3 metro Detroit food staples make list of ‘100 Restaurants America Can’t Afford to Lose’
(WXYZ) – Michigan restaurants took another hit this week, learning that they won’t be allowed to offer dine-in service until February 1st at the earliest. The previous MDHHS indoor health epidemic ended on January 15.
In the middle of the industry’s darkest hour, three Metro Detroit staples receive national attention to keep them afloat.
Esquire recently published “100 Restaurants Americans Can’t Afford to Lose,” naming a popular Dearborn Bakery and Detroit’s most famous Coney competitor.
We checked out the Dearborn location at Shatila Bakery, which Esquire called a “glimpse into paradise” for any candy lover.
“..But for Dearborn’s sizeable number of families with roots in the Arab world, the colorful cookies and cakes in Shatila are something more: a community center, a village square for old and young customers, and a lively connection with the flavors and textures of the Middle East.” said one of the editors.
Mahdi Salah met our crew inside.
“I mean, there is usually a lot here,” he said. And it’s not hard to see why. Shatila bakes the flavors of the Middle East into every flaky bite of pastry it sells.
“We were really honored,” said Salah of the recognition. He said the staff there are doing their best and trying to roll with the punches, but said he was excited to see when people in Shatila can shop safely, as they used to do – often shoulder to shoulder.
“Everyone would come in and interact with each other again,” Salah told Action News.
Also on Esquire’s list – arguably Detroit’s two most famous coney spots, which have shared the same downtown corner for decades. They became famous for their distinctive but familiar tastes and a history of fierce competition that is difficult to resist. But the drama behind the legend is exaggerated, said American Coney owner Grace Keros.
“It’s a myth, there is no rivalry,” she said. “First, we’re better.”
You know by now that these are American Coney and Lafayette Coney, of course.
“Lafayette is number one here,” said Ali Alhalmi, Lafayette Coney Island manager.
When it comes to what makes their coney dog perfect, these people practice a different religion. But there’s something they’re sharing right now, aside from a nod from Esquire.
“There are no events in the city center. There is no reason for people to come downtown, the offices are empty, “Keros told Action News, standing in the empty dining area of the restaurant.
And with no sporting events and only take-away, both staples bring in a fraction of the business they had before COVID.
Alhalmi estimates that sales in Lafayette have declined by around 35 percent.
“We’re doing our best to keep everyone happy,” he said.
Your story is not unique. Describing the state’s delay in returning to dine-in service as unacceptable, Justin Winslow of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association said of the industry in general in Michigan:
“It’s hanging by a thread,” Winslow told Action News.
He released this statement after announcing that the health order would be extended:
“The unplanned governor’s continuation of this hiatus – now extended to 75 days – is unprecedented in the nation in terms of the unwillingness or inability to take control of a decimated industry and its workforce. There are more than 100,000 unemployed hotel workers and thousands of small businesses on the verge of bankruptcy were all waiting for hope and direction and again it did not come. This is unacceptable and we should all be calling for more accountability.
Michigan’s restaurants have been closed for more days than any other state since the pandemic outbreak, and Michigan alone is the only nationwide dining closet with no discernible, data-driven path to reopening and full reintegration into the economy. Again, this is unacceptable and we should all ask for more accountability. “
The MRLA reports that Michigan’s hospitality job loss is twice the national average, “measured as the percentage of work in the industry today compared to February 2020”.
“Those downtown cafes, which really rely on people to congregate in large downtown crowds, may see these struggles more than most,” Winslow said.
Legacy spots like Shatila Bakery, American Coney, and Lafayette Coney all hope their famous reputations will keep them afloat until the restrictions are finally lifted. Keros said she was determined, albeit frustrated, with the current pace of reopening the state.
“You can’t open the mall and let people eat in the food court, but I can’t bring 10 people in to sit down. Give us something, “she said.
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