by Mel Small
Operating from locations in Rochester, Lake Orion and Grand Blanc, the Kruse & Muer mini-chain has long been popular with diners from the far northern exurbs. With the opening in March of his outpost in Troy, off Crooks just north of Big Beaver, Bill Kruse has launched a culinary invasion of the near northern suburbs.
In 1972, Kruse began working at Charleys Crab, where he became a hunting-and-fishing pal of Chuck Muer, the CEO of a Detroit-based restaurant chain. That friendship blossomed into a partnership in 1988 and the first Kruse & Muer in Rochester. After Muer disappeared in a boating accident off the coast of Florida during Hurricane Andrew in 1993, Kruse carried on alone.
His new tri-level establishment in an old TGIF has been handsomely refitted in dark brown woods, mahoganies and the occasional mounted deer head by the ubiquitous Ron Rea. In cozy nooks and crannies on every level, Kruse & Muer can seat 190 diners. Like so many other restaurants these days, it apparently was designed to be noisy, with the bustle suggesting conviviality. In warm weather, the patio, which seats 45, may be a better bet for those who prefer to communicate in conversational tones, although it overlooks the parking lot and the traffic on Crooks.
As for accessibility by the handicapped, the indoor elevator carries patrons the four steps from level one to level two.
For those who have been to the Rochester Kruse & Muer, the Troy menu will look familiar. However, according to Adam Stansberry, the enthusiastic young manager, theyve added a few new dishes as a genuflection to the greater competition they face south of M-59.
Although entrées come with a large house salad (greens, walnuts, apple and blue cheese in a sweet-but-not-cloying maple vinaigrette) along with the signature warm soft baguette cutely delivered to the table in a paper bag, the appetizers are worth considering. The California fish taco ($5.95) pan-fried grouper with salsa, cheese and cabbage seemed authentic and then some to one of our dinner partners from Los Angeles. They scored higher than the heavier mushrooms ($8.25), baked with shrimp and crabmeat stuffing and drizzled with lobster cream. A smooth tomato bisque ($3.95) is a simpler way to begin the meal. Other firsts include crab cake, calamari and antipasto.
As for the entrées how could a restaurant with Muer in its name not feature seafood? Sweet and mildly spicy tangerine shrimp ($16.95) over Asian pasta is one of chef Mark Nosedas additions to the Kruse & Muer list of standards. Whitefish has always been a standard three well-prepared renditions move from unadorned broiled or blackened ($14.95) to Parmesan-encrusted ($15.95) to the complex Siesta Key ($17.95), where the fish is complemented by shrimp, crab, scallops and artichokes in a tomato-butter sauce.
Rodney, our patient and accomplished server, who graciously handled our occasionally unruly table of nine, recommended Jimmys pile of perch ($17.25), a generous helping of flash-fried fish with buttery mashed potatoes, lemon beurre blanc and tomato relish. Flash-fried, alas, does not always mean that it emerges lightly breaded.
Two crab cake creations, three variations on salmon, and fried walleye are among other choices from the sea. Moving to the land, one can select from a handful of chicken entrées including Maryland chicken ($16.95), stuffed with shrimp and crabmeat in saffron-cream and beef anchored by filet mignon ($22.95). On the less formal side of the menu, dinner salads might include char-grilled salmon-apricot salad ($12.95) presented with chèvre and roasted walnuts and gently dosed with apricot-ginger vinaigrette.
In addition, Kruse & Muer turns out entirely respectable thick-crusted pizzas, including one enlivened, some would say incongruously, with Caribbean jerk chicken and barbecue sauce. Weight watchers can guiltlessly select one of Nosedas six pasta dishes, since an extra dollar assures a foundation of low-carb linguini. With or without the carbs, vegetarians will welcome grilled vegetables primavera ($13.95), gently charred zucchini, squash, mushrooms, asparagus, pine nuts and aromatic boursin over pasta.
Kruse & Muers wine options befit the casual, modestly upscale, bistro. Half of the limited but well-selected bottles on the list are less than $28, and most can be ordered by the glass at the table or in the lively bar area that dominates the center of the room on the second level. But there is little need to hang out in the bar interminably while waiting for a table, since Kruse and Muer, unlike some competitors, takes reservations.
As for the final course, two of the most popular desserts ($5.95), large enough to be shared, center around Strohs ice cream, with the crunchy ice-cream-cookie sandwich edging out the gooey caramelized banana split for laurels among high-caloric treats.
For almost two decades, Kruse & Muer has been turning out solid and satisfying meals at venues miles distant from where most metro Detroiters live. Considering gas prices, it is comforting to report that a branch of the justly popular restaurant chain has finally made it to a more accessible part of town.
Mel Small teaches history at Wayne State University. Send comments to email@example.com.