Addison Eatery's brilliant way of coping with M-1 Rail construction

Dec 10, 2014 at 1:00 am

The resurgence along Woodward Avenue, north of downtown, was, until recently, conspicuously lacking in one little area at the south end of the avenue. The former Zaccaro's (and Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe) storefront still sits empty. The Fine Arts building hasn't found a new use yet. But the Addison Building's main-floor restaurant space has been given new life as Addison Eatery, masterminded by the Hudson Café's Maurice Wiggins. A short time into its tenure, the eatery is hitting its stride, hampered only by one thing: The M-1 Rail project, which has turned Woodward into a navigation nightmare.

Addison Eatery, however, has managed to turn this seeming death sentence into an opportunity: At dinnertime, when most restaurants would be doing their best business, it's not practical to get to the restaurant. In the morning, conversely, the roads are relatively navigable, and there's less traffic and confusion: And so, Addison Eatery is now serving breakfast and lunch, and awaiting the right moment to launch dinner service. It's a wise, arguably brilliant move in an industry where many things are rushed.

The breakfast at Addison Eatery shows the versatility of presentations: Omelets, French toast (both classical and three dressed-up versions) pancakes (buttermilk, sweet potato, and more), and a similar offering of Belgian waffles are the center of the menu, while a list of specialties includes such classics as shrimp and grits, steak and eggs, and a corned beef hash.

Look closer, though, and you start to realize why everything is so good once it's in front of you: phrases like "house-made corned beef," "Gorgonzola-infused grits," and "blue cheese and Parmesan herb pommes frites." If they're dressing up the food in fancy terms, it's not to distract you from a high price — the menu is reasonably priced and offers hearty portions, served simply and cleanly, with flair. It's that there's a high level of preparation that goes into every item on the menu: Mushrooms are braised and flavored before they're cooked into the wild mushroom omelet, giving the dish depth and character. It's an attention to detail not often seen.

"Red Velvet" deserves your attention at breakfast, served with smooth and sweet vanilla cream cheese and whipped cream. For an admitted skeptic of red velvet and cream cheese as a sweet, it is revelatory. The pancakes are superb, the waffle villainously colorful in shades of deep red. You should also try the "Addison Potatoes," a loaded home fry with caramelized onions, grilled peppers, cheese, and chopped bacon. Probably a great hangover cure, they're excellent as a shared side dish.

The lunch menu follows the same pattern as breakfast: strong, solidly constructed dishes full of flavor achieved with good preparation and solid culinary habits. It's a diner-centered menu, offering a little of everything in the style of the house. Accessible, but well-executed, full of subtle improvements that provide appreciable results.

A ratatouille sandwich comes fresh and piping hot on a toasted brioche. It's proportioned between vegetables and tomato sauce, with each item cooked to tenderness in its own right and assembled in a stack. A hearty helping of fries nearly dwarfs the sandwich, salty and crisp.

The "Addison Burger," with Swiss and topped with many things, most importantly a fried egg, makes the list of must-eat burgers in Detroit. There's a turkey burger too, and the option to build your own dream burger on a 10-ounce patty with a host of toppings from "Addison Island Sauce" to roasted ham to chevre; you're sure to find the right combination for your craving.

A lobster claw, whole and bright red, sticks up from the center of a skillet of lobster macaroni and cheese, baked with a golden-brown crust. Three-bone wings, marinated and fried, pile on top of a waffle at breakfast, or into a bowl at lunch with hand-cut fries. The plates are big, bold, and hearty.

It's that Detroit-style food again, really good and reasonably priced, healthy portions that don't have any shame about going home in a to-go container for lunch tomorrow, or dinner tonight. Perhaps the menu reads a little too complex, but the place doesn't dress up much more than that: The interior is warm but with understated decoration. It's more about the open space and clean lines than about an abundance of things to make the place beautiful. The service is similarly understated but professional: A serviette blocking errant splashes of coffee during a refill is an elegant touch that doesn't get noticed by all but is appreciated nonetheless.

Addison Eatery deserves to be noticed and appreciated. Brave the new streetcar lines and stop in for breakfast or lunch. We can't wait for dinner. — mt