Anoted place for vegetarian fare is no longer exclusive to Ann Arbor since Seva Detroit took root in Midtown.

Maren Jackson, who spent years with previous Seva (say-VAH) owner Steve Bellock, bought the popular vegetarian restaurant with her husband, Jeff, in 1997. She’s the operation’s “food person,” creator of imaginative menus, while Jeff is a certified sommelier (wine expert) and repair guy.

The Jacksons were perfectly happy in Ann Arbor and never planned to establish an outpost in Detroit — that was the goal of their customer, George N’Namdi. His association goes back to when Bellock and a partner operated the very first Seva (no longer in business) in Columbus, Ohio.

N’Namdi, owner of G.R. N’Namdi Gallery, bought an old building on East Forest, between Woodward and John R, that previously housed a repair shop and a preschool. He helped the Jacksons secure financing for a 99-seat restaurant behind his gallery.

Seva Detroit exudes industrial chic with its exposed pipes and faded brick walls. Its second dining room is painted a serene green.

Intent on hiring staff primarily from Detroit, Maren spoke of “a wonderful synchronicity” in finding Matteo Burns, their young, energetic chef. The veteran of vegetarian restaurants in Chicago and Colorado came to the Jacksons’ attention just as he was seeking a chef’s position in his native Detroit. Roy Jackson, 21, the owners’ son, manages Seva Detroit.

Customers hungry for vegetarian and/or vegan food came flocking once the restaurant opened its doors in December. Lunchtime is especially busy. Some check the website beforehand for daily specials, possibly the creamy potato kale soup, black bean torta, mushroom sliders or unforgettable char-grilled fava beans in a lemon-coconut sauce. Lunch combos ($8.95) are available until 3 p.m. weekdays, consisting of house salad and a bowl of soup or half-sandwich with a cup of soup or side salad.

General Tso’s cauliflower appetizer ($7) is among the core menu items brought from Ann Arbor. Slightly sweet and spicy, the lightly breaded cauliflower pieces are perfect for sharing. They could make anyone forget the original Chinese chicken version.

Grilled on sliced rye bread from Midtown’s own Avalon Bakery — a supplier to Seva for six years — the Reuben sandwich features organic Eden brand sauerkraut, smoked mozzarella, tomatoes and roasted garlic dressing. Find salads galore on the menu.

Dining with friends, we found the service to be prompt and capable. When tomato soup with coconut came across as too one-note and spicy for my friend, the item was taken off her bill without a word. The popular tempeh burger with Chihuahua cheese really tasted like a traditional burger. Pad Thai was another great choice. Butternut squash enchiladas came smothered in cheese with a tangy tomato sauce.

Besides coffee, tea and alcoholic drinks, the menu has milkshakes, variations on mango lassi from India and raw juices.

Special features include a free birthday entree (bring picture ID); weekday “Happy Hour,” from 4-7 p.m., featuring small plate appetizers and daily drink specials; Sunday brunch; lower prices on Margarita Mondays; and half-price Wine Lovers’ Tuesdays.

Seva Detroit held its first wine dinner ($50) on May 7. Guests had a six-course gourmet vegetarian meal with matching California wines.
“We plan to do these regularly, featuring seasonal wine and food,” Maren said.

Seva Detroit
66 E. Forest
Detroit, MI 48201
(313) 974-6661
$$ out of $$$$$

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