Back Door Cafe swings open
New incarnation for Saline eatery
by Billie Ochberg
Once again, Saline's Downtown Diner has changed hands and its name. Former owner Keith Saloum decided to pursue a career in civil engineering, so he recruited Jamal Sway, who spent a few weeks observing before deciding on a new name-the Back Door Cafe.
"It makes sense since that's where most people enter the place," Sway says. The address is on Michigan Avenue, but the easier entrance is from a parking lot off North Ann Arbor Street. He's installed a few new black lacquered bar-height tables and has eliminated early morning hours except on Sunday, though he'll serve omelets anytime. "I want this to be a place for people to eat good food, hang out, listen to music, and relax," he says.
Gone are the many knickknacks that covered the old burgundy walls. Gone are the mismatched, old-fashioned kitchen chairs and granny-style tablecloths. Three walls are now a deep green, and the fourth is a muted yellow. Sway has marked different corners with different styles of art. One corner has framed prints of cafe and diner scenes, including Edward Hopper's Nighthawks. Another set of tables is arranged beneath floral paintings. Down the narrow part of the L-shaped cafe he has hung a collection of old mining photos as well as a detailed map of the UP's Keweenaw Peninsula, in homage to the homemade pasties that remain a feature of the menu.
He also offers an array of sandwiches, wraps, burgers, hot dogs, quesadillas, chopped salads, and soups du jour, all served counter style. He's thinking about giving local musicians and poets a space to perform too. "We'll see how it goes," he says.
Back Door Cafe, 131 East Michigan, Saline, 944-6665. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
[Originally published in November, 2008.]