Eating Out with… J.D. Simpson
by Chuck Bennett
Suffice it to say that John David “J.D.” Simpson and I have been good friends for about three decades. We don’t hang out with each other much. We don’t even talk on the phone regularly. But trust me, when we do, the mutual love and respect is beyond. J.D. is a lawyer, who dabbles heavily in hospitality and entertainment. For many years, he was a creator/proprietor of Half Past Three, which is now TV Lounge. Most recently, he has opened a new establishment in downtown Detroit, with Ron Scott and two other mutual close friends, Roger and Tanya Yopp, called SavannahBlue.
So of course, we dined at SavannahBlue for this “Eating Out With…” session. I had a couple of my favorite girls in tow, who chose to remain in the background – restaurant critic, Molly Abraham and former model Sweet Lou Coleman. Simply, SavannahBlue is a very cool new restaurant/lounge in downtown Detroit. Immediately people offer the phrase that we loath, “This doesn’t look like Detroit.” But honestly, it does give you that out of town, cosmopolitan, world-class city feeling. Located on the second-floor of a loft-type space in a small building on a short street called Times Square, SavannahBlue, a dinner-only, Northern soul food bistro, is rapidly becoming the place to see and be seen.
J.D. is always a dapper dresser, in an understated, quality garments kind of way. His professional “uniform” is subtly striped, softly textured suits, teamed with cleverly mixed patterned tie-and-shirt combinations. Zegna is one of his favorite suit makers. His mantra is: “If your suit fits properly and your shoes are worthy, not much else matter. Well, except for maybe a nice pocket square and a good watch.”
“I am so excited about what’s going on in Detroit, and I’m thrilled and honored, along with my amazing partners, to be a vital part of it. Detroit is beginning to take its rightful place in the short list of iconic cities. And we’re right here on the pulse.”
“I love my family! My wife, Camille, and my two girls, Colby and Cameron – the 3 C’s and then there’s me. I’m also blessed enough to have both of my parents, who I love dearly – Attorney Samuel Lee Simpson and Ima Jean Simpson.”
The single-page menu at SavannahBlue is distinctive with just seven entrees, including braised oxtails with pan-roasted green beans and cheddar-tinged risotto, shrimp and grits in Andouille sausage gravy, and of course, fried chicken. With very little personal experience with oxtails, I decided to be adventurous and find out what the noise was all about. Fantastic! It is a very large portion (large enough for me to enjoy a second helping for breakfast the next morning), served over risotto. Not a fan of any risotto, I substituted mashed potatoes instead — superb. J.D., determined to keep his good suits fitting properly, kept it simple with a piece of grilled salmon over some salad greens. “I have to admit, though,” He confesses, “the oxtails are my favorite.” We washed ours down with a fine bottle of Pinot Noir. In terms of the food, we were also very pleased with the black-eyed pea hummus and the house dry-rub chicken wings. A protégé of Schoolcraft College’s culinary program director Shawn Loving, young chef Christopher McClendon is doing a remarkable job in the kitchen.
Easy. You must check out SavannahBlue. The décor and ambience (except the climb upstairs to the second floor) are fabulous. Service is ambitious, food is delicious, and the hospitality is totally on point. If you don’t have time for dinner, just go by for drinks. The bartenders there are exceptional mixologists (the Pear Martini is a must). We guarantee an enjoyable experience.
1431 Times Sq
Detroit, Michigan 48226
for more information, menu and pictures go to Savannah Blue and visit their website