Just a glance at the neatly painted dove-gray building with pale pink petunias spilling from window boxes is enough to tell you that Pete’s Place is more than just another stop for a quick sandwich.
Its subtitle, The Broadway Café, is another hint that something out of the ordinary is going on at 1225 Woodward Heights, just off Hilton Road, in Ferndale.
Step inside and the showbiz connection comes through loud and clear, with dozens of framed posters from Broadway shows and playbills displayed against soft gray walls while the soundtrack of Gypsy or Damn Yankees or some other musical that graced the Great White Way plays in the background.
Peter Mel is back in business. The former proprietor of the similarly themed Backstage and its Footlights Bar, and then Salute on Woodward north of Six Mile, took over the failed coney island place in December of last year.
He began gutting it in January, and opened for business in mid-May. Just as he did at the Backstage, Mel serves breakfast (Act I) all day, as well as lunch (Act II), and dinner (Act III). The menu is both accessible and a little outré.
What other 50-seat diner offers asparagus and brie omelets, sautéed artichoke hearts with pesto and spinach, grilled fresh pineapple with hot-rum sauce, or molten chocolate cake?
That’s just a hint of the offerings, which also include such basics as bacon and eggs, chicken soup, and half-pound burgers.
Mel says he got back into the restaurant business by accident. After selling Salute, the last of his Woodward Avenue holdings in 1993, he took a series of jobs (not always in restaurants) that led to his becoming the manager of a Subway in Ferndale.
“As part of my job, I had to deposit money in the bank in Royal Oak, and I drove past [the Pete’s Place location] every day.
“People would buy it, operate a year or two, then close. I saw it happen two, three times over.”
He says he resisted the recurring impulse to try to make something of it. “Oh, no, no, no, no,” he told himself, but he finally surrendered to the urge and bought it. And he didn’t realize how much he had missed having his own restaurant, until people who had been his customers years ago began coming in. “It has reunited me with so many people that were part of the madness that was the ’80s,” he says. “People came in who had been at the original Backstage on Seven Mile [its location before moving to Woodward]. It’s just everything I’d hoped for. They are coming in and saying hello.”
Despite what looks like a completely finished product, with its gray-and-black interior carried out in every detail — from the contemporary high-back wicker chairs to the black pedestal tables, and the sophisticated print fabric on the long bench that stretches along one wall — Mel says he isn’t finished with the décor.
“I want to make one more quick trip to New York,” he says, to get more Broadway paraphernalia and maybe take in a show or two.
There is, as they say, no business like show business.
1225 Woodward Heights, Ferndale; 248-544-4215.