The top-secret Tiger Club

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Nick Roumel

The other night was the State Bar Labor and Employment Section’s summer Tiger game outing. The organizers are to be commended for a great event. We had tickets not only to the game, but for a buffet in the “Tiger Club.” That’s where the story begins.

I had never been to the Tiger Club. Checking online on the way to Detroit, I learned this:

“Located inside of beautiful Comerica Park, the Tiger Club offers luxurious amenities with a spectacular view of the game. Club members and their guests enjoy a private VIP entrance, gourmet cuisine, a full-service bar, and an elegant standard of service. Tiger Club memberships also permit access to the private Asylum Cigar Bar at Comerica Park.

“The Tiger Club serves a daily buffet dinner. The menu changes each day and often has specialties of the city whom the Tigers are playing.”

Ooh! The Tigers were playing Kansas City – might we have barbeque?

Arriving into the Tiger Club, we went straight into an area where I saw colleagues and old friends sitting around several tables. Behind them was a buffet line. I glanced at the buffet but didn’t pay much attention. I said a few hellos and looked to my right, where the Tiger Club opened into a much larger room overlooking the field. In that room, to my happy surprise, were several more buffet lines. Maybe I would find my barbeque!

To my left was a buffet with sushi and salad. I turned around and found a larger one with bronzini (one of my favorite fish), smashed potatoes, sirloin steak, pork chops, and Sriracha fried chicken. The next buffet had Middle Eastern treats, olives and bruschetta salad. Beyond that was a full deli with a panoply of meats and cheeses. The last station had spiral macaroni and cheese topped with fried okra, collard greens with heirloom carrots, and grilled Brussels sprouts. I was in heaven. Here was the “gourmet cuisine” I read about online, and who needed barbeque with this wondrous spread?

I loaded up and returned to our area and sat with my co-workers and friends. Only then did I notice that where I had all this beautiful food piled high on a porcelain dish, everyone else had dogs and burgers on paper plates.

I looked around briefly, surmised I was the smart one for going around the corner of the room, and dug in. Just then a server approached me, and said “Excuse me sir, I’m supposed to tell you you’re not supposed to have that food.” I explained that it was on the other side of the room, there was no signage or anything else to warn me off, and it seemed to be part of the Tiger Club. He nodded and said, “Yes sir, I understand, the setup is a little confusing, but you’re not supposed to have it.”

I wasn’t sure where this was going. I furrowed my brow and asked, “Do you want me to pay for it?” He shook his head and replied, “They just told me to tell you that you’re not supposed to have it. Enjoy your meal, sir.”

Dang. He might as well have said, “nudge nudge wink wink.” I felt like I had gotten away with something and got up to get a beer from the “private Asylum Cigar Bar.” Upon my return, while my dish was still there, I learned I had barely dodged another bullet.

My co-worker Joe told me that “That woman over there came over and tried to take your food. We wouldn’t let her.” I was proud. My table-mates were in cahoots with me, and even though they had dogs and chips, they loved how the first employee had let me off the hook. I learned that they all protested and told the woman manager that “the first guy already said he could keep it!”

Apparently that wasn’t good enough. The woman returned with yet another manager, who held out a wristband. He told me “If you’re going to have the special buffet, you’re going to have to pay for it, and that means you get the wristband and as many return trips as you’d like.” I told him no problem, just give me the bill.

He did. I opened it thinking $15, maybe $20. No, it was an astounding $40. I was outraged. I have to work almost seven minutes to earn that kind of money. Well, I’ll pay it, I vowed, but I’m going to get my money’s worth.

I went back for some chili. Then later for some mac and cheese topped with fried okra. A piece of sirloin, and another chicken leg. I was bursting, but I was only up to about $20 so far, and I wasn’t about to let them off the hook so easily.

Towards the end of the game, I went back, hoping they’d put up some dessert. No such luck. I paid my tab and headed down the stairs they’d previously shown us as the way to our seats.
Two men stopped me. “Excuse me sir, who said you could use those stairs?”

I showed them my wristband. They let me go.

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Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. He can be reached at nroumel@yahoo.com.  His blog is http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/

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