Month: January 2015

100 Places in the D’s Year 1 Top 20

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Public House (#47)

Yeah, I’m in a bit of a review mode right now. I like the process of tying a bow around a major project. And, to be honest, I need a reminder of which places were my absolute favorites this year now that I’m allowing myself to ease up a bit on this project and to fold some revisits back into my life. I’ve been in such a do-new, tunnel-vision state for the past year that I’ve forgotten the pleasure of having tried-and-true places you look forward to going again and again (well, almost. My one exception, El Charro in Fraser, wouldn’t let me forget it; that’s the one restaurant I’ve visited multiple times in the past year, because it is such an absolute favorite of myself, my family, and friends that it wouldn’t be denied. The allure of its Chef’s Choice combination is just too strong. I actually went there yesterday and got it!)

Working to narrow this list down was much harder than I thought it would be. I visited a lot of great places this year, many more than 20. But some places obviously stood out more than others, and I thought they should be recognized. So here is my list, in no particular order, of 20 of my most memorable favorites from Year 1 of my 100 Places challenge.

-Public House (#47, Ferndale): Those sliders were frickin’ amazing! Great vibe, great food, love the record player playing actual records, and love those boozy milkshakes. I can’t wait to get back here.

-M-Brew (#76, Ferndale): Another Ferndale bar that’s right up my alley, with excellent Michigan craft beers and those vintage ‘80s arcade games that catapult me back to early childhood.

-The Bird and the Bread (#83, Birmingham): Great food, drinks, and ambiance. What more do you need?

-Cellar 59 (#1, Clinton Township): The first placed I visited to kick off the 100 Places challenge, it’s still one of my favorites. It was so intimate and cozy feeling – though I definitely need no excuse to love an establishment that serves good wine.

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One-Eyed Betty’s (#19)

-Green Dot Stables (#5, Detroit): Drinks at affordable prices, more slider-amazing-ness, and a setting that is charmingly, wonderfully Detroit.

-One-Eyed Betty’s: (#19, Ferndale) I still fantasize about the garlic aioli on its Betty bacon cheeseburger on a regular basis. Need to get back there ASAP, as I’ve also heard about their freshly-fried donuts with chocolate sauce, which at this point have become near mythical in my mind.

-George George Memorial Park (#36, Clinton Township): It’s possible my yearnings for warmer weather are building this place up in my head, but man, it’s so soothingly gorgeous! I bet it’s even gorgeous now in winter.

-Goldfish Tea (#59, Royal Oak): This is the perfect place to curl up and have a cup of tea and a chat with a friend, or to study if you’re in school. In fact, the last time I was there, I found myself envious of the college girls sitting across from me, wishing I had an excuse to visit it more often.

-La Saj (#46, Sterling Heights): I’ve only been here once more since first visiting it in August, but in my mind I’ve already visited hundreds of time. A must-try if you love Mediterranean food.

-Bad Brad’s Barbeque (#50, New Baltimore): Pretty damn good barbeque, and I’ve had some damn good barbeque in my day.

-Love and Buttercream (#7, Royal Oak): Such a cheery and charming bakery. And those macaroons!

-Oakland Art Novelty Company (#43, Ferndale): Visiting is like stepping into the most pleasant of time warps and being handed a carefully crafted, delicious cocktail upon arrival.

-Inn Season (#98, Royal Oak): Scrumptious vegetarian dishes that even meat-eaters (like me) will love.

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Motor City Brewing Works (#31)

-Motor City Brewing Works (#31, Detroit): In my mind, I’m already pleasantly sweating my butt off on its gorgeous rooftop patio.

-Vinotecca (#24, Royal Oak): I told you I love wine. Fabulous happy-hour specials here, including some really good small plates.

-Blake’s Ciderhouse and Winery (#53, Armada): Its hard cider is really great. Like, obsessively great.

-El Guanaco (#38, Troy): As my brother would say, those Salvadorian pupusas are chronic! I’m definitely planning to go back here.

-J. Baldwin’s (#17, Clinton Township): Another great place for happy hour. Loved those delicious martinis in their little iced glasses!

-Clubhouse BFD (#16, Rochester Hills): An impressively in-depth beer selection and the holy grail of all fried-potato creations, The Sweet Potato Tot, reside here.

-Town Tavern (#37, Royal Oak): One of those places that has so much amazing-sounding stuff on its menu that you can’t decide what to get – but then, whatever you do pick is amazing, so does it really matter what you pick?

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Reflections on Hitting 100

When I started this little challenge last February, I honestly thought it would be hard. Visit 100 places in the Metro-Detroit area – that I’ve never been to before – that are Michigan-owned-and-operated establishments? How many places are there really around here that aren’t national chains and that I’ve never been to?

A LOT, it turns about. I’ve barely scratched the surface.

One of the main reasons I decided to embark on this little quest was because I was sick of seeing local places that looked really cool, saying I was going to go to them, and then never doing it. Instead, I became a collector of somedays and maybes, compiling pages ripped out of Hour Detroit and The Detroit Free Press in a binder full of things I wanted to check out and places I wanted to try. The 100 Places challenge was a way to finally push myself to see some of the intriguing local businesses featured in those pages.

I pulled the binder out and went through those pages last week, excitedly assuming that I must’ve visited most of the places in there in this past year. How wrong I was! Check out the photos below and see how many from that little compilation I actually got to.

Framed in a certain light, the blog can definitely feel like a failure. It’s named 100 Places in the D, and only ten of the places I visited were located in Detroit? My goal was to hit at least 20 in the city proper. And while I did visit 33 different cities while visiting these 100 places, when you think about it, that’s not a lot, considering that there are about three times that amount of towns located in the tri-county area. Plus, a whopping 30 of the places I visited were in Ferndale and Royal Oak alone (sorry, I like it there!). I guess what I’m saying is, I could have done better. I could’ve went even bolder and bigger, been more strategic, more adventurous. But at the end of the day, I still I accomplished what I set out to do, and I enjoyed every moment of it. I visited 100 local restaurants, bars, boutiques, parks, tea shops, bakeries, bookstores, and venues that I had never been to before – and supported local business owners while I did it. How cool is that?

I encourage you, wherever you live, to give the 100 places challenge a try. Modify the parameters as you see fit – visit 50 places instead of a hundred, or focus on one local county – or five, whatever you want. I think as long as you’re focusing on trying new places that you’ve never been and that are locally based and, therefore, more directly supporting your state’s economy than some national chain, that’s the essence of it. I myself plan to continue this blog and aim to visit at least five new places a month for the rest of this year – so at least 60 total. I aim to visit a more diverse mix of cities and to hit more places in Detroit City; I’ll aim for the 20-mark again there.

In case you’re curious, here are some geographical breakdowns of where I went.

Breakdown by county:

Oakland County – 54

Macomb County – 27

Wayne County – 19

Breakdown by city:

Ferndale – 16

Royal Oak – 14

Detroit – 10

Clinton Township – 8

Birmingham – 4

Shelby Township – 4

Clarkston – 3

Grosse Pointe Farms – 3

Northville – 3

Rochester – 3

Saint Clair Shores – 3

Troy – 3

Berkley – 2

Eastpointe – 2

Grosse Pointe – 2

Macomb – 2

Plymouth – 2

Sterling Heights – 2

Armada – 1

Auburn Hills – 1

Clawson – 1

Dearborn – 1

Fraser – 1

Lenox – 1

Madison Heights – 1

New Baltimore – 1

Oak Park – 1

Pleasant Ridge – 1

Rochester Hills – 1

Roseville – 1

Warren – 1

Westland – 1

And here are the pictures of all the complied pages showcasing places I ended up going to, with what number visited they were written on them:

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And here are all the pages representing places I haven’t visited yet:

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100! Grand Trunk Pub – January 24, 2015 – Detroit, MI

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I did it! Yayyyy!

This was it! Number 100. I set out to do what I accomplished to do: in less than a year, I visited 100 locally-owned, new-to-me establishments in the Metro-Detroit area. Grand Trunk Pub is just another example of the character-filled gems this city hosts. Housed in a gorgeous old former railway ticket station, it offers local craft beers and comfort foods like shepherd’s pie and thick, juicy burgers.

612 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, MI  48226

www.grandtrunkpub.com

99. Just Delicious Scones – January 19, 2015 – Roseville, MI

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I had today off from work for Martin Luther King day, so this afternoon seemed like the perfect time to be leisurely ladies who lunch and visit Just Delicious Scones. For a set price (under $12 a person for us) you can have tea, a plate of the most delicious scones, and lunch of either quiche or chicken salad. I am not a quiche or chicken salad person, to be honest, but I chose the quiche, and it wasn’t bad (I don’t like eggs, but I was surprised to find it wasn’t really that eggy tasting), and it came with a delicious little side salad. And I ate either four-and-a-half or five-and-a-half scones – I lost count! Soft, delicious scones of all different flavors are offered, with Devon cream and lemon curd to top them – yum! I ate so much I got a stomachache. So watch out for that part!

This is Number 99! I can’t believe it. Next one is the big one . . ..

28722 Utica Rd.
Roseville, MI 48066

98. Inn Season – January 10, 2015 – Royal Oak, MI

20150110_142427This frigid but sunny Saturday afternoon I headed over to Royal Oak and my first lunch at Inn Season. I’d seen a lot of mixed reviews about the place on Yelp regarding service – but it was super-prompt and friendly on my visit, to the point where my friend and I felt like we were being total slowpokes. And the coconut curry special dish I had was scrumptious – a veggie mix including sweet potatoes, spinach, and red peppers served with saffron rice and a delicious apple chutney. Whether you are a vegetarian/vegan or a devoted omnivore like me, check this place out if you are looking to eat more clean in 2015.

500 E. Fourth St.

Royal Oak, MI 48067

www.theinnseasoncafe.com

97. Cellar Door Wine Academy – January 9, 2015 – Auburn Hills, MI

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Grilled ribeye with a roasted-garlic and chive compound butter was our main-course creation – DELICIOUS!

Tucked away in a non-descript office complex at the edge of Auburn Hills, Cellar Door Wine Academy is a hidden gem for local food and wine lovers. It features wine-tastings and wine-education classes, themed multi-course dinners created by renowned chefs, and awesome cooking classes like the one I attended yesterday. The Chef’s Table Cooking Class Dinner Date Night, as termed by Cellar Door, is as fun for couples as it is for friends, mother-daughter combos, solo foodies who are open to cooking with strangers – basically anybody. We were teamed up in groups of four, and while sharing cooking duties with unknown people felt awkward at first, the ice broke sooner than our wedge salads with freshly rendered pancetta and homemade dressing were assembled (delicious – and I don’t even like salad). I would highly recommend this place if you are a food or cooking enthusiast – or even if you just want to change it up on a Friday night (the friend I went with does not consider herself a cook; by the end, she was enthusiastically exclaiming that she wants to become a chef!). Check Groupon; it is currently promoting a deal on these classes that offers a significant discount.

1091 Centre Ct., Ste. 150
Auburn Hills, MI 48326

www.cellardoorclub.com

96. TranquiliTea – January 2, 2015 – Plymouth, MI

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My initial interest in tea was as a way to warm up in the frigid office climes I’ve been subjected to work in (for the love of God, turn the air conditioner down!). But then I discovered rooibos tea and mutan white tea and peppermint tea and loose tea and all of the amazing flavors that are available – and I fell in love.

TranquilitiTea is definitely one of those shops a tea drinker could get overwhelmed in – so many choices available, with over 140 loose-tea blends for sale there, according to its website. They’ve got an online shop, too, but the experience is so much more fun in person (since you can’t sample-sniff .jpegs).

My eventual choices? Cherry Splendor Rooibos and Organic Peppermint.

904 W. Ann Arbor Trail

Plymouth, MI 48170

http://tranquilitea.myshopify.com

95. Compari’s on the Park – January 2, 2015 – Plymouth, MI

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During a jaunt to Plymouth yesterday, a friend and I had lunch at this charming Italian place. I had pizza but would love to come back and try the eggplant parmesan my friend had. It looked amazing.

Please visit Plymouth if you haven’t already! It’s such a lovely little town with many locally-owned establishments, including shops selling crafty wares and a plethora of non-chain restaurants.

350 South Main St., Plymouth, MI 48170

www.comparisdining.com