One of this year’s most exciting new Detroit restaurants, Lady of the House, opens its doors to the public tonight in the Corktown neighborhood. The debut marks the end of a long first chapter for the restaurant which chef Kate Williams has been developing for the past two years.
While Williams has earned praise for her cooking in Detroit for the past several years fans have seldom had the opportunity to eat her food on a regular basis. Williams helmed Rodin in Midtown and then went on to help open two downtown Detroit restaurants — Republic and Parks & Rec — in the Grand Army of the Republic building. She left that restaurant duo in May 2015 to focus on a more personal project eventually named Lady of the House. Williams has described the restaurant as akin to her own dining room. Here’s a primer on Detroit’s new dining destination.
On the name: Although some might initially assume that “Lady of the House” is a reference to Williams herself the chef takes a broader view in describing the meaning of the name. “I'm not calling myself ‘Lady Of The House,’” Williams told Eater’s Hillary Dixler Canavan in a recent interview. To her, Lady of the House means being “the ultimate hostess.” She adds, “We are throwing a dinner party every night.”
On the location: From the get go, Williams was set on opening a restaurant in Corktown. Although the neighborhood has a great restaurant community and she happens to live in the area, the chef was also empowered to open her restaurant in the neighborhood for its familial connections. Williams’ great grandparents met at the Gaelic League on Michigan Avenue and her grandfather also grew up on nearby Vermont Street. It doesn’t hurt the restaurant is also located close to several Detroit urban farms where Lady of the House sources its products.
On the staff: In addition to the chef, Lady of the House sports an all star staff. Front-of-house and bar manager Christian Stachel (previously of Wright & Company) helped Williams work out some of the finer details of the restaurant including some of the bigger food and beverage collaborations. Williams’ sous chef Larissa Popa (aka The Meatstress) is also a Republic alum and has become well-known for her butchering and charcuterie skills. Service captain Nicole Miazgowicz also came from Wright & Company and has a background working some of New York’s upper echelon fine-dining restaurants.
On the sourcing: At this point it’s almost perfunctory for restaurants to mention their sourcing, but in the case of Lady of the House it’s notable. Williams has centered much of her recent career championing small, local farms. Through her Lady of the Market dining series, Williams worked with “ugly food” as a way to utilize produce the farmers might otherwise not be able to sell. She’s also been known to climb aboard boats to get a feel for how fisherman are sourcing their products. At Lady of the House, the restaurant will source from a variety of Southeast Michigan producers such as Acre Farm, Brother Nature Farm, Coriander Farm, and Cover Crop Ranch. The owners are looking into purchasing property north of Corktown to use as a dedicated farmland for the restaurant. Vegetable waste produced at the restaurant will also be returned to the farms for composting.
On the food: Many of the dishes at Lady of the House are designed to be shareable but the portion sizes are hearty enough that diners aren’t likely to leave hungry. The bread is made in-house with large slices served beside slashes of soft butter and apple butter. Rotating charcuterie selections are also on the menu alongside lamb steak, massive cuts of prime rib, and salmon. The kitchen offers some surprises like corn dog rillettes, too. For dessert there’s a white potato doughnut with chamomile cream, dehydrated yogurt, and sugared thyme that Williams says she spent “an embarrassingly long time” perfecting.
On the drinks: The restaurant’s bar menu has a little something for everyone ranging from ciders to beers to wines and cocktails. Williams is also a big fan of gin. She and Christian Stachel worked with Detroit City Distillery’s J.P. Jerome to develop a special version of the herbaceous spirit for the restaurant that can be had neat, on the rocks, or in a simple cocktail. It represents DCD’s first-ever restaurant collaboration. Lady of the House is also working with Batch Brewing Company on a house beer.
On the design: Located inside the former St. Cece’s building, Lady of the House has undergone major renovations with help from Patrick Thompson Design. The 63-seat restaurant shares similarities to the former pub space. Williams fought to preserve the stonework surrounds the entrance but removed the stained glass windows to allow more light to flood into the 1970s era building. The renovation brightened the interior of the restaurant with white stained woods while maintaining the general footprint of the previous occupant. New globe light fixtures hang above an updated 13-seat bar counter. Booths and chairs are upholstered in warm browns and green leathers and fabrics. The women’s restrooms also feature some amazing flamingo wallpaper and a Ryan Gosling chair (sorry gentlemen).
On the collaborations: In addition to the beer and gin collaborations, Lady of the House also worked with local businesses to create distinctive branded items within the restaurant. For example, some may notice that the Detroit Rose candles burning throughout the restaurant feature a “Lady” scent.
On the reservations: Online reservations aren’t currently available but will eventually be sent through reserve.com. Of course, customers can always call 313-818-0218 to reserve a table. Walk-ins are also accepted.
On what’s next for Lady of the House: Although Lady of the House is just getting off the ground, the restaurant is already plotting its next moves. Brunch will launch later this fall followed by the opening of a private dining space located in a portion of the building’s basement. Another as-of-yet-unspecified bar project is slated to debut next year along with the outdoor dining space.
Lady of the House is located at 1426 Bagley Avenue; the restaurant will open with dinner service from 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday (bar will remain open until 2 a.m.).