Food & Drink

Maccabees at Midtown

Urban flair.

by

comment
COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo

Maccabees at Midtown
5057 Woodward Ave., Detroit
313-831-9311
maccabeesdetroit.com
Handicap accessible;
Sandwiches: $8.50-$14
Mains: $13-$23
Hours 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday (brunch all day), 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday.

Never known for razor-sharp decisiveness, I had an exceptionally hard time making up my mind at Maccabees, because every item on the menu sounds so good. Bumping into an acquaintance on the way in, I sought guidance, and she would vouch only for “everything.”

Its name aside, who wouldn’t waver long over the BLAT: bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato on grilled rye with basil aioli (fried egg optional)? Or the “Lone Ranger,” a sandwich whose innards are brisket, grilled onions, provolone and chipotle mayo, and the “bread” is potato pancakes. I kid you not — if it weren’t 10 times as much work to make a sandwich with potato pancakes, we’d all be doing it, every time, for everything except PB&J.

But that’s what restaurants are for. Owner Petar Berishaj brought the potato-pancake sandwich with him from his several Gateway Delis when he opened the spot at Woodward and Warren a year ago. The Albert Kahn-designed Maccabees Building, built in 1927, is on the National Register of Historic Places and is now owned by Wayne State University. It’s the perfect location for a restaurant that’s good for lunch — sandwiches dominate — but also good for any sort of pre- or post-Cultural Center event nosh; think of Traffic Jam as a semi-equivalent.

The place was redecorated to produce what Berishaj calls “an ambience that feels like it’s been in the building forever, even though it’s completely new,” and I’d agree. There’s a stamped-tin ceiling and intriguing lamps with cut-out silhouettes that are replicas of the building’s original lighting. WXYZ radio broadcast “The Lone Ranger” from this building here in the olden days, and the name shows up a couple of times on the menu.

Don’t go to Maccabees thinking you’ll order, say, a salad and a sandwich. Choose one. Portions are large, including big bowls of soup. Save your money instead for a cocktail, such as the Balsamic Strawberry, made with fresh fruit; the Three Berry, which is raspberry vodka, Chambord (more raspberries) and cranberry juice; or something more classic like a Woodward Old-Fashioned or a Bloody Mary. Head bartender Doc worked for Chuck Muer in the ’90s and perfected the Mary’s secret ingredients then, when he used to serve 400 to 500 people for a “hellacious brunch.” 

My favorite items were those potato-pancake sandwiches; the 33 Blue with pastrami, corned beef, Swiss and blue cheese; and the Hitsville with smoked salmon, smoked turkey and cream cheese. Both were impossibly tall, their classic flavors mingling, in each case, with a small surprise. Another possibility, though I always wonder what’s meant by “BBQ sauce,” is the Southern Belle: roasted pork with cheddar and tobacco onions on — get this — sweet potato pancakes.

Sandwiches on normal bread are quite worthy as well. I had a blackened whitefish on ciabatta that was quite fine, though I did end up removing some of the red onions. A Lobster BLT used lemon aioli, and the combo of crustacean and pork did credit to both.

House-made chips are stout and just the right degree of salty.

Salads are proportionally even more generous than the sandwiches, and they come with toast. A kale with Gouda and hazelnuts stood up chewily to its anchovy dressing and was sturdy enough to be re-attacked the next day. A big pile of beets and arugula sported not only toasted walnuts and a good balsamic dressing but three fried balls of goat cheese.

Great salad name, though I can’t get behind the concept: the Brutus, a Caesar with tomatoes.

For starters, we liked the thick New England-style clam chowder and the calamari. Chef Michael Stewart used the usual capers with calamari but, again, threw in something new — goat cheese and red onions.

After 5 p.m., Stewart also serves mains: three pasta dishes, including Maccabees and Cheese, a couple of light chicken entrees, a salmon, a meatloaf and a New York strip.

Soon after the restaurant opened, I saw some beefs online about Maccabees’ service, but there was certainly no cause for complaint when I visited in December, with both servers we met quite competent and helpful.

One server was clearly proud of his mother, Sandra, who is the pastry chef. She makes a fabulous Maccabees Cake: two layers of superior, light, moist chocolate cake around a cheesecake interior. Chocolate cake can be boring, but certainly not this one.

Doc tells me management would like to encourage more of a bar scene, and to that end promotes a 3 to 7 p.m. weekday happy hour when well drinks and house wine are half-off and the appetizers are a quarter off. That’s a nice long happy hour. 

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.