GreenSpace Café Brings Vegan Delights to Ferndale

By Nina Misuraca Ignaczak / Photography By Marvin Shaouni | December 01, 2016
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masoor dahl soup ingredients

Dr. Joel Kahn's day starts early. The cardiologist and owner of the Ferndale eatery GreenSpace Café was up at 6am and at the gym with a trainer from 7 to 8. “Then I did my Superman, showered and was in my office from 9am to 5:30pm,” he says.

Kahn spends 30–60 minutes with each patient in his integrative cardiology practice, far longer than most other doctors. He uses that time to educate patients on how to take control of their health and prevent heart disease through a healthy lifestyle. The main ingredient of that lifestyle is food. Which brings us to the next part of his day.

“As soon as I was done at the office, I finished up emails, jumped in the car and went over to GreenSpace,” says Kahn. “I often bring a laptop and do some work and emails. I stand at the bar, because standing is healthier than sitting.”

Kahn, his wife, Karen; and 32-year-old son, Daniel, opened GreenSpace Café in late 2015 on Nine Mile in Ferndale. They set their sights on filling a gap for healthy, vegan options in the local food scene by offering heart-healthy, high-end dining that tastes great.

“It’s mainly a fine-dining and bar establishment, but it clearly has a health mission,” says Kahn. “And that’s obvious in the type and quality of food served.”

masoor dahl soup
Mrs. Robinson cocktail
Photo 1: Masoor Dahl Soup
Photo 2: Mrs. Robinson cocktail

The menu is entirely vegan, building salads, soups, sandwiches, flatbreads and entrées from simple vegetables, seeds, mushrooms, legumes and nuts. Flavors range from Asian (Korean chile, cucumber, coriander) to Mexican (jalapeño, cilantro), to Indian (kalonji), to Italian (almond Parmesan) to unabashedly Michigan (maple syrup). Beverages include an array of nonalcoholic cocktails (lemon-lavender, apple-ginger), Maine Root fountain sodas, Neu Kombucha and DROUGHT juices.

And it doesn’t stop with food. A full bar offers “Conscious Cocktails,” incorporating raw, organic juice from nearby DROUGHT, such as the Nine Mile Mule (lemon­grass-infused vodka, blackberries, basil and ginger beer) and the 14K GOLD (turmeric-coriander-infused vodka, carrot-apple-celery-orange juice, lemon, Meletti Amaro, orange bitters).

“Find me another place that has turmeric-infused anything,” Kahn says.

“Our craft cocktail program is insane. We’re talking raw beet juice with organic bourbons. We have spices and herbal preparations. Our head of bar, Robert Daleski, has just done an amazing job. We have great wine, great beer and hard cider, but the craft cocktails and the combinations are truly amazing.”

Seasonal menus feature the freshest ingredients. In summer, the emphasis is on raw dishes, fresh greens and produce. The menu transitions to squashes, gourds and bean-based dishes for the fall and winter. “We’re dabbling with comfort foods,” says Kahn. “Now we have nachos, but a very healthy version, non-GMO. We have a couple of amazing lentil-based and quinoa-based burgers.”

green space cafe dining room
Chef Griffin Wilson
Photo 1: Greenspace Café dining room
Photo 2: Chef Griffin Wilson

The dining room has a relaxing air. It seats 60 and is bright and simply decorated with plenty of natural light, high ceilings and refurbished wood. The polished-wood bar features upholstered stools and plenty of space. Diners can choose between cozy window seats and larger tables.

Despite the decidedly upscale ambiance, the Kahns want to emphasize accessibility. To that end, they run a happy hour menu every evening from 5 until 7pm. On Wednesdays, it’s happy hour at the bar until close. “We want people to be able to come to the bar to have a nice smaller portion and bring the price down,” says Kahn.

GreenSpace recently launched a brunch menu on Saturday and Sunday from 11am until 3pm. “A plant-based brunch can be unbelievable,” says Kahn. The new menu features purple masa pancakes, potato hash with kale, tempeh, a spicy breakfast burrito and an English breakfast with scrambled tofu blackened tempeh, sautéed mushrooms, grilled tomato and home fries. DROUGHT juices, Great Lakes coffee and original cocktails are also on offer.

Kahn is particularly proud of the all-vegan cheeses and sour cream made in-house from cashew and almond milk. The cheeses top flatbread pizzas and accompany all-vegan “charcuterie” boards featuring candied walnuts, crackers, kimchee, vegetables, mustards and fruits.

"We have some of the most talented in-house product producers,” he says. “Nut-based cheeses are becoming a very hot industry around the United States. Some can be seed-based with sesame. That is also on the horizon for us.”

Kahn believes that the medical profession will embrace his ideas about healthy eating eventually, but is not optimistic about it happening quickly. He’d particularly like to see hospitals change their menus. He points to the Cleveland Clinic, which has announced it will eliminate processed meats in 2017, as one positive, if incremental, step forward.

“I guess it took us 20 years to get all the smoking out of the hospitals, so give us until then to improve the food,” he says. “But you can’t come up with any rationale for a Wendy’s in the lobby of a hospital.”

Despite the slow progress, he’s optimistic about the future. “Will it be better 10 years from now than now? It will be better. But we know all that we need to know to change it right now.”

Find out more at GreenSpace Café

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