Review: Parkside stakes its charm on an American menu

Molly Abraham

The restaurant on the corner of Auburn Road and Squirrel Road has been there for years under a succession of names and owners. Now it has yet another persona and an appealing menu written by executive chef Adam Hightower.

Though still under age 40, Hightower brings impressive experience to the Oakland County town. His previous posts have included some pretty glamorous spots, including Iridescence, the rooftop restaurant at MotorCity Casino, and one he might like to forget, Gastronomy, the upscale, but short-lived spot in a Southfield high-rise. I’ve always thought that one didn’t make it partially because of that unfortunate name.

Hightower, a Schoolcraft culinary graduate, also spent time in Europe and at glamorous resorts in the Far East before coming back home to Michigan.

So here he is in the kitchen of this modest tavern-like spot with its woodsy ambiance and unpretentious service. It is like coming home, he says, because it’s close to Rochester, where he grew up.

The new approach focuses as much as possible on local ingredients — including bread from the artisan bakery Give Thanks and coffee from Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Co. — on an all-day menu. The single menu is something I especially like. More restaurants should try that style.

Parkside, as its name suggests, is unabashedly American. There is a long list of sandwiches and burgers, including such down-home choices as tuna salad (it’s his mother’s recipe, the chef says), grilled cheese made with cheddar and American cheeses, roast turkey and that old school lunch standby, liverwurst, jazzed up with red onion, pickles and lettuce. The chef makes his own condiments, and each table has housemade ketchup, mustard and hot sauce — a nice touch.

House soups include walleye chowder, and it is a creamy delight, with a wedge of lemon perched on the side of its deep bowl. A second choice might be roasted tomato, but the walleye is hard to resist.

The hamburger variety is wide and includes five styles, and includes what the chef calls his signature burger, an eight-ounce aged beef patty with house-cured bacon and cheddar among its toppings. The house sense of humor is revealed in the Plain Jane burger that includes “government cheese.”

The entrée list is about equally divided between meat and seafood, with filet mignon at the top of the price scale and at the other end, fish and chips, meatloaf and good old spaghetti and meatballs. Each entrée is garnished with appropriate accompaniments, often the house smashed potatoes.

Parkside offers a pleasant enough atmosphere, with a big bar at the entrance and a series of dining rooms with well-spaced tables, although it won’t win any décor awards. Outdoor dining on the spacious patio will add another element as the weather warms up.

Parkside: A Modern American Bistro

3315 Auburn Road, Auburn Hills

Call: (248) 606-4848

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 4-10 p.m. Sat. Closed Sun.

Prices: Appetizers $7-$11, soup $6, salad $5-$10, sandwiches $6-$13, entrees $14-$32 on an all-day menu.

Credit cards: All major

Liquor: Full bar

Noise level: Moderate.

Parking: Attached lot

Rating: ★★1/2