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The sign spelling out Karl’s is painted in red on the windows above the restaurant’s green cafe drapes. The interior of the restaurant features tables and a bar on checker painted wood floors with orange upholstered chairs and lush potted palms.
The bar area of Karl’s looks out on the People Mover track on the second floor of the Siren Hotel.

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Step Inside Karl’s, a Stylish New Luncheonette in the Siren Hotel

Eat spaghetti and meatballs for breakfast and dinner at chef Kate Williams’ new all-day restaurant

Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

Detroit is a city that’s blessed with numerous examples of well-preserved turn-of-the-century architecture and resilient dining establishments that have retained their classic character. A few iconic restaurants have even found new life in Detroit after careful reconstruction that returned them to their original splendor. Karl’s fits none of these categories, but it’ll easily fool you. The new all-day restaurant and bar set to open on Thursday, August 29 at the Siren Hotel, somehow feels like it’s always been part of the Wurlitzer Building — a time capsule just waiting to be discovered.

The latest downtown project from chef Kate Williams, partner Matt Wang, and hotel developers ASH NYC is a convincing reimagining of an old-fashioned luncheonette counter. Visitors to the Siren can finally take the lobby’s grand staircase up the to second floor and find a roughly 80-seat diner serving freshly baked cinnamon rolls, french omelettes, and spaghetti and meatballs. Occasionally, the People Mover will rumble by on its track next to the window.

It’s easy to forget that just a few years ago the Wurlitzer Building was literally crumbling onto surrounding roofs. The iconic building, which once housed the instrument maker Wurlitzer Company, has undergone four years of renovations adding several floors of hotel rooms, multiple bars, a cafe, a flower shop, and a barbershop to the property. Karl’s is one of the final pieces of the project. It occupies a room that was previously completely stripped back to the studs. Only the wood floors, now painted with a checker pattern are original to the space.

A cinnamon roll dripping with thick, white icing is sitting on a small green and white plate next to a branded coffee mug and on top of a Karl’s Coffee Shop placemat.
A wedge or iceberg lettuce with sliced cherry tomatoes, creamy blue cheese dressing, crumbles of bacon and bagel spice, and sprigs of dill sits on top of a white plate with green checkerboard edges.
A white plate with spaghetti is topped with three large meatballs, red sauce, a dusting of parmesan, and chopped basil.

(Top) A cinnamon roll with Populace coffee. (Bottom left) The wedge salad features deviled eggs, bacon, blue cheese, and everything bagel spice. (Bottom right) The meatballs for the spaghetti at Karl’s are made with an all-poultry blend of chicken and duck.

The opening marks Williams third food and beverage project in two years. The chef debuted Lady of the House in Corktown in September 2017 and followed it up with Candy Bar at the Siren in March 2018. The Karl’s name is a reference to A. Karl’s Kercheval Home Bakery, a shop that Williams’ great great grandfather Anton Karl once owned and operated on Detroit’s east side. Located in a now non-existent building near Marrow in West Village, the business closed sometime after the Great Depression. Karl’s is Williams’ interpretation of what that family business might have been like if it had survived to 2019. “We wanted this to be as if Karl’s never closed and it just evolved over generations,” Williams says.

Williams foremost wanted to open a bakery and then became inspired by the family history of baking in developing the menu and feel for the restaurant. She interviewed her mother and her aunts to try to get a sense of what they grew up eating. Like many Detroiters, Williams’ mother fondly recalled going to the old Hudson’s Department Store with Williams’ grandmother and ordering the Maurice salad. She ordered it so often that the restaurant eventually gave her the recipe. Other items like grilled cheese sandwiches reflect Williams’ own memories of what her grandmother used to prepare for her grandchildren when they visited the cottage.

Williams’ says the space reflects a era of upscale department stores and train car dining — an atmosphere where she could picture her grandmother getting dressed up to go out. “There’s a club sandwich, there’s a ham sandwich, but it felt like, for her, that would be something glamorous,” she says.

The Karl’s placemat is green and white with a custom crossword puzzle and a connect the dots in the shape of Michigan. It’s surrounded by advertisements for local businesses. The mat is covered with metal silverware and a clear green plastic cup.
Kate Williams drew inspiration from the placemats at Guernsey Dairy for the old-fashioned paper placemats at Karl’s.

ASH NYC took the lead on the design for the space, which seamlessly incorporates the charms of 1940s lunch counters with diner aesthetics and 1970s-era dive bars. ASH’s chief creative officer Will Cooper tells Eater that the group worked off archival photos and also looked to existing spaces for inspiration such as Lexington Candy Shop in New York and Lamy’s Diner at the Henry Ford Museum. The walls are a combination of cream colored laminate and chrome, a callback to old-school diner floors. Dark brown pegboard lining the top of the walls helps give the restaurant its lived-in look. The board is decorated with Williams’ family photos as well as vintage momentos including old newspapers and Detroit sports memorabilia.

Williams worked with design firm Lafayette American to create a paper placemat for Karl’s, inspired by the ones used at the Guernsey cafe in Northville where she worked her first job. Each table is outfitted with Karl’s golf pencils, so customers can fill out the crossword puzzles and connect the dots.

Pale antique green upholstered booths line the walls next to the kitchen at Karl’s. The walls feature vintage light fixtures, beige linoleum, and dark wood peg board covered in family photos and momentos.
The walls at Karl’s are lined with peg board and covered in momentos and photos from Williams’ family.
The booths are upholstered green with a 1950s look with linoleum tables with chrome edges set between each seat.
Green, two-person booths with individual lamps line the walls at Karl’s.

Karl’s partners tapped chef Brennan Calnin, opening chef at Townhouse, and pastry chef Jessica Chaney, a Grey Ghost alum, to take the lead in the kitchen at Karl’s. Lunch and dinner will be served all day with breakfast running from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Diners can find items like a wedge salad dressed up with deviled eggs, crumbled bacon, creamy blue cheese dressing, and everything bagel spice alongside plates of spaghetti and meatballs made with an all-poultry blend of duck and chicken. “The best chicken salad around,” is made using Lady of the House’s recipe roasted chicken, while the ham sandwich features the restaurant’s Parisian ham. The German breakfast rolls come stuffed with farmer’s cheese and topped with butter and poppyseeds.

From the bar, look out for classic cocktails like daiquiris, Old Fashioneds, Manhattans, and martinis made with gin from Lady of the House’s collaboration with Detroit City Distillery. There’s also sections devoted to boilermakers, boozy milkshakes made with Guernsey ice cream, wine, and beer.

In the evenings, Karl’s will host live music from local artists and DJs starting out with DJ Andrey Douthard of Paramita Sound, a former West Village record store and wine bar reopening in the Siren Hotel this fall. Customers can also feed quarters into the restored 1957 Wurlitzer jukebox that ASH NYC found at Bob’s Jukebox Emporium on Detroit’s east side. The console is outfitted with an older set of 45s as well as some provided by Third Man Records, Paramita Sound, and elsewhere. “The music is something that was really important to me because not just because it’s the Wurlitzer Building, but because it’s so Detroit,” Williams says.

Memorabilia hangs on the walls surrounded by linoleum tables with green chairs, a Wurlitzer jukebox, and orange upholstered lounge seating.
Detroit sports memorabilia hangs on the walls in the bar section of Karl’s.
The bar at Karl’s has an Art Deco aesthetic with a curved back bar and a mirror topped with a round clock and orange high backed bar stools.
Designers at ASH NYC drew inspiration from bars in Detroit and New York when designing the “dive bar” section of the restaurant.
The jukebox features chrome finishes on the exterior with beige linoleum panels and paint on the window that reads “1 Play for 25 cents.”
The Siren Hotel developers ASH NYC found a Wurlitzer 1957 model 2150 jukebox for Karl’s at Bob’s Jukebox Emporium near Morningside on Detroit’s east side.

Karl’s will open seven days a week with full-service dining and does not take reservations. Take a peek at the menu below ahead of the opening.

Karl’s is located on the second floor of the Siren Hotel at 1509 Broadway St.; open 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday (Kitchen is open until midnight). Walk-ins only. Website.

Update: This story has been updated to reflect the opening date for Karl’s.

Chef Kate Williams Partners in Karl’s and Candy Bar at the Siren Hotel [ED]
All Openings Coverage [ED]
All Eater Inside Coverage [ED]

The Siren Hotel

1509 Broadway Street, , MI 48226 (313) 277-4736 Visit Website


1509 Broadway Street, , MI 48226 (313) 855-2757

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