Review: Cool Grandma Bob's stands out among new pizza joints
It's hard to go wrong with pizza. Melted cheese and marinara on bread is pretty universally appreciated in this part of the country. It's not easy, though, to make pie that is as exceptionally good as what is coming out of the ovens at Grandma Bob's Handmade Pizza in Corktown.
This new, colorful and very hip pizzeria opened earlier this year next door to Mercury Burger Bar. It's a neighborhood bar that serves awesome pizza. It's a pizzeria with a killer bar. Either way you slice it, with pizza, ice cream and affordable craft cocktails, Grandma Bob offers Corktown a lot considering the tiny menu.
Most pizzas are round, 12-inch pies on the thinner side that are cut into six slices, making it a good-sized dinner for two, or two meals for one person. There are gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options, too.
There's the classic cheese, but most pizzas have a modern, gourmet twist. The aged pepperoni, for example, comes with a honey drizzle and the sausage pizza has crushed pistachio, shaved red onion, mascarpone cheese, rosemary and thyme.
What inspired this review was a new menu addition, the Hawaiian. It hits all the notes I love in a pizza: crispy crust, lots of cheese, a little grease and tons of flavor.
It has a modest amount of pineapple chunks plus roasted onions, savory 'nduja pork sausage from nearby Gratiot Avenue Provisions and pickled jalapeño. There are sesame seeds — my favorite on pizza — on the crust, which was charred in all the right places, and a light dusting of cilantro over the whole pie.
A Detroit-style deep dish version of pizza is available in just cheese or pepperoni. There are a limited number of these 2-inch thick square pizzas made each day, but they're worth going early to get. It's sauce-on-top-style like Buddy's, but the cheese is more elastic and the dough is fluffier. (Sadly, the slices are also tinier.)
Grandma Bob's also has cheap pizza by the slice, and two really lovely salads. I recommend the cashew Caesar, which is simply greens and vegan Parmesan dressed in a vegan cashew Caesar dressing and topped with still-warm, freshly toasted croutons.
The pizzeria also has soft-serve ice cream, made by Cold Truth. This is a business operating separately under Grandma Bob's roof while they prepare their own brick-and-mortar space. Look for vegan and dairy options in often-changing flavors, such as raspberry and dark chocolate, s'mores, coffee and lavender.
Collaborations are kind of a thing here. Besides giving Cold Truth a space, the owners of Grandma Bob's also work with popular vegan pop-up Street Beet.
They've teamed up for a Street Beet Dorito Crunch pizza which gives your taste buds all the guilty pleasures of eating and pizza and Taco Bell but without feeling gross afterward. You can get it with vegan or real mozzarella, topped with fake ground beef, shredded iceberg lettuce, spicy ranch and crumbled Sweet Chili Doritos chips. The crust is taco-flavored. A junk food aficionado and a dedicated vegan could happily share this.
The name Grandma Bob's sounds like the decor might involve doilies or crochet throw pillows, but the restaurant is very contemporary and colorful inside and out. Mosaic tile artwork of a pizza slice oversees the small dining area, which has just a few communal tables.
There's a good amount of seating at the marble bar, which offers a daily $4 shot special (good stuff, too). A list of seven craft cocktails are offered, each $10 and showcasing a different base spirit. There's also a refreshing and simple Aperol spritz.
Those ordering carryout pizza can also take home beer and wine to go.
The owners, brothers John and Dave Kwiatkowski, named the pizzeria after their grandmother, Roberta. She was nicknamed Robby, but their grandfather affectionately called her Bobby and they always knew her as Grandma Bob.
"We wanted to do something fun, and funny and sort of tongue-in-cheek, so it's an homage to her," said John Kwiatkowski. A photo of Grandma Bob hangs near the bar.
"She worked in service her entire life. My grandpa was in the Army so every time they moved to a new town she got a job at another diner," he said. "So we always learned as kids, you treat your service staff well because that was your grandma."
Detroit proper has seen a handful of new pizza places open in the past few months — and at least one close, Chicago chain Giordano's — but none of them offers the mix of high-quality ingredients and fun surroundings like Bob's.
Grandma Bob's is run by locally based restaurant group Detroit Optimist Society. Their portfolio also includes cocktail bars Sugar House, Bad Luck Bar and Munity Tiki Bar, plus restaurants Wright & Company, Honest Johns and the Peterboro.
Grandma Bob's Handmade Pizza
2135 Michigan, Detroit
(313) 315-3177 or grandmabobs.com
Rating: ★★★ (excellent)
Hours: 4-10 p.m. Wed.-Thurs.; 4 p.m.-midnight Fri.-Sat. and 4-10 p.m. Sun.
Prices: Pizza, $11-$17, slices, $3-$4; salads, $4; cocktails, $10; beers, $4-$12; wine by the glass, $10-$12, bottles $38-$50.
Delivery: Not yet.
Noise level: Quiet early on, and more boisterous as the night goes on.
Accessibility: No barriers
Parking: Street parking on Michigan and a parking lot behind the restaurant on 14th street.
What the stars mean
★ — routine ★★ — very good ★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — extraordinary