Green Dot Stables
2200 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit; 313-962-5588
Sliders, fries, salads,
soups and desserts: $2-$3
Kitchen open 11 a.m.-10 p.m., bar until 2 a.m.
Racing to the lead among Detroit's budget dining options, the Green Dot Stables recently reopened after a yearlong closure and change of ownership, with a bang-up menu of $2 and $3 gourmet sliders, salads and soups. Although its location in "Corktown Shores" is a bit out of the way for downtown office workers, it doesn't appear to be much of a deterrent; on the days we ate there, groups of young people in business attire made up most of the clientele.
Owner Jacques Driscoll, 30 years old himself, returned to Detroit — after four years in San Diego — to open a restaurant. Originally from the Detroit area, he and his wife Christina were lured back by the low real estate prices and sense of opportunity. The final nudge may have been an online poll Driscoll presented to Metro Times readers in September 2010, in which he asked whether Christina and he were "crazy" to consider the move, and whether amenities in the city were improving. The overwhelming majority encouraged the couple to move back.
Driscoll feels they made the right choice — the timing was perfect for buying the Green Dot, which before its current incarnation was known for being a cop bar that served until the wee hours. Driscoll kept the horse and jockey-themed decor, but the food concept is his own. He'd wanted to do a $3 menu for some time, and originally planned on tacos, but with the Green Dot's proximity to Mexicantown, he thought better of it and opted for sliders. In a stroke of luck, a friend introduced him to chef Les Molnar, who had also just relocated to Detroit from Chicago, and the two teamed up to develop Driscoll's idea.
Pretty much the only thing Molnar's creative sliders have in common with Hunter House and others is the soft white bun. The term "sliders" is used loosely here, encompassing everything from corned beef to curried chicken breast to catfish with tartar sauce. The beef sliders are dressed up in various ways, including an "au poivre" with house-made cognac aioli, and a "Korean" slider with peanut butter and kimchi made by the Brinery out in Ann Arbor. It might sound bizarre, but the flavors work well together and we'd recommend it to anyone with an adventurous palate.
On our first visit, in addition to the au poivre and the Korean, we tried a shredded pork slider and a "Hot Brown" (chicken breast with bacon and Mornay sauce). The Hot Brown is everything you'd expect a sandwich with bacon and cheese sauce to be — i.e., indulgently delicious. The beef patties in the au poivre and Korean were leaner than you'd expect from a slider, but not so lean as to be too dry. The pork, out of everything we sampled on the menu, was the most disappointing. We liked the apple and cabbage garnish, but the meat was bland with a wet sawdust texture. That said, I'd much rather be let down by a $2 sandwich than a $25 entrée, and the rest of our meal more than made up for it.
On a subsequent visit, we got to try even more variety, including the coney slider (hot dogs with venison chili, onions and mustard), the catfish, a lamb slider with hummus and pickle, and the "Mystery Meat" (a changing special) of duck with apple chutney and Grafton cheddar. A couple sandwiches came out missing some items (pickles; mustard), but overall we were quite happy, the catfish and duck being the two standouts.
To balance out all of this bread and meat, the menu has some worthy salads that might help you feel more virtuous, like a lemony raw kale salad with quinoa and a petite wedge with house-made Thousand Island, bacon, tomato and shallot. The wedge was a special, but we're rooting for it to be added to the regular menu. Perhaps our favorite salad was the thickly sliced cucumbers with a massive dollop of crème fraîche and chopped shallots. After working our way through the cucumbers, we made use of the extra crème fraîche to dip our fries (so much for this reviewer's virtue). There are some other sides on offer (hummus, potato salad, mac and cheese) but we skipped these, choosing to consume our starch in fried potato form.
As befitting a restaurant whose focus is sliders, the fries at the Green Dot are some of the best you'll find anywhere. At least, they conform to my personal ideal — cut thin, with the perfect ratio of crispness to chew. There are several preparations to choose from; we tried malt vinegar on one visit, and poutine on another. I'll leave it to others to judge how "authentic" their poutine is, but suffice it to say that if you're craving savory, salty, starchy and cheesy comfort food, this will do the trick.
To go along with the food prices, there is a $3 drink menu with a few special cocktails, a good selection of domestic and imported beers, and some wines by the glass. I drank a French vin de pays whose balanced flavor belied its price tag. My friend was especially pleased with her Moscow Mule, which had quite a spicy kick from the ginger.
Although the restaurant was until recently only open for lunch, now they are open for dinner as well. Given the new hours, we fully expect their cheap prices and Corktown location to create the perfect storm, making them the new hipster hangout of the Detroit dining and bar scene.
Noelle Lothamer dines for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org