Restaurant Report: Venue in Ann Arbor

Venue by 4M in Ann Arbor brings together several concepts, including dining, cocktails, social events, and work, under one extremely large roof.
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The Venue charcuterie features prosciutto, soppressata, salami, blue cheese, goat cheese mousse, and duck rillettes with house-made focaccia, house-pickled grapes, and pickled mustard seeds. // Photograph by Marina Goldi

At 25,000 square feet with essentially four restaurants and a bar under one roof, not to mention a podcast studio, a gourmet market, coworking and office space, and an event room that plays host to everything from dinner and wine events to social media sessions, Venue is big — and its size matches the big deas coming from the team behind it.

Venue is like a food hall meets cool office space where you can hit up happy hour after your workday or bring the kids to play while you and your significant other enjoy dinner on the patio for date night. Trying to be all things to all people is typically bad business strategy, but for Venue by 4M, it works.

The restaurant/office/event space/craft cocktail bar — located at the site of Lucky’s Market, which closed in February 2020 — is part of lifestyle development company Prentice 4M, which is owned by Heidi and Margaret Poscher.

The couple launched the business in 2012 when they were residing in California — Margaret is a physician who grew up in southeast Michigan before moving to San Francisco, where she lived for many years before meeting Heidi, who was from Ann Arbor and had played field hockey for the University of Michigan. They began by purchasing real estate in Ann Arbor that they would rent, starting with a 600-square-foot house near Michigan Stadium.

Bar19 at Venue features signature cocktails and mocktails, sustainably sourced wines, and craft beers. // Photograph by Marina Goldi

After managing their properties from afar, the couple decided to move to Ann Arbor in 2020, and not too long after relocating, they found the Lucky’s property, located less than a mile from the Big House. By then, they had acquired short-term rentals in the neighborhood and developed town houses nearby.

“We just watched this building be an eyesore; nobody was interested in it. So Heidi said, ‘We should do something with that,’” says Margaret Poscher, CEO of Prentice 4M, where Heidi’s role is strategist.

Opened late last summer, Venue comprises four different restaurant concepts (and that’s not counting a completely different brunch menu on the weekends) in a stylish and modern space designed by Ann Arbor-based firm Synecdoche, which also did Bellflower in Ypsilanti.

The concepts include Mesa Taqueria, which offers Oaxacan-style street tacos on handmade tortillas; Pizza Forum, which makes traditional Neapolitan pizza; Pasta Forum, where you can eat handmade pastas and other from-scratch Italian fare; and Americana, the place for bar fare and other classic comfort-food dishes kicked up a notch.

The Black Forest’s blend of rum with black tea, walnut, and dates is smoked to perfection. // Photograph by Marina Goldi

There are also ticketed dinner and wine events titled the “Brasserie Experience with Chef Thad” in the private event space. The first one is Sept. 13. No matter what the concept is, the common denominator is that as much as possible is made from scratch.

The elevated cuisine created especially for the “Brasserie Experience” by chef Thad Gillies may remind fans of the gone-but-not-forgotten Logan restaurant, the longtime Ann Arbor dining destination that he owned and operated.

Gillies, who hails from Milford, launched his culinary career at Zingerman’s Delicatessen, where he went from washing collard greens to running the show as head chef. He’s also worked in some of New York’s top kitchens, such as Union Square Cafe and Lespinasse under Gray Kunz, a celebrity chef before the era of celebrity chefs.

When Gillies returned to Michigan, he would open Logan — with his brother Ryan and a third partner — in downtown Ann Arbor, where it stood for 16 years before shutting its doors in 2020. Ironically, it was the closure of his restaurant that opened the door to his new role as culinary director at Venue.

Chef Thad Gillies prepares ravioli. The pastas are made from scratch — and so is just about everything else you can find on Venue’s menus, including the pickles and the bread. // Photograph by Marina Goldi

The vision for Venue has gone through several different iterations from the initial idea, Margaret Poscher says. Since they began leasing the space when COVID-19 had greatly limited dining out, they thought about creating ghost kitchens or a to-go business. Then Poscher thought about bringing in guest celebrity chefs to do pop-ups, and that’s when she met Gillies in spring of 2021.

“We had a Zoom call. And I’ll never forget, because he had this background that was a porchetta sandwich, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I want that sandwich.’”

From there, Poscher set up a test kitchen in one of her and Heidi’s properties where Gillies could research and develop recipes (he has created about 600 recipes to date). And yes, there is porchetta, served up as a Reuben and as a roast on the Americana menu. Pork belly is marinated overnight with a dry rub and then roasted on a spit for five and a half hours to get that craveable exterior and juicy interior.

Other menu highlights include the Margherita pizza, with a light and airy yet satisfyingly chewy crust that serves as the perfect vehicle for a bright and well-balanced sauce accentuated by fresh basil and buffalo mozzarella.

Pizza Forum’s Molto Carne pizza, topped with Italian ham, fennel sausage, pepperoni, San Marzano tomato sauce, and fresh mozzarella. // Photograph by Marina Goldi

The birria tacos are a popular item, boasting three corn tortillas pan-fried, stuffed with braised beef and cheese, and served with broth for dipping. Burgers are par for the course on any bar menu, but here they get upgraded with elements like red-wine-braised mushrooms and onions smothering burger patties made of chuck, short rib, and brisket, then paired with perfectly crispy and well-seasoned fries.

Logan fans will spot some familiar favorites, such as the goat cheese ravioli and the pappardelle with wild-boar Bolognese, which then-Hour Detroit restaurant critic Christopher Cook called an outstanding dish in a 2006 review.

Cook wrote: “The menu, which is seasonal, is the culmination of Logan’s interesting journey.” And the story is the same at Venue.

When asked what it’s like to go from running a more intimate fine-dining place like Logan, whose dining room could fit into Venue’s walk-in cooler, to a massive space like Venue, Gillies says for him it’s like “going back in time when I first was learning how to cook, because I learned on the job. I didn’t go to culinary school. When I first started, before
I knew I was going to do this for a living, I was just flipping burgers through college. But I wanted to go back to make it with my knowledge now and make a perfect burger.”

The whole roasted chicken with focaccia bread and salad is co-owner Margaret Poscher’s favorite dish. // Marina Goldi

The story is also that of Poscher’s journey and love of food as well.“The taqueria stuff came from a friend of mine who owns Border Grill [formerly] in Santa Monica,” Poscher says. “I thought, ‘We need to have really great tacos, so you have to have a taco line.’ … I [also] wanted to have the kind of pizza that I had living in San Francisco for 35 years.”

And her favorite dish across all of Venue’s menus is the whole roasted chicken with homemade focaccia bread and a salad with bitter greens, macerated raisins, and pine nuts. It’s inspired by the legendary San Francisco restaurant Zuni Café, which has a similar chicken dish.

With Venue and the upcoming SouthTown development, an eight-story mixed-use complex that will include residential units, community spaces, commerical spaces (including a day care), and parking, the Poschers are committed to the neighborhood where they have planted professional and personal roots — their home is here, too.

“Getting more into this kind of hospitality was just a natural fit for increasing the vibrancy of this neighborhood,” Poscher says.

Venue by 4M is located at 1919 S. Industrial Highway, Ann Arbor. They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner Tuesday through Saturday and brunch only on Sunday. For more, call 737-800-0128 or visit experience4m.com.


This story is from the September 2023 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.