If you’ve ever gone into a Detroit restaurant and thought to yourself, “This looks familiar,” you’re not alone. A lot of metro Detroit’s restaurants take similar cues from modern restaurant design from reclaimed wood to subway tile to the ever-popular Edison bulb. However, a particular suburban newcomer is getting called out for some particularly heavy-handed rendering homages to a popular Detroit restaurant.
Lincoln Yard, a new project from Union Joints restaurant group (Vinsetta Garage, Union Woodshop), was proposed last fall to the Birmingham City Commission. Plans call for lots of al fresco dining with 132-seats spread across the rooftop and along the front and back of the restaurant. Last week, the Rail District eatery passed another hurdle to score one of Birmingham’s highly coveted bistro licenses, and was unanimously recommended for approval by the planning board according to Downtown Publications.
What the reports on Lincoln Yard don’t mention that the exterior architectural renderings for the restaurant bare a striking resemblance to Katoi, the Corktown Thai-influenced eatery that was recently gutted by a fire. To the eye of casual observers, designers Krieger/Klatt Architects appear to have taken a liking to Katoi’s white painted cinderblock design and red lettering surrounded by a blue box. Even the bike racks feel oddly familiar.
The similarities were not lost on Katoi partner Courtney Henriette who quipped on Instagram, “When your restaurant in Detroit burns down, and someone opens a replica in Birmingham. Brilliant! Zoom in, Friends.” Reached by Eater, she writes jokingly, “I am publicly asking to be invited to the soft opening.” Is it imitation or is this simply a designer taking liberties with a rendering?
In a statement to Eater, Union Joints partner Curt Catallo says he regrets even releasing the rendering. Catallo says the logo is merely a placeholder used by the architects. “[Courtney] is exactly right that logo looks a lot like Katoi’s and Selden’s,” he says. “For 25 years we’ve never aced the look and feel of another restaurant.” As evidence, Catallo offered up some preliminary logos for Lincoln Yard.
In terms of the choice of building — an old garage similar to Katoi’s cinderblock building on Michigan Avenue — Catallo says, “I think this is the sixth garage that we repurposed and a garage is a garage.” A friend of Katoi, Catallo says he has already reached out to Henriette and hopes that he can set the record straight. “Obviously we’re not opening up a place with a Thai influence. We’re doing Union Joints food.”
Catallo says that Lincoln Yard is still awaiting final approval from Birmingham’s City Council before it can move ahead with a buildout. Union Joint’s other project in the 8MK building is expected to submit plans to Oak Park in May.
Meanwhile, Katoi will be taking up residency in forthcoming extended pop-up restaurant Frame in Hazel Park at the end of the month.
• Vinsetta Garage Owner's New Bistro Plans Move Forward [Hometown Life]
• Rail District Bistro Moves Toward Approval [Downtown Publications]
• All Controversies Coverage [ED]