Dishes in the D: Grey Ghost

Juliana GensheimerSeptember 13, 2018

If you visit Grey Ghost, get ready to die a delicious death with a bit of banana doughnut still swirling around in your mouth.

Tucked away from Woodward Ave, the restaurant is located conveniently for commuters in need of a Thursday drink or Friday dinner. For those in three-story Victorian mansions just down the block, get ready to put some meat on your bones.


The kitchen is run by Chefs John Vermiglio and Josef Giacomino, who met at Table 52 and both quickly rose to Chicago fame. John, originally from Clinton Township, returned to Detroit when the time came to open his first restaurant.

Upon skimming the menu, you’ll see that there’s “meat” and “not meat.” Meat is this restaurant’s claim to fame. Dishes include the pork shoulder (with rapini-cheddar pierogi, root beer BBQ), lamb shank (with caper, brown butter, saffron), and dry aged rib eye (with peppercorn butter). If you prefer “not meat,” try the octopus corn dog (chipotle, avocado, cotija). Your teeth will thank you as you bite into this tender wonder.

Back to meat. John said his favorite dish is the fried bologna (with waffle, sharp cheddar, jalapeno). “We couldn’t settle on what cheese was better—cream cheese fondue or cheddar cheese waffle. So we did both.”


Will Lee, the beverage director, is in charge of drinks. The most popular cocktail is called Grandma’s Garden (vodka, St. Germain, cucumber, mint, lime, and rose). John said, “Repeated positive feedback from our guests has made this a menu mainstay.”

Cocktails are shaken, stirred, and on tap. You can choose from 20 in total, with an additional four on draft. Will plays with common ingredients as well as ones you may not expect, such as the sesame oil and black pepper that complements the gin and vermouth in the Heroic Intention.


The building, located in Brush Park, was built in 1919 as the Crystal Ballroom. After securing a lease for the restaurant, John found out his grandmother used to dance there as a young woman. More recently, the building housed a specialty grocer/butcher shop until Grey Ghost opened.

Today, the space features a 24-seat patio and 82-seat eatery. Standing outside, you’ll notice that the building sports an art deco sandstone façade. Stepping inside, you’ll meet dim lighting, intricate tile flooring, and a bar made from bowling alley floors. The warm glow sets the scene for a couple’s first date or a gathering of close friends.


John claims that the Detroit palate differs from Chicago’s. “You get more of that ‘meat and potato’ in Detroit,” John said. As my mouth watered uncontrollably over the pork chop, I felt somewhat insulted. He added: “A fancy meat and potatoes, don’t get me wrong.” Ah, I was reassured.

John said that it’s important to him that people not think he’s full of himself, coming from Chicago. He has been active in the community: from hosting pop-up dinners to working with Empty Bowls Detroit and the Empowerment Plan. He believes the greatest gifts one can give are time, effort, and support.

If you liked this post, invite Juliana Gensheimer to a restaurant in your Detroit neighborhood. She believes it’s important to find a nice home in a good neighborhood near fabulous food. Things she likes: burritos, conversation, and kitchen islands.

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    Juliana Gensheimer

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