Food

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Story by David Wesley
Photos by Bernie LaFramboise

LAST WINTER, FERNDALE WELCOMED ANOTHER ADDITION TO ITS EXPANDING DINING SCENE WHEN VOYAGER, AN OYSTER-FOCUSED RAW BAR AND SEAFOOD RESTAURANT, OPENED IN A TINY FORMER WAREHOUSE A FEW BLOCKS EAST OF THE CITY’S DOWNTOWN.

Owner Eli Boyer, an opening partner at Gold Cash Gold in Detroit, parted ways with business partner and chef Marc Bogoff a few months back, and has recruited Justin Tootla and Jennifer Jackson from Chicago to serve as co-executive chefs at Voyager.

The romantically-linked pair met at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and worked in a number of Chicago restaurants together, including the seafood-focused Kinmont. Jackson is a native of Athens, Georgia, and brings a little bit of her Southern roots to the table with subtle Lowcountry influences peppering the coastal-inspired fare. Tootla is a Bloomfield Hills native whose cooking career began at Hunter House in Birmingham.

The Voyager menu always features six to eight oysters with a daily-changing presentation of fried, dressed or grilled preparations. There are also a handful of other raw offerings, such as ceviche, crudo and beef tartare. The raw bar makes up about a quarter of the offerings, but the bulk of the menu is cooked seafood, vegetables and salads. Voyager’s goal is to appeal to folks who might be wary of raw seafood while pushing the boundaries of what’s available in the area.

Part of the approach involves looking outside of the large seafood restaurants. Instead, they are reaching out directly to coastal suppliers and shellfish farmers, many of whom ship their fare from tide to table within 24 hours.

On the beverage side, the offerings have been selected first and foremost to complement the seafood-heavy menu. That translates to a selection of about 15 sparkling wines, high-acid whites and low-tannin reds, all available by either the glass or the bottle.

The tropical flavors are echoed slightly in the bright space itself, with its white, orange and light-blue color palette. Designed by Ferndale-based 5/8ths Architecture, the interior boasts blonde wood panels, white tile and stylish gold trim. The color palette and vaguely Scandinavian-inspired design gives off a mid-century modern vibe, bolstered by the vintage school chairs that double as seating. The 1,400-square-foot space seats 40, with 12 seats at the long bar and 28 in the dining room, which is split from the bar by a low divider sporting individual drink shelves, or “niches,” instead of a rail. Because of the restaurant’s petite size, the single glass-paneled garage door provides ample natural light. It is rolled up in warmer months to add a few more seats on the indoor/outdoor patio.

Eli Boyer was gracious enough to sit down with Ferndale Friends to give an intimate interview about Voyager’s beginnings, current operations and future plans and more:

DW: What was the catalyst for opening a seafood restaurant in Ferndale and how did it all come about?
EB: Often the catalyst is as simple as recognizing a need and a having desire to fill it. There was a void in the marketplace; nobody was going deep on oysters or presenting seafood in a contemporary fashion. In Ferndale, we have a helpful city government, supportive small business community and welcoming neighbors who only want to see us succeed. And people travel here from elsewhere for unique dining and nightlife experiences. I can think of no better place to open a restaurant.

DW: In such a competitive and diverse food scene as Ferndale, how does Voyager stand out? What things do you bring to the table other restaurants don’t?
EB: We really focus on doing one thing well, rather than attempting to be something for everybody. We want to create an experience for our guests— through food, beverage, hospitality and atmosphere — that transports them from the eastside of Ferndale to “{insert major American city here}”. Every night, it’s about creating a conscious desire within our guests to return as often as they’re able.

DR: What are the plans for the future?
EB: We just launched an oyster catering program called the Roaming Raw Bar (there’s more information on our website). And we’re planning a bunch of seafood-focused events for the coming months. In our spare time, we’re working on a new burger restaurant in Capitol Park called Loverboy.

 

Story By: Ingrid Sjostrand
Photos By: Bernie LaFramboise

PICTURE A RESTAURANT WITH A ROTATING MENU of exotic cuisine made mostly in a barbeque smoker, and to top it off it’s based out of a food truck. That’s just one of the twists that give Rogue Estate BBQ an edge over the trend of food trucks in Ferndale.

Another defining quality is that it’s a food truck that doesn’t travel. Owner Bob Perye got tired of moving between locations, the lack of a consistent crowd and the wear on his equipment, so when he parked his truck at the corner of Woodward Heights and Gainsboro St. two years ago he decided to never leave.

“It was right around the time that 9 Mile went under construction, so it was kind of good timing,” he says. “And it’s been great, I love this neighbor-hood. Everyone in this neighborhood has been supportive.”

The block seems to be growing around Rogue Estate too, with UrbanRest Brewing Company and butcher shop Farm Field Table opening in the last two years and bringing additional business to the area.
Perye doesn’t have the typical chef backstory either he didn’t go to culinary school or work in restaurants building his way up to opening Rogue Estate. Surprisingly, he spent the majority of his career as a computer engineer. “I did engineering for 20 years and was always on a call, always had multiple phones and pagers and I was getting burned out,” Perye says.

After trying a change in companies without relief, he knew it was time for a career switch, but it wasn’t as easy as trading in the computer for a smoker. Prior to leaving his job, he started the Rogue Estate cooking club with a few friends.

“We started cooking every week; that went for a while and it was a lot of fun,” he says. “We did a lot of cool stuff, and the gist of it was that you guys can do this too, anybody can tackle this complex stuff.”

Once word got around about Perye’s skills in the kitchen, he began catering events like B. Nektar Meadery’s annual party and various veterans benefits. As his reputation grew, Perye found the confidence to take the leap and open Rogue Estate BBQ.

While he doesn’t miss working in computer engineering, Perye says he is still using those skills every day, whether it’s troubleshooting the sales system in extreme weather or repairing the truck, and he’s happy to share his skills with his neighbors. “I don’t just cook, it’s fun and keeps it interesting,” he says.

After refining and perfecting the classics – like pulled pork, ribs and beef brisket – he set out to explore the fare of the world and seems to have found his creative calling.

“I started dabbling into the Rogue Estate premise that we’re cooking something from another part of the world every week,” Perye says. “It’s fun to do the research, I watch Anthony Bourdain and I’ll see a country I’ve never heard of or a combination of flavors, and I have to try that.”

The standard barbeque options are always on the menu and typically sell out as favorites among regulars, but Perye wanted to keep things interesting, so he began exploring international cuisine as a daily special.
“There’s this entire other group of people, new customers and repeat customers alike that are here for the special and they get that every day because it’s different every day,” he says. “It makes me a better cook and keeps the guests interested.”

The secret to knowing what culture is being featured each day are the flags Peyre has hanging around the fencing of his lot. He started by hanging flags of things he liked or had an affiliation to and it grew with the international menu.

“The flags were just a natural grab of attention. I thought I’m gonna get a flag for whatever the first culture was. Now Amazon gets about five or ten bucks from me buying new flags each week,” Perye says.
Currently Rogue Estate is open Thursday through Saturday from 3:00 P.M. to 7:30 P.M. year-round. Perye hopes to expand hours in the near future, but is working with a staff of only himself and two employees and understands the realities of cooking with a smoker.

“The brisket takes 12 hours minimum, sometimes 14, so when we’re out we are out,” he says. “We can only sell so many in a four-to-five-hour period.”

This isn’t stopping Perye from planning ahead though, and he has no intentions of leaving the space he parked in two years ago.

“I love this neighborhood – the regulars, my guests and my neighbors – The folks that have been here for 40 years and the new neighbors – it’s great to be part of this,” he says.
“The dream is to have our own restaurant and I think that’s when you’ve finally made it.

I’m not beholden to this giant box on wheels, I think I would like to get a building and then sell that on to the next guy that wants to get started.”

Story by Sara E Teller
Photos by Roche Photo Collective

THE AXLE BREWING CO. HAS BEEN BREWING, CANNING AND DISTRIBUTING THEIR CRAFT BEERS IN MICHIGAN SINCE SEPTEMBER 2015. Axle Brewing President Dan Riley (a Detroit native with over 20 years of experience in the media industry), along with his partners, sought to create a destination that would
embrace the neighborhood and elevate the typical craft brewery experience.

The company “began looking for the perfect spot for their public taproom shortly after,” according to Axle’s social media and marketing guru Jill Giacomino. Dan spotted a location on Livernois while doing one of his favorite things – biking riding from Ferndale to Downtown Detroit – and the rest is history, as they say.

Livernois Tap was established at 567 Livernois St and opened for business on June 3rd, acting as a family-friendly communal gather-ing space where patrons can enjoy a wide variety of craft beers and inspired beer food against a backdrop of great conversation and hand-selected tunes. “The space is our modern American interpretation of a classic European beer hall,” according to Jill. “It includes a sprawling outdoor beer garden, 30-seat bar, dining room, brewery, and the team’s offices.”

Livernois Tap’s menu includes specialty creations from Grey Ghost Detroit, a group of culinary experts committed to the art of butchery, refinement of crafting cocktails and unparalleled hospitality. The name stems from a notorious rum-running pirate fleet on the Detroit River during the prohibition era, members of which were never identified. The culinary copy includes food enthusiasts John Vermliglio, David Vermiglio, Joe Giacomino and Will Lee.

The Tap’s menu features over twenty items that pair perfectly with its extensive beer collection. Signature dishes include an eclectic mix of buffalo fried green tomatoes, a fried bologna corn dog and chicken shawarma wings. Guests can also enjoy a beer float in the restaurant’s porter. Weekend brunch is available on Saturday and Sundays from 11:00-2:00 PM, and includes a rotating selection of quiche bites, toaster strudel and other favorites along with a fleet of beer cocktails, of course, including a Shandy with our Noble Ghost and citrus oil. On the kid’s menu parents will find grilled cheese, popcorn chicken, mac ‘n cheese and corn dogs, along with a root beer float, cookies and pudding.

“The menu is currently being executed day-to-day by our Executive Chef, Elliot Patti,” Giacomino explains. Raised on the island of Maui in Hawaii, Patti graduated from the California School of Culinary Arts with a Diploma in Culinary Arts and certified in Le Cordon Bleu method of cooking. He was then fortunate enough to complete his externship training at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in the Four Seasons Resort in Wailea, Maui before relocating first to Los Angeles, then the Detroit area.

Livernois Tap prides itself on being family-friendly, catering to a wide range of restaurant-goers. “Our customer base is wide!” Giacomino exclaims. “We see families from the neighborhood, locals from Detroit, neighbors from University District and Green Acres, business people, bikers, and everything in between. We are very proud of the inclusive environment we’ve created and thrilled how the community has embraced us.”
The restaurant’s music selection is a combination of tunes selected by staff and those requested by guests. “Our team is comprised of huge music fans (okay, nerds),” Giacomino admits. “While we don’t have live music, we do feature curated playlists nightly of our favorite songs and requests from our friends and guests. We also feature themed nights such as ‘Throwback Thursday’ and ‘Soul Sunday’.”

Livernois Tap has already hosted a number of corporate events and social gatherings since its inception, Giacomino said, “We’re also planning to host group bike rides, yoga and other programming in the future. And of course, look for news about our inaugural Oktoberfest coming soon.”

Story By: Maggie Boleyn
Photos By: Bernie LaFramboise

HAVE YOU EVER COME HOME FROM A workout only to find yourself undoing all your effort by pigging out on junk food just because it was handy? Do you wish you could come home to a healthy meal prepared and waiting for you? If so, you will want to check out Clean Plates Detroit, a new meal-management option located at 149 West 9 Mile Road in Ferndale.

Clean Plates operates on the idea that a busy lifestyle does not always go hand-in-hand with healthy eating habits. Clean Plates Detroit aims to provide healthy, cost effective, meals for residents in the Metro Detroit delivery area. Manager Omario Matti said that the concept of healthy, clean eating on-the-go first originated in Toronto, at the sister company of Clean Plates Detroit. “It was not long before we saw an influx in the demand of healthy eating in the United States,” he said.

Ferndale was a natural fit for the concept, Matti said. “The city of Ferndale was an obvious decision,” he said. “Clean Plates represents a variety of things, one being diversity. Our menu offers clients an assortment of meal options including foods from various ethnic backgrounds and dietary restrictions. We cater to individuals who want to meet their goals and at the same time, offer a variety of meals that will accommodate their taste palate. The city of Ferndale is a direct reflection of that. We at Clean Plates believe our menu and motto replicates the demographics of Ferndale—multiplicity and full of energy.”

Matti is enthusiastic about his Ferndale location. “The energy here is a quality you cannot find elsewhere in Michigan. The city of Ferndale is exquisite in that the majority of residents are really in sync with the concept of health and wellness—something we promote so profoundly. Everything from our store design to our menu was a well-thought-out process, and we wanted to make sure our concept fit well with its surroundings.”

Clean Plates combines a passion for good food, and a commitment to the perfect balance between nutrition and taste. An assortment of meal choices were developed with this concept in mind. Also, Clean Plates offers to customize any of their meal plans to meet individual preferences. Popular menu items are always kept in rotation, and specialty meals change every 60 days.

According to the website, vegetarian customers can send an email to Info@Clean-Plates.com, and Clean Plates can work with any of your dietary needs.

Clean Plates promises a variety of high-quality foods delivered right to your door, giving you a leg up on a healthy lifestyle. Ingredients are sourced from Amish farms in Michigan and Indiana, and purchased at local markets. Poultry is all natural, cage-free and grain-fed, and free from hormones and steroids. Beef is grass-fed, also without using hormones and steroids. Meals are hand-delivered during a delivery time window. A text message or phone call is made approximately 15 minutes prior to delivery.

If you cannot be at home during your scheduled delivery window, place a cooler with ice by your door and Clean Plates will leave your delivery there. If you prefer, you can pick up your meals from the retail shop in Ferndale during business hours. However, if you miss your delivery, and you do not pick up your order at the retail store, a re-delivery fee will be charged.

Clean Plates Detroit meal management is on the web at www.CleanPlatesDetroit.com.

By Adam O’Connor

JUST BEFORE THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER REALLY SLAP METRO DETROITERS IN THE FACE, FERNDALE HAS FOUND YET ANOTHER REASON TO CELEBRATE.  AND WHAT DO PEOPLE LOVE MORE THAN GOOD BBQ WHEN THE WEATHER’S NICE?

Well, a few things they love just as much happen to be as good booze, great beer, and outstanding music. Fortunately, the newest Ferndale summer festival provides exactly those things – and more.

Bruise, BBQ & Bourbon – produced by Ferndale’s  own Ultimate Fun Productions and The Social Connection – kicks off it’s inaugural celebration in the summer the weekend of June 16–18. The festival will take place down the main thorough fare of East 9 Mile Road in Downtown Ferndale.

The weekend will feature two stages of continuous music – one acoustic and one main stage – featuring the likes of local and regional acts like George Morris in the Gypsy Chorus, Ryan Delilah and the Miracle Men, the Whiskey Charmers, Dan Tillery, Alise King, Tosha Owens, Tripp N Dixie, AwesomeR, and Flint’s one man band Sweet Willy Tea amongst others.

The event will also feature everyone’s favorite festival foods – definitely focused on BBQ, but also offering up a smattering of other items for those who don’t partake in summertime’s grilled and smoke treats. Local BBQ purveyors Smoke Ring BBQ, Detroit BBQ company, Stonewood Smokehouse and more will be joined by the other great Michigan BBQ slinging champs like Lansing’s The Smoking Pig and Hollands Hogwild BBQ. Some pit masters (such as Smoke Shack) will be coming from so far as Columbus Ohio – and they will undoubtedly be more announced.

An abundance of craft beer will also be present, as well as a varied choice of booze – from smoky bourbons to aged whiskey’s and more. There will even be a Moscow Mule tent featuring every type of Mule variation you’ve heard of – and some you haven’t – such as the Mexican Mule (tequila, ginger beer and lime juice), Gin Gin Mule (gin, ginger beer, lime juice) and Cider Mule (vodka, ginger beer, hard apple cider, and lime juice) and a bunch more! Further, Cocktail Creations is your destination to sample a variety of classic newly-conceived summer cocktails if Moscow Mules aren’t your thing. And finally, if you were hoping for a great selection of bourbons you won’t be disappointed by the offerings on Bourbon Boulevard.

There will be all-ages fun as well, offering games, the kids zone face painting, Michigan’s favorite backyard past time of cornhole and tons of more wholesome and family friendly entertainment for anyone who feels like bringing themselves out to the free event

The event takes place on Friday, June 16 from the hours of 5 pm until Midnight; Saturday, June 17 from Noon until Midnight; and Sunday, June 18 from Noon until 10pm.

Further information and festival updates are available at brewsbbqbourbon.com or by visiting the event’s social media (you can even entered to win a free slab of ribs!).

Story By Maggie Boleyn
Photos By Bernie LaFramboise

SAY “FOOD TRUCK” TO PEOPLE OF A CERTAIN AGE, AND IT WILL PROBABLY CONJURE UP VISIONS OF TIGHTLY-WRAPPED MYSTERY SANDWICHES, OR CORN DOGS AND COTTON CANDY AT THE STATE FAIR. THAT IS SO LAST CENTURY. TODAY’S FOOD TRUCKS ARE MORE OF A “MOVEABLE FEAST,” AND DEFINITELY NOT YOUR GRANDFATHER’S FOOD TRUCK.

Food trucks are a growing trend. In fact, according to the Food Liability Insurance Program (FLIP), an online insurance program which caters to the insurance needs of the food distributing industries,“food trucks are driving a healthy trend and steering people towards local, sustainable, and organic foods.”

FLIP reports that mobile food businesses report a 9.3 per cent increase in revenue since 2010. In 2015, the mobile food industry was valued at $856.7 million and that number is expected to increase another $130 million by 2019.

And, it looks very promising that, come this summer, the East Side of Ferndale will be helping to fuel that trend. “Detroit Fleat,” a food-truck-themed eatery, will launch on the site at 1820 E. Nine Mile near Wanda Street, which originally housed Wing Hing Inn.

“We are moving along nicely, and the place is looking great,” says Aaron Tye, owner of Delectabowl Food Truck and Catering, and the driving force behind Detroit Fleat. Tye said construction started “the day we closed on the property,” back in February of 2017.

“We are excited to bring some great food to the East Side of Ferndale,” Tye says of his plans for Detroit Fleat. “We know that the options are limited on that side of town and by bringing in private owned food trucks that specialize in respected cuisines, we are confident that everyone can find something they like.”

The Detroit Fleat concept envisions several food trucks at the Nine Mile location. Tye explains, “We will have a few of the top food trucks in Metro Detroit on a semi-permanent basis, and also a rotating truck slot to keep things interesting.”

Having several food trucks means that customers will be able to enjoy a variety of choices, Tye says. “The great thing about eating from gourmet food trucks is that they keep their menus limited to a few items to what they do best. Rarely do you find a restaurant that specializes at everything on their menu. But you are able to do that by having multiple food trucks. Tacos, BBQ, comfort food, Mediterranean, burgers are just a few menu items that you will see between the trucks at Detroit Fleat.”
Tye, a former Ferndale resident, had been looking for a spot for a food truck court for some time before selecting the Nine Mile location.

“We started looking for a more permanent location for food trucks a few years back when we launched our food truck, Delectabowl,” he said. “We have always kept our eye on properties in Ferndale due to the community and the city’s willingness to work with food trucks and try new concepts.”

Tye adds, “We will have a year-round house menu featuring some street food favorites along with a full craft cocktail and beer bar. Our space will be great for private events and pop ups. Detroit Fleat will also be a great resource for anyone looking for info on booking food trucks for private events which has been a growing need between event organizers and food trucks.”

By Jennifer Goeddeke

Most Ferndale residents and regular visitors are familiar with the iconic WAB building, positioned at the corner of North Woodward Ave and East Troy St. However- according to general manager, Michael Pierce, many are not aware of the 20-year anniversary for the Woodward Avenue Brewery rapidly approaching on May 24th. A common response is, apparently, “…has it really been that long?!”
For sure, there will be an elaborate birthday celebration, combining a new brew release and a community-oriented event. Co-owners Chris and Krista Johnston, along with Brian Reedy, have kept their fingers on the pulse of Ferndale’s energetic social scene. Combined with outstandingly successful festivals
(the DIY Street Fair, Pig & Whiskey and the Ferndale Oktoberfest), the WAB continues to impress. In the words of Krista Johnston, “We are very happy we chose Ferndale in 1997! It was more on ground floor when we opened, a lot more vacancies. The City has grown, and it has been supportive and welcoming. We like to represent the City’s creative spirit…all of our staff are musicians and artists.”
I recently met with the WAB’s general manager, Michael Pierce, to find out more details on this landmark location. As a notable distinction, the WAB is currently the only brewery/brew-pub in Ferndale; it has retained a comfortable and fun vibe, while serving a good variety of handcrafted brews, and an inviting selection of food. In addition, its popular sister-establishments are within walking distance on Woodward: the Emory and the Loving Touch pool hall/music venue. Along with fellow general manager, Dustin Leslie, Pierce ensures that daily operations in all three establishments are running smoothly.
Significantly, the WAB has two relatively new members of staff: Chris Coburn, as brewmaster, and Vince Rossio, as executive chef. Onboard with the WAB crew since January 2016, Coburn’s educational background is in brewing technology and science, plus work experience at Greenbush and Beer Lab London. He creates original recipes, and also collaborates at times with oth-er breweries. One such collaboration with Greenbush Brewery was the ‘Wabracadabra,’ served at the Emory last year). Rossio has essentially revamped the entire WAB menu with very favor-able results; the food served is not at all your typical ‘pub’ food – nothing fried – with an emphasis on healthy items.

I had the opportunity to spend time with Coburn, and sample some of his creations. The enthusiasm and knowledge he has for his craft is quite obvious. Chatting with Coburn on the art of making beer is an education in itself! My first tasting was ‘Saratoga’- the House pale ale, a 5.5 per cent ABV brew; it is described by Coburn as having a “light body with a hearty malt flavoring.” Next tasting was ‘Rama’s Arrow Double IPA,’ at a surprising 9.1 per cent ABV. The WAB website description of this IPA is “Smooth, not overly bitter, and maybe a little too easy to drink.” Finally, I tasted ‘Detroit Maiden,’ the House IPA, at 6.8 per cent ABV, described online as “Beautifully balanced with four kinds of malt, Magnum and Cascade hops.” Coburn mentioned that they sell over 30 kegs per month of Detroit Maiden, and they can barely keep up with the demand. All three brews were, in my humble opinion, smooth and delicious.

Servers at the WAB have been responding well to Coburn’s lead. Apparently, two of the five main WAB servers have recently taken the Ciserone beer serving certification (at a similar level to Sommelier certification in wine serving). I liked the fact that an option is available for customers who choose to avoid gluten: a guest tap of ‘Starcut Pulsar Cider’; and for those who do not drink alcohol, Coburn keeps a steady supply of quality root beer soda.

Keeping in tune with popular demand, an innovative club with-in the WAB was formed in December 2016: “The Brewers Club.” Membership to the club is limited to 97 members, based on the year of the WAB’s launch in 1997. The club has proven to be a hit; at the time of writing, only 20 slots are left.

Giving back to the community is important to the WAB owners and management alike. Local fundraisers are organized on a regular basis, such as “Dining for a Cause” and “BarkNation.” Also in formation at the WAB is the “Feel-Good” tap: A craft brew the proceeds of which benefit local, state and national charities in monthly rotation. A special recipe is developed for the brew, which is a year-long process. Overall, it seems the current vibe at the WAB is a mixture of beer-loving tradition, community spirit and progressive attitude; definitely, a winning combination!

22646 Woodward Ave. Ferndale
(248) 546-3696
www.thewabferndale.com

By David Wesley
Photo Bernie Laframboise

The Detroit Bold coffee brand was born in Ferndale, and it’s Chief Bean Officer, AJ, was born in Highland Park and spent most of his life in every town up and down Woodward from the Detroit River to Pontiac. He is a Ferndale legend, as the former proprietor of AJ’s Café and progenitor of the “Danny Boy” and “Assembly Line” marathon concerts, among many other things. Recently he has become embattled in a lawsuit over the name of his coffee company.

The local entrepreneur sat down with Ferndale Friends for an interview about his life, Detroit, coffee and his company and the lawsuit.

DW: What is your relationship with coffee and the city of Detroit, and how did it spark you to start your own coffee company?
AJ: My relationship with coffee as it applies to my company is rooted in our café, AJ’s Music Café (April 1, 2007-April 1, 2012) on 9 Mile in Ferndale. I began selling it in one pound bags out of the cafe in 2009. We started selling retail, first to Ferndale Foods, in 2011.

It was there that for those five memorable years that we became an epicenter of sorts, for grassroots causes in the Detroit area, and earned the title of “the little cafe that bailed out the American automobile industry, one cup of coffee at a time.” At that time, no other subject was of more importance than the struggling auto industry and the economic pain our entire region was suffering through. People were losing jobs more than ever due to a whole new technological age that was displacing our whole industry, and our way of life was imploding in a decades-long crescendo.

Because we had a music café, and with that a stage, we had venue — a small but somewhat familiar place — and when I took it over it had achieved some prominence in the local music and open mic community. I sort of inherited that. So, we brought in open mic nights which helped regain the spot as a destination. Ted Berlinghof’s open mic Wednesday’s were fairly legendary, and that led us to our first foray into marathon concerts.

We held a quirky Danny Boy marathon in 2008 which made global news, and attracted over 1000 people to sing 700 versions of that Irish air on St. Patty’s day weekend. We instantly gained five minutes of fame and enough social capital to become somewhat of a household name, if not at least a familiar one. Our Danny Boy marathon was worthy of a Guinness record, or so I thought. Several months went by after I had submitted the necessary documentation that Guinness required, only to be told that they did not have a “single-song longevity marathon” record, nor did they wish to have one.

It was Guinness that suggested that we attempt the “longest continuous concert by multiple artists,” an event that was regularly monitored and updated. So, we took them up on it. That following March, 2009, we broke the Guinness record and Detroit Bold coffee was born!

DW: How has your company grown since its start and what has the reaction of Detroiters been?
AJ: I began selling Detroit Bold out of the cafe in 2011 under the banner name of “Assembly Line Blend, Industrial Strength coffee,” in 2009. We had two varieties; our dark roast was “Detroit Bold” and our light roast was “Fisher Body,” in deference to our auto heritage. Two years later, we adopted the Detroit Bold Banner for all of our varieties.

My first retail store was Ferndale Foods. By the suggestion of fellow local businessman and good friend, Jack Aronson, I took his suggestion and kept the operation small in the early days to see if the product was viable and would sell. Boy, did it! We are now in approximately 300 stores and growing! I still personally stock the shelves and tend to Ferndale Foods as much as I can.

DW: Recently there’s been a lawsuit filed against Detroit Bold. How did that happen and what’s your prediction of the outcome?
AJ: Yes, we are being sued by an unknown and obscure entity out of New York who claims the rights to “Detroit Coffee Co.” They maintain that our name, “Detroit Bold Coffee Co.,” confuses their potential customers. They are attempting to take our good name.

I am not at liberty to discuss much of the case but I can say that our name, our story and our dedication to providing excellent products and being that essence of what it means to be Detroit Bold is more than a product or a name. It is a civic pride, born of authenticity that comes from being a part of the fabric of where you come from and that is not something that can be bought or taken away.

DW: Regardless of the lawsuit what will your future plans be with Detroit Bold?
AJ: As of any attempts to usurp our name, Detroit Bold is far more important than a product. It is my vision to contribute to an awareness that the city of Detroit and her people are the essence of the truest grit, determination, talent and hard work that has kept this country at the forefront in far more than our awesome cars. To be “Detroit Bold” is to take ownership in your community in ways that make you proud because you, the everyday, ordinary hardworking human are the backbone of a community and we need every one of us. We can never again let Detroit be the poster child for neglect, disinvestment and collateral damage for an economy that would leave anyone behind. So, the future is to be an example of a good company that contributes to the community economy and supports our neighbors, celebrating our magnificent diversity.

Story & Photos by Malissa Martin

Gumbo, corned beef and cabbage, pork chops, ribs, fried pickles, hush puppies – that’s just a few items from the menu at Southern Belles’ Bistro on Woodward Avenue in Ferndale.

Owner Tony Murry opened Southern Belles’ in May 2016. “The idea was to take a traditional soul food restaurant, and take Cracker Barrel, and kind of jam them into one. Hence, the name Southern Belles’ Bistro. The idea was to bring the best of country, Southern cooking, and soul food together in one,” Murry says.

Despite being open for less than a year, Southern Belles’ has already identified customers’ favorite dishes. Chicken and dumplings, catfish dinner, and chicken and waffles are the most popular dishes.

“People are very particular about their waffles. We searched around and use a different waffle mix now; and also wings, we use a different type flour to put them in. They look lighter because they don’t come out as brown. It tastes a lot better and gives it a lot more of a crunchy flavor.” Murry says.

Macaroni and cheese, greens, and dressing are very popular sides at the bistro. “Those are homemade from scratch and are really good.” Murry says. Southern Belles’ also offers acquired tastes food selections including chitterlings, ox tails, and a home-style turkey dinner with cornbread stuffing.

Southern Belles’ is steadily growing and business is starting to really pick up. However, Murry confesses that breakfast is a tough market to break into in Ferndale, with all the established breakfast eateries. The breakfast menu for Southern Belles’ offers a variety of options including: chicken and waffles, corned beef hash, savory chicken crepes, steak and eggs, French toast, omelettes, biscuits and gravy, fish and grits, salmon croquettes, pancakes, waffles, and much more.

When it comes to making great soul food, it all begins with the cooks. Murry says he worked closely with his cooks to create an appetizing menu. “As far as my prep cooks, I have a lot of older women who’ve cooked for years. One of them is a professional chef. They brought a lot of their recipes to the table,” Murry says. “Home-cooked dishes from scratch are Ferndale residents’ weakness when it comes to food,” Murry mused. “We get the same kinds of stories, ‘I haven’t had cooking like this since my grandmother passed away’,” he says.

What sets Southern Belles’ apart from other restaurants in the area is their commitment to making  home-cooked meals. Ninety percent of the food cooked at Southern Belles’ is made from scratch. Another distinction is that they don’t use pork in their dishes. “We don’t put pork products in any of our food. We sell bacon and ribs, but not as far as in our sides. Traditionally, a lot of people put pork in the greens, pork in the black-eyed peas or even in the gravy. Instead, the cooks use smoked turkey to add flavor to their dishes.”

So far, Murry says business has been good and he’s learning more and more about Ferndale residents. “The Ferndale consumer, they’re very loyal to their restaurant establishments. So we’re starting to pick up more business in Ferndale. A lot of the business we’re getting is transport business; like followers that go to the soul food establishments in the area like Beans and Cornbread or Motor City. Those kinds of customers came to us quickly. The Ferndale customers are starting to come in now. I’ve been noticing it for the last two, three months.”

Murry says that other Ferndale restaurant owners have been very friendly to him and even more since he’s opened. “It’s been a very friendly business atmosphere.” Murry plans to participate in Ferndale’s summer events and is looking forward to building with the Ferndale community.

Visit Southern Belles’ Bistro at 22939 Woodward Ave. in Ferndale.
For more information visit
www.southernbellesbistro.com
or call (248) 607-3788.

Story by Sarah E. Teller
Photo By Bernie LaFramboise

George and Cecilia Grego purchased Como’s restaurant, on the corner of Nine Mile Rd and Woodward, on April 1, 1961, and since then the restaurant has been a staple in the Ferndale community. The Italian hot spot is best known for its pizza. “We have the best pizza anywhere around,” says Como’s manager, George Grego Jr.

Como’s has a full bar and regular entertainment, combining dining and drinks, great for any sized party. It will offer a fun-filled lineup for the upcoming Blues Festival, January 27th through February 4th. “We’ll have entertainment each night,” George says.

There is a banquet area that can accommodate up to 100 people, as well as a private dining room seating up to 40. In warmer months, the outside patio seats several hundred people. “It’s a simple phone call,” George says of how quickly a reservation for a special event can be made. Como’s also hosts birthday parties, wedding and baby showers and other celebratory events.

Como’s reopened in October 2016, after having been cited for several violations related to cleanliness and the safety of its food, including citations for its kitchen area and ultimately closed by the health department the previous month. A lot of it had to do with “noncompliance of staff,” according to George. “We have a lot of new staff now and have remodeled.” Of the original 20-plus employees, only six have been retained. “No money had been put into the restaurant in nearly 20 years,” George adds.

“We’ve taken this opportunity to put the funds in that were needed.” Most of the building has been gutted and the space has been completely transformed, with all violations properly addressed and eradicated.

“We’ve made some fantastic changes and additions, and have thoroughly addressed and resolved any outstanding issues with the Oakland County Health Division,” George also indicated in a press release following the restaurant’s reopening. “All current staff are ServSafe certified.” ServSafe is a program that uses FDA Food Code guidelines to provide safety education and training to anyone employed at a restaurant who handles food.

George credits much of the positive change to Como’s new award winning chef, Pete Lech, a graduate of Schoolcraft College who served as an executive chef at Andiamo Italian Restaurant for a number of years. “Pete is just great,” he says. “He comes with a wealth of knowledge and experience.”

The restaurant has instituted some great specials to make sure members of the community stop by and check out the changes. “We have the best specials earlier in the week,” George says. On Monday’s Como’s has half-off all pizzas. On Tuesdays, pasta is buy-one, get-one free. And, on Wednesdays, patrons can enjoy a strip steak dinner for just $20.  “It’s a little-known fact that Como’s delivers, too,” George says. “And we even deliver beer and wine.

Como’s Restaurant is located at 22812 Woodward Avenue.
Staff can be reached at 248-548-5005.