The vibrant red and gold of the Venezuelan flag are the background colors in Vanessa Gonzalez and Christopher Garrido’s Grosse Pointe Woods restaurant. But that is just a happy coincidence. The savvy young couple from Caracas researched the psychology of color to find the most welcoming and positive shades for the walls at the attractive storefront they opened in March.
While the menu highlights the arepas of their country at breakfast, it also goes beyond Venezuela, with dishes reflecting an international perspective.
Arepas, corn cakes or flatbreads usually served split and filled with a savory filling, head the early-day menu. They come stuffed with pulled chicken and avocado, or with colby or mozzarella cheeses, or a vegan mix of eggplant, tomato, and roasted red pepper. They are eaten sandwich style, and often served with an avocado/cilantro sauce called guasacaca, which is also a staple in South America atop grilled meats. At lunch there’s a fixed-price menu at $12 that includes a salad or appetizer and a main dish, and in the evening an a la carte menu features such dishes as Galician-style octopus, a tapas staple in Spain, and steak with chimichurri, the herb, garlic, and vinegar sauce from Argentina.
Sophisticated desserts include quesillo, a Venezuelan custard flan, profiteroles, and fruit tarts.
So what is a family from Caracas doing setting up shop in Grosse Pointe Woods? Gonzalez, 31, says she has wanted to travel since she was a little girl and to learn many languages so she could communicate with people all over the world. She speaks fluent English in addition to her native Spanish, can “defend myself in French” as she puts it, speaks some German, and has both Chinese and Russian on the list of languages she hopes to learn. And Garrido, 30, comes from a culinary background. His family founded the High Training Educational Institute (HTEI), the culinary arts school he and Gonzalez both attended in Caracas after meeting at Universidad Simón Bolívar, where they both studied engineering.
When the couple came to the United States, along with Garrido’s father, David, who is their partner at Garrido’s, they thought they might locate in Florida, which has a climate similar to that of Venezuela. But when they arrived in Michigan to visit Christopher’s sister, they fell in love with this area for its friendly, welcoming people. Perhaps surprisingly, they say they like the Michigan climate too. So they decided to put down roots, even though they still own a restaurant on the campus of Universidad Católica Andrés Bello in Caracas that they manage long distance.
They found their storefront location in August 2014 and managed to open Garrido’s in just seven months, after a complete redo of what had been a yogurt shop. It seats 32 at tables and another seven at a granite-topped counter. David is the executive chef.
Although they don’t have a liquor license, they offer an interesting list of brewed-to-order blends of loose tea with ingredients including mango, ginger, rosehip, dried fruit, and spices, as well as coffee and other soft drinks.
There’s just one other local Venezuelan restaurant, El Rey de Las Arepas in southwest Detroit, and the Garridos made a point of stopping by and introducing themselves to their fellow Venezuelans, the Gutierrez family.
Garrido’s Bistro & Pastry, 19605 Mack Ave., Grosse Pointe Woods; 313-466-3042. B, L, & D daily.