Adaptive reuse makes its way to Rochester in this 100-year-old mansion-turned-restaurant. It offers superior food in an equally elegant surrounding, with a French-leaning continental menu that’s refined, skillfully done, and seasonal. Among the first courses, don’t miss the chicken liver pate served with cranberry mostarda, pickled mustard seed, and sourdough toast. And if cauliflower soup is on the list, dive in. Main-course highlights include skate wing, which is lightly sautéed and sauced with butter. The smoked pork chop (sourced from Melo Farms in Yale) is perfectly prepared. The wine list has an interesting assortment, as well.
311 Walnut Blvd., Rochester; 248-759-4406
This Midtown space that once housed Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe is now billed as a contemporary Midwestern steakhouse. It offers dishes with unique twists such as oysters, which are served with nontraditional accompaniments like the bright-green relish of the Chicago-style hot dog. Other dishes include fried bologna, flat iron steak with pastrami spice, and lamb gyro sausage. There’s also smoked whitefish and, of course, luxurious dry-aged steaks as well as racks of lamb. Top-notch cocktails include fun names such as Fernet About It and Not Yo Libre.
47 E. Watson St., Detroit; 313-262-6534
What began as a pop-up food truck at Two James Spirits in Corktown has become one of Detroit’s hottest restaurants. Diners flock to the “Mothership” for the complex flavors of chef Brad Greenhill’s interpretation of southeast Asian flavors. The food is presented as “Thai-ish,” but you won’t find pad Thai here, at least not in the traditional sense. The menu is roughly categorized into vegetables and spicy salads; noodles and curries; meat and fish/pleasing things; rice; and sweets. The menu changes frequently, and plates are meant for sharing. The inside is as bold and stylish as the fare, with nightclub lighting and complementary beats.
2520 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-855-2864
Pop’s for Italian
Sometimes, a name just doesn’t match up with what you expect. The menu here is respectful of Italian classics, and offers what may be the most ambitious wine list by the glass in the area. Pizza choices are right down the middle of a traditional Italian selection. From the main courses, try the delightful pappardelle with creamy Bolognese. Also recommended are the veal picatta and chicken Parmesan, plus an array of pastas: “little purse” pasta (sometimes called handkerchiefs) with pesto and olive oil; linguine with clams; pasta puttanesca with anchovy, olives, and capers; a spaghetti carbonara; and a crave-worthy sausage gnocchi in a Gorgonzola cream sauce.
280 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-268-4806
Tucked upstairs in a small building on Times Square, this place takes inspiration from the deep South and gives it a big-city spin. Arrive early and sit in the “living room” (bar/lounge) for live piano music before heading into the sophisticated, romantic dining room. The brief menu includes braised oxtail, seared salmon, and twice-dredged fried chicken. Other standouts include the Motor City Boil (seafood) and shrimp and grits with andouille gravy. Appetizers include a black-eyed pea version of hummus. And definitely order the jumbo crab cake appetizer. Accompaniments include yam and arugula salad, garlic-infused spinach, and collard greens with smoked turkey.
1431 Times Sq., Detroit; 313-926-0783 (Note: not wheelchair accessible)