Woodward Imperial brings al fresco taco bar, jobs to Ferndale

A taste of Baja California is coming to Ferndale via the Woodward Imperial, a soon-to-open bar and taco stand that will give Michigan a culinary connection to SoCal street culture.

"It's basically a local bar with a taco truck on the back," says managing partner, Jeff King.

With two, 10-foot glass garage doors that roll up on the front side of the restaurant and one 10-footer on the back it will be open air and the opposite of upscale ...and not Mexican cuisine.

"The one thing we don't want to be confused with is a Mexican restaurant," King says. "What you'll find here is authentic, street-style, California style tacos."

By that he means soft corn tortillas with grilled fillings such as chicken, two kinds of pork, steak. There will be no hard shells, build your own tacos with ground beef, cheese, lettuce, sour cream and such. No refried beans.

And while California style might bring to mind beach, the Woodward Imperial will sport no palm trees, bikinis, surf boards and other beauty kitsch in the interior.

"This isn't a beach bar…It's a street culture," says King. "We're not a Baja Fresh or a Bahama Breeze."

King, who has lived in California, and partner Perry Lavoisne, a former Michigander and current Californian,  "talked about brining something different to the Midwest."

The restaurant, which will seat 125 indoors and 175 when outdoor seating is open, is in the final weeks before opening day, undergoing final renovations and awaiting transfer of al liquor license, says King, one of the partners in Woodward Imperial, 22828 Woodward Avenue. He expects doors to open in early to mid-April, bringing the former Post Bar space back to life.

King's wife, Suzanne, and Lavoisne's wife, Sharon, are partners in Woodward Imperial, along with Amir Daiza, all friends for more than 20 years and bar, restaurant and nightclub business veterans.

The Woodward Imperial name is taken from the valley that is the last stretch of land between southern California and Mexico, King says. The restaurant would have  have gone by the name Imperial, no Woodward before it, but the State of Michigan said there were too many businesses already going by the name, King says.

King will be the full-time owner and manager and he's hired a full-time chef and has plans to hire approximately 18 other employees, some full time, some part time.

Source: Jeff King, managing partner, Woodward Imperial
Writer: Kim North Shine