“LOANS.” A prominent red sign hanging above points me toward my destination, a building with matching cardinal letters — PAWNBROKER — down its white brick, second-story exterior. On the contrasting black facade below, metallic letters along the length of the establishment proudly display its name — GOLD CASH GOLD.

It seems I’m going to enter a shop where I can score some money for an old possession — but I’m not.

I’m going to eat.

On a rainy Wednesday evening, the simple, two-room space is slowly filling up. A clan of 20-somethings shares an appetizer and a few rounds of drinks as they laugh about the weekend spent together prior. A group of professional ladies remove their work badges, sip cocktails, and catch up about each other’s lives in the corner, while a married couple trying out the popular Corktown restaurant for the first time dines next to me and inquires about menu items. Running along the length of one wall are three wooden shelves stacked with glass jars of peppers and vegetables. Opposite, a stained-glass window composed of royal blue, teal, tangerine, and crimson, which is identical to the entryway, welcomes guests. Creating a relaxed atmosphere are delicate globes overhead giving off a dim luminescence, along with tea light candles on each table.

Seemingly, there is something else on each table: Golden Potatoes — fried plantains, sweet and gold potatoes topped with queso fresco and Peruvian chili. I lean toward the man to my left and inquire about the appetizer.

“They’re flipping unbelievable,” my neighbor answers. He pairs them with the pickle-brined Half Chicken Two Ways — a Gold Cash Gold staple and something he recommends, even though he “never orders chicken out.”

I decide on those items, and after glancing through the drink and dinner menus, I add the Morning Star — a pisco and grapefruit cocktail — and the Peruvian chili-rubbed Butcher’s Steak with creamed parsley and spinach.

“As a Midwesterner, I appreciate eating things that make me feel fed,” says head chef Brenden Edwards, “things that make me feel good and loved.”

With Michigan roots and this idea of homestyle cooking as his basis, Edwards has transformed the menu since taking on the position in October 2016.

“You end up cooking things that are directly related to you and your story,” he says. Having practiced in Mexico and Japan, the vagabond side of Edwards’ tale adds a foreign flare to the cuisine.

While some items may be unfamiliar or intimidating, the brief but eclectic menu offers guests the option of a fine-dining or casual experience.

“You define what the meal is like,” says general manager Brett Parker Adams. Whether it’s a burger and a beer or a four-course dinner, the versatility caters to each diner.

Although the menu is continually evolving based on seasonal preferences in addition to individual dishes being tweaked every few weeks, the mission remains the same.

“We want to be part of a community that we all kind of live and play in and work and love,” says owner Phil Cooley.

This rings true throughout the environmentally conscious restaurant, where they locally source food from a farm in north Corktown, use reclaimed materials like pine benches from Architectural Salvage Warehouse Detroit, and give back by working with such organizations as the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy.

 

This goal was rooted 12 years ago when Cooley, passionate about Detroit and its restaurant scene, was working on opening Slows BBQ. His welding rig was stolen and pawned down the block — at Gold Cash Gold.

“Something we very specifically wanted to do was make that community safer by having people there, so we bought the building,” Cooley says.

“Even if it wasn’t stolen goods there, it was heartbreak and sadness. We knew if we opened that building for a positive purpose that it would have a positive impact on the community and be a safe place, versus kind of what it was, which was a menacing place in our neighborhood.”

With a bit of restoration and the decision to keep its original name as an homage to the Corktown historical marker, the old, money-for-goods establishment was transformed into the simple and sophisticated eatery it is today.

Sitting on a recycled bench, I finish my supper and indulge in dessert — the Mezcal Chocolate Bar, decorated with dollops of tart pineapple purée and toasted marshmallow topped with chili caramel corn — an unexpected combination of flavor to perfectly sum up my experience.

With menu items invariably changing every month, even those who frequent this community-conscious locale discover small tweaks and new dishes to the menu almost every visit, but no matter the changes, customers always seem to leave Gold Cash Gold feeling “good and loved.”