BIRMINGHAM, Mich. (WXYZ) — August marks the 50th Anniversary of Phoenicia, one of the longest-running eateries under one ownership in metro Detroit.
Photojournalist John Ciolino tells us the story of how one man's passion helped to create one of the best restaurants in the country
For most restaurants, the start of a great meal begins in the kitchen.
But for Sameer Eid, the owner, and creator of Phoenicia Restaurant, the start of his great meals and hit reputation began much earlier - not in his kitchen, but on the loading dock at 5:00 a.m. at the Detroit Produce Terminal.
Sameer has been the owner of Phoenicia since 1971. It is one of the oldest restaurants continually run by one person in metro Detroit. And at almost 82 years of age, Sameer still insists on overseeing every detail, even when it means going directly to the wholesalers before the sun rises.
Phoenicia started as a small 7 stool, 3 booth restaurant in Highland Park that Sameer decided to buy on a whim after a career change.
But there was one small problem. He had never even worked in a restaurant before.
But he did have one advantage. The small city that he grew up in in Lebanon was known for its cuisine.
Sameer would eventually more the successful eatery to its present location in Birmingham and decide to make another leap of faith and turn his simple restaurant into fine dining.
And for the past 50 years that has included days that started at 5:00 a.m. and ended at 11:00 p.m, doing everything from cooking to sharpening knives.
It is maybe in the dining room where Sameer comes most alive, taking the time to visit with generations of customers who have been like family, and making sure he is not falling short of his own high standards, and reigniting his passion along the way.
Over the years, Phoenicia has racked up many awards including Free Press Restaurant of the year, Esquire top 40 Restaurants in America, and a James Beard nomination.