23825 John R. Rd. Hazel Park, MI
Visited February 2017
2017 Restaurant of the Year – Detroit Free Press
A month ago we made reservations at Mabel Gray for a birthday dinner. As luck would have it, the day of our dinner Mabel Gray was named Restaurant of the Year by the Detroit Free Press. There was a buzz in the air.
This surprisingly small restaurant is a redo of an old diner – or partial redo. It still looks and feels like an old diner, outfitted with thrift store mismatched china and 1970’s vacation souvenir and 4th of July water glasses. I am not sure if the design intent was to be eclectic, campy, clever, or just cool. My impression was that it has a 70’s suburban recreation room vibe. It was packed with anxious patrons, including the Mayor of Detroit, ready to find out what the buzz is all about.
The staff was impressive – engaging, friendly, attentive, and described the details of the dishes as if they had prepared each themselves.
We started with a few shared plates. Duck Heart Yakitori, Root Vegetable Salad, Kabucha Squash, and Crispy Yukon Gold Potatoes. All were delicious, beautifully presented – with only one reserved review on the duck hearts…because they were duck hearts.
The entree courses ordered at the table included Fried Pork Belly Salad, the Lamb Chops and the House Gnocchi. The reviews of the Pork Belly and the Lamb Chops were very good, and the presentation was appealing – but I had the Gnocchi. It was the only disappointing dish of the evening. It was soupy, and extremely garlicky -too garlicky for my taste (and I like garlic). The plating /presentation also was not appealing at all, more like a diner dish from the building’s previous incarnation.
The desserts were all big hits – and we ordered one of each of the items from the dessert menu to share. The evenings selection included Heath Chocolate Cake, Goat Cheese Cheesecake and the Bananas Foster. All looked great, and all tasted great – a perfect end to the evening.
With the exception of my entree, the food was delicious. I do plan on returning for the Chef’s Tasting Menu. You do not know what you will be getting, but based on what we experienced, it promises to be inventive and interesting – I just hope there is no Gnocchi on the menu when I return.