New chef gives riverside smokehouse Miles on the Water a fresh start

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News
A riverside patio at Miles on the Water can seat about 70 guests, and has a tiki bar and a few boat docks.

Owners of the Double D Bar & Grill in Mount Clemens knew something had to change. Business had become stagnant, the food was basic, and aside from being on the banks of the Clinton River, there wasn't much special about the place.

Sarah and David Pierno, who have owned the restaurant since 2012, decided to give it an overhaul that included a new name, menu and theme.

"It wasn't panning out, and we felt that it was time to revamp and start all over," said Sarah Pierno. 

Chef-driven smokehouse Miles on the Water was the result, and the only thing that's the same is Sarah and Dave, the dining room and bar layout and that sweet riverside view. 

The cornerstone of the 180-degree change is chef Chad Barrett, a longtime area chef who has been working as a consultant for restaurants as of late. He was introduced to the Piernos by a mutual friend who knew the Double D was struggling.

Chef Chad Barrett was hired to completely overhaul the menu and interior of Miles on the Water, formerly the Double D Bar & Grill.

The Piernos gave Barrett carte blanche to change anything about the spacious eatery, from the back of the house to the front. Sarah said Barrett retrained the staff, changed the atmosphere and revamped all the menus to focus around meat smoked in house, fresh ingredients and more sophisticated cocktail offerings.

In a way, it was a self-imposed "Bar Rescue" intervention, without having to have scary Jon Taffer come in and scream at them on national television. 

Miles on the Water, which is named after Sarah and Dave's 3-year-old son, has a roadhouse vibe on the inside with high ceilings and a kind of "pure Michigan" feel with a fireplace and cabin-like touches. This look is leftover from the Double D days, but the smokehouse menu gives it a more cohesive motif.

The outdoor deck has an island-meets-the-bayou energy with the grassy riverbank and a tiki bar that hosts live music on the weekends. The patio seats about 70 and has room for eight boat wells for those who prefer to travel via the Clinton River instead of North River Road. 

(Don't confuse Miles on the Water with bar and restaurant Mike's on the Water in St. Clair Shores, which is known for its lobster rolls and sits on the shore of Lake St. Clair.) 

Barrett's menu is barbecue-heavy with items such as brisket tacos, smoked meatloaf sandwich, ribs, pulled pork, macaroni and cheese and smokehouse beans. To be on-trend, there are some non-meat items like a vegetable sandwich with a fried feta patty and a vegan cauliflower dish. 

While the menu is largely barbecue-centric, Miles on the Water still offers a classic bar burger and fries.

Just about anything on the menu can be elevated by one of Barrett's house-made sauces, many which have Michigan ties. There's a tangy and sweet Faygo barbecue sauce, a Michigan maple syrup and chipotle sauce, a mustard made with Stroh's beer and a fourth sauce that has an Asian-influenced zing to it.  

"I walked in and I didn't really know what I was getting myself into," he said. "I feel like the menu needed help. It needed a redesign. It needed to be amped up, it was pretty basic and similar to a lot in the area, which was throwing them in to a common area ... they didn't have a lot of variety." 

Barrett, who has been cooking since he was 16, did some research on what other kinds of cuisine was being offered and learned that this area of Macomb County didn't have much in the way of smokehouses, especially those on any kind of body of water. 

He said the reaction so far from customers have been very positive. The chef said he's even taken photos with guests who recognize him from his two stints on the show "Guy's Grocery Games" on the Food Network.  

Owner Sarah Pierno said without Barrett's overhaul they probably wouldn't have lasted. 

"I feel if Chad didn't come and do what he did — he was a man of his word — that we would probably just have closed our doors," she said. 

Miles on the Water, 240 N. River Road in Mount Clemens, is open Tues.-Sun. for lunch and dinner. Call (586) 231-0134 or visit Visit the website for information on catering and banquet facilities.

Twitter: @melodybaetens