- Photo by Rob Widdis
Atwater in the Park
1175 Lakepointe St., Grosse Pointe Park
Open Monday through Thursday, 2 p.m.-midnight; Friday, 2 p.m.-2 a.m.; Saturday, noon-2 a.m.; Sunday, noon-10 p.m.
The height of summer has arrived, and gardens everywhere are flourishing. It’s the sort of weather that makes you want to sit outside and drink beer. Fortunately, in Grosse Pointe Park, there’s a brand-new biergarten to wet your whistle.
Atwater in the Park is literally a temple to beer. Housed in an old church at the corner of Kercheval and Lakepointe, the former altar is now occupied by brewing equipment; the main dining room and bar is the whole sanctuary, the bartenders serving from 40 taps underneath a cork-lined ceiling. Lit through stained-glass windows by the summer sun, it’s an incredible place to eat.
Not to forget the outdoor seating area and bar, which makes this biergarten truly wonderful: four long, communal tables are set, and guests are encouraged to grab a seat wherever they can find one. It makes for a great experience, as your conversations mingle with those of your neighbors, and suggestions about the food or beers criss-cross the table.
The food is proper German biergarten fare, with the exception of a small pizza menu (a concession to the realities of running a bar.) Smoked knockwurst is the king of the sausages here, the flavor perfectly garlicky and smoky. The kielbasa is heavy on the black pepper and rich, the brats made with beef instead of pork for an unexpected but enjoyable flavor. A few sausages, a basket of pretzels, and a few hefeweizens could definitely satisfy any diner. For the brave, there’s even the Bier Garten Kielbasa Challenge — three pounds of bier-braised sausage. It’s probably worth it.
Schnitzel is an essential dish to any Germanic menu, and it’s well-represented here: There’s a proper Wiener schnitzel, pounded veal cutlet, (there’s also an equally traditional chicken schnitzel,) served with lemon-caper sauce; a German diner raved that the trout schnitzel was spectacular; there’s also an “eggplant schnitzel” that’s closer to an eggplant parmesan, served with a red tomato sauce, a small concession to vegetarianism on a menu that’s (appropriately) heavy on the meat.
The 24-hour chicken is incredibly juicy and moist, tender through the breast and leg meats both, and served on the bone with deliciously crispy skin. It’s perfectly executed chicken — something that’s hard to come by. The fish and chips are good, as well, served with tasty house-cut (a trend that does not go unnoticed) french fries.
The side dishes are generally good, but while the spaetzle and latkes are standouts, the German potato salad is lacking in seasoning and pungency. Stick with the cucumber-dill salad instead.
The food all comes out to the table on a dazzling array of plates in odd shapes and rustic glazes, a far cry from the clean, regular white plates seen in almost every other restaurant. It’s beautiful, and it enhances the rustic quality of the food — it’s good, hearty food, made to be drank with beer.
And there is beer aplenty. It’s all Atwater beer, 25 of their normal brews plus 15 available only at the garden. Styles range from light beers and hefeweizens all the way to thick, smoky porters. Make-your-own flights are offered, as well as full pours, and there’s likely something to satisfy everyone.
Go to Atwater in the Park. Treat the beer list as a to-drink list. The food complements the beer perfectly, the menu purpose-built by Epicurean’s Chef Kevin Green to be just what you want to eat with what you’re drinking. The service is authentic and friendly, casual but not inappropriate. Atwater in the Park has everything they need to be a long-lasting addition to the metro Detroit dining scene. They’re new, and succeeding in sprinting to keep up with an impressive opening month that would make any owner jealous.