Metro Detroit restaurants making changes

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

The role of chef in a restaurant has always been important, obviously, but with the recent focus on chef-driven concepts, the man or woman heading the kitchen has become more notable and recognized by the hungry public.

Right now there’s a lot going on, chef-wise, around town. Here are some details on what local culinary leaders are up to, including menu revamps, new hires and debuting ventures:

Mr. B’s in Royal Oak is typically viewed as a burger-and-a-beer casual restaurant that is sports-friendly and good for larger groups. Last year, however, chef Johnny Prepolec bought the business and re-branded Mr. B’s as a “gastropub.”

You’ll still find archetypal fare like nachos and chicken wings, but they’re mixed among items like an open faced chicken puff pastry pie, beer-battered mahi mahi and something called a macrobiotic plate, which has quinoa, butternut squash, broccoli, chick peas and black beans. The burger now comes with ground beef, ground chicken or a garden burger made with grains and beans. Pizza dough is handmade daily and all the sauces are made from scratch.

Drinking and dining in old Detroit

Also in Royal Oak, Tom’s Oyster Bar’s new chef, Zach Borowski, debuted his new menu Monday with eye-catching items like clam poutine with clam chowder, bacon, pecorino cheese and littleneck clams over French fries. Borowski has crafted tempura fish and chips with a Brussels sprout slaw, lobster tacos and a smoked salmon sandwich.

The menu also has classics that you’d expect to find on Tom’s Oyster Bar’s menu, like oysters Rockefeller, New England clam chowder, lake perch and cold water lobster tails.

On the east side, Brad Bardell has been named the new chef at Brownie’s On the Lake. He’s planning a decadent Mother’s Day brunch and some upcoming menu changes. Bardell has worked at Opus One, and was most recently cooking at the Old Club on Harsen’s Island.

In Southfield, chef Luciano Del Signore is inviting local chefs into his kitchen with a dining series at his restaurant, Bacco. On May 2, Bacco Ristorante chef Jessi Patuano will team up with the Root Restaurant and Bar’s Nick Rodgers for a seven-course whopper that includes quail and toast, razor clams and succotash. The 7 p.m. dinner is $65 or $90 with wine pairings.

Del Signore himself will pair up with Mabel Gray chef James Rigato on May 16 for a Bacco dinner celebrating the spring harvest. This meal, which starts with a seafood antipasti, is a preview of a dinner the chefs will present in September in Abruzzo, Italy, Del Signore’s hometown.

This dinner is $75, $115 with wine, and is nearly sold out. Call (248) 356-6600 to reserve a spot at either event.

In West Village, fans of upscale neighborhood joint Craft Work will notice some changes as new chef Aaron Solley begins to roll out menu changes in the next few weeks. Solley is from Portland, but has lived in Michigan before and has cooked at Papa Joe’s Gourmet Market and at now-closed restaurants Opus One, Takashi Yagihashi’s Tribute and Morels.

The new American cuisine will remain, but Solley will add some French and Mediterranean fare, along with house-cured bacon and other meats, and new seafood and pasta dishes.

Also new at Craft Work, kitchen staff member Stephen Schmidt was promoted to sous chef. Schmidt is the son of former Rattlesnake Club chef Jimmy Schmidt. (He also plays guitar in the rock band the Ill Itches, which is celebrating an album release April 30 at the Marble Bar in Detroit.)

Back in Oakland county and Ferndale, Local Kitchen and Bar’s chef Jared Bobkin was eliminated from season 15 of FOX’s “Hell’s Kitchen” with Gordon Ramsay. Bobkin did well on the reality show, lasting until episode 14, when he was eliminated just before the competition was narrowed to the top three.

Another local guy, catering chef Hassan Musselmani, appeared on the show, but was sent home midway through the season. Musselmani can be found in Hamtramck Friday cooking with chef Brandon Schatko at a pop-up dinner at Yemans Street.

Worth noting

Cafe Muse chef Greg Reyner, former Cliff Bell’s chef Matthew Baldridge and Scott Moloney of Treat Dreams will open Atomic Chicken April 29 at 331 N. Main in Clawson (look for the big chicken on the roof). They held some soft openings on the weekend, giving friends and family first crack at their chicken, waffles and other savory items.

(313) 222-2402

Twitter: @melodybaetens