Food trucks & booze? It sounds like a winning combination. And, at first look, it seems as if Detroit Fleat, the new food truck park & bar just outside of downtown Ferndale, has delivered.
Walking in the space, the walls are filled with Detroit nostalgia. Faygo. Better Made. Stroh’s.
It has that garage feel that’s very in right now, with large garage doors that open to the patios. They also allow the place to be a year-round establishment. More on that later.
Heading outside to the patio, you see a nice arbor along the side, with bike parking outside. The parking lot was full and we ended up needing to park on a nearby side street. Many others seemed to need to as well, but the walk is super easy.
Talking to one of the owners, Aaron Tye, it’s clear they put a lot of their own sweat equity into the place. According to him, transforming what the space was — a well-liked by locals, but kind of dingy on the inside Chinese restaurant — into this was a five month task, and the space was taken down to the walls.
He seemed to think that was a long time, but compared to the length of time we’ve waited for some Detroit area restaurants to open, it’s short.
So let’s talk food trucks. As of right now, four options will be regular, with one rotating option in the evenings.
The regular food trucks Delectabowl, Mac Shack, and Pita Post. They’re pretty well known around town as far as food trucks go. Delectabowl does a nice job of marrying flavors into one easy to hold bowl. Mac Shack is various takes on pasta and macaroni and cheese. And Pita Post has fresh pitas of various kids.
I tried the Sh-in-tzel (chicken breast, cucumber tomato salad, red cabbage, ranch, celery seed sauce) and it was as on point as I remembered it.
Each of the regulars have food trailers. During the day, the mobile coffee purveyor Drifter Coffee will be parked there, and in the evenings they’ll close up or roll out for a fourth guest food truck.
Alleah Webb of Drifter Coffee shared that they’re putting together a second of their signature retro trailers for the Detroit Fleat location.
The patio has ample shade, and there’s even a kid’s corner chalkboard.
If you assumed the food was limited to the food truck offerings alone, you’d be mistaken. Turns out that there’s a kitchen inside as well, offered “food truck inspired” options. This also gives them the ability to be open all year.
Everything here is on the affordable side. All the sliders are $3.50, tacos $3.50, sausage bites are $6, fried avocado $3. It’s a small plates menu where it’s easy to try a different things.
Let’s run through what we tried in order of what we liked most with the clear caveat that this is a first taste and not a review, as it was a media preview. But it should give you an idea what you’re going to run into here.
The favorite in our party was the Whiskey & Bacon sliders. House made patty, smoked cheddar, bacon, caramelized onion, and a distilled whiskey BBQ sauce.
Next up were some deep fried smoked sausage bites. The spicy mustard works, and they’re pretty filling.
People have different definitions of what a “good” fry is — thin, thick, crispy, wavy, etc. and it’s very personal. This fry is for you if you like a crispy outside, but fluffy inside steak fry. Seasoned well.
Here are some nachos with chorizo and peppers.
The fish tacos are Mahi with a citrus slaw, cilantro and lime. Again, personal preferences here. If cilantro is not your bag, be sure to order it without it.
When it comes to drinks, we tried the Dirty Fleat (think martini — Valentine Vodka, stuffed olives) and the Old Fashioned, theirs is made with New Holland Beer Barrel Bourbon.
They tasted as expected. I generally order a drink that’s standard as a way to see if they get the basics right. They did.
To spread our alcoholic wings a little bit, next up was the “Slooshie.” It has various rotating flavors, and I kind of wish I was back in New Orleans to take it with me and walk to the next bar sipping it (if you didn’t know, you can open container drink there and there are plenty of daiquiri places to quench your thirst).
There is, of course, beer of various kinds from Two-Hearted Ale to Michigantuan to Labatt & Bud Light.
One thing to note is serving. Each table has a server to bring you food or alcohol from their menu, and when it comes to the food trucks, you grab it directly.
So there you go. A first taste. This is going to be a fun one to watch as it finds its unique place in the Metro Detroit food and fun scene.
Detroit Fleat opens to the public Friday July 5 at 5 p.m. Give it a spin. You’ll find it at 1820 East Nine Mile Road in Ferndale.