Craft Cocktails & Delectable Dishes at Exquisite Local Eateries

By: Toni Cunningham | November 20, 2013
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Do you ever go out to eat and find that the food is better than the drinks, or vice versa? While chances are you’re going to come across a dud in either department once in a blue moon, you can narrow down the occurrence of both by choosing a restaurant that is known for both its delicious food and craft cocktails.

I don’t know about you, but if I arrive at a restaurant to find that their “specialty” cocktail list includes only five drinks, the meal is already off to a bad start. Not saying that my spirits can’t be lifted with a craft beer, but sometimes the mood for vodka strikes.

The next time you’re planning a night out on the town, consider making a reservation at one of the following restaurants, where you’ll be guaranteed a great meal and a cocktail list that spans several pages.

Roast, 1128 Washington Blvd., Detroit, has a menu packed full of entrees like Lemon Chicken, Pork Shank Confit and Alaskan Halibut, as well as eight different steaks and chops. Not to mention starters, salads and sides. The bar menu also includes a separate list of plates like the Roast Burger, Roast Coney Dog and Double Cooked Wings.

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The cocktail menu is carefully put together and includes spirits like Fire & Smoke (Cabo Wabo Reposado, chili infused agave nectar, lime juice and a salted rim), Up North (Three Olives Cherry Vodka, lime juice, tart cherry juice and fresh Michigan cherry), and Bar Fly (Fig Infused Old Raj Gin, Campari, Cherry Heering and vanilla syrup soaked fig).

Those are only three of the 18 house cocktails, in addition to a laundry list of classic drinks, so you should be more than set when it comes to libations.

Torino, 201 E. 9 Mile Rd., Ferndale, originally opened as an espresso bar but has turned into a full-fledged dining experience.

Now, they offer a different “tasting menu” each week, which is composed of a five-course meal. You might find items like Japanese yams, pheasant, lamb, eggplant, stone crab or venison on the menu.

The cocktail list contains a dozen different house drinks, like the Alley Cat (Old Tom Gin, Carpano Antica, meyer lemon, shiso, berry and bitters), Harvest Dragon (rosemary-infused apple cider, New Holland Beer Barrel Bourbon, apricot brandy and pimento dram), and Autumn in France (orange pekoe-infused brandy, apricot brandy, lemon Lillet Blanc and Gran Classico).

The Root, 340 Town Center Blvd. E106, White Lake Twp., was crowned “Restaurant of the Year” in 2012 by the Detroit Free Press, so that should tell you all you need to know.

The lunch and dinner menus are full of seasonal fare made with local ingredients, like Linguine & Michigan Farm Raised Shrimp, Miller Farms Amish Chicken Cacciatore, Roasted Michigan Beet Salad, and Char Grilled Naturally Raised Michigan Beef.

Whatever dish you decide on, you’ll find a specialty cocktail that pairs with it perfectly. The Real Housewife of White Lake is made with Ferndale’s own Valentine Vodka, as well as Cointreau, house-made raspberry syrup, lemonade and cucumber.

If you’re health conscious, the menu features “holistic” cocktails, which allow you to enjoy without worrying about the calories. Rigato, named after the restaurant’s executive chef, is simple—Lillet Blanc on the rocks, served with an orange slice.

The Ravens Club, 207 S. Main St., Ann Arbor, prepares its farm-to-table meals with seasonal ingredients, and blends American, French and Italian cuisines.

The dinner menu is packed with snacks like Deviled Eggs (made with eggs from Clinton’s Sunrise Farms), and a variety of small plates including Green Bean Casserole, Chorizo Empanadas and Farmers Market Squash Soup. If you just want to snack, a large portion of the menu is dedicated to cured meats and artisanal cheeses.

The cocktail menu includes classics as well as specialty house drinks, many of which are made with The Ravens Club’s own bitters. To get a taste of what you’re in for, ask for one of the following: Two to One (local Valentine Liberator Gin, Noilly Prat Vermouth with a lemon twist), Cold War (spiced pear infused vodka with homemade ginger beer and fresh lime), or The Number Two (Chelsea’s Ugly Dog Vodka, St. Germain, blackberry puree and fresh lemon).

The spirits, beer and wine list is so extensive, it will probably take you your entire lunch break to read through.

Rodin, 15 E. Kirby St., Detroit, is a French restaurant that serves small plates. Do you know what the best part of a small plates restaurant is? You can go with a group, order a ton of food, and then you get to sample everything. It’s an indecisive person’s dream!

The menu includes Fish and Chips, Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup, Chicken Fried Duck, Ratatouille Toast, Fried Ravioli and much more. Even the popcorn here is decadent—it’s topped with anchovy chili, lemon herb and truffle maple bacon.

The cocktails are appropriately named after famous French people or phrases, like the Godard versus Truffaut (Cognac, Benedictine, Cointreau, burnt orange oil and lemon), Jacques Mesrine (with rye, bonal, black walnut bitters and pipe tobacco), and Bisous Bisous (cognac, pineapple, Chambord and champagne).

Bistro Joe’s, 34244 Woodward Ave., Birmingham, is a “globally inspired experience,” and one that might sound familiar. It’s probably because this food oasis is on the second floor of Papa Joe’s Gourmet Market.

Chef Jacques Van Staden whips up lunch, dinner and brunch items using the very same fresh ingredients you’ll find at the market downstairs. The lunch selection includes a “Burger Board” with various burgers and sliders, and flatbreads, sandwiches and larger fare like pasta and salmon are also available.

The dinner menu includes dishes in the pasta, fish and chicken category like Black Grouper Pumpkin, Brick “Amish” Chicken, and Housemade Papardella.

Chef Jacques and his team are also responsible for the eatery’s craft cocktail menu. Special drinks include the Berry Basil (Absolut Hibiskus, basil, raspberry, black berry and St. Germain), Five Spice Apple Bourbon (spiced apple infused bourbon, apple cider, ginger beer and thyme), and Indian Sunset (Tito’s Vodka, fresh mango, lime juice, cardamom and ginger espuma).

All of the drinks are made with produce from the market, so it’s the freshest possible!

There’s no reason to dine out when you’re not enjoying both the food and beverages. If you head to any of the above restaurants, you’ll be guaranteed an excellent meal and great cocktails.