Food

By Colton Dale

ONCE A DULL AND DRAB LIGHT INDUSTRIAL CORRIDOR, ELEVEN MILE RD between Greenfield Rd and Coolidge Hwy. is going through a total transformation. Much like the Nine Mile Redesign, City officials saw potential in Eleven Mile that hadn’t yet been unlocked. So, they took it upon themselves to make a difference and bring out the best in one of Oak Park’s unique business districts.

IN 2018, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR KIM MARRONE AND CITY PLANNER KEVIN RULKOWSKI worked with the Oak Park Planning Commission to rezone three blocks of Eleven Mile between Greenfield and Coolidge; the blocks between Tulare St. and Gardens St. to be exact. They were rezoned from LI (Light Industrial) to a brand new zone called MX-1 (Mixed-Use).

Previously, those three blocks were zoned for things like small manufacturing, warehouses, storage facilities and other light industrial operations. Now, the allowed uses are much more exciting and consist of business types aimed at drawing in people from all over the region: restaurants, breweries, coffee shops, bakeries and more. The three rezoned blocks are specifically prime for this new classification because of the large public parking lots in the rear. Since the rezoning took place, investment and development in the area has taken off.

Unexpected Craft Brewing Company

THE FIRST BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT TO BE ANNOUNCED AFTER THE REZONING was Unexpected Craft Brewing Company (UCBC), at 14401 Eleven Mile Rd the former location of a small parts manufacturer. Originally

announced in 2018, this project has faced considerable obstacles but is moving forward with perseverance. UCBC will be the second location for proprietor and head brewer Edward Stencel of River Rouge Brewing Company in Royal Oak.

The new brewery will house brewing operations as well as a tasting room (and possibly space designated for food trucks), and it was all made possible by a $100,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD). The MDARD grant helped Stencel cover the costs of the expansion and purchasing new brewing equipment.

“Ultimately, this grant allows us to expand into Oak Park. Without it, it would be very difficult to make this jump because of the overall costs and expenses of the project,” said Stencel at the time. “It’s going to help with the infrastructure, the plumbing and adding additional cold rooms, as well as allowing us to use more Michigan agricultural products and increase our overall production.”

Look for Unexpected Craft Brewing Company to open on Eleven Mile in the coming months.

Oak Park Social

ANOTHER EXCITING DEVELOPMENT OPENING SOON ON THE ELEVEN MILE CORRIDOR IS OAK PARK SOCIAL, a gastropub to be located at 14691 Eleven Mile Rd.

First announced in May 2019, Oak Park Social sits right under Oak Park’s iconic and newly renovated water tower. It will feature an outdoor patio and offer a menu consisting of artisan-inspired New American cuisine that features unique shareables, chef-driven entrées and vegetarian options.

“We knew Oak Park was a great choice because of their recent investments in infrastructure and their strong focus on economic development,” said Oak Park Social proprietor Alexander Bishai. “We sincerely believe in Oak Park and the City’s vision for Eleven Mile Road. We will continue to invest in the City of Oak Park and assist in forging the path for Oak Park to be labeled as a destination for food, spirits and hospitality in Metro Detroit.”

Scheduled to open this Summer, work was stalled for a while and the project pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Work has resumed, though, and residents can look forward to this unique neighborhood eatery opening very soon.

Dog and Pony Show Brewing

IN ADDITION TO UNEXPECTED CRAFT BREWING COMPANY, Oak Park is getting a second brewery on Eleven Mile! Dog and Pony Show Brewing is anticipated to open up some time later this year or early next year in the old Randolph Tool Building located at 14661 Eleven Mile Rd. Unlike some other industries, two breweries in close proximity to each other can actually benefit one another. With their own unique traits and offerings, both brewing operations should draw plenty of interest.

Dog and Pony will be complete with an outdoor front patio, offerings of both beer and cider, and an event space for when larger social gatherings are safe to hold again.

Proprietors Aaron and Josh Gierada come from an entrepreneurial background and are determined to make their brewing operation a success. “Anything you do, you have to do with passion and we will make it a success,” Kyle Gierada said.

Oak Parker

ANOTHER RESTAURANT IS IN THE WORKS on Eleven Mile – this one outside of the new mixed-use zone, though. Near the corner of Eleven Mile and Coolidge, Oak Parker will be a hip new bistro located at 13621 Eleven Mile Rd.

From renowned restaurant operator Joe Bongiovanni, Oak Parker will feature outdoor seating, a basement lounge, and various spirits. Of Salvatore Scallopini and OWL fame, Bongiovanni knows what it takes to bring a great eatery to a previously uncharted area and turn it into a massive success. Architecture firm Ron & Roman are designing the interior and exterior of the building to be modern, chic, and welcoming to all. Planned to open later this year, you’ll definitely want to add this spot to your “must-try” list.

Kroger

IN ADDITION TO ALL THE EXCITING DEVELOPMENTS HAPPENING on the Eleven Mile corridor, the new Kroger grocery store will be located right around the corner on Greenfield. Currently wrapping up construction, the Kroger will feature a grocery pickup service, pharmacy, and a fuel center. The biggest development in Oak Park since FedEx, this project is sure to be another catalyst for growth on the Eleven Mile corridor as well as the shopping center directly adjacent to it.

With all that is going on in Oak Park, and specifically on Eleven Mile Rd, it’s hard to keep up! Stay tuned for updates and announcements about even more developments coming soon. To learn more about the City of Oak Park’s economic development efforts, visit their webpage.

www.oakparkmi.gov/departments/
community_and_economic_development/
index.php

By Jennifer Goeddeke

EDWARD STENCEL IS THE LIVELY, EXTROVERTED FOUNDER OF THE POPULAR RIVER ROUGE BREWING COMPANY, situated in Royal Oak and opened in May 2015. In 2019, Stencel was awarded a prestigious $100,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD) to open a new brewery. Overall, the MDARD has awarded $1.8 million in grants to 20 projects, with the goal of encouraging private investment in Michigan. And now, before the new year, Stencel is set to open the highly-anticipated Unexpected Craft Brewing Company at 14401 W. 11 Mile Road, in Oak Park.

NATURALLY, STENCEL HAS BEEN HARD AT WORK ensuring the new brewery/tasting room will be ready for its launch!

Stencel has an interesting educational/career background. He attended the U of M in Dearborn, attaining a BA in economics. His initial career was within the automotive industry. Subsequently, Stencel studied to earn a masters in TV and film production and became involved with show/movie production in Hollywood for several years, “from Taco Bell to Star Trek…even Tim Burton movies!” Stencel’s work involved extensive worldwide travel; Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, to name a few.

From early on in his adult life, Stencel describes having a keen interest in beer and brewing. As a young man, he recalls forming a sizeable beer can collection. Throughout his time in the movie industry, Stencel describes, “frequenting quite a few different breweries,” with a particular fondness for darker beers. Back in his home-brewing days, he formulated a Guinness-inspired recipe named: Stencel Stout which became a huge favorite with his friends.

One of Stencel’s favorite breweries was the Intergalactic Brewery in San Diego, owned by a young gentleman called Alex Van Horn. Stencel and Van Horn quickly became good friends to the point where they would often brew together over the weekends, and Van Horn effectively became his hands-on instructor in the art of brewing. Another favorite brew locale was the AleSmith, also in San Diego and owned by Peter Zien. Both Zien and Van Horn became important mentors.

Brewing came naturally to Stencel. From selling some of his own brews through Intergalactic and trying out his own different recipes, he came to realize, “Maybe this is something I can do full-time!”

In the timespan of 2007 to 2010, the movie company Stencel represented struggled financially, so he made the big decision to move back to Michigan. Our governor at that time had created lucrative incentives for the movie industry. But, as Stencel recalls, that all changed fairly quickly.

IT WAS TIME TO MAKE A FULL COMMITMENT to his passion for brewing. So Stencel found a space in Royal Oak and, with the help of some friends and family, it became the River Rouge Brewing Company. But, due to the limited space, Stencel was soon searching for another local space to expand. Finally, in July 2018, Stencel found the current great locale in Oak Park.

With the grand opening any time now, I asked how a night out at Unexpected Craft BC might look. Stencel explained there will be various drinks to choose from, in addition to signature beers, including: wine, cider, hard seltzer and at least 30 different taps. Light snacks will be sold, and he also plans to keep the location “food-truck friendly” for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Additionally, Stencel mentioned he would like to partner-up with local restaurants, in order to provide a greater choice in food items. A further goal is to host some musical entertainment outside, on certain nights. He is a firm believer in the way a brew pub can bring people from all over the world together, as he has already witnessed at his River Rouge BC.

We are looking forward to the opening of this great addition to the city of Oak Park!

The River Rouge Brewing Company is located at 406 E 4th St, Royal Oak.
www.riverrougebrew.com,
248.802.0555

The Unexpected Craft Brewing Company is located at
14401 W. 11 Mile Road, Oak Park and is
set to open before year-end

Edward@riverrougebrew.com

By Mary Meldrum

ZEANA ATTISHA IS MARRIED TO SAAD ATTISHA, AND THEY OWN THE OAK PARK STAPLE, SAHARA RESTAURANT.

Her husband started the operation in 1980 in Ferndale at 9 Mile and Woodward. He was there for about three or four years before moving to 9 Mile and Coolidge in Oak Park, then moving again in 2010 to 10 Mile. Sahara has been in Oak Park for 36 years and their current location for the last ten years. That is the 40-year history of a local family-owned restaurant.

SAHARA IS VERY WELL-KNOWN IN THE COMMUNITY, especially among our Chaldean neighbors. Sahara’s menu features very traditional Mediterranean dishes. Some of the dishes are proprietary, like the stews and some soups.

Saad, his brother and his mom have all worked in the restaurant, and Zeana works there as well.

With a business finance degree, she handles bookkeeping and paperwork and also supervises the staff. After a fire in 2010, she took more of a hands-on role at the restaurant.

She also helped with a campaign to bring liquor licenses to Oak Park, working to get the matter on the ballot. Thanks to her efforts, Sahara now serves beer, wine and liquor, and now anyone can now apply for a liquor license.

This has opened up opportunities for Oak Park; now the city can attract hotels and other restaurants and venues.

ZEANA SAYS THAT THE BIGGEST PROBLEM RIGHT NOW FOR SAHARA IS THE LACK OF EMPLOYEES.

Their carryout business is still strong. Sahara has restaurants in Oak Park, and one in Sterling Heights for 16 years, and now they are building one in Detroit at the Little Caesars world headquarters building. They used to have a facility in Farmington on 13 and Orchard Lake until 2015.

“Sahara is run off of our special recipes. We have a Sahara Market in Warren, and we go down to Eastern Market for some of our fresh foods.”

THE PANDEMIC HAS PUT A NEW STRAIN ON SAHARA. They have been forced to quickly transform their business. There is no more food-sharing.

Right now, the restaurant can only seat a maximum of ten people at a table.

“A lot of our food was served on trays, but not during COVID-19. Our restaurant took an 80 percent hit at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. A lot of servers have not come back. We have no more than 50 percent capacity right now.”

“I don’t think things will get back to normal until maybe next year.”

Zeana expressed some problems with acquiring coins from her bank, purchasing certain liquors, and hiring new staff. “We have made multiple attempts at ordering certain liquors, and there is a very limited amount of some, like expensive tequila. I am not sure why, but it is a problem.”

Now, they generously donate meals to hospitals, doctors offices, and other healthcare workers!

If you are interested in working at a Sahara restaurant, reach out to them for an interview.

24770 Coolidge Hwy, Oak Park | 248-399-7744

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WHETHER YOU HAVE AN ESTABLISHED GARDEN, A HOPEFUL STRIP OF DIRT WAITING FOR YOUR TROWEL, OR JUST A POT OR TWO, you can grow easy-to-care-for plants to brighten your yard and your plate. You can also skip spraying your lawn and harvest delicious edibles from it instead. (Not applying pesticides is better for bees and other pollinators, plus you’ll save money and won’t be contributing to pesticide run- off flowing into city water systems.)

When pondering what to plant, non-invasive native species are always a good idea since they’ll thrive all on their own. Noninvasive imported plants work well, too, assuming that they’re suited to our hardiness zone. In most of Oakland County, that’s Zone 6, with a few areas being Zone 5.

LETTUCE

Although lots of veggies are relatively easy to grow, lettuce is by far the easiest, especially if you’d like to grow something from seed. Unlike tomatoes and beans and peppers, lettuce doesn’t need any kind of support structure, and it doesn’t need as much sun, either. One caveat: lettuce needs to be protected from voracious bunnies!

An outdoor bistro table or chair makes an excellent lettuceperch, or you can use an outdoor plant stand to get your lettuce off the ground and away from marauding rabbits. (If you have a surplus of large pots, turn one upside down and put another one on top of it — filling it with dirt should make it stable enough to plant your lettuce in.) Fencing in your lettuce also works, but another advantage of using pots is that you can move your lettuce from one spot to another if it seems to be getting too much or too little sun.

Lettuce comes in many shapes and shades: closed-head varieties (crisphead, iceberg), looseleaf (red leaf, green leaf), and in between (romaine, bibb), and in hues from pale green to deep red. The more loosely the lettuce grows, the more nutrients it contains — a greater number of exposed leaves means the plant has to have a stronger immune system to defend itself from bugs and fungi that try to attack it. Deeper reddish hues also offer more nutrients in terms of anthocyanin content, which is a pigment that functions as an antioxidant. Another nutritional bonus: Lettuce is high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. The flavors and textures of different varieties of lettuce vary, but they’re all easy to grow.

HERBS

Like lettuce, herbs also grow well in pots. Large-leafed herbs like basil and mint also have especially high amounts of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. (And come in many different varieties! Purple ruffled basil, anyone? Or how about chocolate mint?) In terms of culinary applications, you just can’t beat fresh herbs that you can snip whenever you like. Plus, you can dry them at the end of the season to enjoy your garden bounty even in the winter months.

FLOWERS

If you’re looking for something pretty and practical, plant edible flowers like nasturtium, violets, pansies, and roses. Flowers from herbs and alliums are also edible and often stunning in their own right, so even if you don’t eat them, you can enjoy looking at them. (And chives are possibly the most hands-off perennial plant you can have.) Herbal flowers like lemon balm, lavender, are particularly beloved by bees, too.

LAWNS

The biodiversity of an unsprayed lawn is stunning, and a lot of it is edible: Dandelions (the flowers, leaves, and roots), red clover flowers, wood sorrel leaves (wood sorrel kind of looks like shamrocks and is tangy with vitamin C), violets, plantains (aka psyllium in health food stores), purslane (an incredible source of omega-3s), and many more valuable “weeds.”

Don’t spray your lawn — eat it!

By Sherry Wells
Photos by David McNair

I FIRST MET DEAN BACH, AKA “DINO” OF DINO’S LOUNGE, when he personally delivered food he was donating to the Relay for Life Survivors & Caregivers Tent as part of his efforts to give back to the community. As a bar owner, I expected he’d still be in bed after working into the wee hours. I was a member of the Ferndale Rotary Club at the time, which sponsored the tent. Dino also provided food for a Rotary fundraising dinner, personally bringing it too.

As did Michael Hennes, owner of Howe’s Bayou. Mike rushed in, wearing a long, starched-white apron that covered him from neck to almost ankles. He was there to see whether more of his entree was needed.

BOTH BACH AND HENNES HAVE BEEN INVOLVED WITH FERNDALE’S DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY for over ten years, with Bach becoming chair in 2015. Hennes has also served on city committees and task forces.

For the last several years, Hennes has not only donated the entire dinner for the Peace Action annual Peace Builders Award banquet, he and his partner, Patricia Barker, have been personally serving it as well.
Hennes also merits a nod for keeping some of Ferndale’s familiar streetpersons busy and fed, with odd jobs to earn a meal.

I learned that Hennes visits New Orleans once or twice a year to stay current on the cuisine. Any excuse will do!

Dino’s introduced me to grilled corn on the cob. Yum! The grill master that day was Dino himself. I told him how much I admired his community involvement.

“Well, my CPA keeps telling me I overdo it,” he shrugged.

Yet he hasn’t seemed to have cut back. Wounded Warriors has been high on his list, informing the public himself about the need. Dino has provided space for non-profit events in his second local spot, the M-Brew, including in the lower video arcade room. Both have provided cosponsorships and gift certificates for fundraisers.

MY THIRD FAVORITE FERNDALE BAR OWNER IS JEFF KING OF THE IMPERIAL and Public House. I frequently walk by the back of his Public House and noticed that recorded music playing in their patio could only be heard when I was within five feet at most of its perimeters. I walked in to tell him or a manager how much I appreciated that. “He gave us strict orders to keep the music level down so it can be heard only in the patio,” his bookkeeper told me. Rex, his manager at the Imperial, said music is to be “Enjoyed, not overheard” by customers and neighbors.

Jeff recently chose the Disabled American Veterans to benefit from one of his many “ten percent of the day’s proceeds” events. Although local organizations are his priority, his annual Cinco de Mayo Skateboard Auction has aided hurricane relief for Mexico and Puerto Rico.

His next idea is Twelve Days of Christmas, starting December 12, with each of 12 beers – at Public House, or 12 cocktails – at The Imperial, representing a different charity and $1 a drink going to that charity.

These three members of our community set the bar and keep raising it for good business blended with community involvement.

By Ingrid Sjostrand

DR. JOEL KAHN WANTS TO HELP PEOPLE EAT BETTER. He’s dedicated nearly 30 years to spreading the importance of a plant-based diet and has been practicing what he preaches for even longer.

A cardiologist by day and restauranteur by night, Kahn has been vegan since college. A combination of necessity from trying to find Kosher foods around the campus of the University of Michigan and his mother’s cooking style at home led to him eating fully plant-based for nearly ten years before starting his career. Naturally, he began incorporating nutrition into his practice.

“I started teaching every patient that we can do a bypass and I can do stents, but they could get out of this pickle they are in…by eating pickles,” Kahn says. “I’m fortunate that I had something to offer people, which was prevention, and the opportunity to get off medication and avoid operations.”
Kahn calls this practice “inter-preventional cardiology” – a twist on the standard interventional practice of treatment.

“WHAT I FOUND REALLY INTERESTING WAS IN MY 30 OR 40 MINUTES with a patient during a procedure I had a great opportunity to teach them how to never come back. That was the best and most effective time. I started talking about diet, sleep and fitness and a lot of them made some really significant changes,” Kahn says. “So I came up with this word, I can do interventional cardiology like other cardiologists. But I really want you to never be here again because you’ve learned the tricks of a healthy lifestyle, and eating is the biggest one.”

Outside of his practice, Kahn has worked to make healthier, plant-based food more accessible to more people. He’s written five books and is about to publish his sixth in 2020. He also teaches at both Wayne State University and Oakland University, but one of the biggest ways he’s done this is through his restaurant, GreenSpace Cafe, which he opened in 2015 with his son Daniel. Located at 215 W Nine Mile Rd, GreenSpace’s menu is locally-sourced and free of GMOs, processed foods, fryers, microwaves and animal products.

KAHN SAYS. “WE’VE TRIED VERY HARD TO EMPHASIZE REAL FOOD, old food, healing food. This is certainly not a medical clinic, but you can create great food and great-tasting food from real ingredients without processed chemicals.” The menu changes based on ingredients available seasonally. Another unique attribute of Greenspace compared to other local vegan restaurants is that they have a full bar. They regularly host events ranging from plant-based breakfast for dinner, staying healthy during the holidays to a presentation of a vegan bellydancing troupe.

“It’s been an amazing ride. I’m here most nights, Daniel is here most days, my wife is here a lot and we’ve served over 500,000 meals,” Kahn says. “We want to make sure everyone who comes here has some comfortable options to eat. We have seen so many people that have never been in a restaurant with plant-based options, and that’s been really great.”

IN 2018, THEY EXPANDED THE BRAND and opened Greenspace-And-Go in Royal Oak: a fast-casual space with dine-in, carry out and catering and a completely different menu cooked almost entirely without oil.
“You can’t help but notice around the country in the last couple of years that people are starting to be more conscious of what they are eating. I don’t know if anyone would have predicted that mainstream America is trying plant-based substitutes,” Kahn says.

“Very honestly, I don’t need to be in the restaurant business, I want to be in the restaurant business. We’re proud to have survived in a tough industry for four years and plan to be here for many more; we welcome everyone to come in just once or every night.”

How to take the first steps to change your eating:

1. “Decrease the garbage because it’s bad for you and have awareness of what you are putting into your body. Realize that food is medicine and bad food can be poison. Most people aren’t really thinking as they eat a meal ‘is this promoting my health so I don’t have to take medication or have surgery?”

2. “Increase the good stuff, I like Meatless Monday for people that are starting. Start with one day a week where you have a smoothie or oatmeal or skip breakfast, bring a salad to lunch that is loaded with protein or beans and peas and carrots and maybe a little cubed tofu, make it bulky and find a way to make a cheeseless pizza at home and add every vegetable in the world.”

3. “Get rid of dairy seven days a week – ‘Dairy is scary,’ as we say. Dairy causes acne, bloating, gas issues, stuffy nose.”

Dr. Kahn recommends two documentaries • Forks Over Knives/Netflix • Game Changers – Netflix

By Jill Lorie Hurst

Just when I thought I’d met every brilliant human who lives in the 48220, Ferndale Friends sent me to learn all about Rachel Engel: homesteader, permaculture consultant, perfume and candle maker, winner of the Ferndale Beautification Award, urban farmer, ecologist. Engel is one of the founders of the Ferndale Seed Library. She holds workshops for people interested in leading a zero-waste lifestyle.

Rachel is also warm, funny, empathetic and very gracious. Seconds after arriving at her Ferndale home on a snowy morning, I was seated in a big, comfy chair with a blanket tucked around my shoulders, terrier Teddy in my lap, immediately, dangerously comfortable. Rachel: “It’s important to be cozy and have your basic needs met. Celebrate your day-to-day.” She celebrates with husband/partner Brian, eleven-year-old daughter Terra and a growing group of animals that include Wyandotte chickens, “big, fat heirloom chickens who love the cold.”

Born into a military family, Rachel moved over 35 times as a child. She found Ferndale as a grownup, and met Brian just as she was leaving for a great job in Chicago. She left. And then returned. They’ve been growing a life together ever since.

The “growing” started when she wondered if he’d mind getting rid of the front lawn! I expressed interest and confessed a lack of skills. “Failure is all part of the process. Fail – you have compost. Things will grow better next year. Just get roots into the soil.”

RACHEL ADVISES STARTING WITH AN HERB SPIRAL. Easy to grow fruits and vegetables? She recommended garlic, chives, Asian pears, persimmons, arugula. Divide your yard into zones. Grow the things you use most in the zone closest to your house. Think small. Make long-term goals.

Rachel has two goals these days. One is design-ing permacultures for others. “Helping people become guardians of their own land. Each garden is diverse and unique. It’s based on following the sunlight paired with water and energy conservation by focusing on perennial food production and inviting natural ecological systems to do the work.”

Second, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which Rachel calls a “deep-hearted endeavor.” They deliver fresh, seasonal produce to lucky customers on a regular basis. Food is harvested an hour before delivery!

We discussed the idea of a CSA on every block. What’s a CSA? Each household grows different things to share with the neighborhood. “We can shrink our carbon footprint and increase our nutrition by becoming ‘hyper-local.’” Rachel is passionate. “The best legacy we can leave future generations is good soil.”

HER DAUGHTER TERRA ON GROWING UP in a permaculture homestead: “My favorite part is being able to go into the yard and being able to eat so many yummy veggies and plants. The hardest part is maintaining it, but it’s definitely worth it. And it matters because we are going through a global crisis and growing our own food helps the Earth in many ways. Also, growing up on an urban farm is so much fun because of being able to play with the animals and make many things and eat many things with the plants.”

On the walk home I thought about an herb spiral, the arugula we can grow, the clover and wildflowers that’ll replace the grass in our front yard. Up until now I’ve left the gardening to my husband, but Rachel has made me unafraid to fail! A great teacher inspires you to dig in. Explore. Set goals that work for you.

Rachel Engel moved more than 35 times as a kid. It was hard to put down roots. Rachel dreams of picking an apple off a tree she planted herself. Hopefully she’ll pick that apple right here in Ferndale.

By Lisa Howard

SINCE 1990, YAD EZRA (OR “HELPING HAND” IN HEBREW) HAS BEEN PROVIDING KOSHER GROCERIES TO LOW-INCOME JEWISH FAMILIES IN THE COMMUNITY. While there are other food pantries in the area, Yad Ezra is the only kosher pantry.

But that’s not the only thing that makes them different — they also offer a choice pantry, which is to say that clients can choose which items they want from a shopping list of options ranging from dry staples like canned fish and whole-grain pasta to whole chickens and fresh produce. “We’re unique in that we purchase much of the food we distribute rather than just relying on donated foods,” says Lea Luger, the Executive Director of Yad Ezra. “Because of that, we have a bigger variety to offer clients.” They serve about 1,250 families each month and distribute over a million pounds of food every year. In addition, they provide clients with non-food essentials like toilet paper, diapers, and household cleaning items.

With only six people on staff, Yad Ezra depends heavily on volunteers to keep the pantry running smoothly. Fortunately, they have a core group of 125 to 150 volunteers who are willing to help out, whether that’s delivering food to homebound clients or sitting down with clients to review the menu and make sure they’re maximizing the points they’re allotted. (Yad Ezra gives each client a certain amount of points to spend based on their family size.)

Yad Ezra is a supplemental pantry, meaning that they assume clients have other means of financial support, such as SNAP benefits. Still, most clients find that their monthly visit is equivalent to about three weeks of groceries. “There’s a misconception that if you live in a certain area or are of a certain religion or ethnicity or demographic, no one in that community is low-income, and that’s not true,” Lea says. “Hunger is everywhere. But food insecurity is not like homelessness — you don’t see it. It’s hidden.”

Although Yad Ezra is a kosher food pantry, says Lea, because they care about the hunger issue in general, they go out of their way to address food insecurity in the greater community. She and her staffers work with fellow organizations like Gleaners and Forgotten Harvest to make sure that all donated food items are given to someone in need. If Yad Ezra receives donated food that isn’t kosher, for instance, they give it to those fellow organizations so that they can distribute the food to the greater community.

Yad Ezra also advocates for Metro-Detroit programs that focus on food, including programs like Do It 4 Detroit, a micro-grant program that supports grassroots organizations addressing hunger or food justice issues in Detroit, Highland Park, and/or Hamtramck. This year, Yad Ezra was able to secure grant money that is allocated directly to Do It 4 Detroit. They also participate in the Crop Hunger Walk and 24 Hour Food Stamp Challenge every year.

ANOTHER ASPECT OF YAD EZRA’S MISSION IS TO PROVIDE COMMUNITY EDUCATION, particularly for youth. Four years ago, they were able to expand their Giving Gardens and hire a master gardener to oversee the gardens, allowing them to host agricultural workshops for both youth and adults. (Most of the harvest also goes to their clients.) Helping with the gardens, hosting food drives at schools, and participating in food drives at synagogues are all ways Lea would love to see more youth get involved as volunteers.

And, she points out, it’s important to stay involved. “This is the time of year when people start thinking about Thanksgiving and call us wanting to donate a turkey dinner,” she says. “Awareness is high at this time of year. That’s fantastic! But the truth of the matter is that hunger is a year-round issue. Do a food drive in May or June, when the need is just as great — hunger doesn’t go on vacation.”

www.yadezra.org | 248.548.3663

Story: Ingrid Sjostrand | Photos: David McNair

THERE MUST BE SOMETHING IN THE WATER – or the food – that makes Berkley restaurants flourish. For a city of only 2.6 square miles it’s unusual to have so many successful restaurants, but the local eateries continue to defy the odds.

Two restaurants in particular have thrived in Berkley: Crispelli’s and Bagger Dave’s. Both source local product for their food, focus on adapting to their customer needs and have expanded to multiple locations due to their success in Berkley.

CRISPELLI’S

CRISPELLI’S, LOCATED AT 28939 WOODWARD AVE, has felt the support of city residents from the minute they opened their doors. Director of Operations Ron Nussbaum shares the story of their opening in February 2012.

“We had paper up in all the windows, we took it down at 4:30 P.M., and by 5:15 P.M. we had a wait – all we did was take the paper off,” he says. “We’re thinking ‘if someone comes in we can practice,’ but it turned into chaos within minutes. We thought no one would notice, but the first couple tables came in and started calling friends, telling them we were open.”

The fast-casual restaurant is best known for its gourmet pizza, but they also specialize in Italian classics and fresh-made artisanal bread. The style of “fast-casual” is somewhat unique to the area, allowing guests to order and watch their pizza made in front of them.

THE FAST-CASUAL PART REALLY SET US APART. And the speed – we still try to get food out in five minutes,” Nussbaum says. “When you order, by the time you’re done paying your pizza is almost ready. It’s good food, made from scratch in under five minutes.”

Due to the continued success of the Berkley location, the Crispelli’s brand has grown into a bakery in Royal Oak, restaurants in West Bloomfield and Troy, a food truck that made its first appearance at Berkley Street Art Fest this past summer and a new location in Clarkston, set to open in October 2020. All of this expansion hasn’t slowed the Berkley location one bit.

“This store continues to grow and it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” Nussbaum says. “Restaurants don’t grow for seven or eight years straight; it just isn’t normal. Every day I find someone that says they have never been here before.”

(248) 591-3300 | 28939 Woodward Ave, Berkley Sun 11a-9p | Mon-Thur 11a-10p | Fri-Sat 11a-11p

BAGGER DAVE’S

ORIGINALLY STARTED AS A FRANCHISEE OF BUFFALO WILD WINGS IN 2008, Bagger Dave’s Burger Tavern has matured into a restaurant truly focused on customer satisfaction. From where they source their food to the daily specials and discounts, Regional Managing Partner Aaron Van Kuren says it’s evolved into a much different experience.

“Three to four years ago we stabilized the menu, did some different things with our main items, expanded shareables, signature burgers and craft cocktails, and have gotten really good feedback,” he says. “Our mission statement is ‘Making regulars,’ and it’s really all about making every guest feel welcome.”

Located at 2972 Coolidge Hwy, one of the main ways Bagger Dave’s works to keep patrons coming back are their menu specials. On top of monthly specials like “buy-one-get-one burgers” and “two for $10 appetizers,” there are also everyday deals throughout the week. Matt Blankenship, owner/operator of the Berkley location, details some below.

“We have daily specials, like our $6.95 Great American cheeseburger Tuesday, and kids meals are half off on Wednesdays and Sundays,” Blankenship says. “Thursdays are all-day happy hour – we have a really aggressively-priced happy- hour menu. We have something pretty much every day.”

EVEN WITH DAILY DISCOUNTED PRICES, Bagger Dave’s doesn’t skimp on quality. Their ingredients are locally-sourced and fresh, including turkey burgers brought in from Grand Rapids.

“We don’t have walk-in freezers. We prep every day, we make our own sauces, we have local craft sodas, local draft beer,” Blankenship says. “I think that’s what separates us. We’re more local and in tune. We want to be the neighborhood go-to restaurant.”

“Eighty to 85 percent of the menu we get is from Michigan or the Midwest. We want to support the community by not only buying the products in the area but being one of those places that people want to go to get something fresh,” Van Kuren adds.

Bagger Dave’s has grown to include eight restaurants across the Midwest with five locations in Michigan, two in Ohio and one in Indiana. Although they’ve grown, they haven’t forgotten where they came from and appreciate the Berkley community, even offering discounts to local businesses.

“It’s a very tight-knit community. We’re just a small piece of the pie here and we enjoy taking part in it,” Van Kuren says. “It’s a very diverse area. We love each and every person that comes in.”

(248) 543-3283 | 2972 Coolidge Hwy, Berkley Sun-Tues 11a-10p | Wed-Thu 11a-11p | Fri-Sat 11a-12p

By Lisa Howard

WHEN SISTERS KATIE KUTSCHER AND CHRISTINE GROSS OPENED BERKLEY COMMON in 2017, one of the things they wanted to do was to create a common space for the community.

As Katie points out, “It’s part of our name.” They wanted a place where people could bring their kids and families, a place with healthy bar food options that women and men would enjoy equally.

Their combined efforts resulted in a community-minded restaurant that serves American food with a global twist. (They offer plenty of vegan and gluten-free dishes, too.) Case in point: Their most popular item is the Korean Cauliflower Wings with house-made kimchi and BBQ sauce. “We really focus on fresh ingredients and a scratch kitchen,” says Katie. “We have zero food storage space, so the ingredients arrive every day.”

Christine adds that the same holds true for their cocktails – they’re created with ingredients like hand- made bitters and freshly-pressed ginger. And, just like the food menu, the cocktail menu is rotated seasonally, with new menus in fall and spring. Along with cocktails, Berkley Common also has 22 beers on tap (all from Michigan!) and includes two nitro taps in the mix.

THE RESTAURANT BUSINESS IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART, but the sisters have a synergy that makes them a great team. Christine, a CPA, does “the nerdy stuff” while Katie manages the staff and plans the menus. That said, she points out that the specials they run give their chefs a lot of creative freedom. “Anybody here who walks through the door has maximum creative development potential, because they’re adding to what we do,” she says. “If their idea is successful, we’re thrilled! It’s a collaborative business, and we’re always looking for good people to grow with us.” The sisters are also happy to say that 80 percent of their employees are from Berkley.

One of their ideas from the beginning has naturally unfolded into a key aspect of their business: Creating an event space where they can host everything from bridal showers to networking events to class reunions. They’ve even had musical groups rehearse in the second-story space.

They hold fundraising events, too, like the guest bartender series where the group picks the charity they want to support and Berkley Common gives part of the proceeds and all of the tips to that charity. A recent fundraising event for Cure JM (juvenile myositis) raised $1,200; on October 25 they’ll be hosting a guest bartender fundraiser for breast cancer.

During their peak season, they’ve had as many as 25 events in a single month in the upper space. Katie thinks that’s because the demand served the space. “There aren’t that many venues in this immediate area that will take a party of 40 or 50,” she says. “We have done private dinners for groups of 20 people and can fit up to 80. It’s a very versatile space.”

BEFORE THE SISTERS OPENED BERKLEY COMMONS, Katie had been running two beverage establishments in NYC, but she decided to move back to Metro-Detroit and open her own restaurant. It took a while to find the right location, renovate the building (the tin ceiling is still there, though!), and then get it staffed and open.
“My favorite part about all of this has been seeing our business and building change as Berkley has changed,” Katie says. Chris agrees. “Seeing how so many motivated, smart, and fun business owners and residents are committed to growing the city is great,” she chimes in. “It’s really fun to be part of everything.”

3087 12 Mile Rd.
Berkeley MI 48072
248.67.0795

Mon- Closed
Tues – Friday – 4pm – Close
Sat & Sun – 11am – Close

facebook.com/berkeleycommon