Restaurant Review: The Grille Midtown 

Midtown heats up.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ROB WIDDIS.
  • Photo by Rob Widdis.

The Grille Midtown
3919 Woodward Ave. Detroit
313-832-0892
Appetizers, salads, soups: $5-$18
Entrées, sandwiches: $12-$29.
Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday -Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday.

Gazing out the large windows that line the front of the Grille Midtown, you’re very aware of where you are: the sights of the city, its own little soap opera, play out on the sidewalk and street before you. Inside, the food is good, the spirits plentiful, and a convivial and welcoming spirit permeates. “The Grille Midtown,” its website declares, “is committed to delivering thoughtfully cooked food and cocktails with uncommon hospitality in our renewed and exciting restaurant space.”

On a clear summer afternoon, sunshine streams in and lends an almost picnic-like spirit to the space. The design is unpretentious: The walls are a neutral gray, and are decorated by numerous prints of automotive interest; the eponymous grills hang as art, too, their chrome and painted metal accenting painted brick walls. The bar is lined with log cabin wood, lit elegantly as its own conversation piece. The whole restaurant is in a reclaimed building, renovated to bring a new life to the block just north of the Max. The open kitchen is almost an extension of the bar, bringing the chef and cooks into the action. It’s honest, simple, unpretentious, yet very elegant.

And the food is delicious, because, after all, you’re in Detroit, where we’ve been feeding ourselves good food, quietly, for years.

The bacon-wrapped shrimp are delicious, pan-fried to perfection and finished with an apricot preserve that complements the bacon handily. Another excellent starter is a plate of stuffed Peppadew peppers — filled with seasoned ground veal and cheeses, and served with a light tomato sauce. They exhibit a depth of flavor and a balance of spiciness that doesn’t overwhelm. 

Salads and sandwiches (especially at lunch) are quite good. There’s a fantastic pear and fennel salad, made with mixed greens, candied pecans, bleu cheese, and a classically Michigan honey-and-walnut dressing. Add salmon for a great lunch or dinner entrée, though the salad alone is not insignificant. A particularly refreshing and summery noonday bite is the ALT wrap, vegetarian as it comes — or with the highly advisable addition of bacon, chicken, or (ideally) both. 

The Grille Midtown would be remiss to ignore the obvious hint in its name, and so its kitchen serves an extensive menu of grilled dishes, from steaks to seafood; rib-eye, bone-in, is char-grilled expertly and served with garlic mashed potatoes and a nest of frizzed onions. It’s the complete steak package: rich, juicy, tender, the potatoes flavored with exactly enough garlic, whipped and substantial yet only just sticking to your ribs. The onions provide an excellent crunch, and their caramelized flavors enhance the sweetness of the char on the steak. 

Lamb chops are marinated with oregano and lemon, served with a bright, fresh chimichurri that complements the lamb better than any mint jelly ever could, and it all comes with more of those delightful mashed potatoes. Vegetables are not a standard accompaniment, but broccoli, spinach, and asparagus are offered as sides. 

The jambalaya, somewhat alone in a small “entrées” section at dinner, is also particularly good. Though not as spicy as our server warned us, it had an adequate heat and a superb balance of flavor, and was a particular favorite.

Desserts are made in-house, and are precise and delicious — revealing a knowledgeable hand in their production. Key lime pie is fantastic: not sickeningly sweet as so often made, but rather perfectly capturing the essence of key lime, with just enough sweetness to satisfy. Butterscotch bread pudding, studded with dried cherries, and robed in a perfect crème anglaise is a delight, a great end to a meal or a subject of a visit on its own.

Sunday brunch offers the full menu of the restaurant, with an omelet of the day; there’s the usual complement of Benedicts and hash, but a Grand Marnier-stuffed French toast looks particularly decadent and delightful.

We’re Detroit. We work hard, and our labors produce beautiful things. It’s a spirit evident in all aspects of the Grille Midtown. The food is well-made and well-presented, elegant and forthright; the service is friendly and welcoming. The Grille Midtown is an excellent addition to the Detroit dining scene. 

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