Food

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.

Story by Jill Lorie Hurst

Sneakers. Some of your might remember it as Stan’s or Delta Lady. I know it as Sneakers Pub, a small, cozy-looking place I’ve always wanted to step into, or answer the “help wanted” signs that appear occasionally in the window. Finally, this assignment gave me an excuse to stop in. Debbie Griffin and her longtime manager KT Buckner sat down with me to talk about Sneakers and about some projects that are very dear to their heart.

Sneakers has been a part of Debbie’s life for a long time. Her parents bought the place 27 years ago. Debbie remembers the grassy medians on Woodward used to be parking space back then. “How we could use that parking space now!”

Sneakers was strictly a sports bar, sponsoring many teams. Their early customer base was made up of the loyal factory workers from the Woodward Heights area and guys in local construction. Their customers become family, they mention Charlie, who’s been coming since the ‘60s. “Two names ago!” the friends laugh.

Their family has expanded over the years to include hipsters, businessmen, moms looking for a place to gather. “You get everybody here” agreed Griffin and Buckner. They have a “very diverse clientele” and a close-knit staff. Owner and manager are both mothers of three. Debbie’s co-owner is her older brother Dave Cantrall. Dave, Debbie and KT are all Ferndale residents and have witnessed the explosion of change and growth over the years. I asked how they feel about the changes, and Debbie was quick to reply that the influx of new business is a help, not a hardship. KT admits that she got a little nervous when clubs started springing up around them, but Debbie reassured her that the new businesses would just bring more people to the area and to Sneakers.

Debbie credits her staff with a lot of the bar’s success. She says they’re busy “because of my girls” and firmly states that she couldn’t do it without them. The staff not only keeps Sneakers going, they participate in the bar’s fundraising benefits, cooking for a pot luck dinner that was held last Summer, a “Christmas in July” to gather supplies for the folks down at Cass Park.

How did they get involved with Cass Park? Debbie’s face lit up as she talked about her neighbor and friend Noel Briggs. She and Noel sit outside drinking tea and talking and the talk often turned to Cass Park. Debbie told me that Noel “makes about a hundred sandwiches” and heads down to Cass Park every other week to help out the area residents in need. Noel’s brother is involved too. He fixes up bicycles and donates them to neighborhood residents. A bike can be a lifesaver if it helps you get to work.

Debbie and the Sneakers family were anxious to get involved. There was the Christmas in July. And they are holding a coat drive, collecting men’s women’s and children’s coats during September and October. They do other giving as well. Last Fall, they learned about a struggling family in the area, and quietly decided to adopt them for Christmas. The mom didn’t want anything for herself, but gave them a list of needs and wants for her children. Debbie, KT and company provided gifts, a tree and decorations. This holiday season they’ve partnered with Children’s Hospital of Michigan. The Snowpile program allows parents of sick kids to choose gifts for their child without having to leave their bedside. Stop by Sneakers and pick an ornament with a gift idea, then bring the new, unwrapped gift to Sneakers before December 14th and they will deliver the donated gifts. They do their work quietly, but always welcome help.

Debbie insists “We’re a tiny puzzle piece in the grand scheme of things”. To me, they are representative of all that’s great about Ferndale. When you’re in the neighborhood, stop in at Sneakers Pub. Donate a coat if you can, or find out about the Christmas adopt a family project. Have a burger or some chili. Watch football on Sunday and enjoy some free half time food at Ferndale’s neighborhood bar.

Sneakers Pub is located at 22628 Woodward, just south of 9 Mile. You can find them on Facebook and you can also find more information about events at Cass Park on Facebook at “MCHR Sundays in the Park.”

Story & photo by Kevin Alan Lamb

Let us turn back the clock and relive a time where a meal meant to break bread with the artisan who cooked it and the farmer who harvested the grain, a time when we gathered in a celebration of community and progress in the form of shared creation and indulgence, fine whiskey, seasons passed, music and simple food, not made simply.

“The place is called Otus Supply. Otus is the genius of the great horned black owl, and the Supply really works with the industrial flavor, but also it plays from a marketing perspective: we’re supplying good friends, good cheer, good music, good food, good life,” Thom Bloom said with the type of smile that insists you believe him.

Located on 345 E. 9 Mile, Otus Supply opens in December and reminds us of the immense love and magnificence in the minutia with its intentional design, decor, and chef-inspired menu.
“It’s going to be a pretty full menu that’s seasonal, and it’s really inspired by the Great Lakes. Folks you know who have migrated over the last couple hundred years to the Great Lakes you know, whether that’s the Lebanese, the Polish, the German, the Dutch, the French. We drew influence from Chicago over to Cleveland, northern Michigan and Detroit. We call it simple food not prepared simply.

Since first learning of Ferndale’s newest spruce goose in July, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know the men behind the mission of inspiring and connecting a community through good food, good music, and art.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in the concert business, I have other restaurants I’ve done. I was in the advertising business. Throughout all of these different careers you have a position or takes on different things. I took little bits and pieces of things that I really thought were important, and this is what Scott and I jokingly call our spruce goose.”

Before stepping foot in the newly-renovated, almost 11,000 square foot building, it becomes apparent that you are about to experience something special; something that you may not be able to articulate, but certainly feel and look forward to sharing it with others.

“We went out of our way to find as many recycled and architectural salvaged pieces to not only build the space, but to augment and decorate the space and kind of give homage to the last hundred years in Detroit history and living, prewar and postwar industrial revolution. In our design elements we kind of went back almost 300 years to the founding of Detroit. The French played a role in creating the kind of softer, feminine side of the design aspect.”

“We even went over to Paris and shopped, found pieces and windows and doors. Matter of fact, one of the old doors to a downtown Pairs building entered into a courtyard, a 10-foot door, you’ll see in our foyer. We also brought in three or four main artists who have played a major role in designing the space. One is Alex Morales from Smartmouth Designs out of Chicago, another is Daniel Ross from Detroit who does a very similar sculptural kind of woodworking perspective.”

When the doors open it will satisfy a number of needs in the Ferndale community, bringing in national and international acts to showcase a live room with over 30 taps, high ceilings, state-of-the-art acoustics, a sound booth made from reclaimed remnants of the train station, and music intent on making you move. There isn’t a music venue like it.

“Any music that happens here is going to be from the heart and soul, kind of roots Americana, New Orleans influence. It’s kind of, good old music you know? It’s really about having the musical side tap into the same kind of passion that we put into the food. We don’t want to make a mistake about the order here either, you know? It’s food first, and music a close partner alongside.”

Otus will host the official Greensky Bluegrass New Year’s afterjam with Greg Burns & Friends,  featuring Anders Beck, Mike Shimmin, Mike Lynch, Dave Menzo and special guests, The Kitchen Dwellers and The Whistle Stop Review. A free shuttle will be provided from Royal Oak Music Theatre to the Otus each night.

The building has been expanded with a new foyer and garage door space, along with a patio covered by a steel roof, with steel girders, and three large garage doors that ascend 18 feet in the air to be out of sight.

“It’s a real wide open outdoor space in warm weather scenarios, it’s open if it’s sunny in the winter, as much as possible when it’s warm, it’s a four-seasons scenario, on the Inside as well.”

By Jenn Goeddeke

Situated just North of 9 Mile on Woodward (22848 Woodward Ave), Howe’s Bayou is a popular bar/restaurant with an intimate, low-lit ‘artsy’ vibe which Michael Hennes runs with his partner, Patti Barker. Howe’s Bayou has been serving its patrons with authentic, Southern-style dishes since 1999. During that year, Hennes – who is now the proprietor – began working with Tom Brandel, a local restauranteur (of Tom’s Oysters, in Roy-al Oak). Hennes explained that Brandel was initially looking for management help but, after only a year, Hennes was able to purchase the establishment. Prior to purchasing Howe’s Bayou, Hennes had extensive experience in the food industry, having lived and worked for restaurants in Detroit for 25 years.

The Howe’s Bayou family-friendly menu offers something for everyone at an affordable price including steak, sandwiches, and seafood – along with traditional New Orleans favorites. My personal favorite is the Voodoo Chicken Po’ Boy: “strips of grilled chicken tossed in our savoury New Or-leans BBQ sauce – $7.95” (All Po’ Boys are served with southern slaw and home-baked potato chips).

For adult clientele, there is a wide offering of beverages: craft beers, as-sorted cocktails, and various wines. The wait-staff are always friendly, and able to offer good suggestions regarding food/beverage combinations. For those with a ‘sweet-tooth’ craving, I would strongly suggest trying the bread pudding with a bourbon sauce, or the peach cobbler with whipped cream (at $4.25 each). Tuesday dinner specials are available for just$10/plate, so new customers can find their favorite dish!

Hennes has a definite interest in ‘giving back’ to the community, and in serving others. At one point in his career, Hennes took a break to work with “Focus Hope,” where he managed the café and oversaw the confer-ence center full-time for 18 months. More recently, Howe’s Bayou donated food for over 150 guests at an ‘Awards for Youth’ event, through Peace Action of Michigan; Hennes has been contributing to this charity in a simi-lar way for five years.

I asked Hennes what stood out to him while working over the years at Howe’s Bayou. He responded, “The community here is the greatest experi-ence, my staff are awesome and we have a very loyal base of customers. It’s mostly just word-of-mouth advertising now. Everyone knows each oth-er from the surrounding businesses. We all take a vested interest in what’s going on. This neighborhood really takes pride in itself!” Hennes added that this community spirit has encouraged him to volunteer for different local causes/events including the DDA and FernCare.

Hennes and Barker certainly have a great way of making their customers feel welcome and wanting to come back for more of the Howe’s Bayou Southern-dining experience.

Howe’s Bayou can be reached at: (248) 691.7145, or by email: info@howesbayouferndale.net. Private and Business Catering is available. Street-side dining open in the Spring & Summer months. Visit the website for online ordering/menu information: www.howesbayouferndale.net

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Story by Jason Shubnell

If you keep a close eye on the Ferndale bar and restaurant scene, then you may have already heard of The Conserva.

The city’s latest eatery takes up the spot of Torino, the popular kitchen that closed in the summer of 2015. In its place is The Conserva, and the idea of a comfortable space with an extensive wine and beer menu. Conserva presents a combination of creatively-prepared meats and seafoods, vegetables, fresh made mustards, and aiolis, some of which are prepared using the Italian process called conserva.

So, when can you get a taste of this place? Right now!

The Conserva has been hosting soft opening weekends for a few weeks now, which are open to the public: Thursday through Saturday from 5:00 P.M. to Midnight. The kitchen closes at 10:00 P.M. each night.
“We plan to continue them until we open, but we suggest people check our Facebook page and sign up for ff16634_conserva_foodour mailing list to check to make sure that we are open before they come,” said Janna Coumoundouros.
That name might be familiar, as Janna runs Lilacpop Studio on Woodward. She and her husband, Chef Matthew Barbridge, came up with the idea of The Conserva.

“We didn’t have a restaurant but still wanted to cook good food and add in the art element, all while serving high end food in a non-stuffy environment,” the restaurant’s website reads. “We wanted people to sit together and enjoy the experience at one long table. That way they can interact while enjoying great food and drinks, because dining can be an experience rather than just a meal.”

Janna and Matthew were mum on a specific date for their grand opening, but hopefully it will be in the near future. Janna continued, “The soft openings have been an excellent way for Chef Matt to test out menu items until we officially open, and everyone that has attended has really enjoyed it.”

What will separate The Conserva from some of Ferndale’s other dining establishments?

“We are doing a different concept. Creative, medium plates with a kick-ass bar,” said Janna. “Our goal with the ff16634_conserva_barspace is to be eclectic with fine art but not pretentious. The food is sort of the same way. The food is creative yet accessible.”

The average plate price is between $7.50-$14. Drinks are about the same price range, and will feature craft cocktails from an up and coming talented bartender and a beautifully curated wine and beer list.

“You could bring a family, as long as the kids are adventurous eaters.”

Janna said they are using local art and artisans on everything, from the signage to the interior.