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Capers Steakhouse 

Ounce for ounce

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Capers Steakhouse
14726 Gratiot Ave., Detroit
313-527-2100
Entrées: $7.95-$16.95
Handicap accessible
Open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday,

 

Detroit’s Capers is one of those enduring, truly neighborhood joints that hangs on forever, attracting people from all over — old and young, black and white, from all walks of life  — who come mostly to feast on steak. Last year, Capers marked 30 years and, by the size of the weeknight dining crowds, seems to be entering its fourth decade full-steam. It occupies a nondescript building along a stretch of Gratiot Avenue a few blocks south of East State Fair that can look a bit sketchy, but the security that patrols the parking lot and often escorts diners to their cars should allay any unease.

Lively, cozy and habitually crowded, the wood-paneled restaurant-bar features unusual, sometimes seemingly random decorations on the walls, from ducks (Capers’ mascot) to 1980s fight posters to novelty photographs. Crowds can overwhelm the room’s 80-person capacity, especially at dinnertime, when guests will certainly experience a wait of as much as 10 minutes, and not just on weekends.

So what’s the crazy attraction to this place?

Steak by the ounce.

That’s right: steak by the ounce. You must admit it’s an interesting premise for a restaurant. Although they ask diners to allow for slight variances (not every steak will be the requested weight on the dot), you can name your cut, your weight, how well you want it done, and they will bring you a cut of meat that is sure to satisfy. By-the-ounce choices include Capers’ Delmonico, New York strip, T-bone, and filet mignon. The prices may fluctuate a bit, but hover around $1.50 per ounce for the filet, and 75 cents per ounce for the other cuts. It’ll be more for takeout orders, and some cuts are discounted on Mondays and Tuesdays (T-bone) and Thursdays and Sundays (Delmonico).

Since steaks are custom-trimmed and cooked to order, there is usually a wait while it’s prepared. We suggest you skip the limited offerings of the salad bar and instead spend that time drinking. Capers’ bar menu lists some outsized specials. Perhaps the most hilarious alcoholic offering is the “Shady Lady,” a goldfish-bowl-sized stem glass that holds more than 45 ounces; the bar will fill it with a daiquiri, a margarita or a piña colada; whichever you choose, the drink will be packed with about seven shots of rum or tequila. By the time you finish that, not only should your order be ready, you’ll likely need it to fortify you.

Capers has more than steak; it has a full array of choices, including burgers, steak sandwiches, chili, a crowded clam chowder, fish, chicken, lamb and pork chops, ribs and even a stir-fry. The pork chops one diner had were tender and juicy, with a generous coating of sticky sweet barbecue sauce, as ordered. But the emphasis on meat doesn’t mean the vegetables get short shrift: Accompanying the chops were competently roasted red potatoes and the diner’s vegetable choice, broccoli, actually done al dente.

In addition to the big steaks and even bigger drinks, diners can order a “big baked potato,” which can come with sour cream, bacon bits, cheddar sauce or real cheddar cheese. The “stuffed baked potato” can hold all sorts of treasures, from broccoli and cheddar to chicken or steak, in various combinations.

Depending on the energy level in the room, Capers can be a bit noisy at times, but we feel that the unusual mix it attracts more than makes up for it, affording terrific people-watching. The service is excellent. The thoughtful, accommodating servers are willing to go the distance to give diners what they want — at the best price. Our waitress offered to take our extra-large beer, on special, and pour it into a pitcher instead, so we could all share. Where other places would “upsell,” Capers caters to the penny-conscious with graciousness.

Due to the ceaseless demand for tables at dinner — on both of our prime-time weeknight visits, the line of waiting customers filed out the door — Capers does not accept reservations or join tables together for large parties. But if the demand is any indication, these few restrictions are worth the trouble.

Michael Jackman dines for Metro Times. Send comments to mjackman@metrotimes.com.

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