Rooftop bar Monarch Club to open Saturday
With a small plates menu from chef Jared Bobkin, the new cocktail lounge offers stunning views of downtown in four directions
The aptly named Monarch Club cocktail lounge and restaurant is getting final touches and is about ready to spread its wings atop the 14-story Metropolitan Building in downtown Detroit.
Swanky, plush and grown up, the club overlooking the city has a bar and a variety of lounge-style seating inside, plus four outdoor spaces with seating and fireplaces, including a terrace that overlooks Comerica Park.
It's a rooftop bar like no other in town. Besides being higher up than most, it offers views in four directions and will be open to the public seven nights a week.
The Roxbury Group — their other projects include the nearby David Whitney Building, the Griswold in Capitol Park and the Plaza in Midtown — is shooting for a Saturday opening for the Monarch. The developers have spent the past few years renovating the Metropolitan, which besides the Monarch Club is home to Element Detroit, an extended stay hotel.
Besides craft cocktails and competitively-priced wines and beers, the Monarch will serve a menu of small plates designed by chef Jared Bobkin, who has worked in kitchens across Metro Detroit and has been seen nationwide on the cooking reality show "Hell's Kitchen."
"We wanted to create food that was approachable to everybody ... a snackable plate, it's shareable ... two-bite, three-bite kind of thing," said Bobkin, adding that he'll have meatballs, brisket sliders, burnt end poutine and other small plates. "Focus on those well-received dishes that people are very familiar with ... I'm not trying to re-create food here."
The idea here is to stop by for a drink and a snack and the view.
"We're not trying to do multi-course dinners here," he said. "We're not a restaurant. It's not your typical hotel fare."
"When we conceived of the Monarch as really a rooftop venue to the Metropolitan Building as much as an extension of the hotel use, we really wanted to evoke and respond to the kind of first floor experience," said David Di Rita, one of the founders and principals of the Roxbury Group. "We wanted this to be a proper tribute to the building as a whole."
"The inspiration is really drawn from some of the storied city clubs of Detroit that used to be on roof tops," he said.
Di Rita says the price points at the Monarch will be on par with other spots in the area: cocktails ranging $11-$16, $8-$13 for wines and $5-$8 per beer, plus small plates in the neighborhood of $10-$12 with some reaching $16.
The bar manager here is Mike Eisenberg, who has crafted cocktails at Grey Ghost, the Foundation Hotel, Bad Luck Bar and Buhl Bar.
While they don't want to overload capacity in the cocktail lounge, which was created by Patrick Thompson Designs of Detroit, they "aren't going to be precious about that." Meaning there won't be a lot of the same rules you may see at other classic cocktail bars about seating and cell phone usage.
There's no dress code, and sports fans on the way to a game may feel just at home as a couple headed to the opera. Those looking to watch the Tigers, however, will have to settle for hearing it on the rooftop from Comerica Park below; there are no televisions.
The club looks to be a great way for guests and bar-hoppers to enjoy the 94-year-old restored gem and its $33 million overhaul.
"It's one of these great little vantage points because nothing would ever arise that you wouldn't delight in looking at," said Di Rita from the highest of the four outdoor areas, which they call "the keep." "You really appreciate Detroit's layout in a situation like this. You're never hemmed in in Detroit, there's always a vista, and it's because of the layout of our streets."
The views are stunning, but the story of the rehabilitation of the skyscraper, and the top floor specifically, may be even more impressive.
"This was the most devastated of the floors," Di Rita says of the Monarch Club. "This building was closed for 40 years. There was significant degradation of the roof and this was basically open to the elements."
In fact, when the Roxbury Group obtained the Metropolitan in 2016, there was water running through the wedge-shaped building and a 14-foot cottonwood tree growing out of the roof, underlining the decades of neglect the city-owned structure was suffering from. (The tree was rescued and relocated to Belle Isle.)
"This building was in such a compromised state when we took it over that we had to spend a lot of time just stabilizing it," said Di Rita. In spite of that, they got it together in about two years with the help of Detroit-based Means Group developers.
Once open later this month, the Monarch Club, 33 John R, will serve cocktails and dinner every evening at first, seven days a week. Sunday brunch may be added in the near future and the space is available for rentals during the day.