Lyla Saigh’s parents weren’t thrilled with her desire to get a restaurant job when she was just 14, but they let her work with the caterer at their church in Detroit, St. Maron, where Ed Housey was in charge of the kitchen. She continued working with him throughout high school and culinary school, and credits him for nurturing her love of cooking.
Housey, now retired, often stops by her sunny little storefront in Grosse Pointe Woods to have a cup of coffee with his former protégé, who went on to get a culinary arts degree from Schoolcraft College in 1997.
The path to reaching her culinary dream wasn’t a direct one. Although she worked as a caterer for a while, she also had a day job as office manager at a dermatologist’s office. But as it has a way of doing, life intervened when she met Bill Saigh, got married, and had a son, now 8.
“It took 10 years to get back in my field,” she says. They had often driven by an empty storefront on Mack Avenue. Since Bill was tired of his job as purchasing manager for a manufacturing company, and she was more than ready to pursue her dream of having “not a restaurant, but a carryout deli, with everything as fresh as possible,” they took the plunge. They quit their day jobs in 2013; Lyla’s Catering opened that December.
The shop has bright pumpkin-colored walls decorated with wrought-iron sculptures of olive branches to emphasize the Mediterranean spin of the menu, which includes meat and spinach pies, some of the most robust garlic dip in town, tabbouleh, lamb-stuffed grape leaves, and other Lebanese staples. There’s also the Italian specialty stromboli, the calzone-like stuffed sandwich; her version features her homemade dough and a variety of fillings: ham and cheese, turkey/onion, vegetables and cheese, and salami, provolone, and Parmesan. The kitchen behind the counter is completely open, and everything in the glassed-in display case is freshly made from scratch. The only canned item in the place, she says, is stewed tomatoes.
Newly added is a Wednesday night special, a complete dinner to go, available from 5:30-6:30 p.m. and not always from her Lebanese perspective: for example, stuffed pork loin with caramelized apples and prunes, quinoa with caramelized onions and spinach, fresh green beans, and tossed salad. For those who don’t want to wait until they get home, there are a couple of tables to eat in.
With her cooking knowledge and Bill’s business expertise, they make an ideal team. “I’m making him a cook, and he’s making me a numbers person,” Saigh says.
Lyla’s Lebanese Cuisine, 20083 Mack Ave., Grosse Pointe Woods; 313-884-5841. Open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Sat. Closed Sun. lylascatering.com