Get Ready For The Morrie

May 26th, 2016 | Detroit Jewish News

The Morrie, an exciting new restaurant-bar-music venue rising on Main at Sixth streets in Royal Oak, is AFB Hospitality Group President Aaron Fenkell Belen’s homage to his beloved maternal grandfather. The venue is intended to be contemporary yet comfortable for everyone and offer a different experience on every visit. Named for the late bank chairman and philanthropist Morris “Morrie” Fenkell, The Morrie is “well-underway,” said Belen, anticipating the opening for mid-summer. The Morrie, his company’s second Royal Oak entertainment venture, will be one of the biggest building projects in the city at 7,400 square feet and nearly $4 million in total investment. Such commitment to Royal Oak helped earn Belen, 33, the honor of being named the city’s 2015 Businessman of the Year. AFB Hospitality Group, founded 3½ years ago with business offices in Berkley, “is built on doing things in the right way,” said Belen, who was raised in West Bloomfield. “We set our bar high enough to be Midwestern in feeling and values.” A carefully thought-out venue nearly two years in the planning, the one-story Morrie will offer roadhouse-style dining for up to 240 “at a very affordable price point,” Belen said, while still offering the impeccable attention to fresh ingredients, service and decor that distinguish the company’s original foray into Royal Oak — the award-winning Bistro 82 restaurant and Sabrage nightclub. Open since February 2014, Bistro 82 was an instant hit, chosen Best New Restaurant in that year’s Jewish News’ “Best of Michigan” readers’ poll and continuing to be honored by other local media. Simply put, Belen and his team have succeeded in creating the “cool, chic dining and nightlife experience” he envisioned at the corner of Lafayette at Fourth streets. Diners at Bistro 82 can enjoy a gourmet dinner before heading upstairs to “dance to a world-renowned DJ that we’ve flown in for the night,” Belen said. Inside Bistro 82, two walls opposite the windows feature a glowing onyx bar and a huge, multi-colored abstract by artist Sam Friedman. Soft-touch, faux leather for seating in ivory also brightens the gray, contemporary dining room. Black chairs and dark gray tables left bare provide a contrast to the parade of white china. Spanish porcelain tiles cover floors. The vibe is enhanced by an unobtrusive, Harman-designed sound system. The same attention to design will be evident at The Morrie, which has employed noted Birmingham architect Kevin Biddison and Ronnisch Construction of Royal Oak. “We’re doing things the right way with talent across the board,” said Scott Sadoff, director of operations for AFB Hospitality Group. The Morrie will feature 23-foot high ceilings with exposed ductwork, 14 TV screens, roll-up garage doors, small street-side patio, eight large tables that accommodate six-eight guests and a stone-and-granite bar top with wood liner, also found on high and low tabletops. Visible from all vantage points of the spacious room will be a center stage featuring musical performers. At different times guests can enjoy rock bands, jazz, blues and country. “We will offer every feature people could want” in entertainment, said Belen, noting the inclusion of a dance floor and state-of-the art “unbelievable” acoustics at The Morrie. “Restaurant-bar science helps separate us from others in the market,” he said, promising that “the music will sound great and yet allow guests to hear each other speak.” The Morrie personality will be different from Bistro 82, which tends to attract an older, more sophisticated crowd. “We will cater to a different demographic,” Belen said. “We’ll be incredibly food-, service- and pricefocused. You could come in to eat seven days a week.” The prime, high-visibility location on Main Street, convenient for foot traffic, will make The Morrie “a place where the Royal Oak community can pop up every day — families as well as couples and individuals,” said Sadoff. The venue also includes a dedicated parking lot. Derik Watson, the company’s notable executive chef, is developing a menu of eclectic, neighborhood-style, “wonderful bar food” for The Morrie, Belen said. Guests can look forward to large entree salads, and burgers and sandwiches placed inside house-made, freshly baked buns. “We’ve imported an Italian artisan stone bread oven and will use a small smoker for meats and other entrees,” Watson said. Helping the new enterprise to run smoothly from the start is its close proximity to Bistro 82. Belen said that synergy will allow for coordinated food buying, and “we’ll have every piece of kitchen equipment necessary to make any kind of food in the two kitchens.” He can’t say enough good things about the talent and dedication of his young and growing AFB Hospitality Group, which will soon employ between 140-165 full and part-time associates. Content to keep his properties in Royal Oak, “where we’ve planted a flag,” Belen is confident “we know the pulse of the community, and we’ll be able to back up our claims of being at the top of the culinary food chain.” Belen looks forward to his company attracting “a whole new kind of guest” with the addition of The Morrie. It will be available for corporate functions, fundraisers, political events and private parties, in addition to regular guest visits to enjoy dining, drinking, and listening or dancing to live music. It’s varied and affordable entertainment all under one roof. “At The Morrie, you can go and have fun at great value,” said Belen.

View Article >