Quick bite: April 2016
by M.B. Lewis
From the April, 2016 issue
"I'm still having fun," says Craig Common, whose Common Grill is celebrating a quarter-century on Main St. in Chelsea: "It has been phenomenal, a great run, with lots of people who have been with us a long time."
I've noticed the bistro's lively regulars every time I've made the twenty-minute drive from Ann Arbor (it seems to get less rural each year). Entering the maze of tables crowded with chattering patrons, I usually feel like an interloper. Maybe it's because noise bounces around the hard-surfaced room, like aural insulation when you don't see anyone you know. Maybe it's those big murals juxtaposing Chelsea landmark towers with characters out of Hopper's Nighthawks.
I usually settle quickly, though, seduced by garlicky aromas and faith in a good meal coming. Each time, the sense of discovering an elegant getaway returns.
Common--the grill's chef as well as owner--says must-try dishes include seafood risotto and Parmesan-crusted Lake Superior whitefish. Neither disappoints. Melt-in-your-mouth scallops, shrimp, and chunks of lobster pile into a cloud of saffron risotto so creamy that the token asparagus tips seem to float. Lobster shows up again on the plate of delicate cheese-dusted whitefish, orzo, and pile of lightly steamed spinach, with a wave of garlic uniting it all.
The mixed grill of beef tenderloin, chicken breast, and bacon-wrapped four-bite shrimp is completed by a scoop of super-flavorful cheddar mashed potatoes. For sipping, consider the cherry wine margarita served over a tall glass of fruit; a serious spike of brandy chases away any cloying sweetness. The lists of mostly American and some Michigan wines, beers, and hard ciders are good without going over the top.
Notable among desserts is stellar homemade ice cream, and you can try three different scoops for five bucks. I was all about the coconut almond fudge, but the salted caramel and espresso-flecked coffee were plenty fine too. A scoop of vanilla bean ice cream tops off delicious pecan-crusted apple crisp.
Common says he hasn't finalized plans for recognizing the anniversary
this summer, but might piggyback his celebration on a summer festival. The fact that Purple Rose Theatre around the corner is also marking a quarter-century is no coincidence--the origin stories are linked by a Daniels family vision of Chelsea's own killer combo of dinner and a show.
One thing for sure, Common says: he'll be pouring champagne for the house when the moment dawns. Who knows--maybe they'll even update their website, which at press time still said: "Now in its 20th year in downtown Chelsea ..."
[Originally published in April, 2016.]
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