Susan Selasky, Detroit Free Press Food Writer
A new Downriver waterfront dining option is set to open Monday, just in time for boating season.
Just minutes north of downtown Wyandotte, the Waterfront Restaurant & Lounge occupies the building that formerly housed the Pier 500 Lounge and Restaurant. Jason and Amanda D’Herin bought the property in January and will run the restaurant along with business partner Frank Estrada.
“What’s cool is we have a built-in community and clientele of 200 people from the marina,” said Jason D’Herin. “We have a boat, and we are boat-friendly.”
In just more than 100 days, the building has been completely renovated and the surrounding property re-landscaped and repaved, the D’Herins said. Boat slips and seawalls have been rebuilt and stone walls erected. The couple, who also own the nearby building that houses the newly opened Whiskey’s on the River, have even gone beyond their property line, landscaping and paving property next to them. So far, the D’Herins say they have invested $1.6 million into the project.
The restaurant has been hyped as upscale waterfront dining, but the D’Herins say “upscale” refers to their menu not the restaurant vibe, which is casual, trendy and fun.
“We are less formal,” Jason D’Herin, 42, says. “Boaters want to have fun, but our food is on the higher end.”
Waterfront’s debut menu is ambitious with a selection of appetizers, soups, sandwiches, salads, pasta dishes, entrées and eight varieties of brick oven pizzas. The menu offerings were designed by Waterfront’s chef Douglas Gruenwald, formerly of MGM Grand in Las Vegas, and Amanda D’Herin, 35, who says brick oven pizzas are her personal favorite.
Appetizers include baked Brie, shrimp-stuffed jalapeños and oysters Rockefeller ($9-$11). The sandwich lineup features everything from a classic burger and paninis to fish and a Cubano ($7-$9). There are 15 entrées on the menu, including an 8-ounce filet ($32), grilled salmon with lavender balsamic vinegar glaze ($17) and Michigan lake perch, sautéed or fried ($18).
“We enjoy boating and eating out, and food is important to us,” D’Herin says. “Our menu and recipes will speak to that.”
Waterfront offers plenty of outdoor seating on both the ground level and upper deck.
The main inside dining area, the majority with a waterfront view, brick walls and exposed ventilation, features wood-top tables and seating for more than 100.
A half-wall with a built-in fireplace separates the main dining area from the 14-seat subway-style tiled bar with reclaimed distressed wood accents and a row of two-top tables.
Prints of the Belle Isle Bridge and local lighthouses adorn the walls.
“The idea was to bring outside elements unique to the area inside,” says D’Herin.
Waterfront Restaurant & Lounge will have its grand opening celebration on Cinco de Mayo. The D’Herins say they’ll employ about 30-35 and feature weekly and monthly entertainment with jazz and local bands. They’ve already booked their first wedding and plan on other events.
David Blume, owner of Weyand’s Fisheries next door, says he’s watched how the D’Herins have transformed the building and property.
“If intentions count for everything, they are really top-shelf,” Blume said. “They are trying to create a nice place for the community.”
While this is the D’Herins’ first foray into restaurant ownership, they are no strangers to the business. By day, the D’Herins own D&R Maintenance Management, a Taylor-based company specializing in facility management. Most of the D’Herins’ clients are restaurants, including local and national chains.
Waterfront Restaurant & Lounge is at 507 Biddle Ave. in Wyandotte; 734-286-9046 and www.thewaterfrontwyandotte.com