It's the hottest - maybe most mouth-watering - restaurant news in metro Detroit at the moment: the rebirth and transformation of the iconic Vinsetta Garage on Woodward in Berkley.
The brown paper covering the windows of the old station is staying on for now, but the kitchen will start turning out its creatively souped-up comfort foods at 4 p.m. today, June 1, owner Curt Catallo says. It's good prep for expanding to lunch service in a couple of weeks, he says.
Vinsetta Garage, a gas and service station that closed in 2009 but remains an architectural treasure, will go by the same name but turn out award-winning, burgers, mac & cheese and other dishes that can be described as home cooking meets every man's gourmet.
"We'll leave the paper on the windows and the sign off for a few days, so we can get our sea legs (so to speak)," Catallo writes in an email to metromode.
It's the latest venture from the people who brought metro Detroit the restaurant of the year in 2011, the Clarkston Union Bar & Kitchen
, and Union Woodshop
, which it calls a big-time small-town barbecue joint, also in Clarkston.
With Vinsetta Garage
's opening and plans to turn a fire hall in Fenton into another restaurant - it's awaiting the OK of city officials there - the owners are on the verge of creating a mini-restaurant empire that, according to food critics, is taking metro Detroit - and Michigan's - restaurant options up more than a notch.
It's not only good food news, to many, but a sign of economic promise as a team of "70 or so very passionate individuals" will staff Vinsetta, including at least four full-time jobs. More hirings are happening now to cover the lunch service, he says.
While Vinsetta is eating up the attention at the moment, the Clarkston Union and Union Woodshop, Food Network favorites, are used to being under the heat lamp. A recent episode was filmed with Kid Rock and host Food Network host Guy Fieri.
According to Facebook and a June 1 story in Crain's Detroit Business
, the restaurant opening has been much anticipated and private events leading up to opening day are creating suspense.
"Been waiting for so long. Happy to hear it's almost time," says one post. "I'm only in town until Monday morning. Hook me up!" pleads another.
The food, the work of chef Aaron Cozadd, may be the highlight, but the interior design and decor, both the work of Catallo's wife Ann Stevenson, and renovation decisions such as converting the old gas pumps out front into electric car chargers is sure to lead to table talk.
"As groovy as it was to work through the preservation," Catallo writes. "We're ready to start running the joint and bringing people back to the garage once again."
Source: Curt Catallo, owner Vinsetta Garage and Facebook pages of Vinsetta Garage and Clarkston Union Bar & Kitchen
Writer: Kim North Shine