How to help Karl’s Cabin, the historic Detroit-area restaurant temporarily closed due to a fire

And why local news needs to rethink health inspection coverage

Share on Nextdoor
click to enlarge Karl’s Cabin in 2015. - Yelp Inc., Flickr Creative Commons
Yelp Inc., Flickr Creative Commons
Karl’s Cabin in 2015.

Now, hopefully, up from the ashes: Last month, Karl’s Cabin in Plymouth (6005 Gotfredson Rd.) nearly went up in flames. A fire starting in the rear of the historic restaurant property, fanned by high winds that day (Feb. 15), did serious damage. It could have been far worse. Some 250 seated customers were safely evacuated by working staff. While far from a total loss and human tragedy, Karl’s still faces an extended closure during a projected six-month restoration and rebuild. I visited Karl’s once as a virtual tourist nearly a year ago, right after my relocation to the Detroit area. The place was packed. From crew to customers, most seemed to know each other’s names. Everyone seemed happy to be there. Success makes a certain sound in a restaurant that really works: a collective hum of dining room laughter, relaxed conversation, and otherwise audible contentment you pick up on almost subconsciously. That came across loud and clear to me at Karl’s. The waitresses’ smiles were real. The kitchen damn sure could cook. The place ran like a top.

Suddenly, that all came to a stop. These days, founder Karl Poulos’s children, Sophia, Peter, and Louis, are doing all they can to lift morale among their team of currently unemployed back and front-of-house pros. They’ve sponsored a bowling league to keep displaced co-workers connected during the hiatus, and are offering yoga classes to help address the stress of consequences created by the Cabin’s forced closure. What they can’t do is cover the cost of living for some 100 employees who lost their livelihoods last month.

Maybe this is where we come in. A longtime regular at Karl’s has already set up a GoFundMe account for the cause, so there’s that. But over and above the one-time donation avenue of fighting this fire, I’m wondering: Who out there in our extremely labor-force-challenged local restaurant/hotel/resort/senior living/hospital industries might be willing to take on staff as well-seasoned as Karl’s, even if it’s only for a while? With operators everywhere struggling to douse short-staffing situations, here's a bucket brigade of proven performers. Hire one or two and help yourselves while you do good service to others. Perchance you’re in a position to offer some commercial kitchen space for use by Karl’s catering arm, you’d be a Godsend in helping provide the Cabin’s culinary crew the opportunity to generate revenue for the business during the busy graduation party season to come.

Calling all restaurateurs, hall owners, kitchen and dining room hiring managers, and the like: Let’s rally around a fellow wounded warrior. Most if not all of us have been left more than a little singed by circumstances in the current food service workplace. I think it would feel good to fight back by picking this battle one of our own now faces.

Imagine six or so months from now: Karl’s rises from the ashes and reopens as a monument to the daunting challenges overcome daily in every corner of the food industry. Picture the place not only moving forward, but standing as a testament to what great effect a group empathetic to the plight of colleagues was able to rally during truly trying times. Then just think of yourself walking into Karl’s Cabin one day and taking in the sights and sounds of a place rescued and restored to its happy place in bread-breaking and merry-making local lore.

And the feeling of knowing you helped make it happen.

Contact Karl’s Cabin Manager, Leslie McClean, if you think you can help: 734-455-8450.

Location Details

Karl's Cabin

6005 Gotfredson Rd., Plymouth Wayne County


1 article

Doing the Dirty: There’s this thing local TV stations do that should be exposed for what it is: Lazy, cheap-shot reporting. We’ve all seen these stories. Typically, they’re bumped on morning and evening news shows as “Dirty Dining” or “Restaurant Report Card” segments, which tease viewers with bad health inspection news their hard-charging consumer reporters dig up about restaurants around town. These filler pieces tend to lead-in with lines like: “Stay tuned to see which longtime favorite lunch spot was recently cited for flies in their Soup & Salad,” or, “When we come back; we’ll tell you what downtown eggery was scrambling to fix a failed health inspection.”

For starters, these dubious little exposes don’t reflect any journalistic hard work whatsoever. Inspection findings are posted online for public access. Your friendly-faced media homers simply sit at their studio cubicle screens cherry-picking these postings and slapping together tear-down packages that can take all of two minutes to permanently ruin the reputation of a restaurant that fell short of food safety and sanitation standards on the day they happened to be inspected.

Now here’s some news, viewers: It happens in the best of places. In a great majority of cases, violations found are corrected right there on the spot by ownership and staff, something these low-down and dirty reports don’t always exercise the due-diligence to mention. Worse still, they do their best to trigger our gag-reflexes with buzzwords that speak to common food fears (“bugs,” “raw chicken,” “bare hands”) and industry jargon just as scary (“cross-contamination” and “bacterial growth risks” are biggies).

Don’t get me wrong. Food safety inspections perform an invaluable and necessary service in the cause of consumer welfare. Restaurants are responsible for maintaining established standards of food service safety and sanitation. And media, by all means, should inform us of things we have the need and right to know. Restaurant inspectors do good and important work. Restaurants must comply with procedures that ensure safe handling, storage, preparation, and service of their goods. And media coverage of these matters should — as with all their content — provide fair and balanced reporting.

The next time you see some dirty dining report on TV, decide for yourself if they’re doing that before you write-off the restaurant they’re putting through the wringer.

Imagine the morning news sifting through your dry cleaner’s business, then pointing to a stain or two on your work clothes as evidence that you’re some unprofessional slob to be avoided. Like you, me, and all of us, restaurants get dirty in spots. They also clean themselves up, as we all do. Rightly, they can get called out on the carpet when inspections turn up infractions. As any respectable health inspector will tell you, this stuff happens, and when it does, things get addressed, corrected, and reinspected. In fact, by the time you see the media coverage, it’s likely old news and no longer an issue. And nobody knows this better than those network wannabes working on padding their audition reels at our local television stations.

On that note, I’ll reissue the standing challenge I made in the Phoenix market to every consumer reporter and news director at every media outlet within earshot. Let me bring a retired health inspector into your homes — even semi-unannounced — to see how your kitchens, dining spaces, and bathrooms stand up to scrutiny using the exact same standards of food safety, sanitation, and cleanliness restaurant professionals are held to. And subsequent to that inspection, let’s air those findings for all to see, when I personally present them, on camera, during one of your broadcasts, following the same script your crew tends to. Agreed?

You know where to find me. I double dog dare ‘ya.

It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy: Roger was a jerk. I worked with him years ago. For a while, it wasn’t easy. He brown-nosed our bosses and badgered the hostesses, weaseling his way to head waiter status so he could pick and choose from the very best of the well-heeled clientele we served in those days. Feeling entitled and superior, Roger distanced himself from the rest of us. Prior to service each night, he stashed check folders, wine lists, pepper mills, and such in his own little work station, making sure he had the best of everything we all needed. We resented him for it. Roger knew it. Still, he’d just smirk as we stewed.

Then came that glorious day when Roger’s wallet was found by another waiter on the men’s room floor before dinner. The guy who picked it up pulled the rest of us quickly aside to decide what to do with it. After peeling through its paltry contents (a few bucks and a lottery ticket), someone came up with something. Quickly jotting down Roger’s ticket numbers, we returned his property to the bathroom stall he’d changed in.

At the end of the shift, as we were closing the dining room, Roger gloated over his tips, as per his usual.

“$280, not bad (in 1990s money),” He always had to let us know. “I’ll see you boys and girls on Tuesday. Don’t be late.”

Right on time, the person who wrote down Roger’s lottery numbers chimed in.

“Hey guys, I just got the Lotto numbers.” She gave us all a second to pretend to grab for our tickets before starting to rattle them off.

Roger took the bait and reached for his wallet. I thought for sure he’d see someone make a face and catch on. He didn’t.

As Roger’s numbers were announced as the weekly drawing’s big winners, I watched his face change. His eyebrows raised. His eyes widened. His face got red.

“Read those again!” Roger barked, instantly beside himself. Then someone laughed. Then we all did. Loud, hard, and long. Except for Roger, of course.

“You assholes,” was all he said, realizing the entirety of the ruse. We’d arranged for Roger’s ship to come in, but only to torpedo it.

For the rest of our time together, Roger blamed us all for every little thing that went wrong for him at work. He’d accuse us to our bosses, badger the hostesses to admit we’d bribed them to give him late tables, and work himself into a constant, paranoid froth over what he perceived as our ongoing, collective campaign against him. We’d just smirk as Roger stewed.

Turnabout is fair play. Stay tuned.

Chowhound is a bi-weekly column about what’s trending in Detroit food culture. Tips: [email protected].

Coming soon: Metro Times Daily newsletter. We’ll send you a handful of interesting Detroit stories every morning. Subscribe now to not miss a thing.

Follow us: Google News | NewsBreak | Reddit | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

About The Author

Robert Stempkowski

Robert Stempkowski is a longtime food writer, chef, and restaurateur who recently relocated to the Detroit area from the Phoenix area.
Scroll to read more Food News articles


Join Detroit Metro Times Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.