Michael Abrams and Brian Adelman’s friendship has withstood the test of time.
Growing up in Detroit, the two met in junior high school. After college, Abrams veered toward a career in the restaurant business and is best known for running Snooker’s Pub and Mr. Joe’s.
Adelman instead went on to pursue a medical degree from Wayne State University and is still practicing today.
Despite their divergent paths, the two entered into a business partnership nearly a decade ago. Along with a third partner, David Pittaway, the trio owns 32 Five Guys Burgers and Fries locations throughout Michigan and Illinois.
While the group found success throughout Detroit’s suburbs, they were eager to make a statement in Downtown Detroit.
Three years ago, they scouted out the ideal spot for an eatery in the growing Brush Park neighborhood.
After extensive brainstorming sessions, Empire Kitchen & Cocktails became the chosen brand name for their American-style bistro, which held its grand opening May 14.
“We’ve been living it and we’re very excited,” Adelman says.
Empire has its own identity, yet it happens to be nestled next to The Scott, a luxury apartment complex just blocks away from Little Caesars Arena.
Abrams and Adelman hired Ron Rea for the design. The space is fully equipped with a four-season patio and includes a vast interior featuring sleek wood paneling and plenty of seating.
The bustling kitchen is partially exposed, allowing diners seated at the lengthy bar to catch a glimpse of pizza pies coming from their state-of-the-art marble oven.
The menu is a collaboration between Abrams, Adelman, and head chef and operating partner Aaron Lowen. A Farmington Hills native and Culinary Institute of America graduate, Lowen is thrilled to be a part of the Detroit restaurant scene.
“To have the opportunity to be a part of the revolution is a cool experience,” Lowen says.
The cuisine was designed to please a variety of palates — shareable appetizers are especially creative, such as a charcuterie board with artisanal meats and cheeses, along with a roasted, spiced cauliflower topped with a raisin chutney and yogurt sauce.
Aside from meat and veggie-topped pizzas, larger dishes include salads, burgers, sandwiches, and even upscale items such as the prime New York strip and sautéed branzino.
The word, “cocktails,” is part of the restaurant’s name for a good reason. The smoked Old Fashioned along with the Peaches and Dream are popular choices, with many cocktails featuring local spirits from Valentine Distilling Co. and Detroit City Distillery.
Providing a mix of casual and upscale flair in both menu and design, Empire is geared toward locals. “We want to be place that’s an experience, but also a neighborhood place that you can come to two or three times per week,” Lowen says.
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Empire Kitchen & Cocktails
Open for dinner (lunch and brunch to follow)
3148 Woodward Ave., Detroit