chicken on a plate with mashed potatoes and broccolini

Chicken soup joins the menu at Lelli’s Inn On the Green.

Ari, Michael and Mark Zarkin
Ari, Michael and Mark Zarkin Jackie Headapohl | Detroit Jewish News

He lives with a secret passion … Wouldn’t tell anyone … And has never found the time … or want … to fully enjoy a very odd dream he had … very strange.

Mark Zarkin has told few of sometimes wishing that he knew more about cooking … Mark, owner of Steven Lelli’s Inn On the Green, 12 Mile, in Farmington Hills, says he has had that occasional feeling to follow his secret passion … but could never find the time.

Until now … With sons Ari and Michael to help out Mark at the restaurant, the moment has finally come … And the first thing he will make … to bring in the eighth anniversary of his Steven Lelli’s Inn On the Green … is something as crazy as it may seem, Mark says … the strangest dream he could think of that one night … that just seemed to come out of the blue … It was while a student at Berkley High … Mark figured it might be because his aunt, Shirley Bloom, is noted for her chicken soup and always talked about it … Mark says he paid little or no attention to it until the vision cropped up again … Chicken soup is not something he overly loves enough to dream about … Maybe Shirley was to blame, he thought … But that ridiculous bit of dream fantasy became a secret obsession that never went away,

The real thing, he says … Chicken soup with long egg noodles … not those little pasta things that Jewish ladies wouldn’t think of using …. His soup would have little pieces of chicken, carrots, etc. … Not any old chicken soup, but the real traditional kind you thought few made these days, he says … matzah balls or kreplach, too … both also made by Mark … Not soup from cans that so many restaurants give you, he says … and his own secret selection of dream herb concoctions to give it “that honest to goodness taste” that Mark says sounded so good in his strange dream … But he told no one …… in fear that he would become a laughing stock.

noodle dish
Mark Zarkin/Facebook

Now that his first award-winning executive chef, Cliff Meritt, is back taking over the kitchen and its staff like he did when Steven Lelli’s Inn On the Green opened eight years ago, Mark feels a huge load is off his shoulders, and having his two sons has allowed him to finally follow his peculiar vision … Cliff served as the former chef at the original Lelli’s years ago when it was on Woodward, Detroit, and in Auburn Hills, and is back making those great Italian dishes in place of Steven Lelli’s former executive chef John Sommerville.

Chicken soup is a strange way to celebrate the eighth anniversary of his Steven Lelli’s Inn On the Green restaurant …. but nobody said Mark doesn’t do odd things … like now also constantly telling the world what he is doing on his Facebook pages … and how to run a good upscale Italian-style restaurant.

How does Mark feel about Jewish-style chicken soup (Jewish penicillin) now going with his fine Italian dishes? … The answer was with Mark having the nerve to put it on the Steven Lelli’s Inn menu.

NO STOPPING GEORGE Lukaj as he presents the Grand Opening Special of his fifth restaurant … Station Square on Coolidge, one block south of Maple, Troy … One week only, Thursday, Nov. 1, through Thursday, Nov. 8 … 9-10-ounce Great Lakes (Lake Superior) whitefish … complete meal … broiled or blackened, soup or salad, choice of two … vegetables, potatoes or rice pilaf … $10.95 … No coupons … any hour.

salmon on a plate of potatoes and red sauce
Mark Zarkin/Facebook

COOKING WITH PAULA DEEN national magazine lists Beans & Cornbread, Northwestern Hwy., Southfield, among the nation’s top soul food restaurants … “Will make you feel like being in the South with all plates served with classic cornbread like your mama used to make.”

OLDIE BUT GOODIE … A guy rushes into a bar and orders four expensive 30-year-old single malts and downs each one without pausing. “Whew,” the bartender remarks, “you seem in a hurry.”

“You would, too, if you had what I have,” the guy says.

“What do you have?” the bartender sympathetically asks.

“Fifty cents.”

CONGRATS … To Amy Wechsler on her birthday.

Danny’s email address is

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