Oak Park Social Opens on 11 Mile
(Kevin Elliott, March 15, 2021)
Oak Park, MI – As restaurants around the county struggle to keep their doors from closing, Alex Bishai is one of the few taking a chance a new business with Oak Park Social at 14691 W. Eleven Mile. The city’s first gastropub, Oak Park Social had it’s grand opening on March 12 with a ribbon-cutting that included local officials, friends, and family.
More than two years in the making, Oak Park Social is the one of the first restaurants to be attracted to the city by the appeal of a liquor license, which have only been available since 2015 when the city voted to allow sales of liquor in a glass. The restaurant also is the first to anchor redevelopment in Oak Park’s Eleven Mile corridor.
A former engineer, Bishai comes from a family of restaurateurs. The menu features new American cuisine, described as high-quality, made from scratch comfort food. Heading the kitchen Ronnie Payne, who brings decades of kitchen experience.
“New American can include a lot of things, so it lets us get creative,” Bishai said. “It’s all high quality and nearly everything is made from scratch. Our popular items are our signature cheeseburger, French Dip and lobster roll.”
Items such as grilled salmon, fried bologna, beef tenderloin tips and braised pork shank, along with salads. Sharables round out the menu. Oak Park Social also features five microbrews and a full service bar.
While opened for carryout service since December, dine-in hours are 4-11 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, coinciding with the state’s new restaurant regulations. Bishai also plans on offering a weekend brunch service.
The interior uses themes from both the former industrial area where Oak Park Social is located, as well as Bishai’s work as an engineer, blending electronics, pipes and fittings with natural wood elements to create a warm, inviting space. Bishai said the integration will evolve over time, with art installations planned for the future.
The dining room features several large overhead, sliding doors that can be opened up to give the dining room an open-air feel. The restaurant also features an outdoor dining area on the side of the building with several picnic tables.
As far as location, Bishai said he was attracted by the city’s commitment to redevelop the Eleven Mile corridor and its business-friendly service.
“I wanted to be the first to the party here,” he said.
“I’m just really thankful to open after everything that has happened. Oak Park, Oakland County and the state were amazing to us. I’m really impressed on how those three entities worked together in this time.”
Oak Park Economic Development Director Kimberly Marrone said the new restaurant is the first of many improvements coming to the city’s Eleven Mile corridor due to several steps taken to encourage a business friendly atmosphere and re-investment in the area.
The city rezoned sections of Eleven Mile from light industrial to mix-use, allowing for underused areas of the city to create new attractions. In May 2018, the city received certification from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation as a “Redevelopment Ready Community.” That program evaluates and certifies communities that integrate transparency, predictability and efficiency into economic development practices.
“It’s been a priority of the city to bring in new economic development, which was virtually non-existent. Kim was hired to bring that in and has done an amazing job,” said Michigan Rep. Regina Weiss, who served on Oak Park City Council before being elected in November to the state legislature.
“I think it’s great. The community has been asking for this for a long time, and the changes in zoning and design make it a more attractive and walkable area. All of these developments lead to where we are today.”
Oakland County Commissioner Charlie Cavell agreed.
“It’s all part of a bigger plan to make Oak Park more of a ‘5-9 p.m. community,’” he said. “Right now, it’s more of a 9-5 community, but the goal is to make it more inviting to the after-work crowd. It’s good for the community, and good for tax revenue.”
Learn more about Oak Park Social at www.oakparksocial.com.
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