Where should we eat?”
It’s a seemingly innocuous question, but things can quickly devolve. Someone suggests tacos, which others reject. Someone wants pizza, while someone else is feeling more upscale. What to do? Acquiesce to the needs of the many or go Machiavellian on the group?
Now that Standby is open, friends with different tastes can all go out harmoniously. The new spot — a venture between chef Brendon Edwards and bartender Joe Robinson, along with Anthony Curis and David Goldman — is perfect for happy hour or date night.
Standby is in The Belt, a downtown alley transformed by art. And with its entrance into an old elevator shaft, it feels like a secret spot. Inside, there’s a welcoming party feel with jams like The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” and lively chatter providing the soundtrack. Seating in the cozy spot is a mix of posh banquettes and wooden chairs.
The menus also reflect a refined yet cool casual approach. Even though the cocktail menu is longer than the food menu (for more on the libations, check out the drink recipe for Fibonacci’s Revenge) the fare is not an afterthought. On the three times I went, my companions and I decided to share several items off the eclectic and well-edited menu, which showcases Edwards’ innovation and technique in the kitchen.
Under the appetizers, the American Takoyaki, which is a Japanese snack typically made of octopus fried in batter, caught our eye; here, it is served with hot sauce, feta, and fennel pollen. After devouring it in two minutes, we promptly ordered another one.
One dish that you shouldn’t share: the sturgeon, which is served with spinach, confit gizzard, pickled mushroom, and tea smoked crème fraiche. Edwards takes the best part of chicken — the skin — and wraps it around the “poor man’s lobster,” taking it to the next level and making it more like a succulent piece of chicken than a fish filet.
After eating one bite, I thought: Why isn’t everything wrapped in chicken skin? Who needs bacon? Unless it’s confit bacon, which graces the cheeseburger here. Standby’s version is no mere patty slapped between two pieces of bread. With high-quality meat and cheddar, it’s worth every penny of the $14 price tag.
Desserts are worth saving room for. In a testament to the standards the team has, an early menu had a tantalizing sounding foie gras poundcake, but when we tried to order it, our server told us the dish wasn’t ready and was taken off the menu. It may make a comeback when it’s perfected, we were told, but for now the coconut cheesecake with a galangal chocolate cookie crust, pear membrillo (typically a quince paste), and mint is a solid choice.
Standby was hopping each time we went, even on a Tuesday (we also spotted a couple of local chefs at the bar). As my friends and I ate our second helping of takoyaki, we chatted about all the new restaurants in Detroit and wondered if it’s reached its saturation point. A spot like this, however, might be a new standby for many.
225 Gratiot Ave., Detroit. 313-736-5533. D daily. $18