Take a seat at the bar at Dirty Dog Jazz Café, and a bowl of popcorn will quickly be in front of you. It doesn’t come out of a bag, but is freshly made in the kitchen. Small detail, you might say. But it underlines the quality approach here that extends from the musicians who appear five nights a week to the talent in the kitchen and dining room.
This well-run spot, established in 2008 by Gretchen Valade, does things right. Executive chef Andre Neimanis, who has been with the Dirty Dog from the beginning, and his crew, including chef de cuisine Eli J. Fox, turn out well-prepared dishes at both lunch and dinner from a stylish contemporary menu that changes on a regular basis and offers some surprises.
Yes, there is the obligatory filet mignon — Black Angus in this case — but there’s also Korean beef rib, braised and served with hoisin sauce and kimchi and crab and salt cod cakes with preserved lemon, lobster butter and chorizo vinaigrette.
The appetizer list includes a lovely smoked tomato soup, grilled baguette with blue cheese and chives, and duck fat pommes frites.
Entrees, known as main plates, include one of the best burgers I’ve had in a while. It’s called Fork and Knife burger because the patty of house-ground beef is not topped with a bun but rather with a poached egg, mushroom duxelle and bearnaise sauce atop garlic toast, and it does indeed require a fork. Other choices include Faroe Island salmon with farro and pickled fennel, and a changing pasta dish, currently fettucine with chanterelle mushrooms, peas and beets.
The single page menu is concise and yet offers variety.
The handsome one-room setting is done up with framed portraits of jazz greats against rich red walls, dark wood beams, shaded wall sconces and chandeliers and polished wide plank flooring. Upholstered chairs are pulled up to double-covered tables, and there are a few banquettes along one wall. At first glance, it might seem that you have stumbled into a handsome Grosse Pointe home.
The musicians aren’t on a stage or bandstand, but are right in the center of the 65-seat room, with no barriers between the listeners and the musicians.
Tuesday evenings at Dirty Dog include music by Charles Boles and his quartet that starts at 6 p.m., and it is much more than background music. Sometimes other musicians will sit in with the group, as trumpeter Rayse Biggs did recently, a nice little extra. There is no cover charge on Tuesdays making it especially attractive.
Whatever the night of the week, reservations are almost always necessary, and interestingly enough, even a seat at the bar may be reserved. Popcorn lovers, take note.
Upcoming performances: trumpeter Dominick Farinacci, Oct. 19 and 20, pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa, Oct. 21 and 22 and the Sean Dobbins Organ Trio, Oct. 26-29.
Dirty Dog Jazz Café
97 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe Farms
Call: (313) 882-5299
Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Tues.-Fri.; Dinner 5-9 p.m. Tues., 5-10:30 p.m. Wed.-Sat. Closed Sun.-Mon.
Prices: Lunch soups and salads $4-$13, sandwiches $9-$15, entrees $11-$18; Dinner appetizers $5-$15, entrees $19-$43.
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Moderate
Parking: Valet, street and rear municipal lot.
Wheelchair access: No barriers
What the ratings mean
★ — routine ★★ — good
★★1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent
★★★★ — outstanding