Review: Empire Kitchen & Cocktails revels in eclectic menu
The name is apt. Equal time is given to both the American cuisine and to the colorful libations from the bar. The sophisticated decor uses handsome bottles of liquor as part of the look. The bottles are displayed like jewelry on shelves along mirrored walls in the stylish room, where seating is at the spacious white marble-topped bar and at tables indoors and on the covered patio.
The patio and its view of the lively street scene just north of the Little Caesars Arena is the preferred location currently, and it’s easy to see why. The Brush Park neighborhood is a hot spot.
Chef Aaron Lowen has come up with an eclectic American menu, ranging from the obligatory burger made with 8 ounces of a house blend to seared salmon and one prime steak at the top of a wide price range. It is completely a la carte, from its sides of mac and cheese and crisp, salty fries -- a good choice with pre-dinner drinks -– and follows no particular theme, but is completely free-form.
Service by the staff wrapped in long aprons over jeans and black shirts is knowledgeable and courteous and their chic look adds to the setting. You don’t have to dress up, but a put- together look is called for.
Recommended dishes include an interesting chicken sandwich with pimiento cheese, pickles and shredded lettuce sparking what can often be a bland flavor profile, and at $16 including fries, it is an especially appealing choice. There is also roasted half- chicken.
Other dishes sampled at our table included pan-seared and nicely moist salmon atop quinoa with a border of asparagus spears and cherry tomatoes, and Marsala-mushroom sauced pasta with a sprinkling of Parmesan that had one of our party almost scraping the bottom of the bowl.
For dessert, the pull-apart cinnamon-y monkey bread was plenty for three to share. Chef Lowen also turns out crème brulee.
Menus are seldom set in stone, of course, and the chef will be making changes from time to time.
The proprietors -– businessmen Michael Abrams, Brian Adelman and David Pittaway -– wisely turned the on-site management over to the chef, who is the operating partner.
Empire Kitchen & Cocktails
3148 Woodward Avenue, Detroit
Rating: ★★ 1/2
Hours: 4-midnight Mon.-Wed., 4 p.m.- 1 a.m. Thu.-Fri., 10 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat., 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.
Prices: Brunch dishes $9-$22, dinner entrees $16-$45, sides $7-$8, desserts $8
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Moderate
Wheelchair access: No barriers
Parking: $10 valet
What the ratings mean
★ — routine ★★ — good ★★ 1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — outstanding