Dining: Rattlesnake Club keeps its bite

Molly Abraham
The Detroit News

It doesn’t seem possible that next year, the Rattlesnake Club will celebrate its 30th anniversary of serving carefully crafted cuisine on the riverfront. It’s no longer the new kid on the block and hasn’t been for quite some time.

Still, there’s a freshness about it that belies its longevity and reflects what its founder, Jimmy Schmidt, meant when he named it. The name denotes energy, he said, and the place still has it under the Stroh ownership.

The transition in 2010 was seamless, and the two chefs who command the kitchen, executive chef Chris Franz and chef de cuisine Jeff Lanctot, have been there since 2001 and 2004 respectively, and they are not the only staff members with a long history. That also shows up in the quality of the service, which is professional throughout, from the waiter’s assistant who brings the basket with its array of delicious housemade breads to the table, to the waiters’ ease at discussing the menu, and the very good cocktails from the bar.

The contemporary menu is just about equally divided between red meat, much of it prime certified Angus, and seafood and local fish, typified by brook trout from a Michigan trout farm and perch from Michigan waters, the latter served with a duo of potatoes, crispy potato strings and garlic mashed, and a ribbon of lemon-thyme cream.

It is still one of the most popular dishes on the menu. Local produce from Brother Nature in Corktown and Werp Farm in Buckley add to the fresh, local approach.

And I love the fact that menu descriptions are simple and straightforward, with no pretentious verbiage.

While some entrees come as composed plates, those who choose prime beef selections choose their own mostly traditional pairings from a list that includes baked russet potato, garlic mashed, and truffle and rosemary fries, as well as garlic spinach, mac and cheese and spring peas.

Chef Franz recently returned from a trip to Omaha where he learned more about the prime Angus beef. The options now include a tenderloin filet, New York strip, a bone-in ribeye and Porterhouse, at 24 ounces the biggest cut of beef (and the most expensive at $52).

Newly installed in the kitchen is a rotisserie oven, which allows the chefs to offer a harissa-rubbed chicken. The Moroccan spice mix adds a definite kick to what can otherwise be a bland dish.

Linen-covered tables are well-spaced throughout the large dining room that offers at least a glimpse of the river through uncovered windows, and that adds to the comfort of the dining experience here. Tables on the terrace will soon add to the seating options, and there’s no doubt that the coming season is prime time at the Rattlesnake Club — not a club, of course, although diners are treated as if they are members.

The Rattlesnake Club remains one of the city’s top restaurants despite the competition that has come along in the last couple of years. But it keeps up with the times, recently adding a 30-minute lunch guarantee to entice the 9 to 5 set to give the Rattlesnake Club a try.

abraham67@comcast.net

The Rattlesnake Club

300 River Place Drive, Detroit

Call: (313) 567-4400

Web: rattlesnakedetroit.com

Rating: ★★★★

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Tues.-Thurs., 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri., 5:30-11 p.m. Sat. Closed Mon. and Sun. except for certain holidays.

Prices: Lunch appetizers and small plates $10-$18, sandwiches $12-$15, entrees $25-$36; dinner appetizers $12-$19, entrees $26-$52, desserts $9-$14

Credit cards: All major

Liquor: Full bar and extensive wine list.

Noise level: Moderate

Parking: Valet, nearby lot and street.

Wheelchair access: No barriers

What the ratings mean

★ — routine ★★ — good ★★ 1/2 — very good

★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — outstanding