On Sunday, chef Maxcel Hardy opened his first restaurant, River Bistro, in the Rosedale Park neighborhood on Detroit’s west side. The eatery located at 18456 Grand River Ave. offers a blend of Caribbean and Southern comfort foods with options for both casual dine-in, carryout, and delivery.
River Bistro represents a coming home of sorts for Hardy, who grew up in Detroit before moving to Tampa, Florida, with his mother at age 12. He developed an aptitude for the culinary arts in high school and launched a catering business. After stints as executive chef at a country club in South Florida and casino restaurants, he eventually went on to become a personal chef to former NBA basketball player Amar'e Stoudemire.
However, it was a special sold-out dinner last fall in Detroit that Hardy says convinced him to move back home. The chef soon developed plans to open not one but three new restaurants in Detroit including Cass Corridor food stall, Coop, slated to open later this fall and a full-scale restaurant in the District Detroit called Honey on track to open in March 2018.
According to Hardy, River Bistro somewhat unexpectedly came together as the first in his trio of projects. The chef came across the former Good Taste Louisiana Fried Chicken while exploring his old neighborhood and after viewing the space and the equipment — including a professional-grade wok — decided to take over the building.
The renovated restaurant is filled with personal details from Hardy’s past. Customers driving east down Grand River Avenue will spot a large mural by local artist James “Jimbo” Braddock on a red backdrop along the restaurant’s parking lot-facing wall that features the Detroit skyline and a woman with big, gold hoop earrings. Inside, the chef also commissioned a second mural from Braddock which features a portrait of a woman meant to be a composite of Hardy’s mother and daughter. Hardy salvaged a wood cabinet covered in bright spray paint and bike tires hung behind the walk-up counter from his grandmother’s basement.
River Bistro occupies a small space and is designed primarily for carryout and delivery, though the restaurants is outfitted with two eight-seat communal tables next to a large chalkboard menu. Through the kitchens toward the back of the restaurant, Hardy has also built out a small private dining space filled with art he’s collected during his travels throughout the United States.
Diners can expect to see items like rock shrimp fritters and the Bistro Burger (served with Jamaican jerk mayo, Southern-style pimento cheese, caramelized onions, and bacon) on the lunch menu. One of River Bistro’s signatures, the honey-spiced chicken wings, features crispy, fried chicken wings brushed with honey Hardy brought back from a recent trip to Africa. The honey will eventually be supplied locally by D-Town Farms.
During dinner service the options expand to include items like jerk ribs, maple-garlic salmon, and Hardy’s favorite dish from his childhood — the Mama Meatloaf. On the weekends, River Bistro will also offer a brunch menu available for delivery or to-go so customers can have a restaurant-style brunch without ever leaving their house.
Photographers Michelle and Chris Gerard visited River Bistro during its second day of business to check out the space. Take a look around the restaurant and private dining space in the gallery below.
Private Dining Space
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