Food & Drink

Gallery: New wine bar in Southwest Detroit historic firehouse bills itself as 'fun and not fussy'

March 04, 2022, 7:15 AM by  Alan Stamm

Glazed brick walls date back to the building's 1910 construction. Ten more photos are below. (Photos: Ladder 4 Wine Bar)

A historic building used by Ladder Company 4 of the Detroit Fire Department until 2000 is reborn as Ladder 4 Wine Bar, a stylishly renovated gathering spot, event space and wine shop.

Managing partner and wine director James Cadariu bought the 1910 firehouse on Vinewood Street from the city in 2015 with his brother. They began renovating it three years ago, hosted small parties and a political fundraiser there last year, had a soft opening in mid-December and a public launch four weeks ago.


Preview event in December (Photo: Claude Molinari)

"We explore the complexity and culture of wine and the stories of the people who produce it in service of our mission to educate," the pair say at their website. "We are fun and not fussy."

The newcomer features natural wines (produced without pesticides, herbicides or additives) from France, Italy, Spain and occasionally elsewehere, including Romania, Serbia and Hungary -- the owners' ancestral region. It's open three days a week for now, with expanded hours planned by summer. The retail shop, open five days, currently has 320 choices.  

Plans include live music and food eventually. "It’s a wine bar, but we’ve got 10 burners, three ovens, grill and griddle and a spare double plancha," Cadariu, a lawyer, posts on Instagram.

For starters, a sold-out Hungarian wine dinner takes place Sunday night with five wine and a "family-style feast of traditional regional dishes."  

The spacious Southwest Detroit site has seating for 300 on two floors. The cavernous main room where firetrucks parked has a long bar with an espresso machine, booths, a banquette and the adjacent wine store. There's also a tasting room and an outside patio on each level, plus a lounge-like area upstairs.

"It's hard to turn a building from 1910 into a completely different use," Cadariu told wine and beverage writrer Matthew Kuhr of East Lansing last summer for a Substack newsletter.

"But it sure is fun blasting out masonry to turn a window into a door. I didn't know you could do that.

"We also had the impeccable timing of starting to build out just before the pandemic. I am truly having the time of my life seeing it come together. Aesthetics are critical. I want to celebrate the splendor that is Detroit. ...

"I'm always a fan of keeping the integrity of the building, and in this case adding enough design to know that it's a wine-oriented bar. We have original details galore from the glazed brick to the coffered oak ceiling."

Vintage ceiling and modern fixture in the tasting room

The decor by Anahi Hollis Design of downtown Detroit mixes vintage-style lights with modern fixtures. There's lots of wood, exposed pipes and a display-only brass fire pole between the levels.

A Ferndale firm, Five - Eighths, handled the architectural work and served as general contractor. 

In his 2021 interview with Kuhr, Cadariu said the brothers "will take it slow with food. You can expect experience-based dining like a giant cauldron of goulash or a roasting lamb."

Fourteen-foot table with a chevron pattern uses pine planks reclaimed from a sub-roof layer. "Who doesn't want to drink wine in this room?" a co-owner posts.

Plan a visit:

  • Where: 3396 Vinewood St., off West Grand Boulevard near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (map)

  • Parking: Street spaces on Vinewood

  • Hours: Bar, 4-10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday | Shop, 1-7 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday; 1-10 p.m., Thursday-Saturday

  • Health safety: Mask and vaccination proof required

  • Retail offerings: 321 varieties listed here with prices

  • Phone: (313) 638-1601


Photos from business:

Before and after views of the building designed by Detroit architects Alpheus Chittenden and Charles Koitting.

The 300-bottle retail shop is open from Tuesday through Saturday.

Tasting room gets finishing touches recently.

"This formerly grubby rooftop is taking shape as a fabulous place to gather for a glass of wine."
"Our tasting group theme was Rhône wines. but no chateauneufydoofypoofy."

TikTok video

Two Detroit sisters posted this after a preview visit:

@girlsgonehungry Detroit’s newest wine bar, Ladder 4 is opening soon. Add it to your “must visit” list! #detroitfoodie #detroit #winebar #foodiesoftiktok ♬ original sound - To₿ee Maguire


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