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Not All Chains are Created Equal…

If you know me well, you know that I much prefer a nice local restaurant over a chain any day.  There are, however, a few chains that I will seek out.  For Lori and I, the Chart House has always been one of those.  After this visit to Detroit, I’ll add another to that list – The Capital Grille.


Food is special – a great meal experience can evoke a sense of place or trigger memories.  Last night was one of those.  I end up eating at a lot of restaurants alone because of how much I travel on business.  I’ve gotten used to going in, ordering quickly, eating quickly and moving on.  Yesterday, our meetings ended a bit earlier than planned and my flight home was early Thursday morning.  I stopped at the Somerset Mall in Troy to walk around out of the heat wave that reached even Detroit.  After walking, it was about 5:30 so I looked at the restaurants and decided to try the Capital Grille on the first floor.  I had eaten at the one in Washington on a previous trip and it was good – however, this visit blew the DC visit out of the water.

What intrigued me and drew me in was a summer wine tasting offering with dinner (The Generous Pour Summer Wine Event).  Their sommelier had chosen nine wines to match with the varied menu.  I had an absolutely fantastic waiter in Steve.  The menu had too many great choices and a diver scallop special as well.  Steve asked me the two or three I was considering, so I named off all five.  He immediately suggested the lamb chops (when he told me it was four double bone chops, I was close to sold), but I was really being drawn to the Steak au Poivre.  After all, I had experienced that dish in Paris on our vacation two years ago and hadn’t eaten an excellent version of that since (I’m trying to forget the bad one I had at a non-chain local restaurant……).  I also love lamb and eat that out when I can, so I had a REAL dilemma.  So, Steve came to the rescue and suggested that they do the Lamb Chops in the au Poivre style – I was sold.  My one complaint is that this restaurant is one of those that have all the sides separate – and they are too big for one.  Steve offered a half order of Asparagus with Hollandaise to go with the lamb.

A server brought out a bread basket with a variety and Steve started to bring out the tastes of the wine starting with a sparkling white from the Loire Valley of France.  I ate way more of the bread than I am supposed to and enjoyed the whites and first several tastes of reds before the meal came.  The restaurant hired good people and trained them well.  Steve was able to describe each of the wines and compare to other wines on their list that I knew (and they had a REALLY good wine list!).


Lamb Au Poivre at the Capital Grille

Here’s where it got even better!  The lamb was cooked perfectly, the au Poivre sauce was as good as any in Paris and the last three tastes of the reds matched anything I had in France.  So here I am, sitting in a restaurant north of Detroit reminiscing of travel to France, transported in my mind back to Paris.  The Asparagus were perfectly cooked (at least the way I like them) with some crunch still left.  The Hollandaise sauce was also perfect – which is a challenge to keep it from breaking.  As I left, I was one very happy and full.

So, even though this was a chain, it felt like a small local owned restaurant – sometimes they do get the magic just right!


About Capital Grille:  Steve asked if I had been there before and I told him that it was my first time in Detroit, but I had eaten at the original in Washington DC.  He told me that many people think that, but the original Capital Grille was opened in Providence, Rhode Island.  The DC restaurant was the fourth one and the Detroit restaurant was the fifth.  I looked up the history on the restaurant and found that Edward “Ned” Grace opened the restaurant in 1989 in Providence, at a time when downtown Providence was run down and the recession of the late 80’s was in full swing.  He already had a more casual set of restaurants (Bugaboo Steak House) and wanted to do something upscale.  In 2007, Darden Restaurants acquired his company.  The closest one to Huntsville is in Atlanta.  However, if you ever have to go to Detroit, I highly recommend visiting.  The Somerset mall is on West Big Beaver Road just off of I-75.  When I’m back up visiting the Army facility, I’ll be back to the Capital Grille.

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