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Tried Roast's (Detroit, MI) Cocktail Hour

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This was the first time I've been to the restored Westin Book Cadillac hotel downtown, and I must say that it is, in fact, pretty nice. The men's room in the lobby needed some attention, but aside from that, it seemed very nice.

Roast currently has a cocktail/happy hour from 4-6PM Monday-Friday, with certain menu items being very affordable. Scotch Quail Eggs are $1 per, and the rest of the "Bites" menu are all $3 each: 5 oz. Roast Burger, "Beast of the Day" taco, Stuffed Peppers (stuffed with sausage of the day), Chicken Livers & Polenta, and Mac & Cheese.

When I arrived around 4:30PM, things were quite slow, and I decided to take a seat at the bar. Upon being asked what I was drinking by the bartender, I was told that they'd never heard of a Sweettart Martini, which I've had a *fantastic* rendition of at Forte in Birmingham. She tried to wing it, but after one sip, I sent it back...it just wasn't right and/or good. Can't say I didn't try.

Being hungry (literally hadn't eaten a single thing all day), I immediately started with what sounded the most promising to me: the BOTD taco, and the stuffed peppers. Yes, yes, the burger is promising, too (it's coming later), but I'd had my fill of burgers last week, and wasn't desperate to try another at that very moment. Besides, hamburgers are available anywhere, anytime...lamb sausage most certainly is not.

When they came, the stuffed peppers both looked and *smelled* amazing. They were stuffed with lamb sausage today, which sounded *darned* tasty to me, and while there could have been a *bit* more sausage, for $3, I wasn't complaining. The peppers themselves weren't just pretty...they were nicely prepared and pretty spicy! I really liked these, and the tomato/onion mix they were served with was good, too. Overall, the stuffed peppers were probably my favorite, *especially* at the $3 price point, and the serving size was pretty generous, I'd say.

The BOTD taco looked decent, and today's BOTD was pig. I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed by this, since I really wanted goat or lamb or even something gamey...you know, something different. The taco itself was fine, but nothing of major consequence to these taste buds. The pork had less flavor than I was expecting, but overall, it was decent. Again, for $3, it's hard to complain, and it isn't as though the whole thing wasn't consumed...it certainly was.

I was still hungry, so I decided to go for the burger as well. Now, I was *dead shocked* when I asked what the 5 oz. burger came with: bacon, cheese, and an egg! Can you imagine that? For $3!!! It's not a massive thing by any stretch, but I was impressed to find out that it's not just meat-and-bread, perhaps with a couple pickle slices or something. I don't care for cheese, and I wasn't in the mood for the egg, since my primary purpose was to evaluate the meat, but next time I'll have the egg, too! When the burger came, I chuckled to find that it was served on a plain english muffin, but it more than did its job. The beef was very nicely prepared, good and juicy, and the bacon was pretty good, too, though I'll ask for the bacon to be more crisp next time. For $3, this thing's an absolute *steal*. Idea: before you go to the Tigers game, go here, order a couple of these bad boys, and maybe a stuffed pepper plate, and split it between two of you or something. It would take two of the burgers to satisfy me, but that's just $6...well worth it. Impressive, even if I still liked the stuffed peppers a bit better. This is a darned good burger: simple, well-made, affordable, and well-appointed. If only I liked cheese...

While I could have stopped there, I decided that, yes, for $3, I was going to order the Chicken Livers & Polenta. I've never been a big fan of eating filters (though a good foie gras can be the fantastic exception), and this dish didn't do anything to change my mind. I don't care much for the texture or the taste, and the polenta wasn't anything special to my tongue, either. The mushrooms that came with them, though...now *those* I ate every one of! There weren't many, and most of the dish went uneaten, but again: it was $3, and I was curious. Having tried it, I wouldn't order it again, but the mushrooms, were, indeed, delicious.

So, having had four of the six menu items off the cocktail hour menu, I'd give them a thumbs-up, generally speaking, some more than others, obviously. Didn't want a scotch egg, and wouldn't eat Mac & Cheese if you were paying me. Service was decent, atmosphere was very nice, and the food was pretty darned good. At the price point they're at during cocktail hour, they're very affordable, even just to try something to see if you like it. I'm going back, if only for the burger(s) and stuffed peppers again, and I'm *really* wanting to try the goat. You guessed it: there, on the spit to be tomorrow's Beast of the Day, was a young goat, turning, turning, and turning...hypnotically so. Color me intrigued.

This positive impression makes me think more positively about going back and having actual full dinner service. I was a bit surprised that onions were difficult-to-come-by with the burger (I ended up getting some pink pickled onions with mine, which served their purpose), but when they're giving you 5 oz. of really good beef, some bacon, an egg, and cheese on a bun, it's hard to say anything about a lack of onion.

Hope they call Forte and learn how to make a Sweettart Martini, though...I really could have gone for one of those!

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  1. Heck, it sounds like a bargain. I went for lunch (had chicken livers and loved them, but then I'm a liver lover), and I spent about as much as you did for your appetizers. But it sounds like you got more food and more variety. I'm there.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Jim M

      Quite right, Jim. I was out the door for $16, after tax and tip, and I really enjoyed what I had (minus the chicken livers, obviously), and the variety offered. For what they're charging, I wanted to kick in with a cocktail, but the one I had just wasn't up to snuff, and I decided to stay with water at that point in order to get a firm grip on the taste of the food (specifically the meat) itself.

      I dare *anyone* to try to tell me that they're overcharging for this.

      1. re: boagman

        A sweet tart martini isn't a classic drink...I'd cut them some slack.

        1. re: momskitchen

          Oh, it's not really a big deal, momskitchen. It would have been nice if they'd been able to make it, but it wasn't a huge deal that they couldn't.

    2. I went back today, and had a similar experience to my first visit. The food (some more than others) really does a good job of hitting different tastes on the tongue, even on the Happy Hour menu. As an aside, I have *no idea* why they semi-insist on trying to get the "Cocktail Hour" moniker going...none of the employees say "Cocktail Hour", they all just say "Happy Hour", and even the *bill* abbreviates the menu items with an "HH" abbreviation. If it's Happy Hour, good: leave it at that. ::rolls eyes::

      Anyway, once again today, I tried a Beast Of The Day taco (today's BOTD was goat), the stuffed peppers, and the 5 ounce burger. There is now no doubt in this eater's mind that, of the HH menu, the stuffed poblano peppers and the Roast burger are the best things on there (though I didn't try the newest addition to the HH menu: the fries, which looked good). In this incarnation (HA!), the sausage inside the peppers was a pork sausage, and once again, it was very well-received by me. Today's plate had three smaller peppers rather than the previous plate's two somewhat larger peppers, and it was better than last time. The ratios were better, and the flavors were still strong. This is still probably my favorite so far.

      The Roast burger was even better than last time, as this time I had the gumption to ask whether I could have the egg cooked over hard (answer was yes), and this made an already good burger that much better. I still chose to go cheeseless (that'd always be my preference), but to those who crave it, it's included in the price. I still very much think that they should be able to get *some* form of unpickled onions on the burger...beef and onions should always go together! The one minor criticism of the burger I have (besides the onion thing) is that silly little english muffin they use as a bun. It's quite messy (lots of dusted corn on the thing, and with a juicy burger, it's very messy), but it's a small complaint. The bacon on the burger this day was far better than the previous time...to the point that I actually took some of it off and ate it on its own. Good bacon, that.

      The BOTD taco, though, is starting to come up a bit short in my book, at least in comparison to the other offerings on the HH menu. It's pretty plain, relatively small, and the taste of the relish doesn't really add a whole lot to the whole thing. There's the beast, which today was goat and didn't really do anything for me at all (pretty stiff aftertaste on that meat), the relish which consists of a couple different pickled veggies which have been chopped, and the tortillas themselves. Again, at $3, it's hard to complain, but for next time, I'll probably just stick with the stuffed peppers and burger, and maybe I'll throw in some fries.

      I still really liked it, and I'll be doing that yet again.

      2 Replies
      1. re: boagman

        The cocktail hour at Roast is a bargain and an especially great deal for someone to check out a higher end restaurant in these economic times. These reviews are coming off quite pretentious. It's a cocktail hour with $3.00 menu items. Its a nice place with a great atmosphere and usually pretty good food. There seems to be a lot of nitpicking about quick bites that they are offering for $3.00. Also, a Sweet tart Martini is not a common drink let alone a classic cocktail that any place should be expected to know how to make.

        1. re: Cheeeese

          Pretentious? No. Fair? Yes. You going to call my opinions of taste into question? That's on you.

          I'm with you on the Sweettart martini thing, but overall, my impression of the place has been very positive. Could it be that you're *reading* something into these reviews that isn't there? Each time, I've really liked what I've had for the most part, and I've said that I'm definitely going back! That's...not very pretentious, at least by my definition of the word.

          But you're definitely correct about my nitpicking: I definitely do that, but I do that about *every* place I write about, high end or low end. If I *don't* nitpick, you can rest assured that the place is basically a complete loss. That's what I do: I compartmentalize things by taste and give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. It's not a fault-finding mission, it's a personal impression of what's offered. If I don't like something, I say it.

          Don't like that? Please read elsewhere. Or something. But you *do* understand the nature of the board you're reading, right?