After just three weeks of interior overhauling, the former Grape Expectations reopened as ZIN Wine Bar & Restaurant. Much like Grape Expectations, ZIN is a wine bar, but that is where the similarities cease. ZIN is a totally new approach to the wine bar-restaurant concept, not just to Plymouth but to all of metro Detroit.
Partners Jorge Manzano and Steve Papas worked closely with Grape Expectations owner Lisa O’Donnell to make the transition smooth. They hired Executive Chef Justin Vaiciunas to develope the menu and get a feel for the Plymouth clientele … a strategy which has worked well for them, as regular customers were slowly introduced to Vaiciunas’s inventive yet unfamiliar techniques and started to get excited about the new concept.
ZIN is more than just a fantastic restaurant and wine bar but also a fun, enjoyable experience.
The space has been redesigned to suit ZIN’s new aesthetic. They wanted to create a mellow, romantic look that still has an upscale ambiance with a casual feel. Subtle touches like modern new lighting pendants and exposed brick that’s been painted white create a more urban chic appeal, while shades of espresso and warm wood paneling soften the effect so it doesn’t feel cold or impersonal. Chalkboards show their hand-written specials and create a bit of whimsy, and large canvas paintings bring a lively burst of color.
Upstairs is a loft lounge, open to the dining room below but still separate enough to be its own entity, where they will have an ever-rotating mix of live music from top 40 to jazz to salsa. They also have an outdoor patio perfect for warm summer days.
The menu is not typical of most other restaurants in metro Detroit. “I want to take it to another level,” says Chef Justin Vaiciunas. “When you come in maybe you don’t know what something is, but you try it and love it. People see the creativity now and every week [we’re getting busier].” Vaiciunas wants to teach people about food. “I want to give them something they’re not used to having … and give them the opportunity to experience new things.”
Everything is made in-house from scratch using the highest possible quality ingredients. Vaiciunas doesn’t use anything from wholesale distributors; instead, the products that he uses come from farmers’ markets and local producers, like apples and squash from nearby orchards and microgreens from Werp Farms in western Michigan, an infamous farm used by top chefs all over the Great Lakes region.
The menu covers a wide range of items, from small plates and pizzas to fresh seafood and steak, and all of it affordably priced (the most expensive thing on the menu is $25, and portions are large). It is hyper-seasonal and will change over entirely every three months (the spring menu will debut April 21), but there are also weekly specials which change based on what is currently available in the kitchen. Because of the seasonality of the menu, Vaiciunas says “people are eager to come back because they want to try everything before it all goes away.”
Charcuterie and cheese plates are written on the chalkboard and change every week. Cheeses come from R. Hirt Distribution in Eastern Market; charcuterie items like rillettes and duck prosciutto are made in-house, and Vaiciunas later plans on curing his own meats and making his own sausage.
They are also open for Sunday brunch serving creative breakfast concoctions like Shortrib Omelets ($11) and Duck Confit Frittatas ($13).
Zin Wine Bar is very much a wine bar with over 120 wines and 35 available by the glass as full or half pours. They offer their own flights but patrons can also design their own flight. It was very important to Manzano that they operate as both a wine bar and as a restaurant. “When we bought this place it was just a wine bar with a limited amount of food and no beer,” he explains. So they upgraded all the wines and increase the amount of wine storage they have, and also hired on Sommelier Joseph Allerton – the celebrated Beverage Director of Michael Symon’s Roast in Detroit – as a consultant. They now have a robust wine list with a wide range of eclectic boutique wines as well as a handsome selection of craft beers. (Later they will be adding a tap system and will have beers from Plymouth’s Liberty St. Brewing Co. on draft.)
They’re also making house-infused vodkas in flavors like pineapple, vanilla, and spicy pepper for Bloody Marys. For those who enjoy a good cocktail, they have a whole menu of classic cocktails as well as their own signature featured cocktails list. They also host monthly wine tastings.
ZIN is warm and welcoming above all else. Although wine culture and fine dining can sometimes be intimidating, the staff at ZIN works hard to overcome any possible intimidation factors. With affordable menu items (priced about 30% lower than similar dishes at comparable restaurants), guests are encouraged to experiment with different dishes and share small plates to pass around with little risk to their wallets. The staff is well-trained in making wine pairing suggestions for their menu and are happy to walk you through their wine list.
On Tuesday through Friday they host a happy hour from 4-6 p.m. with $5 glasses of house wine and $10 cheese or charcuterie boards. Specials change weekly (sometimes daily, depending on availability) and the menu changes seasonally, so if you have your heart set on a specific dish you may want to call ahead. But this is really the kind of place you will be inclined to try something new with each visit! Also, downtown Plymouth is absolutely charming with a host of cute shops, coffee houses, bakeries and beer bars to check out … plan on exploring a bit before or after dinner.
While many outsiders may accuse metro Detroiters of having a lack of culinary sensibility, places like ZIN prove that to be entirely wrong. We have been waiting for something like this all along, even if we didn’t know it. Get ready to hear a lot more about ZIN and about Justin Vaiciunas.