Detroit’s Supergeil restaurant is super cool in Corktown

Nov 24, 2021 at 1:00 am
Döner kebab, baba, and zataar pide from Supergeil.
Döner kebab, baba, and zataar pide from Supergeil. Tom Perkins

If someone tells you they're're skeptical. Remember Amy Poehler in Mean Girls: "I'm not like a regular mom, I'm a cool mom"? Cringe.

According to Supergeil's website, "Supergeil is super cool." If they do say so themselves. Turns out Supergeil is a viral German video starring an aging electro-pop musician who manages to be cool by making fun of coolth. Lots of layers going on there. I think you had to be cooler than me to already know that.

Suffice it to say that Supergeil the restaurant (literally "super cool") is cool, and insanely popular, not least because of some truly fabulous food and drinks. I will certainly go back there when not on the clock, which is not something you always hear me say.

Proprietor David Landrum, who also owns Two James Spirits across the street, says Supergeil was inspired by the vibe and the food of Berlin's Kreuzberg district, home to artists, students, and Turkish immigrants and where the reigning food item is the döner kebab.

A döner kebab is pretty much a gyros, but we've all been loving gyros for so long that it wouldn't be cool to call it that. It started with a Turkish guest worker in Berlin in the early '70s, who piled rotisseried meat onto bread, and it is subject to infinite variations.

Supergeil does a fantastic version on thick, crisp Turkish flatbread made in-house. I don't know whether to praise more highly the lamb and beef, where you really taste the succulence of the lamb, or the eggplant, which is caramelized. Both are buried under a slaw of red cabbage, red onion, and dill with the occasional cooling cucumber. Ideally both would have somewhat more of the main attraction and less roughage on top, but they are worth diving for.

Even more fantastic is the baba side dish, which is roasted eggplant with mushrooms and sour cream: tart and smoky, unami galore, better than any baba ghanoush, which is normally my pet, around here. It comes with the big flatbread that's a treat in its own right, not just a forgettable scooper.

Vershicken chicken is also memorable: crusty wings and drums and green beans with a piri piri sauce that is yes, hot but with a real depth of flavor, what you want in a hot sauce if you're not just showing off your cool with how hot you can eat.

Loose, garlicky hummus is served with a big warm pita, cilantro sauce, and olive oil. Kraut-chi riffs on kimchi: pickled cabbage, chermoula (a North African relish), and sesame. It's hot. Lutenitza is refreshingly cool though it's made of red peppers, chilis, pomegranate, and walnut. If you order olives for $6 you will get a very healthy number of them, three kinds. These are all in the side dish categories and affordable.

It's becoming more and more common, post-reopening, to put entrées that cost over 50 bucks on your menu. In some circles it's cool to be seen throwing money around, but I wouldn't have thought the Supergeil crowd was one of those. About a $58 bronzini and a $32 acorn squash, the less said the better.

Nor do I get the trend for tinned food — apparently it's cooler to be tinned than canned, and what a break on labor power, for management — but if you want to try it, the Spanish sardines Supergeil offers are certainly the best — big and fatty, served with condiments of peppers, pickles, and red onion in tiny bowls. They have mussels, mackerel, and tuna, too, served right in the tin for canned authenticity.

Supergeil offers a chocolate tart with orange — one of my favorite combinations in dessert world. There's some grated peel and a dab of whipped cream on top. (I stopped writing "real whipped cream" a long time ago, because the cool kids know the difference.) The menu says "apricot" but I believe my taste buds.

A silky white cardomom pudding was also interesting, if less of an automatic crowd-pleaser. It comes with a honey-soaked bird's nest baklava and some pistachios.

The drinks menu is fun even to read, with ingredients like chile de arbol, liquid pistachios, beet, carrot, and shallot shrub, horseradish-infused gin and spiced fig-date cordial. I love it that there's a rye named Catcher's.

A milky-colored "Grannie's Apples" cocktail is autumn-themed: bourbon foremost with vermut (the Spanish spelling), Turkish apple tea, oat milk, and translucent caramel pearls. "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes," includes whiskey, fermented rice, pork broth, tomato, carrot, mint, and piri piri; I'd like to have been in the room when that was dreamed up. It's served warm. My non-sharing companion said, "If you like a Bloody Mary you'd like it; it's brothy." "Candyman" is not overly sweet, just pleasantly so, Madeira-finished gin with honey and lemon, like a sore throat remedy, served with a grilled slice of nectarine.

Supergeil's front, or cool, room is actually homey to look at — lots of hanging plants and hanging lamps, brick walls. Hone your lip-reading skills because the sound level is stratospheric. The big back, or uncool, room is spaced out, quiet, not well populated because, you know. There's also a big patio with a fire pit.

When we asked a server about the décor, he said, "There's no overall theme to this place." Rather, Landrum has collected giant knickknacks like a keyless piano, a five-foot ship's model, a fake tree. There's a skeletal stork on the front of the vintage building.

Supergeil recently began Sunday brunch, with a lot of great-looking eggs and more inventive cocktails. Service is walk-in only every day; no reservations except for parties of eight or more.

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