Whenever I go to a restaurant for a review, I hope it is going to be a place I can recommend.
What’s the use of writing about a place that doesn’t deliver a good dining experience? The restaurant certainly doesn’t have to be fancy. But it should offer, in addition to the most important factor — well-prepared food — an overall pleasant dining experience, and that’s where atmosphere and service come into play.
Well, Common Pub isn’t fancy, but the creative menu and the friendly service outweigh the casual setting. At first glance, the restaurant on the ground floor of the Belcrest Apartments doesn’t outwardly appear to be a place that will deliver a memorable dining experience.
Oh, it does have some vintage details, such as decorative plasterwork around the ceiling that hint at the building’s ’20s origin and a variety of seating arrangements, from sturdy wood tables to a couple of booths in the front windows, but décor is not a major part of its appeal.
However, Executive Chef Zach Stotz and chef de cuisine Jacquelyn Sherer, who also makes the desserts, have a surprise in store. Their kitchen is a from-scratch workplace, with everything made in-house from fresh ingredients, including herbs from their garden, and there are a number of specials every day to augment a menu that is hard to categorize. It is creative and has an international spin, from the Canadian favorite poutine in a daily changing style to duck Rangoon, lamb curry and pad Thai noodles with peanut sauce.
Not that there isn’t an All-American burger available in a variety of sizes from a single 4-ounce patty to double and triple ($5-$9) including hand-cut duck fat fries, and fish and chips, also with some of the crisp fries. Duck-fried chicken, served in half and whole sizes, is bursting with flavor from its brown sugar and buttermilk brining.
There’s a daily changing fresh vegetable choice, and some interesting salads, typified by orange-glazed salmon atop napa cabbage, frisee and cucumbers in ginger dressing. One day’s special entree — pan-seared ruby red trout with green beans, a toss of arugula and a grapefruit sauce that was neither too tart or too sweet — was attractively presented and a bargain at $12.
In addition to the quality of the food, another appealing factor is the modest price structure. There is only one dish that hits the $20 mark (whole chicken).
Fans of the Atlas Global Bistro, which shuttered in 2013 after a 10-year run, should be happy to learn that some of the principals are here. Proprietor Paul Silveri made former Atlas chef Stotz an operating partner, in addition to his duties as chef. And bartender Tashunna Booker is behind the bar here, too.
Nikki Barbour, a partner at Atlas, and now with the Center for Creative Studies where the wood block tables were made, designed the simple, straightforward room, which I don’t mean to disparage by saying it isn’t fancy. It is just right for its WSU/museum district spot and has outdoor seats overlooking the Belcrest swimming pool.
After just few months in business, Common Grill has attracted a crowd of enthusiastic regulars who know a good thing when they find it.
5440 Cass, Detroit
Call: (313) 285-8849
Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight Tues.-Fri., 4 p.m.-midnight Sat. Bar later
Prices: Snacks $8-$9, sides $4-$6, salads $8-$15, entrees $5-$22, desserts $4-$6
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Moderate
Wheelchair access: Side entrance only
What the ratings mean
★ — routine ★★ — good ★★ 1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — outstanding