Covid adaptations, continued.
A simplified Aventura, Carson's takes a vacation, and more.
From the June, 2021 issue
The restaurant world has been in constant flux since the pandemic began, and some of Ann Arbor's best-known names continue to make adjustments.
Aventura, the tapas bar and restaurant on E. Washington, sprang back to life in April after a year-long hiatus. But returning patrons will find that the menu is smaller and that Aventura's signature paella is missing.
"Supply on imported products is super-unreliable, and prices are through the roof at the moment," owner Sava Farah explains. So Louis Maldonado, chef-partner of Farah's Pulpo Group, with an assist from Aventura's new chef, Gerard Chaco, who followed Maldonado from San Francisco, devised a simpler menu of charcuterie boards--which have assortments of meats and cheeses--bar snacks called pintxos, and cold and hot tapas.
In addition to supply constraints, Farah says, like many Ann Arbor restaurants, Aventura is short on staff. It reopened with four line cooks, and Farah says she would like to hire fifteen more.
As for the paella, she says, her paella specialist, Raul Cob, went home to Spain during the pandemic and does not plan to return. While she might someday send Maldonado and Chaco to Spain for paella tutoring, for now Maldonado is focused on launching Dixboro House, Pulpo Group's high-end restaurant, set to open this summer.
Farah reminds diners that many restaurant workers are exhausted from the stresses of the pandemic. "I wish to see more empathy and understanding of the reality we live in," Farah says, "Restaurants like Aventura must rebuild out of the ashes at a time where our resources have never been more limited."
On Plymouth Rd., Mainstreet Ventures has put Carson's American Bistro on vacation until September. "The weather hasn't been great, and carryout was dwindling," says CEO Kevin Gudejko. He hopes things will pick up this fall, when classes on nearby North Campus resume.
Downtown, Mainstreet has combined the dining rooms at the Chop House and Gratzi. With Gratzi's kitchen still on hiatus, they've opened a connecting door to provide more socially
distanced seating for Chop House customers.
Gudejko says Mainstreet hasn't decided when or if Gratzi will operate again on its own, but it is not abandoning the name. (There is also a Gratzi in Midland.) "At this point, we're going day-to-day, week- to-week," he says.
In brighter news, Mainstreet planned to reopen the rooftop patio across the street at Palio by the end of May. And Gudejko says overall revenue at Mainstreet's restaurants in Michigan, Ohio, and Florida has been encouraging.
"We're not where we were in 2019, but we're clawing our way back," Gudejko says.
A few blocks away on Liberty, Mani Osteria and Bar and its sister Mexican restaurant, Isalita, are expanding beyond carryout and patio dining: in early May, owner Adam Baru hoped to reopen for inside dining by the end of the month.
Over the winter Baru added the Market By Mani & Isalita, offering grab-and-go meals such as lasagna, empanadas, enchiladas, pastas, and sauces. He says that may continue, either as a physical location or online.
[Originally published in June, 2021.]
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