A taste of Israel in Detroit’s Campus Martius Park: Chef Cari’s Kosher, Gluten-Free Food Comes to the D

Falafel is a round chickpea patty fried, seasoned, and wrapped in a warm pita bread. Chef Cari’s falafel comes with tahini and a house made sauce that adds just the right dose of spice to the dish. While Detroit might have middle eastern cuisine, in my opinion, it hasn’t seen falafel this good yet.

Downtown Detroit also hasn’t seen many vegan, gluten-free, and kosher options. Chef Cari’s “The Spot” is the first new Kosher certified food business to arrive at Detroit’s Campus Martius Park.

Chef Cari's stand in Campus Martius Park Detroit

Chef Cari’s stand in Campus Martius Park Detroit

Her spot can be found among the brightly colored food vendors in the park. In the sweltering heat of the summer, you’ll see lines already forming at her booth that opened July 15th. Inside you’ll find her serving falafel and side dishes that are all gluten free and made from scratch, including hand-cut french fries, quinoa tabouli, and falafel varieties.

Chef Cari has been cooking professionally for over twenty years, running her full service catering company for eight years. She’s testing out downtown Detroit as a location for her new restaurant. So far the results have been worth it.

“We’ve had Dan Gilbert here. We’ve had return visitors every day,” said Chef Cari. “It’s been really great so far. We really want to stay and be a part of the new booming Detroit scene.”

Vadim Avashalumov, Urban Planner at Rock Ventures, along with Yisrael Pinson, a local Rabi who helped arrange the Menorah in the D, recruited Chef Cari to Detroit. Pinson works to engage and build the Jewish community in Detroit. Both wanted to bring more diverse food options to the park.

“I picked Chef Cari because of her extensive experience in food vending and the fact that her food is really good,” said Yisrael Pinson.

Avashalumov who helped Rock Ventures add amenities and events to the park including the new food booths said it’s the first time in 15 years that there’s’ been a certified kosher restaurant downtown.

Falafel menu in Detroit“I think from our perspective it’s important to have good, quality food that people love, and to have diversity,” said Vadim. “We also want to support up and coming food entrepreneurs like Chef Cari.”

The placemaking initiative began back in the fall when Downtown Detroit Partnership and Rock Ventures partnered to transform Campus Martius into a more enjoyable place to hang out, hit the beach, and well, eat falafel at. Between the food vendors, live music, and a bar, they’ve done a great job and the results have been a park packed with people.

And the falafel really is that good. I tried the falafel bowl and the fresh mint-infused lemonade and can’t wait to go back again soon.

Some even say it’s out of this country, or tastes like it.

“It’s top quality falafel, just as good as when I buy it in Israel,” said Ben Rosenzweig.

Check out Chef Cari’s Spot in Campus Martius now through mid-August.

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  1. Eric Zonder

    I ate at Chef Cari’s Falafel stand this past week and it was wonderful. I went with Rabbi Pinson and we met up with four others. Afterwards we went to look at a house that the good Rabbi is considering purchasing and converting to a Jewish house of learning. This would become a Chabad House. It is therefore quite important to have a local Kosher eatery. All in all, we had a wonderful day with some terrific food and good company. I am sure that we will be returning many times in the future. EricZ.

  2. Ian

    Stopped for lunch last week. I have been missing good falafel since I worked in Ann Arbor (Jerusalem Garden). Everything was wonderful, but the pita was a thicker style than I prefer and crumbled. Get the bowl!

  3. Rachael

    Fantastic Falafel…but I owe Cari $12 for it!
    A couple of weeks ago the card machine was down and I had no cash, but you still served me. I wasn’t in Detroit the next week but gave the cash to a friend who unfortunately didn’t get around to dropping it off to you. I’m now back in Detroit this week and see that you’re no longer in Campus Martius Park. Please could you let me know how I can get you the $12 that I still owe? Your website is missing contact details and leaving a message on the site isn’t working either!

  4. Lisa J

    The falafel bowl is amazing! Was offered a free tasting after I had already ordered from a neighboring hut….needless to say I went back the next day for lunch. Honestly, the best hummus I’ve ever tasted. Couldn’t remember the business name, so glad I found this article. TY!

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