Less than half a mile down Gratiot Avenue from where the legendary Joe Muer’s once held court, a restaurant called Antietam is offering an ambitious French-inspired menu in a brilliantly remodeled Art Deco setting.
The Eastern Market-area eatery opened last July to great fanfare, then suddenly shut down. After a few months in limbo, Antietam reopened in late November with an imported trio of New York restaurant veterans — two chefs and a beverage director.
The results are certainly more satisfying this time around for owner Gregory Holm. The artist/photographer took well over two years remodeling after purchasing the building for under $40,000. The time and money restoring the place — pretty much only the terrazzo-tiled floor and the stamped tin ceilings were saved — were well worth it.
Each visit reveals new and delightful discoveries, starting with the exterior, located just across the street from the Busy Bee Hardware. The façade features custom tiles, gold leaf window treatments, and restored wood doors.
Once inside, as you check your coat, check out the large clock jutting out from the wall — a refurbished, pneumatic antique. Wine shelves visually frame a glass-covered display case of serving ware. Over the cabinet is a globed light fixture suspended by a wire and pulley system. A candleholder with an old reflecting tin graces the wall at one table.
That’s only one side of the building — which doubles as “spillover” seating when the place gets packed. You enter the bar and main dining room through an archway with an old roll-down security door above it.
There, poured cement tables and custom chairs made by local artisans are lit with porcelain lamps draped with knitted chain. One wall features a fresco made of ground-up rocks and oxidized metal.
We were seated at the bar while waiting for our table. The drink offerings were fresh and appealing. Especially interesting was a Siciliano — a Manhattan-like libation with rye, Cynar (artichoke-based Italian liqueur), and some house-made concoction described by the beverage manager as sort of an essence of caramelized/burnt grapefruit. Another drink called Fine and Dandy had a literally breathtaking first sip, but flavorful, subtle nuances came through on the second and third (etc.) tastes.
The staff pays attention to details, too. When the maître d noticed we had struck up a conversation with another couple at the bar, he sat us near each other to continue the discussion. Happily, our tables were in a unique area labeled the “Ladies’ Lounge” — an intimate space with three two-tops set apart from the main dining room.
The French-inspired dishes on the menu were tempting — and holding true to the “details,” were artfully plated. The terrine of oxtail was tender and nicely accompanied by crab apple jelly and burnt scallion marmalade. An escargot pâté topped with sautéed wild mushrooms was decadent. We also tried the entrecôte de boeuf with pepper and onion jam, a pavé of whitefish, and an earthy pork neck ragout with grits.
The total Antietam experience is geared toward matching the promise of the décor. It certainly adds another interesting option to the Eastern Market — and Detroit’s — growing dining scene.
1428 Gratiot Ave., Detroit; 313-782-4378. D Mon.-Sat. $18