New American restaurant Alma Kitchen is preparing for a fall opening in Jefferson Chalmers. The restaurant headed to the Kresge building at 14300 E. Jefferson Ave. is on track to open sometime in November, chef Gary Mui tells Eater.
Mui and his partner Alicia Sanchez began developing Alma more than a year and a half ago with the goal of opening a neighborhood restaurant that reflected their Mexican-American and Chinese-American heritage.
Mui, a Rochester resident, says worked for many years with major restaurant groups including McCormick & Schmick’s before striking out on his own. During his time with with national brands, Mui had the opportunity to create menu items served at restaurants across the country, but with his kids still in school he didn’t want to take on the risk of opening his own place. “I always felt like I had the talent to do it, but I was always kind of worried to do it and put myself out there,” he says. Now, with his children grown, Mui says he felt the time was finally right to establish his own restaurant.
Through a program at TechTown, Mui and Sanchez connected Derric Scott, part of the Jefferson East Inc. organization that’s overseeing many of the new developments in the Jefferson Chalmers business district. The pair soon signed a lease on the Kresge building.
Mui and Sanchez developed the design for the interior of the 84-seat restaurant together, building off the existing Art Deco character of the corner building. The bar will feature vintage stools from an old Kresge’s lunch counter. The plans also call for new green space on the side of the building and patio seating.
Although the menu is still in development, Mui says that customers can look forward to dishes with Chinese and Mexican influences blended with American foods the the pair grew up eating Michigan. Expect options like almond boneless chicken and scallion waffles — a mashup of the popular Chinese-American restaurant item and Chinese scallion pancakes. Other items teased on the menu include charred octopus with ginger chili hoisin glaze and chile rellenos poblano pepper, huitlacoche (fungus found on corn that’s a popular ingredient in Mexico), Oaxaca cheese, and tomato sauce. The bar menu will mirror the food with cocktails incorporating “international flavors.”
Mui and Sanchez plan to start off serving lunch, dinner, and brunch. Down the road, they hope to add breakfast service. Construction on Alma Kitchen is on track to wrap up in late-October. Stay tuned for more updates as the project moves forward.