A long, sleek and gleaming-white marble bar shimmering under candlelight is the first thing one notices when walking into this popular Downtown Flint dining spot. Cork on Saginaw has become known as a place to unwind after a hard day’s work at the office, perhaps to enjoy a glass of fine wine, a craft cocktail or beer. Previously in the catering business, Owner Marjorie Murphy opened the restaurant three years ago, turning an old bank building into a bistro-like eatery while maintaining much of the historic structure’s character. “We chose Downtown Flint because we wanted to be part of the revitalization there,” Marge says.
There are many ways to enjoy a taste at Cork. With an extensive wine list, enthusiasts can have their own little wine-tasting with the help of the Enomatic self-serve dispensing systems. Made in Italy, the dispensers hold eight bottles of wine – four reds and four whites – chilled to the perfect serving temperature. Operating the machine with a refillable cash card, patrons can taste various wines in 1-ounce, 2.5-ounce and 5-ounce pours, Marge explained. If wine isn’t your libation of choice, Cork is also known for excellent, hand-crafted cocktails made by any of their three attentive bartenders. Marge says all the drinks are made using fresh-squeezed juices and they also make their own sour mix. The top-selling Margetini is made with Plymouth Gin, St. Germaine Lillet and fresh grapefruit juice. “We also have an excellent variety of craft beers, domestic, imported and Michigan beers,” boasts Marge, adding that they carry many Michigan-made liquors.
Now, let’s talk about the food, which is prepared by Executive Chef Marge, along with a sous chef and two other cooks. Initially, the Cork menu was very small but Marge kept adding more dishes. “The food menu exploded!” she exclaimed. “Everybody wanted more!” And one can see why. “Everything we make is fresh and homemade,” Marge says, “I use a lot of local products; whatever is in season, we use it.”
Fresh fish and scallop entrees are available every day and if that isn’t enough to tempt your taste buds, there are many more unique and delightful dishes on the menu. A customer favorite is the Filet of Beef house-trimmed tenderloin dusted with a coffee-spice rub before grilling, topped with a rum-shallot sauce, and served with a potato gratin and fresh vegetable. The Butchers Ragu is a slow-simmered meat sauce served over fusilli noodles and sprinkled with Parmigiano Reggiano. Shrimp Provençale combines grilled jumbo shrimp with a sauce of white wine, olives, capers, garlic, tomato, artichoke and fresh herbs served over spaghetti. Other favorites include seasonal lasagna, Lobster Grilled Cheese and Lobster Mac & Cheese. The soups are house made fresh daily. French Onion is popular in the winter and in the fall, Butternut Squash Soup is a favorite. On the summer menu, you’ll find a refreshingly cool Gazpacho made with sweet peppers, cucumbers, red onion, fresh garlic and fresh tomatoes. “It’s really good,” Marge smiles. As for lighter fare, there’s a variety of satisfying salads, including a Tuscan Bread Salad made with mixed greens, olives, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano and pine nuts tossed with torn grilled country bread. Appetizers include Hot Crab Dip, Pomme Frites which are hand-cut fries or sweet potato fries served with house made ketchup and garlic aioli; Goat Cheese Bruschetta and Calamari, among several other specialties.
A private wine room located on the restaurant’s second floor can be reserved for catered special events, accommodating up to 30 guests. Marge invites everyone to stop by and enjoy a meal or a glass of fine wine. And if while tasting the wine you find one that you love, Cork is also a retail wine shop, priced competitively with other wine shops in their area. Popular in the summertime and perfect for people-watching is a charming sidewalk seating area surrounded by a wrought iron fence and flower boxes. And with the multitude of festivities coming up in Downtown Flint this summer, Cork should be on your list of places to pop into for a sip and a bite!
PHOTOS BY MIKE NADDEO