280. Luigi’s – October 3, 2017 – Harrison Township, MI

LuigisOct2017-1 (2)LuigisOct2017-2 (2)I’m always thrilled to discover another legit, family-owned, real-deal Italian restaurant in the Detroit area, because I am an Italian-restaurant snob. I am a quarter Italian via the bloodline of my beloved maternal grandmother, who was second-generation Italian-American (her parents’ parents were from Italy), and I always wish I was more Italian; I romanticize that part of my heritage, because what’s not to like? For one, Italian food is LIFE. All that garlic and sauce and cheese and spices and rich flavor – the BEST! OK, I know there is more to being Italian than the food, but the food does play an integral role in the culture – and for good reason, given its sky-high deliciousness factor.

Luigi’s in Harrison Township is one of those legit, family-owned, real-deal Italian restaurants peddling cuisine steeped in sky-high deliciousness. According to its website, it’s been around since 1953, which I wasn’t surprised to find out, as the restaurant interior has a real old-school vibe. It feels like a bit of a labyrinth as you wind through the low-ceilinged, multi-roomed structure – but in the coziest of ways.

The restaurant is dimly lit; red twinkle lights festoon the dining area around the bar; the tables are intimately close together and covered in red-and-white-checked tablecloths. The ladies room is hilariously tiny; the walls of its only stall are super low, where my head was sticking clear up above them while I was standing in there. A lady who was waiting in line while I was in there and I were cracking up because it felt awkwardly intimate; we’re locking eyes as I’m finishing up going to the bathroom. Not your usual restroom-stall setup in 2017! If you’re a woman and tall in heels as I am, maybe don’t wear them on the day you visit Luigi’s – or do if you want a laugh.

Anyway, enough about Luigi’s amusing bathroom proportions – let’s talk about the food! I’m on a real eggplant parmesan kick lately, so that’s what I ordered. It was perfection: crispy-fried breaded eggplant covered with mozzarella cheese, cradled on a bed of linguine doused in tomato sauce. From my recollection, eggplant parm isn’t on Luigi’s menu, but of course they’ll make it for you, because every Italian restaurant worth its salt will make you eggplant parmesan (and it will be DELICIOUS.). A quality side-salad came with meal – it was actual greens, not some sad iceberg concoction being passed off as a salad, which I much appreciated. I had a glass of pinot noir and a slice of rich, creamy tiramisu for dessert and was thoroughly stuffed by the time my bill came. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the entire meal cost just over $28 before the tip, which I found quite reasonable, especially given the generous portions.

If you’re in the area and looking to visit Luigi’s (you so should!), it’s definitely worth noting that its website currently states that it will be shut down for construction in the near future; the expected dates of closure are October 30 to November 20, 2017 (maybe the ladies’ room is getting a remodel?). Here’s hoping the renovations will retain the restaurant’s singular charm.

36691 Jefferson Ave.

Harrison Twp., Michigan 48045

www.luigisoriginal.com

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279. Chomp – September 26, 2017 – Rochester, MI

October2017Chomp1 (2)This week I learned that the holiday lights start appearing on the buildings in downtown Rochester in mid-October. Mid-October! I’m not ready for that time of year yet and am trying to block out all references to it that I’m starting to see (I’m steadfastly one of those “It’s still fall!” people). Downtown Rochester did otherwise give off autumn vibes when I was down there Monday evening, with pots of mums on display and fallen leaves skittering about on a brisk wind.

The reason I was in downtown Rochester Monday was to take a re-take photo of Chomp, a restaurant I visited for lunch a few weeks ago and where I enjoyed a ridiculously good sandwich, The Nolan, an amalgamation of – get this – turkey, bacon, Brie, fig jam, arugula, and pear. It was HEAVEN. I mean, a turkey sandwich with rich Brie AND sweet fig jam AND peppery arugula AND juicy pear AND bacon – are you kidding me???? It was fantastic.

Chomp’s menu in general abounds with amazing-sounding sandwiches, wraps, quesadillas, and burgers that I need to return and sample more of. Raw juices and smoothies are also offered.

The restaurant is a casual establishment. You walk up and order at a counter, then can take a seat in the dining area, and your sandwich will be brought out to you. Our food was delivered promptly on the day I was there, despite the fact that a sizable lunch crowd had descended upon the tiny establishment.

I believe the best restaurant meals are the ones that make you think about them for days after eating them. The Nolan was certainly on my mind after my encounter with it; I mused about recreating it at home but have yet to do so. But I know that with months of cold weather and waning daylight setting in, I’ll be looking for things like that sandwich to be bright spots in my day (because inevitably it’s the little things that brighten life, isn’t it?). And if I can’t recreate that bacon-Brie-arugula-pear-and-fig-jam turkey sandwich, well, I certainly know where I can find it.

200 S Main St.

Rochester, MI 48307

278. A Bean to Go – September 23, 2017 – Lake Orion, MI

Bean1Bean3I had the BEST ICED COFFEE OF MY LIFE at A Bean to Go in downtown Lake Orion a few weeks ago. It was prepared with cold-brewed coffee, and it was wonderfully rich in flavor – not at all like the watery iced coffee you’re presented with at some java joints. And it was strong – that coffee had me revving for hours afterward! Granted, that’s not a hard thing to achieve in someone with a low caffeine threshold like me, but still. What I’m trying to say is, this stuff is the good stuff!

I had to lead with that information because it was the first thing that popped into my head when I thought of A Bean to Go as I sat down to write – that COFFEE! While the delightful cold-brew sealed the deal, I’d gathered that I’d like the Lake Orion shop from the moment I stepped into its interior with its rustic-chic, inviting vibe and plenty of work spaces. This is the perfect place to camp out and get some writing, studying, or other work done whilst infusing one’s veins with a steady stream of delectably-flavored caffeine.

No wonder A Bean to Go has such excellent coffee; it roasts its own beans at its facility in Goodrich, MI, where it also has another coffee shop location, as I found out on its website. It sells bags of its various bean blends in the Lake Orion shop and on its website.

Not only did I get to experience another Grade-A coffee shop in the Metro-Detroit area with this visit (I collect them like baseball cards!), I also was able to represent Lake Orion on 100 Places in the D. Yes, Lake Orion is a new-to-the-blog city! We’ve got back-to-back repping-new-cities posts with this one and yesterday’s on Colasanti’s!

While I’m on the topic of Lake Orion, can I comment on how cute its downtown is? It was my first time down there, and I was digging its picturesque small-town vibes. I will definitely be going back there at some time in the foreseeable future – at the very least to revisit to A Bean to Go.

16 West Flint St.

Lake Orion, MI 48362

www.abeantogo.com

277. Colasanti’s Market & Snook’s Butcher Shoppe – September 17, 2017 – Highland, MI

Colasanti's1 (2)Colasanti's2Highland is represented on 100 Places in the D!

I feel particularly joyous about Highland being a new-to-the-blog city because of its distance from where I live in Macomb County (it’s an hour due west of me). I was slated to trek out there for a friend’s baby shower, and I thought, “hmm, could I kill two birds with one stone and get a 100 Places visit in, too?”

Happily, the shower venue was about a mile from Colasanti’s Market & Snook’s Butcher Shoppe, a produce market-slash-butcher shop that piqued my interest.

I was curious about the two names attached to this establishment and discovered the backstory on its website. Snook’s Butcher Shoppe opened on its own in 1979; it moved inside Colasanti’s Market in 1989 at the prompting of the grocery store. Then in 2007, the owner of Snook’s purchased Colasanti’s, and the two entities officially merged. So that’s why the long name!

I am somewhat obsessed with gourmet markets (selecting high-quality produce is a joy to me – nerdy I know, but it’s an art form!), so it’s no surprise that I loved this joint. The large, well-stocked facility is a home-chef’s haven; it offers everything from rows and rows of gorgeous fresh produce; the butcher counter; a plethora of grocery items; baked goods; prepared meals; an ample wine and craft-beer area; bulk foods – AND it has an affiliation with English Gardens where it lets them sell in its parking lot.

If you are in the market for some fresh produce, some fancy hummus, some singular salsa, some fall-focused flowers, or if you are like me and simply like to visit these kinds of places to decompress and get inspiration, then you’ve got to check out this grocery store with the mouthful of a name! Colasanti’s Market & Snook’s Butcher Shoppe, you are AWESOME.

468 S Milford Rd.

Highland, MI 48357

www.colasantis.com

276. Lyla’s Catering – September 16, 2017 – Grosse Pointe Woods, MI

Lyla's1Lyla's2Lyla's3 (2)On the jaunt from an Arts and Scraps donation run in Detroit to Saint Clair Shores, I decided lunch was in order and that this would be the perfect opportunity to visit Lyla’s Catering, a Lebanese catering and carry-out establishment I’d read about in Hour Detroit a few years ago. And with that Grosse Pointe Woods, a new-to-the-blog city, was represented!

Four of the five Grosse Pointe neighborhoods have now been repped on 100 Places in the D (Grosse Pointe Shores is left). But the most important thing about that day is that I got a scrumptious, flavorful, filling meal at Lyla’s.

I stepped into its sunny orange interior and ordered from the friendly owners the fatoush salad with grilled chicken, plus two spinach pies and two pieces of baklava. They were ready quickly, and I ate a portion of the huge fatoush salad while sitting at one of the two tables inside Lyla’s, savoring the freshness of the greens,  tomato chunks, cucumber slices, and crispy pita chips tossed in the garlic, lemon, and olive oil dressing and the slices of warm marinated chicken breast. What a perfect on-the-go meal: healthful and hearty and void of processed ingredients!

I had the rest of the salad for dinner that night, as well as one of the spinach pies and both pieces of the baklava. The triangular dough-encased mini pie with its vibrant spinach filling had this irresistible hint of nutmeg, and the baklava with its honey-drenched layers of phyllo dough was straight-up addictive.

Lyla’s has both its carry-out and catering menus on its website, so you can check out their offerings and order ahead should you decide to visit – which I highly recommend you do!

20083 Mack Ave.

Grosse Pointe Woods, MI 48236

www.lylascatering.com

275. Arts and Scraps – September 16, 2017 – Detroit, MI

ArtandScraps5ArtandScraps1ArtandScraps2ArtandScraps4Arts and Scraps is a thrift store, but it’s an art-products-based thrift store, which to me makes it the coolest thrift store on the planet.

The Detroit-based shop/charitable organization geared toward encouraging childhood creativity among low-income populations had been on my mind for months – since late winter/early spring, when I cleaned out the closet in my home office and gathered up buttons, crayons, yarn, bits of fabric, safety pins, and other craft-related detritus, bagged them, and threw them in the trunk of my car with the intention of going there and making a donation. Finally I made it over there on a sunny Saturday afternoon in mid-September.

As instructed on Arts and Scraps’ website, I parked near the side delivery door where donations can be dropped off, hauled my bag of offerings out of my car, and knocked. A friendly older woman answered, thanked me for my donation, and asked if I wanted to have a look around. I hadn’t planned on doing that, but I was like sure, why not? So she let me through the back area to the front of the shop.

OK, let me say, when I walked through that shop, I was like, WOW! I brimmed with excitement as I took in the fabric room with its shelves of colorful offerings and the main shop area with its bins and bins of every crafting material you could ever think of: buttons, pipe cleaners, cardboard, yarn, wallpaper sample books, spools of thread – even metal cookie tins in all shapes and sizes. And it was all there for super-cheap prices, such as a dollar for four spools of thread. A dollar!

This place was heaven to the 10-year-old craft-happy kid inside of me. It had me fantasizing about using the shop contents to craft the kind of large-scale modern art installation made from everyday materials that I adore; if inspiration hit me someday, I would know exactly where to go. Give me five baby-food jars, some embroidery thread, a wallpaper sample book, and those wine corks – stat! I’ve got creating to do!

So if you’ve got a creative project you’re looking to dive into, consider skipping those pricey national-chain craft stores and hitting Arts and Scraps for your supplies instead. You’ll save money and support a good cause – a total win-win in my (scrap)book. 🙂

If you are interested in donating supplies to Arts and Scraps, here’s the link to the page on its site that gives donation-material guidelines: www.artsandscraps.org/get-involved/individuals/save-materials-from-home. Financial donations can be made through the site, as well.

6135 Harper Ave.

Detroit, MI 48224

http://www.artsandscraps.org/

274. The Apparatus Room – September 14, 2017 – Detroit, MI

20170914_18375020170914_184245How ’bout this as a testimonial for ya? The food was so good at The Apparatus Room that I forgot to take photos of its dazzling interior.

That testimonial is from, yes, yours truly, and that’s exactly what happened when I visited The Apparatus Room on a weeknight in mid-September. I was digging the Spring Vegetable Fritter in all of its deep-fried, dunked-in-spiced-crema glory and the Crispy Confit Chicken Sandwich with its irresistible spicy mayo so hard that I completely blanked on taking photos of anything but them. But I want you to see the dining room of The Apparatus Room with your own eyes, because it is spectacular with its white marble bar, old-school-elegant booths upholstered in earth tones, and multitude of bare lightbulbs hanging on strings around the bar area like glittering stars. So click the below link to the Apparatus Room’s website when you’re done reading and check it out!

The Apparatus Room is relatively new to the Detroit restaurant scene; it opened in May – which is also when the hotel it’s inside, The Detroit Foundation Hotel, opened to the public. Wow, is that place STUNNING! It’s no surprise it’s that gorgeous given the ambiance of its premier restaurant, and I’m actively looking for an excuse to stay there someday. The Apparatus Room got its name because the hotel is housed inside a former fire station, and the dining-room area is said to be where the fire engines and related equipment were housed. Sounds like yet another success story of a shuttered building in Detroit being repurposed and brought back into glory – love it!

If you visit The Apparatus Room sans reservation and can’t get a table in the dining area (which was what happened to my friend and I when we got there), I highly recommend sitting at the bar, where you’ll get attentive service, an abbreviated – yet tantalizing – food menu (~cue me geeking out over that Spring Vegetable Fritter and Crispy Confit Chicken Sandwich~)  and an excellent vantage point of the whole scene. We were later offered a table in the dining area after sitting at the bar, but we liked it up there so much that we decided not to move.

250 W Larned St.

Detroit, Michigan 48226

(Inside the Detroit Foundation Hotel)

www.detroitfoundationhotel.com/apparatus-room

273. The Keep – September 14, 2017 – Detroit, MI

20170914_171452 (2)20170914_172654 (2)20170914_172650 (2)20170914_173717

When I descended the stairs to this broodingly dark basement bar with intimate clustered seating, a faux fireplace, and the overall vibe of some old dude’s study, I immediately entered major-like-mode with The Keep. While the subterranean bar on Cadillac Square in downtown Detroit likes to keep a low profile (pun intended!), it’s garnered a loyal following, as reflected by several Yelp reviews in which the posters echoed the sentiment of worrying that their overwhelmingly positive testimonials would make the place too popular. Don’t worry, guys, your secret is safe with us!

If anyone wants to make a modern-day version of Cheers set in a basement bar in Detroit, he/she would be wise to slot The Keep as the first location-scouting stop. Not only is that dimly lit little underground retreat enchantingly cozy and inviting, but the bartenders – at least the one who was on staff when I was there – are super friendly, too. The female bartender helped my friend and I deliberate among the intriguing choices on The Keep’s craft cocktail menu, causing me to settle on the Bearded Lady, a delightful whiskey concoction with notes of orange, vanilla, and spices. That Bearded Lady will help you kick off your weekday happy-hour session right!

Only two other patrons were in The Keep at the same time as my friend and me: a guy and gal around our ages. We chatted with them at the bar as we stood and waited for our drinks, remarking on the oft-arduous rush-hour commute from Detroit to the ‘burbs (which I’m familiar with from my days working in Dearborn) and his recent move to the area. Probably it was talking with them and the bartender that made me think of the Cheers reference. Who doesn’t love discovering a place where the people may not know your name, but they’re willing to learn it?

Worth noting: The Keep’s entrance is off of Congress Street rather than Cadillac Square (as you may have noticed from reading the sign in the above photo of the unusable door). Look for a nondescript entryway leading to those basement stairs and below-ground glory.

140 Cadillac Sq.

Detroit, MI 48226

272. The Rec Bowl – September 13, 2017 – Mount Clemens, MI

20170913_18053520170913_193326 (2)The Rec Bowl is a bowling alley in Mount Clemens. But in the warm-weather months, it’s also a popular venue for live music, which I discovered firsthand during a Wednesday-night visit in mid-September.

My uncle and his girlfriend frequent The Rec Bowl regularly for its live music shows, which are held in an open-air bar area attached to the outside of the bowling alley. Cover was $5 on the night I was there, and man, did the people flock out! I’d heard that the place had a dedicated following, and it was true; people reserved tables to make sure they got spots to check out the night’s entertainment. Nearly every attendee appeared to be in the 60-plus age bracket (with the great majority looking to be solidly in their 70s), which delighted me, because come on – I want to be one of those octogenarians venturing out to see live music on a Wednesday night and twirling about on the dance floor! When I retire, I most certainly plan to double-down on exploring the Detroit area and the rest of the world, because if not then, when?

The band that night was the Dave Bennett Quartet, a jazz band led by a clarinet player named – you guessed it – Dave Bennett. Those guys were great; they played their hearts out, and the audience loved them, as did I. I am predisposed to enjoy jazz because my paternal grandfather was a jazz drummer and obsessed with it, and it reminds me of him. And also, I simply find jazz pleasant, an escape for my brain.

While my cranium was immersed in a cray-cray-ba-nay-nay roller-coaster ride of jazz notes, my tummy was tripping hard on my corned beef sandwich, that delightful amalgamation of red meat, Swiss cheese, and buttery toasted rye bread – MMMM. I noticed on the Rec Bowl’s website that it showcases a more extensive menu than the one that was offered to us on the patio; inside the building it appears to offer a more expanded variety of sandwiches, salads, and appetizers such as fried cauliflower, chili fries, and Nacho Supreme (three completely valid excuses right there to round up some friends and get in some bowling!).

It doesn’t look like The Rec Bowl will feature any more live music for the rest of the year; we’ll have to wait until next year to groove out. But the indoor bowling alley – plus the darts and billiards that are also offered – are available year-round and will likely prove to be a tempting option on those long winter nights when it’s dark at 5 p.m. and there’s a foot of snow on the ground (but let me not go there yet!).

40 Crocker Blvd.

Mt. Clemens, MI 48043

www.therecreationbowl.com

271. Narrow Way Café and Shop – September 4, 2017 – Detroit, MI

20170904_11142320170904_111959I’m so excited to write about today’s featured place because I absolutely LOVED it. Narrow Way Café and Shop is an excellent addition to the Detroit coffee scene!

Seriously, this coffee shop in the Avenue of Fashion neighborhood of Detroit (Seven Mile and Livernois area) is PHENOMENAL. It can be challenging to find a coffee shop that has it all: great service AND excellent coffee AND delicious snacks AND great ambience AND ample seating options. Narrow Way Café and Shop checks all the boxes – especially the one important box I didn’t yet mention, the I-Want-to-Stay-Here-all-Day-and-Escape-from-the-World-Because-this-World-is-Lovely box.

Good vibes: those are the words that come to mind when I recall Narrow Way’s interior. It is light-filled and pleasant and cozy and there-can-be-no-anxiety-here tranquil. Instrumental jazz music is playing in the background. The walls are painted blue-green and white, and the expanse behind the dark wood counter is white-tiled. The tables are white; the chairs are white with a black criss-cross design; the lighting is hanging gold globe fixtures. There’s a map of the world on one wall and a purple fluorescent Narrow Way logo glowing on the wall behind the counter. I loved it.

The baristas were lovely to me, very polite and friendly and calling me “Miss Jackie,” which I found completely charming. This is not some corporate mega-chain where they scrawl your name on a cup and then holler it out incorrectly when your order is done. “Miss Jackie, would you like your pastry warmed up?” Heck yes, I would! And you’re going to deliver it to me in my seat? Best customer service EVER.

That pastry by the way: it was a spinach, feta, and brioche one, and it was absolutely phenomenal. The savory spinach, salty feta, and buttery brioche . . . OH YEAH. Narrow Way’s baked goods are from Avalon, so of course it was gonna be amazing. I mean, come on.

Plus, the mocha-almond frozen coffee I got was addictively delicious. I was bouncing-off-the-walls euphoric after consuming that frozen, flavorful, caffeine-saturated goodness. Narrow Way serves Zingerman’s coffee, so it’s official: they’ve got good taste over there – and they’re repping other local establishments, to boot (which you know I heart).

My one regret about visiting Narrow Way was that I did not stay long. I’d driven there with the intention of hanging out for a while with my journal, but then I was paranoid about where I’d parked (in the lot of the nearby grocery store, Mike’s Fresh Market), because there were warning signs about non-patrons being towed. Would they really have noticed and towed my car? Probably not, but I was with a friend once in Denver where they did notice and tow her car when we left it in a market parking lot, so I’m always leery of the possibility. Anyway, I should have parked on the neighborhood street behind Narrow Way instead – or Lord forbid, in one of the parallel parking spots in front of the shop (my phobia – yes, phobia – of parking in a parallel parking spot prevented me). Next time, I’ll ensure I find a legit parking spot so I can bask in Narrow Way’s good vibes longer.

19331 Livernois Ave.

Detroit, MI 48221

www.thenarrowwaycafe.com