Stache International has been open for business only a few weeks, but it has already caught on as a creative alternative for lunch in Eastern Market. We dropped in Jan. 14 for a bite and to see what it's like. What we saw was an interesting repurposing of what was a slaughterhouse a century ago into a spacious and modern lunch counter and dining room.
The menu focuses on sandwiches, fried small bites, and local coffee and pop. Guests can find a seat at one of several four-top tables, long picnic benches for larger groups, or the extended lunch counter that faces the open kitchen.
You will probably be greeted by manager Gracie Moses, who's married to co-owner Ray. She'll set down a large bottle of water and glass and make suggestions on some of her favorites (she often recommends the Firecracker Bites, which are miniature spring rolls stuffed with Gus and Grey's "Sweet Jesus" sweet jalapeno jam, mozzarella and Asiago cheeses, and served with Cajun ranch "Boom" sauce).
We chose one of the many sandwiches, the Refined Swine, made up of a smoked pork shoulder marinated in red wine and French onion seasonings, and topped with rosemary garlic aioli, stuffed into a Dutch crunch roll. The pork came out succulent, with a hint of charred smokiness on the outside. The slightly cheesy, flaky crust of the roll made for a nice bread option. We also topped it off with a Bavarian root beer barbecue sauce from local sauce-maker Jayell Smoke House (we're told Jayell uses Faygo root beer in its recipe).
We also opted for a side of Wings ala Zorba, five chicken wings that are brined in a Mediterranean spice blend, fried, tossed in a house seasoning, and served with garlic oregano ranch sauce. The seasoning was subtle, not overpowering, offering just the right amount of spice to the chicken.
Another fun side came from the Bavarian Roll, which is an egg roll filled with melted Swiss cheese, smoked ham, and dill pickle, and paired with a spicy brown mustard and Stache sauerkraut. Think of it like a deep-fried, rolled ham and Swiss sandwich.
There are also a number of vegetarian-friendly options, including the Veggie Balboa, with smoked portabella mushroom slices, grilled bell peppers and onions, melted house cheese blend, and rosemary aioli on a grilled hoagie bun.
The menu is mostly sourced by vendors at Eastern Market. Meats come from Gratiot Central Market next door, and produce options will vary on availability.
The spot is two years in the making, Ray Moses tells us. When he and partners Steve Kay and Ross Varacalli first saw the space, it was little more than a concrete box next to the bar Thomas Magee's, and had previously housed a bike shop. The trio went to work to build out a full kitchen, but other than that made an effort to maintain the original feel — exposed ceilings, brick walls, and concrete floors — with soft blue and green accent walls, hanging light fixtures, and metal detailing along the front counter and bar.
Moses says he and his partners are working on plans to run food late night to Thomas Magee's, which currently does not have a kitchen, as well as other area bars. For now, hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Stache International is at 1416 East Fisher Freeway. To-go orders can be placed by calling 313-974-6895.
Crowdfunding the Conserva
Pop-up duo turned aspiring restaurateurs Matthew Baldridge and Janna Coumoundouros have their hands full, working to open two restaurants: the Conserva, to be installed in a former bank building on Nine Mile Road in Ferndale; and Atomic Chicken, at Woodward and Milwaukee Avenues in Detroit's New Center.
To help in the effort, Baldridge launched a GoFundMe campaign last week for the Conserva concept, seeking to raise $8,000 to help continue renovations in the space, a former bank. As of Jan. 25 a little more than $2,000 had been raised.
"While gutting what used to be an old tax place, I have found that there is more work to be done than I originally expected," Baldridge says on the GoFundMe page. "In order to bring my concept to life I'm asking for help. I can offer in return my undying gratitude, as well as some other incentives. I truly appreciate that you took the time to read my story, and hope you will consider a contribution! Every little bit helps."
You might remember Baldridge and fiancee Coumoundouros from their Dinner Club pop-up series, an unpretentious dinner club environment that utilizes unusual ingredients. With Conserva, guests will be served a variety of meats, seafood, pickled vegetables, mustards, and aiolis in jars, all prepared using the Italian process the space is named for. There will also be an extensive wine and beer menu. As for Atomic Chicken, the concept is fast-casual soul food, to move into a former Popeye's Chicken.
For more information on how you can help, see gofundme.com/4jkbbtfg.
Lunch in Italian
New Italian eatery Arthur Avenue in Birmingham is set to launch its lunch service Feb. 1. Lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. Co-owner and Pea & Carrots founder Zack Sklar says menu items will cost no more than $10. Arthur Avenue is located at 260 N. Old Woodward Ave., and shares its kitchen with another Sklar production, brasserie Au Cochon.
The Peas & Carrots Hospitality concept is the sixth restaurant in the group, which spans Michigan and Illinois. The spot, named after the street in the Bronx in New York known for its many Italian dining establishments, opened in December.
Also starting Feb. 1, the restaurant group's five Michigan locations will commence in Project Have a Heart to benefit Heart 2 Hart Detroit, a nonprofit that provides food and basic personal care products for people who are homeless in Detroit. As part of the fundraising efforts, guests who dine at any of the restaurants on Feb. 8 will have a portion of the day's proceeds donated to the initiative.