333. Alie’s Lebanese Grill – June 3, 2018 – Sterling Heights, MI

June2018Alies1 (2)June2018Alies6 (2)June2018Alies5 (2)

You know those heady first days after you discover your latest crush? Well, I’ve been in that giddy state of adoration ever since visiting Alie’s Lebanese Grill of Sterling Heights and discovering how fabulous it is.

Alie’s Lebanese Grill, I like you just as you are! (Cue throwback-reference to Bridget Jones’s Diary, that O.G. of rom-coms with its signature line that Colin Firth’s Mark Darcy bestows upon the titular character. ~SWOON~) Your attractive ambiance, top-notch cuisine, and superior service made you easy to fall for!

A tangential tidbit about Alie’s: it used to be called Ollie’s and was affiliated with two other restaurant locations of the same name, one in Dearborn and one in Dearborn Heights (I visited the Dearborn Ollie’s location for this blog in 2015). A few years ago, the Sterling Heights restaurant broke away from the Dearborn and Dearborn Heights locations to become its own entity and was renamed Alie’s.

It’s an impressive entity. Glossy and well-kept, with an ivy-covered exterior, ornate chandeliers, and beautiful stonework, Alie’s is an aesthetically pleasing setting.

Its menu is extensive, loaded with fresh juices, appetizers, salads, soups, sandwiches, and a plethora of entrees both of the meat-centric and vegetarian varieties – plus a Family Feast Combos section where groups can choose from various smorgasbord selections of classic Lebanese dishes.

Perusing this well-curated menu, I zeroed in on my Mediterranean staple, Chicken Lemon Oregano, which I can never seem to pass up because I love it so. The entrée came with the option of a side soup or salad. I ordered the Fattoush Salad, which turned out to be an excellent choice.

This salad had me raving; it was the best Fattoush Salad I’ve ever had. Its ingredients were so obviously fresh: the romaine lettuce and cucumbers were crisp, the tomatoes well-ripened, the pita chips perfectly crunchy, the dressing zesty.

This side salad was so filling, it could have easily been my meal – especially considering that it was accompanied by complimentary fresh-baked pita rounds and garlic sauce (which quite possibly constitute the premier carb-and-dip combo in this galaxy – YUMMM times infinity to that garlic-loaded sauce!).

But more deliciousness was to come: that Chicken Lemon Oregano dish, a tender, juicy, char-broiled chicken breast accompanied by a rich, garlicky, oregano-infused lemon sauce and an ample platter of rice. It was wonderfully flavorful. And it was filling; the chicken breast was huge and easily yielded leftovers.

It was a satisfying meal, delivered at a high level of service. Pleasant and courteous, the gentleman who was our server was a delight to deal with. Coupling this sterling service with the beauty of the building and the quality of the cuisine make the overall dining experience at Alie’s Lebanese Grill an enchanting one.

So, Alie’s, when can I see you next? Hopefully I can rendezvous with you again very soon, for another round of that delectable Fattoush salad and Chicken Lemon Oregano – and of course, mounds and mounds of pita rounds and garlic sauce!

33355 Van Dyke Ave.

Sterling Heights, MI 48312

www.alieslebanesegrill.com

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332. Town Pump Tavern – June 2, 2018 – Detroit, MI

June2018TownPump3 (2)June2018TownPump2 (3)Downtown Detroit in the summer on a gorgeous-weather day – is there anything BETTER than that?

The Saturday before last, I was down in the D for a Tigers game, basking in the sun and watching our boys in blue and white pull off a victory. Awash in the celebratory post-game spirit, my friends and I popped in for a drink at Town Pump Tavern, a bar located on the ground floor of the Park Avenue House building.

I immediately fell in love with this grand-looking pub. From its creeping-ivy-covered exterior and entrance paved with richly varnished wood to its interior lined with more glossy wood paneling, stamped tin ceiling tiles, and a cozy library nook, it exudes an old-fashioned elegance that is also supremely inviting.

The welcoming, convivial vibes at the Town Pump Tavern that night were also due in part to it being packed with other ballgame attendees and weekend revelers. A man singing and strumming alternative and rock standards on his acoustic guitar added to the homey pub vibe. Live music is standard after Tigers and Lions home games, according to the Town Pump’s website, as are DJs spinning tunes after 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

Another regular specialty at the Town Pump Tavern that I’m loving the sound of is its eight-dollar burger-and-beer lunch special, available daily from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (except during what it denotes as “home ‘day’ ball game” days). With this deal, you get a half-pound burger and a Molson Canadian or Miller Lite beer – or a pop if you’d prefer it. Sounds like the perfect value meal to me – especially if I get to eat that burger and sip that beer while nestled within a cushy leather armchair in that library nook!

100 W. Montcalm St.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.thetownpumptavern.com

331. Baker’s Keyboard Lounge – May 30, 2018 – Detroit, MI

May2018Bakers1 (2)May2018Bakers4 (3)May2018Bakers2 (2)Excellent live music and fall-off-the-bone-tender ribs on a Wednesday night? Sign me up, please!

When a friend called as I was getting ready for work last Wednesday morning to ask if I wanted to see a live jazz performance that night at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit, I was surprisingly up for the challenge of being out late on a weeknight (summer brings it out of me).

I was itching to get in a Detroit visit to benefit my Blog Year Five challenge of visiting 50 new-to-me places in the city, which I’ve been quietly working away at since announcing it in my Blog Year Four review post.

As I write this, I’ve visited 12 new-to-me places in Detroit since the start of Blog Year Five on February 8, with Baker’s Keyboard Lounge being the 11th of those; to be on pace with the goal, I should’ve visited 17 by this point. Some catching up is in order!

It’s been fun to have an extra excuse to get down to the D more often via this challenge. The logistical aspect has been the trickiest hurdle thus far; since I don’t live or work in or adjacent to the city, getting down there generally involves some planning. My strategy thus far in working toward this 50-visits mark has been a combination of planning outings when it makes sense (because forcing something that’s meant to be fun is no fun) and letting them happen organically. And the invitation to Baker’s was definitely an instance where it happened organically.

So there I was, rolling up to Baker’s Keyboard Lounge shortly after nine p.m. on a weeknight, ready to soak in some live music and devour a delicious meal (I’d heard the food was great there). Bright white lights sparkled around the building’s marquee, radiating old-school glitz and glamour and igniting my excitement.

On Livernois Avenue near Eight Mile Road, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge perches just inside the city’s border, in close proximity to the suburbs of Hazel Park and Ferndale. Its website banner proudly declares it the “World’s Oldest Jazz Club”; in its About page, it states it has been in operation since 1933, has been hosting jazz acts since 1934, and has been deemed a historic site by the state of Michigan for being “Michigan’s jazz mecca and Detroit’s oldest jazz club in continuous operation.” How are those for creds?

Driving up to Baker’s on the night of my visit, I paid the parking attendant $3 for the privilege to park in its gated, monitored lot. The cover charge upon entrance to the building was $10.

The inside of the lounge was small, intimate, dimly lit aside from the bright lights of the stage. Photos of jazz greats hung on the walls, and flowers adorned the tables; the overall vibe was subdued elegance.

The performance was underway when we stepped inside. A band called OGD –  a trio playing keyboards, drums, and a bass guitar – was accompanied by a female singer named Sky Covington.

They were excellent. These were highly skilled musicians, effortlessly weaving the melodies of their instruments with the rich, arresting voice of this captivating singer with her powerful stage presence. Sky and the OGD were totally enchanting to listen to, and we listened reverently.

Or rather, I listened as reverently as I could while also being enthralled with my dinner, the meal featuring ridiculously tender, fall-off-the-bone, richly-sauced, INSANELY DELICIOUS barbecued ribs. Man, I need to get another helping of those ribs into my life!

At $17, this dish with its hefty helping of meaty goodness, two sides (I picked pinto-beans-and-rice and mac-and-cheese), and cornbread muffin was an absolute steal and the absolute culinary delight of my week – and very probably my year thus far. It was SO SO SO SO GOOD!

While we’re on the topic of consumable items offered at Baker’s, I feel it’s worth mentioning: alcoholic beverages can get pricey there; single-shot well drinks were $9 at the time of my visit. Considering the immense value I derived from that reasonably-priced barbecued-ribs meal, and coupling that with the fact that I only had one drink, I didn’t mind it so much, but I could see myself having sticker shock had I ordered several and been unaware of that. Knowledge is power!

And being witness to a finely-tuned musical performance by a gifted singer and musicians is power, too – a powerful experience, indeed. I often forget how great jazz is, that it’s rollicking, soothing, unruly, relatable all rolled into one and that I totally dig that. Thank you, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, for reminding me of that!

20510 Livernois Ave.

Detroit, MI 48221

www.theofficialbakerskeyboardlounge.com

330. Founders Brewing Company – May 19, 2018 – Detroit, MI

May2018Founders1 (2)May2018Founders2 (2)May2018Founders3 (2)May 19, 2018 heralded in what were for me two historic events: the wedding of Great Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (~SWOON~) and my first visit to Grand Rapids-based Founders Brewing Company’s Detroit taproom (NEW-PLACE TIME = ~DOUBLE SWOON!!!!~).

The historic nature of that second event is certainly debatable. But awesome ambiance, supremely delicious brews and food, and its own parking lot (a gem of a quality for a city-based establishment) made my visit to the Cass Corridor-area taproom as memorable for me as that royal wedding in my other favorite city in the world (Detroit will ALWAYS be my Number 1, but London definitely has a piece of my heart!).

That aforementioned ambiance: it’s perfect as we launch into summer. Founders’ large, airy taproom has an outdoor patio, plus garage doors that roll up and allow those inside to take part in the open-air concept. Industrial design touches such as exposed ductwork, utilitarian lighting, and counter fronts covered in sheet metal give the place an unpretentious, laid-back vibe.

Beer aficionados will love Founders’ extensive menu of its craft brews. I’m definitely no beer expert, but all of the IPAs and porters and stouts and such with their varying flavor profiles and alcohol-by-volume percentage points (currently ranging from 4.4 to a whopping 14.2) sounded pretty darn good to me. I settled on a pint of the Apricot Wheat, which I found to be a robust version of a fruit-infused beer that was not overly sweet.

I dug Founders’ food menu, too. It was packed with a variety of ridiculously-delish-sounding sandwiches, snacks, and entrée salads. I ordered the ‘Nam Nom Nom sandwich, described on the menu as “bourbon barrel-smoked pulled pork, pickles, carrots, red onions, sriracha, and cilantro-lime aioli on a telera roll.”

This sandwich with a tongue-twister of a name was HUGE – which meant I got full off of half of it and got to take the remaining half home to enjoy later.

And this was a more than leftover-worthy sandwich; it was supremely delicious with its tender shredded pork, crusty bread, crunchy pickles, and spicy sriracha. This was bar food at its best: rich, flavorful, filling goodness to soak up those brawny craft brews.

Ah, Detroit in the summer, with all of the possibility it brings – it thrills me as much as the grandest of weddings! Given all of its amazingly positive attributes, Founders Brewing Company can certainly be deemed a quality addition to the city’s restaurant/brewery scene, regardless of the time of year it’s visited. But man, does it promise to do summer well with that open-air seating and selection of fair-weather-suited brews!

456 Charlotte St.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.foundersbrewing.com/brewery/detroit

329. Planet Ant Theatre’s Ant Hall – May 17, 2018 – Hamtramck, MI

May2018PlanetAntAntHall1 (2)May2018PlanetAntAntHall3 (3)OMG, you guys, did I have a blast last week watching improv at Planet Ant Theatre’s Ant Hall in Hamtramck!

Have you ever been to a Planet Ant production – specifically the Thursday night Comedy Slice Block Party? It is an absolute DELIGHT, a three-hour revue of various improv groups providing off-the-cuff hilarity and absurdity that I found to be massively entertaining. At $5.50 a ticket, entrance to the Comedy Slice Block Party was a steal considering the intense laughter therapy it provided me.

Planet Ant Theatre had been on my radar after reading a profile on it in Hour Detroit a year or two ago (thank you, Hour Detroit, for yet again providing a spot-on recommendation). Attending a show there seemed like the perfect kick-off to my 2018 Best Summer EVER initiative, so I recruited my friend Jaclyn, whose willingness to check out new places is just one of the many reasons she is dear to me (my friends are seriously the best at tolerating my obsession with exploring the area for this blog).

After dinner at Dos Locos Tacos, we walked over to the Ant Hall, the Planet Ant satellite building where the Comedy Slice Block Party was being held. When I’d picked the weekly Thursday-night improv event from the schedule of comedy, plays, and live music, I hadn’t realized it was held at a building other than the main theatre, the vibrantly purple two-story brick building with its giant ant-head logo splayed on one side.

I discovered that the Ant Hall is a smaller building just across the street from the main theater and is connected with a bar called the Ghost Light bar, which is accessible from inside the Ant Hall. (I thought of potentially counting the Ghost Light as another new-to-me place separate from the Ant Hall – but despite it having a different street address, for me the two places and my experience visiting them felt connected.)

When we meandered into the Ghost Light once it opened at 7, I dug the small bar’s dimly-lit, dive-bar coziness and inviting aura.

Around 7:30, a guy entered the Ghost Light and announced that the improv show was about to start and that us bar patrons should feel free to wander into the theater to enjoy some comedy. Jaclyn and I finished our beers and headed over to the theater, our curiosity piqued about what this Comedy Slice Block Party would entail.

I’d bought tickets for the show online and been instructed to pick them up at the Ant Hall lobby counter. But we never picked up the tickets because we never saw anyone at that counter at any point prior to the show. Given that, and given the open invitation from the aforementioned guy in the Ghost Light, we could have easily gotten away with not buying tickets at all. But I was glad we had, to support the theater in that way (thumbs-up to nurturing the arts!).

Joining the show already in progress, we entered the theater, which consisted of a stage with several rows of folding chairs set up in front of it. Our entrance brought the audience total to five people.

Throughout the evening, that audience grew so that it eventually consisted of about 20-something of us. It ended up being a small-but-mighty crowd, good-vibing and boisterously laughing. Several brief intermissions were interspersed throughout the show, to allow us attendees to use the restrooms and frequent the Ghost Light for drinks, which we were allowed to bring into the theater.

From the get-go, I admired the improv performers of this show. Acting in front of a sparse audience, under pressure to spontaneously follow their teammates’ cues and be comical in the process, took major courage – at least, for me it would. These guys and gals had guts!

And they were FUNNY. I laughed and laughed and laughed at each portion of the Comedy Slice Block Party featuring a different improv group. Man, it felt so good to laugh like that! Every time I crack up that much, I remind myself that I need to do it more often. Improv shows need to become a mainstay in all of our lives!

(BTW, in case you are interested in becoming one of these gutsy guys and gals who gets onstage and make funnies on the fly, Planet Ant Theatre offers improv training classes – check out its website for more info.)

Each group performed for about 15 to 20 minutes – perhaps longer as the night went on. I wasn’t keeping track of time because I was enjoying myself so much – the nearly three-hour show flew by.

Most of the groups performed standard improv sets; a few varied the format. There was one act called Alex Explains it All (shown in the second photo above) that did what came off more as theatric performance than improv. Goth Alex was joined onstage by her boyfriend guitarist, her drag-queen mother, and her drummer stepfather, Skid Rock, for a rousing act of shenanigans and song.

The last set of the night at this Comedy Slice Block Party show incorporated one of the most inherently unfunny elements on the planet: torture. It had troupe members getting spanked with a rubber paddle for producing jokes that merited boos, walking blindfolded amongst a minefield of live mousetraps, and performing sketches with one team member’s head submerged in a bucket of water – until that person begged out and tapped in the next team member to hold his/her breath under water for as long as he/she could tolerate.

This torture set: that shit was crazy! It definitely made me a bit uncomfortable, in a “Is it OK to laugh at this?” sense – which was probably part of its intent. While I certainly didn’t derive pleasure from the troupe members’ discomfort, it was entertaining in its unconventionality. Props to those guys for being willing to endure beatings, mouse-trap pinches, and water torture in the name of comedy!

Overall, attending this Comedy Slice Block Party was the most entertaining thing I have done in months; it was an absolute riot. I’m going to self-prescribe myself the directive to attend improv and comedy shows on a regular basis, because laughter really IS the best medicine, in my book!

2320 Caniff St.

Hamtramck, MI 48212

www.planetant.com

328. Dos Locos Tacos – May 17, 2018 – Hamtramck, MI

May2018DosLocosTacos1 (2)May2018DosLocosTacos2 (2)May2018DosLocosTacos3 (2)This is a post about a Mexican restaurant housed inside of a former hamburger joint in a city known for its Polish and Middle Eastern cuisine. Say hello to Dos Locos Tacos!

The tiny restaurant perched at the corner of Joseph Campau Avenue and Caniff Street in Hamtramck brandishes red-lettered “Hamburgers” signage above its door, but neon lights in the window flaunt its real name, complete with a logo of a taco enveloped by a heart.

That taco enveloped by a heart could be tattooed on my soul, I love Mexican food so much! While I’d initially planned to check out a new-to-me Middle Eastern restaurant while in Hamtramck last week, when I spied the recently-opened Dos Locos Tacos among the Yelp results for the area, I knew I and my similarly-taco-obsessed friend who was meeting me in Hamtramck had to go there.

Thusly, we found ourselves in this tiny hipster-retro diner on a Thursday night, dunking perfectly crunchy chips into enticingly garlicky guacamole and awaiting the corn-tortilla-clad centerpieces of our culinary hearts.

In perusing Dos Locos Tacos’ menu, I noticed that it offers tamales, quesadillas, and burritos (each taco variety offered can be upgraded to a burrito) in addition to its namesake item. I decided pretty quickly that in addition to the aforementioned shared chips and guacamole, I would order two tacos: one beef chorizo and the other carne asada (because red meat is LIIIFE).

Both tacos were tasty, but the carne asada one stole my heart. Wow, was that one rich in flavor with its tender shredded steak, crumbly cotija cheese, and vibrantly fresh cilantro! I could’ve eaten a platterful of those.

Open at 3 p.m. daily and closing late (at midnight Sundays through Wednesdays and 4 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays), Dos Locos Tacos is an on-point option for a late lunch, dinner, or post-bar-crawling grub session (which begs the question: is there ever a time of day when tacos are not an on-point option? I think not.).

10337 Joseph Campau Ave.

Hamtramck, MI 48212

www.doslocostacos.com

327. Trinosophes – May 10, 2018 – Detroit, MI

May2018Trinosophes1 (2)May2018Trinosophes2 (2)I have a new coffee-shop obsession, people: Trinosophes in the Eastern Market neighborhood of Detroit!

What a gorgeous space this place is: light and airy, with long communal tables, book-crammed shelves, and vibrant greenery. I instantly fell in love with its ambiance.

I also fell in love with the fact that it’s located right off of Gratiot Avenue and has its own parking lot (free, easily accessible parking in Detroit is LIIIIFE!).

This affection for Trinosophes was pretty much predestined, given my long-held infatuation with independent coffee shops. Reveling in the chill, escape-the-world vibes of a good coffee shop while my bloodstream revels in caffeine is one of my favorite pastimes.

While I savored Trinosophes’ soothing, welcoming aura, I also savored two of its brews: a richly flavored cappuccino and a sumptuous cardamom latte. At the end of my two-hour sojourn there, I was vibrating with caffeine-induced energy and contentment.

A portion of that goodwill I felt during my visit to Trinosophes was due to the barista on staff who served me. She was friendly and approachable, as was the 20-something female patron who perched at the other end of the communal table I was working at. We chatted a bit between typing away on our computers.

It felt good to be out in the world on a Thursday morning, connecting with people, feeling part of a little community. I know I simply spent a couple of hours in a coffee shop – I wasn’t forging a friendship circle – but Trinosophes does embody that friendship-fostering spirit that makes you feel that you could meet the next important person in your life there.

Perhaps Trinosophes emits that community-cultivating vibe because it’s more than a coffee shop. It’s also a café, offering enticing breakfast and lunch dishes, including vegan and gluten-free options, plus a performance and exhibition space that regularly hosts music performances, art exhibits, and other creative events. It bills itself as a library, too, boasting the collections of several impactful Detroiters on those book-crammed shelves.

Leaving the coffee shop/café/library/performance space on this May morning, I felt the magic of the almost-summer season in the vivid green grass and budding trees surrounding it – and the elation that comes with discovering a new place I love.

I knew I’d be back to Trinosophes, that it’d been filed away into my local-coffee-shop rotation, further fueling my obsession with quality caffeinated beverages and quiet, creativity-inducing places.

1464 Gratiot Ave.

Detroit, MI 48207

www.trinosophes.com

326. 2941 Mediterranean Street Food – May 7, 2018 – Rochester Hills, MI

May20182941Med1 (2)May20182941Med4 (2)May20182941Med3 (2)2941 Mediterranean Street Food has hit 100 Places in the D!!!

I was super excited to visit 2941 Mediterranean Street Food of Rochester Hills for lunch with friends last week, as the fast-casual Detroit-area chain had been on my radar for a few years (as was the case with many of the places I’ve covered on this blog. Cheers to the moments when long-anticipated visits finally happen!).

I adore Mediterranean food, and as mentioned in my recent post on Burrito Mundo, I also love places that allow me to build my own meals, choosing from a plethora of ingredient options the ones I’d like to add to customizable bowls, burritos, etc. 2941 Mediterranean Street Food is one such place that allows you to build your own bowls, loading them with all kinds of fresh, flavorful goodies.

Stepping inside the bright and clean Rochester Hills storefront with its long communal tables and wicker-basket-accented lighting (check out the light shades that appear to be made from upside-down baskets with the handles still attached in the photo above), my friends and I approached the ordering counter toward the back of the room, where we began the assembly-line production of the build-your-own-bowl process.

In succession, I was asked to: pick my grain base (I chose the Turmeric Basmati Rice); my protein (I did pork; chicken, steak, lamb, falafel, and veggie options were also available); two sauces (garlic sauce was a given for me, and I chose another spicy sauce whose name I can’t recall); two types of torshi, which are pickled vegetables (I went with the Atum beet-and-turnip mixture and the Osiris cauliflower-and-mixed-veggie combo); and two items from the Salads and Snacks category (I nabbed hummus and a salad that included radish, chickpeas, and parsley).

This was an intense decision-making process, my friends. I felt – as I had the week prior at Burrito Mundo when I was shepherded through its burrito-making process – that my first bowl-building experience at 2941 Mediterranean Street Food was simply a dress rehearsal for the next time I was there. Before that subsequent visit, I’ll likely study the menu ahead of time and get all strategic about my choices, because these are important decisions to be made (lunch is on the line!) and because I am that much of a nerd when it comes to customizable meals.

Still, despite feeling unprepared for the intricacies of the meal-crafting process, I felt pleased with how my bowl turned out at 2941 Mediterranean Street Food. I had opted for the larger-sized bowl, which yielded enough food to constitute both my lunch and dinner for that day. It was accompanied by a sizable loaf of soft, irresistibly chewy samoon bread that was perfect for dipping in the hummus and garlic sauce.

While I was surprised at the cost of 2941’s build-your-own bowl (an $11.50 base price for the large-sized bowl, with additional upcharges for extra sauce, extra meat, etc.), the ample portions and pure deliciousness justified the higher-than-expected price in my mind. The pork was tender and well-marinated, the vegetables were fresh and flavorful, and the hummus and garlic sauce were pure, addictive, garlicky goodness (I am SO a hummus/garlic sauce girl!). High-quality ingredients melded together to make a wholly delectable bowl of Mediterranean goodness, and I was TOTALLY a fan.

While the build-your-own-bowl option appears to be the centerpiece of 2941 Mediterranean Street Food’s menu, there are also some signature-bowl configurations to choose from, as well as soups, flatbreads, and a load of what are labeled Street Snacks on the menu (Marinated Olives, Habibi’s Nachos, and Veggie Grape Leaves, for example). Knowing me and my obsession with the whole build-your-own-bowl concept, I’ll probably stick with that option, but it’s nice to know there are predetermined choices on 2941’s menu should I be struck with decision-making paralysis during a visit.

How about you – have you been to 2941 Mediterranean Street Food? If yes, I’d love to hear what you thought of it; feel free to weigh in within the Comments field below!

87 W. Auburn Rd.

Rochester Hills, MI 48307

(With additional locations in Auburn Hills, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, and Detroit)

www.2941streetfood.com

325. O.W.L. – May 4, 2018 – Royal Oak, MI

May2018Owl1 (2)May2018Owl2 (3)May2018Owl3 (2)Roadside diners encapsulate a kind of romance for many people, that whole freedom-of-the-road, classic Americana vibe. While O.W.L. is located in a suburb (Royal Oak), its perch along Woodward Avenue, that distinguished Detroit thoroughfare, makes it feel like it’s part of that roadside romance.

From the ’50s-esque exterior sign with its namesake bird outlined in neon lighting to the cheeseburger-meets-avocado-toast menu, O.W.L. exudes classic diner vibes with a contemporary, hipster bent.

The restaurant’s interior is tiny, and true to diner form, the seating options are counter-centric: you can either sit along a window-fronting counter with a view of Woodward Avenue or one that faces the kitchen line.  The ordering system is counter-centric, too: you give your request to the cashier at the end of the kitchen-fronting counter, pay your tab, and your food is delivered to you.

About half of O.W.L.’s compact menu consists of breakfast items, boasting five different kinds of egg sandwiches (including Chorizo Sausage and Cheese and Habanero Bacon and Cheese varieties) and other egg-centric dishes such as egg hash, chicken fried-chicken topped with eggs, and chilaquiles (a traditional Mexican dish made in this case with tomatillo salsa, cotija cheese, jalapeños, radishes, eggs, and cilantro). Wings, burgers, sandwiches, nachos, the Tacos Del Dia (tacos of the day), and other breakfast-centric (grilled cinnamon rolls, habanero bacon) and Mexican-influenced items (Chips and Pico, Torta Ahogada) round out the menu.

Upon perusing O.W.L.’s menu, I went with those nachos – a.k.a. the Double Layer Nachos. The thick, crispy slew of homemade chips layered with poblano cheese sauce, sausage chili, shredded cabbage, sliced radishes, fresh jalapeños, pico de gallo, and cilantro were rich, greasy, delectable deliciousness. While they may not be a standard on the average diner’s menu, these babies deserve to be; they are the ultimate in comfort food!

I’m not an egg person, but if I was, the aforementioned Chicken Fried Chicken and Gravy breakfast dish topped with eggs, Texas toast, and a poblano cheese gravy sauce and accompanied by peas and cilantro potatoes would’ve been my bet. My friend who accompanied me to O.W.L. ordered it, and wow, does that dish proffer a weighty portion! The Double Layer Nachos was no slouch with its portion size (as you can see from the photo above), either, and I happily had leftovers to enjoy the next day.

Eating at O.W.L., I found myself reminiscing over the Royal Oak-bar-hopping nights of my twenties; the diner would’ve made the perfect closing-time stop during those evenings of revelry. It’s rare that I stay out late enough anymore that I’m looking to hit a restaurant after the bars are shuttered, but if I do happen to find myself in the Royal Oak area into the wee hours and am jonesing for some gratifying grub, I know where to go! O.W.L. offers its particular brand of roadside romance 24 hours a day, six days a week (it closes at 10 p.m. on Sundays).

27302 Woodward Ave.

Royal Oak, MI 48067

www.owlwoodward.com

324. Burrito Mundo – May 3, 2018 – Grosse Pointe Woods, MI

May2018BurritoMundo2 (2)May2018BurritoMundo (3)Mexican food is high up there on my List of Things that Bring me Joy (right there with baseball games at Comerica Park and that BOMB ice cream sandwich I enjoyed a few weeks ago at Holy Moly Donut Shop – yep, still thinking about that). So when I learned that Burrito Mundo in Grosse Pointe Woods was a fast-casual Mexican joint where I could build my own burrito, of course I was psyched to visit it! I love me some autonomy when crafting my Mexican meals.

BTW, if you’re wondering why there’s what looks like an unsupervised child in the above-shown photo of Burrito Mundo, worry not: that kid is the baby of a friend who accompanied me to the restaurant. This was his first foray out with us, and we wanted to photo-document it. We’re introducing him to the joys of restaurant-exploration while he’s young (if Auntie Jackie has anything to do with it, this kid is gonna know every hot brunch spot in the D by the time he’s three! 🙂 ).

Back to Burrito Mundo and the crafting of the Mexican meals: this place is like a mecca for burrito building, my friends. While the restaurant’s menu is populated with a variety of intriguing signature burritos (plus tacos, quesadillas, and entrée salads), I knew I had to try my hand at creating my own. The dizzying array of filling choices made it too fun a prospect to ignore.

To start, Burrito Mundo allows you to choose from various meat (and meat-substitute) fillings for your burrito base: ground beef, steak, chicken, pulled pork, shrimp, mahi mahi, tofu, and vegetables.

Then you get to your filling side-kicks. You see all the ingredients you’d expect: tomato, avocado, onion, rice, sour cream, cilantro, beans, guacamole, tortilla strips, jalapeños (both roasted and pickled varieties), cheese, etc. – plus two that are a bit more surprising: potatoes and zucchini/squash. And there are seven kinds of salsa to choose from at varying heat levels, from mild to wild.

To finish, you can opt to have your burrito doused in queso fundido cheese sauce or its tortilla grilled to crispy perfection – or to nix the tortilla entirely, à la Burrito Mundo’s “Ghost” style. The first two options are an upcharge, as is any ingredient that isn’t your standard meat-filling base (steak, shrimp, and mahi are $1.99 extra, but everything else is standard in that category) or tomatoes, cilantro, sour cream, rice, romaine, or salsa. It’s .79 cents to add a cheese, avocado, or guacamole to your burrito, while the remaining ingredients are .29 cents each. In other words, these build-your-own burritos with their base price of $5.29 can get pricey if you aren’t intentional.

But let’s face it, these burritos aren’t Lamborghini-pricey; they’re a reasonable splurge. My pulled pork burrito with its rice, tomato, cilantro, pinto beans, onion, roasted jalapeños, tortilla strips, queso fundido, and roasted tomatillo chipotle salsa was around $8.00.

And eight dollars turned out to be a reasonable price for the massive burrito I was given, which could easily be made into two meals. It was delicious, with tender pulled pork and fresh, flavorful ingredients.

The only thing I would change for my next round of Burrito Mundo burrito-making would be to ask for more salsa and queso fundido on the side, because once they were mixed in with all of the other ingredients in the large-and-in-charge burrito, they didn’t cover much ground (and I like a LOT of sauce, to boot). I’d also add guacamole, because guacamole is LIFE and well-worth the additional .79-cent upcharge.

I’m going to consider this first run to Burrito Mundo a dress rehearsal. As I’m always looking for an excuse to nosh on Mexican food, I’ll consider the burrito-refining process my rationale for a revisit.

19459 Mack Ave.

Grosse Pointe Woods, MI 48236

www.burritomundo.com