1917 American Bistro Restaurant on the Avenue of Fashion in Detroit
Located on Livernois Avenue, this dining destination serves up delicious meals from dinner to Sunday brunches—and 'that damn rum cake'
The 1917 American Bistro in Detroit stimulates all five senses. From the music to the food, you're in for a real treat. With musical artists like Johnny Coltrane playing softly on the speakers and a mass of colorful paintings created by local artists in the city brightening up the walls, this chic little restaurant is a getaway located right on the Avenue of Fashion—Livernois Avenue.
Going on its fourth year in November, the bistro went from housing a real estate agency to a fully operational restaurant in just four months time. The restaurant may be Black owned, but don't try to stick it in the soul food category. This place has a little bit of everything for everybody.
"I just want this to be a restaurant. I didn't want it to be known as a Black-owned restaurant or a soul food restaurant," says owner Donald Studvent. "Don't get me wrong: I live Black. I love everything Black. That's who I am. But I just wanted this to be just a restaurant. I wanted it to be neutral."
Studvent says that's why eatery, which seats 49 people upstairs and 49 downstairs, is called American Bistro. If you were wondering, "1917" is the year Sherwood Forest was established—and that's where the bistro lies.
There are two chefs here: Studvent and his "baby brother" Anthony Howard. Together, they whip up a variety of foods like blackened catfish, chicken alfredo, hamburgers, corned beef sandwiches and vegetable stir fry. They even have a big Sunday brunch buffet where people can enjoy the bistro's signature buttermilk pancakes, fresh fruits and pastries, waffles, grits, fried red skin potatoes, ham, omelets and much more.
Studvent says a lot of his dishes, like the blackened catfish and chicken alfredo, are popular among his customers, but some just outsell others at different times. But he did choose a dessert as the best and most popular on his menu.
"If I had to name one item: that damn rum cake. I can't just say 'rum cake.' I have to say that damn rum cake," he says. "No one can touch us on the rum cake, period."
If you dine on Thursdays, you would think you were at Baker's Keyboard Lounge—just a bit farther up Livernois near Eight Mile Road—instead of the bistro. Organized by percussionist Greg Freeman, artists like drummer Brandon Williams, keyboardist Gerard Gibbs and Freeman himself are some of the regulars who perform live.
"It's simple dinner music, but sometimes it goes from 3 to 10. Like when a gentleman by the name of Mr. James Carter comes in here. When he walks in it immediately goes to 10. He's considered the best saxophone player alive," says Studvent. "Martha Reeves came in here one day, grabbed the microphone and blew the doors off! It was amazing. Everyone was dancing. People weren't eating, they were in the middle of the floor dancing."
Another unique feature is the rooftop deck that is lit up by LED wrap lights at night and shaded by beach umbrellas by day. There is also a speaker up there so you won't miss anything. The flower garden and herb garden, on opposite sides of each other, makes the rooftop experience very serene. And yes: Some of the herbs from that garden just may be in your meal. There's nothing like fresh herbs.
But that's not the only thing fresh. Studvent gets his meat, fruits and vegetables fresh from Eastern Market in Detroit. The bistro also has a Blessed & Highly Favored Juice Bar. The smoothies and the raw juices may be a lot like heaven with that title.
The 1917 American Bistro is open 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. So give it a try. Dine in, carry out or have them cater.