Checking in with Michael Symon's Roast for its 10-year mark
Ten years ago when Michael Symon's Roast opened on the ground floor of the Westin Book Cadillac hotel, Detroit was a much different city.
Some of downtown's top fine-dining spots at the time were Coach Insignia and Seldom Blues at the Renaissance Center and Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak and Salt Water at MGM Grand Detroit. All have since closed.
In Corktown, Irish restaurant Baile Corcaigh was still in operation before it became St. CeCe's Pub and later Lady of the House. Slows Bar BQ was just three years old in 2008, and in Eastern Market, Supino Pizzeria was just getting started.
While celebrity chef and talk show host Michael Symon's suburban Detroit ventures haven't panned out — the Royal Oak and Rochester locations of B Spot burger restaurants have closed — the Cleveland-based chef's meat-centric Roast has flourished.
"We’re doing really well," said general manager and sommelier Joseph Allerton. "We’re still selling out a couple turns a night, more often than not, especially during the busy season."
Allerton credits Roast's success in no small part to the restaurant's ability to retain quality staff members. Allerton himself has been there since the beginning.
"I think that a lot of these new restaurants can't compete with us on things like that because we have such good loyalty and such great experience among our team members, front and back (of house) alike," he said. "I think that's one of the hardest things to do in this business especially with all this growth."
"There's almost not enough talent to go around," he adds, echoing something I've been hearing regularly from local managers of restaurants both new and longstanding. "It's really important with a restaurant like Roast that we're doing everything we can to bring in people at different levels and help them grow and become experts in service and hospitality."
One of those people is executive chef Kirk Whittemore, who started at the restaurant five years ago as a line cook, worked his way up and became executive chef about six months ago.
“He’s really thriving (in that role) and doing some really great menu development and I think he’s assembled an amazing team," said Allerton.
Symon is known for his love of meat and butchery, and Roast's concept reflects that. There's a full selection of steaks and other cuts, and this is the first place I can remember offering bone marrow as an appetizer. Roast also serves beef tartare and charcuterie.
Tastes and diets are changing, though, and as vegan diets become more mainstream, Roast adapts.
Allerton says that while here are no permanent vegan items on the menu, because of their dedication to quality service, any diet will be accommodated.
"We’ve always prided on ourselves at Roast, and in our company in general, to be as accommodating to our guests as possible and that goes right along with providing them with the best that we can with food if they have dietary restrictions – gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian, any kind of restrictions – our chef’s team has always been able to accommodate using seasonal ingredients that they have available to them on the day-to-day."
"I think we have a good success rate with vegan clients," he added.
Roast continues to have a popular happy hour, too, with select menu items, wines and other beverages offered at a lower price point 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the bar. Popular items are the Roast burger, Prince Edward Island mussels and french fries with tarragon garlic aioli.
As every classic steak house should, Roast is focused on wine. GM Allerton is also a sommelier, and he is proud of the high-quality yet affordable wines by the glass he's curated for the happy hour. Roast has an award-winning wine list that is ever-changing and includes more approachable $50-$100 bottles, as well as bigger splurges.
Michael Symon's Roast is open 5-10 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. at 1128 Washington in Detroit. Call (313) 961-2500 for reservations or visit roastdetroit.com.
The bar-area-only happy hour is 4:30-6:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.