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Naeem Wilkinson at his Red Light Rotisserie

Red Light District

A quick change at a State St. spot

by Sabine Bickford

From the October, 2018 issue

The "red light" in the name of the new Red Light Rotisserie doesn't come from the red fluorescent light above the door or the heat lamps in the fast- casual restaurant's vertical rotisserie. It's "just because we're on the corner here," says twenty-five-year-old owner Naeem Wilkinson-under the traffic light at State and Hill. "The manager, he just kind of came up with it."

Manager Mike Georgiou stayed on when Wilkinson and his father bought what was then Quickie Burger in April. They kept the old name and menu "until things died down" in July. They closed for renovations and reopened Red Light in late August, just in time for the fall student rush.

Like Quickie Burger, Red Light serves up greasy favorites to satisfy late-night cravings, but the burgers have a new twist: instead of a grill, "Everything is made on a vertical rotisserie, which is well known with shawarmas and gyros," Wilkinson says. He serves chicken sandwiches and burgers stuffed into pockets of his handmade Middle Eastern-style flatbreads. The flatbreads can also be had topped with melted cheese, honey, or herbs, but to Wilkinson's surprise, the most popular flatbread by far is the one spread with pesto.

Wilkinson has outfitted the open kitchen with all new equipment, including the increasingly popular freestyle soda machine: "All the employees love it!" he says. Quickie Burger's classic milkshakes are still available, but the alcohol license is gone. "We decided to focus more on food," says Wilkinson. "We wanted to create a chill environment."

Like his restaurant, Wilkinson's culinary background is comprised of a little bit of everything. He's from Lafayette, Indiana, but he's lived and received culinary training in Chicago, France, and Saudi Arabia. He moved to Ann Arbor, he says, "because it's got a good food scene and I wanted to be closer to my sister," who lives in Detroit.

Wilkinson has also made a number of aesthetic renovations, some unplanned-the floor's colorful paint splatters are a cheap-but-efficient embrace of

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the perils of renovation. "Moving coolers and stuff everywhere scratched it up pretty badly, so we kind of covered it up," he says. "Kind of a Jackson Pollock influence." The art theme continues onto the walls, where small graffiti pieces punctuate a large centerpiece mural-a recreation of the artwork from an album by NYC rap group Flatbush Zombies.

The initial graffiti was all done by a local artist who goes by his Instagram handle, "@_villains___," but Wilkinson says his door is open to any interested artists: "You can come in and do whatever you want. Like if you want to do a mural or something I'll pitch in for some paint." But "nothing profane," he adds.

Red Light Rotisserie, 800 S. State. (734) 222-4555. Mon. & Tues. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. & 5 p.m.-10 p.m., Wed. & Thurs. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. & 5 p.m.-midnight, Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. & 5 p.m.-2 a.m., Sun. 1 p.m.-9 p.m.     (end of article)

[Originally published in October, 2018.]


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