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ON THE MENU: Seldom Blues Detroit

ON THE MENU: Seldom Blues Detroit

Illinois senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama had dinner not too long ago at Seldom Blues, a Detroit jazz supper club, and even complimented the performers.

A few days later, one of Seldom Blues’ co-owners and co-founders, Frank Taylor, found himself as a panelist at an entrepreneur’s conference in Orlando, Fla., sponsored by Black Enterprise magazine, where he discussed the importance of strong partnerships when forming successful business ventures.

Meanwhile, Jerry Nottage, the corporate executive concept chef of Southern Hospitality Restaurant Group, the company that owns Seldom Blues and three other dinner-houses, picked up Seldom Blue’s third Wine Spectator Award, which honored the concepts wine cellar.

That was on top of being named the best restaurant in 2006 in Motown by the Detroit Free Press. Nottage and Taylor will have even more reasons to beam next month when Esquire magazine is expected to name Seldom Blues one of the best bars the country.

Located 30 miles away is the NBA Pistons’ home arena, and Seldom Blues serves many proud fans who flock to the restaurant to celebrate the team’s successful season and possible championship bid.


Location: GM Renaissance Center, DetroitOpened: June 2004Average dinner check: $75Seats: 300Best-selling dishes: Frank’s Lobster Pontchartrain; twin veal tenderloin medallions; AZ’s Bronzed Salmon; chicken and artichoke fettuccine; and standing rib roast for two.Owner: Southern Hospitality Restaurant GroupMenu Maker: Jerry

And so it goes for the sizzling hot Seldom Blues.

Detroit may have fallen on hard times in recent decades with the decline of manufacturing, its dramatic loss of population and the flight of its iconic Motown Records to Los Angeles. But with the dawning national reputation of Seldom Blues, Detroit’s reputation for outstanding night life is on the rebound, so much so that Michigan’s governor recently appointed Taylor to the state’s tourism board.

One of the few supper clubs to compete in the fine-dining segment of the business—and to boast $75 dinner check averages—Seldom Blues is located in one of Detroit’s best known landmarks, the GM Renaissance Center, home to General Motors’ world headquarters. There Seldom Blues occupies 15,000 square feet with 300 seats and state-of-the-art acoustic technology and design.

Southern Hospitality Restaurant Group is perhaps among the highest volume, black-owned dinnerhouse operators in the country. SHRG had revenues in excess of $20 million last year between Seldom Blues and its other three concepts: Breakfast House & Grill; Grand City Grille; and Sweet Georgia Brown, a Southern-accented restaurant and the company’s founding concept. The company also holds the corporate foodservice contract at the Henry Ford Health Center headquarters in One Ford Place.

The menu at Seldom Blues, which is Southern and leans heavily on New Orleans-style cuisine, should not be thought of as soul food, Nottage insists.

“There’s no fried chicken or barbecue ribs anywhere on the menu,” Nottage says, dismissing the notion that black-owned restaurants must have those two classic soul dishes.

Instead, a number of New Orleans-style seafood dishes anchor the menu. At the heart of it all is the signature dish, Frank’s Lobster Pontchartrain, a remake of the New Orleans local favorite. It features two large lobster tails lightly dusted, baked and finished with a Champagne-butter sauce with jumbo lump crabmeat and mushrooms, all on a bed of risotto for $41.

A popular meat dish is the twin veal tenderloin medallions at $38, with tomato-garlic risotto, artichoke hearts, asparagus and prosciutto cream sauce. Appetizers span a broad range, from smoked turkey and chicken flautas at $9 to a chilled beef tenderloin martini for $12.

Nottage and Taylor met in Houston more than 10 years ago when Taylor, a veteran food and beverage director for Marriott, hired Nottage, a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., to run a restaurant in Houston. Taylor later moved to Detroit with his wife Carolyn Clifford—currently the night television news anchor for Detroit’s ABC affiliate—and worked with fast-food franchisee LaVann Hawkins to found Sweet Georgia Brown. After Hawkins left Detroit, Taylor lured Nottage to join him at SHRG five years ago.

“I use to travel a lot for Marriott and heard terrible things about Detroit,” Taylor says. “But I’m very optimistic about where the city is going, its leadership and our role in its revival.

“We are creating a wonderful restaurant that people from all over the world not only want to come to have a good time and great food, but we’re getting some of the top jazz players in the world every night. So we’re big on Detroit.”

Smoked Turkey & Chicken Flautas with iceberg lettuce, queso fresca and guacamole $9Chef Jerry’s Signature Jumbo Lump Crab & Lobster Cake $14 Prosciutto-Wrapped Colossal Shrimp with sliced melon and cantaloupe, lemon ginger vinaigrette $13
Imported Cheese Plate with Black Grapes $16Colossal Shrimp Cocktail with a trio of cocktail sauces $16 Grilled Beef Tenderloin with hearts of palm, button mushrooms and radicchio tossed in a stone-ground mustard vinaigrette $12
Blues Greens cucumber, tomatoes, olive, feta and spiced whole almonds with oregano vinaigrette $8Michigan Field Greens watercress and bibb with sliced turkey, diced cherries, candied walnuts, granny smith apples and spiced pumpkin seeds, maple yogurt cream dressing $13
AZ’s Bronzed Salmon served on an Asian vegetable slaw, shiitake mushrooms and a spicy teriyaki glaze $28Blue-Q-Bass on fresh thyme and Vidalia onion hash $33 Grilled Ahi Tuna served with sticky rice, Asian vegetable slaw, crispy oyster mushrooms and a wasabi vinaigrette $34 Standing Rib Roast for Two baked potato, garden fresh vegetables, horseradish crème fraîche $70
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