When Nate Vogeli, Lea Hunt, and Kyle Hunt decided to start a restaurant, the goal was to keep it simple: fresh food prepared over a wood-fire grill.
Once they found a location, another goal became a bit easier: sourcing most food from Eastern Market.
The name “Gather” works on several levels. As their food basket-inspired logo implies, they wander Eastern Market, talking to vendors and distributors.
During pop-up trial runs, the team enjoyed watching strangers interact. Once they rented their narrow space, communal tables were a must, encouraging people to “gather” as a community.
They also want guests to share, just not from tiny portions. They’ve stepped away from the “tapas” or small plates trend.
Gather is just one of the businesses filling in a stretch of Gratiot Avenue kitty-corner from Busy Bee Hardware. The block includes coffee/art house Trinosophes, Inner State Gallery, and the restaurant/art deco gem Antietam. Other spaces include Well Done Goods by Cyberoptix and Boro, the upscale vintage resale spot.
There are more changes — and new neighbors — to come. Busy Bee announced it was hanging up its tool belt after a 100-year run.
Gather’s owners are largely a three-person mom and pop operation, with support from a server on weekdays, and a few more on weekends.
“We all wear many hats,” says Kyle Hunt, who, among other things, handles day-to-day bartending duties. His wife, Lea, takes care of the paperwork, in addition to acting as hostess.
Vogeli, who spent time as a chef at a Montana dude ranch, runs the kitchen, making everything from main dishes to mouthwatering desserts.
At Gather, even the wood is local: They use mainly ash (which burns quite hot), with a mix of some cherry.
Gather has three long tables that accommodate just over 30 guests, and much of the menu changes at least once a month. The proteins (a burger, fish, lamb, and chicken), are largely the same. The rest of the menu is literally dictated by the market — “either from a stand or a regular Eastern Market area distributor,” Kyle says.
Our order of heirloom tomatoes was witness to that, topped with spiced almonds and the freshest feta cheese we’ve ever had. It came from Oliver Farms, an 1855-era organic farm north of Lapeer.
You can tell Kyle knows the market, noting that Oliver Farms’ stand is “over in Shed 2 by Drought.”
We visited Gather early enough for happy hour, and sampled a lamb chop. If it’s any indication of the full-sized portion, we’re coming back with reinforcements. We also ordered pork belly with cabbage. A side of sticky rice was a perfect accompaniment to pour the remaining juices over.
Veggie pasta comes with whatever’s fresh. On that day, it was yellow squash and zucchini, chargrilled to slightly tender. The delicate lemon, butter, and cream combination sauce wasn’t overly heavy, either.
Drinks are fun, too, with craft cocktails and beer, plus a rosé run through the equivalent of a “Slurpee” machine. We can’t wait to try the white or red.
Here’s a hint: Save room for dessert. On our visit, Vogeli wedged homemade raspberry ice cream between two white chocolate-walnut cookies. And yes, it was as amazing as it sounds.
Later this fall, Gather plans to share the wealth, setting aside part of their profits for something called Broth & Bread. The idea is to work with area restaurants/kitchens to serve a warm, nutritious soup with bread to the homeless.
Just another reason to gather ’round the campfire at this charming addition to Detroit’s food scene.
1454 Gratiot Ave., Detroit. 313-638-1893, D Mon.-Sat., L Sat.