I was fortunate enough to spend a weekend last month state-side, exploring various culinary strongholds as well as the boundaries of a human liver on no sleep. I was even more fortunate to spend that time with my two closest friends, with whom I share a mind toward mischief and eats.
We spent Friday at two of Detroit’s better known restaurants: Parc for lunch, and Mabel Gray for a notable dinner. I can’t say enough about the experience at either place. Saturday, though, I wanted to spend the day and night around our hotel, finding places I hadn’t been to yet. Here are my slurred notes.
I first opened my eyes and immediately hit the pavement around 7 am. You know what I love about essentially everywhere on the planet outside of Canada? How early everything opens. In Europe, things don’t really ever close, but state-side, I’ve always loved how early I can get started. I immediately had a fresh-baked bagel from a place open since 5, and a cappuccino at Atomic, located right in downtown Royal Oak. I’m not one to worship Starbucks or advertise for them, though I’m inadvertently about to, but here in Windsor they’re the earliest place to sit with a coffee and read or work and if that’s your thing you don’t have a choice.
Another thing that Canada, specifically Ontario, doesn’t get: people want to drink before 11 am and especially on weekends. In Manitoba you can at least drink at 10, in America I don’t know the legal time. I know in Chicago and in Detroit I’ve drank after 8 am several times. And so enter Toast, Ferndale’s most popular breakfast and brunch spot. We rolled in around 9:45 and I had an IPA in hand within five minutes. After throwing down a chicken and waffles benny, which is, as it sounds, a hybrid of the southern comfort classic and the egg manifestation, topped with thick gravy and maple syrup, and a side of bacon fried rice, we were onto our first brewery.
Everyone knows Royal Oak and every town in Michigan has several breweries so I won’t devote more space to it. But we were surprised to visit Motor City Gas, which is a grain-to-glass distillery just outside of downtown. Not only do they distill dozens of types of liquor, they also use them in their very eclectic and intoxicating cocktail menu. The space is gorgeous as well.
For lunch, we didn’t get too crazy. We sampled oysters and Oberon at Tom’s Oyster Bar, and then hit Michael Symon’s burger bar, B-Spot. The burgers are good, like a better version of Mamo, and the fries steal the show. Those who have had fries at Michael Symon’s Roast will find them faithfully recreated here. Shoestrings with lots of salt and lots of rosemary.
After too much a sip of Veuve at our hotel, we were off to dinner. We dined at Bistro 82, which labels itself a French restaurant. I don’t know if I would call it that, but it was terrific.
Windsorites may find immediate similarities between Bistro 82 and Toscana. You enter into a bustling, bar-based first room and then see a lengthy wine list with steak being the dinner menu’s jewel.
After a cocktail we had bone marrow, escargot, and a salad course. Tiki Ted once referred to bone marrow as beef butter and that’s exactly what you’re getting here. The escargot was a miss for me. It was a huge piece of puff pastry with snail somewhere in there, and, as a friend noted, some green shit on it.
The steak, though, was world class. I’m much more of a rib eye person, but our server pretty easily sold us on trying the filet instead. They give you the option to add foie gras and I opted for it. It was overcooked, but the flavour and crust on the steak was one of the best I’ve had, especially anywhere around here. The seared foie gras melts on top of the steak as you eat it and lends it a super buttery, rich taste that was kingly. It’s served with a truffle mashed potato which is like heavy cream, and some broccolini.
The sommelier, Keith, recommended us a terrific bottle of Malbec to go with the filets.
Needless to say, we didn’t explore much nightlife after a day like that. We went to one bar called Gusoline Alley where my brother poured a beer on me, then to Dixie Moon, a honky tonk bar where we did a shot (also much different outside of Canada) and then fled like rats off a sinking ship.
We inevitably ended our evening at a Coney Island place. A word on Coney dogs. They are not culinary achievements or nuanced in flavour. They are cheap drunk food that you can throw back by the half dozen without having to break a twenty. I enjoy the Coney dog wars that often pop up in Detroit but have never personally seen a huge difference between them. They’re hot dogs covered in a cheap chili, mustard, and tons of onions. A final one-gun salute to a stomach that needed water and unsalted crackers and absolutely nothing more.
I paid for the weekend in a number of ways. But for those willing to drive up 75, there are things waiting for you.