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Rose’s Fine Food

The B.A.E. The love of your breakfast life: a sandwich with Bacon, Avocado, and Egg. Finished with Detroit salad greens and your choice of grits or potatoes on the side.” That’s one of the mouthwatering entries on the fall menu at Rose’s Fine Food, an itty-bitty, old-timey diner on East Jefferson Avenue in Detroit. Rose’s might not look especially impressive from the outside, but that is part of its allure—that, and the fact that pretty much anyone you meet in Detroit will tell you to check it out.

Rose’s is the dream-child of two cousins, Molly Mitchell and Lucy Carnaghi, Michigan natives who grew up in an extended family where “down-home” cooking was de rigueur. They were peeking in the windows of the vacant diner when the owner’s assistant came by and asked if they wanted to rent the place. “And we were just like, ‘Yeah, we do!’” says Mitchell.

Mitchell and Carnaghi are part of the recent influx of young entrepreneurs who are attracted to Detroit by the opportunity to build a life and a livelihood on their own terms in a culturally rich and ethnically diverse city. “I can’t really see myself living anywhere else,” says Mitchell.

Q. Had you always talked about having a restaurant together?

We had talked about it, but I was very reluctant to start a restaurant. I worked in restaurants for a long time, and it was a lot of work. I wasn’t sure I was ready for that. My cousin—it’s her dream. But when the opportunity to have a diner came up, I was just like, “Yeah! That would be the kind of restaurant I would want.”

Q. So what’s it like—running a restaurant?

It’s so hard! It’s more than just being able to be in the zone and cooking, which is really what I love to do. But it’s been great. It’s been a learning experience, and I get to do it with my cousin, which has been really fun. And luckily people seem to understand what we’re trying to do. We’re committed to paying our staff a living wage, and we buy really expensive ingredients, so it’s a balancing act. But we’re busy, so we’ve been able to sort of make it work.

Q. How do you come up with your recipes?

We come up with recipes through trial and error and by figuring out what we would want to eat. Some of the recipes are family recipes. The pancake recipe is based on pancakes my grandpa used to make for us, and on occasion I use some of my mom’s recipes. And we just try things out. The food we make is really simple. We make broths and rice and potatoes, and we just try to make it taste the best and use the best ingredients.

Q. What’s something you’d like people to know about Detroit?

Despite Detroit having gone through everything it’s gone through, the people who have persevered here are really strong, and the community is really strong. There are people who have a beautiful lifestyle here and grow their own food and make their own lives and make it work. So it’s really a great place.