Opened for just one month, Voyager in Ferndale has already hit its stride. Owner and general manager Eli Boyer, together with chefs Justin Tootla and Jennifer Jackson, are bringing seafood — and particularly oysters — to the forefront in the Metro Detroit area, and customers are showing up to try it out.
“We didn’t see anybody doing oysters and seafood in a way that other restaurants around the country inspired us, so we saw an opportunity.”
Even with the light-colored walls and decor, this is an extraordinary hideaway seafood hotspot with an almost “speak easy” feel to the location and venue. Several blocks away from the main-street bustle of downtown Ferndale, Voyager enjoys an almost secret spot on Vester Street with its own parking lot — a treat for the growing number of Ferndale revelers who are weary of circling blocks to find adequate parking in this trendy town.
A raw bar complements the nimble kitchen in the 1,400-square-foot renovated garage space one block off of Nine Mile Road in Ferndale. The space is cozy, but with a new patio planned for the warmer weather, the seating for 39 will increase.
“We found this cool location. For a restaurant like this, it doesn’t necessarily require foot traffic; it is more of a destination,” says Boyer with a smile.
There is a steak entree as well as steak tartare, but the menu is decidedly fish-centered, and oysters are the star of the show. Featured are oysters from the East, West and South, each with their own distinct flavor. You can get them fried, grilled, etc., at the raw bar, which has its own menu. Demand from patrons keeps the restaurant’s shuckers quite busy most nights.
With the advent of highly technological controlled oyster and fish farms, coupled with the wonders of supply chain management and a speedy transportation industry, the old fears about consuming seafood in certain months or seasons have all but disappeared.
“In many cases now, these oysters are harvested and at our doorstep within 24 hours,” Boyer said.
With a happy hour that features $1 oysters, Voyager is developing a loyal oyster-noshing following. They do have a tight selection of sparkling, rose, white and red wines as well as signature cocktails and an interesting beer menu.
Boyer shared that the menu will be evolving with the changing season, so you can kiss the chowder goodbye for a couple of months. The plan is to shift the focus to fresh vegetable additions with the springtime weather.
“We have some interesting combinations that people haven’t seen before. We have interesting takes on surf and turf; we have a dish that has scallops and sweet breads,” Boyer said. “Our menu is rooted in coastal cuisine, but it takes cues from the experiences and travels of our chefs, Jenn and Justin, who have traveled all around the world.”
What is clear is that Voyager has discovered a need for a coastal American seafood restaurant and oyster bar, and filled it.
“I believe in hyper-focused restaurant concepts,” Boyer said. “Creatively, you give yourself some constraints to operate within, and I firmly believe that it is more fun to try to be something for a specific group of people rather than be something for everybody. We want to embody who we claim to be.”
600 Vester St., Ferndale