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Aug 29, 2011 01:00 PM

Townhouse Bistro, Birmingham, MI (DTW)

Intersting looking bistro slated to open in B'ham soon. They were flashing the menu around the other day when we were walking around downtown B'ham. They stated that today (Mon. 8/29) was opening day but when we called today there was no answer...guessing that they didn't hit their target day!

The partial menu we saw looked interesting enough, sort of a twisted comfort food type menu, always interested in a new adventure! The space looks great and I'm glad to see another unique restaurant opening there since they seem to be filling up spaces with franchise type places. I remember when B'ham was a bit more exclusive..Subway is moving in now...sign of the times, I suppose.

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  1. Where's this place at, address-wise, Jack?

    And no, I'm not referring to Subway... ;)

    1 Reply
    1. re: boagman

      I didn't know the address but when I Googled it the address says 180 Pierce..I just read prcentauri's post and it states the same let's go with it. Basically it is right across the street from the police department.

      I too heard there were some issues with the residents and that a lawsuit had been filed. I contacted Birmingham Principal Shopping District this afternoon to ask about the opening and they said there had been a few private parties but they were pretty sure they hadn't opened yet.

      Somebody get in there and review it for us!!!!

    2. i think it was open yesterday, unless that was a friends and family opening party. looked like a scene. the view from the street into the kitchen seemed cool. i hear the 180 pierce residents are pretty pissed about the place.

      1. You’re killing me Sir Boagman. I told my boss to take his deadline and sh*ve it, so that I could get home and read your review. See, I met a “relative of you” at the Chunky Monkey Cookie stand in the B’Ham Farmers Market yesterday, and he said the two of you were going out tonight to “a new burger place in B’Ham.” I figured for sure it was Townhouse.

        I had swung by Townhouse on Friday, and it was bustling with workers but didn’t seem open (some workers were drinking alcohol, so I had one reason to like the place). I figured you had the inside scoop regarding the Grand Opening. I was going to wait for your review before heading over.

        I already know I’m going to have a love-hate relationship with this bistro. They will make burgers with a selected blend of a-g-e-d USDA* Prime meats such as prime rib and prime brisket. ( * scr*w the USDA…and, this comes from a guy who is not a Tea Party type). Interesting.

        The entrepreneur starting the bistro is 26 years old, and comes from a rich family. I have no right to judge him without even knowing him (other than to judge that I’m jealous I wasn’t born into his family). But, I nevertheless will unfairly judge him by putting words into his mouth saying that I’m sure he’s congratulating himself for prospering by virtue of his hard work…oblivious to the fact that 80% (soon to be 95%) of Americans were born into families without a pot to p*ss in, and tens of millions of those kids are smart and intensely driven but have not a dime of savings at the end of any pay period to show for it, due to their handicapped starting line. Thus, it will grind on me to egg-on this “Birmingham’s most eligible bachelor” ego fest.

        In any event, I’m sure this guy is intimately familiar with fine food, given his upbringing. And, I want some fine food. So, I plan to go get one of these burgers and savor the bistro atmosphere. One other thing that attracts me to this place is that on many days of the week other B’Ham places have a wait for dinner….but, no, that’s not it….the thing that gets my goat is that that fat, d*mb and happy places such as Streetside Seafood raised heck to stop Townhouse! See (as the Townhouse entrepreneur well knows), Streetside's touting of free enterprise principles is a farce cover for crony “capitalism.” And, by…d*mb and ….I mean that the Streetside Seafood people don’t even realize that by allowing others such as Tallulah, Townhouse, etc., to create the critical mass for a legit’ dining district, EVERY area business WINS. Streetside tries to block Townhouse and ruin B’Ham’s momentum? Well, I block Streetside from my list (not that I’ll be missed). That’s how it works.

        Streetside Seafood
        273 Pierce St, Birmingham, MI 48009

        23 Replies
        1. re: VTB


          1. I *knew* it was you who Alex talked to at the BFM! Martha told me about it on Facebook. Martha's my cousin, and Alex is her husband.

          2. I have *no idea* about the new burger place in Birmingham, and I didn't see my cousin or her husband over the weekend!

          3. Wow...didn't know all the political inworkings of the Birmingham dining scene.

          1. re: VTB

            Hi! VTB, I'm said cousin (Marti) of Boagman! Thanks for stopping by Cheeky Monkeys at B'ham Market. Hope you enjoyed what you purchased. Not sure where the confusion began...Alex and I were planning on going to Townhouse yesterday with a friend and found out that it wasn't open yet. No plans for burgers with my wonderful cousin, Boagman. Although I would certainly share a burger with him anytime!

            Heard there were political rumblings about the Townhouse but did not realize other restaurants tried to block them. It is really pretty stupid....more restaurants in the area would definitely bring additional traffic to all involved. Nobody wants to eat at the same establishment every night. Not sure why so many restaurants don't understand that concept!

            1. re: CheekyMarti

              "Heard there were political rumblings about the Townhouse but did not realize other restaurants tried to block them. It is really pretty stupid....more restaurants in the area would definitely bring additional traffic to all involved."

              Very true, Marti. But at the same time, there are so many restaurants in downtown Birmingham that are not wildly different from one another. I mean, really, Townhouse isn't drastically different than Luxe, which isn't wildly different than Toast, 220, Forest Grill, etc. When there are so many places doing the similar "upscale modern American" type fare, seems they might saturate the market at some point.

              Forest Grill Restaurant
              735 Forest Ave Ste 100, Birmingham, MI 48009

              1. re: CheekyMarti

                I'm going to agree with you, Cheeky one! Yes, there are many similar restaurants in Birmingham but the addition of anything that does not involve a franchise is positive in my estimation.

                There are other choices in the area...middle eastern, italian etc. and I say let them adapt their menus to what works and see who wins!!!

                BTW...we went to Townhouse Bistro last night (opening night) and while it was decent food there is little to nothing unique about the place. I'm sure we will return but we won't be running back!

                1. re: Jack Freeman

                  Jack, Did you have a burger? Was the place packed?

                  1. re: VTB

                    VTB, yes, we all had burgers and yes, it was completely packed. Our burgers were overcooked and the waitstaff was obviously learning the ropes. It was great for people watching but unless the food improves, I'll just stand in the corner and let this one play itself out.

              2. re: VTB

                Nicely said, VTB. Always enjoy your posts. Should be interesting..this is may be the most expensive apartment building in Bham (penthouse once going for $2 million) so burgers may not be the best match. Tried the website, can't access menu yet.

                I grew up in Bham from age 1...have seen so many changes, not all good. However, good chow's always a good thing. Keep us posted.

                1. re: berkleybabe

                  i think the most expensive apt unit is in 250 martin

                2. re: VTB

                  VTB, the problem with all of the new bistros in Birmingham is that the pie slices are getting smaller and smaller. I disagree with your everybody WINS statement, rather, NOBODY WINS. Some restaurants will do OK, but not all of them great. It will be sheer Darwinism from here on out, only the strongest will survive. Birmingham restaurants are busy on the weekends, thats it. During the week, many of them are pretty desolate. But most all decent restaurants are busy on the weekend, it is almost expected.

                  And Jack Freeman, there has been a Subway in Birmingham for years, buddy. They just changed locations. Be pissed off if a new concept from J. Alexanders moves into Forte.

                  Just FYI Subway is the largest global restaurant chain. There are more Subways in this world than there are McDonalds!

                  1. re: skinnycook

                    Oh yeah, and the Birmingham Farmers Market is garbage. The most mediocre produce around really. And they let people in there like 'Bigby Coffee'. What a joke!

                    The best farmer's market in Michigan is the Bank Street farmers market in Kalamazoo.

                    1. re: skinnycook

                      Tell us what you really think I guess I never noticed Subway there before and my whole point is, regardless of the franchise, it's a franchise. I totally agree with you your outrage in Bigby being at the B'ham Farmers' Market. The market is run by the B'ham Primary Shopping District so their first priority is money and the businesses that exist in the downtown area, NOT the farmers market. I would say the majority of the market is not great but there are several organic and artisan vendors at the market that make a stop in worth my while.

                      1. re: skinnycook

                        The B’Ham farmers market is reasonably broad, though I admit that it is shallow. Yet, this is why I like it. I only need a couple nice “organic” food stands. There’s not much difference between two or three, versus five or six—maybe just a few varieties of produce (in the case of B’Ham FM, that would mostly mean herbs). The upside?: airy, laid-back atmosphere and unaggressive parking protocols compared to the larger Royal Oak FM.

                        I’ve not had the pleasure to visit the Kalamazoo FM, but calling the BFM “garbage” doesn’t seem right. This weekend’s greens, tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, peaches, etc., were very delicious, and the hard working people selling them were a pleasure.

                        Regarding Birmingham restaurants, I was speaking off-the-cuff. I’m not an expert on that or any market, and I’ve never owned or even managed a restaurant. I just sense that people love downtown Birmingham and that if there were a lot of tasty food joints there, the area would be jammed with folks from all adjacent suburbs. I think the quantity of good places could double without quenching the demand. Just my amateur perception.

                        Yet, I’ll offer this data point--- Toast and Townhouse were so crowded on Sunday with wait-listers, that people could hardly pass along the sidewalk on either side of the street dividing the two. Moreover, “restaurants only crowded on the weekends,” now means Thursday, as well. So, doing the math, we have WAITING LISTS going at any good (taste+value) place, from Thurs thru Sunday…that’s the majority of the week. Not bad!

                        Anyway, welcome to the board. Your perspective will be interesting.

                        PS--rccloud, where is the writeup on Rugby Grille??? You may have some homework due!!

                        Rugby Grille
                        100 Townsend Street, Birmingham, MI 48009

                      2. re: skinnycook

                        I think you are a little out of touch with the Birmingham market (which is troubling as this was your first post, which suggests you have a vested interest in the discussion).

                        Having grown up in the area and still having roots there, it is my belief that this isn't an issue of a limited pie... there are just a limited amount of quality offerings.

                        Yes, there are more restaurants there now, but quantity does not equal quality. Most people I know would love for there to be more quality restaurants to come to the Birmingham/Bloomfield area.

                        The only reason they don't eat out more often in Birmingham is that it gets boring eating at the Rugby Grille and Forest Grill every night.

                        Rugby Grille
                        100 Townsend Street, Birmingham, MI 48009

                        Forest Grill Restaurant
                        735 Forest Ave Ste 100, Birmingham, MI 48009

                        1. re: rcloud

                          Although, I will say you were right about Subway, the Subway on Maple in downtown Birmingham was there for almost 20 years.

                        2. re: skinnycook

                          no if's about it, j alexanders is going into the old forte space.

                          1. re: xman887

                            See, this is where it all gets fun! It's cuthroat now! Who is going to be the 'it' spot? All the new players are here. The week get weeded out its sooo exciting!!

                            I just want more. I want more from the premier restaurant scene. We all travel. Give me something out of Santa Monica. Give me something out of Lincoln Park, or Williamsburg or Seattle.

                            If we had a better farmers market, we would have better restaurats. There, I said it. You are only as good as your product, whether you are an ingredient driven or technique driven restaurant.

                            The more independent the better!

                            The owner of THB says he wants to focus on local products. Welcome aboard!

                            1. re: skinnycook

                              skinnycook, I don't think it's necessarily fair to blame the farmers markets. I am friends with many local farmers that sell amazing naturally grown and organic products at six local markets and they have NO local restaurants coming to them.

                              It's a choice that many local restaurant owners/managers make...they choose GFS or the like over local markets because they are too lazy to go look for it. It's easier to have presliced, prechopped garbage products arrive at your back door than go find local purveyors. Before anyone jumps on me...I know there are plenty of local restaurants making an effort to seek out local products BUT it seems to be the thing to do...say you will use local and then the follow through by these establishments is minimal.

                              One of the local farmers' at Farmington Farmers' Market attempted to put on a farm to table dinner using all local products from the market and they ended up having to cancel it due to poor ticket sales. SAD. I challenge local restaurants to put there money where their mouth is and actually use the local products they claim to!

                              My wife quizzes servers and restaurant staff about where the products come from and often they say the farmers market and when she pushes, asking which vendor they go to they become terribly quiet because they are flat out lying!

                              I can name the restaurants we see repeatedly at the markets we go to regularly. I bet you anything when you start asking won't like the answers you find.

                              Actually...many restaurants will pick up local tomatoes and cucumbers and pat themselves on the back for using "local produce". As far as I am concerned..unless you are talking about items that don't grow in Michigan....there is absolutely NO excuse for buying anything but local products.

                              1. re: Jack Freeman

                                "As far as I am concerned..unless you are talking about items that don't grow in Michigan....there is absolutely NO excuse for buying anything but local products."

                                Oh come, now. There are various products which are grown in Michigan that just simply aren't *available* for much of the year, even here. For crying out loud, you might as well call Michigan "The Cherry State", and they're only available for a couple months of the year in summer. Then there are strawberries, corn, potatoes, rhubarb, myriad other berries, etc.

                                Just because something *can grow here* doesn't mean that it's necessarily available.

                                1. re: boagman

                                  Boagman, I WAS talking seasonally, I guess that I didn't make that clear. I was speaking more of the summer months but thanks to hoop houses, there are fresh veggies from MI available all year and they are not being utilized by many local restaurants. There are many MI vegetables and some fruit available the entire year.

                                  Obviously any decent restaurant will feature items that are fresh and seasonal...there are local choices (i.e. root vegetables, greens, apples, pears) available from MI all winter. I just think they can do better..that was my point!

                              2. re: xman887

                                spoke too soon. the jay's deal is off. high end steak house (small midwestern chain) is tenatively going there instead.

                                1. re: xman887

                                  One has to question the wisdom of adding another high end steakhouse to the downtown B'ham area. Should be interesting...another case of sit back and watch natural selection play out?

                                  1. re: xman887

                                    what location are you talking about?

                            2. went to townhouse bistro for lunch today. got there at noon and the place was 75% full. small room with an l-shaped dining area wrapped around the bar. i would guess the place seats 40. the patio area looks bigger. the place has a hip/edgy/artsy feel to it. the staff are dressed in black and have a cool and slightly indifferent attitude. by the time we left, people were milling around looking for open tables - no reservations accepted.


                              townhouse burger - per the menu, freshly ground prime cuts of beff served on a brioche bun with cabernet carmelized onions, and cabbot aged cheddar. i would guess it was about 1/3 lb; smaller than a cafe via burger. cooked more medium than the medium rare that i ordered. decent beef flavor. the onions tasted very good. the bun was also good. served with a small metal cup of fries. $14.

                              lobster roll - large chunks of lobster served on a roll. not much dressing or filler. good portion of lobster. served with fries. $21.

                              two glasses of stags leap - $40.

                              total bill for two sandwiches and two glasses of wine (before tip) = $81.62.

                              the food was decent and the people watching was good, but it is pretty pricey. there are better options in town and i would not wait in line to eat here again.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: xman887

                                "Pretty pricey"? Is the Pope "pretty Catholic"?

                                *WOW* this is most assuredly *not* the place for me. $14 for their burger and fries makes Jeremy Restaurant and Bar in Keego Harbor start to look downright moderate at $13, and Redcoat's a stinking poor man's version at $11.60 (that's without cheese, though). Your final bill, xman, had me picking my jaw up off the floor.

                                I'm pretty good at math, and even if you're only tipping at 15%, you're still basically talking about dropping a "C" note on a couple of sandwiches and two glasses of wine. To me, that's out-and-out robbery. And with indifferent service to boot!

                                I owe you a drink for taking this one for the team, xman, but apparently, not Stag's Leap. Ye-freaking-ouch. ;)

                                1. re: boagman

                                  Jack you are right about restaurants having to make the first leap towards the farmers market. I was walking by Forte in April 2010, and as I am looking over the menu I noticed it read '...with seasonal vegetables'. So I asked the hostess, who was also the manager, and this chick goes 'Asparagus and haricot verts.' I told her that I lived in Michigan 25 years and never knew asparagus or green beans to grow in early April. Then I continued to ridicule her and the chef. What a joke.

                                  1. re: boagman

                                    Holy crap from me too...$20 for a GLASS of wine?? A nice but not exactly Dom Perignon glass of wine???

                                    No f'ing way for us. Plenty of good burger joints around here, hell, I had a damn tasty burger yesterday at Town Tavern in Clawson for $8 (shared my DH's fries).

                                    I guess you're paying for atmosphere...

                                    1. re: boagman

                                      But then: "The rich aren't like you and me."

                                      1. re: RedTop

                                        The burger is supposedly 9 oz. That is bigger than most places 7-8 ounces. Ok $19 is pretty high though. Its unnecessary rather. I happen to be a burger conniouser. I have sampled the nations 'best' burgers. I think the most I ever paid was $17, and that is at the Elysian Hotel in Chicago, the nicest fucking hotel in that whole damned city. It was really good. I am obviously not rushing back there for one. Friends, in the restaurant industry, you are mostly paying for overhead. They spent a lot of money remodeling that space. It is 'prime real estate'. They have a big staff. Probably one of the nicer, more modern, more luxurious spaces in the whole area. $19 is high. $17 sounds more reasonable. But really, its NOT TERRIBLE. It is Birmingham people. Boss up, or go back to the east side.
                                        You want to talk about an expensive ass burger, hunter house burgers are expensive. It is a 2 oz patty! With the cheapest everything, cheapest onions, cheapest bun, cheapest pickles, cheapest fries. The profit margins on the Hunter House burger and the Townhouse burger are truthfully not that different!

                                        For reference, my favorite burger in the u.s. is the burger at Slow Bar in Portland (not to be confused with slows bbq in the d)

                                        Many people agree with me


                                        Jack Freeman wherever your at your my boy! Go Local! Buy Local! Go to your farmers market. buy a ford. help the city.

                                        1. re: skinnycook


                                          I, in fact, am headed to the Michigan Farmers Market Association Farmers Market on the lawn of capitol building in Lansing today.

                                          Yesterday my wife canned 40 jars of spaghetti sauce and salsa, using only local ingredients and bagged up 25 bags of peppers to freeze for the cold winter months. She has already made 50 jars of preserves and frozen enough fruit to keep us in smoothies and homemade pies all winter!

                                          That is my lesson to everyone who thinks they cannot use local produce the entire year!