Kameel Chamelly’s small empire at the corner of Lyon and Union in Midtown has expanded yet again, this time to welcome the new farm-to-table style, Mediterranean-inspired bistro, Marcona on Lyon.
Kameel Chamelly’s small empire at the corner of Lyon and Union in Midtown has expanded yet again, this time to welcome the new farm-to-table style, Mediterranean-inspired bistro, Marcona on Lyon. Co-owned and concepted by fine dining chef Matt Overdevest, the new restaurant benefits from both Overdevest’s love for Mediterranean flavors and the kind of Mediterranean-influenced cuisine which regular customers of Martha’s Vineyard have become accustomed to.
Chamelly’s businesses at the corner of Lyon and Union have become an increasingly key anchor in the area, as both a destination specialty grocery hub for suburbanites and a neighborhood market on which locals rely for everyday staples. Since opening in 1982, Martha’s Vineyard has slowly added more businesses in response to neighborhood demand.
Martha’s Pizza opened in 2006, as did Nantucket Baking Co. (which now supplies many shops and restaurants in the area), Lyon Street Cafe in 2014
, and an expanded produce section at Martha’s Vineyard arrived in 2015
. Since opening, these have all enjoyed enthusiastic patronage, with customers citing quality, convenient location, and customer service as what keeps them coming back. Chamelly’s businesses, run with the help of his daughters Alex and Ilana, have notoriously low employee turnover.
As more housing continues to be developed along Michigan’s Medical Mile just two blocks away, demand for food and dining businesses in Midtown shows no signs of slowing down — nor does Chamelly’s interest in meeting that demand.
A longtime customer of Chamelly’s businesses, Overdevest approached Chamelly as he was beginning the space’s buildout last year, and Chamelly welcomed his expertise.
“Every chef wants to have his own restaurant,” Overdevest said. “This was the right fit, at the right time, with the right person.”
The connection between Overdevest’s California childhood-inspired penchant for Mediterranean flavors and the Chamelly family’s ethnic origins was, however, entirely happenstance.
“We were looking at the market to see what’s being underserved right now,” says Overdevest, pointing out that Mediterranean was the one style of cuisine which wasn’t being represented by fine dining in the area. “We don’t have burgers and fries, because you can get those at plenty of other places … we’re not really competing with anyone — we’re playing in our own sandbox.”
As for the food itself, Overdevest’s menu plays on Mediterranean themes with traditional flavors, without being limited to traditional dishes.
“We have a good balance between acidity and fat, which you’re less likely to find at a traditional gastropub,” Overdevest says. “It’s healthy, flavorful food that’s not trying to be ‘health food.’ I take a lot of techniques I learned in high end cuisine, and apply that quality … while keeping the integrity of Mediterranean food and flavors.”
Unlike much of the cuisine from the deli counter at Martha’s Vineyard, Marcona on Lyon’s menu doesn’t bring much heat.
“The spices aren’t about heat — they’re about vibrant flavors,” says Overdevest, identifying his menu as “safe” for those who don’t tolerate spicy foods well.
In typical farm-to-table style, Overdevest’s sources as many ingredients and beverages from local suppliers as possible, including Spice Jungle, Visser Farms, S&S Lamb, Heeren Brothers, Superior Sales, People’s Cider, Bloom Kombucha, and Love’s Ice Cream. Overdevest has worked with Grand Rapids butcher Louise Earl to supply special types of traditional Moroccan sausage coils. The kitchen is equipped with a grill especially designed for cooking skewers, which comprise a large section of Marcona’s shareable-forward menu.
“We like relying on vendors who are experts at what they do,” says Overdevest.
Mediterranean food naturally lends itself towards being vegetarian and gluten-free friendly, and Overdevest has ensured a menu abundant with options for both. A third of the “large plates” menu is vegan/vegetarian-capable, and only one option on the app menu is non-vegan. The majority of the menu — including the dessert menu — is either gluten free or gluten free capable.
Similarly, Overdevest has worked to remove soy products from ingredients and oils as much as possible, and relies often on flours made from rice, garbanzo beans, and almonds.
The kid’s menu, rather than featuring the standard mac and cheese and hot dog fare other restaurants typically offer children, offers the same food style and ingredients as the rest of the menu — simplified. Buttered couscous and peas; chicken skewer with rice and vegetables; veggies and hummus.
“It was important to us to make the kid’s menu feel like it belongs with the rest of the cuisine,” says Overdevest. “Kids deserve to experience quality food made from quality ingredients, the same as adults.”
General Manager Jess Ritzke, who has helped to launch several notable restaurants in the area over the last several years, also gave careful attention to how families experience the space. The soft, warmly lit atmosphere feels clean yet welcoming, and in place of the standard crayons and coloring mat, Ritzke has equipped the restaurant with mini Rubik’s cubes and Etch-a-Sketch pads.
Marcona’s full bar includes a curated selection of beer, wine, cocktails, cider, and kombucha.
Located next to Martha’s Vineyard and Lyon Street Cafe at 623 Lyon Street, Marcona is currently open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., and from 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Within the next few weeks, the restaurant will be adding a brunch menu on Saturdays and Sundays.
Online ordering and pickup for lunch and dinner will be made available through Yelp within the next several weeks as well.
Photos by Marjorie Steele.