When one thinks of a bustling city center, the mind’s eye goes to skyscrapers, rush hour traffic, and unique restaurant offerings. The Book Tower, Fisher Building, and surrounding local traffic now have the third element, thanks to a Broad College of Business alum.

George Azar

Azar’s connection to Detroit and passion for the culinary experiences empowered him to start something special in the city [photo credit: HOUR].

George Azar graduated from Broad’s School of Hospitality Business in 2014, and in just a short time has grabbed national headlines as an innovative restaurateur in Detroit, and for putting a new face on a Detroit dining landmark.

Azar converted a southwest Detroit Coney Island diner into Flowers of Vietnam, a fusion restaurant unlike any other in the city. Today, it is known in the top three best new restaurants, as noted by the Detroit Free Press.

While cities like Chicago and New York boast thousands of dining options for its millions of visitors, Detroit has slimmer offerings. With the city’s resurgence in full-force, Azar took advantage of an opportunity to create and do something special. He launched Flowers first by offering weekly pop-up supper clubs diner, staffing the kitchen with people who had no previous restaurant experience. He then offered the events more frequently, obtained a liquor license, and now has the attention of national foodies.

The cultural mash-up and unique menu attracted the likes of GQ to taste test Azar’s creation. “The entirety of what the charismatic chef George Azar has created here feels just as much like a happy blend of improvisation and accident: the son of Palestinian immigrants cooking Vietnamese food in a Greek diner in Mexicantown,” said GQ’s Brett Martin.

A salad is being made.

Flowers of Vietnam offers Azar’s twist on Vietnamese dishes [photo credit: HOUR]

Azar says his inspiration came from a lack of solid Vietnamese food in the heart of the city, leaving him to create his own dishes. Today, these dishes comprise Flowers’ menu (with added unique embellishments). Flowers maintains Coney’s blue-collar ambiance, which Azar purposefully kept. “The reason why I’m keeping it the Coney too, is because it’s genuine to how Flowers started,” states Azar.

The Vietnamese hit opened in early 2016, and recently underwent renovations to include a bar, live-plant ceiling, and a private dining room. Azar will soon opening Flowers’ sister location at the downtown NFL stadium, Ford Field.

“To be in a stadium in the city where I’m from, that’s definitely special,” Azar said.

Azar will continue making an impact in the city of Detroit by putting a spotlight on culinary experiences the city has to offer. He was Anthony Bourdain’s guide during 10 days of shooting a CNN series “Parts Unkown,” Flowers was named one of GQ’s “Best New Restaurants,” and Azar was also named to Zagat’s first-ever national class of “30 Under 30 Rock Stars Redefining the Industry.”