From 1976 to today, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the word “renaissance” used to describe Detroit’s hoped-for rebirth. All spoken by wishful, passionate, positive-minded people who loved a city they once knew and want desperately to see it reborn.
Paraphrasing the famous line from Field of Dreams, “if we rebuild it”, they will come. Ironically, not too far down the street from another Field of Dreams (which was once the field of dreams for aspiring professional baseball and football players), has arisen a new restaurant in the ever-emerging Corktown area. Its presence has added to the continued resurgence of this once rather barren outpost, lying between the now ghostly Michigan Penn station and the former Tiger Stadium.
Joining Slow’s Barbecue, The Mercury Bar, The Sugar House, Le Petite Zinc, Ottava Via and the ever-popular Nemo’s, Gold Cash Gold opened its doors for business in mid-December while most of us were paying more attention to the holiday shopping rush than new restaurants. What they’ve built in a former pawn shop on 2100 Michigan Avenue is “Uniquely Detroit.” And people are indeed coming.
Food reviewers often ask this question of restaurant chefs and owners: “What are you calling your style of food?” And I must say, having been in that situation before, sometimes the answer is tricky. At Gold Cash Gold, they define their fare as “Farmstead fine food with a nod to the South, rooted in Old World tradition.” And that’s what you can expect.
When I visited on an early Saturday evening in mid-January, exactly 2 months from opening day, the menu featured a mixture of contemporary, southern-style comfort foods, using ingredients (that if not the middle of winter) you’d imagine coming freshly picked from their garden or right off the hoof as well as preparations you don’t see on many menus north of the Mason Dixon line.
And, I hope you like pickles, or at least pickling, because this Old World preservation method appears not only all over the menu, but here and there throughout their décor. You’ll even find pickled this or that in many of their signature cocktails. On the evening I stopped in, I sat on one of the stools in their 20-seat bar area and ordered the Braised Pork Cheek with what they called “green chile braisage, potato, radish salad.” Ok…?
The pork, slow cooked and tender, was somewhat under-seasoned and my particular dish was less than lukewarmish, but the salad was remarkably vibrant, spicy and delish. I must say that being on my own that night, and with other restaurants on my list, I only sampled that one dish.
But the orders leaving the kitchen featured a mixture of seemingly everything on their menu. Items such as:
PORK-FAT PEANUTS four-spice, pepper vinegar, cilantro, green papaya
BURRATA & PEPPER JAM w/ grilled bread
SHAVED VEG SALAD lemon vinaigrette, apple, spicy greens, grafton cheddar
ROMAN-STYLE PORK SAUSAGE winter greens, polenta, pickled chard stems
SHRIMP & GRITS fennel chow chow
PICKLE BRINE FRIED CHICKEN cornbread, hot sauce gravy and, as you would imagine, the desserts also paid homage to southern tradition. Their BANANA BREAD with chocolate & bourbon, cocoa crumble, diplomat cream and BUTTERMILK PIE with burnt cinnamon, apple butter, pickled apple, and pork-fat streusel look particularly tempting.
Gold Cash Gold’s décor is what I’d call Eclectic Southern Chic with a mixture of terrazzo and hardwood floors, and southern white-washed brick walls accented with colorful panes of art glass. Then there was the herringbone parquet wood ceiling with a mixture of pendant lamps, paddle fans, and a chandelier just for good measure.
As for the rest, here’s my box score. *(5 being highest/best where numbers are listed)
Menu Intimidation Factor MIF: 3 (you’ll understand it, but it’s different for sure)
Dress: 2 It’s literally come as you are, folks, which also goes for their bartenders and service staff. If they happen to be behind the bar or coming from the kitchen, it’s safe to say they probably work there.
The Crowd: It’s a mixture of singles, foodies, urban hipsters, families, locals (yes, there actually are locals in Detroit) and people who might appear to have made Gold Cash Gold their first Match.com date.
Parking: 3ish There’s parking in a lot adjacent/behind the building, limited Michigan Avenue parking, and a decent amount of both paid and street parking across and down the street towards the old train station. Because of the ever-growing number of restaurants and bars in this upwardly trending destination, it WILL be challenging at 8:00 p.m. (but worth it). Imagine Detroit’s parking version of Royal Oak or Ferndale on a Saturday evening, and you’ve basically got it. As far as security, just pay attention. You’ll be fine.
Bang for the Buck: 3.5 Premium drinks at their well-stocked bar, with an eclectic offering of draft beers, are very reasonable. Entrée prices average from 10 to 18 bucks. The atmosphere, the crowd and the décor give you every bit of your money’s worth here.
Food Stuff: 3 I’m sure that as time goes by, GCG customers will help them evolve into a menu that will ring true to their long-term roots yet serve the masses. The larger your group is (let’s say 4 or more), the more likely you’ll find someone in your party that’s just looking for something to eat rather than a food experience, and albeit Southern, GCG is a food experience. If you’re unsure and don’t know your company’s tastes, check out their website menu (see below) before you go. And, speaking of groups, they DO have a chef’s table that you CAN make reservations for (and get a LOT of their attention in the process).
Energy, Vibe, & the Cool-Wow Factor: 4 What if you were blindfolded, taken for a two-hour plane ride, and then landed right back in Detroit? What if you were then taken to Gold Cash Gold, unmasked and told you were in NYC’s Greenwich Village, the Meat Packing District or anywhere on the lower east side? You’d believe it, until you tried to hail a cab afterward. It’s a great blend of hip/urban and bohemian coolness. Tattoos and piercings are optional attire. Everything about GCG screams big-city edginess. This is a place you’ll definitely tell people you went the next day, and without apology.
About: NO RESERVATIONS:
Hours: The Bar: Tuesday – Sunday (11:00 a.m. to Close) Lunch: Tuesday – Sunday 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Dinner: Tuesday – Thursday 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to midnight. Sunday 5 p.m – 11 p.m