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Posted on Fri, Feb 11, 2011 : 5:50 a.m.

Renovations to The Chop House and La Dolce Vita warm up restaurants on Ann Arbor's Main Street

By Janet Miller

The Chop House and La Dolce Vita, downtown Ann Arbor’s high-end steakhouse and dessert destination, just got warmer as the February cold drags on.

A top-to-bottom facelift, including replacing the stark white interior with warmer earth tone colors, closed the Main Street restaurants for five days.

They re-open today with new carpet, furniture, fabrics, lighting and colors that include tans, browns and ambers.


The previous interior of The Chop House, 322 S. Main St. files

“Before, it was classic steakhouse. It didn’t have a lot of warmth to it,” said Kevin Gudejko, director of operations for Mainstreet Ventures, which owns the restaurant and dessert lounge.

After more than 12 years in business - sometimes seeing 300 to 400 customers in a weekend - The Chop House interior had worn thin, Gudejko said.

“With the sheer numbers of people who walk through, it was starting to get tattered. We wanted to give it a fresh look, but still be a classic steakhouse.”

The remodeling project won’t add seating capacity. In fact, the main dining rooms will lose a couple of seats, Gudejko said. The main dining room seats about 75 people, with room for another 100 in La Dolce Vita and the bar.

At the same time, the remodeling project presented a chance to respond to recent trends in the restaurant industry, such as growing interest in the bar area from diners looking for a more casual, quicker and less costly night out, Gudejko said.

The Chop House bar area was expanded and a new copper-top bar with black onyx backlighting added. New, more comfortable seating was also installed in the bar area, and high table tops replaced lower table tops, which can have a more cocktail feel, Gudejko said.

“It will give people the chance to come and have the Chop House experience without sitting down for 1 ½ hours.”

dolcevita.jpg files

The remodeling will herald in a new, expanded bar menu, including lighter fare options such as Lollipop lamb chops and a trio of Kobe sliders.

Also, the growing interest in the meal itself saw the addition of new low-light spotlights at each main dining room table with elimination of some of the ambient light.

“There will be more focus on the table top,” Gudejko said.

A new, more prominent dessert station for La Dolce Vita was installed, including a white Italian marble bar top backlit by honey-gold lighting.

While the remodel wasn’t a response to the market, it is expected to increase diner traffic, Gudejko said.

“It wouldn’t be prudent to not hope to see a return on the investment, but that wasn’t our main objective.” Gudejko did not know the project cost. Architects Design Collective of Columbus, Ohio, worked on the project.

The Real Seafood Company, another Mainstreet Ventures property, will also receive a facelift later this year, Gudejko said.

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Fri, Feb 11, 2011 : 6:20 p.m.

@Heardoc: I get (and agree with) your basic point, that more diversified restaurant ownership is better for the city. However, the fact that these restaurants have common ownership doesn't make them bad restaurants. La Dolce Vita, for example, isn't be the be-all and end-all of dessert, but it's a great place to hang out with over dessert and drinks with friends in the evening. I wouldn't boycott these places just because they're owned by Mainstreet Ventures. Also, while common ownership is a huge factor on that one block of Main Street, it's really a non-issue outside it. Yeah, Mainstreet Ventures; yeah, Zingerman's (though their common connection is very visible), but really? If you add all the restaurants in those groups together, you'll still only have a small fraction of the restaurants in and around Ann Arbor. Hardly an oligarchy, as long as you don't hang out in that one block.


Fri, Feb 11, 2011 : 5:53 p.m.

The problem is evident here ... too many of the restaurants in Ann Arbor are in too few hanbds. We have an essential 'Oligarchy' in Ann Arbor with respect tot he restaurant scene. I do not go to these venues due to this fact. We need to have more diversified ownership of these restaurants in Ann Arbor. I look for and go to those restaurtnats that are not part of Main Street Ventures -- better to have several families and entities rather than just the one......