Anticipated Hazel Park restaurant Mabel Gray is making significant progress towards opening. Chef James Rigato offered Eater a tour of the construction site today. The former Liza's Place diner has been stripped down to its bones, repainted and now sports a completely new façade with updated windows, signage, a massive iron lamp, and planters for Boston ivy.
The theme of the Ron & Roman-designed restaurant is "old meets new," Rigato says. When selecting the Hazel Park site, he was inspired by the classic Coney diner setup and wanted to preserve some of that character. "I'm not trying to be the unicorn of Hazel Park. We want to fit in," he adds. Mabel Gray contrasts a stripped down feel in exposed, cement walls with an updated walnut wraparound bar and stainless steel chef's table. Mabel Gray will seat somewhere between 45 and 50 diners at white vinyl upholstered banquette seating, wooden Detroit school chairs, and bar stools.
Rigato says the venue will likely open five days a week for dinner and tasting menus with a possible weekend brunch service and bar snacks. Keeping with the old versus new juxtaposition, items will be served on mismatched dishes with new silverware and wine glasses. Overall, the menu will include seasonal and foraged ingredients, whole animal butchery, and a mixture of modern and classic cooking techniques that characterize the chef's style.
Throughout the process, Rigato has used Mabel Gray as an opportunity to champion Hazel Park. The chef sees it as an area with tremendous potential and history. "Here's a whole mile strip that's basically been forgotten," he says gesturing to John R. While Detroit is seeing more development, "the nearby 'burbs shouldn't be forgotten about either." Mabel Gray is expected to begin soft openings next month.