By Dave Faries

Restaurant Review: Nathan Detroit's

A Real Crapshoot


Dave Faries

A bartender readies for another evening in Nathan Detroit’s handsome main dining area.

Trout amandine prepared by a skilled chef almost melts in your mouth. So what if gourmands are dismissive of the old-school restaurant classic?

Jean Giono once complained “never with butter, never with almonds—that’s not cookery, that’s cardboard-making.”

But I’ve experienced delicate, mellow and rich brook fish prepared in the despised manner. And when I spotted a twist on Nathan Detroit’s menu, I couldn’t resist.

Nathan Detroit’s is a cavernous, worldly pub and restaurant on the northern edge of Grand Island’s literary row. Named after a character in “Guys and Dolls,” it sits adjacent to an upscale bar known as J. Alfred Prufrock’s, as in T.S. Eliot’s poem.

Who knew Grand Island was so full of English majors-turned restaurateurs? And who knew the city’s chefs were so clever—at least in their adaptation of the classics.

Walleye “amandine” jumped from their menu. The sturdy fish cleaved into firm slivers with a mild, clean flavor that eased neatly into the scattering of slivered almonds dumped on top. A haze of butter furthered this nutty character, adding a wealth of fat to the otherwise lean fish.

Perch of this size—about the length of an average hand—is best when treated lightly, broiled or sauteed. The restaurant seems to understand, presenting a simple yet delicate filet.

Unfortunately, the amandine sits on a bed of venomous rice, its fangs dripping with razor sharp, throat ripping saline.

Heavy salt also destroys an otherwise inviting pork chop, cloaked in what might be a rich and bittersweet char—hard to tell under a week’s worth of Morton’s. A chutney prepared from different strains of raisin fends off the harsh, oceanic blast for a moment. Eventually, however, the funky, earthy sweetness of the sauce succumbs.

Too bad, for there is a lot to say in Nathan Detroit’s favor.

The menu is tight and the kitchen prepares several items in house. Tomato basil soup loses something of the herbal nature, thanks to seasonal use of dry leaves. But the fruit itself emerges as tangy and dense. In their ranch dressing, dill, garlic and other sharpened elements pierce through buttermilk. The combination serves well on salad and common French fries.

Even their mashed potatoes carry intense flavors—garlic mostly—honed and drawn down by softer, milkier notes.

The restaurant is also quite handsome, inside and out. Set in what was originally a Roaring 20s theater, the space features brass, weathered dark woods, a wrap around interior balcony and a variety of seating options, either open or cozy.

Wait staff seem pleasant enough. Better yet, the bartender has 30 years of experience and knows his way around several old-school cocktails—all moderately priced.

Hmm…salty and guttural, yet somehow sophisticated--but also a bit of a gamble. Nathan Detroit’s is aptly named.


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