Smoked low and slow: Molasses set to open in Midland catering to all BBQ lovers

Sticky, gooey and smoked – that is what barbeque fans of ages will soon see in Downtown Midland when the much-anticipated Molasses opens its doors. Here is what it took to bring Midland’s next dining option to reality and pardon the dust as the team finishes up the remaining details.

Pardon the dust as Molasses is set to open in late June 2019.

Dave Dittenber, a restaurant industry veteran, made sure to start from scratch when building and planning for Molasses, including bringing on the right team members. As part of that effort, Dittenber started Downtown Restaurant Investments (DRI) three years ago with the aim of invigorating the dining and community scene in the region. The expanded team brought the return of prior executive chef Mike Sheskey, who had relocated to Memphis for a few years.

First, the team had to determine what type of barbeque restaurant they wanted Molasses to be. After mulling over several different styles on many research outings, the team settled on St. Louis-style barbeque after exploring four to five different places during a planning trip.

The final details of the restaurant are going in over the next couple of weeks.

The final product will be a tomato-based sauce, expertly-planned rub and have a wonderful smoky flavor. Most importantly, it was important to Dittenber that Molasses serve up what every legitimate barbeque should be – sticky, messy and grab-extra-napkins good eats.

The restaurant won’t be just all about the traditional beef and pork barbeque though, Molasses went all out to accommodate for all dietary needs and incorporate other cuisines. They will have options for vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian diners and just as much planning went in to making all options equally as delicious.

Repurposed barn beams will be a part of the restaurant's design.

The alternative barbeque options will be made with jackfruit, a tropical fruit native to South India, that mimics the texture of meat and is known for absorbing flavors very easily. The DRI team worked very hard to make sure an alternative meat option that even meat-eaters would enjoy and it is something they are very proud to offer.

The menu will also feature a mix of options well beyond traditional barbeque, including Asian-fusion, Korean, and other cuisines.

Molasses will be the fourth restaurant owned and operated by Dittenber.

The team is just as well-thought out as the food. DRI is happy to welcome 30-year barbeque veteran Steve Seige, owner of Rusty Saw Smokehouse. Last year, before Rusty Saw closed last year, they were named the fifth best barbeque joint in the state by MLive.

Dittenber and Seige also have something different planned for the menu on Sundays. Seige talks about his excitement to join the DRI team and be a part of opening Molasses. “I’m really excited to offer some great BBQ options and also explore outside of the traditional menu, like an awesome bahn mi sandwich we are planning,” says Seige. “And I am looking forward to working as a part of a great organization with Dave and the rest of the DRI team.”

Inspiration for the design was taken from industrial and farm elements.

“We were originally slated to open in late 2018, and the slight delay in construction and renovation is simply a result of careful planning,” noted Dittenber, President of Downtown Restaurant Investments. “We are committed to bringing energy, diversity and personality back to the heart of downtowns. The construction delay for Molasses was necessary to ensure we have the proper infrastructure to create a positive culinary experience.”

Along with the new menu and restaurant, DRI is taking on a few other new aspects as well, like starting a garden to grow their own microgreens through container gardening and vertical farming operation that will be based in Midland. Attention to detail was important inside the restaurant as well, with structural and design elements using repurposed beams from local barns.

Kurt Busard, Chief Brand Officer for Downtown Restaurant Investments and Midland native is excited about bringing new options to his hometown.

Kurt Busard, Chief Brand Officer for Downtown Restaurant Investments and Midland native is excited about bringing new options to his hometown. “I am most excited to bring an amazing restaurant group to my hometown and create an establishment that is not only a great place to grab a bite to eat, but a place that the community can call their own,” says Busard. “We really put a ton of work into making everything was just right with Molasses and it shows.”

Planning is underway for an upcoming soft opening and to be open to the public by the end of June, (planned for the last week of the month).

“We were originally slated to open in late 2018, and the slight delay in construction and renovation is simply a result of careful planning,” noted Dittenber.

Molasses will be the fourth restaurant owned and operated by Dittenber, who also owns Old City Hall, American Kitchen and Tavern 101 restaurants located in downtown Bay City.

You can read more about how Dittenber got his start here.

Molasses is set to open in late June 2019.

After quite a few months as a labor of love, all we can say is we are ready to get our hands on some of Molasses savory options in the next few weeks.

Read more articles by Courtney Soule.

Courtney is a longtime Midland resident and enjoys telling the story of the community's evolution. As the Managing Editor of Catalyst Midland, her favorite topics are interesting people, change makers, outdoor recreation and design. Aside from Catalyst, her published work can be found various places including Elephant Journal, Thought Catalog and a number of other websites, papers, menus and the occasional one-liner. 
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