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The Metro

Ross Boissoneau - August 22nd, 2011
The Metro blends Greek & Coney Traditions
By Ross Boisonneau
To paraphrase Dorothy, “We’re not in Arby’s anymore, Toto.”
That’s for sure. The former Arby’s at Chum’s Corners in Traverse City has
been transformed into The Metro, and about the only thing it shares with
its former resident is the building. But even that has been transformed,
to a more funky, urban vibe.
Co-owner Paul Barbas eagerly points out the differences, starting with the
décor. He points to the paintings on the wall, suggestive of Diego Rivera,
the Mexican muralist whose large-scale murals celebrating working men and
women decorate many parts of Barbas’s native Detroit. Only in these
paintings, the subjects are often seen with gyros in hand, or on an
assembly line turning out coney dogs.
Then there’s the bold yet neutral colors and the newly-installed tin
ceiling, and those still looking for fast food will be nonplused by the
fact there is no longer a drive-through.
Yes, yes, but what about the food?
Ah, yes, the menu. With omelets, coney dogs, gyros and ribs, the menu is a
far cry from the place with the tall hat and the curly fries. It’s much
more similar to Opa!, Barbas’s first restaurant in the area.

GREEK HERITAGE
While Barbas grew up in the Detroit area, his family hails originally from
northern Greece, near the Macedonian border. He grew up in the restaurant
business, and though he and his wife Brigette worked in other professions,
he admits that the restaurant business was in his blood.
So when they moved to the area, perhaps it was inevitable that the food
industry would win out.
First Opa!, now The Metro. Both feature food derived from his heritage,
along with a few nods to his hometowns old and new.
Frankfurter fans can have their dogs prepared in a number of ways. Barbas
patiently explains the difference between Detroit style, Flint style and
Chicago style.
“Flint style is not really a chili but a topping. It’s kind of sloppy joe
consistency but dryer. Detroit style is more like the chili dog, with a
looser, wetter chili. And Chicago style is like dragged through the
garden, not a coney dog but with tomato, onions, peppers, celery salt,
relish or you can use pickles.”
Hungry yet? Of course the restaurant has a number of variations on the
traditional Greek gyro. Barbas says his own favorite is probably the
slow-cooked ribs, but he’s also quick to point to the gyros and coneys –
he says trying to decide on his favorite menu item is like trying to
choose which of his children is his favorite.

APPETIZERS TOO
Don’t forget some of the special appetizers, such as the Greek kisses,
fried wontons filled with a savory mix of feta, ricotta and cream cheese
with a hint of garlic and herbs. And Barbas assures customers, “You won’t
find a better Greek salad in town.”
Dessert fans don’t need to worry either, as The Metro carries Moomer’s ice
cream. They’re even working on a new Greek-influenced flavor. Baklava ice
cream, anyone?
Barbas says it’s also based on feedback from the customers.
“As an independent, we can turn on a dime,” he said.
Barbas marvels at how welcoming the customer base has been.
“The biggest surprise? How happy the customers are to see us here.
“I think a lot of people thought we were just another fast food joint,” he
continued. “But it’s a family restaurant. People come in and sit down.”
The Metro opened in May, and Barbas says it is continuing to build business.
“There’s not a lot of hotels and motels here. We get some drive-by
traffic, but we really want to take care of the locals,” he said.
“We want people to come in and then come back.”

The Metro is at 753 US 31-S, just north of Chum’s Corners, TC.

 
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