Fully open for business. That’s how Stephanie Byrd describes The Block, her family’s restaurant that went through ups, downs and everywhere in between during the coronavirus pandemic. The Detroit-based gastropub is now completely reopened and eagerly serving diners with new dishes, favorite staffers in place and reservations on point.
“This is our year of saying yes,” Byrd said, noting that her family and staff are deeply grateful to have the support of Detroiters, Metro Detroit diners and everyone who loves food and entertainment.
For Byrd, a major step toward feeling fully reopened was having The Block back up and running on Open Table, its reservations site. It shows that they are ready for everyone who is eager to get out, dine out and enjoy spending time at the restaurant and its sister businesses.
“We are excited. That was the last piece to the puzzle,” Byrd said, and Open Table is a great way to set up a reservation for inside or on the patio.
A native Detroiter, Byrd is co-owner of The Block, Flood’s Bar and Grille in Greektown and The Garden Theater. The Block and the Garden Theater are neighbors on Woodward Avenue and are a key part of Midtown Detroit, one of the most developed and popular food and entertainment districts in the city today.
Graduate of Mercy High School in Farmington Hills, Byrd studied at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in marketing and communications. She then attended Johns Hopkins University where she earned her Master’s degree in communication and media studies. After college, Byrd moved to Washington D.C. for most of her 20s working in marketing at H&R Block and XM Radio. In 2013, she moved back to Detroit to join her family’s restaurant business.
Like many other Detroit restaurants, The Block and Flood’s saw its customer base shrink and orders decline rapidly during the early months of the pandemic. To take control of its expenses, Byrd and her family had to lay off about 90% of her staff members – a decision she “agonized over” and is extremely happy to have reversed in recent months.
In fact, some of The Block’s main staffers — beloved by customers and Byrd alike — are back in front of the house. Byrd calls them “The OGs,” or originals to The Block and a main reason why people like to come into the restaurant.
“These are staff members who have been with us for about five years – Van, Michelle and Cecily. Everyone knows them and we love having them back,” Byrd said. “We also rehired our general or main manager. Staffing wise, we’re on the up and up.”
The Block also has introduced several new specials on its menu that are drawing rave reviews from customers. Some came from work with the Detroit Free Press and the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers, where Byrd was recognized in 2020 and 2021 as a Food Fighter, helping feed Detroiters during the pandemic and supporting restaurants and restaurant workers.
The Block has its faithful who regularly attend weekend brunches, Byrd said, and they will be happy to know that the chicken and waffles are now available all day and every day. For appetizers, they are proud of their guacamole featuring “world-famous” hand-fried pita chips. There’s also a new carrot ginger salad that is healthy as well as beautiful to nosh on.
For the main course, Byrd recommends its offering of braised short ribs. They added a side of long-grain rice and Brussel Sprouts with a lime and sriracha dressing that lightens up the rest of the plate, she said.
Drink specials are back as well with The Block newly expanding its Black-owned wine and spirit brands to eight. This addition is very popular with customers, Byrd said, and they are adding more Black-owned companies as they can.
Byrd said she also has seen more people interested in planning events at The Garden Theater, and her staff is ready to serve. She hopes that people who had to postpone or cancel events because of the pandemic will be ready to enjoy spending time together in person again, and are eager to book weddings, special events and more at The Garden Theater.