The Dirty Dog manages to pull off a very difficult task. It skillfully combines a listening room and upscale restaurant without stepping on either side’s toes. The bandstand and the kitchen get pretty much equal time.
Jazz is the common denominator, of course, since it is proprietor Gretchen Valade’s passion. She cares about cuisine too — executive chef Andre Neimanis has been in charge of the kitchen since the place opened in 2008, giving it real continuity. And he is not the only one who has been around since the beginning.
Chef de cuisine Eli Fox, manager Willie Jones and bartender Carl Williams are also going to be marking their 10th anniversary Feb. 13 when the Dirty Dog marks the big occasion.
The single room, seating just about 65 at banquettes and linen-covered tables, is compact enough to give everyone a view of the musicians, well-known names four nights a week, and on Tuesdays, the excellent house band led by Charles Boles. Detroit area jazz musicians usually drop by to sit in with the band.
So it’s music every night except Sunday and Monday in an English pub-like setting, with framed portraits of jazz greats on deep red walls lit by chandeliers overhead.
The sophisticated menu starts with such unexpected appetizers as smoked salmon mousse, tempura cauliflower with Korean chili sauce, and sirloin tips with pommes frites, tipping off the fact that this kitchen has its own ideas. Entrees are equally varied, with a changing pasta dish, a vegetarian array, and such surprises as chicken and waffles among the choices currently.
The house burger, made with the chef’s blend of beef cuts, is notable, served with smoked gouda cheese on a toasted brioche bun. And of course there’s a steak, a filet mignon in this case, atop the price scale.
Served with entrees is smoked tomato soup — it’s been the house soup for years — or a fresh green salad, along with a basket of focaccia, the house bread, brought by one of the professional staff who seem to have mastered the knack of serving unobtrusively. The menu does not stay static. It changes on a regular basis.
This week’s headliner is the Hughes Smith Quintet (through Saturday). Reservations are wise, and note that you may reserve a seat at the bar, as well as a table.
Dirty Dog Jazz Café
97 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe Farms
Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Tues-Fri., dinner 5-9 p.m. Tues., 5-10:30 p.m. Wed.-Sat.
Prices: Lunch appetizers $6-$9, soups and salads $4-$9. sandwiches $7-$14, entrees $14-$18, dinner appetizers $6-$10, soups and salads $6-$10, entrees $11-$37, desserts $8-$10.
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Moderate
Wheelchair access: No barriers
Parking: Valet Wed.-Sat., municipal lot and street
What the ratings mean
★ — routine ★★ — good ★★ 1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — outstanding