Thanks to Crains for this:
- Catering and food truck duo to open “brick and mortar” restaurant
- Outdoor and to-go service offered initially
- Owners put more than $400,000 into renovations
Co-owner Alison Heeres (a native of Battle Creek, MI) is now a Detroit chef who is embarking on her first ownership venture.
Coriander Kitchen and Farm is the brainchild of Heeres and farmer Gwen Meyer, who for six years have run a catering business under the same name.
The restaurant, located at 14601 Riverside Blvd., sits on a canal that connects to the Detroit River in the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood on the city’s east side.
Coriander is set to officially reopen Saturday, March 06, 2021 after two years of renovations for outdoor and carryout service.
Opening hours are 3:30-7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Meyer leads the Coriander farm on Scott Street on Detroit’s east side where much of the restaurant’s produce is grown and hand-picked daily. The owners plan to sell vegetables and flowers at a produce stand at the restaurant in the summer, along with allowing other vendors to sell their products.
During renovations to the building, Heeres and Meyer last summer worked from a food truck on the patio.
Outdoor service, on a 3,200-square foot patio, comes just in time for the start of spring.
Dining inside the restaurant’s 2,800-square-foot indoor space will commence at a later date, as current pandemic-related restrictions allow for only 25 patrons to be in the restaurant at one time.
The restaurant will employ a staff of 10 upon opening this weekend. That number will jump to 20 when indoor service begins.
Heeres said she and Meyer would have preferred to wait to open at 100 percent capacity.
“That’s not an option financially,” Heeres said. “At the same time, this is our first restaurant venture. Due to the fact that we have a large patio that I think people will be excited about and able to dine safely (there), we thought it was important to get open as soon as possible so we can work out the kinks because we won’t be inundated with people early on, we don’t think.”
“Safety is super important to us,” Meyer said. “The patio is something we tried first this past summer to safely serve delicious food with a great view and hand sanitizer at every table. We’re trying to be mindful in the pandemic how to safely operate business for our own financial purposes, but also to be able to safely invite guests in.”
The restaurant is in the same complex as kayak tour company, Detroit River Sports, owned by Meyer’s husband, Alex Howbert.
The building, formerly a neighborhood hangout called Tommy’s and Fisherman’s Marina Party Store, had been abandoned for 15 years prior to the renovations.
Heeres and Meyer put about $420,000 into the renovations. Howbert shelled out “considerably more” for work on the building’s electricity and a new seawall, Heeres said.
Coriander is operating under a 5-year lease with two additional five-year options to renew, Heeres said, adding she and Meyer pay “market rate” to lease the space.
Renovations were delayed six to eight months due to the pandemic. On top of that, they had to deal with how the pandemic affected their catering business, which lost about $150,000 in 2020, Heeres said, including $70,000 in already-booked events.
“As a catering business that focuses on outdoor events, we always make the majority of our money from May to September,” Heeres said. “Everything was gone. I spent the first week of the pandemic staring out a window wrapping my head around what happened. A lot of planning had to go out of the window.”
Based on the nature of their business, Heeres and Meyer operated with a small staff and a large list of independent contractors. The duo did receive a Paycheck Protection Program loan, but Heeres said PPP — which is to be used primarily for payroll — wasn’t the best tool for them. Heeres declined to disclose the exact amount of the loan.
Coriander’s first menu features appetizers such as grilled halloumi cheese wrapped in grape leaves, buffalo chicken wings and a popular Great Lakes fish dip. Other offerings include salads, chili, flatbreads with lamb shoulder, and lentils and vegetarian dishes. Fried fish sandwiches and cheeseburgers remain from the popular summer menu. A full cocktail, beer and wine list is also available. Dishes run $8-$15 and the restaurant also offers beer to go.
Outside of the food, the hook of the restaurant is the location and view.
Upon opening, Coriander will have seating around fire pits that can be reserved and open seating at canal-side picnic tables. For parties of four to six guests, reserved fire pits are $10 per person for up to 90 minutes, and $15 per person for parties of one to three people.
Guests can arrive by boat, bike or car.
“Our hope is that people come to appreciate the water, and access to paddleboards and kayaks from Detroit River Sports,” Meyer said. “People are able to reach us by multiple modes of transportation. It’s just a fun vibe we have here.”
Paddle to Table dinners, which feature a Detroit River Sports tour followed by a canal-side Coriander meal, will return this year.
Detroit River Sports is scheduled to open May 10.
Heeres and Meyer see the space as very inviting and hope patrons make Coriander Kitchen and Farm one of their regular hangouts.
“That’s the atmosphere we’re trying to create,” Heeres said. “The location is a bit out of the way for some people. We’re sandwiched between parks on the canal. We’re the only business down here. But we want people to come enjoy our food and drinks and the natural setting.”
Coriander Kitchen and Farm (Detroit)