and salad. Get straight to the good items. Your meats, cheeses and whatever else can clog those arteries of yours. In this instance, I went with the approach of going to a place without much traffic to start out my journey so I can get the taste buds started without having to wait. This strategy was a success. Despite not getting a ton of traction, surrounded by seemingly bigger and more popular restaurants in Metro Detroit, was one of the most underrated places at the event.

Tender lamb? Yes, please. Dehydrated olives? Don’t mind if I do. Foie gras?? Yes, I’m fancy. These were all perfectly blended at Novi Chophouse.

I’m not one of refined taste. My palate’s maturity level is somewhere between a teenager and a college student, but even I could recognize the quality that was before me. They should’ve had people lining up by the dozens to enjoy this serving highlighted by the tender piece of lamb.

This place was the Glover Quin of the night. Whereas the Harrison Smiths and Tyrann Mathieus of the world get all the love and even Pro Bowl recognition, Quin has been one of the best and yet most underrated safeties in the league. Add to that his leadership, professionalism and consistency, and he’s been one of our best free agent signings this decade. Ironically, another underrated safety in Tavon Wilson was sitting next to the Novi Chophouse vendor section greeting fans and signing autographs.

The next place that caught my eye was a dual threat. Not only was the product good but the actual owner was there and brought ambition and enthusiasm to his restaurant. Crazy Gringo: Mexican Cantina had one of the longest lines at the venue and for a few good reasons. For greedy people like myself they offered one of the more generous portions to sample with a nice sized steak taco. Additionally, it seemed like word of mouth for this place was spreading, as several in the line with me were trying based on a friend’s recommendation.

Their owner’s youthful vigor was also a nice touch when paired with the delicious tacos. He exclaimed both “We are going WORLDWIDE” and “WE’RE GONNA BE BIG LIKE PITBULL” (yes, the horrible rapper Pitbull). Trust me, his food was much better than his music references.

This place had to be the Kerryon Johnson of the night. The Lions’ putrid running game has been well documented. Enter the second round rookie who we hope finally breaks the 100-yard game streak of ineptitude. He’s young and also quite ambitious as is evidenced by his undying love for Rihanna. Hopefully Kerryon listens to better music than his restaurant counterpart.

The last restaurant goes to the fan favorite. It had the longest line in a heavily trafficked area and is considered one of the best spots in Metro Detroit despite having a few detractors. Slows BBQ has become a staple in Michigan and also receives plenty of national praise. And for everyone that has an uncle “who makes a dry rub and smokes pork butt 10 times better than Slows” you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone that knocks their Mac and Cheese. Slows was the Matthew Stafford of Wednesday’s event.

For those of you that thought I was gonna compare Slows to Teez Tabor... that’s just mean spirited! Stafford is the guy. He’s not only the QB in a football-crazed state, but he’s also one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

Like Slows, he still has a few doubters. Just like that uncle who can supposedly make better BBQ than Slows, some fans will immediately point out how “Stafford hasn’t won a playoff game”. Well I don’t know your uncle and football is a team game. Most now, including the national media, give #9 the love he deserves.

For those of you on the fence about attending this event allow me to tip the scale in favor of you going in 2019. I have, at times, been called frugal or even worse, so I’m not one to throw cash around unless it’s worth it. The amount and quality of food, player access and overall atmosphere make it well worth the price tag. Seeing the current players was a treat and being accompanied with legends from years ago such as Robert Porcher, Eric Hipple and Cory Schlesinger was icing on the cake.

Food puns aside it was a successful evening for all Lions fans and their bellies. My only wish is that we get Pride of Detroit favorite Sweetwater Tavern in the mix next year. I’ll gladly get in line as many times as possible to “sample” about 15 of their succulent wings.