516. Too Ra Loo – August 3, 2021 – Rochester, MI

Visiting Too Ra Loo was a highlight of my week-long staycation in early August. The restaurant/bar based in downtown Rochester provided integral staycation elements: delicious food and drink and a pretty patio (the optimal environment from which to enjoy summer sunshine and conversation with a good friend!).

Based on its name, I’d assumed Too Ra Loo was an Irish bar. But according to its website, it’s actually inspired by “Italian influences and inventive fare.”

Both Italian influence and inventive spirit are evidenced in Too Ra Loo’s pizza offerings. The extensive list of pies include the Belgian with its brussels sprouts, bacon, parmesan, and balsamic glaze and the Lafayette topped with the makings of a Detroit coney dog (chili, mustard, hot dog, and red onion, naturally!).

Too Ra Loo’s menu offers a wide-ranging variety of dishes besides those pizzas. The Small Plates section offers both traditional bar apps (nachos, quesadilla) and more refined ones (mussels in a “red curry coconut broth,” a whitefish pâté). There are entrée salads, burgers and sandwiches, and comfort-food fare such as the Steak and Potatoes and Spaghetti with Meatballs.

I surprised myself by choosing from that menu the Ancient Grains, a salad featuring a mix of greens and kale topped with lentils, chickpeas, pepitas, shredded carrots, zucchini, and cabbage, quinoa, and other grains and tossed in a citrus vinaigrette. I generally wouldn’t choose a healthful salad from a menu that includes such decadent fare as a Reuben sandwich or Cheeseburger pizza! But that Ancient Grains salad called to me in that moment. And I’m so glad it did, because it was FANTASTIC! All those fresh, hearty, healthful ingredients melded together to form supreme deliciousness. Despite its generous proportions, I gobbled that Ancient Grains salad in its entirety, savoring every flavorful, nourishing bite.

I also savored a pint of hard cider chosen from Too Ra Loo’s extensive beer menu. Many of the craft beers and ciders featured are Michigan made. And while I did said savoring outside, on Too Ra Loo’s patio, I’d love to return for a drink and a meal inside.

I’d characterize Too Ra Loo’s attractive dining room as upscale-industrial: lots of gleaming dark wood, brick, and exposed duct work. A wrap-around bar dominates the center, and plenty of TVs are featured throughout, primed to broadcast the games du jour. It’s a totally inviting space to cozy up with good food and friends – staycation or otherwise!

139 S. Main St.

Rochester, MI 48307

www.tooraloorochester.com

515. Kuzzo’s Chicken and Waffles – July 24, 2021 – Detroit, MI

A summer Saturday in Detroit, visiting Kuzzo’s Chicken and Waffles? Yes, please! As this season of sunshine and heat waves winds down, I’m more than happy to reminisce about my visit to the famed Avenue of Fashion-based restaurant.

I’d aspired to dine at Kuzzo’s for years. So it was exciting to make that dream a reality when a friend agreed to lunch with me there in late July. We weren’t the only ones with Kuzzo’s on the brain that day – the place was bustling with patrons! We waited about 40 minutes for a table before scoring seats at the bar.

While Kuzzo’s interior is fairly small, it brimmed with energy on the day of our visit. Something about the acoustics of the place (the high ceilings?) seemed to amplify sound – but hey, that added to the convivial vibe! I dug the restaurant’s bright red walls and stylish, contemporary look, its signature decorative detail: the definition of “kuzzo” painted above the bar. (That definition reads, “A term of endearment for one who is a friend or family member / A person of a kindred culture, race or nation.”)

Speaking of the bar: Kuzzo’s offers fun cocktails, including Spiked Kool-Aid (your childhood classic – adulting with Tito’s vodka!), a Pear Punch that its menu refers to as a “patio pounder,” and Mimosa Flights (which include four different flavor varieties of the classic champagne-and-juice riff).

As tempting as those cocktails were, I had my eye on the prize at Kuzzo’s that day: the chicken!

While I love both chicken and waffles, I admittedly prefer to enjoy them separate from each other. This feels totally sacrilegious to admit in a post about a restaurant whose oeuvre revolves around the combo! But it’s why I bypassed the 12 chicken-and-waffles combos on Kuzzo’s menu and went with Hazel’s Southern Platter. It features three pieces of fried chicken, two sides (I opted for the Mac & Cheese and Candied Yams), and a cornbread muffin.

If you also aren’t a chicken-and-waffles devotee, you’ll find plenty of other appealing choices on Kuzzo’s menu. It showcases several omelets and a variety of breakfast combo plates, including ones featuring biscuits and gravy, salmon croquettes, and chicken and grits. There are also a couple of sandwich offerings, including the Chicken BLT and the Nashville Hot Chicken (whose menu descriptions are literally making my mouth water!).

When my order arrived, I saw there’d been a mix-up. My Hazel’s Southern Platter was supposed to feature a breast, a leg, and a thigh. But it came with two pieces of chicken – both breasts. I communicated the mix-up, and the third chicken piece arrived – and was another breast. I didn’t have the heart to tell our bartender server about the bungle; she was busy enough! So I embraced the three-breast meal. I was happy to find the white-meat chicken to be quite juicy. The breading was nice and crispy, too.

But you know what the biggest surprise was for me on that Hazel’s Southern Platter? The Candied Yams. WOW, were they DELICIOUS! Those little root veggie nuggets were loaded with flavor. They were in this cinnamon-laced syrup that was SO good. I could eat a bucket of those candied yams!

My friend had one of Kuzzo’s omelets and loved it. Both of us made an unconventional choice that day at the chicken-and-waffles restaurant. But I must say, as I peruse Kuzzo’s menu now, I feel I wouldn’t mind returning to try one of its namesake choices: maybe the Mrs. Irene (waffles and fried chicken smothered in gravy and onions) or the Big Red (red velvet waffles with a cream cheese glaze paired with three wings or chicken tenders). Enticing choices abound on that menu!

19345 Livernois Ave.

Detroit, MI 48221

www.kuzzoschickenandwaffles.com

514. Deshi Kitchen – July 16, 2021 – Sterling Heights, MI

Friday night carryout from Deshi Kitchen: what a treat!

In these COVID times, having the ability to order takeaway is not something I take for granted – even now that life is (somewhat) back to normal. I felt that sentiment the night I picked up my meal from this Sterling Heights-based Indian restaurant.

It was a delight to devour Deshi’s delicious fare. The chicken vindaloo I ordered was optimally spicy, while the aloo gobi was utterly tasty with its potato and cauliflower chunks tossed in a sauce of warm spices. The garlic naan was fresh, pillowy goodness!

Deshi’s menu boasts a plethora of favorite Indian dishes, including chicken korma, butter chicken, goat curry, palak paneer, and biryani.

43095 Hayes Rd.

Sterling Heights, MI 48313

www.deshikitchenmi.com

513. Lamir Mediterranean Cuisine – July 9, 2021 – Clinton Township, MI

Lamir Mediterranean Cuisine is serving up deliciously fresh fare!

The Clinton Township-based restaurant’s specialty is Persian cuisine. Its menu features dishes such as koobedeh (skewers of broiled, spice-infused ground beef), barg (marinated, thinly-sliced beef filet), and mahiche (slow-cooked lamb shank in a saffron tomato sauce). Other beloved Mediterranean fare from shawarma to falafel, tabbouli to grape leaves are also offered. I’ve gotten carryout twice from Lamir and have been impressed by the polite, friendly service, fresh ingredients, and ample portions.

The first time I ordered from Lamir, I had its Hummus with Gallaba entrée. It features sautéed beef and vegetables on a bed of hummus. Lamir’s entrées include a side plus soup or salad, so I also opted for rice and a fattoush (included with entrees for an upcharge).

From that one meal’s plentiful portions, I made three. The saffron rice and the fattoush each filled large carryout containers. My entrée abounded with creamy hummus topped with a hefty portion of beef and vegetables.

I loved the freshness of the fattoush salad, its zesty dressing tossed with onion, cucumber, tomato, romaine, and pita chips. The hummus was delicious slathered on the pieces of pita bread that accompanied it. And the gallaba’s beef was tender; both it and the sautéed vegetables were richly flavored. I was INTO it! So into it that I ordered it again a month later.

That time, I got the hummus and gallaba separate from each other so I could enjoy each component on its own. I also ordered six extra pieces of Lamir’s fresh-baked pita bread, which is SO good warmed and slathered in hummus. I can’t help but love that it’s shaped like little hearts. But then again, there are many things to love about Lamir and its food!

39890 Garfield Rd.

Clinton Twp., MI 48038

www.lamirmediterranean.com

512. Le Andos Cafe – June 19, 2021 – Macomb, MI

Le Andos Cafe is for breakfast connoisseurs!

The Macomb-based restaurant has something for everyone. But breakfast lovers will go especially ga-ga over this place. Le Andos’ list of breakfast offerings is impressive and extensive. It offers a slew of omelets, French toast, waffles, crepes, pancakes, combo plates, breakfast wraps and sandwiches, and other beloved breakfast items.

There are six different versions of eggs Benedict alone on Le Andos’ menu, including the Philly Style layered with shaved steak, onion, bell pepper, and mushroom and another featuring your choice of crab cake or salmon. There are 12 different types of French toast, and 18 different kinds of omelets! The former includes decadent options such as Salted Caramel (French toast topped with caramel, pecans, sea salt, and powdered sugar), Banana Foster Stuffed (featuring banana, raisins, pecans, and a sweet cream cheese filling), and Red Velvet Stuffed (which skips the breakfast pretense and goes straight to dessert, featuring three slices of red velvet cake!). The latter includes omelet varieties that range from Hawaiian to Greek to Corned Beef and Swiss.

Dessert breakfasts seem to be Le Andos’ domain. I get giddy with excitement when I read the Pancakes section of the menu. Nutella Stuffed Pancakes, Birthday Cake Stuffed Pancakes, AND Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes? Pancakes incorporating banana, coconut, and pecan then layered with Le Andos’ cream cheese filling, pineapple, powdered sugar, and mango and raspberry syrups? (That’s the Tropical Breeze pancakes.) This is the stuff of childhood dreams! And I haven’t even touched the Waffles and Sweet Crepes sections of Le Andos’ menu. See the Cannoli crepe including every part of the iconic Italian dessert, from filling to shell to chocolate chips!

So yes, Le Andos’ breakfast menu is epic. But the café also boasts a sizeable lunch menu featuring a variety of burgers, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and more. The restaurant is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays as of the writing of this post.

During my brunch-time visit to Le Andos, I opted for the Monte Cristo, a heftily-portioned crepe stuffed with turkey, ham, and melted Swiss and American cheeses; sprinkled with powdered sugar; and drizzled with raspberry melba sauce. It’s included in the Savory Crepes section of Le Andos’ menu, but obviously, it’s a mash-up of sweet and savory – as is the iconic sandwich it’s inspired by. And it’s utterly rich and delicious!

It was hard to choose just this one dish from Le Andos’ offerings. I could go on and on about the creativity of its menu. As someone who loves to cook – and eat – it inspires me to get into my kitchen and create! Or . . . maybe I could just revisit Le Andos and order those Birthday Cake Stuffed Pancakes. 🙂

15433 Hall Rd.

Macomb, MI 40448

www.leandoscafe.com

511. BurgerFin – June 12, 2021 – Clinton Township, MI

I love burgers AND patio dining. So of course I was game for a mash-up of the two with a visit to BurgerFin.

The Clinton Township-based restaurant (at The Mall at Partridge Creek) is all about mash-ups. Its menu features both burgers and sushi.

A burger-joint-slash-sushi-bar! Have you heard of one of those? I certainly hadn’t until BurgerFin. But why not serve both sushi and burgers if you’re going to do them as well as BurgerFin does?

Seafood is not my thing. So I don’t find much reason to eat sushi. But did I wish seafood was my thing when I saw BurgerFin’s Las Vegas rolls? Most definitely! Filled with salmon, cream cheese, and avocado, they’re deep-fried and drizzled with spicy mayo and sriracha, then topped with jalapeños and sesame seeds. What flavor amalgamation! Other sushi offerings on BurgerFin’s menu are its Spicy Tuna Roll, Shrimp Tempura Roll, and California Roll.

While I’m not a sushi aficionado, I’m pretty into burgers. And BurgerFin’s intrigued me.

I should clarify: BurgerFin’s burgers are actually sliders, the baby cousin of the sandwiched-sized original. Not all these sliders feature beef patties. Choices range from Crispy Chicken to the Maple Bourbon BLT (BurgerFin’s riff on the classic bacon sandwich) to the Mobster Lobster filled with lobster salad, scallions, and a tangy mustard sauce.

I opted for the BBQ Bacon Me Crazy beef sliders topped with grilled onions, melted cheddar, bacon, and barbecue sauce. They were delicious little burger nuggets! I ordered them as part of BurgerFin’s slider meal combo, which includes two sliders and a side of fries or salad. I opted for the house salad.

This salad was EXCELLENT! I feel a little silly raving about a side salad, but honestly, it was SO good. The mixed greens, red onion, tomato, and cucumber were SO fresh and tasty, and I loved the zesty vinaigrette dressing and crunchy croutons. Add salads to the list of things BurgerFin does well! Its menu does include an elaborate build-your-own salad option that presents a variety of nuts and seeds, fruits and veggies, greens and cheeses, proteins and dressings.

Those healthful salads on BurgerFin’s menu are balanced by decadent deep-fried fare. Under Appetizers, see the bacon-studded Mac & Cheese bites served with ranch dressing and the Crispy Brussel Sprouts coated in chile lime sauce and parmesan cheese. Drool over the Fries & Sauces section’s Bonfire Fries with their layers of seasoning, sriracha, and Fat Tire-laced beer cheese.

Try it all, from sliders to sushi, salad to those Bonfire Fries. BurgerFin will totally embrace your meal mash-up!

17380 Hall Rd.

Clinton Twp., MI 48038

www.burgerfin.com

510. The Congregation – May 22, 2021 – Detroit, MI

When I think of The Congregation, I think, “Magic!” And also, “How have I not been back there yet???”

This Detroit-based business is truly special. It’s a coffee house/bar built in a nearly-century-old restored church building. And it has these magical vibes.

Those vibes are due to the wonderfully welcoming staff, the delicious food and drink, and the killer ambiance. And also, there just seems to be a signature je ne sais quoi to the place. That’s a common sentiment among visitors to The Congregation, according to one of the baristas with whom I shared my good-vibes feels.

I visited The Congregation on a Saturday in late May – a warm, sunny Saturday that totally felt like the origination of summer. A friend and I enjoyed food and coffee drinks on the elevated deck, which overlooks The Congregation’s backyard lined with picnic tables and strung with twinkle lights. Guided yoga, a weekly farmer’s market, food trunks, and other fun happenings grace that yard regularly. The Congregation regularly hosts events such as these and others, varying from children’s ballet classes to a weekly house music night.

I was intrigued by The Congregation’s full bar. It boasts an extensive beer menu (including locally produced brews), a selection of wines by the glass and bottle, and signature cocktails.

I’m super appreciative of those signature cocktails – not only because the drinks sound amazing, but because nearly all of them currently cost $8. Can you think of the last time you paid $8 for a signature cocktail? I can’t – and both me and my wallet are admittedly fatigued from paying $14 to $16 for one drink. So I’m super excited to see accessible prices on thoughtfully crafted drinks such as The Congregation’s Burning Bush (lemon-flavored vodka, orange liquor, Campari, orange juice, jalapeño, and lime) and Blessed Bean (Baileys, Kahlúa, and milk infused with cinnamon and topped with The Congregation’s Nitro Cold Brew coffee).

Yes, all of The Congregation’s signature cocktails have names inspired by church (Devil’s Marg is my favorite – though I also get a kick out of Collection Thyme and Pastor’s Swizzle). And yes, a selection of its signature cocktails involve coffee and/or tea! I’m already dreaming about cozying up with the warm version of The Day Cometh (coffee spiked with Jameson, Baileys, RumChata, coffee liquor, and cinnamon) come winter – though I could totally enjoy it iced right now!

I didn’t opt for booze during my visit to The Congregation. I was feeling caffeine. So I started with the iced version of its Lavender Latte. This was one of the BEST coffee drinks I’ve ever had! It had such a wonderfully rich espresso flavor and subtle, floral sweetness. I highly, HIGHLY recommend it.

I also had The Congregation’s iced version of its London Fog Tea Latte, which was quite tasty, too. It’s Earl Grey tea infused with steamed milk and the same house-made lavender simple syrup that the Lavender Latte has.

Food-wise, I opted for The Congregation’s Turkey Sandwich, which was utterly delicious with its addictively soft sourdough bread loaded with smoked turkey, mozzarella, fresh mixed greens, fire-roasted tomatoes, and a richly flavored basil pesto. The Congregation’s food menu includes a selection of other sandwiches; salads; and breakfast items such as pancakes and its Smoked Salmon Bagel.

The coffee section of the menu is – as you’d expect – extensive. It includes traditional coffee-house offerings (cappuccino, espresso, and hot tea, for example), plus signature drinks such as the two I enjoyed. I want to return to The Congregation to try another of those signature coffee concoctions, the Spicy Mocha, which sounds fantastic with its espresso, steamed milk, cayenne-cinnamon simple syrup, and chocolate. That drink is just one of the many, many reasons I want to return to this magical place!

9321 Rosa Parks Blvd.

Detroit, MI 48206

www.thecongregationdetroit.com

509. Warda Pâtisserie – May 8, 2021 – Detroit, MI

My visit to Warda Pâtisserie was a product of happenstance – one that happily introduced me to its tasty treats!

I didn’t come to Detroit’s Eastern Market neighborhood on that May Saturday to visit the bakery located inside Trinosophes. I came to visit a nearby business that ended up being closed. When I saw Warda Pâtisserie’s signage, I knew the trip hadn’t been in vain.

The bakery offers thoughtfully crafted cookies, cakes, and other pastries “inspired by the seasons and influenced by our travels and previous life in Algeria, France and Asia,” according to its website. It recently opened a second location in Midtown Detroit.

I opted for three of the enticing treats showcased by Warda Pâtisserie on that day: a Chocolate & Halvah cookie, a chocolate-caramel financier, and a strawberry-matcha financier.

The desserts didn’t make it past my car. I gobbled them up, relishing the chewiness of the chocolatey, sesame-speckled cookie and the rich caramel and strawberry fillings of the spongey-caked, gluten-free financiers. May happy accidents such as this visit to Warda Pâtisserie occur more frequently!

1464 Gratiot Ave.

Detroit, MI 48207

(With an additional location in Midtown Detroit)

www.warda-patisserie.square.site

508. Milwaukee Caffe – May 8, 2021 – Detroit, MI

What a delight it was to visit Milwaukee Caffe. Out of this tiny coffee shop based in Detroit’s Milwaukee Junction neighborhood comes big style, friendliness, and flavor!

According to Milwaukee Caffe’s website, its shop is styled after an Italian coffee bar. Its cozy-sized interior is meant to encourage conversation between patrons and baristas.

I adored the café’s ambiance. Its sage green color palette, menu spelled out in gilt gold letters, profusion of potted plants, and vase of colorful flowers feel like a sophisticated, retro-tinged version of spring. And just like that fair season, Milwaukee Caffe is serving up beauty and possibility – not in the form of spring blooms, but carefully crafted coffee drinks.

If customers had been let inside Milwaukee Caffe the day of my visit, it would’ve meant a handful of people being able to stand comfortably inside. As it was during these COVID times, ordering was possible only from the walk-up counter facing the street.

I was happy to queue up to that counter and order based on the recommendation of the kind barista who served me. I got a Maple Rosemary latte and savored its herbal, subtly sweet flavor. Of course it tasted delicious – how could it not with Milwaukee Caffe sourcing its beans from local roasters Anthology Coffee and Sabbath Coffee Roasters?

447 E. Milwaukee St.

Detroit, MI 48202

www.milwaukeecaffe.com

507. Trini’s Mexican Carryout – April 24, 2021 – New Baltimore, MI

I love Mexican food! So when a friend suggested lunch from Trini’s Mexican Carryout, I was game.

From the tiny confines of this New Baltimore-based carryout restaurant comes big flavor – and big portions! The Teresa’s Pick 3 combination plate I ordered came in two carryout containers. One was devoted to ample portions of rice and refried beans; the other, the two enchiladas and Street Taco I’d opted for as part of the Pick 3 combo.

The enchiladas were meaty, cheesy goodness! I got one cheese and one ground beef enchilada. Both were rich in flavor – as was the Street Taco. Nestled in a soft corn tortilla, it was a delicious melding of pork, cheese, cilantro, lime juice, onion, and tomato.

Trini’s menu offers a plethora of options besides that Pick 3 combo. Dinner plates combining sides of rice and refried beans with Mexican favorites such as tamales, burritos, fajitas, and chimichangas abound. There’s also an à la carte section offering tacos, tostadas, and other goodies sans the sides. Lunch specials are available, as is a build-your-own nacho platter coming in three sizes: Super, Mini, and Micro. So much goodness on one menu!

35710 Green St.

New Baltimore, MI 48047

www.triniscarryout.com