Thaw out with fireside dining

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

To say it’s been cold outside is an understatement. A crackling fire at a restaurant is just the antidote for the winter weary, offering a cozy dining experience you can’t get at home. Even gas fireplaces add ambiance and warmth.

“It’s just so relaxing and romantic, there’s nothing like a roaring fire,” says Tommy Chavez, events coordinator at Cafe Cortina in Farmington Hills. The restaurant boasts two indoor and two outdoor fireplaces. They’re among the selling points of the upscale Italian restaurant. “For years I believe our fireplaces were our main thing. Everyone wants to sit by the fire,” she says. The inside fireplaces are gas, but the blazing wood-burning hearth outside is the main attraction — it can be seen from the dining area through glass French doors that line the room. “We really torch that up,” Chavez says. “It’s beautiful.”

Here’s are some Metro Detroit restaurants known for fireside dining.

Camp Ticonderoga: Rustic and lodge-like, Camp Ticonderoga, located next to the Sylvan Glen golf course, boasts two fireplaces, one in the main dining room and another in the lower dining area. The restaurant has a meat-heavy classic menu that includes fish and chips, buffalo meatloaf, filet mignon and shredded barbeque sandwiches. Adding to the homey atmosphere are the blue plate special, a children’s menu and free freshly baked cookies at lunch. 5725 Rochester, Troy. (248) 828-2825.

Dick O’Dow’s: A little bit of Ireland in Birmingham, Dick O’Dow’s has a gas fireplace near long tables — great for groups. The pub has been serving hearty fare since 1996. Besides a dozen different burgers, there are dishes to share such as Guinness-battered cheese curds, potato skins and poutine. O’Dow’s has entertainment, including a trivia tournament Monday nights and occasional live music. 160 W. Maple, Birmingham. (248) 642-1135.

Lena: A popular Ann Arbor spot, Lena’s decor is simple and elegant and lets the beautifully-plated Latin cuisine take center stage. It does, however, have a super chic gas fireplace in the the dining area. The white centerpiece has a distinctive mid-20th century modern look; It’s definitely something you’d expect to find in Don Draper’s sunken living room. Enjoy its beauty as you choose among menu items such as ceviche, lobster corn dogs, jerk chicken, Cuban sandwiches and fish tacos. Open daily for lunch and dinner. 226 S. Main, Ann Arbor. (734) 994-2773.

Local Kitchen and Bar: Dine fireside at this still fairly new Ferndale spot, which boasts well-crafted comfort food, a bar (with a nice list of Michigan craft beers) and a wood-burning hearth smartly located so it can be seen from Nine Mile. Eat light with a veggie-packed salad that can be embellished with chicken, grilled tofu, shrimp or salmon. Go for something heartier with pimento cheese fries, turkey meatloaf or stuffed shells. Reservations are suggested if dining during peak hours, especially to nab a table by that toasty fireplace. 344 W. Nine Mile, Ferndale. (248) 291-5650.

St. CeCe’s Pub: The rich smell of burning wood is evident immediately upon opening this Corktown hangout’s carved wood front doors. St. CeCe’s — formerly Irish restaurant Baile Corcaigh — serves lunch, dinner and weekend brunch plus a full bar with casual, friendly bartenders who can do the shot-and-a-beer or the craft cocktail thing. You’ll find folks from the neighborhood in the bar area, and the dining area near the wood-burning hearth is perfect for large groups. The menu has hearty favorites such as a Dutch Scotch egg, mac and cheese and beef medallions. Quinoa with grilled veggies and and the house-made ravioli are both stellar vegetarian options that still satisfy and ease the winter chill. St. CeCe’s also hosts a guest chef on Tuesday evenings. 1426 Bagley, Detroit. (313) 962-2121.

White Horse Inn: The massive renovation of this historic Metamora restaurant included the construction of a hearth-style fireplace. Made with stone from a nearby church, the inglenook is surrounded by couches and other comfortable seating, so guests can warm up and roast chestnuts while waiting for a table. The White Horse, which dates back to 1850, was purchased recently by veteran restaurateurs Victor Dzenowagis and Linda Egeland, who, with the help of grants, did a complete overhaul of the equestrian-themed destination. The decor and quaintness is worth the trip, but the menu is also an attraction with classic comfort food like prime rib, chicken pot pie and Angus burgers. There are also trendy items such as Brussels sprouts, hummus and brie and apple salad. Reservations suggested. 1 E. High Street, Metamora. (810) 678-2276.

The Whitney: One of Detroit’s most iconic restaurants, the Whitney mansion has 22 fireplaces, but only two are in use. One of the two gas fireplaces is near the entrance, allowing guests to warm up before being seated in one of the stately dining areas. The bill of fare is very classic, with house specialties such as beef wellington, whole steelhead trout and surf and turf. There’s also a pre-fixe theater menu with three courses for $39. Another popular option is the massive brunch buffet, which offers shrimp, beef and ham carving stations, made-to-order omelets and mimosas, $39 per person. 4421 Woodward, Detroit. (313) 832-5700.

Also worth mentioning:

Moose Preserve Bar & Grill: Another rustic-style casual spot, the Moose Preserve has a gas fireplace in the main dining area. 43034 Woodward, Bloomfield Hills. (248) 858-7688.

Deadwood Bar & Grill: Similar atmosphere to Moose Preserve, with a fireplace in the main dining area. In fact, both restaurants, along with Camp Ticonderoga and White Horse Inn, are owned by Victor Dzenowagis and Linda Egeland. 18730 Northville, Northville. (248) 347-4353.

Old Miami: Although it’s not a restaurant, we’re including this gritty bar and hangout because of its gas fireplace inside and nightly bonfires outside in the spacious backyard. 3930 Cass, Detroit. (313) 831-3830.

Punch Bowl Social: This new bar/restaurant/bowling alley/arcade has a fireplace surrounded by Victorian-style chairs on the upper level. 1331 Broadway, Detroit. (313) 749-9738.

Traffic Jam & Snug: This long-standing microbrewery and restaurant also has an in-house bakery and a dairy. Check out the gas fireplace in the front dining area. 511 W. Canfield, Detroit. (313) 831-9470.