Gran Castor is colorful new addition to the restaurant scene.

By Mary Meldrum

Photos courtesy of Gran Castor

I came in through the coffeehouse door in the back to meet up with owners Ann Stevenson and Curt Catallo. A party of 20 young ladies accompanied me through the door, and we were met with smooth beat music and a cacophony of pigments, patterns and textures — and an orange fireplace. Despite the intense designs, the place is very cozy and inviting.

Through their Union Group organization, Ann and Curt have created no fewer than eight new restaurants in the greater Metro Detroit region. Gran Castor is one of the newer ones. What an amazing piece of art this place is.

I was immediately struck with the relaxed and artsy atmosphere of the place, the juxtaposition of colors, textures, modern against vintage. Ann, the owner and designer, has a flavor all her own and it is on full display in this location, which happens to be a former Hooters bar and restaurant on the corner of Rochester Road and Big Beaver in Troy.

She has taken the history of the place — which includes the semi-famous years the building spent as the Wagon Wheel Bar and Restaurant — and enveloped it in patterned wallpaper, gorgeous light fixtures and eclectic art pieces.

“The goal of all my restaurant designs is to have fun and show some spirit,” Ann says. She credits the name, Gran Castor, which means “Big Beaver” in Spanish, to her husband, Curt Catallo.

“I am looking to create a space that has broad appeal and gives a feeling of home, but with a personal touch,” Ann says. “A restaurant is ultimately a risk, but it is also a joy.”

The vibrant colors, the beautiful lighting, the decorative floors and even the doors to the men’s and ladies’ rooms are unique and textured. Every inch offers up a bounty of thoughtful design and color. The artist in me is so happy to notice that nothing really matches, but it all fits together in a madcap orchestra of life and beauty. No formulaic color coding or safely surveyed neutral tones here, thank you very much. Bravo!

Curt and Ann are independent business owners and each of their several restaurants is individualistic and unique. You might be familiar with the Vinsetta Garage in Royal Oak or Honcho in Rochester or the Fenton Firehall. When they plan and create a new restaurant, they honor the space and the history as well as the surrounding culture to bring a flagrantly different venue to the community. They are all standouts.

Ann and Curt were very interested in maintaining Latin flavors and bringing a cultural intersection to the food and the space. You can find and enjoy Porchetta Mexicana or Tamale Pie on the menu. Rice bowls are very popular as well.

I inquired about an interesting and lonely photograph of a man in a bathrobe on the far wall of the restaurant that has been blown up to about 3 feet by 4 feet. It turns out this is an older photograph of Alan Miller, Ann and Curt’s attorney and friend. They inform me that he is featured in some odd way in each of their restaurants. There is anoth

er large rather jarring photo of him wearing only a speedo on the wall in the private dining area that seats about 30 people. So wacky and yet personal and fun, too. Mr. Miller seems like an inviting, fun kind of man.

Gran Castor mostly serves the lunch crowd in the Big Beaver business corridor, but the bar and menu reach into the evening. In the warmer weather, the several garage doors around Gran Castor will open to a patio area offering more seating and fresh air.

These two owners of the Union Adworks are not finished yet either. They let it slip that they are looking to the city of Oak Park for their next restaurant venture. I recommend the chopped salad at Gran Castor and the rice bowls. Both are delicious.

Gran Castor
Rochester Road, Troy
(248) 278-7777

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