“We want the view to be a complement to being up here. Food, experience and hospitality will always come first.”
Heading downtown for an event or just dinner? Visit the GM Renaissance Center, take the glass elevator on Level 3 up to the 71st floor and discover the newly-opened dining trio, Highlands.
This multi-concept culinary destination includes Highlands, the main restaurant that prides itself on a unique approach to a classic steakhouse (complete with an “epic” wine collection); Hearth 71, a walk-in only space that serves locally-sourced small plates and Indie microbrews circled around a blazing fire; and High Bar, a go-to spot for sweets, a curated collection of scotch and more.
“The process has taken pretty close to three years with the construction itself taking over a year,” founder and restaurateur Shawn McClain said.
McClain, hospitality director and managing partner Holly McClain, creative director Sarah Camarota and operations director Richard Camarota make up McClain Camarota Hospitality, the restaurant group that was given the keys to the space after Coach Insignia closed in early 2017. McClain said the foursome, who have restaurants at the Aria Resort and Casino and Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, wanted to really kind of turn, inside out, that “top-of-the-tower experience” since, traditionally, it had always been narrowly focused on special occasions.
“We didn’t want anything too formal, and we didn’t want anything too stiff, too modern or too old,” he explained. “We wanted just really a kind of warm, somewhat-cozy environment that felt approachable.”
And that they did. The restaurant, like others McClain has done in his career, is, as he described, a “one-off.” Everything is unique, and nothing about it is a duplicate from somewhere else.
In addition to the three new dining spaces led by executive chef Scott Garthwaite, the 72nd floor has now been turned into a private event area, which began being rented out in 2019 and already filling up quickly for summer 2020 events and weddings.
“We’ve done parties as few as 35 up there, but if you were to do more of a strolling event, we could fit up to 300,” McClain explained. “We’re very open to creating the experience. We’re here to say yes as much as we can.”
McClain and his family relocated to Detroit about nine years ago, which is where his wife, Holly, is originally from. However, it wasn’t until a few years ago when McClain was ready to focus on jumping in the market here in Detroit.
“Things were galvanizing in Detroit, and people had already started doing things and getting rewarded,” McClain said. “A serendipitous conversation about the Ren. Cen. turned into a broader conversation about my desire to do something new up here, and the timing just worked out. Everyone who drives around the city sees this building. There’s an inherent attachment and hometown engagement with this building.”
As of now, Highlands, Hearth 71 and High Bar are only open for dinner. However, McClain said that they would eventually like to do a lunch program and are currently having discussions about that.
Highlands is located at 400 Renaissance Drive in Detroit. For more information about Highlands’ spaces, including private event offerings, visit highlandsdetroit.com.