At what some consider to be the physical epicenter of downtown Detroit, lies Central Kitchen + Bar, mere steps away from Campus Martius Park and Detroit’s precise point of origin from which her famous “Mile Roads” begin. How appropriate then to find that within the walls of Central Kitchen + Bar, it feels as if you can sense a lively pulse of the city.
Upon visiting this inviting restaurant, one need not look far to notice patrons collaborating and conversing over the buzz of collective chatter. Music plays overhead, reverberating across the antique-style tin ceiling tiles. The wait staff pours throughout the space, delivering an assortment of fare from Calamari and Ahi Tuna Crudo to Pickled Beet Salad and Fish Tacos – all prepared by Executive Chef Christina Stanco. The bar staff expertly mixes cocktails like “The Cat’s Meow,” featuring Two James Old Cockney Gin, rosemary simple, lemon and honey infused jasmine green tea. The breeze from the outdoor patio gently wanders in as do the city sounds of live music, foot traffic and the clamor of vehicles.
This charming symphony of downtown life creates an atmosphere of laid-back comfort as guests worry less about maintaining a rigid decorum and more about simply having fun.
Owner Dennis Archer Jr. prides himself on this. When Central Bar + Kitchen opened just over two years ago, Archer’s goal for the atmosphere was to be two things: approachable and welcoming. He wanted to have a place where others could dine and converse without having to whisper. A place that was lively and fun. A place where patrons could walk in wearing a business suit or a ball cap and feel equally at home. “What we sought out to be, I think we have become,” said Archer.
Yes, Central Kitchen + Bar does offer a window into the cross-section of downtown Detroit’s present day. But also interesting is the history from which Central Kitchen + Bar got its name. Located across the street from Cadillac Square, the outdoor patio looks over the previous site of Detroit’s historic Central Market where, in the late 1800s, vendors sold goods such as furs and produce within. The building, which was torn down in 1889, overlooked what still remains – a site that continues to draw people from Detroit and beyond into the city center.
Today, the area hosts the musical and cultural events of Campus Martius and Cadillac Square. Events like the annual Detroit Jazz Festival – the largest free jazz festival in the world; The Food & Wine Experience involving culinary experts from Detroit and across the country; and the Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony where the city is set aglow with the start of the holiday season.
So what does Archer suggest as the perfect food pairing to watch these activities taking place right outside Central Kitchen + Bar’s doors? Two words: Steak Frites. The tenderness of the Creekstone Prime Filet, paired with what Archer considers the perfect French fries, along with the gently braised shallots and the savory red wine au jus, all make for the perfect dish.
But no matter which mouth-watering menu item you select, sitting down to enjoy a meal or a conversation at Central Kitchen + Bar will place you in the midst of more than just a dining experience. Because, although the view from the site of Central Bar + Kitchen has changed over the years, the recipe remains the same: the day-to-day of the people of Detroit; the pulse that drives the motor city.