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Chef Frank Fejeran Helps The Ravens Club Realize Its Potential

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Chef Fejeran finally gives the Ann Arbor restaurant food worth talking about.

Chef Frank Fejeran at The Ravens Club in Ann Arbor.
Chef Frank Fejeran at The Ravens Club in Ann Arbor.

After four years and four chefs, The Ravens Club (TRC) has finally decided to stick with chef Frank Fejeran. It's happy news for the Ann Arbor community that really wanted to see this place go from a bar with excellent cocktails to a place for a great dinner and excellent cocktails.

Often touted for the stellar cocktail menu-the most popular drink being the Old Fashioned—The Ravens Club wasn't always known as a hot dinner destination. But all that has changed with the buzz building around chef Fejeran. He was recently featured in a segment of Hyundai's YouTube "Grill Iron" series following local chefs as they tailgate for various college football games. In the video, he makes a loaded gourmet coney dog for the Minnesota-Michigan game and takes viewers on a tour of White Lotus Farms where he sources fresh goat's milk to make friend cheese curds to go on top.

Chef Frank, along with managing partners, Jeff Paquin and Chris Pawlicki, is committed to locally sourced food and making ingredients in-house wherever possible. The barman at TRC, Zach Zavisa, makes his own bitters. And chef Frank and his team make TRC hot sauce in old bourbon barrels for an extra depth of flavor. Perfect on chef Frank's friend chicken, word on the street is that the hot sauce may be packaged for sale in the near future. Fingers crossed.

Chef Frank refined his rustic technique at Midwest restaurants like Tribute in Farmington Hills and Grange Kitchen and Bar in Ann Arbor. For its own farm-to-table take, TRC has partnered specifically with White Lotus Farms in Ann Arbor, a Buddhist farm producing high quality vegetables, milk and cheeses, along with lovingly-baked bread.

From locally-sourced ingredients come a range of rustic-style and often nostalgia-inspired menu items, from charcuterie to deviled eggs to roasted Brussels sprouts.  TRC's philosophy is 80/20: 80 percent of the menu items appeal to the majority of diners and 20 percent of the menu is reserved to "play"—to innovate, try out new flavor combinations or elevate some dish to make it more creative and unique.

Take, for instance, two of the desserts: both a bit classic, each with a twist. The warm peanut butter and jelly sandwich with goat cheese is an interesting match-up that elicits a love-it or leave-it kind of reaction. Then there's the matzah with brown butter, chocolate and pistachios-that classic toffee and chocolate flavor combination but using an uncommon ingredient (matzah) as the base of the candy-bar-like dessert. What originated due to an over-order on matzah intended for matzah brei (kind of like matzah French toast) that totally flopped with customers, this dessert is now an all-time diner favorite.

The menu changes seasonally based on available produce, however some dishes are just too popular to leave out. Case in point: the matzah dessert. Also the fried chicken: crispy skin falling off juicy hunks of chicken...and with the aforementioned hot sauce, this is certainly a crowd-pleaser.

It's clear that chef Frank is making a difference in the Ann Arbor dining scene with his traditionally influenced yet innovative menu. More and more often, guests are pleasantly surprised by the food offerings, making The Ravens Club a viable choice for dinner that will please everyone, from the most adventurous to the pickiest of eaters. They may have come for the bourbon, but they'll come again for the food.