Review: DCFC's Detroit clubhouse seeks a family-friendly, English pub vibe

Mar 6, 2019 at 1:00 am
Corridor sausage.
Corridor sausage. Tom Perkins

Anyone who's attended a Detroit City Football Club game knows that fans of Le Rouge are, shall we say, fanatic. It made sense to give them a further place to experience their love, by opening a restaurant, the Clubhouse, in the team's fieldhouse downtown.

So the fan base of the Clubhouse includes those who live and breathe the maroon and gold of DCFC, members of the many soccer (and lacrosse) teams who use the indoor field in friendly and competitive leagues, and their parents. Before and after their own games, they can watch the action warm and dry from above, through the Clubhouse's floor-to-ceiling windows. Adult and kid leagues play pretty much every weeknight, and weekends see the more competitive play of the Super Liga. I watched a 13-1 co-ed blowout and felt the orange-shirted goalie's anguish in real time.

The fieldhouse goes back; at DCFC's ribbon-cutting there last October, Mayor Mike Duggan reminisced about playing tennis there as a kid. The Red Wings once used it for practice, and Wayne State used it for hockey. Today a maroon banner with blown-up photos of iconic images from DCFC's first few years is draped above the field.

For the Clubhouse, manager Sean Spence seeks an affordable, family-friendly, English pub vibe. The pub sits in between the two fields, and at times it's filled with young people enjoying a pint after (or maybe before) their matches. Traditional meat pies are the mainstay of the menu. For the pies, Spence uses a triangular vegan puff pastry that, he says, "solved some technical issues around dough" and that I endorse as a flaky and tasty morsel whatever its innards.

The three-pie "hat trick" at $13 is your best bet, with single pies at $6. My favorite was the cheddar and onion with both sautéed and raw onions, good and sharp. The classic English beef pie with root vegetables and gravy was also admirable. Chorizo-potato with cheddar is high on cumin and served with salsa. A Vietnamese chicken sausage pie had little flavor beyond the crust, though. There's also a vegetarian pie with spinach, mushrooms and roasted butternut squash and almonds, and an apple turnover with vanilla ice cream and maybe some caramel in there somewhere.

Turning to Hamtramck-based fare (DCFC plays at Keyworth Stadium there), I waxed enthusiastic about my kielbasa from family-owned Srodek's. I love that elastic pop when you bite off an end, and the juicy squish of the meat. The Clubhouse serves it with lots of cooked cabbage on a bun that's quickly soaked. Fortunately, lots of extra napkins were offered.

Not quite as stellar — less spicy, less pop to the casing — but worth ordering was Corridor bacon Swiss sausage, made in Eastern Market with 100-day aged Swiss and Bell's Amber Ale. It's served with lots of green and red peppers, mushrooms and onions and melted cheese.

Soups change daily; I found a chicken noodle pretty bland — good for the junior team, perhaps. Better were meaty, spicy wings that can come with Buffalo-style sauce or sweet-hot Thai sauce.

When it's low on ingredients, the Clubhouse will make do. I wanted to try the charcuterie board, but when it wasn't available I asked for the veggie board: olives, lightly pickled cukes, cauliflower, and beets, some raw carrots, and a bland hummus. Heavily buttered toasted baguette was excellent but did not make up for promised hard-boiled eggs and aioli that did not appear.

About a low-rent Cobb salad, the less said the better, and let's assume the larder had an off night. It contained none of the advertised blue cheese, bacon, or green onions, just a heavy helping of the dreaded shredded orange cheese. There's a Caesar, too, and the inevitable "Northern" with candied walnuts, dried cherries, and maple vinaigrette.

Anticipating that customers are not visiting in ones and twos, the Clubhouse sells beer by the bucket: the Dad (the cheapest at $15), the Craft, European Vacation, the Athlete's Bucket — not guaranteed to improve performance. A bargain Le Rouge cocktail is vodka and cranberry juice for $6. Wines are affordable, too, at $5-$7, and quite acceptable.

A high-roller feature of the Clubhouse, despite the family-friendly ethos (there was a Toddler Ball-Drop on New Year's Eve), is its own whiskey inspired by smoky nights in the fan-side bleachers. Made by Detroit City Distillery for the club, barrel-aged "City Gold," Spence says, is a very light corn whiskey, "somewhere between the flavorlessness of moonshine and the rich peaty flavor of whiskey."

The two catches are that it costs $125 a bottle and that you can consume it only on the premises (your bottle is labeled and kept on hand for you). In less than two months, 90 bottles had been sold to magnanimous fans.

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