They nailed it. Evan Hansen and chef Andy Hollyday spent a full two years visualizing, planning and, finally, bringing Selden Standard to fruition, and for those who wondered why it was taking so long, the result is all the explanation needed.
Clean, concise, highly detailed yet anything but fussy, the restaurant on Second Avenue between Selden and Alexandrine just up the street from the historic Coronado Apartments is the latest hot spot in town.
It offers a distinctive, seasonal menu pared to a reasonable length and pretty much free of the usual suspects. It's a list that's just plain fun to read as it flows from internationally inspired dishes — polenta, lamb meatballs, ravioli — to roasted beets and grilled quail, all served with individual accompaniments in portions that may be shared or not. And even the desserts by pastry chef Sara Hackstick are seasonal.
During my two visits, I noticed that even those who weren't sharing were tempted to take at least a taste of their companions' dishes. It's very appealing fare — colorful, imaginative and prettily served on the carefully chosen tableware that includes artisan-made ceramic bowls and plates and wood platters.
Seating arrangements include metal chairs at the cedar-topped bar at the entrance, which emphasizes a highly contemporary approach that includes white subway tile and cement floors under clear filament bulbs and indirect lighting. There are also more secluded tables in the adjoining dining area.
Open just since early November, Selden Standard started with dinner, quickly added weekday lunch and will add Saturday and Sunday brunch soon. Hollyday's kitchen includes the classic back of the house space, but it also features a brick oven and a wood-burning grill in the front of the house. Best seats are at the cedar counter overlooking the oven and the intricate Grillworks rotisserie grill that has crankwheels that allow the chefs to adjust the height of the cooking surface over the flames from ash, cherry and maple woods.
Diners there get a close-up view of some of the preparation, such as flatbreads going from mounds of fresh dough tossed by one of the sous chefs to the finished product as it comes out of the oven. Currently, the flatbread is topped with roasted squash, mushrooms and mozzarella, but that will change with the seasons, as will much of what is on Hollyday's menu.
Other outstanding dishes include the heirloom squash soup with nuggets of apple and a scattering of pecans and croutons that give the creamy soup special character. Although the chef is known for his touch with vegetables, there are also such choices as whole grilled trout with fingerling potatoes and fennel, mussels served with grilled bread, and steak frites made with hanger steak and shallot butter. At lunch, that particular dish becomes a salad with arugula and pickles.
Grilled quail is served with chestnut puree and pickled cranberries and duck sausage with a salad of Brussels sprouts. You cannot escape vegetables on this menu, and the house has a very special touch with them. (I credit Hollyday with the fact that Brussels sprouts are showing up everywhere, since he popularized them in his previous post at Roast.)
Co-proprietor Hansen stocked the bar with beverages that complement Hollyday's kitchen — interesting beers and wines that might not have recognizable labels but are as artisan-produced as everything else at this impressive new spot.
3921 Second Ave., Detroit
Call: (313) 438-5055
Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Monday-Friday, dinner 5-10 p.m. daily. (Saturday–Sunday brunch will be added soon).
Prices: Lunch soups and salads $5-$8, sandwiches $9-$12, plates $12-$18, desserts $6-$8; Dinner meat and fish dishes $14-$20, vegetables, flatbreads and polenta $6-$14,
Credit cards: All major.
Liquor: Full bar, craft cocktails, and small but well-chosen wine and beer lists.
Noise level: Varies with size of crowd.
Parking: Street; lot under
Wheelchair access: No barriers.