Turning up Second avenue from Selden, which has recently become a two-way street, vehicles parked tightly on either side of the road were shepherded by a security car in the middle lane with its orange beacon light rotating slowly. It’s a welcome measure for the patrons of Selden Standard, a chic new snap-casual restaurant serving “rustic, fun new american small plates” (according their website) in a former dry cleaner building on the otherwise desolate corner. Though by the numbers Midtown is booming, this corner seems to be on the fringe of the hubbub, with the Detroit stalwart Honest? John’s as one of the few neighbors.
Inside the atmosphere is warm, but refined. Light seems to spill out of the bright white tiled kitchen where the cooks are visible meticulously plating dishes for the servers. The darker dining area is both modern and cozy with versatile seating, and is filled with a soothing forest green light quality. A wood fired oven is visible from the elegant, simple bar. Cedar planks accent the ceiling and walls, and vintage tubular glass bulbs hang vertically from the ceiling. If it seems familiar to you, that’s because it is designed by the et al. collaborative, based out of Detroit and New York, also responsible for the design of Slows To Go, Astro Coffee, and the Red Bull House of Art.
During our wait (which was shorter than expected) we perused the menu of craft cocktails, specialty beers on draft and in the bottle, rare whiskeys, and artisan wines. The bar service was expedient for the variety of depth and offering. An impressive display of bottles decorates the back wall.
The transformation of the space is remarkable, and we put together a split view of today and what Selden Standard used to be.
Looking around while sipping a Stillwater “As Follows” Ale and my compatriot a “Not Another Word” rye-based house cocktail, we saw other local restaurant purveyors wafting wine into their noses, university students out for some quality time with their parents, and professorial types discussing an upcoming conference. Smartly dressed men sipped old-fashioneds at the bar. A building engineer finished his last few bites and washed it down with a beer. Lawyers coming off a long workday smiled as a whole grilled trout with a side of fingerlings arrived at their table.
Once seated it was explained that the menu is seasonal, fresh, and local when possible. Our waitress was familiar with the options and guided us toward the Fritto Misto to start, part of the ‘Vegetables and Such’ section of the menu. The fresh vegetables were fried in a light buttermilk batter which we dipped finger-food style into the herb aioli. The dish was an adequate size for two to nibble, but really was just enough to whet our appetite. Dishes are served up small plates style, designed to share, in succession.
Next up the duck sausage was rich, house made and kicked up a notch with thai spices. The plummy persimmon slices cut the flavor of the sausage, while the shredded brussell sprout salad and fried shallots acted more as a garnish to the dish.
The steak frites was the best thing we ordered by far. The hanger steak, cooked perfectly medium on the wood-fired grill had a tender inside with a crisp exterior, topped with sautéed shallot butter and served with a warm pile of arugula and fresh-cut steak fries.
For dessert, we doubled down, first with the caramel apple sundae, which was apple sorbet drizzled with cider caramel sauce and topped with cinnamon donut crumble.
If you are chocolate lover, I highly recommend the Mocha Truffle Torte which is an oval of dense chocolate truffle with mocha brittle next to an egg of chocolate sorbet. The smear of creme fraiche nicely complementing the richness of the torte.
The price tag on the meal, including three drinks each, was just under $110.00. Definitely worth it, but also keep in mind these are not big portions and not a place where you would go to just “grab something,” as dining in is a process and it is not the kind of food that would travel well as carry out. Selden Standard ups the ante in its focus on seasonal taste, presentation, ambiance, and service. It’s a great place for a date, catching up with a group of old friends in style, or any other occasion that requires a sophisticated atmosphere or subdued panache.
A weekday lunch has just been announced with its own menu.
You’ll find Selden Standard at 3921 Second Ave in Detroit and on the web at SeldenStandard.com.