The Detroit Hot Spot With Dual Personalities

Part restaurant, part night club, we explore the many facets of Sweet Soul Bistro

A while back, the Hour Detroit staff traveled metro Detroit “mile by mile” from Fenkell Avenue up to M-59. While driving a stretch of McNichols Road, I noticed food-related spots from carryout joints like The Pasta Bowl to stores like Piquette Market, which has been around 50-plus years.

But the most crowded spot was Sweet Soul Bistro near Schaefer Road. On a recent late Thursday afternoon, I finally got a chance to find out why.

During the day and into dinner, the bistro proves you don’t have to go downtown to get a nice meal in the city. At night, it transforms into a club with either live music, karaoke, comedy, or trivia nights.

The fairly large menu includes homages to several Detroit musicians, from Stevie Wonder Wonderful Wings and Aretha Franklin Catfish Bites to the Anita Baker Bacon Cheeseburger and Smoky Robinson Smoked Ribs.

The names are owner Toya Green’s homage to Motown and pair well with the entertainment theme. Plus, she says, “you can go anywhere and get wings.” The names are more fun.

Most recipes coming out of the kitchen are Green’s. She had no “formal” training as a chef, but when a cook walked out of an establishment she used to own, she vowed never to get caught shorthanded again.

My dinner companion opted for the crab cakes (right), which came attractively plated on a butcher board. Entrées come with sides, such as sweet potato fries that arrived barely shy of burnt (but in a good way) with a coating that had just enough of a hint of heat. The remoulade drizzled over the crab cakes also packed a nice punch.

Other sides include mac and cheese, sautéed garlic spinach, steamed broccoli, rice pilaf, and smothered potatoes. We also opted for a fried chicken sandwich and an order cheesy — but not too thick — lobster mac and cheese (above) served bubbling in its own skillet. Specials include $2 Tuesdays for appetizers like lamb chops, and a Thursday lobster and steak night.

Business is so good, Green is expanding the Detroit location with a patio. And at press time, she was also readying a new location on the Oak Park side of Eight Mile. Plans are to carry over some of the bistro’s recipes, plus include breakfast and more vegetarian options.

For now, we’ll head back to the McNichols location — perhaps for lunch. After all, with prices like a pork chop or catfish sandwich for a mere $5, or chicken and waffles for $8, Sweet Soul Bistro deserves an encore.

13741 W. McNichols Rd., Detroit; 313-862-7685. L & D daily. $12