Located just north of I-75 from both Comerica Park and Ford Field, this deli is well-placed to beckon hordes of hungry game-goers, as its name indicates. It's not really a deli at all, but a bar and restaurant, and if I were owner Mona Ross-Gardner, I would've taken pains to emphasize that fact, as well as the New Orleans menu. "Deli" sounds like the place might not even serve alcohol! Give the people what they want.
Ross-Gardner was born in New Orleans and has been back and forth between here and there all her life. She's hoping that a menu of traditional New Orleans fare — jambalaya, po'boys, gumbo, red beans and rice — plus soul food, or soul food with Creole touches, will entice the fans.
The bar side of the restaurant, with its high wooden tables, is painted a welcoming red, and a good selection of jazz standards from the 1950s to the 1970s plays. Mardi Gras masks and team pennants decorate the walls, including such obscure-to-many milestones as "AL Eastern Division Champs 1987." You can take down and take home a portrait of the Fielders père et fils for $1,500. A bonus as you exit is a great view of the Detroit skyline.
About the drinks: As makes sense, the wine list is short and the beers prosaic. I went with "Apple Jack," which is Fireball or another whiskey plus warm cider. Fireball likes to market itself as badass — "Imagine what it feels like to stand face-to-face with a fire-breathing dragon" — but with the cider, it was mellow and perfect on our record-breaking-cold November night. "Voodoo King," a Louisiana drink with whiskey, grenadine, simple syrup, soda, and blackberries, was sweet and less soothing.
At the Tuesday to Friday 4-6 p.m. happy hour, a margarita, a Long Island, or a hurricane are just $5, and various drafts are $3.99. "Small bites" of catfish beignets, Cajun fries, or fried chicken are $5, too.
If I have a criticism of the Brush Street fare, it's that many dishes seem to rely on just one flavor. In the gumbo, which includes shrimp, chicken, sausage, and okra, it's filé. Filé is powdered sassafras leaves, and it's strong stuff. There are as many gumbo recipes as there are New Orleans cooks, and Ross-Gardner makes hers thick, with little liquid evident.
The jambalaya is heavy on the chicken, shrimp, and andouille, rather than on the rice, so it's a deal at $10; it delivers one hot flavor. Bourbon Street mac & cheese tops the mac with a protein (chicken, shrimp, or pork belly); I found the pasta awfully soft. This and other dishes come with two tiny corn muffins that each has a jalapeño embedded.
Ross-Gardner offers six po'boys, even a black bean one and a corned beef, and an Impossible burger with Cajun seasoning, because why not? There's catfish or shrimp but no oysters. We liked the mild and juicy house-corned corned beef. For a Bourbon pulled pork po'boy, the meat is first rubbed with cinnamon and ginger, then slow roasted, basted with bourbon sauce, and roasted some more, and topped with more sauce after pulling. Its juices soak nicely into the hoagie. Ross-Gardner uses the same sauce for her fries and her Mardi Gras wings.
My favorite dish was shrimp and grits. Grits can be a throw-away, since they essentially have no flavor, but Ross-Gardner's solution is to cook them super-creamy. The menu says "silky" and "buttery," and that's no lie. They're also cheesy, and she's generous with the shrimp, as well as the andouille.
Fries and a big burger on brioche are also available, for those not interested in New Orleans victuals. Likewise wings, chicken tenders, and catfish. But for those who want to double down, order deep-fried gator bites, which Ross-Gardner says taste like chicken with more of a steak texture.
Dessert is bread pudding, fruit cobbler, or lemon zest pound cake. The pudding is a sizable raisin-studded chunk with a good "caramel rum" sauce, more grapey than rummy or caramel.
Peach cobbler is the kind where the cobbler part floats in a thick syrup with the peaches rather than resting atop the fruit — the kind you find in all our soul food restaurants. Though I prefer my cobbler with crunch, I have to admit the cinnamony and buttery taste of Brush Street's is delicious.
The Deli offers a daily $8.99 lunch special and free parking for carryout and dining patrons every day except game days in a shared lot behind the restaurant.
So many restaurants, so little time. Sign up for our weekly food newsletter delivered every Friday morning for the latest Detroit dining news.