I am a dinosaur and I admit that, I still try to enjoy reading a newspaper daily. For years there were three newspapers in Detroit, and then there were two, and now the two are in a joint association for production costs. I read the morning paper, out of tradition, though since so many of their “journalists” now think they are more important than the event that they are covering they have to interpret the news for the uneducated masses that they must write down to; I want to form my own discussion from the facts, not from what they deign to tell me. The paper got a new restaurant “critic” several years ago, and if he could he would only write about restaurants that are along Woodward Avenue as the rest of the Tri-County region doesn’t exist and then he prefers to write about restaurants that have Social Media consequences for good press. As a retired clothier, I also find that he goes out of his way to look like a train-wreck even if he is going somewhere nice, but I come from the old school that one can always be overdressed, instead of being underdressed for an occasion.
The poor “critic” was introduced to several locations in the Downriver section of the Detroit area, and I guess, because it is an area of working people and first, second and third generation Americans it isn’t worth the ink to write about. He was reluctantly taken to nine establishments and discovered that not every restaurant has to be cutting edge to deliver quality food. Out of the nine locations, I have actually written about six of them. One is a surviving “house bar” in Wyandotte, and unless I was going with someone else, I don’t normally just walk into neighborhood bars, one I think of more for beer (and I write about wine) and the last one which I have tried to go to several times when meeting friends and though I have suggested this place, I have usually been outvoted.
The first two are tried and true, and have become institutions for fine dining. Sibley Gardens I first learned about back in the Sixties and though the front door stares at a rotted-out steel factory, it is the food that people go there for. A steakhouse that doesn’t have to rely on gimmicks and over-priced entrées to get the people to return constantly. I know that it sounds unusual that I would feel comfortable in an old-fashioned real steakhouse. Another restaurant that makes me at home is Moro’s with the waiters in Tuxedoes and tableside service. I love old-school and I really enjoy when you see people get dressed up for date night with their spouse, just like it should be. When one thinks of Downriver, the Hungarians from Delray along with the Armenians, Poles and Italians all resettled and The Rhapsody is the best for Hungarian cuisine. I would make a wager, even if one had never had Hungarian food, after dining at the Rhapsody, one could easily claim those dishes as comfort food. While one may not think of the Downriver as Hellenic, don’t say that to the Greeks and the Auburn Café brings back the glory days of Greektown when it was really Greek and not a cartoon version of the old days. I am sorry to say, that I was not even aware that this gem was around and I had to be told about it, and I am happy that I was. The last two that I went to are both in Wyandotte, the first being Portofino that has a wonderful location on the Detroit River with plenty of glass, so that all the diners can appreciate the view. I think of Portofino for seafood, which is appropriate and a nice wine list. The last of the group is R.P. McMurphy’s and the “critic” thought he was going into an Irish pub, if he was a bit more literate in theater and cinema, he would have realized the R.P. was for Randall P. McMurphy and some of the other dishes have names honoring other individuals from the same play/movie. While still maintaining the feel of a speak-easy, instead of having bar food, the bar serves real dishes that don’t have an over abundance of salt to have you keep drinking, like most sport bars do, and even a well selected wine list. I was very happy to see that the area was recognized, even if begrudgingly because it was not on the Woodward corridor and I wrote about all of them without prodding, because of the wine and the moment, I guess the hallmark of my articles.