In the heart of downtown Detroit, if you're looking for a place to gather with other fans and cheer on your favorite team, skip the stadiums and arenas and head to Hockeytown Cafe instead! The lively eatery, which draws fans to enjoy games broadcast on the smattering of flat-screen TVs, offers the expected crowd-pleasers like wings (dubbed, of course, "Red Wings"), nachos, and loaded potato skins.
But they also aren't shy about offering bold flavors. Take their burgers: You'll find basic offerings, along with a double black bean burger or even the Michigan Cherry Burger, topped with Traverse City's bumper crop.
Crumbs asked Hockeytown Cafe's head chef, Tony Polito, what makes the eatery unique. "We get this question a lot," he said. "What I think stands us apart is that we are open and available for business nearly 365 days a year. When most other downtown spots are closed, we are open and ready for business.
"Another aspect is that although most people consider us just a 'bar' with good food, we go way above and beyond that with our private parties and banquet menus."
Here's more about Chef Polito's personal cooking style. And if you'd like to make a Hockeytown Cafe favorite at home, try the spinach artichoke dip just below the interview!
What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?
I would have to say that the three ingredients I always have on hand are extra virgin olive oil, coarse sea salt and fresh herbs. You can do make almost anything better with them.
Your favorite meal to make or serve?
My favorite meal on our menu is either the mile-high Michigan Cherry Burger or our St. Louis-style ribs. Both are outstanding. If I'm at home, my favorite meals are always the ones we make that our family (including the kids) helps out with. We are a food family, and nothing brings people together like great food.
We all have a favorite indulgence; for a chef like you it must be something spectacular?
My indulgence food would have to be chocolate! I make a flourless chocolate cake with chocolate ganache, fresh berries, and whipped cream… delicious, but probably not very healthy. I'll just have a small slice.
What's one of your worst cooking mistakes?
My worst cooking mistake has to be the time I was making a key lime cheesecake with a delicate key lime mousse layer. I forgot to blanche off the lime zest. It was like literally eating the zest off the fruit. It was one of the worst tasting deserts I've ever made. The entire staff agreed.
There are so many great Michigan-made food products. What is your pick?
My favorite Michigan ingredient, out of many, has to be Traverse City dried cherries – and the multiple incredible apples produced in this region. I love the fall season, and these items to me reflect a fall atmosphere. The great thing is that they are available right here at Eastern Market in Detroit.
What do you suggest for first-timers to Hockeytown Cafe? What menu item should they make sure to try?
There are a couple of different categories of first-timers: The first is the ones that only get here once in a blue moon for a certain event or show, and the other is the first-timers who come here for an event or show five to six hours early, and they stay here and try multiple menu items – including our impressive beer list. I would recommend the Reuben with, say, a Guinness stout and the St. Louis style ribs with a Killian's amber ale, or the Michigan Cherry Burger with Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat. You can mix and match any food item with a beer that complements the food.
Spinach Artichoke Dip Recipe
- 6 cups baby spinach
- 3 cups sliced artichoke hearts
- 8 oz. softened cream cheese
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup shredded cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- Sea salt and cracked pepper to taste
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- Heat saucepan and add olive oil, onions and garlic. Saute until translucent.
- Add artichokes and cook for three minutes.
- Remove from heat and add spinach. Toss until wilted. Season to taste. Drain any excess oil and let cool.
- In separate mixing bowl, add cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese. Mix well.
- Add cooled spinach mixture to bowl and fold in together. Place in greased baking dish and top with mozzarella cheese.
- Bake at 350 degrees F until golden and bubbly.
- Serve with tortilla chips or toast points. Enjoy!