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EastEats outdoor dining 'experience' to continue into 2021

Melody Baetens   | The Detroit News

EastEats caused a mini media flurry when the concept was announced this fall as a new "dining experience." 

Whether you call it it an experience, a pop-up or a COVID-safe new restaurant, it's got buzz. But what is it like? Plainly, it's a kitchen trailer and a cluster of dining domes in an empty lot on a side street in a Detroit neighborhood. 

Looking closer, it's a group of entrepreneurs proving they don't need four walls to get their food to customers. The team behind EastEats is chef Nygel Fyvie and his business partners Lloyd Talley and Kwaku Osei-Bonsu.

Fyvie's cuisine this fall was largely Pan-Asian street tacos and bao buns. It's very vegan-friendly but has meaty options, too. On a recent visit the two best bites were a juicy Beyond burger crumble vegan taco with honey sriracha inside a flour tortilla and a steak taco cooked medium-well with kimchi, cilantro and scallion in a corn tortilla.  

Osei-Bonsu says the menu will be shifting in early 2021 to street food from the Bay of Bengal area. This sticks with their theme of serving food from the Eastern Hemisphere on the city's east side. EastEats is in the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood of Detroit, literally in an empty lot on a side street off Jefferson. 

It's like an Instagram influencer trap, with cute, seasonal decor, about a half dozen plastic domes, festive lighting and friendly staff. The food comes from a trailer on site, and there's a generator providing the juice for everything. 

The plan is to keep EastEats going as long as weather permits. The domes are heated, so cold weather isn't as much of a factor as high winds or massive snowfall. Seating inside the dome is repurposed wooden church pews and cushioned spools. If you are susceptible to cold, I suggest bringing a blanket to sit on. 

Guests are also welcome to bring their own drinks, as EastEats has no beverage service. They can provide ice and extra glasses if you need them. Water and cups are provided. 

It's a very socially distanced experience, as dinner is purchased in advance online, gratuity included (so no money or cards are exchanged), and servers only come around when the food is offered.

The flat rate for dinner is $45 per person, which gets you five small items from the menu. Diners don't place an order. Instead, servers bring around a variety of items (wrapped up, separately) to each dome and you pick and choose what sounds good. If you go over 5 items, each addition small plate is $4.50 each. 

It's not cheap, but it is fun. Kudos to the team behind EastEats for not only coming up with a new, safe way to enjoy delicious food, but also for transforming an empty plot of earth into a glowing, buzzing outdoor restaurant. 

EastEats, 1018 Navahoe in Detroit, is open by reservation Thurs.-Mon. Visit EastEats.Us to book and view the menu.

Twitter: @melodybaetens