Ellen’s Bakery & Café is no longer just a place for locals to pop in for morning coffee and homemade muffins and bagels, or perhaps have their breakfast or lunch. After 19 years in business, the hardworking proprietors/chefs George and Ellen Kalergis decided to expand their popular Sylvan Lake eatery and begin offering dinner and bar service, too.
Executive Chef George from Dearborn Heights and pastry chef Ellen from Virginia met while studying at Culinary Institute of America, the prestigious cooking school in Hyde Park, N.Y. Both had considerable professional experience before opening Ellen’s in 1999. Ray Hanson is the general manager/sommelier.
Northville-based Martone Design Studio drew up plans for Ellen’s new deco-influenced dining room and bar. The builder was K4 Construction Group of Lathrup Village.
Open since Dec. 1, the lovely, flowing addition can accommodate up to 72 guests. A light green fabric covers chairs and barstools. Drop-down Edison light bulbs provide illumination. Above the chef’s counter are several rows of small earth-toned glass tiles.
“The bakery is outstanding, as are the breakfasts,” said Bonni Gutov, an Ellen’s fan from Waterford. She enjoys George Kalergis’ “creative dinner menu because everything served here is very fresh.”
Ellen’s is a “scratch house,” Hanson said, where everything — from bread to dressings to ice cream — is made on premises. Adult ice cream flavors include Mudslide, combining chocolate with Amaretto and Kahlua.
“We source local produce as much as possible,” said Chef George, mentioning the Long Family Farm as one supplier.
Looking past a comprehensive breakfast menu that includes Truffle-Lemon Home-fried Potatoes, Brioche French Toast and loads of omelets and scramblers — my concentration was on items served at lunch and dinner. The French-influenced cuisine is apparent in certain sauces and George’s classical cooking style.
Sharing plates with a small group, our starters were excellent: green onion-garnished lobster bisque and a roasted tomato “soup of the day.” The Lamb Baby Back Ribs were exceptional with their Cabernet-black currant glaze.
I loved the taste and pretty rainbow colors of petite Roasted Heirloom Carrots, served with goat cheese and a balsamic vinegar drizzle. Wild Mushroom Fettucine made my mouth happy and its sauce didn’t overwhelm. I didn’t expect to like the Sweet Potato Black Bean Quinoa Burger, a former special promoted to the regular menu, but the healthy burger is delicious, not bland.
Popular non-meat choices include juicy Roasted Cauliflower Steak, a vegan dish, seasoned perch served with veggies and broiled Lake Superior whitefish. It has artichoke, lemon, capers and garlic butter in a Beurre Blanc sauce.
I’d be remiss not mentioning Chef George’s flavorful Roast Lamb Shank, including red wine demi-glace sauce, oregano, feta, scallions and onion-mashed potatoes.
At the bar, Ellen’s offers classic drinks with specials, 25 bottled wines and 16 by the glass. The restaurant and bakery, noted for its Flourless Chocolate Cake, also does extensive catering.
Ellen’s Bakery and Cafe
2495 Orchard Lake Road
Sylvan Lake, MI 48320
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