The “Southwest Detroit” dish includes beans, avocado, pepper jack cheese, corn and pico de gallo with a chipotle ranch. (Max Ortiz / The Detroit News)
What a nice job of restoration! That must be the first reaction of many diners walking into Maccabees at Midtown, the new restaurant in the 1927 Maccabees Building in Detroit's Cultural Center.
The impression, however, turns out to be incorrect. The details in the high-ceilinged room have been made to look as if they've been there since the building debuted, but everything in it is new, from floor to ceiling. That includes the hand-crafted chandeliers made by a local artist to mimic the building's original fixtures — you can seen the originals in the vestibule — and the white marble-topped bars, one a breakfast bar, the other for cocktails, and the deep burgundy and gold stylized wall treatments evoke Art Deco.
Besides the well-designed space, just across Woodward from the Detroit Institute of Arts, Maccabees at Midtown offers a menu that is part deli and part contemporary American restaurant.
The deli comes with its informal service by a friendly staff, and is emphasized by the hefty sandwiches that share the menu with such trendy items as fish tacos, arugula and beet salad, and chopped kale in anchovy dressing.
And those sandwiches may be had as wraps, melts or with the ingredients piled high on double-baked rye or ciabatta. For those who like the idea of potato pancakes substituting for slices of bread, a twist that originates from the proprietors' Gateway Delis, that is available, too. Turkey, corned beef, pastrami and beef brisket can be ordered flanked by potato pancakes.
In the big, open kitchen is chef Javon Robinson, charged with a bill of fare that starts with breakfast eggs and pancakes and continues through lunch salads and dinner steaks. He gets a break on Sundays, when brunch from 11 to 4 is the sole focus of the day.
Brunch offerings include the choice of a number of main dishes from steak and eggs to pizzas topped with ham, peppers, eggs and cheese on thin crusts, at an across-the-board $12 per person, and the price includes a mimosa or Bloody Mary. Another welcome touch is that when coffee is ordered, the waiter asks, "Dark or light roast?" Freshly squeezed orange juice is another treat that is available not just at brunch, but any time of day.
In a couple of visits, I've been impressed with the quality of the fare that includes well-textured Angus beef burgers in several versions, including a meat lovers' burger that adds pastrami, smoked bacon, Swiss cheese and a dollop of horseradish mayo to the centerpiece of a sturdy beef patty.
Salads are certainly not also-rans. There are 11 choices at lunch, from the toss of baby spinach and arugula with dried cherries, walnuts and goat cheese in the house balsamic vinaigrette, to the Brutus, a little twist on the Caesar that adds tomatoes to the classic ingredients of romaine and Parmesan.
Maccabees at Midtown is managing, after not much more than a month and a half since its debut, to attract a varied clientele, from Wayne State University students and faculty to families stopping by before or after visiting the museum. And just to make sure they have everyone covered, there's carry-out, delivery and live jazz on Thursday nights.
Maccabees at Midtown
5057 Woodward, Detroit
Call: (313) 831-9311
Rating: Two and a half stars
Hours: 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Wed., 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Thurs.-Fri., 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sat., brunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.
Prices: Breakfast dishes $6-$12, lunch salads and sandwiches $6.50-$12, burgers $8-$9.50, dinner appetizers $7.50-$10, mains $13-$21, desserts $6, brunch $12
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Moderate
Parking: Street or nearby structures
Wheelchair access: No barriers