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Franchisee Caleb Ward and manager Scott Kaufman

Steak on the Rocks

Black Rock transforms the onetime Chi-Chi's.

by Sabine Bickford

From the January, 2018 issue

The latest in the growing Black Rock Bar & Grill steakhouse chain opened in early December at State and Airport Blvd.

The first Black Rock started in Hartland in 2010, and the company has since opened nine more locations in Florida and Michigan. The name advertises what business analysts would call its point of difference: Black Rock delivers steaks and certain kinds of seafood to your table raw, along with a volcanic rock heated to 755 degrees and salted. The server offers instructions, then you cook it yourself.

We watched one woman cook her steak partially, then sear each bite individually by pressing them against the stone. Her companion opted to keep his intact, flipping it once before digging in.

Prices start at $15.99 for a six-ounce sirloin. Kitchen-made fare includes burgers, sandwiches, and hot dogs. For dessert, there's another eye-catching option: the "Sizzling Black Rock Volcano," comprised of a brownie topped by a tower of four scoops of ice cream and a lit sparkler on top.

Black Rock is at the site of the former Passport Restaurant, but there's no trace of Passport's eye-popping blue paint, or the slanted-stucco architecture that marked it as a one-time Chi-Chi's. Now the building has tall (and entirely rectangular) beige walls with gray stone accents and glass torches for an ultramodern feel. The inside also received a full makeover. "I think we left up two sets of walls," says general manager Scott Kaufman. "It probably would have been easier to knock it down," adds franchisee Caleb Ward, who also owns the Black Rock in Novi.

The interior is similarly redone: booth seating and multiple private rooms for events or business meetings surround a large central bar. Everything plays on the "Black Rock" theme, with lots of sleek-looking blacks and grays, black stone tabletops, and a glass fireplace.

The restaurant's neutral colors and large private rooms seem especially tailored to businesspeople, and Kaufman and Ward are developing a new lunch menu tailored for local workers who want to get in and out during their lunch breaks. The cook-your-own model also lends itself to speed.

The building had been unoccupied for five years when Black Rock took over last summer. Though the building underwent extreme changes, ultimately one of the most noticeable differences is the now-full parking lot.     (end of article)

[Originally published in January, 2018.]


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