Keep driving north even when you think that Bob Carter’s newest restaurant couldn’t possibly be so far removed from the mainstream. Look for the young man with an orange vest on; he’ll wave you into that last available parking slot, or tell you to find something down the street. Most of all, check your highfalutin’ expectations at the padded-leather front door. This is not the Bob Carter of old.
A large central bar commands the space at Rutledge Cab Co. Chic metal stools await the three-deep throng of Saturday night. The beer taps serve an inviting covered patio accessed by miniature garage doors that fling open to reveal additional opportunities to belly up from the other side. Winterized curtaining and rather effective space heaters make the alfresco area a yearround affair. For an old car garage, the space downright sparkles. Big leather booths can easily seat a family, and a large community table beckons on the patio. The cab company theme flows throughout, from the old yellow taxi door hanging above the host stand to the filling station garb chosen as employee attire. Even the Fillin’ Station charcuterie plate dutifully mimes the act. This is a bar where you can expect a great burger in your favorite burger joint that serves a heavy Jack and Coke.
There are no showy steaks with fancy mashed potatoes. No icy cold oysters on the half-shell. No bubbling champagne bar. Rutledge Cab Co. dispenses with that jazz the Carter of Peninsula Grill was known for, which translates into chicken-fried sweetbreads and grilled pizzas topped with braised beef—and cold beer to wash them down. Call it “diner chic” and think late-night and lazy Sunday brunch. Chef de cuisine Bryan Lindsay—who honed his skills with Tom Colicchio in New York and formerly headed up Old Village Post House—delivers a flavorful punch at this new upper-peninsula bar and grill.
It’s perhaps best enjoyed on a whim, with a band of compadres trailing cocktail fumes from a night of carousing on Upper King. That seems to be what everyone is thinking. On a busy night, seats get scarce, the kitchen can overload, service can be slow, and you may eat half your friend’s dinner while waiting for a delayed shrimp Benedict. Perhaps that’s the price of being the best late-night venue within a five-mile radius. Perhaps it’s from being the only place I know of serving an omelet filled with pot roast. Maybe it’s the perfect Belgian waffles or the lamb burger, which isn’t a burger of ground lamb but a beef burger topped with a fistful of roasted lamb shaved paper-thin. Did I mention that it’s then layered with tapenade, feta cheese, and roasted tomatoes? It’s worth the wait.
Rutledge Cab is also a place to engage your inner chef. Take, for example, the five types of grilled kabobs, each served with a wild rice pilaf and some sort of sauce. I prefer the lamb kabobs over the beef, chicken, pork, or veggies, but I substitute fries for the pilaf and ask for the mint jus on the side. Ever had a plate of medium-rare lamb chunks fresh from the grill covered with crispy French fries then smothered with rich lamb gravy? I’d like an oyster stout with that.
Or consider the unfortunately bland hoop cheddar and beer fondue. There’s a bottle of Cholula hot sauce on the table—a half a bottle of that with a good dose of salt and pepper brings it to life. It’s served with a platter of accouterments, but my version is best savored by dunking an order of the fried cheese into the molten blend. Perhaps American wheat ale could keep up with it, or maybe you go for a “Winga Bing Bing,” a rousing original cocktail full of tequila, orangecello, and rosemary. If not, they have PBR tall boys served in brown paper bags.
If you can’t use Rutledge Cab as an excuse to stay out late and gorge, take your kids for Sunday brunch. The open-air patio will be hopping, and the milk shakes come plain or spiked with various liquors. I like the Dreamsicle, an icy blend of orangecello, Grand Marnier, and Stoli vanilla. Pair it with the “Call Your Own Burger,” cooked to order. Top it with avocado, sprouts, Swiss, and blue cheese Havarti. My daughter gets a grilled cheese and a Nutella milk shake, but it’s the burger that’s worth mentioning, even if just for its honest simplicity. Pair that with affordable prices and decent service, and you have a neighborhood favorite that will pass the test of time. You have to give that to Rutledge Cab Co.: good grub doesn’t have to mean the fanciest; sometimes the job can just be deliciously well done.
The Draw: Full breakfast served late into the night
The Drawback: A busy night means being parked far away from your food.Don’t Miss: “Call Your Own Burger”
1300 Rutledge Ave.