The Caucus Club in Detroit: rich with downtown history
UPDATE: Owner Mary Belloni closed the Caucus Club in October 2012. For an earlier 2012 story on the restaurant, see below.
Looking for a place to have great food and a good time? OU News Bureau reporters have visited some distinctive eateries in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties to learn more about what these places have to offer. Reporter Danielle Kopacki visited The Caucus Club in downtown Detroit and spoke with owner Mary Belloni.
Tell me about the history of this place.
It began as an overflow spot for the London Chop House, which was across the street. The London Chop House opened up in 1943 and it was the premier restaurant in the city. Downtown was rocking and rolling. So that was a really great restaurant known all over the world. They opened up this restaurant because so many people would just be waiting to go into that restaurant. … I bought it in 1993. I was a waitress here for a year before I bought it. I didn’t even know who the people were that owned the restaurant when I bought it. And I said it really needs somebody, just one person in charge.
Owner Mary Belloni relaxes behind the bar for a short break from cooking lunches at the Caucus Club in Detroit. PHOTO/DANIELLE KOPACKI
Describe what it offers patrons.
We offer personalized service. We know our people; we care about what we do. Nothing comes in a can. Everything is made fresh, bought within the last couple of days and I don’t think you get that everywhere.
Why would someone want to come here?
It’s kind of a cool place. I think of it as its own being. It’s not like you really own it, you kind of just oversee it. It’s like owning a cat. You think it’s yours, but it’s really in charge. I think that every once in a while you can find an old gem in the city. I think that you can go to a lot of cities and see old, cool places. So I think there’s places, but you have to kind of search them out. I think that places like this should never be forgotten.
What do you do that’s different from other places like this?
When you go into a Bennigan’s or a Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville or Red Lobster or anything at all — it’s all just made up. It’s all put together with smoke and mirrors, and this place was made. Lester Gruber would go to London and buy antiques. He’d go to New York and look for stars to come and sing. And that’s what it is. It’s all real. It’s not somebody’s imagination.
What’s the one thing everyone should order here?
Everybody loves the perch. If you like fish, it’s amazing. The ribs are good. Everything’s good. Our hamburgers are open-faced and they’re served with this house-made sauce we’ve been making since we’ve been open.
How many people work here?
It depends. Sometimes I’ve had up to 30 employees, but right now I have about 12. My chef’s been here longer than me. He started off when he was a kid peeling potatoes at the Chop House.
Photos and newspaper clippings hang in the hall to commemorate Barbra Streisand’s first paid gig, which took place in the Caucus Club in 1961. PHOTO/DANIELLE KOPACKI
What does the future hold for this place?
I think the future is bright. I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and I’ve been waiting for downtown to really come back. I think that there’s a lot of new interest in the city. I think there are a lot of young people in the city. I think with social media there’s a lot that can happen for places like me. I think the future’s bright.
The Caucus Club was 150 W. Congress in downtown Detroit.