Tuesday, November 6, 2012

[NEWS BITES] Dave Gilbert leaving Forest Grill; Great Lakes getting retail sales license; Griffin Claw announcements; more

The Cafe con Leche del Este pop-up is now open in the Mies van der Rohe shopping plaza in Lafayette Park at the corner of Lafayette and Orleans. This pop-up was the collaborative effort of several organizations including the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and rogueHAA, a volunteer design and architecture group (co-founder Melissa Dittmer lives in Lafayette Park, as does anybody who's anybody. Yeah, I said it.). If all goes well, this could become a permanent second location for Jordi Carbonell and wife Melisa Fernandez, owners of Cafe con Leche in Southwest Detroit.

Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe is open and has a selection of craft beers and wines, but if it's variety you crave and increased options you desire, you'll be as thrilled to know as I was that the Great Lakes Coffee bar in Midtown is getting a retail sales license and you will soon be able to buy all your beer and wine at the same place you drink it. There is increasingly less reason to ever go anywhere else in Midtown.

This was on the hush-hush but apparently Downtown Publications already blurbed it so I guess the cat's out of the bag: Forest Grill's Executive Chef David Gilbert, a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation's "Best Chef: Great Lakes" earlier this year, is leaving the Birmingham restaurant and opening his own restaurant with his wife in Grosse Pointe Park. There is no name for the restaurant yet but Gilbert says it will be French-inspired food at moderate prices. Couple this with Mindy Lopus's recent announcement of the four ventures she plans in GPP and it looks like the Park is going to be the place to be come 2013. Birmingham is going all eastside!

At a beer tasting and construction update held at Big Rock Chophouse last night, it was announced that the new Griffin Claw Brewing Company in Birmingham is slated to open in April 2013. All production brewing will be moved over to GC with all-new brewing equipment (built here in Michigan in Lake Orion) and increased capacity for distribution. They will produce four year-round plus rotating seasonal beers in 16-oz cans for retail sales in addition to supplying other restaurants and their own brewpub and the Chophouse. Brewmaster Dan Rogers, Michigan's most award-winning brewer, will continue overseeing all production using some of Big Rock's most popular recipes as well as some new ones he has developed. Griffin Claw will feature indoor seating for 150, an outdoor beer garden that seats 75, and a very beer-friendly menu (think sausage, and lots of it).

Santorini Estiatorio in Greektown is getting ready to open soon, though I have not yet been able to confirm an official date.

And in news that will surely break a lot of hearts, the Fuddruckers on East Jefferson in Detroit has closed.

Up-and-coming chef Justin Vaiciunas done up and went. He has left Zin Wine Bar in Plymouth and is spending the winter out west in ski resort country. We can only hope he proves prodigal and returns.

Cork Wine Pub in Pleasant Ridge should be added to the list of brunch n00bs: they now serve brunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday.

St. Cece's Pub in Corktown now serves a regular dinner menu, which features items like homemade soups; their course-ground Black Angus chuck, brisket and short rib signature burger; pulled pork sliders; salads; as well as whatever specials they might be running. They are now open Monday through Wednesday 5 p.m. to midnight (kitchen closes at 9 p.m.), Thursday through Saturday 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. (kitchen closes at 10 p.m.), and closed Sundays. Tuesdays are pop-up takeover days.

This actually happened late September, but Chou Anime Cafe in Midtown has closed after barely four months in business. The concept may not have appealed to everyone -- and there was a lot of eyebrow-raising and media gawking that amounted to little more than "ISN'T THIS BIZARRE AND CRAZY???" -- but it was also a very singular Detroit thing. As the only Japanese-style maid cafe in the country (and no, it was not akin to a Hooters for basement dwellers; think of it more like a daily tween Halloween, or cosplay for the initiated), it had the potential to really be something cool and unique -- sure, not for everyone, but then again what is? Metro Detroit has a pretty strong anime and gamer underground (not to mention two very prominent annual events, Motor City Comi Con and Youmacon, which was just held this weekend), but apparently not enough to keep the business open. Which leaves me pondering: what exactly is our criteria for deciding which new businesses to support and which to shun? Is the concept of 16-year-olds in frilly girlie costumes drawing Pokemon characters in chocolate syrup on your saucer really so alienating? Did it suffer from being too niche? Did the food suck? Hell, I never even had the chance to get over there myself, despite my own fascination with it and having enough understanding of anime culture to not find it off-putting. And I loved the ethnic diversity of all the maids and butlers, showing at the very least that nerd culture is color-blind. I suppose there isn't too much more to say on it, so allow this to be a eulogy for owner Oneka Samet's effort at making Detroit just that much more unique.