The Good Son takes its name from the translation from French of Bonfils, since the Art Moderne building that now houses the restaurant — and the neighboring Tattered Cover Bookstore — was originally called the Bonfils Memorial Theater when it opened in 1953 (and was later renamed the Lowenstein Theater). In keeping with the theater motif, Baron worked with multi-media artist Zoe Rayor to redesign the dining room's decor. Whimsical and evocative drawings, paintings, manipulated photographs, shadowboxes and sculptural elements adorn the walls and tables of the long, narrow space to conjure a fictional history of stage performance and the character of the Good Son (who is depicted slyly sipping a beverage in an ornate picture frame above one of the cushy leather booths). "We had a great time working with Zoe," say Baron. "It's a combination of original work and up-cycling." The menu is a combination of bakery-inspired eats built around pizza dough and focaccia formulated by the group's bread master, Maurizio Negrini, and smaller bites and salads with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern touches typical of executive chef Sylvi Baron's repertoire. "The steel pans are what make Detroit pizza unique," Etai Baron points out, noting that the origins of the style trace back to Detroit cooks who used steel auto-parts trays to bake the rectangular pies.
"We had the dough figured out," adds Baron. "So then: How do we crisp it? How do we top it?" The Good Son's pizza pans started life as bread pans in the family's bakery and so have years of seasoning. Unlike standard deck-oven pizzas, these — with Motor City-based names like the Delorean, the Tom Selleck and the MC5 — are baked in the Good Son's oak-fired oven at 700 degrees to achieve an almost fried texture, with caramelized cheese around the edges.
The kitchen, headed by chef de cuisine Dave Axelrod, uses that wood-burning oven to turn out roasted and baked dishes that build layers of flavor with unique ingredients. A big head of roasted cauliflower comes doused with tahini sourced from Turkey and sided with spicy green harissa (actually a Yemeni condiment called skhug), while a warm kale salad gets a topping of roasted Jerusalem artichokes and hazelnuts. Hot sandwiches are built on house-baked rosemary focaccia and include combinations for meat lovers and vegetarians alike.
Blue-plate specials available after 5 p.m. on most nights run from burgers to catfish to chicken and waffles made from croissant dough. And although the Good Son is courting a dinner and late-night crowd, it hasn't forgotten about East High School across the street, so there's also an East High lunch special featuring a one-topping slice and a drink for $4.50. Desserts come from pastry chef Jason Lebeau, "a veteran, a lifer, the toughest pastry chef I've ever met," says Baron.
Along with theater-themed specialty drinks (with names like the Vince Vaughan and the Curtain Call), the Good Son's beer program comprises nearly twenty draft beers, one of which is a house IPA brewed by Crazy Mountain Brewery, and another three dozen or so in bottles, including many Belgians; there's hardly a macro in the bunch. Beer flights are also available in a series of four smaller pours.
Those familiar with the original layout at Sylvi's will notice that one wall has been knocked down to extend the dining room on the north end. Booths have been reconfigured (there's even a private alcove with a curved banquette) and red, zebra-themed wallpaper has been hung on the narrow ends of the rectangular space. If that wallpaper looks familiar, its an exact replica of the paper in Margo's bathroom from Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums.
The Good Son's official opening is Tuesday, March 24, and the restaurant will be open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thurdsay and 11 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday, with weekend brunch service slated to begin in May.