Library program to explore history of once-thriving restaurants

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published September 27, 2017

TROY — Author Paul Vachon will talk about Detroit history when he presents a program based on his book, “Lost Restaurants of Detroit,” at the Troy Public Library 7-8:30 p.m. Oct. 3. 

The book is published by The History Press, part of Arcadia Publishing. 

Vachon will also talk about another one of his books, “Forgotten Detroit,” which he said seems to resonate with readers. It explores places such as the gate at the now-closed Water Works Park, located across from Pewabic Pottery on Jefferson Avenue in Detroit — the gate is named after Detroit Water Commissioner Chauncey Hurlbut. He’ll also talk about Ste. Anne de Detroit Catholic Church in southwest Detroit, the second-oldest Catholic congregation with continuous records in the U.S., and how Detroit was the city the U.S. selected to vie to host the 1968 Olympics — Mexico City won. 

Vachon will talk about historical restaurants, of which there are fewer and fewer still operating. 

“After I wrote the book, the Roma Café has since closed,” he said. 

“I love restaurants,” said Troy Public Library Adult Services Librarian Anna Barlow, who coordinated the program. “I’m a big foodie and curious about what was here before. It’s kind of neat to remember what kind of restaurants they were and how they were frequented. It’s fascinating from a history perspective and fascinating from a social perspective.” 

Vachon said people are most surprised to learn that Detroit’s culinary tradition is more significant than some might realize. 

“The London Chop House (on Congress Street in Detroit) was originally thought to be the only high-class restaurant between New York City and Chicago,” he said. 

Vachon said his program will examine how the restaurants were venues for history. 

He will talk about the Machus Red Fox restaurant on Telegraph Road in Bloomfield Township, now the site of a different restaurant, where former Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa was last seen alive in 1975; and the Caucus Club Detroit, in the Penobscot Building on Congress Street in Detroit, where an 18-year-old Barbra Streisand performed. 

“It was her first public performance outside New York City,” he said. 

Vachon explained that Streisand got the call to perform on “The “Tonight Show,” with Jack Paar, while she was performing at the restaurant. She then flew from Detroit to New York City, taking her first-ever plane ride. 

Vachon will sign his books after the program, but the books will not be available for purchase at the library. He said they are available at Barnes & Noble retail stores, online and at the Detroit Shoppe at Somerset Collection. 

Registration for the program at the library is required. Call (248) 524-3534 or visit www.troypl.org. The library is located at 510 W. Big Beaver Road.