Eater Detroit spoke to Hubert Yaro, owner of Craft Work in West Village, two and a half weeks after opening. He has been in the industry for a while, as he is the co-owner of both Ronin Sushi in Royal Oak and Commonwealth Café in Birmingham, but this is his first foray into the city of Detroit. He shared his insight on what's going well, what's going to change, and even told us what's in a name (hint: it's related to German electronic music after all).
Eater Detroit: How have the first few weeks gone?
Hubert Yaro: Fantastic. Happy we're to be open and getting both positive and negative feedback. Overall people are reacting positively to the food and concept.
ED: What have your weekends been like?
HY: We got hit really hard on the second Friday and Saturday especially. We had an hour and a half wait, and it all came and once with long ticket times. It emphasized the importance of timing for our hostess and servers. We want to pace things and give guests our experience. We do not want to rush, but allow guests to take their time and enjoy their night.
We are working on consistent quality of food and service, which we realize will take time. The majority of guests were really understanding, because they know what it's like at a restaurant two weeks in, when it's busy and the seats are full. Guests now are far more educated about what's going on behind the scenes.
ED: Where does the name Craft Work come from?
HY: The name was inspired by the band, Kraft Werk, and its connection to Detroit in some ways. It includes the influence of the band on electronic music in Detroit, and the DJs that started techno. Also Detroit as a place was known for a lot of craft. The name conjures up caring for whatever you're doing. Whether it's a car, a windshield wiper, or food, it's going the extra mile for the product because it's a representation of you.
ED: How has Chef Matt Dalton influenced the restaurant?
HY: His influence has been very positive. He comes from a lot of experience, both corporate and independent, and he helped us open Ronin sushi [in Royal Oak]. He has the experience and poise that you need, especially in the beginning when things get overwhelming. He's not just throwing his knives out and running, he's able to work through it and get us through the night.
ED: Which dishes are most popular?
HY: The trout. Our trout is one of my favorites for many reasons. It's healthy and simple, we're sourcing good fish, we're ordering fresh not frozen, which means sometimes we run out, but we don't want to sit on product, we're having it delivered every day. It's on the lighter side but it's filling. It's a whole fish, with the head on. Sometimes that surprises people, so we have a lot of heads cut off on the plate! It's kind of funny, but people like it. It's nice to see what you're eating. We stand by that fish, we can show it off.
We have quality ingredients without additives and preservatives, we're using good quality butter and dairy and salt. We stand behind our food. We're working on sourcing. In the summer it's great, we've got ACRE Farms and Brother Nature Produce and other local farms to buy products from. We want the guests to say "wow, this tastes really good!" It's more work for the chefs, but it's worth it. You're able to create relationships with the farms and they'll set things aside and deliver for you, and your guests appreciate it more and can taste the difference. We're not using big food distributors, we're using small distributors, like Anthology coffee, Calder dairy, even our well liquor is really good booze!
ED: Why did you decide to open a restaurant in West Village?
HY: I live here. I currently live above the restaurant. I love the historical neighborhood, the architecture, being close to the water, it's a very progressive mixed neighborhood that works. People support small businesses, and the neighborhood is really supportive and tight knit. That can be hard to find. In the city people have to band together a little more, it's important to organize. That really should be everywhere. I lived in Royal Oak for 5 years, and I wanted to move to the city, I am a city person! I felt an attraction here, and the opportunity is here, clearly. It was easier to do this restaurant here than in the suburbs. The rent, the liquor license, the landlord…My landlord worked with me, he was very generous with rent. He understood what it would take, and so many other people helped too. It's never a one-man operation. I had the (licensing) process started early, and hired a law firm downtown, they were able to smoothly guide me through the process. I highly recommend surrounding yourself with a good attorney who can help you through the process.
We're one of the bigger independent restaurants in the city, [Craft Work has 110 seats] but we can succeed here, there is a demand. Enough people are showing up, even if we're not full Monday through Wednesday. The more we gain a reputation, the more we're going to attract from not just the city but the suburbs. People are already coming out from West Bloomfield, Birmingham, and Grosse Pointe. We're surprised at the number of people we're pulling from the suburbs already; it's not just residents of Detroit. Looking at the big picture we need people from the suburbs, and people in the 'burbs need the city, it's not an "us versus them".
ED: What changes are you planning on making to Craft Work moving forward?
HY: Brunch starts in March, and it will probably be from 11:00 a.m-3:00 p.m. instead of 10:00 a.m. We're trying to balance quality of life for our workers. We want people to like working here.
We're also tweaking the menu, sausage is now made in house, and the soup will start rotating. Features will start hopefully in February when we feel really confident with everything, and then happy hour will start in about a month, from 4:00 p.m.-6:30 p.m., it will be a short menu with happy hour prices, meaning a little more affordable.
ED: Where do you anticipate Craft Work being a year from now?
HY: A year from now I hope we're sustainable, and that the majority of our staff is still here, and that we're continually finding ways to make things better here. It takes a good year to dial in, and that's the goal, in a year to step back and say we've dialed it in and allowed our guests to tell us what might be lacking, allowing Craft Work to be what it's destined to be.
· Craft Work's Interior Is Stunning-And Here Are Pictures To Prove It [-ED-]
· All Craft Work coverage [-ED-]