500 new restaurant seats coming to Ferndale this winter

, Detroit Free Press 12:03 a.m. EST November 10, 2016

Lately it seems as though all the latest restaurant developments have been in the downtown and Corktown neighborhoods of Detroit, but there’s plenty of action farther up the Woodward corridor, too. In Ferndale, four new bars and restaurants plan to open their doors over the next few months, adding up to 500 more seats in restaurant capacity to the small inner-ring suburb of roughly 20,000 residents.

The Conserva

A new restaurant in the former Torino space from chef Matthew Baldridge, the Conserva has been hosting soft openings the last few weekends and has expanded this week to Wednesday, Thursday and Friday dinner service and Saturday snack and bar service.

Baldridge recently sold his stake in the growing Atomic Chicken chain to focus on getting the Ferndale restaurant up-and-running.

As with Torino before it, limited storage and refrigeration has been an issue in the space. Baldridge said health department rules forced him to rein in his original vision of serving mostly preserved food in jars reheated in water baths, opting instead for a small menu of rotating dishes.

During a recent Friday preview, the bill of fare included duck fat popcorn; smoked pork belly with rum raisins; a warm avocado filled with egg yolk and preserved onion; and a Middle Eastern-inspired octopus dish heady with za’atar, diced cucumber and creamy garlic paste.

Baldridge hopes to officially open soon but is waiting on final health department approval.

(109 seats total — 83 inside with private dining plus 26 on the patio.)

201 E. Nine Mile;  theconserva.com

Otus Supply

A block from the Conserva, this 10,000-square-foot bar, restaurant and live music venue springs to life Nov. 17 when it hosts Cornmeal, a bluegrass jam band out of Chicago.

Co-owner Thom Bloom told the Free Press last month that he hopes to open the restaurant portion of the 200-seat facility shortly after the first concert.

Diners can expect a seasonal New American menu from Miles McVay, executive chef at Bloom’s Toast restaurants in Ferndale and Birmingham.

Otus Supply is currently hiring staff. Job applications can be found on the restaurant’s website.

345 E. Nine Mile; otussupply.com


“I think at this point it’s looking more realistic to open after the holidays to make sure we’re in a good place,” Boyer said.

The exterior of the former storage building recently received a new paint job and construction is ongoing inside, with drywall set to go up later this week.

But the big news out of the Voyager camp is the announcement that the pair will be opening another concept on the ground floor of 28 Grand, a new micro-loft development in Detroit’s Capitol Park from Dan Gilbert.

Boyer said he couldn’t offer many details on the new concept, which he noted is still at least a year away from launch.

“It will be a lunch-focused fast-casual eatery,” he said. “It will be focused on one thing, we’re just not necessarily ready to share what that is yet.”

The plan is to “go deep on one particular item,” Boyer said.

“We’re more interested in going deep creatively on singular topics than trying to be something for everybody and casting a super wide net.”

600 Vester; facebook.com/voyagerferndale

Livernois Tap & Brewery

Expect big things from Livernois Tap, a European beer hall-style microbrewery and restaurant that will serve as taproom for Axle Brewing Co.

Headed to Livernois just north of 8 Mile, the 10,000-square-foot facility will house a brewery with 12 to 15 beers and ciders on draft, 85 seats for diners and imbibers inside and an additional 65 in the seasonal beer garden outside, plus Axle’s administrative offices.

Over the summer Axle hired a new head brewer, Adam Beratta, a repeat gold medalist in the World Expo of Beer and the World Beer Cup for his work at 51 North Brewing Co. in Lake Orion. Beratta’s first creation for Axle, the recently released Mother Handsome Double IPA, is brewed with a unique blend of American and African hops.

As for the fare, the original plan for “a captive food truck has morphed into a more sophisticated food execution,” said Axle President Dan Riley.

What that means will remain a surprise for now, Riley said, but Axle did confirm that “a local culinary group” will head up the food side of the operation.

Riley said an announcement revealing the culinary group would be made in the coming weeks.

As for an opening time line, Riley said he hopes to be brewing by January with soft openings beginning in February.

567 Livernois; axlebrewing.com/wordpress/livernois-tap-brewery

Stockyard Handcrafted Goods is a family affair 


The bar and restaurant is owned by 25-year-old Robby Gjokaj, a lifelong resident of Lake Orion whose family owns and operates the Ox Bar and Grill in downtown Oxford.

“We all grew up in the restaurant industry,” says general manager Pashka Micakaj. Gjokaj and Micakaj are cousins whose fathers first ran restaurants and then built them. Now the two, along with brothers, sisters, and other cousins, are working to make a new generation of restaurants successful.

In three shorts months, Stockyard has become popular among locals, attracting beer lovers with their impressively long tap list. The place boasts 100 craft taps and Micakaj says 90 percent of those are Michigan made.

“For beer lovers, it’s the best place to go in Oakland County,” she says.

And the love of craft extends far beyond the beer list here. In fact, the place got its name because everything from the beer to the food to the tables and chairs to the bar is handmade and sourced locally.

“The whole bar, the tables and chair — everything — was made by hand,” Micakaj says. On top of that, the materials were sourced from salvage yards in Detroit where hardware, ironwork, and wood were purchased to create Stockyard’s beautiful 161-seat interior.

The menu is crafted by executive chef Steve Crawford, who left Union Woodshop to help open Stockyard. He works diligently to ensure the ingredients for their barbecue, sandwiches, tacos, soups, and salads are bought locally.

With things solidified with the dinner menu, Micakaj says Crawford is working on lunch and brunch menus that will ensure Stockyard can open for business earlier in the day. As for now, it’s dinner service only.

Behind the bar, manager Harmony Albright whips up special shrubs, infused moonshine, flavored bourbon, and craft cocktails. The craft cocktails menu has a 10 to 12 standard drinks and she constantly mixes up new ones.

“She’s like a mad scientist behind the bar,” Micakaj says of Albright.

With things moving in the right direction inside, Gjokaj and Micakaj are readying their outdoor seating area for a July 4 opening. The patio’s aesthetic will contrast slightly from Stockyard’s interior, with firepits and lounge-y couches, but the full bar and food menu will be available al fresco.

For metro Detroiters who live at the southern end of Wayne County, Lake Orion might seem like a hike, but the truth is that Stockyard is only about nine miles north of the Palace of Auburn Hills and maybe 20 minutes away from DTE Energy Music Theatre, so if you’re heading out to enjoy a blockbuster concert this summer, we highly suggest you check out Stockyard Handcrafted Goods while you’re at it.

Waterfront Restaurant & Lounge opens in Wyandotte

, Detroit Free Press Food Writer

A new Downriver waterfront dining option is set to open Monday, just in time for boating season.

Just minutes north of downtown Wyandotte, the Waterfront Restaurant & Lounge occupies the building that formerly housed the Pier 500 Lounge and Restaurant. Jason and Amanda D’Herin bought the property in January and will run the restaurant along with business partner Frank Estrada.

“What’s cool is we have a built-in community and clientele of 200 people from the marina,” said Jason D’Herin. “We have a boat, and we are boat-friendly.”

In just more than 100 days, the building has been completely renovated and the surrounding property re-landscaped and repaved, the D’Herins said. Boat slips and seawalls have been rebuilt and stone walls erected. The couple, who also own the nearby building that houses the newly opened Whiskey’s on the River, have even gone beyond their property line, landscaping and paving property next to them. So far, the D’Herins say they have invested $1.6 million into the project.

The restaurant has been hyped as upscale waterfront dining, but the D’Herins say “upscale” refers to their menu not the restaurant vibe, which is casual, trendy and fun.

“We are less formal,” Jason D’Herin, 42, says. “Boaters want to have fun, but our food is on the higher end.”

Waterfront’s debut menu is ambitious with a selection of appetizers, soups, sandwiches, salads, pasta dishes, entrées and eight varieties of brick oven pizzas. The menu offerings were designed by Waterfront’s chef Douglas Gruenwald, formerly of MGM Grand in Las Vegas, and Amanda D’Herin, 35, who says brick oven pizzas are her personal favorite.

Appetizers include baked Brie, shrimp-stuffed jalapeños and oysters Rockefeller ($9-$11). The sandwich lineup features everything from a classic burger and paninis to fish and a Cubano ($7-$9). There are 15 entrées on the menu, including an 8-ounce filet ($32), grilled salmon with lavender balsamic vinegar glaze ($17) and Michigan lake perch, sautéed or fried ($18).

“We enjoy boating and eating out, and food is important to us,” D’Herin says. “Our menu and recipes will speak to that.”

Waterfront offers plenty of outdoor seating on both the ground level and upper deck.

The main inside dining area, the majority with a waterfront view, brick walls and exposed ventilation, features wood-top tables and seating for more than 100.

A half-wall with a built-in fireplace separates the main dining area from the 14-seat subway-style tiled bar with reclaimed distressed wood accents and a  row of two-top tables.

Prints of the Belle Isle Bridge and local lighthouses adorn the walls.

“The idea was to bring outside elements unique to the area inside,” says D’Herin.

Waterfront Restaurant & Lounge will have its grand opening celebration on Cinco de Mayo. The D’Herins say they’ll employ about 30-35 and  feature weekly and monthly entertainment with jazz and local bands. They’ve already booked their first wedding and plan on other events.

David Blume, owner of Weyand’s Fisheries next door, says he’s watched how the D’Herins have transformed the building and property.

“If intentions count for everything, they are really top-shelf,” Blume said.  “They are trying to create a nice place for the community.”

While this is the D’Herins’ first foray into restaurant ownership, they are no strangers to the business. By day, the D’Herins own D&R Maintenance Management, a Taylor-based company specializing in facility management. Most of the D’Herins’ clients are restaurants, including local and national chains.

Waterfront Restaurant & Lounge is at 507 Biddle Ave. in Wyandotte; 734-286-9046 and www.thewaterfrontwyandotte.com


Morrie set to welcome Royal Oak diners – summer

, Detroit Free Press May 11, 2016

In an exclusive interview with the Free Press on Tuesday, representatives of AFB Hospitality Group outlined their plan and vision for the Morrie, a 240-seat roadhouse-style restaurant and live music venue coming to the southeast corner of Sixth and Main Street in downtown Royal Oak this summer.

According to AFB owner and proprietor Aaron F. Belen, the project signifies close to $4 million in total investment for his company, including a reported $2-million purchase price of the 8,000-square-foot space that formerly housed the Franklin Fine Wine store.

“The branding behind the Morrie is as an eclectic neighborhood roadhouse that has that warm, comfortable feeling as if you’re going to see your grandfather,” said AFB Director of Operations Scott Sadoff.

The Morrie is named after Morrie Fenkell, Belen’s  grandfather who died of pancreatic cancer in 2007.

“He was my best friend and business mentor,” Belen, 33, said. “Unfortunately, he isn’t here to see this, but it’s a way to pay homage to him.”

Early reports of the development last summer erroneously dubbed the forthcoming restaurant as a place for older people, but Sadoff was quick to dispel that as a misrepresentation. Rather, the Morrie is designed to be a comfortable, family-friendly food hall with live entertainment designed to lure repeat customers from the neighborhood.

“Our goal is to be the best on Main Street in Royal Oak at an approachable price and with a comfortable atmosphere,” Belen said. “You can come in wearing sweats or a business suit.”

Added Sadoff, 34: “Bistro 82 has become a destination, but we really wanted something that’s going to serve the Royal Oak community. We wanted to open this cool, casual spot that includes the neighborhood.”

Much of the Morrie’s draw will center on the culinary offerings of executive chef Derik Watson, who will oversee the kitchen and menu simultaneously with Bistro 82, where he has earned praise for his technique-driven French fare.

Watson, 35, sounded excited about the prospect of a second kitchen. “It will have every missing piece that we didn’t have at Bistro 82 to round out our ability to do anything,” he said.

A prime example: The Morrie will be equipped with an imported Italian steam-injection stone oven for baking bread. The pastry department, headed up by Kenneth Ilich, a third-generation baker, will be based in the Morrie and serve both restaurants.

The Morrie menu wasn’t available yet, but Watson said diners can expect items such as smoked chicken wings, a small selection of oysters, a play on crab Rangoon with Michigan trout in place of the crab, burgers and sandwiches with house-baked buns and a loaded potato section of six to eight offerings — waffle fries topped with smoked brisket, for example, or kimchi and pork belly-smothered fries topped with a fried egg.

The casual new spot will signify a bit of a departure for Watson, who earned his bones in fine-dining restaurants working under acclaimed chef Takashi Yagihashi in Chicago and at the former Tribute restaurant in Farmington Hills.

The more casual fare doesn’t mean the quality will suffer, though, Watson said.

“This is a true from-scratch kitchen,” he said.

Aside from the food, another centerpiece of the new restaurant is a stage for live performers. AFB also runs Sabrage nightclub above Bistro 82, and Belen and company are leveraging music industry contacts they’ve made through booking DJs for that venue to lure rock ‘n’ roll, country and jazz acts to the Morrie, which will also feature a dance floor. There’s even a private green room above the kitchen for acts to lounge in before and after their sets.

“We’re really going to provide top, Michigan-based live music and an opportunity for these individuals to showcase their skills,” Belen said.

The building was sprayed with a noise-reducing insulation designed to improve acoustics. Belen said he probably wouldn’t have made that additional investment had he not owned the building — a unique position for restaurateurs, who more typically lease space from landlords.

The group also owns the building’s attached 25-car parking lot — a rarity for Royal Oak. It will be reserved for Morrie customers.

Ahead of a planned midsummer opening, AFB will be growing its staff, doubling from its current 76 employees to somewhere between 150 and 175, Sadoff said.

The Morrie will initially be open seven days a week for dinner only. Sunday brunch is a possibility down the road.

Forest Launches Brunch

The Forest Restaurant


Forest Launches

BRUNCHWIRE — Birmingham’s


restaurant is launching Saturday brunch service on June 4. The menu runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a limited selection of dishes offered from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. leading into dinner service. Choose from dishes like a lamb sandwich, biscuits and gravy, and hashwi hash with lamb confit. There’s also a hefty list of brunch cocktails on offer. Take a peek at the full menu below.

VIDEO: An Inside Look at Bistro 82

By: Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers with comments by Midwest Linen – August 19, 2015
An inside look at Bistro 82, the Detroit Free Press Readers Choice Best New Restaurant of 2015. Located in Royal Oak, the French bistro caters to its guests, featuring an exceptional menu at an affordable price. The ambitious menu includes Sea Scallops and Scottish Salmon, which are just a few of the many dishes that exceed expectations and provide a unique dining experience.

Take a look!

Great table linen napkins - Bistro 82 in Royal Oak

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