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Taste Kitchen to bring locally sourced yet global cuisine to Liberty

Though the owners of the new restaurant coming into the W. Liberty location vacated by sushi place Tamaki will be the same, that's about the only thing Taste Kitchen will have in common with its predecessor. The new, multi-faceted eatery will offer light breakfast, light lunch, afternoon tea service and fine dining in the evenings, all under the theme of thinking globally and acting locally. 

"We aren't pigeonholing ourselves into a certain kind of food," says Michelle Hinze, pastry chef and general manager for Taste Kitchen. "Our menu is going to be fresh and vegetarian and vegan friendly. If we feel like cooking Thai one day, we'll do that. If we want to cook  African the next week, we'll do that." 

The ever-changing menu will be sourced as locally as possible. According to Hinze, their priority is to use ingredients first from Michigan, and then within a 200 mile radius when possible. The ambiance of the restaurant will move from casual dining early in the day and during afternoon tea service, and then move into a more formal experience at night. 

"We want to hit as many target markets as we can," Hinz says. "Our location provides us great access to the college students, and we want to step things up for dinner service to draw in other clientele from the Ann Arbor area." 

The goal is to open Taste Kitchen in about two weeks. Hinze expects to hire 10-15 staff members to operate the restaurant. Future plans include getting involved with the community and partnering with local artists and musicians. 

Source: Michelle Hinze, Taste Kitchen
Writer: Natalie Burg

New Braun Ct. cafe to be whatever patrons make of it

The owners of the Bar at 327 Braun Court are about to launch a new offering at the same address. The Ground Floor Cafe, which will open this week in the location indicated by its name, will offer espresso drinks, wine and beer and light foods such as panini sandwiches and house-made pastries. 

"This will be much more like a cafe than the Espresso Bar," says owner Eric Farrell, referring to the pop-up business that recently relocated from the space. "We'll have people eating, having some drinks and hanging out - a place to linger and meet people. Hopefully people kind of make it their own and figure out what they want the space to be." 

In the two weeks since the Espresso Bar left, Farrell has been working on light cosmetic upgrades to the space to prepare it for its new purpose. 

"The room before was pretty spartan," he says. "It was always intended to be a pop up. We're just upping the aesthetics a little bit. I think it's going to be a welcoming space. I've added some color and texture to the room."

Farrell expects the Ground Floor Cafe to open this week. He's hired a staff of three, including the talents of former Zingerman's Next Door and Mighty Good barista Dana Blaisdell. He also anticipates the offerings of the cafe to evolve and grow with the business, just as the Bar at 327 Braun Court has evolved over the years. 

Source: Eric Farrell, Ground Floor Cafe
Writer: Natalie Burg

Elevation Burger aims for early 2015 opening of second Ann Arbor location

When UM grads Michael and Sarah Tayter were looking for a way to return to Ann Arbor from Austin, Tex., their favorite burger restaurant ended up being the key to their return. 

"There were a couple of Elevation Burgers in the area, and that became our family's favorite restaurant," Michael Tayter says. "I always had an entrepreneurial itch, and it kind of felt like a perfect fit."

That led to the opening of their first Elevation Burger restaurant on Washtenaw Ave. in July of 2013. Now, the husband and wife team will be expanding by adding another branch of the environmentally friendly burger franchise downtown on Liberty.

"We definitely have always wanted to open one up on campus somewhere," Tayter says. "Having no restaurant experience for the first one, it was very difficult to convince anyone to lease us space on campus. But now the concept has proven itself."

The 1,800-square-foot space will be under renovation for several months, with January 2015 as Tayter's projected opening date. The downtown location will receive an updated design treatment for the Elevation Burger franchise with a more modern look than previous stores. Updates on the construction will be posted on the Elevation Burger Ann Arbor Facebook page.

Elevation Burger specializes in organic, grass-fed beef that is ground in the restaurant, as well as other healthy and sustainable foods and ingredients. Tayter expects to employ a staff of between 10 and 12 workers at the new restaurant. With a three-store franchise agreement, the couple plans to open a third location in the future, and hopes to keep all three in Ann Arbor.

Source: Michael Tayter, Elevation Burger
Writer: Natalie Burg

Zingerman's Mail Order adds 15 jobs, plans warehouse expansion

Zingerman's Mail Order has been growing between five and ten percent each year. As that growth is expected to continue, that means the catalog and online sales member of the Zingerman's Community of Businesses is eventually going to need more space - and that physical expansion is set to begin this fall. 

"We're taking a slow approach to moving into the space," says Zingerman's Mail Order Managing Partner Toni Morell. "We're taking a little bit more strategic approach, expanding every time a tenant is moving."

With neighboring tenants ending their leases between now and 2017, Zingerman's Mail Order plans to eventually take over the entire building. The first expansion will take place in November, when the business will take over an additional 6,000 square feet. Sure, Morell could have gone out and found a larger warehouse elsewhere immediately, but she didn't want to lose the benefits of their Phoenix Dr. space. 

"We like that we're on the bus route on this side of town and there aren't a lot of warehouse spaces on bus routes," says Morell.

Along with growing in space, Zingerman's Mail Order has also been growing its staff. Fifteen new employees have been added since August of 2014, bringing their total staff to 83. The business also hires 450-500 seasonal workers during each holiday season. Morell anticipates adding more products and growing the business in other ways as they grow in size, though no specific decisions have been made yet.

Source: Toni Morell, Zingerman's Mail Order
Writer: Natalie Burg

Authentic Greek street food coming to S. University

Dimitri and Aphrodite Roumanis have grown up around Greek food, visiting Greece every year with their family. Now, the brother and sister team, along with their father, will bring the cuisine to N. University with Mezes Greek Grill

"What we eat there is what we wanted to bring here and introduce people to authentic Greek street food," says Dimitri Roumanis. "The amount of foot traffic and student traffic that is here every day is perfect. People will come in between classes, and there are a lot of faculty that come to the around for lunch."

Included on the menu will be gyro meat served on a stick, a recent trend Roumanis has experienced in Greece, egg lemon soup, as well as a salad made from dried bread, tomatoes and olive oil - and, of course, the traditional chicken, beef and lamb gyros. 

"Our food is not typical to what that location has," says Roumanis. "There's Greek food around here, but you have to sit down and order. We're trying to add the quickness of street food."

Roumanis plans to open Mezes Greek Grill next week with a staff of about eight after more than three months of renovations. The restaurant will be located in the former Sushi.com location, and will sit between 50 and 60 diners. 

Source: Dimitri Roumanis, Mezes Greek Grill
Writer: Natalie Burg

Woodstone Grill opens in renovated Belleville space

Brian Coker wanted a nice place to eat in his neighborhood, so he made one. His Woodstone Grill, right outside of Ypsilanti Twp. in Belleville, opened on July 25. The goal of the restaurant, he says, is to "sell delicious and remarkable food and drinks" and to serve nutritional, well-prepared meals made with quality ingredients at a fair price. 

"I've been in the restaurant business in one form or another for most of my life and always thought about opening something," Coker says. "But for me to do it, it had to be the perfect fit which meant the perfect location for me, and this seemed to be that opportunity." 

Coker has been working on the restaurant for about a year, making cosmetic changes to the building, as well as adding walls and renovating the kitchen. Woodstone Grill is currently only open for dinner, but will expand its hours to include lunch next week. 

"Our menu is in a state of evolution as we fine tune it based on the feedback from the community," says Coker. "Like any new restaurant we've had bumps in the road and bugs to work out, but the community has been very supportive and made it clear that they're happy we're here."

Coker hopes his restaurant will become a productive member of the community for a long time to come. Currently, Woodstone Grill employs a staff of 30 to 35 workers.

Source: Brian Coker, Woodstone Grill
Writer: Natalie Burg

Grand Rapids-based HopCat to open in downtown Ann Arbor, create 140 new jobs

A Grand Rapids favorite that has been popping up across Michigan will soon make an appearance in downtown Ann Arbor. BarFly Ventures, the firm behind more than one popular Grand Rapids bar recently announced their fifth HopCat location will open at 311-315 Maynard Ave. The $2 million investment in the former Borders space will result 140 new local jobs.
 
"Ann Arbor is such a great town for dining, entertainment and culture, it was a really logical fit," says Chris Knape, marketing and communications director for Barfly Ventures. "We think that adding HopCat to the mix will add to the excitement downtown." 

Just when Ann Arborites though they'd seen it all, HopCat will offer the largest draft system in the city with 100 varieties of craft beer on tap. A year after opening in East Lansing, work will soon begin on the 8,600 square foot space. But visitors to other HopCat locations shouldn't expect to see a cookie cutter remake.

"We're going to completely gut the space and add a unique design to it," says Knape. "Whenever we open a new location, each place feels different. Ann Arbor is going to feel a lot different from the location in East Lansing, just like East Lansing feels different from Grand Rapids."

The Ann Arbor HopCat is expected to open in January of 2015.  

Source: Chris Knape, HopCat
Writer: Natalie Burg

Grillcheezerie brings fancy cheese, artisan bread and new jobs to Packard

It's hard to imagine anything better than a grilled cheese sandwich made with gourmet cheese and artisan bread, but Nick Costos has one idea: having that toasty, gooey sandwich delivered right to your door. Grilled cheese delivery, as well as dine-in eating, is coming to Packard St. in August with Grillcheezerie Sandwich Shoppe

"We're so used to American cheese and Wonder Bread," says Costos, who previously owned Mr. Greek's Coney Island. "We're going to use artisan bread and different types of cheddars, munsters, goudas, provolones and other specialty cheeses, and then coming up with different signature sandwiches." 

Those could include pizza-style grilled cheeses with pepperoni or wild mushroom with pesto, parsley and goat cheese. Costos came up with the idea after living in Montreal for the past eight years and being inspired by the small cheese shops and bakeries there.

"I've always wanted to get back into the business," he says. "And I love this town. I don't think you can get this vibe in too many places." 

The 1,500 square foot Packard St. space is now under renovation, which Costos hopes to complete by the end of the month. He plans to open Grillcheezerie the first or second week of August. The restaurant will initially employ a staff of about four, and will offer dine-in seating for 12 to 15 diners, as well as delivery.

Source: Nick Costos, Grillcheezerie Sandwich Shoppe
Writer: Natalie Burg

Renovated Sushi.com to reopen as Miya with new foods and larger staff

Sushi.com closed its doors on June 4, but fans of the restaurant need not worry. It's soon to return as Miya, a Japanese and Korean food restaurant with a new look, new staff and new foods... as well as most of the old favorites. 

"We did the renovation for the whole restaurant," says owner Don Kim. "Everything is changed to a modern, Japanese style. We're building a whole new restaurant."

Kim says the menu will largely be the same but with the addition of some new appetizers and a wider selection of Korean foods than were offered previously. He decided on the name Miya, as that is how most Americans pronounce his wife's name, and it also translates in Japanese to "palace."

One thing that will definitely stay the same, says Kim, is his commitment to quality, healthy food.

"We are try to make everything fresh," he says. "It's clean and fresh and high quality food. Everyone knows Korean and Japanese food is healthy, and healthy is our main concern." 

The total renovation of the space began a few months ago, and Kim expect work to be completed and the restaurant open within about a week. The 1,300 square foot space will seat about 55 diners. Kim is now hiring two to three additional employees to staff Miya. A new website for the restaurant is forthcoming. 
 
Source: Don Kim, Miya
Writer: Natalie Burg

Jersey Mike's brings East Coast taste and 20 jobs to Ann Arbor

When Peter Shipman and Mike Wagner opened their first Jersey Mike's Subs on Carpenter Rd. in 2012, it was also the first of its kind in Michigan. The franchise now has 11 locations in the state and the Ann Arbor natives have opened their third, in Westgate shopping center. 

"We're just looking to expand as quickly as we can, but also taking our time to choose a good area," says Wagner, who is an operating partner with franchisee Shipman. "It was the right time in terms having space available in Westgate."

The Huron and Pioneer High School graduates blend the authentically East Coast sub style of fresh baked New Jersey bread, hand-sliced meats and cheeses and a vinegar and oil blend with Ann Arbor sensibilities of getting fresh produce from local supplier Frog Holler. Getting friendly with local customers is also a part of their store culture.

"We make our subs in front of the customers, and we like to get to know them," Wagner says. "We encourage banter back and forth. We like to think we give friendly service."

The new Jersey Mike's in Westgate opened last weeks after six to eight weeks of renovation work to the former pet shop space. The restaurant seats about 30 diners and employs a staff of about 20. Wagner and Shipman also own a location in Canton and plan to continue to expand their business.

Source: Mike Wagner, Jersey Mike's
Writer: Natalie Burg

Michigan wines, ciders and education to be served up at Vin Bar on Liberty

Michigan wine is booming business. As far as Traverse City tasting rooms and wineries go, however, it's also a seasonal one. That's why, about two years ago, Good Harbor Vineyards, Black Star Farms and L. Mawby started talking about partnering to open an off-site wine bar and tasting room in a city with year-round traffic. 

"Ann Arbor is definitely busy in the winter months, and the demographics in Ann Arbor are fantastic," says Taylor Simpson, sales, distribution and marketing manager for Good Harbor Vineyards. "And there just seems to be a lot of support for all things local in Ann Arbor."

Vin Bar, a wine bar, tasting room and wine retail store will open this summer in the former location of the Skin Bar on W. Liberty. In addition to wine, the bar will serve ciders, limited food items and cocktails featuring wine and cider. Wine tasting will be available during the day. A Michigan wines education will offered at all hours. 

"We're hoping to provide an educational experience about wine, but more specifically about Michigan wine, to show people what is going on in the industry," Simpson says. "We are three wineries that have a long history of making wine in Michigan, and we're hoping to bring a lot of that knowledge with us."

While no opening date has been set, the Vin Bar is slated to potentially open in July. The 1,100 square foot space is now under renovation, though because of the building's historic character, Simpson says that they don't have too much to do to create their unique space. She expects the bar will hire around five employees to staff the business.

Source: Taylor Simpson, Good Harbor Vinyard
Writer: Natalie Burg

Romania-inspired chimney cake restaurant opens this month at Briarwood

When Teo Marcinescul went to Romania last year, he tried something he'd never tasted before. It was a cylinder of sweet dough with a sugar glazed, dipped in toppings. And it was delicious. 

"I was like, 'Wow, these are amazing,'" says Marcinescul. "Why don't we have these in America?"

The pastry is called a Chimney Cake, and after Marcinescul and his two traveling partners did their research and developed a business plan, they became available in Taylor, and soon, they'll be making their debut at Briarwood Mall with the Chimney Cake Cafe

"So far, everybody likes it," Marcinescul says of their reception in Taylor. "We decided to open the second location, and hopefully we'll keep growing from there."

The chimney cakes are made from a sweet dough that is wrapped around a rod a baked with a coat of sugar. When the dough is baked, the sugar caramelizes, and customers can choose from a range of toppings, including walnuts, Nutella, Oreos, peanut butter and more. The Chimney Cake Cafe will also offer savory cakes stuffed with chicken shawarma, Philly cheesesteak and pepperoni, among other options. 

The Chimney Cake Cafe opened its first store in the Southland Mall in Taylor in February. The Briarwood location will be located near the Chipotle and Potato & Co. restaurant and will open within about two weeks. 

Eight employees are currently working at the Taylor location, and Marcinescul anticipates hiring at least as many for the Briarwood store. Marcinescul hopes to continue to add more stores to their business in the future.

Source: Teo Marcinescul, Chimney Cake Cafe
Writer: Natalie Burg

Real Baked Goods to bring handmade treats to Packard St. neighborhood

Cinnamon rolls and chocolate chip cookies are in store for the small storefront next to Arbor Vacuum on Packard St. Alan Caldwell's Real Baked Goods will be serving up sweet and savory delights beginning later this year. 

"I'm very excited about it. It's going to be baking from scratch," says Caldwell, who is returning to his first vocational love of food service after 20 years with Ford and opening a home health company. "I don't expect to see everyone everyday, but hopefully I'll have a lot of once or twice a week customers."

The 285 square foot space is small, but Caldwell says its just right for what he's planning to do. Over the next few months he'll be adding new counters, display cases, and kitchen equipment. He plans to have enough room for two tables and four chairs for customers, who will have chose between a variety of baked good from Caldwell's kitchen.

"I definitely want to have some savory things for lunch time," he says, "things like pepperoni rolls and spinach rolls. It's been really fun to test recipes. I've gotten some good feedback."

Caldwell plans to open Read Baked Goods in late August. Initially, he plans to operate the business himself, with some help from family members.

Source: Alan Caldwell, Real Baked Goods
Writer: Natalie Burg

Southern California-style Mexican food comes to Ann Arbor

There may be a few places to get burritos around Ann Arbor, but a whole different kind of Mexican food is coming to town as early as next week with Get Some Burritos

"The owners and investors are from Southern California, and it has a unique kind of Mexican food. They call it SoCal Mexican," says Get Some Burritos General Manager Devon Bivens. "There was some interest in the Midwest to bring SoCal Mexican here."

The first Get Some Burritos opened in Madison, Wisconsin, and Ann Arbor will be the second location. Bevins describes SoCal Mexican as including different spices than the TexMex food many Midwesterners are used to, and including steak instead of ground beef. 

"I think it's going to bring something a little bit different to Ann Arbor," Bevins says. "There are different kinds of Mexican around, but this is a different flavor profile."

The 1,200 square foot restaurant on Packard will seat about 24 people and employ a staff of about 12. Bevins hopes the near-campus area will attracts students on the go to and from classes. After about six months of renovations, Get Some Burritos is hoping to open by May 15. 

Source: Devon Bivens, Get Some Burritos
Writer: Natalie Burg

New Dexter business spices up downtown

After 14 years as a public school teacher, Denise Becker decided to spice things up with her business in downtown Dexter. The Dexter Spice House offers spices, rubs and spice blends that are unique to the area. 

Becker's interest in spices began when she her daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease four years ago. Rather that relying on pizza and take-out to feed her busy family as she had before, Becker was inspired to take to the kitchen and learn how to cook foods her daughter would love. Spices became key to her success. 

"I loved it," Becker says. "I was always on the hunt for different species and rubs and blends. When I had the idea to open my own store, I just decided to go for it."

The Dexter Spice House offers a variety of unique spice rubs like honey chipotle and an adobo lime, and blends such as shawarma, spicy thai, as well as all-purpose blends named after ares of Dexter.

"My blends are ones that you just can't find at any grocery store," Becker says. "Even the nice spice shop in at Ann Arbor — they have some blends that I don't have, but I have some they don't have."

Becker is now working to develop her online presence and expand her business to the web. She currently operates the shop herself with help from her mother and a part-time employee. 

Source: Denise Becker, Dexter Spice House
Writer: Natalie Burg
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