Revolver: Enter with an appetite. Leave with a new friend.
There’s something about simplicity that’s very attractive. And different – especially with the bustling and ever-evolving restaurant scene of metro Detroit. Dozens of new restaurateurs have placed their stake in the palette of Detroit dining, but none are quite like Revolver.
True to its name, Revolver is a table d’hote restaurant located in downtown Hamtramck offering a different culinary experience with a different chef each time you walk through its doors. Multi-course prix-fixe dinners are served in a communal setting that almost feels like your family’s annual holiday meal gathering.
There’s no eye-catching artwork adorning the entryway or signature centerpieces situated on the tables. Black bare walls are lined with brown wooden panels, accentuated with red chandeliers to match the red brick storefront on Joseph Campau St. The long, family style tables were actually handmade by owner Peter Dalinowski.
Made his own way
Dalinowski shares the story of when he and former co-owner Tunde Wey decided to open Revolver back in 2013: They went looking for tables, only to be disappointed in their quality. So, he decided to make his own.
This tells a great deal about Dalinowski and his success with Revolver. He’s made his own way in a business that was admittedly foreign to a guy with a degree in biology. But his way is working, and it’s working well – not only for Dalinowski, but in exposing others to the city of Detroit.
It’s a chilly February night when my husband Stefen and I venture into Revolver. Reservations are made in advance. And they are needed; the 36+ seats at Revolver sell out quickly.
We arrive a bit early, which is actually a no-no – another defiant move against traditional restaurant standards. Arriving right on time is best. It allows Dalinowski and his small team to set up each table and support the chef – all of whom will personally serve our meal. No waiters or waitresses. No hostess at the front counter. However, “Uncle Tex” is at the front door each and every Friday and Saturday to greet guests.
Meet Uncle Tex
There’s something very special – and a little unusual – about Tex. He is the self-proclaimed “Head of Security” for Revolver. He even has a badge that says so. On this night, he’s donning a Jason Aldean camouflage hat, black leather vest, black skinny jeans and a large gold and black blinged-out cubic zirconia encrusted watch (he told me real diamonds are a waste of money).
He’s 68 years old. And he’s single. (He also told me to be sure to include that.)
Why the outfit?
“Because it’s cool. It attracts people,” he laughs.
Oh, and he’s also the “honorary mayor of Hamtramck,” he shares. Gotta love this guy. This is the experience you’ll enjoy if you engage in a conversation with Tex. He’s like that uncle or cousin everyone has in their family – a little peculiar, but everyone loves him.
Tex is the introduction to the familial feel of Revolver. The diner seats 6-8 complete strangers (unless you come as a group) together at one table.
Upbeat music plays in the background as we engage in conversation over wine, shared BYOB style, which offers a fitting opportunity to get to know the person pouring you a glass of their favorite red libations.
Drink, be merry + make a weekend of it
Judah Sax is the resident expert at our table. This is his fifth Revolver dinner. Like my husband and me, Sax’s girlfriend, Holly Mitchell, is also a first-timer. So Sax gives us the low-down on why he keeps frequenting this quaint eatery.
“There aren’t a lot of places like this around where you can get this type of experience – multiple courses, they bring in new chefs every week from throughout metro Detroit, Chicago, New York. You name it,” says Sax, who has lived in Detroit for about a year. “Plus, you get to meet new people. I really love the family dining experience, and there’s a new menu each time you come. I love it. Detroit is amazing. There’s so much to do. I love all of these cool pop-ups.”
We are also joined by a married couple from Ann Arbor who was gifted the Revolver experience from a family member. This couple shares they “plan to make a weekend of it, spend the night in Detroit and find more cool things to do in the city” since they’re here.
I love it. So not only does Revolver offer a unique dining experience unlike any other in the city, it’s also attracting others who live outside of metro Detroit to enjoy a weekend getaway in the D. Nice job Peter (and Tex).
Dinner is served
The time is now 9:26 p.m., and we hear a bell ring to signal the start of dinner. The ringing of the bell is key, because by this time, there’s lots of chatter. We are all talking loudly, no longer strangers who just met. Everyone at the table has shared the basics – name, where they’re from, work place, what brought them here, and at least two funny, memorable stories. We’ve only come short of exchanging phone numbers to plan our next Revolver experience together. And dinner hasn’t even started yet.
Back to the bell.
After he has our full attention, Dalinowski shares dinner will be served shortly. He gives a short overview of the restaurant before introducing tonight’s featured culinary genius: Chef Reid Shipman.
“We’ve hosted more than 150 events in over three and a half years. Sometimes, it flows just right. It feels right. And that’s exactly what we’re expecting tonight,” he says. “It’s called Revolver because the menu is always changing. The chef is always changing. It’s a throwback to old-school dining. You break bread with family and friends and experience amazing food every time.”
And amazing, it was.
first + next + and + then + finally
Unlike traditional menus, the courses are categorized as “first,” “next,” “and,” “then,” and “finally.”
“First” up is an amazing squash and carrot salad with fried almonds and pomegranate drizzled with a “green goddess” dressing. “Next” is a charcoaled beet and cauliflower gratin salad with fonduta sauce and herb crumbs, “And” scallop and rock shrimp sausage served over an andouille rice cake, tomato pepper broth, pickled peppers and okra.
“Then” we enjoyed the main course. Now, I must admit, I am no fan of goat. But I figured we’re trying new experiences, so let’s try something new. Good thing I did. The harissa-braised goat was juicy and tender, pulled-pork style, with pickled cabbage slaw, crème fraiche and naan. Everyone at the table – even the other goat skeptics – agreed it deserved two thumbs up. And “Finally” we enjoyed a sweet cranberry curd tart on top of a chocolate cookie crust with the perfect portion of fennel white-chocolate ice cream.
“This is all the stuff I wanted to eat, but haven’t been able to cook. So it’s really all about me,” joked Chef Shipman. “All the stuff I want, and I get to share it with you.”
Shipman has spent the last decade of his career working alongside notable chefs including renowned Chef Brian Polcyn at Birmingham’s Forest Grill and Executive Chef Josh Stockton at Corktown’s Gold Cash Gold.
What does Shipman love most about Revolver?
“This restaurant doesn’t follow any of the traditional restaurant rules,” shares Shipman. “That’s what I like most about this type of setup – the freedom to be creative and do what I want. At some restaurants, there’s a limit to what you can do because you have to adhere to the menu. Here, I can be creative.”
And the guests get to enjoy the creativity.
9737 Joseph Campau
Dinners are on select Fridays and Saturdays with two seatings at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Four or five courses are served over approximately two hours. All available dinners and menus are listed on the “upcoming dinners” page.