The one-story structure on the corner of Bagley and 18th, painted pure white and marked by a colorful fish sculpture that appears to be swimming through the façade, has a name that seems more appropriate for the conference room at a hotel.
Huron Room makes sense when you learn that this quirky spot across the street from the Mexican Village was named for the mural of the Huron Lightship that covers the entire back wall of the nautically themed blue-and-white room. The bar area at the entrance is backed with a navigational map on the wall behind it, helping set the scene.
But don’t think nautical means Popeye the sailor kind of stuff. It’s cleverly done and cliché-free, transforming what was a defunct liquor store into a comfortable and unpretentious restaurant under a ceiling with ductwork exposed. Seating choices range from small high-top tables to conventional tables and benches for four along the wall. The space accommodates just 77 people.
Starring on the small paper menus, as might be expected, is an array of Great Lakes fish served as fish & chips, in sandwiches or as the filling for tacos, with diners selecting their preferred species from a list of six, in a price range of $12 (lake smelt) to catch-of-the-day at market price.
Perch seems to be the choice of many diners, and at $17, it may sound a bit elevated for those more familiar with the casual fish & chips places, but the fish is fresh, not frozen and expertly prepared with a crunchy-but-light batter made with local beer and accompanied by thin, crisp fries and fresh lemon. Add nicely textured coleslaw for $3.
The kitchen has ambitions. Ketchup is housemade and so is the spicy dipping sauce, served for the asking in tiny paper cups.
Although fish & chips is the star of the show, there are other choices, starting with a list of bite-sized appetizers presented on wooden skewers. They range from chicken wings and quail eggs to frog legs — and if you can manage to nibble a frog leg gracefully, you’ve got talent. Other side dishes include hush puppies and green salads, offered in two sizes.
There are also a few nonfish entrees, ranging from patty melts to grilled game hens. Nice touches include the fish-tailed silverware. Service is notably friendly.
The offerings at the bar are 100 percent local. Don’t look for the standard brands. Liquor, beer and wine is all home grown. That seems a little limited. It’s fine to spotlight local stuff, but that shouldn’t rule out some of the popular imports.
The Huron Room is brought to us by the same people who established Green Dot Stables and Johnny Noodle King: chef Les Molnar, who came up with the creative menu, and proprietors Jacques Driscoll and his wife, Christine.
With now three thriving restaurants, they’ve proven they have the knack.
The Huron Room
2547 Bagley at 18th, Detroit
Call: (313) 245-3325
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Wed., 11 a.m.-midnight Thurs.-Sat., noon-10 p.m. Sun.
Prices: Appetizers $4-$11, fish & chips $12-$17, other entrees $14-$18, desserts $2-$5.
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Michigan-made liquor, beer and wine
Noise level: Moderate.
Parking: Rear lot
Wheelchair access: No barriers
What the ratings mean
★— routine ★★ — good ★★1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — outstanding