The restaurant industry, perhaps more than any other, has always been subject to the whims of whispers and rumblings. This is truer than ever in the age of Yelp and Trip Advisor, where any hearsay is at your fingertips. So naturally it was newsworthy when chef Brendon Edwards, fresh off a breakup with Standby, took the reins at Gold Cash Gold.
Gold Cash Gold, a Corktown anchor sharing a block with Slow’s, Sugar House, and Astro Coffee, has always been solid. I always preferred it during the day – it was a fun place to have a quick snack and a drink and enjoy the beautifully lit, repurposed space, (more on that in a minute). But it was never my favourite place for dinner.
Despite being stubborn and quick to form an opinion, each time I’ve visited I’ve loved it more. Gold Cash Gold has refined what made them good to begin with, and by neatly adding in some professional touches and complex flavours, become truly great.
The drink menu has probably my favourite overall balance of any place going in Detroit. Their wine list is extremely interesting and unusual, with very reasonable price points, and their cocktail menu is spearheaded by the up-and-coming rock star bartender, Marlowe Johnson. You’ll find some of the most unusual but perfectly tempered cocktails on the menu here. During my recent dinner I had a daiquiri to start, and an odd but full and bright Italian white blend with my meal.
More of a purist? Perfect, get your snob on and dive into their extensive spirit list. It’s not as exhaustive as Sugar House a few doors down but it’s thoughtful and varied enough that you’ll find what you’re looking for, or at least something you’ve never heard of before.
When Gold Cash Gold opened, it was a clean take on southern food, made most popular by their pickle-brined fried chicken, which, along with their grass fed burger, were my two favourite dishes. The burger has remained, mostly unchanged, and the chicken has lingered as well but with a little added panache.
The dinner menu incarnation is a half chicken done two ways: the breast poached in butter, and the remainder is pickle-brined and fried like before, and it’s served with some smoky collard greens and a root vegetable puree. All of it works perfectly to create a dish that’s elegant, yet wholesome and satisfying more than anything.
While the entrees do tend to be meat-heavy, the smaller plates are more pescetarian and vegetarian friendly. Despite that, I had the only carnivorous small plate and it was terrific. I had bone marrow dumplings, a dish that favours the chef’s Asian influences. The dumplings themselves are akin to traditional Chinese dumplings, and, four to an order, they sit in a subtly seasoned lemongrass and mushroom broth. I’ve once heard a chef describe bone marrow as beef butter and that’s exactly what this tastes like.
The space itself is, as the exterior suggests, the remains of an old pawn shop, and the interior is bright and colourful, with a repurposed basketball court serving as the dining room floor. The logo of the home team, a former high school in Detroit, proudly marks the centre. During the day, the light comes through the large windows and bounces of the white walls, the stained glass behind the bar, and all of the bottles and preserves in a beautiful way that is missed in the evening. But in the evening this past visit, I found myself enjoying the subdued light and moody vibes, especially on the rainy night we were there.
The bartenders are incredibly friendly and there always seems to be a spot available for you, so in some ways it’ll always be one of my favourite spots to stop for a drink and a tiny bite during the late morning or early afternoon. But I’ve recently turned a corner on it as a top go-to spot in Detroit for dinner as well, and it’s one of the easiest spots to drive to and park near for us Windsorites.
I don’t know what exactly happened for chef Edwards at Standby, other than the fact that it seemed slightly adversarial, and I’m not sure it really matters. To me, they came out on the losing end. A lot of places lose their stars or change their direction and never quite recover. Standby was always more of a bar for me than a restaurant, so maybe the change hasn’t killed them, but a place like Republic hasn’t been the same since Katie Williams left.
Gold Cash Gold made the best out of an already good situation, and is the best example around of a place that opened with a good foundation and concept, and expanded on it by finding talented people to add their personalities to the equation.