MARRIN: Undercover At Barred Rock Café, Dexter’s Newest Family Restaurant

barred rock

You should go eat at Barred Rock Café. I did, and I will again. A few weeks after it quietly opened on April 6 in Dexter Crossings plaza near Country Market, I met my buddy Dan for breakfast to go over plans for an Isle Royale trip. I wanted to try the new place in town.

Barred Rock occupies the space previously held by Alpha Coney Island which suddenly and mysteriously closed last Fall. Upon entering, I did a double-take. It is a different place – colorful, new, and nicely decorated. The refurbished interior with its colorful walls, tiled wainscot, natural wood tabletops, new booths, rural fixtures and historical photos of Dexter created a “Welcome Home” feeling, like Thanksgiving. Dan and I were warmly greeted and seated.

Good grief, the coffee is good. I’m a coffee guy and was expecting your cheap run-of- mill swill that full service restaurants seem determined to serve. This stuff had flavor and was smooth. Not as good as my old shop, Foggy Bottom, but I’d drink a second cup.

The menu was intimidating in a fun way. As I began emotionally connecting to the many inviting selections, I was already thinking of what I would order on my next visit. But I didn’t know where to start. The waitress came and saw I was … (ahem) waffling … and with a few skilled questions directed me to the Smoked Omelette: smoked beef brisket, pulled pork, mushrooms, onions and cheddar jack.

It sounded a little heavy, and Dan gave me a middle-aged warning look, but I ordered it anyway without hash browns or toast. I’ve been mountain biking pretty hard lately getting ready for a big ride and was craving the protein. Maybe I’d go for the Loaded Oatmeal or Mediterranean Eggs Benedict next time. Mental note: the grandkids will dig these waffle and pancake selections next time they spend the night. Dan foolishly ate before he came and stayed put with his glass of tap water.

barred rock
The counter’s in the same place at Barred Rock as it was when Alpha Coney Island occupied the same space.
barred rock

Dan and I set up a small base camp and worked on trip details. The omelet arrived without starch and it was beautiful. There’s an old saying in the restaurant biz, “You eat with your eyes first.” Food’s gotta look good before anything else. I took a bite and my mouth agreed with my eyes. Dan also was eating with his eyes as his hand unconsciously moved toward his lonely fork. It was now my turn to give him a look, and caught in the headlights of my glare, he froze and withdrew.

I finished the omelet and delicately dabbed the corners of my mouth. “Was it good?” Dan asked with a tone.

“Yep. I’m ordering another,” I answered. I waited for Dan’s big laugh to die down and then I promptly didn’t order another, but I wanted to. The plate was cleared, we finished our work, packed up, and took our leave. We’d be back.

A couple days ago I had a chance to sit down with Barred Rock Café’s owner, Greg Stamatopoulos, to learn a little more about him and his operation and to see how it’s been going in his first five weeks.

Armed with a family history in restaurants and a degree from U of M, Greg opened his first restaurant in Tecumseh in 2013. The community quickly embraced City Limits Diner and he began looking for a place to repeat that success. “I had some good ideas that I wanted to try, but didn’t want to tamper with what people like about City Limits,” he explains. Barred Rock is the outlet for some of these ideas.

The big idea Greg wants to develop is the Farm-to- table concept. Farm-to- table is a social movement which emphasizes serving food that is purchased directly from local producers. It has arisen in recent years from concerns about food freshness, seasonality, genetic modifications, nutritional value, and small-farm economics.

“We are not strictly Farm-to- table by definition,” Greg is quick to explain. “I don’t want to mislead anyone. It’s a direction we’re moving more and more into as we learn about Department of Agriculture approved food sources.” Barred Rock might not be perfectly Farm-to- table but no restaurants can do it 100 percent simply because of the regulations he mentions. But keeping in step with the concept, Greg uses a butcher shop for his meats, a bakery for the bread, and other approved markets for produce and dairy. He refused to use the large commercial suppliers with their processed and preserved foods.

When I asked him why he has had no grand opening to get the word out, he replied “This restaurant is a work in progress.” And then added, “There are some things I want to work out before we invite the community. We’ll have a grand opening at some point.”

barred rock
Barred Rock has as much style as a peacocking rooster.

Even though it is a “work in progress,” online reviews from Facebook and Google are overwhelmingly favorable scoring an impressive 4.8 out of 5 stars. Comments include:

“Had breakfast, reasonable prices great food and good sized portion. Anxious to try lunch sure we won’t be disappointed.”

“Best breakfast. Delectable choices with a wide variety of fresh ingredients. Many excellent menu options. They get a lot of their stuff from small Michigan suppliers.”

“Excellent breakfast. Really friendly staff. They have the best coffee in Dexter.” I owned and operated Foggy Bottom Coffee House a few doors down from Barred Rock for a number of years. Our conversation naturally, as it usually does for me, turned to coffee and espresso. Greg has been considering adding espresso drinks to his operation. I encouraged him to seriously think about it (all the while selfishly thinking myself that a 16oz latte with two extra shots of my fresh-roasted espresso blend, made with almond milk, and heated to just 120 degrees would have been the only thing that could have made that omelet better). I left him with the offer to advise him in any way I could should he decide to pursue it.

So give ‘em a go I say. We’re happy to have another great option here in Dexter. Barred Rock Café is open 6 a.m. to 3 p.m daily. Here’s their website link [https://www.barredrockcafe.com/]. Maybe I’ll see you there if not out on a trail.

Doug Marrin covers education, business, and lifestyles reporting for WeLoveDexter.com, while occasionally blogging about the outdoors and religion from local perspectives. He can be reached via email at dmarrin@sbcglobal.net.

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