|The Roast Beast. Photo by Nicole Rupersburg.|
There are restaurants new and old – and new-old – in metro Detroit that are putting us on the map as more than just the economically depressed auto capital of the world and home of Slows and The Abandoned Train Station. These places, whether steeped in the rich culinary traditions of the rich people who once thrived here or part of the new breed of contemporary restaurant representing nü-Detroit, are known locally and increasingly nationally for their excellence in all forms of fine dining, from exquisitely prepared dishes to culinary-inspired craft cocktail programs and everything in-between. These places represent some of the best in metro Detroit's cutting-edge cuisine.
London Chop House • 155 East Congress Street • Detroit
It is the most infamous restaurant in Detroit of all time: the London Chop House. It was a Detroit institution on a level entirely its own, like none that have come before or since. The London Chop House was the very symbol of Detroit's power and prestige, epitomizing Detroit's wealth and grandeur. Granted, those were different days, but perhaps it stands as a testament to Detroit's slow-but-sure recovery that such storied institutions as this and Joe Muer Seafood are re-opening under a new regime of local restaurateurs with proven track records. The London Chop House & Cigar Bar will open later this fall at 155 Congress St. in the lower level of the Murphy Building, in the same location as the original. The Gatzaros family, who also owns the Fishbone's chain and Detroit's Wah-Hoo, is behind this re-launch of this most prestigious name. We expect that it will be part homage to the original and part all-new concept for a new era of Detroit. Details have been kept mum, which just further piques our excitement.
Rattlesnake Club • 300 River Place Drive # 1900 • Detroit
The Rattlesnake Club is a Detroit institution in its own right, and could even be considered the offspring of the original London Chop House. Former chef-owner Jimmy Schmidt worked his way up the ranks of the Chop House to Executive Chef before opening the Rattlesnake, which he owned and operated for over 20 years before selling it earlier this year to Jimmy Stroh of Stroh Cos. Inc., the landlord of the building that has been home to the restaurant all this time. Schmidt is staying on board as a consultant for the menu and otherwise the restaurant hasn't changed a wink – that's a good thing. Earlier this year the 'Snake got a bit (get it?) of a facelift, primarily in the bar/lounge area, and they also introduced a new pricing structure that organizes the menu into "prix fixe" courses a la Restaurant Week. Executive Chef Chris Franz and Chef de Cuisine Jeff Lanctot have both worked under Schmidt for many years and carry on his style as ever before, with impeccably prepared and presented contemporary American dishes and all items from breads to desserts made in-house. Master Sommelier Claudia Tyagi came on board earlier this year to freshen up their wine list, and a small plates menu allows diners to experience the exceptional cuisine of the 'Snake without having to spend an exceptional amount of money. The "new" Rattlesnake isn't so much new as it is merely updated to further play to its well-established strengths. Hey, if it ain't broke don't fix it – just dust it off once in a while.
Roast • 1128 Washington Boulevard • Detroit
Tired of hearing about Roast yet? Too bad. Because you're going to keep hearing about it. Again and again and again until they STOP being the hippest restaurant in Detroit that just freakin' NAILS IT on all counts of what a restaurant should be. Excellent service from a knowledgeable and passionate staff; comfortable yet aesthetically lush décor; an aggressive craft cocktail program that truly brings back the classic craft as well as an impressively curated selection of boutique wines and craft beers (including many Michigan labels you simply will not find elsewhere). And then, of course, there is the food. For dinner, start with some of their house-made charcuterie, a selection of smoked and cured meats. If you're feeling saucy, opt for some crispy fried sweetbreads or roasted marrow. Otherwise delve into the pork shank confit or dry-aged steak; there is also the "Roast beast of the day," the critter that spends the whole day prior slow-cooking on the spit that is the focal point of the main dining room. (Note: while there are a select number of vegetarian dishes available, this place really shouldn't be the first choice for non-meatatarians ... might want to sit this one out, guys. More meat for the other meat-eaters.) Up at the bar you can order off their more casual menu, which features items like crispy pork crackling and the Roast Coney Dog made with pulled pork and red hots. There is also the unforgettable Roast Burger – with bacon, cheddar, fried egg and pickled onion on an English muffin – which is now joined by two new signature burgers. The Roast Cocktail Hour is one of the best weekday happy hours in the area, and now their recently-introduced "Flights and Bites" menu on Sundays pairs small plates with beers from around the world for a small price.
Cork Wine Pub • 23810 Woodward Avenue • Pleasant Ridge
Pleasant Ridge is the blink-and-you'll-miss-it segway city between Ferndale and Royal Oak, but along that stretch of Woodward just south of 696 you'll find Cork Wine Pub, an unassuming little place that's sort of tucked away in plain sight. They haven't yet been open a full year, but this is another metro Detroit restaurant that fast caught the attention of the area's culinary illuminati. Executive Chef Ruben Blake Griffin is new to the title but has been with the restaurant since they opened their doors last November. He continues to uphold the ideals put into place in the very beginning of highlighting seasonal, regional flavors and working directly with local farmers. The menu is structured into courses – choose a selection from each section for a full five-course meal, or select a few of the 20-or-so small plates options to share with the table tapas-style. Be sure to save room for dessert; their exquisite desserts are all made in-house by the extraordinary pastry chef Tanya Fallon. For the "wine pub" portion, they offer over 100 wines by the glass and bottle and also sell them in their attached market. Cork also has an extensive collection of craft beers and classically-inspired craft cocktails, rounding out the full gourmand experience nicely. The vibe is casual urban chic, so whether you're coming here for a full dinner or just for a few drinks you'll feel comfortably cool.
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