Eminem made a surprise appearance at the grand opening of his Mom’s Spaghetti restaurant in downtown Detroit on Wednesday, serving up some of his special pasta to his most dedicated fans.
Fans began lining up around 10 a.m., seven hours before the advertised opening. At around 4 p.m., an hour before opening, the first dozen or so fans were called over to the serving window, in the alley between the newly opened Union Assembly and the Fillmore Detroit, where they were served up helpings of Mom’s Spaghetti by Slim Shady himself.
“This has been my dream my whole life,” said Erin Farrer of Detroit, who got to meet Em, take a picture with him, chat him up, give him a hug and get his autograph. Em signed her container of Mom’s Spaghetti, one of the first served at the new spot, “and I bawled my eyes out,” said Farrer, 24, who says she’s been a fan of Eminem ever since she can remember.
Eminem was not expected at the opening, but like most of his moves over the last decade and change, it was made in secret. He was gone not long after, but he did drive by the hundreds of Stans — the name given to Eminem’s superfans — who lined up on Woodward Avenue and Montcalm Street, where the line extended halfway down the block.
His vehicle stopped in front of Courtney Frost and Jamie Matzinger, who drove 40 minutes up from Monroe to attend the opening. “That made the experience,” said Frost, who locked eyes with Em from his vehicle as she waited in line underneath the Fox Theatre marquee.
She didn’t expect to see the rapper on Wednesday but was happy she did. “You never know with him,” she said. “It’s Eminem.”
It’s Eminem all right, and Mom’s Spaghetti — and its upstairs merchandise hub, dubbed The Trailer — is now Eminem’s little piece of Detroit. Jack White has his Third Man Records shop and vinyl pressing plant in the Cass Corridor, and now Em has his own dedicated corner of Union Assembly, the restaurant that opened last week in the space between the Fox Theatre and the Fillmore Detroit.
Mom’s Spaghetti has a history dating back to 2002 as a rather unappetizing reference in Eminem’s Oscar-winning “8 Mile” theme “Lose Yourself.” It first emerged as a pop-up at the Shelter in 2017, tied to the release of Eminem’s “Revival” album, and has followed him since: it was available when he performed at a run of festivals in 2018, and last year Em served up helpings of the pasta to frontline workers at several area hospitals a month into the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Union Joints crew, which runs Union Assembly and several other Metro Detroit restaurants, has been on board with Mom’s Spaghetti since day one.
“It started as a crazy experiment,” Curt Catallo, co-owner of Union Joints, said Wednesday. It was never meant to be the best spaghetti in the world, but rather was conceptualized to taste like reheated day-old pasta.
“It’s scratch sauce that’s designed to taste like it’s from a jar,” Catallo said. “It’s great pasta that we cook the night before, and reheat in a wok, like you’re reheating it on a stove the next day.
“We wanted to make the best leftover pasta ever, from scratch,” Catallo said.
“It’s nowhere near a gourmet item,” said Mom’s Spaghetti cook Chris Springer, who has worked for Union Joints for eight years and who appeared in the Mom’s Spaghetti commercials that began airing on local television last week. “We had to redo the sauce a few times, because it was coming out tasting too fancy.”
There’s also nothing fancy about the Mom’s Spaghetti space, which resembles a small bodega spot, complete with cloudy, scratched windows. It’s full of shelves lined with candy, pop, potato chips and Bic lighters for sale and tagged with cheap-looking orange price stickers.
“There’s nothing accidental about the space, but everything has a cheeky undertone,” said Catallo, who said the space has been in the works for about three years.
Hours are flexible and will coincide with downtown events, including concerts at the Fillmore and the Fox. The menu is simple, with Mom’s Spaghetti available for $9; Mom’s Spaghetti with meatballs, $12; and the ‘Sghetti Sandwich, which is exactly what it sounds like, is $11.
As for how it tastes? Mom’s Spaghetti passed the taste test for Derek Yeutich, 31, of Delta, Ohio, who grabbed a carton of spaghetti with meatballs shortly after 5:30 p.m. “It’s pretty good, I would say. They know what they’re doing in there,” he said.
The Trailer includes Mom’s Spaghetti hats, T-shirts, pint glasses and more, as well as Eminem T-shirts, hoodies, limited-edition photo prints, vinyl albums and cassette tapes. There’s also Eminem memorabilia on display but not for sale, including a custom Slim Shady beat machine and a pair of extremely limited Eminem Air Jordan IVs.
The tiny space is decked out with wood paneling, shaggy green carpet and windows with bug netting on them. “It’s made to mimic the trailer-esque upbringing of Marshall and (Eminem’s “8 Mile” character), B. Rabbit,” said Ian McManus of Huntington Woods, who helps run The Trailer. He expected the store’s items to sell quickly, especially a rack of vintage Detroit sports T-shirts, some of which were worn at one time by Eminem.
Alex Ceslik, who flew in from New Jersey for Wednesday’s opening, dropped about $1,500 in the store. But that’s nothing for the superfan, who has been following Eminem throughout his career and usually travels wherever Eminem is doing a concert or making an appearance.
“I used to cut school to see him when he would do ‘TRL,'” said Ceslik, 35. He said he relates to Eminem’s music because they had similar upbringings, and he grew up without a father and dealt with instances of bullying and harassment throughout his life. “His music has always really touched me and motivated me and inspired me. He always puts me in a good mood,” he said.
Eminem’s manager, Paul Rosenberg, was on hand at the opening, and was doing a live broadcast with Jude “Rude Jude” Angelini on Shade 45, Eminem’s SiriusXM channel.
Hip-hop music, including Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones (Part II),” blared throughout Union Assembly, which was serving regular customers while separate lines for Mom’s Spaghetti and The Trailer stretched outdoors.
Brendan Linden was one of the lucky fans who arrived early enough to meet Eminem and get his picture taken with him. Several hours later, he was still shaken.
“I’m totally starstruck,” said Linden, who flew in from the Bronx on Wednesday morning to attend the opening. He struck up a friendship with several others in line and enjoyed the day he spent in downtown Detroit, celebrating all things Eminem. “It was really nice being around everybody who likes the same artist,” he said.
And the same spaghetti, it turns out.