CHAMPCAR/CART: Kika's guide to dining in Detroit

The Rattlesnake Club, 300 River Place at Joseph Campau, Detroit; (313) 567-4400. JimmySchmidt, Detroit's best-known chef, offers seasonal, top-of-the-line fare in a sophisticated riverside setting. The menu changes frequently. Typifying its style...

The Rattlesnake Club, 300 River Place at Joseph Campau, Detroit; (313) 567-4400. JimmySchmidt, Detroit's best-known chef, offers seasonal, top-of-the-line fare in a sophisticated riverside setting. The menu changes frequently. Typifying its style is Lake Ontario perch, sauteed with citrus, capers, sweet peppers, and thyme. A superior wine list. L Mon-Fri, D Mon-Sat. $$$$$, AE, DC, DS, MC, V. H. RIVERTOWN. Drivers really like this place ..Incredible food, service and atmosphere. "....It's elegant "New York City" setting, culinary artistry and outstanding quality make The Rattlesnake Club a premier client and special events spot...." The Rattlesnake has an extensive wine list with prices from moderate to the sky. The wait staff are very knowledgeable about each wine. The Rattlesnake's main dining room is a large airy room with light oak toned tables and chairs. Don't forget to check out all the colorful paintings on the walls. You can also eat outside on the porch if you like. Zagat Survey "AWARD OF EXCELLENCE" Wine Spectator "RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR"

The Whitney, 4421 Woodward, Detroit; (313) 832-5700. A historic mansion with contemporary American cuisine that seasonally changes. Creative American dishes and desserts that could serve as doctoral dissertations at the University of Food. Sunday brunch is a good value (make reservations early). Valet parking. L Mon-Fri, D daily, BR Sun. $$$$$. (A). AE, DC, DS, MC, V. H. MIDTOWN Call it the "Whitney Experience". "....FOUR STARS...." Mobil Guide "AMERICA'S TOP TABLES" The Whitney is an elegant mansion/restaurant with lovely decor and architecture from the 18th and 19th Century. It is expensive and elegant The moment you open the huge front door you are in another world. The ceiling soars above your head. Carved wood surrounds you. Everywhere you look is something beautiful - a lamp, a staircase, a painting - the senses are humming. You are greeted by very friendly personnel and are led to your table through the magnificient David Whitney Mansion. The fabulous dining rooms are all individually decorated. The service is wonderful and never stuffy.. You have got to go to the Whitney.. This place is unbelievable, this is DINING OUT!!! http://www.thewhitney.com

The Lark,(Best of the City by DigitalCity) 6430 Farmington Road, West Bloomfield; (248) 661-4466. Constantly changing Continental menu, in a tiny room modeled after a Portuguese inn. Imaginative dining in an operation lovingly tended by owner Jim Lark, who roams the world looking for new recipes and ideas on presentation. {1{Prix fixe}1} menu, extraordinary wine list. Named one of the top restaurants in the nation by {1{Conde Nast Traveler}1}. Tuesday-Thursday 6 to 8:15 pm, Friday and Saturday seatings at 6 {1{or}1} 9 pm. Reservations, which are mandatory, should be made as far in advance as possible. (The Lark is not amused when they are not kept.) Jackets for men DTue-Sat. $$$$$. AE, DC, MC, V. H. OAKLAND, SOUTHWEST

Opus One,(Best of the City by DigitalCity) 565 E. Larned, Detroit; (313) 961-7766. From start to finish, this award-winning showpiece dazzles. Consider a melange of the sea's bounty cascading over angel hair pasta, from a crisp filo vase; or the signature dessert - Michigan Apple Harvest Flan, served warm with cinnamon ice cream and Opus caramel sauce. The luxurious style of this dressy spot fits its meticulously prepared food and correct service. Chef Tim Giznsky offers what the house calls American cuisine with a Continental flair. Read: Fancy food. Everyone feels like a VIP here. L Mon-Fri, D Mon-Sat. $$$$$. AE, CB, DC, DS, MC, V. H. DOWNTOWN - http://www.opus-one.com

Fishbone's Rhythm Kitchen Cafe, 400 Monroe, corner of Monroe & Brush; (313) 965-4600.Greektown's only Cajun restaurant has chicken and sausage sauce piquant; whiskey ribs; tender smoked Cajun salmon, oysters, peel-and-eat shrimp and mussels. B, L & D daily. $$$. AE, DC,DS, MC, V. H. GREEKTOWN .Noisy, fun and often packed-out Cajun joint.Yes, I know that everyone in the world has been to Fishbone's,. First, the place is huge and usually crowded. On the weekends it is very crowded and they don't take reservations. There is a fun, joyful feel to the whole place and when they have music it is truly great. It really is a great place to go for a drink with friends - and we can say it is also a great place to eat. The menu is quite large, covering a wide range of appetizers and entrees - not all fish either. Now, the main theme is fish but the Whiskey Ribs are outstanding. The service is friendly but sometimes a bit slow. But always professional. Prices range from around $12.00 to $24.00 for an entree. By the way, you can dress from casual to tres chic and feel right at home and be treated just fine.

The Rhinoceros Club, 265 Riopelle, Detroit; (313) 259-2208. The signature piled-high burger features avocado, salsa, cheddar and sour cream. "For two" dinners include rack of lamb and catfish. Music nightly. L Fri, D daily, Jazz BR Sun. $$$$$. AE, CB, DC, DS, V. RIVERTOWN. An intimate restaurant/bar in the warehouse district, moments from downtown. Great place for a drink or a late dinner, with such offerings as customized burgers and fresh catfish. Often a pianist and singer. Monday and Saturday 5 pm to 2 am, Tuesday-Friday and Sunday brunch 11 am to 2 am. Kitchen closes at 12:30 am daily

Roma Cafe, 3401 Riopelle, Detroit; (313) 831-5940. A huge range of Italian favorites at this venerable ristorante, though the pastas may be best. Downtown in the Eastern Market area, the oldest restaurant in the city. Operated by the Sossi family for 75 years. First-rate veal and pasta dishes. Open Monday-Friday 11 am to 10:30 pm (seated by 10:15), Saturday 11 am to midnight (seated by 11:45). Reservations suggested L & D Mon-Sat. $$$. AE, DC, MC, V. H. DOWNTOWN

Il Centro, 670 Lothrop, Detroit; (313) 872-5110. Award-winning chef Joseph Beato and brother John's Southern Italian menu offers sauces with gusto, pastas with personality and splendid house salads. A comfortable place for a long lunch. L Mon-Fri, D Tue-Sun.(not in summer monthes.) $$$-$$$$. AE, DC,MC, V. H. MIDTOWN. . It is an old house turned restaurant and the ambiance is great. Downstairs are striped drapes hanging among the old woodwork, along with a buffet with a giant urn of olive oil and loaves of bread.. We have always felt incredibly comfortable here - from the little bar off the main room to the upstairs - it all just clicks. Service is always good and genuinely friendly . Il Centro greets you with a plate of truly mouthwatering Pomadori with olive oil to dip their exquisite Foccacio Bread in. I am in heaven already! The wine list is decent, with a nice mix of American, Italian and French offerings.. In the little bar you can get some weird stuff like a traditional Italian digestive made from artichokes. We tried this one night - it is an acquired taste. The Linguine with Clams, Fresh Tomatoes and Onions is out of this world. Il Centro makes incredibly good Ravioli, the meat stuffed have some veal in them, and they're heavenly. The cheese are a mix of cheeses and are served with a duet of sauces--Alfredo and Marinara.. I am not going to go on, and on, about specific dishes here. This place is good. Just go and try the bread and the sauce. Have the house Antipasto, sample the Ravioli, and leave room for the deserts - which will make you weep... Tiramisu, Raspberry Bash, and the Peanut Butter Cake, or whatever it is that tastes so good. You won't regret this place.

Vince's Italian Restaurant, 1341 Springwells, Detroit; (313) 842-4857. The pasta is handmade; the pizzas are swell; angel hair is a dream. My first stop in Detroit, from the Airport I will go to Vince's. My first time at Vince's was with Mr&Mrs.Walter Czarnecki and I guess for the last 4-5 years - I always stop by. The whole Italian family works at the restaurant, the greatgrandmother died since last race, we will miss her. The youngest son is a great PR, he stops at every table, talks to everybody. They all come to the race on Sunday. Warm, homey atmosphere. L Tue-Fri, D Tue-Sun. $$$. AE, MC, V. H. WEST SIDE DETROIT. Ask for directions, kind of hard to find.

Intermezzo, 1435 Randolph, Detroit; (313) 961-0707. This Italian eatery features downtown's coolest bar. On viewing and entering the glittering Intermezzo you'll feel as if, fantastically, you have been dropped into New York's SoHo district for an evening of good food and terrific people watching. Live entertainment.Of special note: The minestra (thick cabbage soup with potatoes and onions in veal stock) and the towering tiramisu. L Mon.-Fri., D Tues.-Sat. $$$. AE, DC, DS, MC, T, V. H. DOWNTOWN

Capital Grille ( Review by Gayot: Best Steak) 2800 W. Big Beaver Rd. Troy MI, 48084 - Phone: 248-649-5300. There's an East Coast clubby feel to this steak restaurant inside the Somerset Collection North. Expert service and the rich decor make this an outstanding power lunch or special-occasion location. On a busy after-work eve, it can get quite noisy in the richly paneled bar as chatty, well-dressed suburban blondes and cigar-smoking wheelers knock back martinis and glasses of Chardonnay. In the dining area, large gilt-framed portraits of Michigan manufacturing and political legends---lots of Fords, plus one Romney---ring the room. With all the deference paid to testosterone, no wonder the cuisine centers around steaks and chops. Patrons have what might be considered a limited menu---only 14 entrees. The dry-aged steak au poivre with a Courvoisier cream sauce draws raves, but the seafood---salmon or swordfish---is superb, too. After a filling meal, patrons can take a stroll through the swanky mall.

Tres Vite, 2203 Woodward, in the Fox Theatre Building, Detroit; (313) 964-4144. The combination of well-preserved old and highly contemporary new makes this one of the moste ye-appealing restaurants in downtown Detroit. The Mediterranean menu includes lemon-pepper fettucine with chicken and wild mushrooms, and shrimp scampi over tricolored linguine. L Mon-Fri, D Thur-Sat. $$-$$$$. AE, MC, V. H. DOWNTOWN

Tribute, 31425 W. 12 Mile Road, Farmington Hills; (248) 848-1313. The food is classically French-cum-New-American with Asian accents. Perfectly attentive service in a lush, hip setting. D Tue-Sat. $$$$$. AE, DC, DS, MC, V. H. OAKLAND, SOUTHWEST The minuscule sign is barely readable from the street: Tribute. But it is sufficient. This outwardly understated restaurant near the southwest corner of Orchard Lake and 12 Mile roads is not about impulse dining. Pull into the parking lot and you begin to get the picture. Valet-only; a line of shiny Mercedes. Big money. Indeed. Estimated to have cost around $2 million, this is a tribute to wealth and the multitudinous ways there are to spend it. Walk through a corridor past a gorgeous glass-enclosed, climate-controlled wine cellar that holds good, fine and even rare vintages costing up to $625 a bottle. If you want to spend more, maitre d' and general manager Mickey Bakst, late of northern Michigan's Tapawingo, can find what you desire. Then there's the dining room, something akin to a theater, with tall, sweeping, arched ceilings; triangular skylights; curvy banquettes; custom stained-glass lighting; gleaming, dark wood floors and a back wall studded with sapphire blue fixtures that look like the top of a jewelry box. Tribute -- designed by Birmingham architect Victor Saroki -- is drop-dead dazzling. So is the food, each plate a multisensory work of art arranged personally by hotshot executive chef Takashi Yagihashi, 38, trained in classic French cooking and imported from Chicago's Ambria restaurant. It's pricey, too, comparable to Van Dyke Place, the Whitney and the Lark. The rich, roasted foie gras, for example, is a smoky, silky couple of bites, garnished with caramelized mango and julienne of crispy Japanese pear with a citrus glaze. It's $19. A tasting of seven kinds of caviar, Beluga included, is $58. ATMOSPHERE: Glamorous, sophisticated, elegant surroundings; proper attire recommended. The booths offer wonderful privacy. SERVICE: Impeccable, attentive and friendly. You may shell out $75 or $80 per person, sans tax and tip, for the Tribute experience, but, trust me: This is money very well spent.

Van Dyke Place, 649 Van Dyke, Detroit; (313) 821-2620. For the sensuous VDP, in an opulent, turn-of-thecentury Parisian townhouse, remains one of Detroit's finest. Chef Keith Supian sees to it by serving modish haute cuisine such as butter-rich North Atlantic salmon whiffed with fried basil; baked paillard of chicken with fig, apricot, currant and pineapple stuffing; blood-rare filet mignon swathed with Stilton cognac butter and sided with foie gras. The setting is in keeping, with miles of silk moire and velvet, intricate hand-tooled plasterwork, Watteau and Fragonard-ish paintings. A classic. D Tue-Sat. $$$$$. AE, DC, MC, V. EAST SIDE DETROIT. People talk about this place, I didn't try yet.

Andiamo Trattoria (Digital City Pick: Most Romantic Restaurant) 2930 Mack Ave. Grosse Pointe Woods MI, 48236 Phone 313-886-9933. Reminiscent of a home-style restaurant in Italy, this friendly trattoria is just right for casual, family dinning, complete with checkered tablecloths. Featuring a real brick pizza oven and big portions. Although there are a few too many tables packed into the dining room to make Andiamo's feel like a romantic spot, the ambience certainly is conducive to whispered sweet-nothings and celebratory toasts. Strolling musicians enliven the atmosphere, which is already awash in regal purples and bright yellows. Huge sunflower arrangements brighten every corner. Joe Vicari's Andiamo empire boasts six locations, each of which has a similar menu. Osso buco is rich, buttery and fork-tender. Satisfy your garlic cravings with a pasta dish such as farfalle with chicken, mushrooms, cannellini beans, spinach and tomatoes. The fresh caprese features slices of imported mozzarella and tomato dressed with the perfect blending of olive oil and basil. We suggest you allow time for a leisurely, five-course meal here, just as you would at a similar gathering place in Italy. Individual pasta servings could feed a family! Gnocchi is the best - try the palomino sauce. Can't go wrong with the veal. Worth the money, http://andiamoitalia.com

Emily's Restaurant ( Digital City Pick: Most Romantic Restaurant) 505 N. Center Street Northville MI, 48167 Phone: 248-349-0505 French Inspired Mediterranean Cuisine is the name of the game at this romantic establishment situated in a house built in the late 1800's. Guests can expect a great wine list and a four-course dinner every Saturday. Reservations are recommended. http://www.emilysrestaurant.com

Nami Sushi Bar ( Review by Gayot: Best Sushi ) 201 W. Nine Mile Rd.Ferndale MI, 48220 Phone: 248-542-6458. Billed as Ferndale's "alternative" sushi bar, Nami---which means wave---offers tempting cuts of fresh fish, steaming hot bowls of soup or California rolls filled with such delights as spicy tuna or pesto. The place is rather spare, and sometimes the alternative rock station on the radio gets loud---who knows what will change when the whole operation moves to a bigger location across the street soon? The two or three sushi chefs are chatty, so sit up at the bar and watch them prepare the food. More unusual items on the menu include hot atomic rolls with habañero chile peppers and the delicious dessert sushi made with small bites of lemon squares, pecan chocolate chunks and coconut walnut chips

The Michigan Star Clipper Dinner Train A beautiful moving train journeys you and your companions into a three-hour evening enhanced by five full portioned cuisine courses, murder mystery and musical cabaret professionals entertain table-side during your dining experience. Exterior mounted lights highlight passing views. Reservations required year round. Considered the leading dinner train in the USA. Three diamond AAA national. Trains leave from Walled Lake, most easily reached from downtown by taking the Lodge Freeway (U.S. 10) and Northwestern Highway (its continuation) to Orchard Lake Road, right 1 mi/1.6 km to Maple, then left to Pontiac Trail. The terminal is just to the right. Tours depart Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday at 7 pm, Friday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 5 pm. Cost is $68.50 a person for a five-course meal and entertainment. 840 North Pontiac Trail, (810) 960-9440. http://www.michiganstarclipper.com

La Fondue - 111 S. Main St. - Royal Oak, MI 48067 - Tel #: (248) 399-1440 A unique dining experience with at-table cooking. Guests enjoy a relaxing meal while socializing in private booths in a casual atmosphere. Specialties include an imported Swiss cheese fondue and broth, or soybean-oil fondues including beef tenderloin, chicken, seafood and vegetables. Open during the day for private parties. Mon.-Thurs. 5-10p.m.; Fri. & Sat. 5-11p.m.; Sun. 4-9p.m.

Benihana - 18601 Hubbard Drive - Dearborn, MI 48126 - Tel #: (313) 593-3200 The original Japanese Steak House, where there is always a reason to go to Benihana. Located next door to the Ritz Carlton Hotel. Locations also in troy (248-649-6340) and Northville (248-348-7900). Now offering Sushi bars at all locations.

Giovanni's Ristorante, 330 S. Oakwood, Detroit; (313) 841-0122. A fire nearly put the kibosh on one of Detroit's greatest restaurant institutions, but happily, Gio's is back and as four-fork wonderful as always. Sure, there are the trademark melt-in-your-mouth homemade pastas -- do not miss angel-hair pomodori or heart-stopping spinach gnocchi. But what co-chefs Anthony Polito and Joseph Bushnell do with nightly specials is extraordinary. Portobellos with luxurious roasted garlic cream sauce; six manly grilled lamb chops on a sauce of sun-dried tomatoes, leeks and chianti; plump pink shrimp tossed with hot banana peppers, garlic and tomato. And there is the Perle Mesta charisma of its owner, Frances Cannarsa Truant and her gracious son, Randy.

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