Matt Overdevest grew up in the central valley of California, an area abundant with agriculture, so maybe it’s not a surprise that he pursued a career as a chef.
With 23 years in the restaurant industry, the last 10 as a private chef in a Grand Rapids kitchen, Overdevest decided to take the leap to restaurant owner after being presented with an opportunity he said he couldn’t pass up.
He recently opened Marcona on Lyon, at 623 Lyon Street NE, a Mediterranean inspired restaurant.
Overdevest credits his childhood in Bakersfield, California with introducing him to Mediterranean-influenced dishes. “I spent a lot of time on the central coast of California, which has a lot of Mediterranean influence from various cultures,” he said. “I gravitate toward Mediterranean cooking when I cook, because I like that flavor profile. When I say Mediterranean, we focus on all the countries that touch the Mediterranean.”
Included in that Mediterranean round up are Middle Eastern, South European and North African countries.
He said the flavor profile and the variety of Mediterranean dishes are what he enjoys the most. From the variety of peppers available, such as Spanish chilis to the Syrian Aleppo chili, to the liberal use of mint, dill, thyme, parsley, chives and oregano, Overdevest said dishes taste fresh and are healthy by default.
“What I like about Mediterranean food is it’s healthy without trying to be healthy,” he said. “It’s super easy to make delicious food, in this case, although we are not, it’s highly vegetable based, which is a big thing for me. I like vegetables a lot.”
Marcona does offer several vegan and vegetarian dishes. “Our mezze menu, there is only one dish with shrimp, the rest are vegetarian or vegan. Our skewers, on the other hand, are primarily meat, although we do have two that are veggie based, one is vegan and one is vegetarian.”
Marcona’s menu includes a mixture of small plates, known as mezzes, and large plates as well as a selection of skewers, soups and salads.
Overdevest said the idea is that a group of people might make a meal of the small plates or they might share a round of small plates followed by orders of entrees.
On the dinner menu, mezzes include chickpea hummus, smoky eggplant spread, charred beets and roasted feta in grape leaves. Its entrees include dishes like crispy garlic chicken, which comes with roast carrots and braised black kale, Hanger Steak, Turkish Roasted Vegetable Salad and Honey Lavender Branzino.
The restaurant has wine and cocktail lists that are also inspired by the Mediterranean. Bar manager Nickolas Mathew Peter said to expect cocktails with fresh mint, herbaceous flavors and Amari, an Italian bitter liqueur. You’ll also find sweet and dry vermouths and several gin-based drinks on the cocktail menu.
While you sip your Mediterranean cocktail, take time to look around the restaurant’s interior, which was carefully designed to create a “lived in comfort” of a neighborhood restaurant.
Overdevest said the inspiration for the restaurant’s interior was 1940s Art Deco travel posters. The restaurant is painted in muted colors with booths and chairs to match. Its most vibrant feature is the Moroccan style tile that lines the floor and catches guests’ eyes.
“I wanted materials that are going to get patina over time,” he said.
Overdevest said the tile and the marble for the bar were chosen specifically because they will age over time. While the building is new construction, its front includes tin salvaged from one of the buildings on the block that was torn down to make way for the new development.
“The tin on the front of the building is salvaged from another building that was here,” he said. “It’s the inspiration for the way the building looks.”
The design is well suited for the restaurant’s location and small size—it seats 46. Sitting in the heart of the Midtown neighborhood just down the block from Martha’s Vineyard, Overdevest said this is a neighborhood restaurant. Dinners can even sit at a counter overlooking the kitchen.
“We wanted to hit that mix of being neighborhood friendly, but also attracting guests from outside of the neighborhood as well,” he said.
Marcona is open for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The restaurant does not take reservations.