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Red Crown transforms a gas station into restaurant

Molly Abraham
The Detroit News

No need to check the street numbers to find Red Crown. The eye-catching, red tile-roofed Standard oil gas station stands out in all its vintage glory, undoubtedly looking even better than it did in 1932, when it was built.

Now handsomely re-purposed, its comfort food and casual atmosphere may surprise first-time visitors and perhaps even some who tried the restaurant when it debuted in winter of 2013.

A southern sampler for two includes smoked pulled pork, brisket, ribs, baby back ribs, corn muffins and choice of sides.

That was under a previous regime and it was short-lived. It took just a few months for the building’s owners, the entrepreneurial David and Shery Cotton family, to decide to run the restaurant themselves. They brought in new chefs and a new management staff to run Red Crown, and the results are noticeable.

Executive chef Michael Keys heads the kitchen staff and he has made a real difference with his local farm-to-table approach. He has a firm hand with the southern smokehouse theme, which he’s taken to a higher level with assertive and sometimes even brash flavors throughout the menu.

The Red Crown takes a farm-to-table approach for southern-style menu items like these Brussels Sprouts sautéed with almonds.

The big wood smoker turns out an array of meats from well-trimmed baby back ribs and beef brisket to pulled pork, and they are teamed with a number of compatible side dishes, including nicely textured miniature corn muffins, truffle or sea salt fries, sturdy braised greens and salads. The salads include an interesting roasted beet version with both red and golden beets, teamed with arugula and grapefruit in a citrus vinaigrette.

As might be expected, there are a couple of burgers, one with embellishments as a fried egg, bacon and house pickled jalapenos and it’s a winner. Pickled carrots and beets turn up as side notes to several dishes, including the smoked meats.

Chef Michael Keys, showing off a smoked brisket, takes a farm-to-table approach at the restaurant in a former gas station.

While meat is prominent, the kitchen also does a nice job with dishes such as fresh perch – try the perch sandwich – smoked chicken wings and mac and cheese.

Desserts follow the down-home theme with fruit crisps and baked-to-order chocolate chip cookies among the choices.

The Red Crown restaurant, once a gas station, got a reboot from owners David and Shery Cotton in Grosse Pointe Park.

The interior space is divided into a high-ceiling dining room, once the working garage, with rows of tables covered in red linen, overlaid with brown paper. The former office area is now a clubby little cocktail lounge with high-top tables for two along uncovered windows. A spacious patio with bright red umbrellas shading the tables nearly doubles the capacity of Red Crown.

The staff in Red Crown T-shirts is friendly and fits what the chef calls “a neighborhood restaurant just a little on the upscale.”


Red Crown

15301 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe Park

Call: (313) 822-3700



Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-midnight Fri.-Sat., brunch 10 a.m.-3 p.m., dinner 4-9 p.m. Sun.

Prices: Appetizers $7-$18, soups and salads $5-$13, sandwiches $12-$15, entrees $18-$26, desserts $5-$7

Credit cards: All major

Liquor: Full bar

Noise level: Moderately high

Parking: Attached lot

Wheelchair access: No barriers

What the ratings mean

★ — routine ★★ — good

★★1/2 — very good

★★★ — excellent

★★★★ — outstanding