The pots of thriving herbs in the window are the first clue that something more than routine is going on at the new Griff’s Grill. The greenery isn’t just a decoration. Chef Steve Kempner uses the fresh rosemary, basil, thyme and dill in many of the dishes he sends out from the small but well-equipped kitchen. And just to show how serious he is about real cooking, he even makes his own ketchup and mustard, as well as the crisp little croutons that are offered as a bar snack, rather than something out of a package.
Open just under a month now, the one-room spot is something just a little different. Its walls are covered with weathered barn wood from the Chelsea countryside, and displayed over the eight-seat bar is a collection of cookbooks including The Food Lovers Companion.
At first it may seem to be just another neighborhood watering hole, but a glance at the menu with its creative offerings shows it to be something more. That is no surprise to those who have followed the chef’s career hosting pop-up dinners in such Corktown spots as St. Cece’s, Motor City Wine and Detroit Institute of Bagels. They might not expect, however, to find him in Allen Park, where he is executive chef for proprietor Chris Griffin, who transformed the space on Southfield Road from a franchise operation to a cozy, owner-operated gastropub in April.
Kempner, who in the pop-up world is known as the Fargin Chef, previously cooked at Tom’s Oyster Bar, Bella Piatti and the Birmingham Community House. His menu includes several dishes from his repertoire, including Scotch eggs — sausage-wrapped eggs served with herb salad and a spicy remoulade — crisp pecan and honey-coated chicken strips with a pair of dips (hummus and an addictive sweet chili sauce) and samosas filled with potato, peas, corn and onions, served with curried yogurt dip. These are all on the sharable appetizer list.
Kempner also offers a housemade sausage of the week and such entrees as osso buco, veal shank garnished with a mix of minced parsley, lemon peel and garlic, a dish not often seen in modest little pubs. That also goes for orange/ginger glazed Faroe Island salmon served with artichoke couscous, apple-honey slaw and dried apricots.
His burger array includes an eight-ounce beef burger with the usual trimmings of lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle as well as such additions as aioli, habanero remoulade and Russian dressing at no charge beyond the $8 price tag. Several more embellishments, at $1 or $2 additional charge, include several varieties of cheese, bacon or a fried egg.
Fans of poutine, the French-Canadian dish of french fries, cheese curds and gravy, will find a satisfying version made with pulled lamb and lamb gravy.
This appealing place doesn’t have the most polished service yet but the young staff members are making an effort, and they are friendly and accommodating.
Call: (313) 724-6878
Hours: Lunch 11 a.m-3 p.m., dinner 5-10 p.m. Tues.-Thurs., 5-midnight Fri.-Sat., brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and dinner 5-10 p.m. Sun. Closed Mon.
Prices: Appetizers $7-$11, salads and sandwiches $9-$12, burgers $8-$9, entrees $15-$25,
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar.
Noise level: Moderate
Parking: Attached lot
What the ratings mean
★ — routine ★★ — good
★★1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent
★★★★ — outstanding