|Brownies on the Lake. Photo by Nicole Rupersburg.|
"Hey look, we're located right on the water, our food sucks but no one cares!" is what almost every waterfront restaurant in metro Detroit has said ever. And admittedly, this list was a little difficult to put together because, well, ^that. But then again, the food is sort of secondary isn't it? Or is it? These places have spec-freaking-tacular waterfront views - and not like, "oh I can see the water from here*" but "my feet are practically dangling in the water from here" - and, refreshingly, they also put some thought into the food so you can have your waterfront restaurant and eat there too. (And it should go without saying that these places tend to be pretty seafood-centric.)
#1 The Rattlesnake Club (Detroit)
I mean, come on.
It's a Matter of Taste (Commerce Twp.)
Amazing. A. Maze. Ing. The place has that European-villa-as-imagined-by-a-Midwesterner look to it but it has precisely that kind of charm too, and the deck! The deck!!! A massive stone deck overhanging Union Lake with an expansive, unspoiled view of the water lit up with old-fashioned gas lamps at night ... they may be "going for" that sort of vibe in a toeing-the-line-of-gimmicky sort of way, but by golly they also nail it. That big, beautiful deck is a sanctuary, and the food doesn't suck. The menu is heavy on steak, seafood and Italianate items and hasn't changed much in the seven or so years since I first discovered the place, but the scallops never did me wrong and I've never met a pork osso buco I didn't like.
#3 Detroit Yacht Club (Belle Isle)
First, become friends with someone who has a membership at the Detroit Yacht Club. Then, go there and go there often. I've been there bunches of times as a glommer-on to someone else's status and as a guest of private events and I will say, I couldn't tell you a thing about the food because every time I've been there I have achieved a distinctive state of being wholly unsober but holy FUN CITY. Belle Isle is rad; Belle Isle at a private club with a massive deck right on the Detroit River is, like, mind-blowing. They serve seafood? Or something? Idk.
#4 Marine City Fish Company (Marine City)
Tucked away in tiny Marine City (Take I-94 to 26 Mile Rd. Turn right. Stay on 26 Mile Rd. until it ends. Turn right.), Marine City Fish Company does what any riverside seafood restaurant should do: really fantastic fresh local fish. They also have a smoker in-house in which they smoke their own ribs, salmon and beef jerky (you can also buy the smoked salmon and jerky to take home). Homemade breads, soups (like the Company Chowder) and hand-breaded all-you-can-eat perch are just a few of the many things that make this place truly a hidden gem. So much so it was worth busting out the "hidden gem" meme. (*Note: Okay, so this is the one exception. The restaurant isn't situated quite exactly ON the river but across the street from it ... still, it was worth including here for the food alone and you can always go walk along the river after your meal.)
#5 River Crab (St. Clair)
It's one of those old fuddy-duddy Joe Muer joints with an old fuddy-duddy seafood and steak menu that more or less echoes the new Joe Muer downtown just without all of the buzz and newfangled fancy decor, but the sprawling riverside patio is phenom and so is the salmon pate.
Bubbling under Sinbad's Restaurant (Detroit), Bobby Mac's Bayside Tavern and Grill (Ira), Captain's Landing (Mt. Clemens), Portofino Restaurant (Wyandotte), Beach Grill (St. Clair Shores), the Quay Street Brewing Co. and Restaurant (Port Huron), Mike's on the Water (St. Clair Shores), Brownies on the Lake (St. Clair Shores), McRae's Big River Grille (Algonac)