In an era when every week a slew of restaurants open in the Greater Downtown neighborhood, it has become harder to stand out and draw the palate of an increasingly foodie town. So how does one stand out and create their own lane? The recipe is simple according to Grey Ghost co-owners Chef Josef Giacomino and John Vermiglio; provide good fresh food with a creative flair, serve killer cocktails that complement the menu and create an experience from beginning to end, that makes each meal here special whether it’s an anniversary or aWednesday.
Armed with this philosophy, talents recognized by Zagat made in Michigan grit, a dream and sheer luck, Vermiglio and his primary business partner Giacomino, have made their mark on the Metro Detroit landscape. A Metro Detroit native, Vermiglio always knew that eventually he would return to Michigan to live out his dream of opening his own restaurant. “When I left here to attend culinary school after high school, I knew that I would be back. This is home.” said Vermiglio. What he couldn’t have imagined is that he would meet his partner at his very first job out of culinary school and it would be a partnership for the ages. Giacomino, an native of Wisconsin was living out his culinary dreams, quickly becoming one of the most sought after young chef’s in Chicago when he met Vermiglo at Table 52. Together their careers continued to grow, as did a passion to take what they were learning and apply it to their own venture. Then a Crain’s Detroit Business ad took that dream and made the reality of it closer than ever.
“My twin brother, Dave had met Chef Joe and knew that we were serious about opening up our own restaurant. So when his career brought him back to Michigan he kept his eye out for properties that would fit our vision and then it happened. It was a sign, the space was listed in Crain’s by American Community Redevelopment and it was perfect.” said Vermiglio. When the trio investigated the building, they were sold on the possibility of what it could be, before the hype of the 7.2, the development of the Little Ceaser’s Arena and The District. According to Giacomino, it was the community that sold him. “When we first started this process we explored other similar restaurants and we saw that there was absolutely a need for more options after attempting to go to a few locations only to be told the wait was three hours – and there was no other similar option in walking distance. We are excited to see more options come online and be a part of that movement.” It was also the support of organizations such as Midtown Detroit, Inc, Invest Detroit and the amazing network of fellow restaurateurs who supported us that helped make Detroit the only place they could open up according to Vermiglio.
In preparing to open Grey Ghost the partners made this a community affair. With a desire to make the restaurant truly a community focused venture where customer service was a top priority both Vermiglio and Giacomino, spent time in a variety of local restaurants performing every job possible from front of house positions such as hosting, serving and bussing to back of house positions as dishwashers, prep line cooks and more. “It was important for us to return to those roots and understand the challenges that each position faces, what makes an employee excellent in these positions and most importantly what makes someone the best fit for us in these roles.” said Giacomino.
Dedicated to hiring local, based on their behind the scenes experience there was a concerted effort to make sure that residents knew of employment opportunities including, Patio Days. “We wanted to make sure people knew that we were serious. So in addition to traditional methods of hiring we held several Patio Days where our team set up on our patio and held walk-in interviews.” said Vermiglio The result is a diverse workforce that brings their hospitality expertise, passion for Detroit, respect for and intimate knowledge of the community to the table every day.
While the staffing was a community affair, it was a family affair that led to the build out of the beautiful modern rustic interior of Grey Ghost. Housed in 2,500 square feet of the former Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe, the interior was designed by Pink & Wooderson. Selected interior elements including the bar, tables and patio area were all built from wood reclaimed from local homes being deconstructed rather than demolished and were installed by Vermiglio and his dad. Both Giacomino and Vermiglio’s mothers planted a little TLC with their installation of an herb garden. Those fresh herbs are just one locally sourced ingredient used by Giacomino and Beverage Manager, Will Lee of Standby and Selden Standard fame in creating a unique menu complete with popular items such as the decedent Fried Bologna and pork chops with pineapple chimichurri and refreshing cocktails such as Grandma’s Garden and Not Yo Libre.
To take your taste buds on an epic culinary journey, visit Grey Ghost today. They are located at 47 Watson Street, Detroit, MI 48201, just east of Woodward Avenue. They are open Monday
, 4 p.m. – Midnight
, 4 p.m. – 1 a.m.
and Sunday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
for brunch and 4 p.m. – Midnight
for dinner service. To make reservations or for more information, please call 313- 262-6534
or visit greyghostdetroit.com