Fillmore Bar & Grill
A picnic without the ants
by Lee Lawrence
From the September, 2019 issue
"What is that?" My brother gestured towards a low-slung critter, its lustrous brown coat almost black, stealing across the path. We were biking the B2B Trail from Hudson Mills to Dexter and we'd already seen deer, of course, and wild turkeys, and scads of bright, nodding wildflowers. "A mink, I'd guess," my husband called.
Later, over dinner at Dexter's Fillmore Bar & Grill, we agreed it had been a great ride. Blue skies and pleasant temperatures made sitting on the restaurant's expansive side deck an ideal finale. It's more casual than its predecessors, Cousins Heritage Inn and Terry B's, so we didn't feel awkward with our helmet hair and damp shirts joining Fillmore's other diners for an al fresco cocktail and meal.
The menu, too, is more casual, with a long list of appetizers, mostly more like snacks--warm pretzel sticks, loaded nachos, chicken wings--than meal openers. A large lineup of sandwiches, burgers, and salads expands the offerings, along with a smaller number of entrees. We opted to share a plate of pan-seared sea scallops--two large discs, nicely seared, topped with bacon jam, and doubly mated with corn as grits and as a fresh, creamy puree.
My husband liked his fried cod sandwich, but the rest of the dinner proved less satisfying. A serious overabundance of sauce and cheese weighed down my pesto pasta, and my brother's seared pork belly paired three absurdly small, sweetly glazed strips of meat with pineapple chutney (fine) and a potato-onion puree (odd). None of us felt compelled to finish the peach egg roll we ordered for dessert. Our initial impression of Fillmore, then, stressed the pleasant deck--great spot for cocktails!--over the meal.
But if we take the highway, my husband and I can be at Fillmore in twenty minutes--as quick as downtown Ann Arbor. And so, another evening, after a hot day in the garden had created a pressing desire for gin and tonics, we drove to Dexter.
The evening was cool on the shaded
deck, and, happily, that night's dinner was an improvement. Fried Brussels sprouts with a balsamic reduction and Parmesan gave us a garden-inspired beginning. Hints of Korea enlivened our entrees; mine (actually another starter) was a nicely rendered pork bibimbap, and my husband's burger arrived nearly lost under a pile of pork belly, Asian slaw, and Korean barbecue sauce on an excellent brioche bun. I encouraged him to take the Fillmore fries upgrade, shoestrings with a dusting of herbs and ramekins of house-made aioli and ketchup for dipping. I probably dipped and downed as many fries as he did but still finished dessert, a creamy but intriguingly tart creme brulee.
Although the interior is lovely, done in crisp white and vintage blue, when the weather is good most people seem to opt for the deck. We did again on our third visit. The servers, as before, were quick and efficient, and dinner once more delivered a nice reward. An Oberon-braised short rib on mushroom risotto offered no surprises but was deeply gratifying. Chicken and waffles with bacon jam did a great job with a boneless chicken breast, its exterior crispy and flavorful, its interior moist. The evening settled into darkness with a quiet contentment.
Sitting on Fillmore's deck, under the trees, is like a picnic without the ants--and with the luxury of a table and chairs. Is there any better way to end a summer drive, an inspired bike ride, or a quiet evening stroll?
Fillmore Bar & Grill
7954 Ann Arbor St., Dexter
Mon.-Thurs. 3 p.m.-9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Starters and salads $5-$14, sandwiches $11-$16, entrees $15-$36.
Vegetarian and gluten-free options indicated
[Originally published in September, 2019.]
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