Boodles serves up classics with old-school amenities like live piano tunes, flambéed dishes, and Caesar salads prepared tableside.
My dinner date described a recent trip to Boodles: “It’s the place that Applebee’s could have put out of business a long time ago,” Dave said. “Luckily they missed this spot.”
Indeed, the deliciously retro Boodles, with its dark décor, sparkly chandeliers, and live piano tunes, seems out of place at the corner of 11 Mile Road and I-75. But we realized this was part of its charm once we stepped inside and fully embraced tableside Caesar salads and other delights like the drink called “A Gentleman’s Proclivity.”
“I thought we’d go in, have a good laugh, and leave,” he said. “I mean, it’s called ‘Boodles.’ But I really want to go back.”
Here is what Boodles is not: Craft. Pop-up. Farm-to-table. The next best thing to hit the local restaurant scene. Or whatever else we’re using to describe food culture in Detroit these days.
And thank God for that. Boodles is stuck in time, having kept all the character that went away with both chain restaurants and some of the new Detroit food establishments that too often seem like they’re trying too hard.
Only a true local would understand its motto, “Where East meets West.” (Boodles straddles Royal Oak and Madison Heights, along with an implied cultural divide.) And if you want to walk straight into 1985 with that prom dress from Goodwill, feel free.
It’s so old school, millennials apparently think it’s cool again. On a recent night, a “dirty 30” birthday party was in full swing. Twenty-something tattooed lovers basked in a candlelit glow. The dark wooden bar was packed with kids and their drinks.
This was a different scene from what I was expecting after a local business owner friend and self-professed food snob warned me of Boodles’ supper club steakhouse vibe.
“It’s got a reputation for being the place where rich 75-year-olds take their 35-year-old dates,” he had said, adding: “Someone will hit on you.”
I don’t know about that reputation, but somehow I don’t think Boodles management would care. They were too busy on this particular Saturday night serving their packed house.
At our table for two, Dave faced the piano man, and I faced a cooking station flanked by ceiling-high flames. A chef was preparing the “VIP” selections to go along with that tableside Caesar: flambéed classics like steak Diane and steak au poivre.
“I’m the one missing the show,” Dave said. “Am I on fire yet?”
For drinks we skipped the proclivities and went straight for gin and tonics with good old-fashioned Tanqueray. Next our waitress served dinner, which someone probably prepared a bit less dramatically in the hidden kitchen.
My veal Oscar came with a generous helping of crab and bearnaise sauce. Dave’s chicken Marsala was predictable, and he described it as the best he’d ever had. My dessert — a moist orange creamsicle cake — basically made my year.
Where has Boodles been all my life? Apparently since 1985, right here in Madison Heights.
935 W. 11 Mile Rd., Madison Heights; 248-399-5960. L & D Mon.-Sat., D Sun.