Danny Raskin: He’s Back …
Matt Prentice prepares to open Franklin Deli early next year.
People were lined up around the block … and out the door … after he had taken over ownership of the delicatessen … They had heard that, together with his usual deli fare, would be items like flaming duck, beef Wellington, tableside Caesar salad, champagne chicken, etc.
The year was 1980 when Matt Prentice bought Northgate Delicatessen from Dave Raben, owner following Richard Lichtman, on Greenfield and 10 Mile, Oak Park … and the eventual name change by Matt to Deli Unique.
Whoever heard of corned beef or pastrami served along with dishes like Tournedos of Beef with Bordelaise sauce, filet of sole Marguery, poached Chicken Marnier, veal Oscar, Crab Champagne … plus cabbage flanken or stuffed chicken and other usual Jewish deli suggestions.
It was the beginning of what turned out to vault the former Culinary Institute attendee’s venture into a mini-realm of upscale restaurant royalty … without the higher prices.
Matt eventually met Sam Frankel, owner of Somerset Mall … and although only 23 at the time, he and Sam became partners … Their first restaurant together was Café Jardin at Somerset, which closed after 20 years and was transformed into their fine seafood restaurant, Sebastians.
The large growth of restaurants in West Bloomfield had Matt looking for a second Deli Unique and after finding it on Orchard Lake Road, he and Frankel expanded further … Shortly after, a physical issue caused Sam to partner with the Forbes Company at Somerset … Sid Forbes thought it was a bad idea that Frankel be both the landlord and a tenant, and a buyout had to be arranged … But the friendship of Matt and Sam continued for many years.
With the restaurants and a growing catering business, Matt began forming a corporate structure and continued with the purchase of Plaza Deli, Deli Unique Bingham Farms and more under the new name of Unique Restaurant Corporation … Some failed, but others, like Tavern On The Green, No. VI Chophouse, Northern Lakes Seafood, etc., continued.
In the late ’90s, at the urging of Sam Frankel, Matt opened Duet at Orchestra Hall … It would be his first Detroit venue, later followed by Coach Insignia … Kosher was then also added with Milk and Honey.
In 2008, economic financial problems hit many victims and Matt was one of them … In order to save jobs, he sold his company in 2010 and stayed on as CEO … Matt resigned 18 months later and a non-compete was part of the sale … A lawsuit would prohibit Matt from executing restaurants or catering until Oct. 21, 2018.
That date has finally come as Matt Prentice soon may take over his former Plaza Deli space … to open as the enlarged newly named Franklin Deli … with seating for 80 people … All sorts of food with a new “Chef’s Twist,” carry-out, huge catering, no-charge for coffee or on-tap soft drink refills, etc. … in the Franklin Plaza, Northwestern Highway, just south of 12 Mile, Southfield … Set to soon greet folks, hopefully, in January of next year.
READER MINI REVIEW … From Ida Nemzin … “Mark and I recently had dinner at Bacco on Northwestern Highway and were, as usual, very careful with our dinners. Thirteen years ago, I weighed 350 pounds and vowed that I would never ever get close to that again. My husband, Mark, had open heart surgery 11 years ago and has to be very careful, too. We both had minestrone soup, which was delicious, and a wonderful caprese salad and the most delicious and well-prepared pieces of grilled branzino fish with roasted asparagus and a lot of other grilled vegetables. Sometimes we have one of the fantastic chicken dishes. We were so filled this time that we both skipped a light dessert. We know that at Bacco, owner and Chef Luciano Del Signore always has a wonderful menu offering an array of selections using the freshest meats, fish, fruits, vegetables and a wonderful vegan menu that we also order from as well.”
OLDIE BUT GOODIE QUICKIE … The customer sat down in the delicatessen and said, “I’ll have a corned beef sandwich on rye, and please make it lean.”
“Yes, sir,” said the waitperson. “Which way?”
CONGRATS … To Kathy Morley on her birthday … To Linda Ross on her 75th birthday … To Melissa Litvin on her birthday … To Henry Sharpe on his birthday … To David Wechsler on his birthday.
Danny’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.