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BTB Cantina goes farm-to-table with new taco menu

Ann Arbor's newest farm-to-table restaurant is already a familiar name for many students and townies: BTB Cantina.

The casual Mexican restaurant, bar, and dance venue reopened last week with a new menu and an updated look from Ann Arbor's Synecdoche Design Studio.

Perhaps the biggest shift for the popular student hangout is the retooled menu, which features numerous locally sourced ingredients including products from Chelsea's Tantré Farm, Ann Arbor Seed Company, Milan's Wasem Fruit Farm, and more. The menu was developed with the help of James Beard Award-nominated chef Magdiale Wolmark. Cantina partner Adam Lowenstein met Wolmark, who moved to the area last year, through a family member whose kids attend the same school as the chef's.

"She introduced us just as two people in the restaurant industry," Lowenstein says. "[Wolmark] had recently moved from Columbus, and she thought we should meet, and we hit it off."

A successful pop-up dinner the Cantina hosted with Wolmark over the summer inspired further collaboration with the chef, whose background in farm-to-table dining helped shape the new concept.

"That jump started the conversation about incorporating some of those changes into Cantina's regular menu," Lowenstein says. "Taco-focused, local sourcing, et cetera. Also, our best and biggest day has always been Taco Tuesday, so we wanted to build on that, too."

Lowenstein also owns the Last Word and student favorites BTB Burrito and Good Time Charley's with business partner Justin Herrick. He says says the menu change at Cantina was also driven by student interest.

"We're always going to be a casual place, so we're not changing that, and students love great tacos," Lowenstein says. "And we want our companies to always stand for value, which Cantina still does.

"As far as farm-to-table, it's something we believe in that's good for the community, the planet, and the quality of the ingredients is just better. But that's really behind the scenes. We want the tacos to stand on their own."

There are no plans at this time to make similar moves at BTB Burrito, which Lowenstein says has been successful for the last 13 years, has a great niche, and "will always have burritos at 4 a.m."

"We aren't going to change anything that doesn't make sense," he says. "At the same time, working with Magdiale's approach to cooking has opened our eyes to some new possibilities, so if something pops out that would translate well to BTB, we're open to it."

Eric Gallippo is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.
 

Beezy's to open café at Ypsi District Library's Whittaker Road branch

Popular Ypsilanti eatery Beezy's Café will expand its business into Ypsilanti District Library's (YDL) Whittaker Road location next week, as Beezy's takes over operations of the library's vacant café space.

Starting Jan. 9, Beezy's Library Café will offer coffee, tea, and cold bottled beverages, as well as snacks and lunch options including the freshly made soups and sandwiches patrons are used to getting at Beezy's main location in downtown Ypsi. Seasonal items, like smoothies, could be added later.

Since adding the café space in 2008, YDL has contracted local businesses to run it — first Primo Coffee and then B-24's Espresso Bar, which left in October. Library spokesperson Gillian Ream Gainsley says generating enough customers can be a challenge.

"We have around 6,000 visitors a week [at YDL-Whittaker], but most of them are not here for coffee and, of course, it is much lower traffic than you'd get in downtown Ypsilanti," she says.

But she thinks Beezy's reputation outside the library will help make it a destination.

"Beezy's has a real regional draw," she says. "I know people from metro Detroit who make a special trip to Beezy's whenever they are in Washtenaw County. I think Beezy's at the library will attract people who work nearby and just want to stop in for lunch."

Gainsley says Beezy's success as a homegrown business serving high-quality food make it a great partner for the library. The café will also keep hours that more closely mirror the library's than previous tenants had.

"We have people here all hours of the day, whether they are working on projects or bringing their kids to a program or applying for jobs," Gainsley says. "The fact that library patrons can rely on being able to grab a snack or coffee anytime without needing to leave the library really adds to the level of service that we offer."

Beezy's motto of "simple, honest food" also fits well with YDL programs aimed at promoting nutrition, Gainsley says, including gardens at two locations, cooking classes for teens and tweens, a seed library, and free lunches for kids in the summer.

"We believe in supporting the health of our community, and one way to do this is increasing awareness and access to fresh foods," she says. "It's great to have a café that shares that philosophy."

The library café follows another big move for Beezy's, which recently expanded its catering and banquet business into the building across the street from its North Washington Street home.

Café hours are 9 a.m. - 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

Eric Gallippo is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.

McShane's Pub opens second location in Ypsilanti

Bob Roberts and Sean McShane enjoyed spending their football Sundays at the Roundtree Bar & Grill. They became regulars and then they became owners, taking over pub at 2203 Ellsworth earlier this year. They changed the name to McShane’s Irish Pub & Whiskey Bar last month.

"The first thing that attracted us to the place was the people," Roberts says. "We have a great group of regulars."

Roberts and McShane, along with Ryan McShane, own a McShane's Irish Pub & Whiskey Bar in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood near the old Tiger Stadium site. They opened the new location in Ypsilanti with the idea of recreating that same atmosphere in Washetenaw County.

The New McShane's has a bar, restaurant and charity poker room. It can seat up 180 people an d employs 18 people. It's location near U.S. 23 was attractive because there is not a lot of competition nearby, the closest being downtown Ypsilanti just to the north. The central location by the highway also makes it easily accessible to a broad range of people.

"You can get to us from pretty much any location," Roberts says.

Source: Bob Roberts, co-owner of McShane’s Irish Pub & Whiskey Bar
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Zingerman's opens The Greyline in downtown Ann Arbor

Zingerman's is moving forward on plans to build out a special events venue in downtown Ann Arbor called The Greyline.
The 5,000-square-foot space will occupy the first floor of the new Marriott Residence Inn at the corner of Huron and Ashley streets and serve as headquarters for Zingerman's growing catering services.

"It's going to be gorgeous," says Grace Singleton, managing partner of Zingerman's Delicatessen. "With the old bus depot facade and glass turret and all of the glass facing the sidewalk."

There has been a significant demand for Zingerman's to cater its culinary creations for years. Zingerman's Delicatessen, which operates the catering service, took over the old Eve restaurant in Kerrytown in 2011 to help meet the catering demand with better service.

"We cater all over southeast Michigan," Singleton says, adding that equals a lot of schlepping stuff everywhere. "We realized we could do a better job of it we had our own space."

Zingerman's catering doubled its business by its second year and then doubled it again by its third year. That meant it needed to find a bigger, more centralized space. The new Marriott Residence Inn’s commercial space proved too good of an opportunity to pass up to create The Greyline.

The Zingerman's team plans to make The Greyline a versatile urban venue available for private events, meetings, and training sessions operated exclusively by Zingerman's Catering and Events. It will have its own street entrance to the building, and it will also have access to the venue from the lobby of the hotel. About two thirds of its square footage will be utilized for events.

"The size is perfect for what we need," Singleton says. "It will have a large, full kitchen that will allow us to cook very specific menus for this space, things that are currently too much of a challenge to do at an offsite event."

Source: Grace Singleton, managing partner of Zingerman’s Delicatessen
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Arbor Brewing Co debuts "gastro street fare" in renovated brewpub

Arbor Brewing Co is not only showing off its newly renovated space in downtown Ann Arbor, but also an eclectic new menu to go with it. Rene Greff, who co-owns Arbor Brewing Co with her husband Matt Greff, describes the new menu as "gastro street fare," that emphasizes fresh, locally sourced food made from scratch. Think everything from vegetarian dishes to burgers to shared plates to a selection of French fries.

"The most decadent one is fries fried in duck fat," Rene Greff says.

Arbor Brewing Co recently turned 20 years old and celebrated by renovating its downtown Ann Arbor brewpub after the holidays ended. The project includes a revamped bar, dining room seating, entryway, kitchen, and bathrooms.

The overall theme is to modernize the facilities and make it more accessible. The entryway was reconfigured so the door is on the side of the entry vestibule. The bar was redesigned into a U shape by removing a faux wall behind the existing bar, opening it up to more seating and more room for people to navigate the dinning area.

"We are 98 percent done," Rene Greff says. "We are waiting for our new stools to arrive and a few other things like that."

Source: Rene Greff, co-owner of Arbor Brewing Co
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

U-M alumni put mustard on nostalgia with new Pretzel Bell restaurant

Nostalgia is in the air in downtown Ann Arbor and soon it will be served hot on plate with a side of delicious when Pretzel Bell returns to the center of Tree Town.

Three University of Michigan alumni are resurrecting the storied restaurant from the mid 20th Century in the old Lena space at the corner of Main and Liberty streets. The trio want to bring back their memories of what the restaurant was like when they graduated from U-M in the 1950s-60s-70s.

"It's going to be a throwback restaurant," says Jon Carlson, manager & owner of Pretzel Bell. "It's going to have a feeling of a restaurant from the 1960s and 1970s."

The new Pretzel Bell will occupy 8,000 square feet of space that housed the Latin-inspired Lena and Habana, both of which are supposed to close after this weekend. Carlson declined to elaborate too much on what the new/old restaurant will look like or what the menu will taste like, but he he did says it will draw upon Ann Arbor's past and its close proximity to the University of Michigan and its athletic heritage.

"It (the old Pretzel Bell) has an amazing feel at the time," Carlson says. "It has a huge connection to the university and the city."

The new space will have room for 240 seats. The new restaurant is set to open this spring, and Carlson plans to release more details about it within the next month.

Source: Jon Carlson, manager & owner of Pretzel Bell.
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Ann Arbor Distilling Co opens doors in downtown Ann Arbor

Patrons began walking into the newly opened Ann Arbor Distilling Co's tasting room in downtown Ann Arbor a few days ago and Rob Cleveland hopes they notice one thing, the combination of industrial and rural aesthetics.

"We're industrial meets farm," says Cleveland, managing director of the micro distillery. "It's a turn-of-the-century building. It has a lot of brick and concrete. It's a very robust building. We also built out the building with wood from Urban Ashes and Recycle Ann Arbor that was salvaged."

Cleveland and Ari Susssman have been working on opening the craft distillery for the last two years. It is located at 220 Felch in the same building as Icon Interactive, a digital marketing agency Cleveland serves as the founder & CEO. Cleveland and Sussman saw a demand for locally made craft cocktails in downtown after watching decades of success from local craft brewers.

Ann Arbor Distilling Co is currently selling bottles of its vodka, gin and rum cocktails or serving cocktails made of those liquors in its tasting room. It is also working on making its own whiskey and bourbons, liquors that traditionally take years to distill.

"We are also looking at having apply brandy in the not-too-distant future," Cleveland says.

The craft distillery held a soft opening last Saturday and opened its doors to the public yesterday.  Its tasting room encompasses 1,000 square feet and has a capacity of 35 people. It has another 5,000 square feet of production space that can produce up to 60,000 gallons of liquor annually. Cleveland expects to start distributing Ann Arbor Distilling Co's liquors by the bottle in local retailers by second quarter of next year.

Source: Rob Cleveland, managing director of Ann Arbor Distilling Co
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Authentic Mexican comes to Packard St. with Mi Compadre

Nicolas Quintana knows the restaurant industry, and he knows Mexican food. The Mexico native has been working in restaurants for the last 15 years since coming the United States, and now he, his nephew, and his longtime friend are bringing all of that experience to Mi Compadre, a new Mexican restaurant on Packard that promises only the freshest and most authentic of Mexican foods. 

"This is not Taco Bell. This is not Chi-Chi's," says Quintana. "We want people to know what real Mexican food is."

Among those authentic options will be such dishes as tlayudas, a pizza-like entree with a tortilla crust. All of their dishes will also focus on fresh ingredients and will be made from scratch to order. 

Mi Compadre has been in the works for about a year as Quintana and his partners have renovated about 90 percent of the former Ann Arbor Subs space. Updates have included everything from plumbing to new seating. Tables for 48 diners have been installed in the new restaurant. After all that hard work, Mi Compadre finally opened for business last week. 

"Eveyrthing has been very good so far," Quintana says. "We had people who come and say they like it because everything is made to order."

In addition to the owners, Mi Compadre employs a staff of four. 

Source: Nicolas Quintana, Mi Compadre
Writer: Natalie Burg

Mishigama Craft Brewing to add more variety to Ypsilanti's growing beer scene

After more than two decades with General Motors. David Roberts was looking for a new challenge. It just so happened that his daughter's father-in-law, a longtime craft beer brewer, was looking for the same thing at the same time. Their resulting project will soon take place in the form of Mishigama Craft Brewing in downtown Ypsilanti. 

"There is a lot of good beer made in the Ann Arbor/Ypsi area, and we hope to add to it," Roberts says. "There is a market in Ypsi for this type of product." 

Mishigama Craft Brewing will feature a variety of craft beers, including wheat beers, ales and stouts. The goal is to eventually serve food as well, though the business may begin small with six to eight beers on tap. 

"I'm hoping people will come and find us, and hopefully they'll have a nice, enjoyable experience for people in downtown Ypsilanti," says Roberts. 

The 5,700 square foot location, part of which was a former Buffalo Wild Wings, is well-suited to Roberts' vision of a downtown brewery and restaurant with room for growth. He expects Mishigama Craft Brewing to seat between 100 and 125 customers. Initially, he anticipates hiring a brewery staff in the range of five to 10 workers. Once restaurant operations are underway, however, that number could range up to 40 employees. Roberts hopes to open Mishigama Craft Brewing late summer of 2015.

Source: David Roberts, Mishigama Craft Brewing
Writer: Natalie Burg

Popular Ann Arbor Indian restaurant Cardamom to expand

It wasn't long ago when, Binod Dhakal and his wife opened Cardamom Restaurant on Plymouth Rd. in Ann Arbor. Less than two years later, the popular place with the tagline "Fresh Indian" is expanding, allowing them to serve more customers more quickly. 

"The expansion area design will allow folks to wait for a table or carry out order comfortably, and grab a drink while they wait," says Dhakal. "It will also make the dining room more comfortable for seated guests because there won't be all the in and out traffic. And perhaps most importantly will be what you won't see: an expanded kitchen so we can produce more food."

The Courtyard Shops restaurant is currently 1,709 square feet, plus an adjacent outdoor patio. The closing of the Biggby Coffee shop next door is allowing them to expand into an additional 1,105 square feet.

"We knew after about two weeks in business that if we ever had the opportunity to expand we would need to grab it, so when this space came open next door we had to go for it," Dhakal says. "It's a risk since we've only been in business 20 months, but we have really great regular customers and we hope they will lend us their patience through this construction and transition."

Dhakal is waiting for his plans to be approved by the city, but should everything move forward as expected, he hopes to open for business in the new area sometime this summer. He anticipates remaining open as much as possible throughout construction. 

Dhakal anticipates growing his staff by eight to 10 workers after the expansion. In terms of future plans, he hopes to continue to grow and eventually add catering to Cardamom's offerings. 

Source: Binod Dhakal, Cardamom Restaurant
Writer: Natalie Burg

The Lunch Room to open second downtown Ann Arbor location next week

Just a few years ago, The Lunch Room was but a food cart. As of next week, the popular vegan eatery will be an established and growing restaurant chain with two downtown locations. 

"The Kerrytown location probably wasn't big enough from the first day we moved in there," says co-owner Joel Panozzo of The Lunch Room's first permanent location, which opened in 2013. "We've been making things work, but on a weekly basis, we'd say no to large catering orders and wedding cakes and one thing after another. So we've been trying to figure out how we could say yes."

The answer turned out to be a second location with a larger baking space. The new restaurant in Huron Towers on Fuller Ct. will include a 1,037-square foot dining room and adjoining kitchen large enough for the owners to expand their baking operations enough to cover both locations, catering and wholesale orders.

The new Lunch Room will feature grab-and-go options to cater to the student and hospital worker crowds buzzing around Huron Towers, while the Kerrytown location will continue to focus on made-to-order meals. Sit-down dining, however, will definitely still be available at the new restaurant, in addition to their deli case offerings. 

"With the sandwiches, we'll unwrap it and grill it to order," says Panozzo. "We'll play and experiment with how far we can take the grab-and-go concept."

Panozzo expects to begin with a soft opening of the new location over this weekend, with doors officially opening some day next week. He and co-owner Phillis Engelbert plan to employ about 15 part- and full-time workers at the new restaurant.

Source: Joel Panozzo, The Lunch Room
Writer: Natalie Burg

Maize and Blue Deli plans second location on Main and Liberty

Fans of S. University's Maize and Blue Deli will have something new to cheer about on Main Street this spring. Coming in early March will be the longtime restaurant's second location on the other end of downtown. 

"We were trying to expand and we thought it was a great marketing opportunity to be right on Main Street," says Maize and Blue Deli's Hamsah Sukkar. "Honestly, it doesn't get better than Main and Liberty."

Work on the 1,600 square foot space has already begun. As the restaurant owners are starting with a completely empty space, there's much to do to transform a portion of the building once occupied by the Selo/Shevel Gallery into a deli. 

According to Sukkar, the deli will be very similar in both look and menu to the original Maize and Blue Deli location. He hopes the appeal of the locally-owned eatery will be as strong on Main Street as it has been on S. University.

"I'm a local, Ann Arbor resident trying to expand in my city, and hopefully we'll get some businesses supporting us," he says. "We're not a big franchise, so we're hoping to see a lot of local interest."

The new deli will seat between 50 and 55 diners and Sukkar estimates he will initially employ between five and 10 workers at the new restaurant. 

Source: Hamzah Sukkar, Maize and Blue Deli
Writer: Natalie Burg

Babo Market expands with 2 new locations in Nickels Arcade and on Boardwalk Dr.

It's been a busy year for babo, A Market by Sava. After opening babo: Farm Fresh Meals to Go on Boardwalk Dr. in late November, the Savco Hospitality company is launching babo: Real Food Fast in Nickels Arcade. Both locations will offer grab-and-go food options. 

"People have busy, hectic lives," says Joanne Navarre with marketing and public relations for Savco Hospitality. "The grab-and-go concept at babo makes it easier for people to have healthy meals and snacks."

In addition to offering grab-and-go food, the 9,600 square foot Boardwalk location will be home to Savco University, a meeting room for classes and staff training and babo Central Kitchen, which will serve as creation space for babo products and Savco Catering. 

The new location will give residents options for quick food for any time of day, says Navarre. 

"After work, when you’re thinking about what to serve for dinner, we can help with meal starters, side dishes, salad dressings, sauces, and great ideas to make dinner easy and delicious," she says. " In 2015, we’ll add packaged ice cream to the offerings."

Babo: Farm Fresh Meals to Go is now open on Ann Arbor's south side. The Nickels Arcade shop is opening soon. 

Source: Joanne Navarre, Savco Hospitality
Writer: Natalie Burg

Dan's Downtown Tavern expands in Saline

Four years after the Saline bar and restaurant's last expansion, Dan's Downtown Tavern is growing again with the addition of a 900-square foot space that came available next door. As owner Dan Kolander owns the building, the turnover made for a smooth transition at the right time.  

"We have the space to use, so we might as well use it. We've been having to turn people away," Kolander says. "I think it's because we keep our prices fair and our food is good. The non-smoking thing made it more family-friendly, so that helped."

The addition will bring Dan's Downtown Tavern to a total size of about 3,900 square feet and will add capacity for about 70, though initially they'll begin with about 40 more seats. Currently, Kolander plans to use the space as overflow and for special events. In the future, he imagines installing a bar and creating a single malt scotch bar. 

"That wont' happen until after the first of of the year," says Kolander. "I want to make sure people can use it for holiday parties first."

Renovations were minimal, as connecting the spaces was as easy as uncovering former passageway. Kolander planned to open the new space last week, and expects to hire up to two new staff members with the expansion.

Source: Dan Kolander, Dan's Downtown Tavern
Writer: Natalie Burg

Train-themed restaurant opens in downtown Milan

Melissa and Golaik Mahmutaj's son Brooklyn has always loved trains, and the couple has long wanted to start their own restaurant. When a commercial space right next to the railroad tracks became available in Milan, everything just clicked. 

"It seemed like a great place to lay down our tracks," says Melissa Mahmutaj. "We just love it."

Brooklyn's Sidetrack opened on Nov. 4 with a train theme that encompasses everything from the decor to the menu. The diner-style restaurant offers such dishes as the Trainmaster Breakfast and the Railbender from breakfast through dinner. Though the 1800s building required significant renovations, the husband-and-wife team brought the restaurant to life primarily with their own elbow grease. 

"I had a vision," Mahmutaj says. "My mother watched our kids for us so we could get as much as we could done. We pulled a lot of days where we just drank coffee and stayed as late as we could."

Brooklyn's Sidetrack seats about 100 diners and employs a staff of about 13 local workers. Mahmutaj says the reaction from the community has been positive, and they're working to evolve their business along with the suggestions of their customers. 

Source: Melissa Mahmutaj, Brooklyn's Sidetrack
Writer: Natalie Burg
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