Tonight, right now, Grey Ghost Detroit is opening its doors to the public for the first time in Brush Park. The restaurant and bar has gained a buzz since its was announced nearly a year ago that two high profile Chicago-based chefs John Vermiglio and Josef Giacomino were turning to (and returning to) the Motor City to build their own restaurant. Joining them was local bartender Will Lee, who's worked everywhere from Antietam to Standby and Selden Standard. What exactly the partners would deliver, however, was left up to interpretation.
The restaurant, who's name pays tribute to a Prohibition-era Detroit River pirate, would be "meat-centric" and bar-forward, with a focus on different cuts of meats and fish teased during a Ghost Tour pop-up series at venues across Detroit. On these points, Grey Ghost's team has delivered. The menu keeps things simple with a single page arranged into categories of meat, raw, cured, and the somewhat ambiguous not meat section (an assemblage of fish, pastas, and veggie dishes).
Lee who has nearly 15 years of bar experience under his belt has brought similar focus to the bar program which is driven by familiar ingredients in unusual combinations and plays on classic cocktails. The Heroic Intention, for instance, takes notes from martinis with a combination of gin, caper-infused dry vermouth, sesame oil, and black pepper. Another, the very refreshing Better Half, is a recipe that earned Lee first place at a recent bartending competition in Tampa, Florida. The list itself is organized in an offbeat but user-friendly method with sections denoting the flavor profiles as well as the mixing method. All together diners can expect 20 cocktails, plus four on draft (no draft beer here, though bottled options will be available alongside wine). "Eventually we want to do a reserve cocktail menu that features higher end spirits in cocktails." Drinks are served in mismatched coup glasses.
One of Lee's particular triumphs was in designing the bar — a 50-foot long stunner made from 75-year old bowling alley wood. Lee says he took note of problems behind the bar caused by design quirks at his previous workplaces and made it a mission to remedy them at his own establishment. "I tried to solve as many of those issues as we could," he says. "Each bartender has their own little station where they don't have to move. They have a rinser, their own ice, [and] their own well." Bartenders also have access to house soda water, which will be used for cocktails as well as in Grey Ghost's specialty sodas and egg creams. "We're going to have the best soda in Detroit."
Beyond the bar Grey Ghost features an open design with bench seating running down the center, four tops flanked by grey upholstered chairs, and one booth overlooked by a large animal skull on grey subway tile. Photographers Chris and Michelle Gerard got a view of the restaurant ahead of the opening. Take a peek at the gallery below and check out the menu.