Downriver residents like to eat, drink, and boat. It’s boomin’ south on I-75 with the car industry surging. The new Chrysler engine plant in Trenton, making Mustangs in Flat Rock, and Chevy Volt batteries in Brownstown Township means there’s once again money being pumped into the local economy. And local eateries are snazzier than ever.
Perhaps the crown jewel of Downriver restaurants is Portofino Restaurant and banquet facilities. The area’s only eatery located on the Detroit River, between Wyandotte and Grosse Ile, Portofino has a full bar with 22 different scotches, outdoor seating, and a spot for boaters to pull up and dock. All seating inside the Port offers full window views of the river, where patrons can watch freighters, cruisers, and sleek cigarette boats go by. Flash-fried calamari and coconut shrimp top the appetizer menu, with ahi tuna pan-seared in a five-pepper sauce as the signature dish. Burgers, veal, pasta, and a three-choice salad (beef, salmon, or chicken) top the menu. There’s also a happy hour, occasional entertainment, and Friday night theme cruises (book in advance). Prices range from $18-22. 3455 Biddle, Wyandotte, 734-281-6700.
If Budapest isn’t on your vacation itinerary but you still have a taste for Wiener schnitzel, then you might want to pay a visit to Rhapsody. Its award-winning Hungarian appetizer platter and chicken paprikas bring to mind old Vienna and its violins. There are daily specials, steaks, and seafood, plus a full bar and imported wines. If you’re still hungry, you might try a kremes, which is similar to a Napoleon. Price range $13-$18. 14315 Northline, Southgate, 734-283-9622.
If you’re in a New York state of mind, then don’t miss Gregorio’s Italian Restaurant. The little white building with the twinkling lights might look like the cover of a Billy Joel album, but inside it’s all the hustle of Mama Mia. Scope out the six-foot train, which runs the perimeter of the interior. Highlights include the homemade lasagna, butternut squash ravioli in cream sauce, and the signature Steak Gregorio (sauteed medallions, mushrooms, and shallots in a cream sauce). Top off your dining with homemade creme limoncello, a cordial served in a little chocolate cup. Patio seating, advance seating recommended. Price range $10-$24. 2356 Biddle, Wyandotte, 734-283-3354.
Located in Trenton’s oldest continuous business establishment, Savannah’s offers intimate ambience in a charming white 1897 house. Steak and fish are the house specialties, including a 20-ounce Porterhouse. This season’s specialty is the crab-stuffed grouper with roasted red-pepper pesto sauce. Children’s menu and gluten-free dishes available. Full bar and wines. Not including lobster, prices range from $13-$29. 2156 W. Jefferson Ave., Trenton. 734-692-5888.
If you’re feeling a little kitschy, TV’s Deli and Diner is the place for you. Harking back to the 1950s, TV’s features food like Mom used to make — that is, if Mom were an award-winning chef like co-owner Victor Stroia. Open from breakfast through dinner, TV’s specializes in crème Brule waffles, cherry chicken sandwiches, Reuben soup (like the sandwich but in a cream sauce), lobster bisque, and meatloaf. TV’s also host pig roasts every Wednesday at dinner through Labor Day. Be sure to save room for their four-layer carrot cake. Moderately priced. 2441 Fort St., Trenton, 734-671-9005.
With its lush leather bar booths and formal dining room, Sibley Gardens is reminiscent of Sardi’s. Serving Downriver for more than 60 years, Sibley Gardens is an old-fashioned Italian steakhouse known for its signature dish, Steak Sammy (tenderloin medallions cooked in wine, parsley, and garlic). Along with escargot, frog legs, and liver and onions, Sibley’s is featuring a mouthwatering citrus salmon this summer (grilled salmon, mandarin oranges, and red peppers served with a chardonnay vinaigrette over mixed greens). If you still have a taste for something sweet after dinner and cocktails, we recommend the coconut pie. Price range $12-$30 (not including surf and turf). 916 W. Jefferson Ave., Trenton, 734-285-1707.