Restaurant owners finding strong appetites in Detroit

In a photo from Nov. 17 River Bistro chef Maxcel Hardy stands outside his restaurant in Detroit. Hardy plans to open another restaurant, Coop Detroit, in January in Midtown. He is a Detroit native and has partnered with restaurants in places like Harlem and Miami. "Detroit truly is a community and family-based," he said. "Everyone says it's a 'small big city.' For chefs, it's really hot. There's a new synergy and energy in the city. The city never has been known as a food Mecca. Now, it's a revolving culinary community." (AP photo)

By COREY WILLIAMS

Associated Press

DETROIT — A resurgent downtown Detroit has become something of a magnet for small startup companies, corporate headquarters and even fine cuisine.

A Pittsburgh-based company that develops and manages food halls is eyeing the Motor City as one of the newest locations for the trendy food service concept.

The Galley Group provides kitchen space for chefs and is scouting spots in the downtown business district and Midtown and Corktown neighborhoods. But it faces competition in satisfying the palates of people choosing from eating options that didn’t exist even a decade ago.

“Detroit is a city that’s on the move right now. It’s amazingly undervalued,” said Tyler Benson, a Galley Group partner. “There is so much happening there. There is a remarkable driving spirit behind the development.”

After emerging from bankruptcy in late 2014, the former manufacturing and car-making city is to some extent remaking itself into a technology hub attracting workers and visitors with varied dining tastes.

The Greektown neighborhood long had been Detroit’s entertainment destination, but central downtown has become home to Joe Muer Seafood and national chains like the Hard Rock Cafe and Texas de Brazil steakhouse.

Restaurants that opened over the past few years include the upscale Prime + Proper steakhouse and neighborhood eatery Grey Ghost Detroit. Shake Shack and Wahlburgers also opened their first Michigan locations downtown.

More are expected when work is completed on a planned 50-block entertainment district anchored by a new professional hockey and basketball arena that opened last summer just north of downtown.

“The restaurant scene is getting bigger and bigger it seems by the day,” said Deanna Majchrzak, a spokeswoman for the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau. “New restaurants are coming on board soon. Others will be opening in the new hotels coming this year. They are believing in the comeback that’s taking place. The fact that all these people are investing so much in the city, it means something. It means they believe Detroit is moving in the right direction.”

Lonely Planet Magazine recently was in Detroit to recognize it among Lonely Planet’s “Best in Travel Top 10 Cities” list. Detroit is No. 2 on the list, but is the only city from the continental United States to make it. Seville, Spain, topped the list.