Other than the 30 or so Wendys that Meritage Hospitality operates, they also own Twisted Rooster, Crooked Goose, and Freighters Eatery and Taproom (the latter in Port Huron). Each of the three is an individual restaurant, not a chain, but Wheelhouse is the first of their restaurants to be built from the ground up. And it's obvious. When you walk into Twisted Rooster, you know you're stepping into a place that used to be something else. But when we walked into Wheelhouse today we had a moment of deja vu when we were greeted by 4 hostesses at the hostess table.
This space is the ultimate in cool. The entry opens into a sweeping bar with high tops, seating for about 25 at the bar, and some dining tables.
Further to the left is what they call a porch, with windows opening, rattan furniture, and doors that can close off the room for private parties.
The decor is subdued and tasteful, and where we were seated in the bar dining area, we could look out at the Van Andel Arena. This has to be a great location for concert goers.
We started with these lovely crab cakes: jumbo lump crab, fennel with orange slaw, and peppadew aioli. The orange slaw and aioli made these the perfect crab cakes, and the presentation wasn't bad either.
Our first main dish was Grilled Prawns. They were not overcooked and beautifully combined with fried green tomatoes. They were not enhanced, however, by the roasted corn chow chow, aka, popcorn. The popcorn didn't add anything to the dish but a bit of visual variety. And the green onions would have been better chopped. Pretty to look at but difficult to consume. The dish was complemented nicely by the corn grit aioli and tomato vinaigrette.
The Spaghetti Carbonara gave us us nothing to complain about. Pancetta, garlic, parmesan and pecorino, egg, and parsley along with al dente pasta made a lovely dish, and one to be ordered again.
So the meal was great, service even better, and we were taken by this painting hanging on a wall leading into the porch. The color stands out in this otherwise black-brown-beige but very tasteful setting.
We were hoping it was a local building by a local artist but alas. It's a non-identified building by an artist in Texas that was enlarged on canvas for the restaurant. Still a nice accent but it could have been more interesting and local.
We checked out the dining room located at the right of entry as we left. Booths and a continuation of the same tasteful lighting and decor really recommend this restaurant, located at the base of the new Arena Place. And if the good food continues, this is sure to become a downtown favorite!