NEW AMERICAN CUISINE HAS LANDED IN MIDTOWN
TEXT / PHOTOGRAPHY BY STEFAN JERMANN
A NEW TYPE OF CUISINE HAS TOUCHED DOWN IN DETROIT AND LOCALS ARE MAKING THEIR WAY TO THE INTERSECTION OF SECOND AND SELDEN STREET IN MIDTOWN TO SEE WHAT’S COOKING. SELDEN STANDARD IS A RESTAURANT THAT WOULDN’T LOOK OUT OF PLACE IN NEW YORK’S SOHO OR BARCELONA IF YOU WERE PLANNING A HIP DINNER OUT. INSTEAD, HUNGRY DETROITERS ARE THE WINNER HERE, WITH EXECUTIVE CHEF AND CO-FOUNDER ANDY HOLLYDAY SERVING UP TOP NOTCH “NEW AMERICAN” CUISINE.
Located in a graffiti-scarred building that once was a dry-cleaner, the exterior has been finished in natural wood planks and dark grey brick, while the interior is minimalist but warm with lots of cedar in the dining room and bar. Hollyday wanted a place with “a neighborhood vibe, where anyone could walk in and it would feel very warm." He and co-founder Evan Hansen decided on rustic, seasonal dishes with portions that are unusually small for American standards but which rely on quality ingredients from local farms. The idea is to offer a shared-plates menu that permits patrons to order several things for the table and taste a variety of dishes ranging from vegetable carpaccio to ricotta gnocchi.
Paying a visit to Hollyday in the kitchen is, of course, a visual treat for a photographer. I record each dish he works on before having a sample of it. First, there’s a roasted carrot and sorrel salad with a shot of crème fraîche and hazelnut crumble – the sauce is a secret but adds an amazing freshness to it and the salad looks like it has been picked just hours ago.
Meanwhile, Hollyday keeps tabs on the glowing embers in the wood-fired grill and an assistant chef adds a log of Michigan hardwood to the flames, while hanger steaks, duck sausages and whole trout await their turn on the grill. There are handmade pastas – chitarra prepared with squid ink or celery root agnolotti – freshly baked breads by the in-house pastry chef and every last garlic clove is peeled by hand.
Up until its opening last year, the Midtown food scene was awash in new pizza, BBQ and even tapas joints so there were some doubts about a sophisticated farm-to-table eatery joining the fray. But Selden Standard quickly won over hearts – and, stomachs – with its approach to food. It quickly vaulted to the top of people’s favorites list and this year the Detroit Free Press newspaper declared it the city’s top restaurant.
But back to the menu. I snap a few shots of smoked lamb ribs with yoghurt, pesto and dill before having a nibble. A very simple dish at base, but the meat and the few ingredients make this a highlight. Then there’s the wine selection, which is small but well sourced. To start, I am recommended a glass of rosé from Clos Cibonne in Provence and a Kerner from Italy’s South Tyrol. The reds range from a Durand Saint-Joseph from Lyon region to a hard-to-find Swiss wine from the Valais region, the grape being a cross of Mayolet and Petit-Rouge. At the bar, I’m tempted by rare single malts such as a Säntis Single Malt from Appenzell, Switzerland or a Nikka, the Japanese answer to Scottish single malt whisky. After indulging in my fair share of sips and bites of Hollyday’s amassed arsenal of goodies it becomes clear to me that Midtowners, foodies and the general population of Detroit have a culinary gem on their hands. In short, Selden Standard has become the new standard by which to grade all Detroit restaurants.