Detroit Zoo to add signature restaurant

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published August 14, 2017

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ROYAL OAK — The Detroit Zoo will be adding another attraction to its repertoire next year, only this time, it does not exactly belong with the other animals.

Buddy’s Pizza announced that it will be opening a 4,434-square-foot restaurant inside the Detroit Zoo next spring. The restaurant will be located just west of the Ford Education Center, will seat 155 guests — 80 indoors and 75 on an outdoor patio and rooftop deck — and will offer a view of Rackham Fountain.

“We thought it was a great idea. It’s right in our backyard,” said Wesley Pikula, Buddy’s Pizza vice president of operations. “We’re very excited being involved with the zoo, because the zoo is amazing and the work that they do.”

Pikula said the fit was natural, as the pizzeria already collaborates with the zoo on community outreach programs and ticket discount programs.

“Buddy’s has been a partner with the zoo for the past five years,” he said. “So it was kind of a normal and natural extension of that relationship.”

Buddy’s will be serving the restaurant’s existing “Detroit Zoo” pizza — a pie topped with its Motor City cheese blend, roasted tomatoes, fresh basil, pine nuts and tomato-basil sauce — along with its original square pizzas, pizza by the slice, gluten-free pizza, antipasto salad and cold beverages.

Pikula said Buddy’s looks forward to giving its existing customers and zoo patrons a unique way to dine. He said the Detroit Zoo site will be the first Buddy’s location within an attraction. Zoo officials said it will join two other popular Detroit food traditions — American Coney Island and Detroit Popcorn — that are already open at the Royal Oak attraction.

“The Detroit Zoo and Buddy’s Pizza are two southeast Michigan icons that have been serving families in the community for decades,” Ron Kagan, executive director and CEO for the Detroit Zoological Society, said in a statement. “We’re excited to add this exceptional product to our dining options.”

Zoo officials said the new Buddy’s will be built according to Green Restaurant Association standards, incorporating eco-friendly practices related to water and energy efficiency; waste reduction and recycling; and sustainable furnishings and building materials.

Buddy’s will join the Zoo’s Arctic Café as a GRA-certified restaurant.

Recent Greenprint efforts at the zoo include discontinuing the sale of bottled water on Detroit Zoo grounds, which keeps 60,000 plastic bottles out of the waste stream annually; powering zoo operations with 100 percent renewable electricity from wind farms; building an anaerobic digester that annually converts 400 tons of animal manure into methane-rich gas to power the zoo’s animal hospital; and hosting GreenFest each year.

Detroit Zoo officials said the Royal Oak venue is one of Michigan’s largest paid family attractions, hosting more than 1.6 million visitors annually. Its 125 acres of award-winning naturalistic habitats are home to 2,000 animals representing 240 species.

“We’re going to work hard to make sure that the restaurant is run at the highest level and the pizza is where it needs to be, and we’re probably going to grab some pans from Six Mile to make sure it has the authentic taste,” Pikula said, referring to the original Buddy’s location at Six Mile Road and Conant Street in Detroit.

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