Gourmet sliders are a hot food item in Detroit. Just look at Green Dot Stables's parking lot any night of the week or a random bar's happy hour menu.
But some think it's an oxymoron, a corruption of an American classic. Slyde
, a slider restaurant set to open this spring, hopes to assuage those fears by modernizing an old-fashioned dish with quality ingredients.
“Some people are turned off by the word 'gourmet,'” says co-founder L.J. Nelson. “But gourmet to us means that we put some love and time into it…there’s nothing in metro Detroit that's similar to what we do in terms of preparation and presentation."
Slyde will share space inside what was once the legendary Hunter House Supper Club in the vibrant Avenue of Fashion
. Situated on Livernois in Detroit’s northwest side, the Avenue is known as a hot spot for black-owned food businesses such as Kuzzo's Chicken & Waffles
, 1917 American Bistro, and the famed Baker's Keyboard Lounge.
The multi-unit building that will house Slyde is being renovated by I’m Here, "a thoughtful, community driven" development company co-founded by Chad Dickinson
Originally, Nelson’s plan was to open in Midtown or Downtown. Then reality set in.
“After two years of exhaustive searching, trying to find a space that was in downtown or midtown, every deal fell through,” Nelson says. “Either the landlords weren't willing to work with a start-up or their asking price would have crippled our business before it even started.”
Fortunately Nelson and his partners landed on the perfect solution.
The collaboration between Nelson and Dickinson came as a result of Motor City Match
, a program that brings new business and building owners together. A partnership between the City of Detroit, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Motor City Match provides quarterly matching grants totaling $500,000.
Dickinson believes in the power of community engagement in local projects. He actively documents his developments, and holds regular events to active a space and get input.
“We’re a part of something that’s already happening,” Dickinson says. “We’re looking to play an integral role in transforming the Avenue of Fashion into a destination for people of Detroit and the surrounding suburbs.”
Slyde is just a part of that development. The 10,000 square foot building will have a bar, community space, some retail and office space, and a shared, central courtyard.
Through energy efficiency and responsible development, Dickinson hopes for the building to be an example of sustainability that will give it another hundred years of life. Major improvements include quality insulation, an efficient thermal envelope, and a reduction in the building's storm water runoff.
“We’re hoping that it functions at 30 to 40 percent of the cost of a building its size,” says Dickinson.
These improvements will generate major savings for both Dickinson and his tenants. "Our costs to operate the building will be much lower than a normal run-of-the-mill renovation," he says. "That’s going to save us thousands of dollars a year as building owners."
Sustainability also ties into how Slyde will bring food to the table. Their motto is "simple, gourmet, local."
That was written into our business plan from the beginning,” Nelson says. “One of our staples is to have an energy efficient space, reduce our carbon footprint, and mirror that with our food. And that’s exactly how Chad designs his spaces. It all came together.”
Diners at Slyde will get a farm-to-table meal that's 95 percent locally sourced. The goal is to get as much as they can from farmers within 100 miles of the restaurant. Salads will be seasonal. “Grown and on your plate that day or the next," says Nelson.
The menu will also include six-inch po’boy sandwiches, mac and cheese balls, and of course, sliders.
“We do have healthy options," says Nelson, "but if you want to get your hands dirty, want to get some grease in there, we got you covered too."
“Some people look at the word healthy and think it doesn’t taste good,” he adds. “We’re trying to show people you can have something that’s tasty as hell, and you know where the ingredients came from. It’s not just about the food to us. We realized there's a bigger opportunity to change the narrative of how people see sliders and fast-casual food.”
Nelson and Dickinson plan to invite the neighborhood later this spring for a pop-up where Slyde will serve a selection of the eventual menu.
“It’s not just about Slyde, it’s about people seeing the space,” Nelson says. “Taste some of our food, but also come meet us. Come meet the team.”
Even before it opens, Slyde is doing everything it can to live up to its motto.
Support for this feature is provided in part by Motor City Match, a program that connects new and expanding businesses with Detroit’s quality real estate opportunities, providing them with funding and tools to fuel the city’s entrepreneurial revolution. Learn more at www.mortorcitymatch.com.
Cornelius Fortune is metro-Detroit based freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter @Arlingtonscribe.
Photos by Marvin Shaouni.