Ferndale’s GreenSpace Cafe enters a season of change

Curry stew.
Curry stew. Tom Perkins

GreenSpace Cafe

215 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale
$14-$20 for entrees
Wheelchair accessible

Metro Detroit is cementing its place among the top regions for vegan cuisine, and Ferndale's GreenSpace Cafe is among the focal points of the local vegan industry.

However, it's not the same GreenSpace that it was a few years ago, and it's not going to be the same GreenSpace for long. The Kahn family that owns the restaurant seemed to feel that things were getting a bit stale last year and shook it up a bit, forging a partnership with former Clean Plate owner Amber Poupore.

She spent nearly a year in the Kahns' kitchen, reshaping the menu, trimming some of the fat, improving recipes, and slightly altering the restaurant's course while keeping its core intact. Earlier this year, GreenSpace turned the operation over to former Clean Plate chef Bryan Nieradka.

As of now, GreenSpace is rolling with the same condensed and tweaked menu that Poupore put together, but Nieradka is planning a new menu that will shift with the seasons. The specials he's rolling out now are a tease of things to come, and that's where you can find some of the menu's best bites.

The aromatic, rich curry stew is a banger and made with a tomato base, coconut milk, and a heavy-but-not-overwhelming amount of curry. The orange mix holds cauliflower, garbanzos, onion, kale, and acidic pickled veggies like cabbage and carrots that provide a textural counterpoint with their crunch. The dish is topped with green sprigs of fresh cilantro, and Nieradka serves it with a big ball of rice grits, which is a nice touch. For the uninitiated, rice grits are nearly risotto-like, and perfect for the job.

GreenSpace also offers a fine cauliflower dish in its wings, which are sautéed to the right texture and cooked in a Buffalo sauce made with vegan butter and hot sauce.

The Macro Bowl is stuffed tight with rice, salty tamari-marinated tofu, tiny cubes of diced sweet potato, awesome kimchi, wakame in sesame oil, baby kale and mushrooms made with fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary. It's a dish that's busy with textures, sensations, and flavors, and it manages to work well. Conversely, the Aegean salad is filled with pleasant bites of broccoli falafel, beet hummus, roasted beets, marinated artichoke hearts, arugula, and pickled onion, but the textural interplay didn't work out too well — too much that's soft and nothing really holding it all together.

The Guadalupe tacos are solid and the corn tortillas are packed full — it gets messy fast — with black beans and crumbled seitan chorizo that's sauteed with chili powder, coriander, cumin, and other spices. The package is topped with salsa, cabbage slaw, and chimichurri mayo. Meanwhile, the Albuquerque tacos come with roasted cauliflower, roasted sweet potato, cabbage slaw, and chipotle mayo.

click to enlarge Fennel salad. - Tom Perkins
Tom Perkins
Fennel salad.

GreenSpace's blackened tempeh avocado sandwich holds a tempeh patty, which is different from the sautéed strips of tempeh that are typical at other restaurants. It's a pleasant change, though the patties are premade, and the kitchen tops it with avocado, baby spinach, and chimichurri mayo. Similarly, the Hot Daddy is a delicious burger with a Beyond Burger patty between multigrain buns with pickles, tomato, raw onion, chao cheese, fresh jalapeño, lettuce, and chipotle mayo. It comes as advertised — spicy, so beware.

Pastry chef Trevor Smith offers a short roster of dessert options each day, like vegan chocolate bons or The Basic Bitch buttercream cake. The cake's texture isn't like that made with eggs — seems much denser, but it's delicious, and the light buttercream made with vegan butter and sugar puts it over the top. We got a huge slice and paid for it with overly stuffed bellies all night.

GreenSpace's full bar is filled with vegan cocktails like the Croquette with pineapple-infused vodka, mango juice, orange juice, oat milk, raspberry shrub, and lemon.

You're going to have to act fast to get a last bite of the old GreenSpace, but the best might be yet to come.

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