New Kid in (Mid)Town

The Grille restaurant joins the renovated Garden Theater to boost a Woodward block near The Max

When you overhear someone telling a hostess they’ve just had “the best calamari I’ve ever tasted in the city,” your ears perk up. After all, we’re talking some stiff competition from the likes of Union Street and The Whitney, right?

So we had to try The Grille Midtown’s version. And the enthusiastic customer just may be right. The seasoned calamari was both crisp and tender, finished with red peppers, scallions, and a sweet chili sauce.

But as good as that was, another appetizer was even better. The petite filet plate came on a rectangular platter with three chargrilled nuggets served on a bed of sautéed spinach, resting atop roasted crostini, then drizzled with garlic aioli. Put a few more of those on a plate, and you might be tempted to skip the main course altogether.

But don’t. The “from-scratch kitchen” offers a nice blend of choices, including lighter fare like a Caesar salad with the option to add grilled chicken, shrimp, or a petite portion of their main salmon course, with its sweet chili and soy glaze. For those with bigger appetites, there’s a rib-eye steak or a hefty, thick-cut, bone-in, chargrilled pork loin chop — served with an outstanding bacon jam.

Other appetizers and sides include baked mac ‘n’ cheese, veal-stuffed Peppadew peppers, crab cakes, applewood bacon-wrapped shrimp, and mahi-mahi tacos. Chicken pesto pasta, burgers, and more round out the offerings.

The Grille Midtown, on Woodward just north of the Max M. Fisher Music Center, opened late last year. It’s part of a development project that’s been more than a decade in the making. It includes the renovated Garden Theater, the offices for Midtown Detroit Inc., and several apartment units.

The theater was built in 1912 and designed by famed architect C. Howard Crane. The north corner of the block is home to Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Co.’s popular Midtown location at Woodward Avenue and Alexandrine Street.

The Grille Midtown  is  owned by the family behind Flood’s Bar and Grill on St. Antoine Street in downtown Detroit.  It has a cozy capacity under 90.

Reclaimed wood from the theater restoration made it into the restaurant as flooring, our friendly server Adiya informed us. And the sleek-looking chairs were made from recycled cola bottles. Artwork on the walls includes renderings and actual automobile grills.

While the Garden Theater portion of the development was just in startup mode, the place was packed for Noel Night in December; three performances by William Close and the

Earth Harp Collective drew standing room crowds. The restaurant was busy. Perhaps the crowds will return for an encore. We sure will.

Entrees range in price from $17 to $30. A full bar is available with craft beers and wine.

3919 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-832-0892. L Mon.-Fri., D Mon.-Sat.