Avalon a welcome dining addition to downtown scene
The visitor from Toronto was impressed, and not just by the margherita pizza she was biting into last week.
“Everyone here is so friendly,” she said. She meant the people of Detroit in general, but she had chosen one of its friendliest places for lunch that day. The cafe — directly across Woodward from the Kern clock and the QLine tracks — is Avalon’s most elaborate outpost, offering its wares in a sunny setting of bright canary yellow, red and knotty pine.
Various seating arrangements range from stools arrayed along the coffee bar and in the front window to tables around the room. Patrons stop at the counter and order, and are given a number to display so the staff can easily spot them and deliver their dishes. (My number happened to be 13, but I did not hold that against the cheerful and accommodating staff.)
It’s almost impossible not to order some of the crusty house bread that has made Avalon famous ever since Jackie Victor and Ann Perrault opened the bakery on West Willis with backing from friends and family in 1997. It is offered in sharable portions with such accompaniments as hummus, with softened butter and sea salt, as the base for avocado toast and with marinated olives.
It also arrives grilled in chunky slices with a bowl of the daily-changing soup, which might be Manhattan clam chowder, split pea with ham,or hot-and-sour mushroom tofu, the latter a vegan soup and each one notable. But probably the most popular dish is the pizza, offered in five varieties including the tempting deluxe, with its mushrooms, roasted garlic cream, goat cheese and rosemary, truly a gourmet pie on a thin crust,
Salads are of the main dish variety, typified by the steak and spinach, grilled flat iron steak, mushrooms and pickled shallots in herbed buttermilk dressing.
Don’t miss one of the sea salt chocolate chip cookies, the kick of salt adding a real boost of flavor as a counterpoint to the sweetness.
Perhaps surprisingly, beer and wine are part of the package, the wine being of the canned variety, and it’s not bad. Really.
Almost countless coffee and tea varieties are avialable, as well. What a welcome addition to the downtown culinary scene.
Other Avalon outposts in addition to its West Willis original are at 2990 West Grand Blvd., Detroit, and 120 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor.
Avalon Cafe and Bakery
1049 Woodward at State, Detroit
Call: (313) 285-8006
Hours: 7 a.m. Mon.-Thurs., 7 a.m.-midnight Fri., 8 a.m.-midnight Sat., 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.
Prices: Breakfast dishes $7-$12, brunch dishes $11-$14, sides $3-$6; pizzas $13-$15, sandwiches $9-$14, salads $12-$14, sides $3-$9.
Credit cards: All major.
Liquor: Beer and wine only.
Noise level: Moderate to high
Wheelchair access: No barriers
Parking: Two-hour parking validation with orders.
What the ratings mean
? — routine ?? — good ??1/2 — very good
??? — excellent ???? — outstanding