Maccabees at Midtown
Fans of Gateway Deli, the 17-year mainstay of the Harvard Row Shopping Center in Southfield, might want to take a look at restaurateur Peter Berishaj’s newest and most impressive venture: Maccabees at Midtown.
Berishaj officially opened his restaurant-bar just after New Year’s Day inside an Albert Kahn-designed, 1927 building on Woodward Avenue at Warren in Detroit. The Gothic Revival-style skyscraper is on the National Register of Historic Places and close to the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Originally the headquarters of Royal Maccabees Insurance Co., notable tenants in the Maccabees Building were Detroit Public Schools, Detroit Public Television (WDET) and WXYZ’s radio and television stations. Wayne State University, the building’s current owner, has administrative offices here.
The decor at Maccabees at Midtown takes its cues from the building’s glorious heyday. Berishaj and his team completely remade the space into a thing of beauty, projecting the intimate, moody atmosphere of a 1920s speakeasy. The room has a bronzed coffered ceiling and Merlot-colored seating at mahogany wood booths and tables.
Walls are dark, too, and the back one shows a stylistic skyscraper with golden rays shooting out like fireworks. Contrasting white marble is used for a liquor bar at the Woodward-side window and also a breakfast bar.
The most striking visual element is the lighting. Handcrafted sconces and lamps in horizontal or vertical shapes feature cutout figures of warriors and maidens, imagined from the biblical Maccabees’ era. A metal-cut chandelier echoes the grand original in the building’s lobby.
“If you didn’t know the place had just opened, you’d think we’ve been around forever” is the impression Berishaj and his partners managed to achieve with their casual yet upscale restaurant-bar.
Maccabees at Midtown offers “newer American bistro fare, and I think we’re fresh and healthy,” Berishaj said.
Only natural chicken breast is served, and olive oil is used for cooking. Salads feature arugula and similar greens, never ordinary iceberg lettuce.
“We’re trying to be a quality/healthy/affordable restaurant, giving people what they want and what they can afford,” he said.
In the short time Maccabees has been open, “our signature items are really moving; it’s unbelievable,” Berishaj said.
The favorites are certified Angus prime beef burgers, chopped kale salad with aged Gouda and hazelnuts in a spicy anchovy dressing, and potato pancake sandwiches holding corned beef, brisket and other meat, plus fixings. Berishaj claims his is “the only restaurant in the world making sandwiches on potato pancakes. I would love to patent it.”
I took a suggestion to try the Peeque sandwich, a delicious concoction with grilled chicken, cheeses, bacon, pico de gallo, avocado and chipotle aioli on an onion roll. A big knife held down this overstuffed sandwich; no mere toothpick would do. The sweet potato fries had excellent flavor and weren’t greasy. Neither were the potato pancakes for sandwiches — my Lone Ranger had brisket, Provolone cheese and delectable horseradish sauce. I’d actually prefer less meat and more sauce. The toasted goat cheese balls are great on certain salads.
Besides chicken noodle, a daily soup is offered. I hope my fantastic soup with large slices of grilled salmon becomes a regular. Specials might include Mexicali grilled shrimp salad with avocado, tomato, mixed greens and salsa vinaigrette. A praise-worthy entree is salmon topped with shrimp, including potatoes and vegetables. Start off with Cafe Style Calamari, including capers, onions, tomatoes and feta. Creative choices at breakfast include cream cheese-stuffed French toast. There’s also an eclectic brunch on weekends.
Maccabees at Midtown offers its customers valet parking Thursday through Saturday nights and is starting shuttle service to Downtown entertainment venues.
Meanwhile, the Gateway Deli name continues at two family-owned restaurants in Downtown Detroit (Ford Field and on Fort Street) and another on Big Beaver in Troy.
Maccabees at Midtown
5057 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48202
www.MaccabeesDetroit.com or visit Facebook page
$$½ out of $$$$$