The vintage building on the corner of Michigan and Wabash in Detroit's Corktown looks pretty much the same as always on the outside, its canary yellow façade emblazoned with the words that once lured patrons lugging anything of value to trade for cash. Inside Gold Cash Gold, it's a different story.
The new restaurant that anchors the block of storefronts that includes Slow's at the other end doesn't deal in grandpa's pocket watch or Aunt Sally's opera glasses. It's there to bring in patrons eager to try the rustic farm-style cooking of chef Josh Stockton, in a setting that pays tribute to the building's pawnshop origins while at the same time offering a contemporary feel. Chef/proprietor Stockton and partner Eli Boyer, with considerable help from Ray and Philip Cooley, the building's owners, have put together a very appealing addition to the Corktown lineup.
Much of the interior includes resourceful re-use of materials as old as the pre-20th century building itself. The ceiling in the main dining room is a herringbone pattern made of strips of wood lathe found under years of plaster and paint during the two-year restoration, painstakingly cut into strips and glued to the ceiling. The floor, rescued from a school gymnasium, still bears the painted eagle mascot of the teams that played on it years ago. French café chairs are pulled up to uncovered tables. Napkins are blue and white dishtowels and wine is served in Picardie tumblers rather than stemware.
It all fits the location well, and so does the menu, which really doesn't look like any other in town. Sure, there are some familiar-sounding dishes, like fried chicken and long-simmered short ribs, but they have the chef's distinctive touches. For the most part, it's refreshingly original. Where else do you find buttermilk pie or pig's head pierogies?
Simple one-page lists that look like they were typed by an old-fashioned typewriter on crisp tan paper offer the choices. The potato soup includes roasted Brussels sprouts and bits of bacon lardon within its depths. The roasted lamb sandwich with pepper jam and spicy greens comes with a side of mixed vegetable salad, also available on its own in a larger portion. Housemade pork sausage is served atop polenta set off by braised bitter greens and raisins, an especially nice and unexpected combination of bitter and sweet. Frites are accompanied by mayonnaise cut with pickle brine. And lentil stew features pickled mushrooms.
Pickles are big here, and not just the usual cucumber dills. The kitchen does its own pickling, and seems willing to pickle just about anything, judging by the colorful contents of the glass jars used as a décor element in the dining room. And that has another benefit, keeping Stockton's style of cuisine from seeming too pork-centric. Another focus is on charcuterie, the cured meats accompanied by cheese and (what else?) pickles. At $14, it's something of a bargain.
Prices are moderate, with most dishes in the $10-$16 range.
Gold Cash Gold is first-come, first-serve. The only reservations are for the chef's table, which offers a view of the kitchen activity. It seats 8 to 14 people.
Gold Cash Gold
2100 Michigan Ave.
Call: (313) 242-0770
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday. Closed Monday.
Prices: Soups and lighter dishes $4-$8, lunch sandwiches and mains $10-$14, dinner mains $10-$21, sides $5, desserts $8-$9.
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar with craft cocktails a specialty
Noise level: Moderate
Parking: Street or $3 lot behind Mercury Burger & Bar
Wheelchair access: No barriers