In an area crowded with restaurants — from farm-to-table pioneer Lula Cafe to the gourmet touches at Friendship Chinese and the newer and trendier like Greek upstart Andros Taverna — Same Day Cafe has carved a niche among locals for breakfast and lunch. The grilled cheese and tomato soup, powered by fresh bread from day-time chef José Santos and baker Anna Travis, has made Same Day a daytime destination.
Same Day survived the pandemic after owner Will von Hartz and company installed a pickup window as government officials suspended indoor dining. But as indoor dining returned, von Hartz says customers continued clamoring for dinner service, something that’s been a constant ask since the restaurant opened eight years. Von Hartz has finally found the right chef to start dinner service, and last month Same Day introduced a new evening menu with more composed dishes and table service. The QR ordering codes for breakfast and lunch won’t be used at night. They’re also using mismatched dishes and decorating with dried flowers to create a quirky romantic feel inside.
Worry not, Same Day’s sandwiches aren’t going anywhere, in fact, a limited selection — including Same Day’s signature grilled cheese, is available in the evenings after 5 p.m. when dinner service begins. But for folks who want to try something different, new evening chef Jazer Syed has plans with dishes like carrots dusted with garam masala and served with labneh, and a bao filled with adobo pork belly. The goal is to be creative and midwestern and make use of produce from local farms for an ever-changing menu.
Syed worked at Humboldt Park’s Cafe Marie-Jeanne and across the street (with von Hartz) at Rootstock Wine Bar. Most recently he was part of the residency program at the Currency Exchange Cafe. Syed’s father is Indian and his mother is Filipino. He’s traveled to Dubai and other parts of the world: “I’ve got quite a bit of family in France,” he says.
All those influences come alive with his menu. It also includes a nod to Dearborn, Michigan’s Arabic population. Syed grew up in the area, about 10 miles west of Detroit: “I grew up eating lamb and mutton,” he says.
His lamb kefta kebob, served with roti, is a tribute to his hometown. Folks may want to label his cuisine, but he sticks to the philosophy that he’s cooking what he wants to cook: “We’re all American at this point,” Syed says. When talking about the kebob with roti he says: “At the end, it’s still a wrap.”
Family recipes for garam masala and adobo differ, there’s no standard — some folks could opt for black instead of green cardamom in the former. With that understanding, Syed says he’s having fun playing around with different flavors without worrying about getting too pedantic when it comes to authenticity. Syed also brings in French techniques he learned while at culinary school at Kendall College.
Von Hartz says Syed didn’t need to sell him too much on a new menu. The cultural fit was more important. The two spoke for about an hour before Syed’s hiring, but the focus wasn’t the food. Von Hartz says he’s had a job post for an evening chef for quite a while until Syed answered the calls.
In November, Same Day also began serving beer, wine, and cocktails. The cocktails are a collaborative effort between staff and often use Same Day’s 14 soda syrups which are used in egg creams and other drinks. Cocktails include Unpainted Arizona (Azteca Azul Tequila Plata, grapefruit, jalapeño, lime, soda) and Six, Two, and Even (Redwood Empire Rye, cherry bark syrup, tart cherry, soda). Customers can even get root beer floats spiked with bourbon.