Green Dot Stables is almost the perfect metaphor for Detroit.
At least the Detroit of our dreams. The new Detroit of artists and entrepreneurs, not the old Detroit of population exodus and 911 calls that go unanswered.
The Green Dot is an old restaurant on W. Lafayette and 14th Street. It has, of all things, a harness racing theme, and there is a statue on the roof of a golden horse. Thirty years ago, it was a hangout for race fans, Teamsters’ brass and Red Wing players and officials at a time when the Red Wings were one of the worst teams in sports. Over the years it devolved further into a worn-out joint with tired food.
The Green Dot today? Total renaissance.
Set amid boarded-up buildings and lush green space on the western edge of downtown, the Green Dot’s surroundings are very Old Detroit. But walk through the door and you enter a bustling diner with polished wood floors that is filled with people eating gourmet sliders and pear-and-basil sorbet. And virtually everything on the menu is only $2 or $3, meaning lunch for two, with tip, is around $21.
It’s filling. It’s delicious. It’s intriguing.
The reborn Green Dot is the brainchild of owner Jacques
Driscoll and chef Les Molnar, both of whom are very New Detroit. They moved back to the city after living elsewhere, attracted by the possibilities and cheap prices.
Their sliders are extremely inventive. There are 18 choices, and they range from Korean (beef patty, peanut butter, kimchi) to lamb (with rosemary hummus and pickles) to Au Poivre (beef, peppercorns, cognac, aioli).
The French fries, very thin, come in seven flavors, including truffle and herb, venison chili and Poutine, the Quebec “delicacy” of gravy and cheese curd. You can get a salad of cucumbers – with crème fraiche -- or one of fingerling potatoes with sundried tomatoes and capers.
Soups today were chicken paprikash, mushroom broth and almond and roasted garlic.
For desert, there are smores, cheesecake and the aforementioned sorbet, which tasted like springtime, even though I couldn’t detect any basil.
The crowd felt almost as interesting as the food. It was relatively diverse, with a smattering of hipsters, and nary a Teamster-looking person in sight. Bicycles were parked outside in the bike rack that is shaped like a thoroughbred; one was an old-school Schwinn Varsity, a hipster tipoff if there ever was one.
“How’s your blood sausage?” one diner asked a waitress. I don’t think I’ve heard that tableside question before.
The ingredients are fresh -- even the sorbet is locally made. The ambience is energetic. The cleanliness of the men’s restroom will remind you of mom’s house.
The new Green Dot screams simplicity, cleverness and creativity. It’s not going to solve poverty or cut down on crime, but if the vibe of the new Green Dot could be replicated at multiple levels across the city, we’d spend less time searching for metaphors for the New Detroit.
And then we can just eat sliders.