382. Bikes and Coffee – December 16, 2018 – Detroit, MI

december2018bikesandcoffee1 (2)december2018bikesandcoffee2 (2)I’m forever enthused to find a new indie coffee shop. So when the recently opened Bikes and Coffee in the Woodbridge neighborhood of Detroit popped up on my radar, you know I was there!

As its name implies, Bikes and Coffee isn’t simply a coffee house. It’s also a full-service bike repair shop that offers cycling-related gear and builds custom bikes by request.

The small shop artfully melds its two business elements, with counter and sofa seating up front for cozy latte sipping, a barista-station island in the center, and bike frames, tires, and other gear concentrated along the rear peripheral.

I’ve been to Bikes and Coffee twice: once on a gorgeously sunny Sunday in mid-December when I enjoyed a white tea latte while sunning at a window-facing counter seat and again two weeks later, when I sipped a rich cappuccino.

The first time I was there, the owner’s kitten was there, too, running and jumping and playing. What an adorable little guy! He pawed playfully at my legs and hopped up onto one patron’s lap.

Whether you’re a cycling enthusiast or not, Bikes and Coffee is worth a visit. Bring your bike in for a tune-up and sip on some caffeine-fueled goodness, to boot!

1521 Putnam St.

Detroit, MI 48208

www.bikes-coffee.com

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381. Antihero – December 12, 2018 – Ferndale, MI

December2018AntiHero1 (4)Bringing the color and flavor explosions: that’s Antihero for ya! I visited the recently-opened Japanese restaurant on Nine Mile Road in downtown Ferndale back in mid-December.

Antihero’s restrooms: they’re what’s bringing the color explosion. These are quite possibly the most awesome restrooms I have ever seen, boasting vibrantly-hued, cartoon-esque, panoramic murals that make you happy you had to go pee.

Both times I was in the ladies’ room during my visit, I encountered a fellow patron as she walked in, exclaimed over the murals, and pulled out her phone to take a picture. I should have taken a picture of the ladies’ room myself to include here – but really, the art is worth experiencing yourself!

The dining room of Antihero features more subdued – yet just as beautiful – mural artwork. The space is dimly lit, chic elegance, with starburst chandelier lighting and blond wooden booths and communal tables.

A collection of craft cocktails (with fun names such as Late Night Party Store and Dandy) helms Antihero’s drink menu, which is rounded out by selections of draft and bottled beers.

The food menu consists of small plates, noodle dishes, and a hibachi section with meat, seafood, and veggie selections that you can cook yourself on a hibachi grill brought to the table.

I was intrigued by the hibachi offerings (partially because items from that selection came with the whimsically-monikered Fuck Yea sauce), but I ultimately opted for two small plates for my main course: the Smashed Fingerling Potato and the Smoked Brisket Bun.

The Smashed Fingerling Potato dish was BOMB! HERE is the flavor explosion I was talking about. These potatoes with their creamy kewpie mayo, yakisoba sauce, chopped nori, and scallions were so richly delicious. I’m super impressed whenever I find vegetarian dishes that are as rich and sumptuous – or more so – as meat-based dishes; the Smashed Fingerling Potato fits into this category.

The Smoked Brisket Bun was also tasty with its incredibly tender beef complemented by a zesty chili-hoisin sauce and a pillowy-soft bun.

And then, there was dessert! I couldn’t pass up the Mochi Donut with its orange-oil-and-apple-cider glaze. The donuts were freshly-fried heaven, with an intriguingly chewy texture lent from the mochi rice paste they were made from.

In short, this visit to Antihero was most definitely a win! It’s no wonder the place is great: it’s owned by the same local restaurateurs behind the fantastic Ferndale staples Imperial and Public House.

231 W. Nine Mile Rd.

Ferndale, MI 48220

www.antiheroferndale.com

380. Populace Coffee – December 9, 2018 – Detroit, MI

December2018PopulaceCoffee1 (3)After Sunday-morning brunching at Brass Rail Pizza Bar and checking out the holiday markets at Capitol Park, friends and I decided it was time for piping-hot caffeinated goodness at Populace Coffee.

The downtown-Detroit-based coffee shop is located inside of The Siren Hotel, retro-chic accommodations housed within the previously long-abandoned Wurlitzer Building on Broadway Street near Comerica Park.

You know how some places are so inviting, so otherworldly in their coziness that you don’t want to leave? That was how I found Populace Coffee to be. With its velvet-plush furniture, potted palms, fringe-shaded lamps, and ornately carved bookshelf packed with tomes, it exudes antique glamour and a welcoming, come-rest-with-your-feet-up-and-a-cup-of-tea (or Colombian-roast coffee) vibe. I wanted to spend all Sunday afternoon holed up in that coffee house, sipping my rich cappuccino, chatting with my pals, and perusing the magazines scattered about.

We ended up spending about an hour inside Populace; then it was back out into the real world. It was an hour well spent, as I emerged exhilarated by communion, caffeine, and the crush I’d developed for yet another awesome independent coffee shop in the city.

1509 Broadway St.

Detroit, MI 48226

(with an additional location in Bay City, MI)

www.populace.coffee

379. Brass Rail Pizza Bar – December 9, 2018 – Detroit, MI

December2018BrassRailPizzaBar1 (2)December2018BrassRailPizzaBar2 (3)December2018BrassRailPizzaBar3 (2)Pizza for brunch? YES, please!

On a exuberantly blue-skied Sunday morning in early December, I met friends over drinks and that cheese-bedecked Italian pie at Brass Rail Pizza Bar in downtown Detroit.

The restaurant has a welcoming, decidedly sports-bar-esque vibe with its expansive interior and industrial-chic decor. On that weekend morning, it also had a Bloody Mary bar.

I’m not one for the Bloody Marys (I love tomatoes, but I just can’t get into drinking tomato juice – even when it’s laced with booze), but my friends were down and proceeded to construct some EPIC Bloody Marys, complete with onion rings and skewers laden heavy with various cured meats and cheeses. They nabbed me an onion ring battered with crushed Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, which was awesomeness!

I ordered a Spanish coffee and the small size of the Chip off the Ole Block pizza. It was delicious with its bacon, arugula, onion, and lemon zest nestled on a bed of red sauce and melted cheese and drizzled with balsamic glaze. It was also significantly larger than I’d expected, an excellent value for $11. I took over half of it home.

What an ideal spot for brunch (or lunch, or dinner) this Brass Rail Pizza Bar is! Not only is the pizza delicious and the drink selection on point (there’s a full bar, including a plethora of Michigan craft beers on draft, in addition to the weekend Bloody Mary set-up), there’s also food offerings in addition to the namesake pie: a variety of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and comfort-centric entrées such as Fish and Chips, Fettuccine Alfredo, and Chicken Parmesan.

Additionally, vegan cheese and gluten-free crust are options available when ordering pizza, as is a gluten-free bun for burgers and sandwiches. Yay to inclusive ingredient options!

Brass Rail Pizza Bar, you had me at Flamin’ Hot Cheetos-battered onion ring. I would love if you hosted me for brunch again soon!

18 W. Adams Ave.

Detroit, MI 48226

www.brassraildetroit.com

378. Honest John’s – November 24, 2018 – Detroit, MI

November2018HonestJohns1 (2)November2018HonestJohns2 (3)Happy New Year’s Eve! While as of the date of this post it’s the very last day of 2018, here at 100 Places in the D, we’ll be exploring the year almost-past for at least a few more weeks (because somebody get a wee bit behind in her blogging).

Today it’s all about Honest John’s of Detroit! I visited the Midtown/Cass Corridor-based establishment after a tour of the Motown Museum back in November. Hungry and not wanting adventure-time in Detroit to end, I decided to hit Honest John’s for lunch.

The restaurant had been on my radar for a while. I’d envisioned it as a diner, as I knew it opened early (at 7 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 9 a.m. on Sundays) and served hearty breakfasts and other comfort-food fare. When I walked into its crowded interior that Saturday afternoon, I realized I’d been mistaken.

Honest John’s is most definitely a bar – a gloriously down-to-earth pub whose ceiling was festooned with colored twinkle lights (presumably in honor of the holiday season) and walls adorned with neon-light signage. While it opens early, it’s also open nightly until 2 a.m.

The neon-light signs spell out sayings like “Sobriety Sucks” and “Men Lie” – adages that doubtless tie in with the honesty theme of the bar’s name.

I found myself getting cold feet about eating lunch alone in that crowded bar – until I spied an open two-top table in the corner of the restaurant and reminded myself that I am indeed badass enough to dine solo. (We all are – how did fear of eating alone become a thing in our society, anyway? I mean, it is truly the least of our worries.)

My server was great: friendly, prompt, and polite. I perused the brunch menu and gave him my order of the Eastsider sandwich (essentially a Reuben, which is also on the menu; it subs out the sauerkraut for coleslaw), side of curly fries, and a hard cider from Starcut Ciders (which I’d not heard of previously but which I learned is a hard-cider brand owned by Michigan-based Short’s Brewing Company).

The sandwich and fries came out quickly, and they were BOMB! That Eastsider sandwich was so delectable with its layers of tender corned beef, melted Swiss, crunchy coleslaw, and creamy Thousand Island dressing nestled between buttery toasted rye bread . . . Mmmmmm. Writing about it is totally bringing me back to that glorious moment of consumption!

The portion sizes of both the Eastsider sandwich and the curly fries were ample, and I was easily able to save half of the sandwich and fries to take home with me.

I left Honest John’s with a happy heart and stomach, thrilled to have discovered yet another awesome restaurant/bar in the city and eagerly anticipating my return. I would say I’m excited to further explore Honest John’s food menu; it offers a wide array of breakfast items, sandwiches, burgers, and enticingly calorie-laden appetizers (hello, chili cheese fries!). But the truth is, I can’t wait to have another brush with that Eastsider Reuben – it’s perfection!

488 Selden St.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.honestjohnsdetroit.com

377. Motown Museum – November 24, 2018 – Detroit, MI

November2018Motown3 (2)November2018Motown1 (2)November2018Motown2 (2)After three-plus weeks away, it feels great to be back on 100 Places in the D, highlighting some Detroit goodness!

I didn’t mean to take nearly a month’s hiatus from the blog. But between preparations for the holidays and cray-cray busyness at my day job, it happened – and here I am, on one of the very last days of the year, writing a post for a visit I made over Thanksgiving weekend.

But what a visit it was! On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I jaunted over to the Motown Museum in Detroit to soak up its historical vibes.

I almost didn’t make the 11 a.m. tour I’d purchased tickets online for earlier that morning, due to foolishness on my part (a.k.a. failing to factor in time for parking). Worth noting: the Motown Museum doesn’t have its own parking lot, AND it’s adjacent to a funeral home – which was hosting a visitation on the morning of my visit. So street parking near the museum was scarce.

The good news was that there was metered parking available along West Grand Boulevard, the street on which the Motown Museum is located. I ended up parking across the street and down a ways, near Henry Ford Hospital. From there, it’s only a few minutes’ walk to the Motown Museum.

I scrambled into the museum and up to the ticket counter to check in. Fortunately, I was only a few minutes late, and the staff was kind enough to let me join the tour, which had just started.

I was surprised to find a group of about 20-something people on the 11 a.m. tour, including people from England and Germany and Americans visiting from out-of-state locales. Of course I shouldn’t have been surprised, given that the museum and the Hitsville U.S.A. building at 2648 West Grand Boulevard that it features has a big reputation, having been the birthplace of Motown Records, that venerable music label that produced major acts such as the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5, and Smokey Robinson.

The tour, which lasted about an hour, included a video presentation, viewings of Motown-related memorabilia (including one of Michael Jackson’s famous black fedoras and signature glittery gloves), loads of interesting facts, and walk-throughs of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s former living quarters, the preserved lobby of the Hitsville U.S.A. building, and the famed Studio A recording studio, where our group got to sing and dance along to a few bars of The Temptations’ “My Girl.”

After my visit to the Motown Museum, I’m in awe of what Berry Gordy has achieved. Within years of convincing his family to loan him $800 so that he could start Motown Records, he was making millions and fostering some of the biggest musical acts in the world.

Recalling his time working on a Ford Motor Company assembly line, Gordy applied the assembly-line concept to his Motown artists, hiring coaches to help with dancing, etiquette, and finances to transform incoming fledgling singers and musicians into polished performers.

His hard work and ingenuity paid off – so much so that the Hitsville U.S.A. building that acted as recording studio from 1959 to 1972 is now part of this museum that has attracted thousands of people from all over the world.

On the day of my visit alone, the Motown Museum received high levels of traffic; as I was leaving, I heard a member of the staff tell walk-in visitors there weren’t open spots on a tour until 5 p.m. (it was a little after noon).

Visitor interest must at least partly account for the Motown Museum’s planned expansion in the coming years to a 50,000-square-foot exhibit space with estimated construction costs around $50 million.

It was somewhat hard to fathom that the relatively quaint-looking house I found myself standing within on that November morning was the epicenter of a musical powerhouse. It was a profound piece of history to experience – and one more reason for me to believe in Detroit being one of the coolest cities in the world.

2648 W. Grand Blvd.

Detroit, MI 48208

www.motownmuseum.org

376. Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters – November 21, 2018 – Rochester, MI

November2018DessertOasis1 (3)Pre-holiday coffee-shop coziness! That was what I was in the mood for when I jaunted over to Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters in downtown Rochester on the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving.

It appeared I wasn’t the only one who had that objective in mind: the coffee shop was bustling when I arrived around 3:30 p.m. The crowd almost overwhelmingly appeared to be composed of college students getting their homework on (studying the night before a holiday weekend? How ambitious!).

While it looked like I wasn’t going to find an open table in the crowded café before my order of a cappuccino and chocolate croissant came up, Fate intervened, and I was able to nab a seat at a small table.

I spent over an hour in the coffee shop, soaking in its congenial vibes whilst working on my computer and receiving a delicious infusion of caffeine and sugar via the cappuccino and croissant.

As made evident by its name, Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters is – like me – into the sweet treats. According to its website, the cheesecake it sells slices of is made in-house daily and is offered in such intriguing flavor varieties as Banana Nutella, Baklava, and Tiramisu. Cookies, savory puff pastries, and other baked goods (including vegan desserts) are also sold.

I’ve heard Dessert Oasis periodically offers live music, as well. I would love to come back on a performance night and incorporate that into the experience  – although the inviting ambiance, gracious staff, and delicious food and drink that characterized this visit are in themselves more than enough to warrant a return.

336 S. Main St.

Rochester, MI 48307

(With additional locations in Detroit and Royal Oak)

www.docr.coffee

375. Gran Castor – November 13, 2018 – Troy, MI

November2018GranCastor1 (3)November2018GranCastor2 (2)November2018GranCastor3 (2)Gran Castor: you WOW’ed me!

It’s always thrilling to dine at a new-to-me restaurant I’ve been looking forward to trying and have it exceed my expectations. That’s what Gran Castor, the latest opening by the Union Joints restaurant group (which also owns local faves the Clarkston Union, Union Woodshop, Vinsetta Garage, Honcho, and Fenton Fire Hall) did when I visited it on a Tuesday evening several weeks ago.

Remember what restaurant was previously located at the intersection of Big Beaver and Rochester roads in Troy? That’s right: a Hooters. Now the building that housed that notorious chain-franchise purveyor of wings is Gran Castor, the restaurant/coffee bar with a gorgeous aesthetic and delectable cuisine.

Check out the above photos of Gran Castor’s dining area, complete with pleasing pops of color, mod Southwestern vibes, cozy seating areas, and eye-catching fireplace-in-the-round. Is it not STUNNING? I immediately felt a boost of happiness when I settled into that bright, beautiful, welcoming space for an after-work dinner with a friend.

Gran Castor’s food menu reminds me of that of one of its sister restaurants, Honcho of Clarkston. While the overall vibe of the cuisine is Latin, ingredients of Asian origin are prevalent in dishes such as fried chicken tacos with a “spicy soy fish sauce glaze” and a rice bowl including “kimchi house pickled jalapeño and carrots.”

It becomes even more apparent what a fusion menu Gran Castor’s is when you check out the pizza section and see how many traditionally Latin ingredients are included in the offerings there: see the Papas y Chorizo pizza with its chorizo sausage, mole rojo, and salsa criolla and The Mallmann with its chimichurri sauce and queso fresco.

For my entrée, I went with a relatively un-fusion-y offering: the Gran Castor Burrito stuffed with pulled pork. With its tender meat, smoked cheddar cheese, black beans, cactus pico, lettuce, and queso sauce, plus sides of refried beans and cilantro-lime rice, it was incredibly flavorful and satisfying.

I saved half of the large-and-in-charge Gran Castor Burrito to take home and looked toward the dessert menu. My friend and I were psyched to see that as at Honcho, that menu included fresh-fried mini donuts with chocolate and caramel dipping sauces. We opted for an order to share.

If I’m remembering correctly, eight donuts came standard with that dessert, and our server was kind enough to throw in a few more. These donuts were AMAZING: freshly fried, pillowy-soft-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside decadence – especially when dipped in the rich chocolate and caramel sauces.

Our awesome server went above and beyond in offering us a top-notch dining experience, throwing in a sample of Gran Castor’s house-made soft serve for each of us, as well, and WOW – my mind and taste buds were BLOWN by how YUM that stuff was. The twisty soft serve included the cinnamony Mexican Dark Chocolate flavor and the wonderfully nuanced Vanilla-Chamomile. I loved, loved, LOVED both.

And I loved Gran Castor. From its striking interior and delicious cuisine to its stand-out service, it offered a memorable dining experience that had me super enthused about the prospect of a repeat visit (I NEED more of that soft-serve in my life!).

2950 Rochester Rd.

Troy, MI 48083

www.grancastor.com

374. Marcus Market – October 27, 2018 – Detroit, MI

October2018Marcus2 (2)October2018Marcus1 (3)After a latte-sipping visit to Urban Bean Co. one rainy Saturday afternoon in late October, I wasn’t ready to go home, so I decided to jaunt over to Marcus Market to check it out.

I’d expected the Midtown/Cass Corridor-based business to be an indie grocery shop à la the now-defunct (R.I.P!) Parker Street Market. It is that, but it’s also a liquor store – and a purveyor of smoothies – and tacos!

As witnessed during my late-afternoon visit, the liquor-store aspect appears to be the most popular – at least among the college-student demographic. There were loads of young adults making alcoholic beverage purchases, presumably in preparation for Saturday night (ah, I remember those days!). Marcus Market has a wide selection of liquor, craft beer, and wine.

It also offers a variety of grocery items (bagged coffees, juices, snacks, soups and other canned goods, etc.) and goods you’d find in a drugstore (such as school supplies).

And then there are the two counters toward the back of the store, where the smoothies and tacos, respectively, are offered!

Who doesn’t love a fresh smoothie? I will say, however, that the food counter I’m most excited by in Marcus Market is the one that offers tacos, because that is helmed by El Taco Veloz, a Mexican restaurant based in Southwest Detroit that I’ve yet to visit but learned about this year and SO want to check out. Their tacos are supposed to be BOMB – and you can see from online reviews of Marcus Market that people are digging the ones they’ve ordered from the satellite location of El Taco Veloz located there.

I want to have the full El Taco Veloz experience at its original location in Southwest Detroit (where you order from a food truck and then eat in the dining area in the building behind it), so I did not partake of it within Marcus Market. But isn’t it awesome that Marcus Market helps peddle these purportedly glorious tacos – and so much other stuff?

4614 Second Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

373. Urban Bean Co. – October 27, 2018 – Detroit, MI

October2018UrbanBean1 (2)October2018UrbanBean4 (2)October2018UrbanBean2 (2)I love a good coffee house at any time of year, but one’s appeal is of course amplified in the midst of now – a.k.a. the cold-weather half of the year that oft feels as if it’s stretching on interminably here in the Metro-D. Cozy is what carries me through this time of year, and locally-owned coffee shops offer their own signature brands of cozy.

Thusly, on a rainy Saturday at the end of last month, I took myself downtown for some coffee-house-level coziness with a visit to Urban Bean Co., an indie establishment on Grand River Avenue.

The two-level shop is petite, narrow in width and therefore tricky to navigate when it’s busy – and it was kicking when I first arrived there that Saturday afternoon.

Urban Bean Co.’s vibe is retro: wood paneling on the walls; sepia-toned carpet that legit looks like it’s from the ’70s; a general color scheme of oranges and golds and browns, including plastic chairs done in those colors.

Taking my place at the ordering counter, I was greeted by the obviously overtaxed yet still friendly barista. I wanted to try the Pure Evil Latte, which I’d seen rave reviews of with its espresso infused with amaretto, cherry, and milk. But the shop was out of amaretto at the time, so I opted instead for the Green Fairie Latte infused with white chocolate and pistachio syrup. I took my drink up to the second floor, where the bulk of the seating is, and was fortunate to score a seat at a small table.

The narrow parameter of the room made for an intimate environment. Most people seemed to be engrossed in study except for two guys who appeared to be on a first date; it was hard not to feel like a creeper easily taking in their every word in the otherwise hushed room.

But that second-floor perch atop Urban Bean Co. was cozy, and it offered a fantastic view of the streetscape outside, glistening with rain and looking particularly less inviting than the dry, warm environs in which I sat, sipping a deliciously sweet coffee beverage.

What else do I dig about this coffee shop besides its fantastic views, retro-comfy quarters, and tasty signature lattes? Well, I’m pretty obsessed with the fact that it serves The Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company’s wares, as well as those of other local purveyors such as Germack, Better Made, and the pièce de résistance, Dutch Girl Donuts (which you may recall I tried earlier this fall, and damn, were those donuts LIFE!).

200 Grand River Ave.

Detroit, MI 48226

www.urbanbeanco.com