When Eddie’s Gourmet closed its doors last fall, many assumed the restaurant was gone for good – yet another tragic casualty of the pandemic-stricken economy. But not Eddie’s. As of March 1, the newly renovated Oak Park institution is back and better than ever.
Since the aughts, Eddie Hanna has manned the grill at the corner of Lincoln and Greenfield. He started at Peter’s K and stayed on board when George Lucaj bought the restaurant (and renamed it Georgio’s). When Lucaj put the restaurant up for sale, Hanna seized the opportunity to take over the business himself.
It’s an establishment unlike any other in Metro Detroit. While stools at a countertop may imply standard diner fare, the menu reads more like an Italian-American novel. Breakfast all day, burgers and fries, the best tuna melt in town…yeah, they got all that. But turn the page and you’ll find mouthwatering steaks, fresh seafood and legendary oversized pasta.
Linguine alla vongale. Palomino vodka. Ziti arrabbiata. And of course, Eddie’s famous zip pasta.
The zip is at the heart of this decadent cuisine. While local chefs all have their own take on the Michigan-born, melted butter sauce, many – including Seoung Lee (a.k.a. @chowdowndetroit) – say Eddie’s Gourmet is the best in town. Applied to ziti, it’s like buttered noodles got its doctorate. Atop steak-cut potatoes, you get their infamous, off-menu house specialty – Hawaiian fries.
No matter what you order, it’s all cooked right in front of you on the open grill. Including dessert. Where else can you witness your chef flambé a cherries jubilee before your eyes? You can’t watch them apply the cool, mint green-colored topping to their pistachio pie – that happens before they open – but locals know it’s one of the most insanely delicious slices anywhere; the kind that prompts inquiry as to whether whole pies are available to take home (they are).
The restaurant is a microcosm of the neighborhood’s diverse culture – one that has been at the forefront of Detroit’s immigrant community since the early 1900s. It is not uncommon to hear multiple languages being spoken at any given time. Pay attention and you’ll learn how to say “delicious” in all of them.
It’s all a family affair. For years, Hanna’s sons have helped run the joint. And that feeling of multi-generational patronship can be felt across the counter. Regulars are greeted by name. “How’s your mother/brother/cousin?” generally follows. It’s no wonder that upon reopening, the restaurant was momentarily forced to cease accepting calls for carry-out orders. Loyal customers waited in line to get their fix – each one personally obliged to congratulate Hanna on the completed renovation. And commend him on surviving the greatest challenge his industry has ever faced.
There’s a Popeyes across the street. An old deli just around the corner. Surely, glamour is an attribute rarely applied to this part of town. But, visible from nearly half a mile away – say, Greenfield and 10 Mile – a simple white sign stands proud above street level, indicating to all who pass by that exceptional, consistent quality can be found in even the most unsuspecting places.