Jay M. Grossman

If Forest Grill aims to present itself as an American bistro with a flair for fine French cuisine, Birmingham Toast wants to be known for Taco Tuesday.
"You can't walk in here, it's so busy," chef Ron Buechs said while toying with a cup of coffee during a break in the action.
"We have a DJ spinning Latino music ... we have two-dollar tacos ... we make our salsa and guacamole from scratch that day. It's phenomenal."

Cozy booths, bright red vinyl seats, paper napkins, assorted clutter and a stream of wallpaper wrap their way around the interior of Birmingham Toast. Owners Thom and Regan Bloom hope to replicate the success they enjoy with the original Toast in Ferndale.

So far, they're succeeding.
White linen napkins and table cloths rule the day at Forest Grill. The upscale restaurant offers an exquisite choice of freshly prepared meals, from Dover sole to loin of lamb. It's the brainchild of Brian Polcyn, the celebrated proprietor of the popular Five Lakes Grill in Milford,
"We have extremely technically driven cuisine that we want to share with the people at reasonable prices," chef Dave Gilbert said. "We don't have fifty-dollar entrees on the menu like some of the other restaurants do. We're not a steakhouse ... we're unique."
The two places are newcomers to Birmingham's Restaurant Week, Feb. 1-6, in which 15 participating restaurants offer three-course meals at bargain prices. The Principal Shopping District sponsors the event.

Gilbert, 34, grew up in Milford. He learned his craft at age 13, working in local diners before attending the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. He then honed his skills in kitchens throughout the south of France, Spain and other parts of Europe.

He then spent four years running the Rugby Grille in the Townsend Hotel until he decided to join forces with Polcyn.

The location of Forest Grill, next to a series of residential sidestreets on the east side of Woodward Avenue, is worth noting. Nearly all the other restaurants in Birmingham, including Toast, are located downtown on the west side of Woodward.

"One of the most crucial elements to this restaurant is that we're not on a busy street," Gilbert said about the location. "You're almost in a little oasis in a neighborhood. You could be in Paris or Barcelona... it's that same feel."

Buechs, 28, grew up in Canton. He graduated from the Johnson & Wales School of Culinary Arts in 2005 and then worked at restaurants from New York to Charlotte. He was cooking at Andiamo's in downtown Royal Oak when the Blooms recruited him.

He joined Birmingham Toast in December. Already he plans to stir things up with a new menu in February that concentrates on seasonal Michigan dishes.

Like Gilbert, he started cooking at a young age.

"I'm the youngest of five and I have an identical twin at that," Buechs said with a broad smile. "My mom has a picture of me and my twin brother standing on a stool and flipping flapjacks on the stove when we were 5."

Additional Facts

Now in its fourth year, Birmingham Restaurant Week offers a three-course $15 lunch and a three-course $25 dinner. The event runs Feb. 1-6.

Here's a list of participating restaurant:


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