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Feb 22, 2010 11:23 AM

Help! Need recs for dinner downtown Detroit this Sat. night

Was planning to go to Cliff Bell's but after just seeing a recent unfavorable review(somewhere) decided against that. Unless someone can change my mind. Been to Angelina. Really good but would like to try something new. How about the Detroit Fish Market? I've seen good and bad reviews on it. Thanks everyone. I know I can count on chowhounders!

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  1. What kind of dinner? Romantic, Business, Girls night out, Family, or I just need to get the hell out of the house and eat some good food damn it?

    13 Replies
    1. re: JanPrimus

      It's an after theater dinner. It would be nice if it was fairly close to the Fox Theater. Romantic never hurts, but what's most important is excellent food and service. And yes, in a way it's get the hell out of the house and eat some food food, damn it! I hate to be disappointed in a restaurant especially since we do go out all that often. Thanks!

      1. re: Rheta

        While I have yet to go here...I seriously have wondered about the Centaur Bar. It is right around the corner from the Fox.

        I have heard mixed messages...but usually it is that the food is great but the service is spotty.

        Aside from that I am sure Roast and Iridesence have crossed your mind.

        1. re: JanPrimus

          I'll chime in on Iridescence: both me and my friend Donna were very impressed when we tried it during Detroit Restaurant Week. *Great* atmosphere and food, and pretty good service. I was all set to hate on the place, too, and they really hit a home run to shove my previous experience right back in my face. I'll be going back there.

          Roast, as JP said, is also recommendable especially for its atmosphere. Very chic. I've not had a full meal experience there; I've only gone for Cocktail Hour, but have been quite happy in the several times I've done that. No reason to think a full service would be any different.

          If you're willing to drive 10 minutes, Giovanne's is truly the best Italian I've had, and is quite a nice place as well. Their pasta is unmatched.

          Hope that helps a bit. I actually liked Cliff Bells, but I was there on a 1/2 off food day, and I really enjoyed it. It seems to fall more into the "jazz supper club" than "romantic restaurant" category to me. The biggest caveat I had with Cliff Bells was the cigarette smoke.

          1. re: boagman

            Sir Boagman, Not to hijack the thread, but how expensive and dressy is Giovanne's? If it is the best pasta around, then I'd like to try it, too. I'll try to keep my three year old from crying and blowing the ambiance for Rheta at her nearby table.

            1. re: vtombrown

              VTB, I suppose it's as dressy as you want to make it. When I went, I was there for lunch on a Friday, and was in a decent pair of jeans and a collared shirt, and I wasn't out of place. There were people dressier than I was, yes, and there were many folks dressed in business casual, like me.

              Totally worth the trip, VTB.

              1. re: boagman

                Forgot to mention the expense. Considering that an entree comes fully garnished with soup or salad, a wonderful bread, a side of pasta (if the entree isn't a pasta entree), and the entree, I thought the prices were pretty reasonable for high end dining. Lunch was more reasonable than dinner, obviously, but they offered somewhat fewer things on the menu, too.

                Next time I go, I'm trying a veal dish. By the way, the service (at least for me) was fan-freaking-tastic. Tina, my server, couldn't have done more for me. I tipped her well, and I'll probably ask for her next time I go back. I'm looking forward to it.

                1. re: boagman

                  Wonderful bread? You're kidding. This place must not be in SE Michigan...

                  Anyway, I shall check it out with great anticipation. Though, since my wife is against babysitters, I shall wait until AFTER Rheta has had her righteous night on the town, before I go invade Giovanne's with my unruly family. Thanks. I'll report back in a couple weeks.

                  1. re: vtombrown

                    Vtom...our wife's should get together and not go any damn place with the kids while we go eat the good stuff. I have a 7 year old and have had (2) date night dinners out without the kids with us or at the grandparents (who live 90 minutes away).

                    1. re: JanPrimus

                      You mean only two date nights ever, in the last seven years?? Ouch.
                      How about if we put our wives plus Boagman's girlfriend Donna, who has six kids, all at home together, while the three of us go out on the town? (just kidding Boagman). In all seriousness, I think it would be great to catch up with you at one of your favorite places or at a new place. Most likely, it will be some day when both you and I are on babysitting duty and our kids come along, because I'm sure our wives wouldn't agree to "meet up with someone met on the internet.." Or, if my wife goes on a religious retreat, I may be able to sponsor a Thai food night (personal specialty) at the house. VTB

                      1. re: vtombrown

                        Well, uh, sure...there's nothing I love more than spending a night out with children. Except unnecessary, involuntary, unanesthetized root canal surgery. Or ebola. Or Inn Season Cafe.

                        Actually, Giovanni's would be a place that I'd be willing to meet at for lunch. Heck, there's *plenty* of places I'd be willing to lunch at.

                        I'm really intrigued by the Thai food night, though.

                        1. re: vtombrown

                          I have already subjected Boagman to one of my kids for a lunch. If it is a lunch...Sam is there.

                          Dinners I can swing pretty much all the time if they are later at night on weeknight...say 8pm or after. Weekends I am a free man!

                          Thai is a weakness of mine so...anytime you want to make it hot! Tom Kha Gai is about the only Thai dish I ever make at home. Damn it...It is 7:03am and I want Thai food REAL bad right now.

                      2. re: vtombrown

                        Well, I certainly loved it. I ate two baskets of the stuff! It's a completely different bread experience than, say, Star Bakery or anything like that. I just love good bread, though.

                        Things are a bit less expensive at lunch, though they don't offer as many options on the menu. It could be that things are a bit less formal at lunch, too, but I'm really unsure as I've only been there once. Man, I just can't wait to eat more of that pasta.

                        1. re: boagman

                          (again, while I am unfamiliar with the etiquette of the board, I hope Rheta doesn't mind me hijacking a bit of the thread....though, if by Sunday afternoon she doesn't write a review of her big night eating out, then apologies won't any longer be in order!)
                          Anyway, if either or both you guys plan to be out and about on Sunday, let me know. I've been known to buy rounds of drinks at restaurants; I'm just saying. Regarding Thai cooking, I'm getting cold feet after bragging, so let me first get back into practice (the toddler isn't yet allowed to have spicy food, so I'm rusty). Weekday lunch is possible, but unpredictable, due to the boss man's whims...

        2. I feel like a broken record because I love this place so much, but I'm putting my vote in for the Coach Insignia in the Ren Cen.

          1. i would avoid the fish market. had lunch there a month ago and it was exceptionally mediocre. and there was not much of a lunch crowd. with seldom blues closed and the breakfast house in chapter 11, frank taylor's third place is bound to be under a similar financial strain, which ultimately impacts the food.

            try roast, the spa 24 grille in the book cadillac, vicentes, giovanne's, or roma.

            11 Replies
            1. re: xman887

              Thanks everyone for all of your great recs. Definitely ruled out Cliff Bell's and Centaur because of smoke issues. And I'll forget the fish market as well. Have always wondered about Roast, Iridescence and Coach Insignia. Never heard of Giovanni's but it sounds wonderful! It's between Roast, Coach Insignia and Giovanni's. Both Roast and Coach Insignia look very formal. Am I going to be underessed wearing my business casual slacks. Giovani's seems like it would be very comfy and homey. And how can you beat fresh made pasta. I have the menu's in my favorites so I'll have hubby take a look and see what he's in the mood for. Oh, and vtombrown, how bout you get a sitter for the 3 year old and take your wife out! Thanks again chowhounders. I knew I could count onya!

              1. re: Rheta

                Micheal Symon has boasted many times that Roast is more than accommodating for people no matter how they are dressed. He said he wanted it to be a place that people could hit up before or after a game, stage show or concert. I would not put business casual on the fear list for Roast.

                I think as long as you are not wearing a Wisconsin Cheese hat with your face painted in makeup you would be just fine.

                1. re: JanPrimus

                  "I think as long as you are not wearing a Wisconsin Cheese hat with your face painted in makeup you would be just fine."

                  If you *were* to do this, along with real photographic evidence, I'd certainly be very impressed, though! ;)

                  1. re: boagman

                    I will try to remember that this October!

                    1. re: JanPrimus

                      Above Vicentes was mentioned. Someone gave it an unfavorable review when I asked for rec. back in Dec. Rainsux I believe. Mostly for service. It does get mostly good reviews on TripAdvisor. Anyone been recently? Thanks.

                      1. re: Rheta

                        > Someone gave it an unfavorable review when I asked for rec. back in
                        > Dec. Rainsux I believe. Mostly for service. It does get mostly good
                        > reviews on TripAdvisor

                        T'was me ...

                        Food: Very good

                        Dining area: Crowded & noisy. Conversation for a party of six (5?) was

                        Waitstaff: Average+

                        Bus staff: The worst (don't take my plate after being told, "No.")

                        Mgt: Barked at me for "touching" his busboy ... I held the wrist of the busboy
                        while returning my plate to its proper place. He made a ref about possibly
                        calling the cops because I held the busboys wrist to defend my plate.
                        Thankfully, I was dining with cops & a DA that evening. Bluff called and
                        raised three gold shields. <g> No, we weren't camping at the table.

                        I will return.

              2. re: xman887

                xman thanks for the recs. Have you been to Vicentes lately? Has anyone? The menu looks great. Back in Dec. rainsux said he had a good meal there but the service was bad. Anyone been there lately? Thanks.

                1. re: Rheta

                  last time i was there was for lunch in late nov / early dec. i was with a group of about eight. despite being in a larger group and the place being 60%-70% full, we had great service. we had a waiter that was almost like a table captain - helping people understand he menu, directing two other waters/bussers to make sure everyone at the table was taken care of (water, bread, drinks, service, etc.). a very enjoyable lunch. and i had a piece of fish that was very good. keep in mind that on the weekend, they have music and latin/salsa dancing. i understand the place can get rockin.

                  1. re: xman887

                    I like Vicente's, but I think if you are in any kind of a hurry Saturday night is not the time to go. That's not what it's about. BTW, how about Atlas? I've never been there. Am hoping to go during the next Restaurant Week. But it has gotten good reviews, and it's just a few blocks from the Fox.

                    1. re: Jim M

                      Thanks xman and JimM for your reply. It's nice to know not to go to Vicente's if we are in a hurry. Sat. night we're going to dinner after the show so we'll have plenty of time. I checked out Atlas's menu and reviews and that seems like a great place as well. Which one will I choose? Thanks again guys!

                      1. re: Jim M

                        i have been to atlas several times and have liked it. the place has a cool, urban feel to it and the food, when i have gone, has been very good. the place keeps turning over chef's, though. but the reviews remain positive. i think the last time i was there was two, maybe three chef's ago, so i can't speak to the current menu. but i would not hesitate to give it a try.

                2. This is probably way to informal...but the pizza at Motor City Brewing Works is dynamite. Its only a 1/2 mile from the fox and the beer is awesome. Nice atmosphere too but can be a little smoky.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: motorcityhound

                    their beer is really good. love the ghettoblaster.

                  2. So, where did you go and how was it?

                    17 Replies
                    1. re: goatgolfer

                      We ended up at Roma Cafe at the Eastern Market. We were going to go to Giovanni's but we didn't want to drive to Dearborn and we weren't going to be having dinner until after 8 as it was. Someone recommended Roma Cafe and the menu looked good and my hubby was in the mood for Italian. We got to Roma around 8:15 and it was a madhouse! The lobby was totally full as was the bar which was recommended we go to while we waited for our table. Ok, that's fine. We were early. Got our cocktails and stood shoulder to shoulder with people also waiting for their table. If you don't know the layout of the place there is entry level with a dining room on your right and to your left are stairs leading up to another dining area. In between is the very small lobby area. All the while we are waiting(we weren't seated until 9 ( could have driven to Giovanni's quicker than that!) the waiters were rushing through the lobby with food taken from the upstairs kitchen, down the stairs, through the lobby with shoulder to shoulder people, into the entry level dining room. I thought it was weird how they had to pass through the crowded lobby with many coughing people with the food. I just hoped we would be seated upstairs(we were). I have to admit it was all very entertaining! We were finally seated in the upstairs dining room and one of the waiters was singing happy birthday at a table. Very cute. His voice reminded of when Michael Scott(the Office) sings happy birthday and he goes into a higher voice towards the end. We both ordered veal(hubby veal toscona and I veal al limone) No salad came with the dinner but a cup of very mediocre minstrone soup did along with a cold loaf of bread that wasn't that great. The veal dishes were decent enough and the spaghetti and sauce that came on the side was pretty good. All in all I like our local Alfocino Restaurant 5 minutes from our house a lot better. Entrees all come with a really nice salad and I love their veal picatta at Alfocino. And you also get a side of spaghetti with sauce. I love Alfocino's sauce! All in all I thought Roma Cafe was ok, but probably won't go back. Sorry this is so long!

                      1. re: Rheta

                        Well, that was fun! Thanks for the report, Rheta. Didn't know you guys were such veal fiends. Back when I got out more often, I used to like the affordable veal at Europa Bistro (but I now understand it's closed). Maybe I need to make time to try Alfocino. I would have had less fun in Roma Cafe than did you guys. Glad you made the best of it.

                        1. re: vtombrown

                          Hey VTB! At least Roma was fairly entertaining with all the waiters rushing around. I really do like Alfocino. I would go there if I were you. And definitely child friendly. I was just like your wife when my daughter was little. She didn't have a sitter besides Grandma until she was 8 years old!

                          1. re: vtombrown

                            > I used to like the affordable veal at Europa Bistro

                            I miss their Veal Tosca. I liked them better before they moved downtown. I was
                            worried that they were over-reaching. Sigh ...

                            1. re: rainsux

                              I hate it when a restaurant tries to get bigger than itself.

                              1. re: rainsux

                                This is the place that *used* to be on Auburn Road in a little strip mall, right? That place *was* good! Used to be part of the regular rotation my buddy and I would hit every second week after working out. When they moved to downtown Rochester, not only did it become a good bit further to drive to, but I never actually *found* the place! Don't know if I ever had veal from them, but I know that I had several meals there that I found to be very tasty.

                                That they've now gone under is a shame, indeed...why couldn't they have been happy with staying where they were and filling up the room, which they seemed to have no problem doing?

                                1. re: boagman

                                  The old location was my parents' favorite restaurant. Once they moved, they seemed to close for short periods of time. I Never made it there, a shame.

                            2. re: Rheta

                              Roma's is clearly an old world destination. You got some theatre along with your food. I'm surprised DeNiro wasn't in for a plate of pasta with red gravy. In any case you had a great story and thanks for sharing it. If Hector Sossi only knew.

                              1. re: Rheta

                                ::shakes his head::

                                Told you you should have gone to Giovanni's! ;)

                       had to be said, though. Actually, your review is something I really needed to hear regarding Roma's. I've been really thinking about trying it, and since they're going to be a part of the next Detroit Restaurant Week in April, I was probably going to make it a destination for that week. Now I know that I can just completely dismiss it and go with something else.

                                I'm honestly aghast at not only what they served (and *didn't* serve with the high price of entrees there), but also how they served it. I *despise* being treated like cattle, and your wait for a table would have put me into such a foul mood that, even if the food had been better-than-average, I probably wouldn't have ranked it very highly. Of course, Italian food isn't my "hill to die on" cuisine, either, but still: what you said about the place just drives me in the other direction.

                                Thanks for taking the hit for the team. BTW, Giovanni's isn't in's in Detroit, though it's near the Dearborn border. It's actually just a quick trip on the expressway and down Fort Street. Probably would have taken you 10 minutes...15 at the maximum. I honestly don't know whether it wouldn't have been just as crowded there, though. I guarantee that your entree would have come with soup or salad, bread, and a side of pasta and sauce. Their pasta just floored me. Plus, they have a larger menu at dinner than they do at lunch, and they have weekend specials. Their veal looked absolutely outstanding. I'm trying it next time I'm there.

                                1. re: boagman

                                  I wanted to go to Giovanni's but hubby thought it was further away than 10 minutes. With as long as we waited at Roma's, we could have been to Giovanni's! Oh well, next time.

                                2. re: Rheta

                                  Do you prefer Alfoccino's over Antonio's, Rheta?

                                  1. re: Fibber McGee

                                    Never been to Antonio's. Is that the one on 12 mile and Halstead? Have you been there? I doubt it can beat Alfoccino's. Or have you been to both?

                                    1. re: Rheta

                                      That is it, indeed. I actually do prefer Antonio's but do not sneer at Alfoccino's. Antonio's seems more intimate to me, but not stuffy. I think it's cool how as you go in you can see someone right there making fresh pasta.
                                      I do miss Lelli's on Woodward. Sadly my downtown Detroit and surrounding area Italian experiences are limited to several visits to Lelli's and an occasional stiop at Mario's.

                                  2. re: Rheta

                                    I keep forgetting about Affocino's. They have the best veal picata I've ever had and everything is consistently excellent. The sauce and salad dressing (also outstanding) can be purchased by the jar. Rheta is right - the spaghetti is perfectly sauced and the sauce is to die for! Corner of 9 mile and Grand River. We've never been disappointed.

                                    1. re: SonyBob

                                      Yes, I love Alfocino's! The veal picatta is what I always order. Always delish and nice and lemony like I like it. I really love the sauce on their side of spaghetti! And their salad dressing is my favorite(other than the salad dressing at La Marsa!) . I always mean to take some home. And Bob, just a gentle correction, Alfocino is Grand River and Haggerty. I'm so happy to see another Alfocino lover!

                                      1. re: Rheta

                                        Thanks, Rheta. I used to work at the Town Center and I knew immediately as soon as I hit the "post" button,I had screwed up. Strip mall across from the Mobile sstation. I just love that place!

                                        1. re: Rheta

                                          Is Alfoccino's Auburn Hills location as reliable as their Farmington location?