100 Places in the D’s YEAR FOUR REVIEW!

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#256, Red Crown of Grosse Pointe Park, a Blog Year Four visit

Hey, guys – happy Friday! I’m so excited to bring you today’s post: 100 Places in the D’s YEAR FOUR REVIEW!

I love doing these reviews of recently ended blogging years because they give me an opportunity to geek out over stats about the kinds of places I’ve visited for 100 Places in the D over the last year, which I find so, so fun. So I’ll dive right in and chat about Blog Year Four, which ran from February 8, 2017 to February 7, 2018 (I base the blogging years around the anniversary of the date of my first visit for 100 Places in the D, which was February 8, 2014).

I’ve gotten into the habit of creating goals for myself for each blogging year, and my goals for Blog Year Four were as follows:

Visit 71 new places, so I can hit 300 overall visits since the blog’s inception.

Have at least 12 of those visits be to establishments located in new-to-the-blog cities (cities in the tri-county Metro-Detroit area that have not yet been represented on 100 Places in the D).

Visit at least 20 places in the city of Detroit itself (because I heart going down to Detroit, and this blog is after all named 100 Places in the D, so I want it to be the city I represent the most).

I’m happy to report that I achieved all three of these goals! I visited 76 total new places in Blog Year Four, hitting 305 total visits for the blog. Twenty-five of those visits were within the city of Detroit. And I visited these 12 new-to-the-blog cities:

-Beverly Hills

-Center Line

-Chesterfield

-Farmington Hills

-Grosse Pointe Park

-Grosse Pointe Woods

-Hamtramck

-Highland

-Keego Harbor

-Lake Orion

-Romeo

-Utica

I was especially excited to achieve the 12 new-to-the-blog cities milestone because I attempted it in Blog Year Three and fell short (I only visited six new-to-the-blog cities that year – wah wah). I want to continue to expand the list of cities I’ve covered on the blog, so I aim to keep that in mind during Blog Year Five.

That being said, I only have one official goal for Blog Year Five – but it’s a big one, and I’m very excited about it. In Blog Year Five, I plan to [DRUM ROLL. . .]: Visit 50 new places in the city of Detroit!!!!

Yes, 50 new places visited in Detroit alone from February 8, 2018 through February 7, 2019! It’s a HUGE endeavor – an average of about one visit per week to Detroit – but I’m psyched for the challenge.

I LOVE Detroit; I love visiting it, and while driving around its streets with their oft-confusing mash-ups of one-ways and circuitous routings periodically throws me into near-panic-attack mode (driving is SO not my fave thing in the world), I believe that with intention and planning, I can totally achieve this goal.

I considered making the goal to actually visit one new place in Detroit every week of the blogging year, but that quickly felt too restrictive. I realized that I didn’t want to put myself in a position where I felt like I must go downtown every single week, even when it didn’t make sense: to feel compelled to sit in rush hour for over an hour post-work on a Tuesday to drive 30 miles downtown, pay $10 for parking, and spend half an hour eating a sandwich bought somewhere convenient before again entering the thick traffic on my pilgrimage back home just so I could get a visit in for the week (as I found myself attempting to do this Tuesday before opting for the blessedly more flexible goal). I never want going downtown to feel like a chore; I want it to feel like the magical foray that it is.

So that’s my big ol’ goal for Blog Year Five! In case you’re interested in a geographical breakdown of where the 76 new-to-me restaurants, bars, shops, venues, parks, and the like I visited in Blog Year Four were located, the following stats provide further illumination (I love nerding out to this stuff!):

Number of places visited in Blog Year Four: 76

Number of cities visited: 27

Breakdown by county: Macomb: 16; Oakland: 30; Wayne: 30

Breakdown by city:

Detroit: 25 (nearly one-third of all the visits!)

Ferndale: 6

Rochester: 5

Saint Clair Shores: 5

Grosse Pointe Woods: 3

Royal Oak: 3

Troy: 3

Beverly Hills: 2

Clarkston: 2

Harrison Township: 2

Pontiac: 2

Rochester Hills: 2

Romeo: 2

Center Line: 1

Chesterfield: 1

Clawson: 1

Clinton Township: 1

Farmington Hills: 1

Grosse Pointe Park: 1

Hamtramck: 1

Highland: 1

Keego Harbor: 1

Lake Orion: 1

Macomb: 1

Mount Clemens: 1

Utica: 1

Warren: 1

Look out for a related Blog Year Four post to drop next week showcasing my top-ten fave visits of the 76 achieved over the last year (always a fun round-up!).

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305. Daddy’s Doughnuts – January 25, 2017 – Utica, MI

January2018DaddysDonuts1 (3)January2018DaddysDonuts2 (3)January2018DaddysDonuts5 (2)Utica is represented on 100 Places in the D! It’s crazy to me that it took me nearly four years to visit a place there given that I live in close proximity to it, but there you go: Utica is the 12th of the new-to-the-blog-cities visited in Blog Year Four (goal achieved!).

Blog Year Four ended on Wednesday, February 7, and Daddy’s Doughnuts in Utica was my last visit during that period. So look out for a Blog Year Four review soon, where I’ll nerd out on all of the stats related to this most recent of the completed 100 Places blogging years, as well as a top-ten post where I’ll gush over my faves of the bunch visited during this time period. There have been some gems!

Daddy’s Doughnuts might have to be in contention for that top-ten list. I’d been intrigued by it since the sign for the bakery – which is (dangerously) along my route to work – appeared in the weeks preceding its opening.  There are certainly things in this world less intriguing than fresh-baked, frosting-coated little rings o’ cakey goodness, am I right?

And Daddy’s Doughnuts has an angle on the way it presents its rings o’ cakey goodness: it tops them to order. You can either choose from the twelve signature Daddy’s Dozen frosting-and-toppings-bedecked offerings or create your own custom-topped donuts by mining ingredients such as maple glaze, marshmallow drizzle, crushed Oreos, graham cracker crumbs, and Fruity Pebbles. Either way, the Daddy’s crew will bedazzle those babies with icing and toppings right in front of you.

For nine dollars, I got a half-dozen of select Daddy’s Dozen donuts (one Minty Thin with its chocolate frosting, chocolate sprinkles, and mint drizzle; one Breakfast with its maple frosting and bacon pieces; one Chocolate Covered Pretzel with its chocolate frosting, pretzel pieces, and caramel drizzle; one Peanut Butter Jelly with its peanut butter frosting, crushed peanuts, and grape jelly drizzle; and two Blackouts with their chocolate frosting, Oreo pieces, and chocolate drizzle, because chocolate is LIFE).

Plus, in compensation for signing up for Daddy’s rewards club, I received another (free) donut – how awesome is that?

I dig this bakery not only because of its made-to-order approach, myriad of toppings options, and rewards club but also for its friendly employees, whimsical donut pillows piled onto the window-seat bench seating, and digital clock on display counting down the seconds, minutes, hours, and days until National Donut Day – which is June 1, FYI (how fun is that?).

I also adore that in addition to dealing up donuts, Daddy’s offers fresh-brewed coffee and tea from Michigan-based companies. Yay to that!

But most of all, I love Daddy’s Doughnuts for its donuts. The frosting-slathered, toppings-loaded beauties taste as good as they look, all fresh and soft and gooey and flavorful – and that’s the most crucial component of why this bakery is so awesome. If you’re in need of a pre-work pick-me-up, you know where to go!

8413 Hall Rd.

Utica, MI 48317

www.daddysdoughnuts.com

304. 8° Plato Beer Company – January 15, 2018 – Detroit, MI

January2018Plato1 (3)January2018Plato3 (2)8º Plato Beer Company is in the house today!

I’d long been curious about this beer store in the Cass Corridor neighborhood of Detroit, and after lunch at Red Dunn a few weeks ago, my ale-aficionado friend and I stumbled across it and decided to give it a go.

All I can say is Holy Hops! there is a lot of beer here. I mean, obvi, it is a beer store – and it’s a good one, its shelves being stocked with popular local craft ales and ciders and more obscure (at least from my novice perspective) brews from around the globe. Beer-related merchandise such as t-shirts and snacks are offered, as well. A multitude of brews are on tap, too, so it can act as your growler filling station, and there’s a bar counter so you can sit and enjoy a pint in-house.

We decided to cozy up to that bar rail to kill an hour tucked away from the swirling snowscape outside the window and reality in general. (Spending time downtown characteristically has this whimsical effect on me, where I feel like I’m escaping oft-mundane everyday life when I hang out there. It is pretty magical there compared with cookie-cutter-chain-establishment-littered suburbia.).

While we were sitting there, the friendly bartender offered us samples of two sour beers that had recently come in, the names of which totally slip my mind. I do remember that the draft pint I enjoyed was Cheboygan Brewing Co.’s Blood Orange Honey, one of the many Michigan craft brews on draft.

I’m all about lauding the Mitten-made products, so I’m happy that 8º Plato Beer Company is yet another local outlet helping to hype them up. And bonus: the store has another location, on Nine Mile Road in Ferndale.

3409 Cass Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

http://8degreesplato.com

303. Red Dunn Kitchen – January 15, 2018 – Detroit, MI

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Happy Friday, and Happy Snow Day to those of my friends in the Metro-Detroit area! The white stuff is currently coming down hard over here, and I’m safely ensconced at home with no intention to burrow out until the a.m. You know I love me some exploring – but I’m wholly content in this case to put that on pause until the blizzard’s roaring ceases and the roadways’ surfaces are cleared.

Brave souls, if you live around here and are itching to get out of the house despite the snow and before your cabin fever consumes you, may I suggest a downtown adventure? The last time I ventured to Detroit, on snowy Martin Luther King Day, I had a most delightful lunch at Red Dunn Kitchen in Corktown.

The restaurant is connected to the Trumball and Porter Hotel, a recently renovated, chic-and-modern boutique accommodation. I didn’t scope out its interior during my visit, but in photos on its website, the hotel looks AWESOME – very fresh and fun.

And, I discovered, the restaurant it’s adjacent to is top-notch! The Red Dunn Kitchen is certainly worth a visit and gives me another reason to declare Corktown as my favorite of the Detroit neighborhoods (I can SO see myself living there someday – especially if the parking situation stays as relatively easeful as it is. Easeful parking is one way to my heart, for sure.).

I hardcore dug the restaurant’s clean, contemporary décor and prevalence of blues and whites. It was amazing to indulge in the whole lady-who-lunches thing there, sipping a Spanish coffee while I gazed out at the snow drifting across the hotel courtyard and felt grateful to be inside, cozy and warm.

Red Dunn’s lunch menu consists of an eclectic collection of appetizers, salads, and sandwiches. Jonesing for some “Green Eggs and Ham”? They’re a starter on Red Dunn’s menu, in the form of deviled eggs topped with chives, bacon, and paprika.

Is a Cuban sammie more your thing? Red Dunn’s got it. How about corned beef, blackened shrimp, or Red Wine Braised Short Rib sandwiches? Check, check, and check: Red Dunn’s got ya covered on the cured cow, spicy seafood, and boozy rib-meat fronts.

After much deliberation around all of this gastronomical goodness, I got the Two Crispy Pork Belly Tacos with their caramelized shredded pork, carrot, daikon radishes, greens, cashews, and kimchi mayo. I paired the flavorful Asian-fusion tacos with a side version of the Simple Salad – which with its fresh, unboring greens, tomato, cucumber, scallions, and zesty Green Goddess dressing was a total pleasure to eat; I wasn’t pining for the French fries I’d passed up (Win!).

The Red Dunn dinner menu features more refined, supper-esque fare: Marinated-Grilled Strip Steak, Fried Chicken Roulade, and House-Made Cuttlefish Ink Fettuccini, for instance. The breakfast menu offers fancy versions of a.m. favorites, such as Almond-Ricotta Pancakes (YUM!) and Smoked Salmon Benedict.

While Red Dunn Kitchen would be a total slam-dunk to visit at any time of the year, now that I think about it, it’s the PERFECT place to hang out during a snowstorm, what with it being connected to a gorgeous boutique hotel and all. There’s respite right there should you not want to engage in the familiar wintertime post-meal rituals of shoveling out your car and skidding about the icy roads.

1331 Trumbull St., Suite 100

Detroit, MI 48216

(Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, starting at 7 a.m. daily)

www.reddunnkitchen.com

302. Garrido’s – January 14, 2018 – Grosse Pointe Woods, MI

January2018Garridos1 (2)January2018Garridos2 (2)Today’s post feels especially appropriate for me given that I’ve just returned from a 10-day vacation in South America (Ecuador, specifically): the lovely Garrido’s of Grosse Pointe Woods is being represented on the blog!

The bistro’s menu packed with popular Venezuelan dishes reminds me of fare I consumed while in Ecuador. The Venezuelan Pabellón that I tried during my visit to Garrido’s was healthful deliciousness with its tender shredded beef, rice, black beans, and the kicker: tajadas (ripe plantains).

Man, were those tajadas AMAZING! How can something as simple as a plantain be so mouthwateringly packed with flavor? Caramelized, flavorful, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness constituted those tajadas. I gobbled them with relish, as I did the rest of the  Venezuelan Pabellón dish.

I felt so good about eating this healthful dinner that I figured there was room for dessert, so I capped off the meal with Garrido’s Deep-Fried Cheesecake with Berry Party. The New York-style cheesecake wrapped in fried dough and served with a berry compote was yes, as glorious as it sounds.

What’s on Garrido’s menu besides the Venezuelan Pabellón and the bomb fried cheesecake? There are various appetizers, including fried plaintain chips with pico de gallo and guasacaca (a Venezuelan avocado sauce similar to guacamole) and Venezuelan Tequeños (cheese wrapped in dough and deep-fried). There are arepas (corn-flatbread sandwiches) stuffed to the gills with goodies such as shrimp, black beans, and avocado-bacon-and-cheese-slathered burgers. There are a variety of seafood dishes, including paella, pastas, and a stew loaded with scallops, shrimp, squid, and octopus.

Other traditional Latin fare plus entrée salads and a more eclectic assortment of dishes (spaghetti with lamb meatballs; ahi tuna steak; beef stroganoff) round out the food menu, which is capped by desserts including that fried cheesecake, plus a molten chocolate cake and churros.

While the bistro doesn’t serve booze, it has an in-depth non-alcoholic drink menu – one loaded with various teas, smoothies, and coffee drinks. I NEED to go back and try its extreme hot-chocolate concoction: check out the drink section on Garrido’s menu to see what I mean! This sucker is STACKED (literally) with more than just the typical steamed chocolate milk; it’s a veritable tower of goodies.

It’s obvious that I’m not the only one in the area who is feeling Garrido’s, as the intimate little place quickly became packed during the Sunday evening that I visited it. With good food and a cozy, inviting vibe, it’s an obvious choice if you’re looking to dine within the Grosse Pointes.

19605 Mack Ave.

Grosse Pointe Woods, MI 48236

www.garridosbistro.com

301. Little Caesars Arena – January 5, 2018 – Detroit, MI

20180131_14555120180105_202630.jpgHi, all! I’m expecially excited about today’s post because it highlights my first-ever visit to the beautiful, brand-spanking new Little Caesars Arena, home to the Detroit Pistons and my beloved Red Wings.

I am a die-hard Wings fan, through better or worse. As you’ll know if you follow them, too, right now we’re in more of a for-worse season than a for-better one. No matter – I’m IN this thing! And while I’ve watched the Wings seemingly invent new ways to lose many a time this season, I was fortunate enough that my first time seeing them play live at LCA was a thrilling 4-2 win against the Florida Panthers.

The first photo you see above of Little Caesars Arena, the exterior shot, is one I actually took in mid-October, when I ate at the Sports & Social restaurant connected to the area (you can visit it without having tickets for an event at the arena, though fun fact: you still have to go through a metal detector as you would if you were going directly into the arena).

I had hoped to cover that visit for the the blog, but after doing some research online, I learned that Sports & Social appears to be a national chain, with another location in a Georgia-based venue. Since I only cover locally-owned, non-national chain restaurants here in the Metro-Detroit area on 100 Places in the D, Sports & Social didn’t end up fitting the blog criteria. But it was awesome to be so up close to the arena then, anyway.

Fast-forward a few months later to a frigid night in early January: I’m inside LCA for my first game! Man, was it fun. The arena is so beautiful, such an upgrade from Joe Louis Arena (though I will forever love that ol’ place!).

I honestly didn’t explore the concourse much because where my friends and I sat in the Labatt Blue Club area, we had our own concessions and bathrooms, which was really convenient. We also got a $10 concessions voucher with our ticket, which was nice.

The Labatt Blue Club area is in the upper bowl, behind one of the goals; you can either sit in your assigned in-arena seat or find a seat along some ice-facing countertops in the club area. I took in the game from my assigned seat and cheered my heart out to a Red Wing victory!

I’m looking forward to checking out Pistons games and concerts at Little Caesars Arena – and of course, more Wings games. I’ve got to explore the concourse more when I’m back. It’s so exciting to have this fantastic new arena downtown right along Woodward Ave.!

2645 Woodward Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.olympiaentertainment.com/venue/little-caesars-arena-2

300! The Corner – December 27, 2017 – Ferndale, MI

December2017Corner3 (2)December2017Corner1 (2)Visit Number 300 is coming to 100 Places in the D today! Ya-hoo!

It was a goal of mine to achieve Visit Number 300 before the end of Blog Year 4 (which ends on February 7), so I was psyched to hit it with plenty of time before my deadline. Interestingly enough, the place I visited, recently opened Ferndale bar The Corner, inhabits the site of a previously featured establishment, Local Kitchen and Bar (#35). (RIP, Local Kitchen and Bar!)

For my fellow Metro-Detroiters reading this: remember how frickin’ frigid it was around here for that week and a half after Christmas – those highs in the teens and the single-digit lows? It was cold! Going outside to retrieve my garbage can from the curb felt like a major accomplishment, so leaving my house at nightfall to drive to Ferndale really felt like I was crushing it. #Goals, for real!

I mean, to park and pay for parking at the little kiosk and have to take off my gloves to punch in the numbers and then to wait at the curb for the “Walk” sign to flash on so I could scurry across the street to the restaurant – that took less than five minutes, but even in that short time span and with being all bundled up, that was cussing-aloud cold! How can your skin start to ache in such a short amount of time?

In all seriousness, me having to spend five minutes outside and take my gloves off for a minute to pay for parking for the car that I own – these are truly privileged problems. I cannot imagine being homeless and not having somewhere to go to during such incredibly cold times; it is unfathomable, and my heart goes out to anyone living that experience. Good guys like COTS and other local homeless shelters welcoming those with nowhere else to go: you guys are true superheroes! Consider donating to COTS Detroit, guys; they are doing the good work.

Back to me and my silly little life: I rolled up to The Corner and its packed, low-lit interior and its . . . WALL OF GAMES.

Can I say how much I love that this bar has a big ol’ wall full of board games? Shelves crammed ceiling-to-floor with board games available for the playing equal a BIG plus-mark in my book. Playing board games is one of those things I love to do but don’t do nearly enough. (Note to self for 2018: resolve to play more board games. Perhaps start a reoccurring game night and have its introductory meeting at The Corner?).

If you decide to do a game night at The Corner, you’ve got to post in the comments and let me know! And while you’re at it, if you’re looking to eat and do some drinking of the adult beverages, may I recommend the Asian Ribeye and Ramen salad and the Yahtzee drink?

The salad was absolutely delicious, the perfect combo of healthful and flavorful with its chunks of tender ribeye steak on a bed of chopped cabbage plus greens, ramen noodles, avocado, tomatoes, peanuts, and cilantro, all tossed in a Thai chile dressing.

And the Yahtzee! That sour gin drink with the moniker of that O.G. game was delightful – as was its price tag of $6. Signature cocktails are generally crazy-expensive these days; it’s getting hard to find one under $10. But The Corner’s are all currently between six and eight dollars – cha-ching!

One thing worth mentioning about my visit: I make it a point to highlight the positive in my recountings on the blog, because 100 Places in the D is all about bragging up the Metro-D and the wonderful locally-owned establishments within it! But sometimes less-than-positive aspects of my visits stand out enough that I feel I would be remiss not to mention them to you guys. And in terms of The Corner: during our time there, my friend Amy and I sat at the bar, and the service was . . . not great.

Despite three bartenders being on duty and at least two of them consistently being behind the bar at the same time, and despite us sitting smack-dab in the middle of the bar rail, it was challenging to get their attention, and they checked on us infrequently. It was a drag. Given the thumbs-ups elicited by the food, the drink, the attractive ambiance, and that enticing wall o’ games, I’d still recommend checking out The Corner – especially since it might’ve simply been an off night or a service situation that is now remedied. Maybe just don’t sit at the bar if you can help it!

Also worth noting: on the second level of The Corner is Detroit Axe, where you can throw axes at targets and participate in axe-throwing tournaments! I didn’t go up there during my visit, but I must say I’m intrigued – though I’m not sure how long I would last in an environment where axes are whizzing through the air (they are sharp and stuff).

Lastly, it’d be helpful to point out that The Corner/Detroit Axe is closed on Tuesdays, and it opens at 5 p.m. on all other days. There – now you’re all ready for your visit!

344 W. Nine Mile Rd.

Ferndale, MI 48020

www.thecornerferndale.com

299. Spa in the Woods – December 24, 2017 – Grosse Pointe Woods, MI

December2017SpaWoods2 (2)Oh my goodness – happy 2018, guys! I took another one of my unexpected hiatuses from the blog – one of those black holes of writing inertia cropped up unexpectedly around the holidays for me, and I pretty much forced myself to get on and write this post to avoid extending the thing any longer. It’s crazy how quickly time flies and how a few days of putting off posting can turn into a month!

But hey, as much as we can all beat ourselves up about our lapses, the most important part to focus on is the fact that we started again, am I right? That’s the tack I’m choosing to take here. And I’m very excited to have a bunch of adventures built up over the last month to recount to you – including Visit Number 300!!!! [Cue multi-hued confetti!] But today, it’s all about my becoming acquainted with the very lovely Spa in the Woods in Grosse Pointe Woods – on Christmas Eve, of all days.

One of my dearest friends got me a gift certificate to Spa in the Woods for my birthday in October after I’d revealed to her that the last time I’d gotten a professional pedicure was when President Obama was still in the thick of his second term (Yeah . . . it had been a minute).

I originally scheduled the pedicure on the first Saturday in December, then cancelled the morning of when I realized that I’d neglected to plan my day around the fact that I would be unable to wear proper shoes for several hours after my visit (pairing my parka with flip flops in my planned subsequent jaunts about town wasn’t an especially appealing prospect). So I postponed the appointment until Christmas Eve – because even though it was a Sunday and Spa in the Woods is generally closed on Sundays, it was open on Christmas Eve for the employees who wanted to work. I figured that a relaxing a.m. pedicure would be perfect before the (potentially ungrounding) interactions with family members later that evening.

And it was! It was such a delight to sit there in the cozy, quiet salon (only one other appointment showed up while I was there) chit-chatting with Maria, the lovely purple-haired nail technician, while she whipped my feet and toenails into a civilized state.

I opted for the Signature Spa in the Woods Pedicure, which is the fancy spa-level pedicure (as opposed to the more standard Express Pedicure that is also offered): in addition to being the recipient of the requisite heel-scraping and nail clipping, I had an awesome-smelling coffee exfoliating scrub rubbed on my legs and feet, followed by a luxe lotion and hot towels. The nails on my toesies were painted immaculately in a berry hue, and I was relaxed and ready to go for the holiday shenanigans with the fam.

I can’t emphasize enough what a treat it was to get this pedicure. I have always loved salon pedicures and used to get them more frequently; this was a reminder to treat myself to them more. Granted, at $55 before tip, the Signature Spa in the Woods Pedicure may have to be more of an annual occurrence for me than a regular splurge within the parameters of my current budget. But if you feel moved to treat yourself to a spa experience, I would highly recommend trying out this place; my aforementioned friend has treated herself on her last couple of birthdays to its spa packages and has loved the included massage, facial, sauna steam shower, and nail treatment.

21023 Mack Ave.

Grosse Pointe Woods, MI 48236

www.spainthewoodsmi.com

298. El Camino – December 20, 2017 – Keego Harbor, MI

December2017ElCamino1 (2)December2017ElCamino3 (4)December2017ElCamino4 (3)Keego Harbor is represented on 100 Places in the D! The new-to-the-blog city is home to El Camino, a Mexican joint that opened earlier this year. And you know I was psyched to check it out because I ADORE Mexican food to the jillionth degree (the cheese, the spice, the vibrancy of flavor – ¡sí, sí, and sí!).

Walking into the restaurant for lunch on Wednesday, I was immediately taken with its whimsically eclectic decor. Where else do you see wicker lighting fixtures, red accent walls, gilded mirrors, mini cacti, and avocado chairs (yes, avocado chairs: lime-green seats studded with an image of a halved avocado) all comingling? I was even more thrilled, of course, to discover the deliciousness of the food and drink.

The Not Cho Mojito is a refreshing riff on a mojito: it’s less sweet, infused with tequila rather than rum, and steeped with cilantro instead of mint. That little guy goes down easy, as does the chips and salsa sampler, which was AMAZING. The fresh tortilla chips are thick, crispy, grease-saturated little triangles of heaven – especially when dipped into the pico de gallo, salsa verde, and charred tomato-pineapple salsa. I especially enjoyed the salsa verde with its zesty lime flavor – a pleasant surprise for me, as I’m generally not a big fan of the green sauce.

And the tacos: they were glorious flavor bombs, tender meat sprinkled with Cotija cheese and nestled in pillowy corn tortillas. I ordered the Carne Asada with grilled steak and the Al Pastor with shredded, slow-roasted pork and grilled pineapple. I appreciated how liberally filled they were and how fresh and flavorful they tasted. They were an apt reminder that Mexican food is LIFE – not that I needed a reminder of that, of course, but I’ll take it!

2807 Orchard Lake Rd.

Keego Harbor, MI 48320

www.elcamino.cool

297. Ima – December 17, 2017 – Detroit, MI

December2017Ima1 (2)December2017Ima2 (2)December2017Ima4 (3)Today’s post recounts Visit Number 297 to a new-to-me, locally-owned place in the Metro-Detroit area since starting this blog in February 2014.

Number 297! It’s looking like Number 300 will be hit before the end of 2017 [Cue confetti]!!!!

I can’t believe I’ve covered so much ground in just under four years, yet I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface – especially when it comes to trying new restaurants, bars, and shops in Detroit itself. Sunday’s visit to Ima was my 72nd visit to a new-to-me Detroit establishment since starting 100 Places in the D, and still there are so many intriguing places in the city on my to-do list – 110 and counting! I’m excited by the fact that there are so many amazing restaurants, bars, shops, parks, and venues to try; simultaneously, I’m impatient to see them all.

Can you relate to that feeling, that mixture of anticipation and excitement and impatience? Perhaps you, like me, are a Metro-Detroiter with a list as long as your arm of all the cool places in the city you’d like to visit, and it seems like it takes you forever to cross just one item off the list. I feel you on that! Pursuing dreams – even the smallish dream of trying a new restaurant – requires more discipline than I always expect it should.

Regardless of where you live, of what you want to accomplish, however big or small, the actual logistical doing of those things can be scary – the struggle is real! I hope you’re able to spur yourself on to achieve those things you want to achieve, at whatever pace you’re able to proceed at, whether moved by motivation or inspiration or frustration or impatience (hopefully by the former two feelings over the latter two).

I’ll thank God for that sense of impatience in me; it’s what drove me down to Corktown last Sunday after reading several issues of Hour Detroit and collecting more places to visit. I could’ve easily eaten lunch at home, but I pushed myself into that place of discomfort (my fear of driving in the city persists – will that ever go away?) and headed down to Michigan Avenue.

Upon surviving my vehicular anxiety (phew!), I parked on a snowy side street near Ima and stepped inside its warm, snug interior. The noodle- and rice-bowl-centric restaurant with a cuisine that’s been described as Japanese fusion was populated by a number of patrons despite having only been open for a half hour. Greeted by a friendly server who suggested I take a counter seat, I picked one facing a white divider wall that fronted the kitchen.

I’d previously studied the menu of udon noodle dishes, rice bowls, and appetizers including shrimp-stuffed dumplings, edamame, and tacos with wakame (seaweed), green hot sauce, and “jicama shells” (who knew jicama could be fashioned into taco shells?). So I knew exactly what I wanted: the Golden Curry rice bowl with smoked pork loin.

My meal came out quickly, and I was eager to dig in to the vibrant bowl of steaming curry. It was then that I noticed my utensil choices: spoon or chopsticks.

Oh, man! I hadn’t eaten with chopsticks in the longest, but I decided to tough it out with those wooden sticks rather than embarrass myself asking for a fork, and the chopstick finagling got easier as I went. That Golden Curry was worth the struggle!

The rich curry sauce was accompanied by a flavorful nori furikake seasoning and paired well with the sticky rice, cauliflower, edamame, scallions, sauteed greens, and pink pickled ginger. The thinly sliced pork loin was perfection, tender as can be. What a filling, fresh, warming dish! I was able to take half of the ample serving home to enjoy later (sans chopsticks, admittedly).

My visit to Ima was much too quick. I’d regretted choosing the counter seat facing the white kitchen divider and abutting up to another counter seat along the wall to my right; it made me feel claustrophobic, so I didn’t linger. I should’ve squeezed into a spot along the well-populated counter fronting the window – the view of Michigan Ave. would’ve felt so much more expansive! Or maybe I could’ve negotiated a spot at one of the two long communal tables; there was another woman eating there solo. I’d definitely recommend sitting in one of those two areas if you visit Ima; don’t make the mistake I made and sit facing a blank wall when you could be people-watching and soaking in the ambiance. Going out of your way to cross a place off of your to-visit list is much too special for that!

2015 Michigan Ave.

Detroit, Michigan 48216

www.imanoodles.com