Small Plates Opens in Syracuse, NY

 It's all about sharing your food at this new business in Syracuse. Small Plates of Detroit has transformed the former PJ Dorsey's Pub and Grill on Walton Street.

The new place is based off a restaurant in Detroit, hence the name. It can hold more than 200 diners and features graffiti artwork by a Detroit artist on some of the walls.

It's easy to see what makes them different from most restaurants.

"The thing about small plates is how they serve the food. Everything is done in a communal or sharable fashion. People who come in are recommended to get two to three things each. The menu ranges between $7 to $17," said Adam Eagan, Small Plates Detroit General Manager.

Small Plates Detroit is open seven days a week. They open at 11:30 a.m. every day and stay open until midnight on the weekends.

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New Syracuse, NY Location to Open

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The space is large. The plates are "small."

The ambition: It could be huge.

This is Small Plates, the new dining spot now under construction in what had been PJ's Pub & Grill on Walton Street in Armory Square. (It's the space at 116 Walton St., the largest dining venue in the square, that many people still think of as PJ Dorsey's).

Small Plates is an import from Detroit, but it has Syracuse-based owners who hope to take it national. The Syracuse restaurant is expected to open in the first week of September.

"We're not looking at a pub on the corner," said Todd Wenzel, who is bringing Small Plates to Armory Square. "We're looking at something that we can scale up. We want to grow a business out of this concept."

Just don't call the concept tapas, he said. In a typical Spanish-style tapas bar, you take one small dish at a time to go along with your drinks.

Small Plates is more communal style-dining, Wenzel said. The dishes will seem familiar - pork tenderloins, pretzel sliders, veggie spring rolls, fish tacos - even chicken and waffles - plus assorted pizzas. (The pizzas are "Detroit" style, which Wenzel describes as having wet dough and a thicker crust than New York style.)

"You get your dishes, which are regular-size, not small plates, and you take what you want and put that on the small plate in front of you - that's where the small plate comes from," Wenzel said. "It's about sharing dishes with friends, sharing the food, having that experience."

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Adam Eagan, General Manager

Adam Eagan, General Manager

Ambassador Magazine Party

Anywhere from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. millions of Americans gather around tables for one purpose; dinner. This singular event is the great American tradition that connects us all. Small Plates Restaurant in downtown Detroit understands that dinner means more than just food.


Eating dinner with family and friends is about making conversation, creating memories and cementing bonds. What better way to enjoy your dining experience than sharing your food with loved ones? Small Plates new owners, Syracuse natives Todd Wenzel and Patrick Danial, envisioned a “communal dining experience” located in the heart of downtown Detroit that would provide diners with the perfect bonding opportunity. Much like tapas in Spain or dim sum in China, Small Plates offers an array of communal-inspired dishes for patrons to sample.

Small Plates originally opened in 2002 and fought to survive downtown’s recovery efforts, leading to its eventual close. New owners, Wenzel and Daniel reopened on Opening Day 2011 with one goal in mind: to celebrate Detroit by revitalizing Small Plate’s food and drink menu, as well as breathing new life into its décor and friendly atmosphere. They have accomplished just that. “The story of Detroit and the story of Small Plate’s renovation are kind of running parallel paths. It’s like a microcosm of Detroit in the sense that it was once great, fell on hard times and is now having a rebirth,” explains Wenzel. Ambassador Magazine and Small Plates partnered to host a spectacular dinner party for roughly 20 guests to show off the remarkable changes they had made.


With its youthful makeover, Ambassador found Small Plates provides the perfect atmosphere to host an evening of conversation among metro Detroit’s most modern and influential residents. Upon arrival, you will immediately be struck by the expansive windows that line the front of the restaurant. The sleek black walls are covered by fresh, urban graffiti provided by local artist Shades. Additionally, Motor City Denim also provided the booths for this intimate and relaxed space, adding an even deeper Detroit Rock City feel to the already hip atmosphere. Upon second glance, it is also obvious and refreshing to see that the bar has been tremendously extended offering more room for guests to mingle and socialize without feeling too cramped.

Aside from an interior facelift, Chef D. Cuisine William B. Hollie offers an innovative, modern take on Asian, Italian and American classics, all condensed for every member of the table to share. Wenzel says of the new menu, “We wanted to return to the original concept of Small Plates, which was communal dining in the form of small sharable plates.” To ensure that the new Small Plates was a success, Wenzel and Daniel turned over the day-to-day affairs to Operations Manager, Theo Oresky, who brims with confidence and uses controlled energy to keep diners enthused and pleased. Oresky’s philosophy is simple, “Casual atmosphere doesn’t always have to equate to casual cuisine. The interior décor and the pricing may be casual but the intensity and flavor profile of the cuisine is far superior. Our new menu is an homage to the diverse population and culture of Detroit.”

The dinner party menu was a complete reflection of Small Plate’s efforts to revitalize its image. Guests began the evening with appetizers of crisp veggie spring rolls in a sweet chili soy reduction, crab cakes and angus beef pretzel sliders topped with white cheddar and smoked Applewood bacon. These delectable appetizers were followed by a salad course consisting of a Pan Asian seared Sesame Ahi Tuna salad drizzled with Yuzu Vinaigrette dressing. The main course was composed of shared dishes of blackened lamb chops with mushrooms and pan seared sea scallops. Each dish was meticulously paired with the perfect glass of wine, such as Chateau, Grand Traverse “Whole Cluster” Riesling or Austin Hope’s “Troublemaker” from Paso Robles, California. to complement each eclectic flavor. Small Plate’s renaissance was remarkably apparent to guests and did not disappoint.


With such an inviting and friendly atmosphere, it is easy to get lost in conversation at Small Plates and soon the guests found themselves discussing the city of Detroit, its rebirth, as well as the food. The consensus of the group was that Detroit is a global leader of fashion and resolve, as well as a place of industrial growth and opportunity. Small Plates represented an opportunity no only for the new owners, but for Mark and Lynne D’Andreta. Mark owns Motor City Denim Co., which manufactures and designs denim and leather apparel and also played a significant role in the redesign of Small Plates. Mark happily stated, “It was neat hearing everyone’s Detroit stories. I love the city’s spirit. I love that the town is on the edge of resurgence. The food was amazing. I especially enjoyed the sliders and the new bar space was great and livened up the resturant. It was easy to communicate with others and I was exposed to some new wines that I wasn’t previously familiar with.”

Alison Kriger, a tort reform lawyer at Goodman Kalahar who was born and raised in Detroit, also enjoyed the opportunity to meet people from different industries within the city. “I am extremely loyal to the city of Detroit and it is exciting to see all the development and rebirth going on in the city in the last year and a half. It is important for young people to stay and support the city and I am honored and excited to be a part of it,” she beams. In addition, “the white wine sangria was to die for and I am definitely coming back to Small Plates.”

The incentives are impressive, but the bonus to the city of Detroit is the incredibly array of architectural wonders that add to its vibrant social scene. “Detroit is awesome,” said Nicole Muster, a photographer who lives in the recently renovated lofts in Corktown. She went on to explain, “I love everything about the city. I love knowing everybody here. The community is unlike anything I’ve experienced anywhere else.” While the architecture, vibrant social scene and affordable housing are all clearly draws of the city, nearly all in attendance proudly played the loyalty card. It mattered not that they may have not be actual residents within the city boundaries.

“I’ve lived in New York and Chicago,” said Kate Williams, who grew up in Howell, and is in the process of opening a restaurant of her own in Detroit after spending several years in the kitchens of restaurants and homes. She decided to return home to make her mark here in Detroit. “I couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d want to do it,” she said. “Everyone here is so nice. Everything here is so exciting right now. I’m thrilled to be involved in the renaissance of Detroit.”


Private citizens are not the only ones who are moving back into the city. Large corporations such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Chrysler, Henry Ford Hospitals and Quicken Loans are just a few who have moved their headquarters to downtown Detroit bringing with them over 6,000 new jobs and roughly $5 million in economic stimulus to the city. In addition, these companies are offering attractive incentives to employees to move to and stay in Detroit. And with restaurants like Small Plates around, why wouldn’t they want to stay?

Michael Strong
Ambassador Magazine

Core Detroit: Best Brunch Spots

A hop, skip and a jump from Comerica Park, Small Plates is a perfect spot to grab brunch before a Tigers game. The menu is a delightful blend of breakfast and lunch options like the warm house-made sticky bun, blueberry pancakes and crab cakes benedict. There are favorites from Small Plates’ regular menu too –– don’t miss the fried green tomatoes with spicy remoulade, or the pretzel sliders topped with grilled onions, white cheddar and applewood smoked bacon. Plates are made for sharing, so order two or three items per person in your party (if you’re not sure ask your server, they make excellent recommendations).

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Core Detroit: #1 Renovation in Detroit

Our Shiny new Sign

Our Shiny new Sign

Small Plates has been a fixture in the city for a decade, but it was in danger of closing its doors forever after a 2011 bankruptcy. Co-owners Todd Wenzel and Patrick Danial renovated Small Plates this year in just 17 days, replacing nearly everything in the restaurant. They relaunched on April 5, Tigers Opening Day, with an updated menu featuring tapas-sized portions of fried green tomatoes, pretzel sliders and mini coney dogs. A hop, skip and a jump from Comerica Park, Small Plates is bustling on game days. But you can enjoy its soon-to-be-famous sangria any day of the week.

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Hour Detroit: Mac & Cheese Feature

Mac & Four Cheese Gratin

Mac & Four Cheese Gratin

What may be a record number of cheeses — four — goes into the black skillets of mac and cheese at the new Small Plates Detroit near the Detroit Opera House and Comerica Park. They include Gouda, pepper Jack, white cheddar, and Parmesan, along with cavatelli shells, heavy cream, and breadcrumbs — all baked in the Wood Stone brand pizza oven. “In Detroit, you have to have a great mac and cheese,” says Small Plates General Manager Theo Oresky, who helped put together the menu with proprietor Todd Wenzel. “It’s part of our culture.”

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Detroit Free Press: Five Questions with Todd Wenzel

When Small Plates opened in late 2002, it was a unique concept in a downtown Detroit whose revitalization was under way but by no means as far along as it is now. Across the street, the Detroit Opera House had been renovated a few years earlier. The Tigers had relocated just blocks away in 2000, and the Lions had just moved to Ford Field for the 2002 NFL season. It wasn't easy, but the tapas-focused restaurant managed to survive -- for a while.

Now under new ownership after a 2011 bankruptcy, Small Plates is looking to return to its roots.

"Having a year to get this deal done allowed us to watch the old regime run the restaurant and taste all the food, and we are light-years ahead of where they were with our concept and with our food," says new co-owner Todd Wenzel.

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After5Detroit: Featured Place

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

The best part of sharing, is that you get to order and try several different dishes.  So we chose the Duck & Pork Empanadas to start.  The combination of fresh empanada dough and the pork cooked to perfection after being prepared in their on-location smoker, paired with the spicy tomato Zinfandel reduction, was certainly a palate pleaser.

However, if I could recommend one dish to you, it would be the Seared Sesame Ahi Tuna. The perfectly sized slices of the tuna are complimented with the light crunchiness of the sesame seeds, served alongside a spicy and sweet mango and avocado salad. The tuna is topped with drizzles of wasabi aioli and miso vinaigrette that creates a sweet and tangy combination that makes this my top pick from the Small Plates’ menu.

And of course, a dinner is not complete until dessert has been devoured…and devoured it was. From Bumpy Cake to Crème Brulee, you can pick and choose to your liking, but it was the beautifully presented Key Lime Pie that left my sweet tooth satisfied. The rich key lime custard is set on a thin cracker crust and topped with a Vernors’ Ginger Ale caramel sauce. Is there a better way to use Michigan’s favorite drink then on top of pie in a caramel sauce?  I think not.

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Metromix: Small Plates Grand Opening

Enjoying the Big Day w/ New Friends

Enjoying the Big Day w/ New Friends

The concept is this - provide simple, yet eclectic food, while offering guests a diverse menu. Similar to the Spanish Tapas (where patrons taste and share a variety of little snacks), Small Plates derives its name from the communal nature of the dishes offered. Sure, you could order the Pan-Seared Sea Scallops (served with fingerling potato, roasted shallot, pecorino cheese, arugula salad, finished with truffle oil vinaigrette), or the Lettuce Wraps (Thai chicken served with Bibb lettuce and spicy ponzu sauce) as an entree for yourself, but wouldn't it be more fun to get both and share them with your friends? Of course it would, and thus derives the Small Plate concept -- everything is intended to be shared.

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