Corktown restaurant restores neighborhood’s skyline

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

The folks behind upcoming Corktown restaurant Cork & Gabel say they’re not only excited about bringing European food to the block, but also about restoring the neighborhood’s “skyline.”

Corktown native Joe Mifsud has owned the building in the shadow of the Michigan Central Station for around a quarter century. The building also houses Two James Spirits facility and tasting room. He’s brought on chef Matt McGrail to run Cork & Gabel’s kitchen.

While they won’t open for a few more months, the team has already debuted one noticeable change to the building: a nearly 50-foot clock tower.

“We added a custom-made, hand-built, four-sided clock tower to the building,” said McGrail. “Back in the ’50s and ’60s — and we have a picture from back then — the picture shows that there used to be a clock tower on the building.”

McGrail, a graduate of Schoolcraft College, said the tower came down “at some point” and so they decided to restore it using LED lighting and a motorized cosmetic “clock key” that turns.

“It’s a beautiful piece for the building and it’s just cool to be a part of being able to restore the skyline, and in our own way change the skyline of Corktown,” he said.

McGrail says once open, the Cork & Gabel menu — “gabel” is the German word for fork — will be a mix of German, Italian and Irish cuisines.

“The food is a concept that basically came from what Joe wanted and what my heritage is, and my background,” he said. “My dad is 100 percent Irish, my mom is 100 percent Italian and Joe wanted a German restaurant, so basically I’m taking all three of them and putting them together and writing a menu off it.”

“It’s still going to be comfort food and affordable for a family ... or for anybody,” said McGrail, who is working now at the Carpathia Club, a German Cultural Organization, as well as at the Great Lakes Culinary Center.

McGrail says the bar planned for Cork & Gabel is “probably one of the coolest bar programs around” and will include flights of Scotch and bourbon. He also has hopes for an elaborate, “interactive” design for the whiskey case behind the bar.

McGrail and Mifsud are hoping to have Cork & Gabel up and running in April, with a possible party on March 11, the day of the Detroit St. Patrick’s Parade. The parade route ends near the restaurant.

Cork & Gabel is at 2415 Michigan in Detroit.

Twitter: @melodybaetens