Web Exclusive: The Battle to Open Antietam

Hard times after ‘soft’ opening
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At times, you’ve gotta love the restaurant business.

Social media had been buzzing for weeks — Antietam, the long-anticipated restaurant near Eastern Market, was finally going to open. The month before, owner Greg Holm was featured in — of all places — The New York Times.

The beautifully renovated Art Deco restaurant had a late July “soft” opening (that’s restaurant speak for “We’re quietly going to open, but pardon us if we make a few mistakes.”). And the tweets and Facebook posts were pretty much glowing. A couple even got engaged there (one of them a co-owner of Rose’s Fine Food on East Jefferson Avenue, according to a Facebook post). This place was going to be golden!

So we dutifully set out to see what all the buzz was about. We stopped in early on a Friday night without reservations. The host said the place was pretty well booked, so they sat us at the bar. No problem here.

The first go-round was great. The drinks were inspired and innovative (aren’t most craft cocktails, lately?). The bone marrow appetizer was decadent. The bartender was friendly and helpful. We left vowing to make formal reservations and try the full dinner experience very soon.

Three days later, the place shut down. There was a brief “we will be closed Monday” announcement on Facebook. A Detroit News article quoted a spokesperson as saying they needed to “rework some things.” By midweek, social media was abuzz again — this time about staff departures of the chef and chief bartender.

On the restaurant’s Facebook page, the owner vowed to reopen — at least this coming weekend. Taking a cue from the very cool Revolver restaurant in Hamtramck, the plan is to pinch-hit with two “favorite local chefs.” They recruited Kate Williams (who awaits finishing touches on the Grand Army of the Republic building where she’s slated to open two restaurants), and Jonathan Kung, a pop-up event veteran, and food blogger (kung-food.org, get it?). Add some wine selections curated by Putnam Weekley, and roll with it!

“Every aspect of it (the soft opening) was excellent,” said Holm during a brief phone conversation. According to their Facebook page, he’s optimistic: “We just built one of the top restaurants in the city during our soft launch, so there is a lot of cause to celebrate this weekend, and we’re looking forward to showing the community what’s next.”

While this all might sound a bit like a soap opera, we agree with the “looking forward” part. The building renovation and atmosphere are awesome, the location is unique, and — said Holm — they’re planning to reopen as soon as possible with a new full-time chef.

We’re hoping the next “soft” opening will be a little less hard on Holm and his staff.

 

For reservations, email info@antietamdetroit.com or visit antietamdetroit.com.

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