When Atlas Global Bistro closed its doors in 2013, the rumor mill wondered whether it might just be a hiatus. Perhaps the thrall of Bedrock Real Estate had finally enticed the esteemed restaurant and bar to move downtown. Maybe Atlas was merely moving a few blocks to the former a Agave space. As it turned out, both proposals were simply wishful thinking. Atlas was gone from the Addison Building and gone for good, but the people that made Atlas special continued to work in Detroit.
Now, two alums from the Woodward Avenue eatery — chef Zachary Stotz and bar manager Garrett Passiak — have come back together during a new chapter of the Cass Corridor’s dining scene. Last summer when Wayne State area sports bar Lefty’s Lounge quietly shut its doors on Cass Avenue at the base of the Belcrest Apartments, the pair stepped in as partners to take over the lease with plans to open an understated New American eatery, Common Pub.
The bones of its predecessor are still present in the space, but Common’s owners have introduced a cleaner look. Gone is the sports memorabilia and the pinball machines, though there is still a jukebox and a few TVs for those hoping to watch a game.
Getting to work this fall, Stotz says it took three days to remove the remnants of Lefty’s from the walls. The pair also tore up the old carpets, and after grinding down the glue underneath, rediscovered the building’s original floors from 1926, when the Belcrest Hotel used the area as its lobby. “We're both Detroit guys,” Stotz says. “The history of the Corridor is kind of a big thing for us and we didn't want to just cover it up.”
Since Atlas closed the pair have each taken turns working at restaurants around metro Detroit. Stotz was a consultant at Three Blind Mice in Mt. Clements, and did stints at Rochester Chophouse and Giovanni’s in Southwest Detroit, while Passiak took jobs at La Feria, Honest John’s, and The Whitney’s Ghost Bar among others.
As the name implies, Common is an effort in understatement. Stotz describes the style as “eclectic comfort food” with an awareness of that of that label’s limitations. The menu forgoes the trend of shareable plates in favor of full servings, but plans to stick to the seasons and rotate out items quarterly.
Several dishes, however, will stay such as the duck fried chicken. Served as a whole or half bird, Stotz says he attempted several different recipes before applying the French technique of confit-ing to the dredged and deep-fried Southern classic. “It takes a long time to fry a large chicken breast in a deep fat fryer,” Stotz explains, but through this process he can ensure the poultry is cooked through before it hits the oil. The meat is first salt-brown sugar cured for up to three hours and then poached in duck fat. Then the chicken is double dredged in butter milk and flour and fried in duck fat. “It is rich,” he says.
Stozt is also attempting to bring some innovation to pub’s burger, while paying homage to his favorite low-brow meal. “As most chefs are, I'm kind of a big fan of shitty fast food,” he says. “I'm not a huge fan of the big steakhouse style burger... It's definitely a Midwest thing to have this 8-ounce burger cooked rare, medium rare, but what I want is a fast little pocket of deliciousness.” Stotz’ take is a smaller, 4-ounce patty (though diners can order up to three patties), served on brioche with white cheddar, pickled tomatoes, and “Awesome Sauce”— a mixture of lemon, garlic, and truffle mayo.
As for the bar, Passiak has tried to strike a similar balance. The offerings are designed to be approachable and affordable, while giving customers low-risk opportunity to venture outside their comfort zones. The wine list, for example, offers a selection of rare New World and Old World wines served by the glass for between $5 and $13. “Our goal is to teach and not have people feel intimidated,” he says, noting that the bar will also has a reserve list of higher-end options. For those who don’t worship the grape, there are 14 beers on tap including 10 rotating selections, and well as bottle beers and classic cocktails.
For the time being, Common is focusing on its dinner service but will may begin offering lunch in mid-February. That menu will focus more on sandwiches. Photographers Chris and Michelle Gerard visited the restaurant last week during its first few days of service. Take a tour of the new spot in the gallery below.
Common Pub is located a 5440 Cass Avenue. The kitchen is open from 4 p.m. to midnight Tuesday through Saturday; the bar is open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
• Common Pub Facebook [Official]
• All Eater Inside Coverage [ED]