with gallery: Quarter Bistro remains a reliable dining destination
Whenever I drive by The Quarter Bistro & Tavern during evening hours, I notice that the parking lot has few available spots. "We have a huge following of regular guests," says Terry Martin, the restaurant's general manager. He says the secret of Quarter Bistro's long-term success is appealing to as many people as possible. The restaurant "is upscale, but has something for everybody," he said.
It's a massive space inside, complete with a warm, dimly lit main area that reminds me of a cozy family room. There are hardwood floors throughout and booths the color of chocolate, as well as a long bar off to the side, and private rooms. A large space to the right, the sun room (where the Sunday brunch is held) is cheerful, though floor-to-ceiling windows make it a bit chilly this time of year. I prefer the main dining room, especially since the intimate, high-backed booths offer more privacy and are spacious enough to fit a large dining party.
When I first visited Quarter Bistro when it opened in 2005, I was impressed, and I have continued to frequent it through the years, consistently pleased with the quality of the food. Though many of the dishes are decidedly upscale, what I most appreciate about Quarter Bistro is an atmosphere and menu that caters to all ages. That's because of the wide range of items on the menu, including two entrees — the chicken and shrimp jambalaya and rosemary chicken — that are listed as gluten free.
You can choose from first-rate food ranging from inexpensive sandwiches to pricey meat entrees. Many of the dishes have a creole accent in keeping with the overall New Orleans theme. And though the ambiance has a fancy feel, the dress is casual.
300 S. Maple Road, Ann Arbor
- Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m., bar is open until midnight; Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
- Plastic: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover.
- Liquor: Yes
- Prices: Moderate to expensive. Sandwiches are in the $11-$14 range; Entrees are in the $18-$20 range.
- Noise level: Moderate
- Wheelchair access: Yes.
We also sampled the tender Ahi tuna tartar, which was quite good, brimming with a bouquet of flavor from capers, garlic, serrano pepper, lemon juice and rice vinegar. However, it was served on a layer of extremely spicy horseradish vinaigrette sauce. In order to mitigate the powerful taste, we had to slice off the tuna from the top. It would make sense to provide the sauce on the side, to apply it in more modest amounts. The tuna also came with a delicious mini wonton quiche.
The presentation of the food is artful and eye-catching. All dishes are served on sparking white china, with brightly colored drizzles along the side. The pastry chefs turn desserts into art, with syrups and caramels that form complex designs.
When I'm looking for just a light dish here, I always opt for the bistro salad, so simple, yet made with fresh ingredients that meld impeccably well: greens tossed with Gorgonzola cheese, grapes, cranberries, raisins, walnuts and pecans, drizzled with a light, champagne truffle vinaigrette. Many of the salads are available in a smaller size.
The five onion soup, prepared with Spanish and red Bermuda onions, leeks, shallots, green onions and a mixture of gruyere, Swiss, and provolone cheese, was a perfect dish on a cold winter's night, since it was so hearty. My daughter enjoyed her well-seasoned French fries and turkey grill, full of fresh turkey, though the sourdough bread tasted like bland white bread. I imagine that pieces of thick, crunchy homemade bread would be a better alternative.
If it's hearty entrees you're after, Quarter Bistro has many to choose from that are creative and outstanding. The richest was my son's pick: bacon wrap fillets. Bacon was wrapped around a juicy fillet, which, in combination with red wine and a demi-glace sauce, added an innovative smoky sweetness that complemented the meat perfectly. The mashed potatoes with the dish were rich and creamy.
Butternut ravioli, which my husband routinely orders here, is similarly rich. Big puffy pillows of ravioli are saturated with a sweet, heavy cream sauce. This dish is not for the calorie counters. I opted for less dense fare, shrimp and scallops portofino, another highlighted dish. The light cream and white wine demi-glace brings out the bold taste of the fresh shrimps and plump scallops. I was disappointed with the spinach side dish, which tasted bland and would have benefited from a sauce or more seasoning.
Don't pass up the desserts here. We ordered both the toffee mousse cake and the tuxedo mousse, which were both great but tasted almost identical to each other. The only noticeable difference was that the tuxedo mousse contained white as well as dark chocolate. The white chocolate raspberry cheesecake was truly outstanding, with a thin chocolate cookie crust, a creamy filling and a nice touch of coconut on top.
We had an extremely pleasant server who was prepared to provide guidance and recommendations. Our food was delivered in a respectable amount of time, but not so quickly that we felt rushed.
Sometimes restaurants that start out with a bang fizzle over time, resting on their laurels. That is not the case with Quarter Bistro. It remains, hands down, one of my favorite dining destinations in Ann Arbor.