There are many exciting restaurants popping up in the metro Detroit area and I just want to try them all. Despite what you might be hearing in the news about Detroit, it is alive and small business is thriving. Rock City Eatery isn’t exactly in Detroit, it’s in Hamtramck, an enclave surrounded completely by the city of Detroit. It is known for its large Polish community that began in 1914 when the Dodge brothers opened a plant that attracted Polish immigrants. You can find amazing traditional Polish food and Polish bakeries.
Rock City Eatery is a departure from what you would normally find in Hamtramck. It is the invention of Nikita Santches, a young entrepreneur and Russian immigrant that was drawn to Hamtramck’s eastern European roots. He started selling his unique Rock City Pies at The Rust Belt Market in Ferndale and quickly made a name for himself. The menu at Rock City Eatery is small, seasonal, and unique. We decided to give it a try with my brother and sister-in-law for my birthday and we are glad we did.
It isn’t very big, but that just adds to the charm. Vintage chairs and stools are pulled up to reclaimed wood tables made by a Rust Belt Market vendor. Portraits of Detroit rock n’ roll royalty line the plywood walls. It’s cozy and industrial at the same time. When we arrived around 9 pm, it was full, but nobody else was waiting. A small table had just opened up and Nik saw us waiting and headed to the basement for 2 extra chairs so we could have a seat and order a drink while we waited for a larger table to open up. Families and people of all ages sat around the tables and the atmosphere was a buzzing, welcoming vibe.
The cocktails are extremely reasonably priced, but they are the same caliber that you would find at any great restaurant. This unique cocktail was called Peace in the Middle East sweetened with date syrup and just a touch of rosewater. I never would have thought of this combination, but I loved it.
The metro Detroit area has a huge crop of barbecue places popping up after the success of Slow’s BBQ in Detroit and that means there is some serious mac and cheese competition going on. To make his mac and cheese different, Nik serves the creamy noodles in a crispy parmesan bowl. I was not expecting it to be as phenomenal as it was. It was perfectly creamy with a wonderful mix of cheeses and of course, the crispy cheese bowl takes it over the top. I like that the cheese flavor was not wimpy. I think it’s the best in the area right now.
Poutine is another dish that has been gaining popularity because of Michigan’s proximity to Canada. We ordered Rock City’s version which is a generous portion of crispy duck fat potatoes covered in duck confit gravy and cheese curds. I am not really a gravy person, but this gravy! So good!
Among the rich comfort food favorites, Rock City Eatery also includes some enticing vegetarian options. I could not resist these roasted heirloom carrots with pickled apples, hazelnuts, herbs, goat cheese and a honey-lime vinaigrette. It’s one of those things I could probably eat every day. The carrots were perfectly roasted and not mushy at all. All of the toppings worked together so well with crunch, acidity, creaminess, and overall deliciousness. I think we left a carrot or two behind because we were full at the end of the night, but I really should have taken those home for a snack.
Marc ordered the lamb sandwich with chermoula sauce, caramelized fennel, garlic spinach and goat cheese. I usually take a bite of what he orders, but I had been snacking on mac and cheese, poutine, and glazed carrots, with my main meal yet to come. Marc said he enjoyed it, though.
I ordered the Rock City burger with caramelized onions, pickles, gruyere, lettuce and tomato confit. I also added a fried egg because it was my birthday. Just kidding, I’d add the egg any day of the week. The bun looked unassuming, but it was excellent, too. It was perfectly cooked and the toppings added salty/sweet/acidic components that made it a perfect meal. I did not eat a single one of those duck fat potatoes that came with my burger. It kills me now.
We all loved our food. The freshness of the ingredients and the from-scratch cooking is very apparent in the quality of the food. If this place was nearby, I’d be there at least once a week for sure. I love restaurants that let the fresh ingredients shine through and Rock City Eatery does just that. It has only been open a few weeks, but I think it has a bright future ahead. They plan on adding brunch, yessss. I can’t wait to go back.