by Sally Mitani
"Is it an espresso drink?" Jenny Song, co-owner of the Songbird Cafe, asks her counter person, who affirms what a customer has ordered. "Just a minute. I don't have a barista on duty." Song interrupts the interview, runs to the other side of the counter, and coaxes an espresso from her shiny new Rancilio.
Is it that difficult to make an espresso? "It depends on how automated it is," Song replies. "If you go to Starbucks, the machine grinds and doses the same amount every time, so their baristas don't have to manage that. But you get more control over this type of machine, and I think it has better quality."
This gives a little of the flavor of the new Songbird Cafe, which opened June 1 in the former Flim Flam, the easygoing family eatery that stood on the spot for at least thirty-five years. Song and her mother, Youn Song, have replaced the worn plastic laminate surfaces and the leatherette booths that Song remembers as involving "a lot of forest green" with wood and stone of a tough earthiness that Frank Lloyd Wright himself might have signed off on. Granite and porcelain mix with eco-rustic distressed wooden tables and a countertop from a Brooklyn artist who makes furniture from old churches and barns. Song says she didn't quite obliterate the Flim Flam--she found some of its furnishings, like the wooden chairs with the trefoil cutouts and the chandelier with the tiny lampshades, quaint enough to begin a new life as what she calls "vintage touches."
Song, twenty-nine, grew up in Ann Arbor and went off to college about the time her mother was opening BeWon, the Korean restaurant down the street (she sold it in 2006). Lately Youn Song had been itching to start a new restaurant, and Song, who spent a lot of the last decade getting her MBA at the University of Chicago and working in brand management for Sara Lee-Hillshire Farm, was tired of
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