Eager to strengthen and enrich the cozy Fisher Road business district in Grosse Pointe, the owners of are opening a café just next door at the site of the short-lived Tom’s Hog and Dog.
Hydrangea Kitchen, which will begin service on Aug. 9, is the second Fisher Road business venture of Grosse Pointe’s Villareal family. The success of the boutique, which was opened by Malo Villareal and her daughter, Megan, in May 2010, inspired a culinary endeavor that will be a true family affair.
Megan and her brother Ryan, both of whom cut their teeth in prestigious restaurants around the country, will manage the café, while brother Justin, a student at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, has developed the menu. The siblings will receive “mentoring” and support from Malo and their father, Randall, who manages MotorCity Casino Hotel.
The cafe, say the Villareals, was conceived to be a charming, relaxed neighborhood eatery with a European-influenced menu featuring fresh foods that are basic yet elegant. The objective, said Justin, is to serve “simple dishes with complex flavors,” prepared with as much focus on technique as on ingredients.
To wit, one of the café’s signature offerings is “authentic Belgian fries”–different from French fries in that they are freshly cut, fried once at a low temperature to cook the potato and a second time to crisp the outside, then tossed in a kosher salt. If that weren’t deliciously authentic enough, the café will serve them with a variety of aioli, including habanero ketchup and curry ketchup.
The menu, which will change seasonally and include salads, soups, sandwiches, and “trifles," which the café terms an “appetizing array of our specialty selections,” such as panko-breaded crab cake sliders and spicy wonton tilapia tacos.
One dish in particular that’s sure to delight locals: the J.L. Hudson Maurice Salad. As the name suggests, the salad was a perennial favorite of diners at Hudson’s department store during its heyday in downtown Detroit. Consisting of chopped iceberg lettuce topped with julienne of ham, turkey and Swiss cheese, tossed in a lemon dijonnaise and garnished with diced egg and pimento olives, the salad is sure to offer many former Hudson’s shoppers a trip down memory lane.
With its casual elegance and nod to European fare, Hydrangea Kitchen will, to some extent, fill the same niche as The Hill’s . But with its , Morning Glory now resembles more of a bistro, and Hydrangea Kitchen won’t go that route, the owners said.
Among other things, it will set itself apart with an afternoon tea service featuring finger sandwiches and scones and by courting the morning crowd with rich and varied pastries, breads–including brioche and croissants–and other sweets. In addition, the café, which will offer takeout and catering as well as dine-in service, is devoting a portion of its space to retail and will sell new and vintage kitchen linens and supplies.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Hydrangea Kitchen will benefit from the special charisma that a family-owned-and-operated-business imparts. The Villareals are good at collaborating, they said. And because Randall’s hotel management career has taken them to live in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, St. Louis and Orlando, FL, they share cultural and culinary experiences they can draw upon to evolve their business.
For the siblings in particular, said Megan, collaborating on the café “is an opportunity to really get to know each other. We’ve all lived in different cities for the past five years.”
The Villareals said they plan to stay and establish roots in Grosse Pointe, which is where Randall grew up. As a result, they are committed to making Hydrangea Kitchen a neighborhood restaurant and will be careful not to become “South-centric,” as Randall put it, referring to the high school across the street.
“While we certainly embrace the South students,” said Malo, “we want to be a place people might head to when they’re out walking their dog. We want to be a casual spot where we recognize you, know your name and make your favorite [dish] for you.”
To handle a possible noontime crush of South students, Malo said the café, which will be sending out daily tweets announcing specials and other news, is considering a limited menu to make it easier for students to grab lunch during their relatively short break.
Hydrangea Café, which is planning a ribbon cutting with the , will be open:
- Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Saturday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Sunday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Closed on Mondays.
Most menu items will be priced between $7 and $10.