A year after its opening, the Village Café & Pub is doing an energetic business in the hub of Flat Rock. It boasts a “wine bar,” but only in the strictest sense: if you want good wine (or craft beer or local cider), there are lots of choices. But the huffy ambience that laces the notion of “wine bar” is utterly absent here. That’s because the restaurant is also a sports bar, at least in small part (meaning a few flat-screen TVs flicker in the background, turned to various games).
So there’s a little something for everyone. But really, the main reasons to go are A) the thick, clever, inexpensive sandwiches; and B) the laidback service. High-concept cafés are seemingly everywhere — but not here. Sometimes it’s nice to relax in a place that isn’t tunneling itself into an overwrought niche.
The restaurant is sited in the former Dean’s Market & Deli, a Flat Rock institution for more than 20 years. Dustin Zlacki, who transformed the place with his wife Shannon, said they had “many conversations” with old and new customers this past winter and spring. Their business was still the new kid on the block, and they were trying to overcome some natural resistance to change.
“We wanted it to be a very comfortable atmosphere, and a lot of people wanted something like this here. I thought we would fill a void,” says Zlacki, although he adds, “a lot of work is still ahead of us to really get this business to where we want it.”
The Zlackis are still building their dinner crowd, staging live music on Saturdays. As far as lunch, he says, “we feel we have some of the best sandwiches in the area. Shannon has done an awesome job putting the menu together. She has been pretty creative, tweaking and fine-tuning the menu.”
Classic deli favorites such as a Tuna Melt, a hugely popular BL&T, and a Reuben are offered alongside the latter sandwich’s cousin “The Rachel” (which substitutes grilled turkey for pastrami, and is also offered in salad form). “The Playhouse” is particularly inventive: It’s turkey and provolone with horseradish, onions, and a signature topping: marinated cucumbers. This one seems to be a house favorite, pulling down quite a few many-starred reviews on Yelp.
“Dinner will take some time to really establish, but we do have many evening regulars, and they’re great and supportive. They all have our backs and are pulling for us, and that means so much,” says Zlacki.
While some locals are still adapting to the space’s new incarnation, the owner muses on the industry’s one constant.
“You’re always learning what people want and what works,” says Zlacki. “That will never change.”