Expect the unexpected at new Rock City Eatery location

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

When Rock City Eatery moves from its 1,600-square-foot restaurant in Hamtramck to a location twice as big on Woodward in Midtown, things will inevitably change.

Sure, owners Nikita Sanches and Jessica Imbronone Sanches want to bring the urban rustic, rock ‘n’ roll feel of their Hamtramck stop to the new space, which is expected to open “soon” for lunch, dinner and late-night eating.

But with a higher-profile locality, more seating and a bigger kitchen, Russian-born chef Nikita will naturally be expanding the menu to feature items beyond what Rock City is known for: pies, mac and cheese, duck confit poutine and spicy roasted Brussels sprouts.

This week the Sancheses invited local food and restaurant writers to get a sample of the adventurous new menu. Expect anything. (For example, the chef told us we were getting five courses, but ended up serving us nine plates.)

The first dish, Ants on a Log, set the tone for the meal and certainly broke the ice at the dinner table.

Check it out: pickled celery, peanut butter, roasted grapes, peanuts, moss and real black ants. The ants came dried from Thailand, and Sanches got them plate-ready by reconstituting them in vinegar. They definitely added something visually and texturally, but I didn’t get a unique “ant taste” from the dish.

Sanches says the natural flavor of the ants is very acidic and vinegary.

“It is their defense mechanism,” he said.

There’s enough else going on with this new menu, however, that I doubt Rock City’s new location will be simply known as “that Midtown place with the ants.”

For instance, they’re calling a vegetable dish “grilled steaks.” The meatless small plate has grilled cauliflower, strawberries, salvitxada (a sauce similar to romesco), chocolate and rhubarb. Another veggie offering is a sophisticated take on peas and carrots with pine roasted carrots, grilled pea sauce, cream and open snap peas.

Other unexpected twists: adding nori to a chimichurri that is spread over a bone marrow pate and served in the bone; it’s a breakfast-like dish that has duck sausage between two scallion pancakes topped with bone marrow butter, plus a single, heart-shaped raviolo served in broth and stuffed with blood sausage.

Besides new menu items, Rock City’s Midtown location will have less miss-matched furniture than the Hamtramck restaurant. Benches and the bar top will be crafted by Ferndale-based Hudson Industrial Furnishings, which uses reclaimed metal and wood.

Expect a thorough and diverse bar program from beverage director Liz Cosby, too.

The Sanches, who appeared favorably on an episode of “Restaurant Startup” last year, are reluctant to give an opening date for the new spot. They’re still working through construction, licensing and permit variables.

In the meantime, have one last meal at the Hamtramck Rock City Eatery, at 11411 Jos Campau. They also own the late-night greasy spoon Campau Tower, which will remain open in Hamtramck even after the move.

Browndog Creamery’s 2nd location will have booze

Browndog Creamery and Dessert Bar of Northville is expanding to a second location in downtown Farmington. The micro-creamery locale will also be a bar, serving craft cocktails and a menu of small plates. Naturally, there will also be boozy-treats such as beer floats and dessert martinis.

At 33314 Grand River, the Farmington location is expected to open next week or the week after. Visit browndogcreamery.com.


(313) 222-2402

Twitter: @melodybaetens