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With a high concentration of restaurants, pubs, nightclubs, shopping and other attractions, downtown Ferndale draws in people looking for a good time from all over Metro Detroit. Here’s what’s new in the Nine Mile and Woodward area:

The Conserva plans to open next month in the space formerly occupied by Torino at 201 E. Nine Mile, just east of Woodward. The concept here will be pickled vegetables and house-made sauces and spreads to go with meat and seafood dishes.

Chef Matthew Baldridge is the culinary mind behind this project, which started out as the Dinner Pop Up Club. This began as a collaboration between Baldridge and artist Janna Coumoundouros; they would host pop-up dinners at places like Storefront Gallery in Ferndale or Supino Pizzeria in Eastern Market.

At a preview dinner last weekend, Baldridge rolled out some dishes that represent what he’ll be doing when Conserva officially opens. One standout of the five-course meal was the Vernors-braised pork belly confit with pickled grapes, caramelized garlic and, something completely new to me, candied jalapenos. Inventive methods of preparation like this will likely set Conserva apart from the pack.

If you can’t wait for Conserva’s debut next month, check out downtown Ferndale’s newest restaurant — Southern Belles’ Bistro. The Woodward Avenue diner serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.

Look for crepes, omelets, grits, salmon croquettes and strawberry shortcake pancakes for breakfast. The lunch and dinner menu is vast with savory southern staples like pulled pork, ribs, black eyed peas, greens, macaroni and cheese and chicken and dumplings.

Owner Tony Murry told us his his goal is to provide Ferndale with good comfort food and friendly service. He’s brought in chef Lisa Grove who has experience cooking for her family in Tutwiler, Mississippi.

Thursday in Ferndale the Art of the Cocktail event returns to raise money for the public art fund.

The party is at Valentine Distilling Co. and M-Brew pub at 161 and 177 Vester, just east of Woodward, from 6-9 p.m.. Bartenders from some on Ferndale’s popular watering holes — Dino’s Lounge, the Oakland, Greenspace Cafe, Howe’s Bayou, Public House and more — will compete to present the most creative and delicious cocktail.

A $40 ticket gets you a chance to sample and judge the drinks, plus there are appetizers, live music and the ubiquitous silent auction. Visit downtownferndale.com for tickets.

Deliciously brief

Popular drinking vinegar company McClary Bros. is celebrating its third anniversary with a new flavor: Michigan Saskatoon. The new product is made from Saskatoon berries, similar to blueberries, which are found at Cross Farms in Northport, Michigan. An open house event is 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at the McClary Bros. tasting room, 32621 Grand River in Farmington.

Quirky New Center-area restaurant the Zenith closed in August, just a year into opening. The spacious and colorful restaurant was known for being festooned with vintage pop culture artifacts, and even had a whole lounge dedicated to creepy clowns. The restaurant is long gone, but if you liked the owners’ decorating style, visit their eBay store, stores.ebay.com/offbeatantiques.

mbaetens@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2402

Twitter: @melodybaetens

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