“Let’s be better” was Nicole Ryan’s mantra for opening a restaurant on a five-acre parcel in Sylvan Lake. She wanted to “take care of this piece of land and not add to the mess we have made to our planet.”
With this inspiration in mind, Nicole and her partner Tim Ryan set about transforming an aging 300-year-old barn into a working restaurant, and its grounds into a farm to supply Sylvan Table with locally-grown fresh produce.
With the help of Don Polaski, owner of Antique Barn Company, Nicole and Tim worked to save the old barn and repurpose it. The Ryan’s brought their own construction expertise to the table, as the pair’s other business, Ryan Construction, builds restaurants. The location was perfect, says Nicole. “We have always loved Sylvan Lake. It is so charming. And then there is the factor that there are not too many restaurants in this area. We always would head to Birmingham, Detroit, Royal Oak, etc. for dinner. We were excited to have a place right around the corner that was exactly what we wanted in a restaurant.”
As for the restaurant’s farm, Nicole has always been a gardener. Her interest in permaculture, or growing in a sustainable, self-sufficient manner, is reflected in the crops grown at Sylvan Table. “This coming season, we are basing our production on what our greatest produce uses were last spring, summer, and fall,” notes Nicole. “Of course, not everything can be grown here, but the plan is to grow all our herbs, greens, flowers, and many of our vegetables right here on the farm. In addition, we plan on planting some specialty produce that we will gear to event dinners. For example, we plan on celebrating garlic this year with a garlic festival.”
The menu is a collaboration between Nicole and Executive Chef Chris Galdulka. Nicole finds inspiration from her Italian American family. “Italians let ingredients speak for themselves, using produce at its peak. Chef Chris is French-trained, which is very different. We spend lots of time throwing around ideas and tweaking them. Our menu changes about every two weeks or so. What comes in from our farm and other partner farms dictate the path our menu takes.”
Whole grilled trout and chicken under a brick are guest favorites at Sylvan Table. “They have been on the menu since day one. Both are how I cook them at home, so I am a bit partial,” muses Nicole.
At Sylvan Table, guests can expect a friendly welcome and a relaxed, natural, and cozy atmosphere. Says Nicole, “We have three different dining areas, all very unique.” Fresh flowers and candles accent the tables, with flowers changing with the seasons. Signature cocktails, such as the Buzz Thyme, and desserts such as apple crisp with cardamom hazelnut streusel and fennel seed ice cream round out the menu.
For locals looking to enjoy a unique dining experience, Sylvan Table has a seat for you.
1819 Inverness St
Sylvan Lake, MI