While the brown paper is still taped to the windows at Kuzzo's Chicken & Waffles, inside things are kicking into high gear as the owner and employees prepare for Tuesday's soft opening.
Like the exterior, Kuzzo's already has the warm, bustling feel of a lively diner. Friends and staff members sit in around tables or stand behind the bar chatting about next steps or tasting dishes. Local pop art curated by Red Bull House of Art hangs on brick walls above booths and wooden tables. On the front wall in the main dining room, the writing on the wall reads "Celebrating Food, Family, & Friends."
Neighbors who've been eagerly awaiting this new addition to the Avenue of Fashion's growing assortment of restaurants and bakeries, can't wait for the latest updates, says Ron Bartell owner of Kuzzo's. "I've been irritating them for the past year," he jokes.
Bartell, a retired NFL player, grew up near this neighborhood that he describes as the "gem" of the city.
"With a lot of revitalization going on around the city, a lot of it is happening outside of the neighborhoods. A lot of it is happening downtown, Midtown, and neighborhoods like Corktown, and Indian Village—they're getting a lot of buzz.
Around here, you've got one of the strongest neighborhoods in the city, if not the strongest. You have University District, Palmer, Sherwood, Green Acres. These are affluent neighborhoods with affluent people; so the vision was to give them upscale casual dining in a neighborhood environment. You can come in jeans and a t-shirt or a suit and a tie and we want to have that type of feeling where everybody is welcome"
Bartell says he sees opening a restaurant here as his opportunity to give back to the community in a lasting way. "I played in professional football for nine years and everybody is always talking about football camps, football camps. Well, I mean that has its place but that's not the type of impact I wanted to make. I wanted to make an impact of employing people, [and] starting commerce. I think that's a more long-lasting, sustainable impact than just running a weekend camp."
Bartell owns several properties on Livernois and believes that opening a restaurant like Kuzzo's is essential to helping potential investors and tenants see his vision. "We took this building, totally gutted it, renovated it and turned it into a great restaurant and we think it will be very successful." If everything goes as planned, he hopes to maybe bring Kuzzo's to future locations.
In addition to 10 different chicken and waffles options, the menu offers Southern comfort foods like cornbread, shrimp and grits, and even biscuits and gravy. While the focus is mostly on the breakfast, there are plenty of burgers, salads, sandwiches, and even a few desserts (two words: fried oreos).
Kuzzo's has a liquor license and will start off by serving a selection of beer, wine, and mimosas, but a Southern-inspired cocktail menu (mint julep anyone?) is in the works and will likely make its first appearance in March. All of the ingredients are fresh and the owner says he's actively working with local distributors to source ingredients.
The dining room seats 75 people, but if things go well, Bartell may decide to add a patio later this spring. Thursday through Sunday, he notes, the restaurant will offer valet parking, but there's also plenty of street parking available on Livernois.
Bartell currently has more than 20 staff members but is looking for even more qualified applicants. For more information call (313) 861-0229 or email the restaurant at email@example.com.
Kuzzo's Chicken & Waffles is 19345 Livernois Ave. The restaurant will debut next Tuesday with soft opening hours: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.