Joe Muer's Review
Yesterday was my 57th birthday - an appropriate time to have dinner at the NEW Joe Muer's! I went to the old Muer's every year on my birthday since I was 5 years old.
I have not read other reviews yet.
First impression is that this is a huge restaurant. Vicaro is to be commended to take such a risk. The recent article in Hour Detroit did not mention what incentives GM provided, but I am sure they are stakeholders too.
Joe Muer's was my favorite restaurant. I went there 2-3 times a year as a boy, and I ate there constantly since starting law school at Wayne State in 1976. Several clients over the years were required to take me to Joe Muer's after each court hearing as part of the legal "fees" for representing them. I loved everything about that place - from the huge mural behind the bar to the beans AND cottage cheese and steamers and frog legs and Stroh's peppermint stick ice cream for dessert. I have mourned the closing of that place for 13 years, and I wistfully drive by the empty lot on Gratiot often when in Eastern Market on business.
So, here is my review of the NEW Joe Muer's:
The setting is beautiful overlooking the river. There was a beautiful lightning show last night! The waiters in white tux coats and bow ties look great. Beans were OK - seemed to be a canned bean without enough vinegar and parsley. But, I have tried to recreate the beans at home and these were better than my attempts. Boiled shrimp cocktail were delicious! Huge and cold with great sauce. The oysters were not good at all. We ordered the special oysters of the day - don't remember the name. They had no taste at all - reminded me of warm water oysters in New Orleans. We were just in NYC and enjoyed oysters at Grand Central Oyster Bar. The Muer's oysters were, sadly, not worth ordering.
A very nice wine list, with good choices at good prices. We ordered the French rose, and enjoyed it very much.
Shared the wedge salad and coleslaw. Both were good portions, and the wedge had a great dressing along with nice mascarpone cheese spread hiding beneath the iceberg wedge. The coleslaw was not as vinegary and refreshing as I recall from the old place, but still good.
The table of three next to us ordered a huge sushi roll platter, with a burning Sterno in the middle, reminding me of a puu-puu platter. What's with that? There was a huge amount of rolls on that platter, and it struck me that one never would have seen sushi in the old place. I understand - several tables, and my date, ordered rolls, but it just is not why I would go to Muer's.
I ordered the skate wing special. I was impressed by the large amount of food when served - clearly Muer's is trying to provide good value for the price. But, the fish and mushrooms were much too salty, and I love salt! I could not eat the meal, and had to return it. Our waiter, Ken, was very gracious and a manager came over and asked if I wanted to order something else. I ordered the fried perch, which were very good with great tartar sauce on the side. She ordered the Muer rolls, and they were OK, but not great. But, are sushi rolls ever "great"? Again, the portion seemed very generous, and she and I could not finish all the sushi and perch.
I am not much for dessert - I would rather have some good potato chips (my love of salt!). But, the cart is impressive, and she loves coconut cake so we ordered it. Wonderful cake - reminded me of the birthday cake we used to get from Ranier's on Livernois!
She loved the dinner - but was never at the old Joe Muer's. It was fine by me, but not great. Hour Detroit calls it the Restaurant of the Year. I think such a designation is premature, other than as thanks for somebody taking the risk to open such a grand new place in downtown Detroit. I can accept no cottage cheese, but why no steamers?
The thing that old Muer's taught me was to appreciate a simply prepared piece of fresh fish on a plate, without even a piece of kale as a garnish. In the Hour Detroit article somebody was quoted as saying tastes have changed and diners don't want food swimming in butter. I don't recall that from old Muer's, other than the sauteed frog legs "roadhouse" style. I appreciated the walleye or salmon or swordfish simply grilled or broiled on a platter with a bowl of fresh cut lemons on the table. The menu at new Muer's affords few such opportunities. The skate wing and other specials comes with this coulis or that black truffle risotto and such and such sauce. There was sturgeon special available, with all manner of this and that, but I was tempted to ask if they could just grill a plain piece of sturgeon for me. I am sure they would have done so. There are two or three plain fish options on the menu as I recall.
Yes, tastes have changed. Yes, I am old school - have been ever since I stepped into Muer's for the first time as a five year old boy. New Muer's has a challenge - Detroiters of a certain age will go once out of nostalgia - to check it out. Long term, the place must stand on it's own, and I hope it does become a successful destination restaurant for suburbanites who are going out for dinner. I don't think the place can sustain itself just on out of towner expense account diners.
One last thought - can't they put Stroh's peppermint stick ice cream on the dessert list??