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Clean Plate Club: Fountain Bistro

This article appeared in Real Detroit
Adam O'Connor -- May 2012

Campus Martius is a gorgeous gem nestled on the main drag of Woodward in downtown Detroit. The fountain that acts as the centerpiece for the area is a festive ornamentation, no matter what time of year, and has actually benefited not only the patrons of this fantastic edifice, but the petite bistro that's neatly tucked on its grounds.

Fountain Bistro is an intimate dining experience, focused on high-quality, French-influenced (and frickin' delicious) culinary offerings. The best part is that you either get to sit inside the establishment, gorging yourself on a bevy of great dishes and taking in the beautiful surroundings of Campus Martius and the gorgeous cityscapes that envelop it – or you can sit out on the patio and literally be part of the gorgeous backdrop yourself.

Jay Lambrecht, co-owner of the Bistro and the main man at Bookie's over in Foxtown, has a total goldmine on his hands – and he's well aware of it. Not only is the restaurant laid out perfectly on the interior, but if you're planning on sitting on the patio for your lunch or dinner (which they double in size, all the way out to the fountain, for weekends), you're in for a real treat. Great food and fantastic surroundings? In Detroit proper? This is precisely what we've been needing.

Before we delve into their fantastic food offerings, I would be totally remiss if I didn't mention the entertainment that Fountain Bistro offers weekly (as if the gorgeous surroundings weren't enough). They have live entertainment Thursdays through Sundays – happy hour entertainment on Thursdays, blues on Fridays, jazz on Saturdays and a fantastic musical accompaniment to your Sunday brunch (they have banjo and stand-up bass players that complement the bloody Mary bar and bottomless mimosa crowd like champs).

Fountain Bistro changes their menu up every couple months, depending on the season and availability of resources. The key word here being resources – something you'll notice right off the bat when you try the scrumptious lamb slider appetizer. You can literally taste the quality of the lamb – and they don't overdo it with sauces or toppings, either. The meat does the talking with this plate, and it's incredible.

While we're discussing meat, I definitely don't want to leave out their Certified Angus prime rib. An enormous and delicate hunk of meat is presented to you (I'll take mine medium-rare, Chef Eric, you're doing a lovely job) with a side of potatoes and green beans. You can't help but marvel at this incredible slice of beef, whether you're a carnivorous caveman like myself or not. And if you're not, they have the stepped-up staple of a tuna salad. Yellowfin, seared, comes nestled in a pocket of bibb lettuce, egg and a subtle house vinaigrette that will turn even non-salad folks to the green way of thinking.

Before you dive into any of these entrees, however, you have to try the Dijon mussels and frites. Sure, they fancy it up by using the French names, but this is something any red-blooded 'Merican can get behind. The mussels are bathing in a Dijon saffron sauce when brought to the table – a very subtle flavor that dresses up what can sometimes be a very mollusk-y taste. (Warning: you will use every last frite and sourdough slice that comes with this plate to sop up the dijon sauce – it's mind-blowing.)

The overall irony of a French bistro in the heart of the Motor City – and its subsequent success – shouldn't be lost on any of you, dear readers. As we know, the city was originally founded by the French (before we came along and bastardized the prononciation into "Dee-troyt" – but that's a different story altogether. Few establishments attempt to do what Lambrecht and company have been able to do – and even fewer have been able to successfully do it with the ease that Fountain Bistro found.

The ultimate symbolism of Fountain Bistro doesn't come in the fact that Lambrecht's great-grandfather worked just up the road at Kern's (you'll recognize the clock) years ago – a beautiful testament to the city that his great-grandson is doing his best to also provide the Motor City with a quality establishment – but moreso that the actual point of origin for the city of Detroit (the marker is built into the foot of the fountain) is just outside the doors of the bistro. Welcome back to Motown, folks.

All images and content courtesy Real Detroit.