Another high-end steakhouse is coming to the intensely competitive Troy-Birmingham-Bloomfield area.
Eddie Merlot’s — with 400-plus seats, including its patio and three private dining spaces — will open Monday at Woodward and West Big Beaver in Bloomfield Township, featuring USDA Prime and all-natural steaks, fresh seafood and a 300-bottle wine list.
It’s the first Michigan location and the ninth overall for the 12-year-old Ft. Wayne, Ind.-based Eddie Merlot’s group, whose other restaurants are in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.
Its neighborhood may have more than its share of steaks, but Eddie Merlot’s will stand out for its extensive wine program and its elegant but comfortable atmosphere, among other features, company operations director Bruce Kraus said in a telephone interview last week.
“We are not a pretentious steakhouse,” he said. “We are very, very approachable.” He noted that the restaurant also offers more private dining rooms than many competitors — an important feature in attracting business groups.
At least seven other high-end steakhouses or steak-centric restaurants are located within 4 miles of Eddie Merlot’s: Cameron’s, Fleming’s and Hyde Park are in downtown Birmingham; and Morton’s, Capital Grille, Ruth’s Chris and Ocean Prime — which emphasizes both prime steaks and seafood — are in Troy. In addition, the Atlanta-based Stoney River Steakhouse chain is opening later this year in downtown Birmingham.
“The Detroit area has always been of interest” as an Eddie Merlot’s location, Kraus said, because company founder and president Bill Humphries has other business relationships in the area. Humphries is president of Humphries Development, an independent consultant for the Subway corporation.
“Many, many sites get put in front of us” as potential Eddie Merlot’s locations, Kraus said, but the company locates its restaurants based on three major demographic factors: population, the median income of residents within a 3-, 5- and 7-mile radius, and the retail and hotel space within those radii.
Most Eddie Merlot’s guests fit one of three demographics, he said: women in business, baby boomers and “up-and-coming thirtysomethings in dual-income households.”
It’s no accident that businesswomen are frequent guests, Kraus says. Humphries opened the first Eddie Merlot’s in 2001 when he saw that women were having a greater impact on business dining decisions, but traditional steakhouses were designed for masculine tastes.
Humphries’ idea was to create one “that would be female-friendly, but yet not scare away male patrons,” Kraus said. “You see that through our décor, our artwork and our designs. We use a lot of lighter colors and a lot of very bold art.” Each restaurant is different, he says. “It’s not a cookie cutter environment.”
Kraus said the restaurant will offer 300 wines, including 75 by the glass, priced $8-$22. Bottle prices range from $30 to $800, “but many are under $80, or $60. We are very wine-friendly,” he said.
Steaks are hand-cut on premises and are either USDA Prime or all-natural Midwest beef raised without hormones or antibiotics. Special features include table-side preparations such as steak Diane and bananas Foster, he said. The Bloomfield Township menu is new for the company and will be introduced in other locations soon.
The local management team — general manager Steve Singleton, chef Matt Strabbing and sales manager Anna Campana — all are from metro Detroit.
Dining room hours are 5-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 5-9 p.m. Sunday. The lounge — with a large, separate menu — opens an hour before and closes an hour later daily than the dining room.
Reservations can be made online or by calling the restaurant. (37000 Woodward; 248-712-4095 and www.eddiemerlots.com)