It's hard not to get excited about the many new restaurants that have popped up in the past year. And the momentum in Detroit only promises to continue. We've already heard about many of these chefs and restaurateurs and the inspiring stories about the food they create, but just as a reminder, here are some of the most highly anticipated new restaurants we can't wait to open their doors.
We first met chef Brendon Edwards and partner Joe Robinson earlier this year at their first pop-up dinner for their upcoming Standby bar and restaurant to be installed in the Belt alleyway behind Broadway Street. With Edwards in the kitchen and Robinson manning the bar, the duo proved to be a powerful force with a unique approach to pairing food and drink. Described by Edwards as "progressive American" cuisine, the menu that summer evening inside the Salt and Cedar printing space in Eastern Market paid tribute to Latin America, Asia, and rustic culinary traditions, while the cocktails provided the balance.
That's what we'll have to look forward to in the new space, which at press time was still being built. From what we've seen, Standby should live up to its name, becoming a fixture for downtown dwellers and workers looking for an elegant night out, where they'll take in the essence of the Library Street Collective exhibition that runs throughout the alley. Huge windows will flood the dining and bar area with the sun by day and streetlights by night. And guests will be taken on a journey with each specially curated course and drink.
Like all Detroit restaurant projects, the opening for this spot has been pushed back, mostly due to the challenging build-out. Edwards told us back in the summer he was hoping for a September opening date. That day has come and passed, but from the careful consideration given to each detail of the place, we anticipate the wait will be well worth it. Edwards and Robinson said that after Standby has had a chance to settle into the neighborhood, the two will open a smaller, literal hole-in-the wall bar in the Belt, as well as a full-scale, yet-unnamed restaurant. One thing at a time, fellas.
The Huron Room
It started with the gourmet slider at Green Dot Stables on West Lafayette Boulevard. Then came Johnny Noodle King, farther west on Fort Street, which gave Detroiters its first classic noodle joint. Now, two-and-a-half years after purchasing a vacant old liquor store on Bagley in Mexicantown, restaurateur Jacques Driscoll and wife Christine have opened the Huron Room, a fish and chips spot that mixes plenty of ingredients — beers, wines and spirits, plus a ton of entrées — that emphasize the Great Lakes State. Chef Les Molnar, of course, joined the Driscolls in designing the menu, consisting of classic smelt, perch, and lake trout, a Michigan apple pie, and such cocktails as "The I-75." The space is brightly lit, and you can tell the care that went into the decor. Everything from the bar, which appears to be repurposed concrete from an old harbor, to the lighting, which resembles old submarine windows, has been crafted to give the place a solid balance of barnacle-encrusted kitsch and industrial style. As of press time, the long-awaited restaurant had just celebrated its opening day, with many folks familiar with the couple stopping in to say cheers.
Patience has to be the hardest thing for a chef who's eager to open a new restaurant. Everyone wants to know when they'll be able to visit the place, so there's this anxiety about getting the project over and done with. But then there's the perfectionist aspect to it, with the proprietor not wanting to jump the gun before everything is just perfect.
That seems to be the case at La Rondinella, the Italian eatery being dreamed up by Supino Pizzeria owner Dave Mancini. He's gone through painstaking measures to revamp a former Ethiopian restaurant to make way for this newest venture, to be located just a few doors down from his highly successful pizza place.
Mancini took advantage of the crowds who flocked to the "Murals in the Market" event last fall by hosting a series of soft opening events to friends and family. But he remained relatively tight-lipped, avoiding the jinx associated with even trying to predict an opening date.
And for good reason. This project seems more personal to Mancini, whose family has roots in Italy. Instead of pizza pies, he's paying homage to his family's heritage, a feat that can't be anything but nerve-wracking. But being slow to open makes it all the more intriguing.
When a public relations team is brought on to handle the press surrounding the arrival of two Chicago chefs, you have to take note, even if just to glance over suspiciously. What makes the story significant about chefs John Vermiglio and Josef Giacomino's defecting here to create their new meaty concept, Grey Ghost (named after the legend of a rum-running pirate on the Detroit River), is that it signifies a shift in Midwest migration. For generations, young adults wanted nothing to do with Detroit and flocked to cities like Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and elsewhere. Now that the press has glorified the city as a land of opportunity for millennials, we're starting to hear more and more about young chefs who jump ship from traditionally bigger culinary markets to make their way here.
Giacomino, a native of Madison, Wis., has quite an impressive background. Before leaving the Windy City, he was executive chef at A10, a French- and Italian-inspired eatery, and had been named to Zagat Chicago's 30 Under 30 culinary class. Vermiglio, originally from metro Detroit, worked as culinary director of chef Matthias Merges' restaurant group, which includes A10, Billy Sunday, and Yusho.
Not much about the menu (other than it will lean heavy on the proteins) and general location (right around Brush Park) has been released. But in the same dramatic fashion that the two made their Detroit entrance, they're planning a series of pop-ups around town, starting with a Dec. 4 event at Yemans Street in Hamtramck.
Detroit's old Chinatown at Cass and Peterboro had for more than a decade been anything but a hot destination. But then the Iconic Tattoo parlor appeared, followed this year by bottle shop 8 Degrees Plato. Meanwhile, restaurateurs Marc Djozlija and Dave Kwiatkowski (of Sugar House, Wright & Co., and Cafe 78) were plotting their own entrance onto the block with the introduction of the Peterboro, a Chinese-American concept.
To achieve just the right amount of authenticity, the duo called on the talents of chef Brion Wong, a New York-bred chef with tons of culinary experience who had made a splash in Detroit last year when he helped with the restart of Antietam in Eastern Market. When word got around that he left just short of a year in at Antietam, the bids went flying with offers and pop-up opportunities abounding. Djozlija and Kwiatkowski won the young chef over and brought him on as chef de cuisine.
Ticketed and non-advertised tasting events for Peterboro have been rolling all fall while construction crews get the restaurant, a former market, move-in ready.
Lady of the House
When you try some of chef Kate Williams' cuisine, you're taken to a rustic Irish farmhouse, filled with nods to her family's heritage. She uses an entire animal, from nose to tail, and local farm ingredients to pay respect to all that the fertile Michigan land has to offer. And her worldly cooking experiences in New York, Chicago, Copenhagen, and beyond give her an edge on the scene: homegrown Michigan, with a twist.
Formerly the chef behind the creative, French-inflected dishes at now-shuttered Rodin, Williams broke out into the spotlight when she opened Republic Tavern in the GAR Building downtown. This year she struck out on her own, seeking her own space, to be called Lady of the House, herself being the lady. Before it launches she's planning a nationwide cooking tour with Revolver co-founder Peter Dalinowski. Together, they'll host a variety of culinary events in several major cities.
When she's gotten some of that wanderlust out of her system, she plans to launch sometime in 2016 in Corktown.
Conserva, Ferndale, Atomic Chicken, Detroit
After Matthew Baldridge left his posts cooking at places like Cliff Bell's and the Rattlesnake Club, he and partner Janna Coumoundouros started venturing into the growing pop-up world, hosting interesting events that used such titillating ingredients as Spam and Faygo. The goal: create an unpretentious dinner club environment where neither food nor hosts take themselves too seriously.
Well, the duo are now in the midst of taking on the brick-and-mortar scene, with the addition of two restaurant concepts: The Conserva, to be installed in a former bank building on Nine Mile Road, where 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. Add to that an extensive wine and beer service and the spot sounds like a continuation of the couple's approach to bringing fun to the dinner table.
While they're getting that space into shape, Baldridge and Coumoundouros are also embarking on a fast-casual, chef-driven soul food concept in a former Popeyes Chicken at Woodward and Milwaukee Avenues in New Center. Though that area has yet to attract the critical mass often associated with the success of a restaurant (the Zenith in the Fisher Building, not too far away, shuttered within a year, citing slow business), the eventual completion of the M-1 project could mean more foot traffic will be in store for the neighborhood.
Although the new restaurants have taken priority as of late, the couple still manages to hold the occasional pop-up. Both locations are slated for spring openings, but knowing the delays that often occur in the planning process, we'll see how that goes.