Beloved longtime Detroit restaurateur John Lopez has died

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

After news of his death this week, friends of John Lopez described him as enthusiastic, passionate, kind and a beloved staple of the Cass Corridor community. 

Throughout the past several decades Lopez was a partner, manager and familiar face at hot spot restaurants all over the Wayne State University area, including Union Street, Twingo's, Atlas Global Bistro and chic Mexican restaurant and bar Agave. His cause of death is unknown. 

"Our deepest condolences to his family. Thank you for sharing him," reads a Facebook tribute posted by Union Street. "He was very dedicated to his work to a fault at times but he was damn good at what he had a passion for."

The post cited Lopez's smile, "awful jokes and inappropriate pet names."

"If this guy didn’t make you giggle there was something clearly wrong with you ... he could get people to work and actually enjoy it."

"John was a beloved Cass Corridor resident, a staple in the Detroit restaurant community, and integral food vendor at Dally for many, many years," posted the decades-old Detroit street festival Dally in the Alley. "He was always enthusiastic, helpful and kind. You will be missed by so many John!"

The Detroit News archives are full of mentions of Lopez's restaurant endeavors. 

Under his wing, Atlas Global Bistro was fawned over by both of The News' restaurant columnists — Molly Abraham and Jane Rayburn — when it opened on Woodward just south of Mack in 2003, calling it "promising" and "a reflection of a new era." 

Lopez revived Cass Corridor's Twingo's, which originally debuted in the mid-1990s. Lopez and chef Shawn Mac reopened on New Year's Eve 2005, reportedly renovating it themselves to give it a more cosmopolitan flair with the name Twingo's Euro Cafe. 

A Detroit News file photo of Twingo's in 2006.

He was also quoted in stories throughout the 2000s about the revival downtown's dining scene, and was described as a "visionary." He once had eyes on opening a restaurant in Corktown, calling the neighborhood "the next Soho" in 2004. 

"I was here for the last 'renaissance,' " he told The Detroit News' Laura Berman. "But I really see deep changes now."

Twitter: @melodybaetens