Usually, Detroit restaurants that specialize in breakfast usually mean one of two things. One is diner fare — messy, greasy plates of eggs; grease-logged hash browns; butter-drenched toast triangles; and semi-weak coffee. No disrespect to our local greasy spoons (see the list of our favorites in this week's issue). Meals like that serve a specific purpose, but sometimes they're a labor to get through. The other thing Detroit restaurants serve is brunch at some of the region's hipper restaurants, but those menus can often feel so... predictable.
Then there's Le Petit Dejeuner on East Jefferson Avenue near Belle Isle, which offers something a bit different — a menu with French-inspired breakfast plates and other fare that's a step up from a grease-bomb breakfast, but also a welcome break from the standard brunch.
The restaurant is black-owned, family-run, and laid-back, even if it's slightly more upscale. On a recent lunch, we walked in as a waitress belted out a soulful rendition of "Happy Birthday" to a group of ladies. Owner Tina Motley started the restaurant on the stage area of TV Lounge before moving to the current location in 2018.
Though the menu is heavy on sweeter dishes, the shrimp and grits special might be the best thing rolling out of Le Petit Dejeuner's kitchen. Thick grits are topped with gooey cheese and a bright layer of crunchy aromatics — green onions, and yellow, orange, and red bell peppers — along with several big shrimp. Similarly, one could argue the chicken in Motley's chicken and waffles plate is among the best in the city. Why is Detroit's breakfast chicken often dry or flavorless? Motley's bird is better.
Le Petit Dejeuner's pancakes are dense, thick, a bit spongy, and made from scratch. Each are filled with bits of various vegetables. The best — designated on the menu as a "must try" — are the cream corn pancakes, which are slightly sweet with kernels of crunchy corn studding the pancake, and a dusting of powder sugar. The flavor works well enough and the pancakes are moist to the point that no syrup is needed. Similarly, orange shreds of carrot fill the carrot cake pancakes, which is served with a sweet cream cheese and maple syrup frosting. The sweet potato pancakes also come with bits of sweet potato in the pancake, and more on top.
But if you're going for a fancier breakfast, then it makes sense to get fancier pancakes: crepes. Le Petit Dejeuner's chocolate crepe is served aside a creamy smear of ricotta and under generous portions of chocolate and raspberry syrups. Though this may be billed as breakfast, it's straight-up dessert. The German chocolate waffles nearly reach that threshold, too, and arrive under chocolate sauce, shreds of coconut, and pecans. The crepes are the better "chocolate" option, and if you're ordering waffles, the best of the bunch is strawberry creme, which includes waffle triangles, strawberry syrup, hunks of fresh strawberries, and whipped cream. "Tastes like a Toaster Strudel," is a pretty accurate observation of a co-diner. The waffles are also made from scratch, and are fairly thick and spongy.
Le Petit Dejeuner's pieces of French toast are super thick, but also light and airy pucks. The sugary slices of caramelized bananas placed on top of each piece of toast are sweet and add a lot of depth, though it would be nice if there were another slice or two. Back on the savory side, the omelets are huge and filled with vegetables and meats of your choosing — we got ours with chicken sausage, green peppers, onions, and spinach, and it did what an omelette is supposed to do, and does it better than most.
The list of Le Petit Dejeuner's sides is long, but the sweet potatoes with chive and sour cream or the cubed potatoes griddled with bell peppers and onions are both excellent. Drinks include coffee and a sweet tea that is sweet, with pieces of fresh mint.
Le Petit Dejeuner's ordering process is, in a word, unconventional. One can either order food in groups and save money, or order "a la carte" and pay a little more. As it's a relaxed environment, the service can be a little on the slow side, but it's the type of place where you don't mind hanging out just a little while longer.
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