Le Culture Cafe entices with comfort food dishes
Owner and executive chef Drew Matthews opened upscale comfort restaurant Le Culture Cafe with his business partner Dennis Irving in November, and tables in the cozy Eastern Market space have been filled ever since.
Matthews credits social media with helping get the word out about their seafood-heavy menu, which is loaded with rich and savory dishes like the seafood grilled cheese sandwich with rock lobster and blue crab mixed with gooey baby Swiss, lemon chive butter and Mornay sauce between two slices of challah.
If that's doesn't quell your pescatarian desires, dive into the salmon tower; an 8-ounce organic Alaskan salmon fillet topped with jumbo lump crab, lobster, whipped potatoes and sauced spinach. Le Culture Cafe also serves Alaskan king crab legs, bone-in rib-eye steak, lamb chops, a house burger, salmon burger and classic steakhouse sides like macaroni and cheese, whipped potatoes, broccolini and roasted carrots.
Le Culture Cafe's shining dish may be the mamba chicken pasta. Large, springy rigatoni are doused in a peppery, blacked cream sauce and tossed with a generous portion of blackened chicken, plus tricolor peppers and spinach. It's a $24 entree, but the stop-you-in-your-tracks dish is easily shareable among two people.
Vegetarians have the option of a few salads, including the vegan roasted root vegetable salad. Chef Matthews also serves the plant-based Beyond Burger.
If you do save room for dessert, there is only one offering: a large slice of black bottom cheesecake made with a thick layer of chocolate cake. Also sweet, but not on the menu are the complimentary honey-drizzled croissants.
Cocktails, beer and wine are served, as well as a selection of sweet Faygo drinks and strawberry lemonade. There's no diet pop offered, but honestly if you're watching calories, you're in the wrong restaurant.
The homey and concise menu is a departure from Antietam, the upscale, French-inspired restaurant formerly in this space. Photographer Greg Holm still owns the building, but closed Antietam as a restaurant last March.
Matthews said he did a lot to change the interior. There are still lush, art deco touches, but he wanted to lighten up the space and make it "less gloomy." Light fixtures and walls appear brighter.
Large windows face Gratiot, letting natural light into the dining room, which is covered with a silvery, tin ceiling and broken into two spaces. The front entry side has high top seating that is close-set and dark wood-paneled walls, and the second dining area to the north has lower tables with banquette seating. A television watches over the marble-topped bar with half a dozen bar stools.
A small, plush lounge and waiting area is available toward the back of the restaurant near a rear entrance.
Le Culture Cafe
1428 Gratiot, Detroit
Hours: 4-11 p.m. Tues.-Sat., 2-10 p.m. Sun.
Prices: Starters and salads, $12-$15; Burgers and sandwiches, $14-$19; Entrees, $24-$42 and market prices; sides, $6-$8; dessert, $9.
Reservations: Suggested. Call or use the OpenTable app or website.
Noise level: Moderate, convivial
Accessibility: No barriers
Parking: Parking lot behind building and nearby street parking.