When Au Cheval opens, which should be in about two to three weeks, Brendan Sodikoff said, you would never know this 1400 square-foot, 50-seat spot used to be a Greektown Gyros.
What used to be a greasy spoon now has more of a vintage French bordello vibe with large hanging pendants over a zinc-topped bar, exposed whitewashed brick and black venting, an antique mirror hanging on the front wall, maple-stained driftwood tabletops alongside slightly distressed leather booths, basket weave marble tile and wallpaper with patterns resembling the ubiquitous fleur de lis at Sodikoff's neighboring Maude's Liquor Bar.
But this being a "diner" of sorts, the open kitchen set behind the bar has a stainless steel backsplash, a huge griddle and stovetop with multiple burners where exec chef Jason Vaughan and chef de cuisine Sam Engelhardt will prepare a heightened version of traditional diner fare.
The idea behind the menu is to prepare simple food (in theory) while juxtaposing that with more challenging dishes, Sodikoff said. "We'll do a burger, but will also have a dish with king crab." The "now serving" section of the menu will feature rotating entrees like chopped chicken liver with salted butter and toast (a nod to Jewish delis); smoked whitefish pasta, knockwurst with herb spaetzle; coq au vin; foie gras- and pork-stuffed cabbage; and crispy potato hash with duck heart gravy.
More traditional items will include a patty melt and cheeseburger, but also chilaquiles. A "gourmand" section will have things like foie gras terrine and a king crab cocktail because "it's fun," Sodikoff said.
Since Au Cheval will start as a dinner and late-night joint (Sodikoff hopes down the road it can be a 24-hour diner, but will see how that goes), the bar is a main focus. It'll feature 36 draft beers in four categories (light, full, rich and specialty) mostly comprising American and European labels and will have a very-curated wine list with only 10 wines made up of sparkling, reds and whites.
Sodikoff said they started beverage training a few weeks ago and will begin food training once they pass all inspections and can start cooking on premise.