Grilled shrimp and scallop skewer, lobster tail and seasoned rice (Clarence Tabb Jr. / The Detroit News)
Restaurants sometimes add an “e” to the word grill because it looks fancier that way. That’s not the case at the Grille Midtown, where metal grilles from old cars are part of the décor, and the spelling was used advisedly.
The new restaurant in the building that includes the new Garden Theater is notable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it is part of the restoration of a structure that was a few weeks from being condemned when it was rescued by Mike Byrd and his business partner George Stewart.
The renovation project has stretched over a dozen years, and anyone who cares about historic preservation and the rebuilding of Detroit owes them a debt of gratitude for their persistence.
The restaurant on the first floor is a compatible blend of contemporary and vintage. The shiny metal grilles are not the only automotive touches. There are also renderings of classic Chevys and Cadillacs against the deep gray walls in the two adjoining rooms with a variety of seating arrangements from conventional tables to high-tops as well as stools at the bar which includes some of the wood salvaged from the building.
The kitchen is visible at the rear and it upholds the ambitions. Chef Kevin Browe and his staff prepare just about everything in-house, from the roasted tomato soup that is on the menu every day to the key lime pie on the dessert list.
The approach is contemporary American, familiar yes, but with many distinctive touches on the single page list. Bacon-wrapped shrimp atop a bed of arugula is dressed with just enough sweet apricot sauce to complement the smokiness of the bacon. Another sharable starter is peppadew peppers stuffed with two cheeses, ground veal with just a touch of tomato sauce. The small spicy/sweet peppers don’t turn up on many menus around town, and it’s a treat to find them here.
A couple of dishes on the starters list are really entrées in disguise, notably the petite filet plate, three chargrilled morsels of tender beef on a plate with sauteed spinach and crostini (little toasts) and dressed with garlic aioli.
Among five salad choices, each of which has its own signature dressing, is a notable pear, fennel and colorful mix of greens with a sprinkling of candied pecans and nuggets of Gorgonzola cheese in a slightly sweet vinaigrette, and there’s a version of Niçoise that features salmon rather than tuna along with the classic ingredients of egg, green beans, potatoes and olives.
Entrees, at both lunch and dinner, include chargilled swordfish with lemon beurre blanc and garlic mashed potatoes, salmon in a sweet chile and soy glaze, and the house prime beef burger. In the evening, sturdier dishes are added, and they’re typified by bone-in ribeye (at the top of the price scale at $29) and a hefty pork loin chop, as well as lamb chops marinated in lemon and oregano.
Service is friendly as well as efficient.
The reclaimed 1912-vintage Garden Theater (designed by C. Howard Crane, the Fox Theatre architect) is now a concert venue and is also available for private events. The complex is just a block north of Orchestra Hall.
The Grille Midtown
3919 Woodward, Detroit
Call: (313) 832-0892
Rating: 3 stars (out of 4)
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Fri.-Sat. Closed Sun.
Prices: Appetizers $7-$13, soups and salads $5-$14, burgers and sandwiches $8-$14, main dishes $15-$29, desserts $6-$7
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Moderate
Parking: Nearby structure
Wheelchair access: No barriers