Month: October 2016

203. La Feria – October 27, 2016 – Detroit, MI

20161027_202617.jpg20161027_192528.jpgHey everyone! Happy Sunday! I hope you’re getting a chance to get out and explore today. I’ll be hitting a new place for the blog myself today (brunch date with the gals!), but here I’m going to recount the excellent dinner I had Thursday night at La Feria, a Spanish tapas restaurant in Midtown.

It was such a treat to be in Detroit on a work night! They can feel dreary for me sometimes, with all of the to-dos I pile on myself as a textbook Type-A person. Go to the gym and make dinner and clean up and make tomorrow’s lunch and clean the cat box and don’t forget to pay that one bill . . .. While I appreciate my responsible nature, I’m super-grateful for the adventurous part of me that loves to get out and try new things – and for my friends who similarly enjoy and encourage that. My good friend Jaclyn is the reason I was down in the D Thursday, enjoying a hard cider at Motor City Brewing Works and then bustling over in the chill (I busted out my gloves on Thursday, guys! Wasn’t it frickin’ freezing?) to La Feria’s warm and cozy interior.

Seating is limited in this tiny restaurant. There were no tables open when our group of four arrived, so we opted to sit at the bar. We shared a bottle of white wine and 10 small-plates dishes – well, 11 counting dessert (crispy fried churros with chocolate dipping sauce!). Our fare varied from pork coated in a cumin-and-sticky-rice breading (excellent), to spinach with chick peas, to toasted bread smeared in garlicky sheep’s cheese (so simple, yet phenomenal). Our bartender gave us excellent service, recommending two wines based on our preferences and giving us ample tastings of them so we could properly deliberate.

4130 Cass Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.laferiadetroit.com

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202. Hamlin Corner – October 23, 2016 – Royal Oak, MI

20161023_12531420161023_134905Hey guys! I hope you are having a fantastic week and finding yourself time to get out there and explore.

I had some shenanigans in Royal Oak this past weekend. I was down there Sunday for the third time in about a week and a half – this time at restaurant/bar Hamlin Corner, partaking in a special event put on by CycleBar Royal Oak. It was a Lions afternoon viewing party/brunch – preceded by a half-hour spin bike class that was conducted outside, on the sidewalk outside of the bar.

Have you guys ever taken a spin class? This was my first one, and I must admit, it was harder than I expected. Damn, my legs burned!

Note to self: don’t go to spin class already sore from the prior day’s workout.

Despite the challenging (and losing) battle of trying to spike my RPM (Rotations per Minute, according to my spin-savvy companions), it was a fun and novel experience. The music was bumping, the CycleBar instructors were lively, and bemused passersby were entertained, so that helped to distract me from the burn of the bike. And even though it was grueling for me, I expect that it wasn’t the most difficult of spin classes. Once I was done, I forgot all of my pain and was like, “Yeah, I’d do this again!” And I never felt any more sore in my legs than I already was – no hobbling down stairs gripping the guardrails for days like I am after some hardcore workout classes.

And after the workout, there was the buffet (including BACON – sweet, sweet reward! – and fruit and scrambled eggs and cubed hash browns and toast). We sat and brunched and watched the Lions game. Then we helped the CycleBar instructors wheel their exercise bikes back to their studio across and a little ways down Main Street, which was hilarious. I can now lie on my deathbed some day when I am super old and breath a sigh of relief that yes, I have really lived: I have pushed a stationary bike on wheels across a major road amongst a string of other people pushing other stationary bikes on wheels. 😛

I’m not sure how often CycleBar Royal Oak hosts such events at Hamlin Corner. You can check out its class schedule at this link to see if any such events are currently scheduled: www.royaloak.cyclebar.com/apps/mindbody/elements/list-schedule.

Spin workout aside, Hamlin Corner appears to be a pretty solid venue. It’s got a relaxed yet classy vibe; it feels like the perfect venue to chill, grab some food, and watch a big game with a group of friends. There are plenty of TV screens studded around its sleek interior and various seating options, including a long bar rail and tables that can accommodate larger parties. And it’s obviously open to hosting unique events!

386 N. Main St.

Royal Oak, MI 48067

www.hamlincorner.com

201. Ale Mary’s Beer Hall – October 14, 2016 – Royal Oak, MI

20161014_23081520161014_232613Happy Saturday, everybody! After several days of rain and gloom, it’s blue skies and sunshine this morning here in the D, and I can’t wait to get out into the world!!! I spent all day yesterday in my house during a much-needed work-from-home day, but now I’m ready to break out.

Maybe you’re ready to break out, too. If you’re local, why not take a visit to Ale Mary’s Beer Hall in downtown Royal Oak for its excellent pub grub and expansive selection of craft brews?

Last Friday night, I met a friend I haven’t seen in a while in Royal Oak for a tea date at Goldfish Tea. Translation: we both wanted a cheap night.

(Goldfish Tea is lovely, by the way. It’s not cheap for tea – they do tea right! – but it’s cheap in the general scheme of life.)

And then my friend was like, “I could really go for a hamburger!” That was all she had to say to sell me. My financial resolve went right out the window at the mention of a greasy meat sandwich. We decided on Ale Mary’s because neither of us had been there (a woman after my own heart! – and one of the many reasons we are friends).

The long, narrow interior of the bar, done up in the popular industrial-chic style of the area, was noisy and crowded. We were able to convince two girls at the bar to scoot down a seat so we could grab two stools. After much deliberation (everything on the menu sounds AMAZING, especially at 11 p.m. on a Friday night) and feedback from our bartender server, I ordered the Cuban, a beast of a sandwich loaded with ham, pork, Swiss cheese, cracked mustard aioli (sooo good!), and McClure’s pickles and accompanied by crispy beer-battered French fries. My friend ordered the Beer Cheese Burger, which I tried; it was excellent.

I saved half of that Cuban sandwich and had it Sunday afternoon for lunch, after toasting it in the oven, and it was phenomenal – possibly better than it initially was. So so so so good.

Neither of us drank (I know, sacrilege!), but I was tempted to, because Ale Mary’s offers a fine assortment of craft beers, including some local brews.

316 S. Main St.

Royal Oak, MI 48067

www.alemarysbeer.com

 

200. The Office Coffee Shop – October 13, 2016 – Royal Oak, MI

20161013_14512120161013_150412It’s a big one today, people! The 200th new place visited for 100 Places in the D!!!!!

During my first year of this blog, which ran from early February 2014 to early February 2015, I visited 102 new-to-me, locally-owned establishments. I marvel at this now, especially considering that I worked two jobs for half of that year, averaging 50-60 hours a week between the two of them and working seven days a week unless I took a vacation day. How the hell did I do it???

I’m proud that I accomplished my goal of visiting 100 new places in one year. It was the premise for this blog, of course! Post-achievement, I told myself that while I definitely wanted to keep moving forward with the blog, I did not need to hit 100 new places every blogging year. I envisioned a pace of about 60-75 new visits a year.

In Year Two, I hit a total of 61. My goal for Year Three is 65; I’m currently at 38 (this includes #201, which I’ll be writing about later in the week). That means I have 27 visits to go in less than four months, so I’d better get hustling! I don’t want to count too much on the potentially snowy months of December and January, so I’m looking to be especially intentional with my visits this November. I’m hoping to get further afield and hit more cities that I’ve never before covered on the blog, such as Wyandotte, Novi, and other places that are further afield for me as a Macomb County resident.

This blog and this habit I’ve formed of seeking out new-to-me places instead of visiting the same-ol’, same-ol’ corporate-chain ones all of the time have been so fulfilling to me. My world has expanded, and I’m not EVER going back to the old, small one where I repetitively made the rounds of B’Dubs and T.G.I. Friday’s and Boston’s. No thank you! OK, occasionally I still find myself at one of those places; they have their place in my world, and I’m not gonna be a total snob and refuse loved ones’ invitations to corporate chain restaurants or boycott my local Biggby when there are no independent coffee shops in my neighborhood (plus I still adore B’Dubs’ Spicy Garlic Sauce and feel a need to eat there at least once a year). The point is, I know now that there is so, so much more out there, more unique restaurants in the Tri-County area of Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties than I will ever have time to get to – and new ones opening every month. Yay, Metro Detroit!!!! Yay to supporting local businesses!!!!

And yay to my 200th visit! It was nothing flashy, but it was lovely. I escaped work early on a sunshiny day last week and went to a place I’ve been wanting to check out for months and months and months, The Office Coffee Shop. It’s located in downtown Royal Oak, off of 4th Street on Lafayette Street (which is just beyond Washington Street if you’re coming from the direction of Main Street). I had an excellent cappuccino there with extra-extra foam, thanks to the great barista who waited on me. I sipped my cappuccino, wrote in my journal, and basked in the coffee-shop ambiance. I love coffee shops, and it had been a while since I’d visited one on my own and just sat there and wrote.

The Office has a very nice, homey vibe. There is plenty of natural light let in by the large-paned windows and plenty of seating options. I’m also intrigued by the driving concepts of this place. The owners of The Office, a husband-and-wife team, opened it with the dreams of 1) establishing a place that could be a co-working space for entrepreneurs and other professionals, offering them services that traditional coffee shops don’t, such as printer and fax machine access, conference room rentals, and mail shipping and receiving; and 2) operating a business that gives back. The Office accomplishes both, offering the aforementioned business-related services (plus several others) and giving 5% of the proceeds from each purchase to the customer’s charity of choice (the customer gets to choose from one of three featured; I chose for my donation to go to the Boys and Girls Club).

OK, the more I think about it, the more I am obsessed with this place! How excellent is this idea of marketing a coffee shop as a co-working space and offering these additional amenities? I need to get on with my dream of becoming an online entrepreneur so I can work there all of the time! And the charitable aspect is as smart as it is inspiring. Who doesn’t like to know that they are doing good while they are sitting and sipping a latte?

402 S Lafayette Ave.
Royal Oak, MI 48067

www.theofficecoffeeshop.com

 

 

199. Grand Tavern – October 12, 2016 – Rochester Hills, MI

20161012_17180620161012_171926Happy Monday, all! I hope you had an excellent weekend of getting out and exploring.

Ok, maybe your Monday is not going so happily. Maybe you, in a pre-coffee haze, have stapled your suit jacket sleeve to your mouse pad. Or, even worse, you’ve forgotten your suit jacket entirely and are only 24 minutes in to eight painstaking hours of frosting over in the sub-zero, arctic tundra God-forsaken landscape of your office (Seriously, who within the corporate landscape decided running the AC 365 days a year was a good idea????).

The Monday transition can be hard, for reals. I know, if you work a meh day job, you’ve gotta have something to look forward to all day, to sustain you through all the inane coworker small talk and bureaucratic drudgery. You need . . . HAPPY HOUR.

As part of the Fun Committee (yep) for my team at my day job, I was recently tasked with organizing a team happy hour. After much research – which was more prolonged than it needed to be, admittedly, because I had my own agenda of wanting it to be a new place for this blog – I stumbled across Grand Tavern in Rochester Hills. I saw it was close to my work and had daily specials, and I’d never been there. Done!

Grand Tavern exceeded my expectations. I expected it to be a pretty standard sports bar, which it is, but more amazing. First of all, our waitress brought us baskets of potato chips for free – deliciously seasoned potato chips that appeared to be house-made. I could not stop eating them. Seriously, I wasn’t even that hungry when I got there!

Happy hour was until 6 p.m., so I scored a $3 glass of Chardonnay. It wasn’t the greatest glass of Chardonnay, but still. I am young enough to appreciate a cheap drink!

And then, one of my coworkers suggested we split the Grand Nachos appetizer among the four of us. This thing was monstrous, a huuuugggeee oval platter of tortilla chips loaded with beef and refried beans and tons of cheese and deliciousness. I could not stop eating them. I probably ate the most of everyone. And still, there were nachos left on the platter. I wish I would’ve remembered to have taken a picture of them.

Split amongst the four of us, our bill before tip was about $5.50 apiece! That was with three out of four of us having one alcoholic drink each and splitting the nachos ($12) four ways, and me eating so much I had a stomachache. It’s the best value I’ve encountered on my visits in a long while.

3512 Marketplace Cir.
Rochester Hills, MI 48309

www.grandtavernrochesterhills.com

 

198. Cornerstone Barrel House – October 8, 2016 – Detroit, MI

20161008_18042820161008_190733-2Hello, all! Happy Friday! I hope you are enjoying fall, as I am. I love how the colors have started to really pop on the trees in the last week. Today it’s a bit chilly here in the D, but we’ve got blue skies and bright sunshine, and I’m quite cozy here wrapped up in a fleece blanket as I type. All I need now is a nice cup of tea, and I’ll be extra cozy!

Continuing on with the last of my birthday celebration destinations from last week, today I’m highlighting Cornerstone Barrel House, which was gracious enough to grant me a last-minute reservation for a Saturday night dinner with friends. It’s been on my list of places to visit, plus my uncle who lives downtown recommended it in addition to another of his faves, the recently visited The Old Miami.

Cornerstone had a much different vibe than that aforementioned bedraggled but lovable dive bar, and it was much different from how I had pictured it in my head. I’d imagined old-fashioned, Wild West-esque decor – dusty wooden barrels, fur pelts on the walls – presumably because I knew it offered an extensive whiskey collection, and I apparently associate that spirit with the days of cowpokes and pistol duelling.

What I encountered instead was a sleek and contemporary bar with a laid-back vibe and solid, down-to-earth servers, the kind of place where you can chill in style, enjoying an excellent meal while keeping tabs on the big game du jour.

I’m surprised I haven’t been there before, really. Cornerstone is located on a shiny-new stretch of Woodward so close to my downtown-area headquarters of Detroit Beer Company/Comerica Park/Opera House Parking garage (my parking go-to); it’s basically just around the corner. This close proximity to my downtown stomping grounds, coupled with top-notch service, ambiance, food, and drink, make it a definite prospect for a repeat visit – a concept that has become a relative rarity for me since my explorations for this blog began.

But my high marks granted to Cornerstone probably hinge primarily on its tomato caprese salad, which was excellent. I’m OBSESSED with tomato caprese salad, so a good one gets my attention. This one burst with flavor: fresh red and golden cherry tomatoes, savory mozzarella, and generous drizzles of balsamic vinaigrette. A tender and flavorful sirloin steak and a rich bread pudding constructed from Krispy Kreme donuts (!) rounded out the meal. Delicious!

I did not try any whiskey during my visit to this whiskey house, as I’m admittedly not a whiskey girl. But I enjoyed my French 75 cocktail; it was not too sweet, and it was strong without being overpoweringly so, two traits I quite appreciate in an alcoholic beverage.

1456 Woodward Ave.

Detroit, MI 48226

www.cornerstonedetroit.com

197. Standby – October 8, 2016 – Detroit, MI

20161008_171636

Standby’s discreet entrance sign and the impressive artwork fronting it

20161008_175748

The Belt

20161008_17191120161008_174036Continuing my birthday celebrations from last week into Saturday, some friends and I met for a pre-dinner drink at Standby, a cool little bar tucked away in The Belt. In case you, like me before Saturday, have never encountered The Belt, it’s this vibrant alley space located between Broadway and Library streets downtown. Strings of lightbulbs, graffiti artwork, and other displays of creativity brighten this corridor between buildings. It’s an area meant to promote artists and engage the public with their work, according to Standby’s website. It’s also characteristically modern Detroit – another facet of its magical rebirth phase.

Standby’s entrance within this busy alleyway was initially unrecognizable to us – until we spotted the small carved wooden sign to the right of a metal door just beyond a massive artwork display of a man’s face.

The discreet nature of the bar’s storefront is intentional, according to its website. It wants to feel hidden away, so that those who visit feel like they are hiding away, too. That appeals to me. I get that urge to escape sometimes, to be somewhere where no one in my life knows where I am.

Carrying though this intention, Standby’s interior is small and intimate, dim, mysterious. There’s a tiny bar rail, dark wood, contemporary artwork on the walls. There’s a food menu containing what appears to be a few small plates (beets with ricotta; brussels sprouts; shrimp escabeche, to name several), a few entrees (including a cheeseburger and curry-braised lamb) and two desserts (du jour ice cream and chocolate selections). And there’s the drink menu, consisting of some very classy – and very strong – craft cocktails.

Said cocktails are also quite pricey – but they are a value considering how much liquor they contain! My legs were boozy-numb after only a few sips of my Dowager Empress, a gin, Chrysanthemum syrup, rosewater and bitters-infused concoction served in a tumbler with a grapefruit peel and one of those big square ice cubes. It was a drink that demanded to be savored.

225 Gratiot Ave.
Detroit, MI 48226

www.standbydetroit.com

196. The Old Miami – October 6, 2016 – Detroit, MI

20161006_15522120161006_15554520161006_15591320161006_155923The Old Miami – I’m in love!!!! I love a good dive bar, and The Old Miami is a classic.

My uncle who lives downtown tipped me off to this place; it’s one of his favorites. When my mom and I were in Detroit last Thursday celebrating my birthday, he told us stories of fireworks being set off in the bar’s backyard during Fourth of July celebrations and boozy Christmas Eve potlucks. I was like, I NEED to see this place. So after visiting nearby Source Booksellers, my mom and I decided to stop there for a quick drink.

That quick drink turned into several drinks over several hours, with my uncle coming to join us. It proved difficult to leave The Old Miami’s phenomenal backyard, a mash-up  of picnic tables, an outdoor bar, a muddy koi pond/fountain, and granny-chic fabulousness(bronze statues, pots and pots of colorful flowers). Sitting out on this gorgeous day (it was in the high 70s), with the late-afternoon fall sunshine slanting through the patio umbrellas, while old men cut and weedwacked the lawn … THAT was life. That was exactly the way that life should be every day. Every day should be my birthday and a day that I get to spend at a chock-full-of-character bar instead of in my cubicle at work.

At least I have the memory of that day, and the ability to go back to The Old Miami whenever I want.

The bar’s interior is classic dive. Lots of veteran memorabilia and ’80s-era children’s school pictures – presumably relatives of the owner – form a dense collage above the bar counter. There are the requisite pool tables and pieces of grungy furniture. A tired syndicated crime drama played on the TVs the afternoon we were there. A few fellow drinkers, mostly of the younger demographic, were scattered around the bar and yard.

In researching The Old Miami online, I found accounts that said it has been around since the ’70s and is renowned for being the site of performances by many locally- and nationally-known bands. As a Detroit Metro Times profile puts it, it’s been called “the C.B.G.B’s of the Midwest.”  I saw the stage when I was there, but I wouldn’t have gathered that it was such a musically significant place. Pretty cool!

I can’t speak to the men’s room, but the ladies’ room at The Old Miami is an absolute fright. There was a sign in it on my visit asking female patrons to please pardon the construction, but I got the sense that said construction – the details of which weren’t entirely clear – wasn’t going to make things much better. The front half contained a sink with no paper towel or soap; the back half was a curtained area with two toilets, just straight-up chilling out in the open – no dividers or anything shielding them from each other.

Unless two drunk college girl friends are going in to pee together (as so many of us did in our youth!), this bathroom setup is not helpful. It was hard to know if someone was already in there, so that my mom inadvertently walked in on another woman on the toilet, who cheerily urged her to come on in. My mom opted to wait for her to finish.

Still, while the ladies’ room setup was less than desirable, it didn’t detract from my adoration of the place. I’ll navigate some jank potties for access to such an epic backyard!

3930 Cass Ave.
Detroit, MI 48201

195. Source Booksellers – October 6, 2016 – Detroit, MI

20161006_15244820161006_153220Source Booksellers – what a delight!

I am a huge bookworm and library/independent bookstore nerd. I am someone who, when researching a vacation destination, hunts down the coolest bookstore there and persuades any fellow travelers to visit it with me so I can buy books at the likes of The Tattered Cover in downtown Denver (my absolute favorite bookstore EVER) or, more recently, writer Ann Patchett’s shop, Parnassus Books, in Nashville.  Long story short, I love books. And there aren’t nearly enough independent bookstores in the Metro-Detroit area, so I was psyched to discover that this one on Cass Avenue in Midtown is a gem.

Source Booksellers is a small shop, featuring all nonfiction books – and a few select novels. The owner was manning the counter during my visit; I recognized her from a picture I’d seen online. She was lovely – welcoming, eager to interact with us, and very knowledgeable about her catalog of books, which were obviously carefully chosen. This is the reason I love a good independent bookstore (and why I am compelled to buy a few books every time I visit one, even though I’m primarily a devout library patron when it comes to my book purveying), this thoughtfulness and intimacy put into choosing its selection. As Source’s owner explained to us, and is also outlined on the shop’s website, she focuses on representing four primary subject areas with the books she sells: 1) history and culture; 2) health and wellness; 3) spirituality and metaphysics; and 4) women-centric topics. If you have any interest in these areas or simply appreciate a well-curated bookstore, I would urge you to visit Source.

Regular classes and events are held at the bookstore, as well, on such intriguing topics as belly dancing, tai chi, and urban foraging. Check out Source’s website; there are some awesome-sounding events planned for this month!

4240 Cass Ave.
Detroit, MI, 48201

www.sourcebooksellers.com

194. Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails – October 6, 2016 – Detroit, MI

20161006_12041520161006_12245620161006_12443120161006_132759Hello, all! Happy weekend!

This week has been particularly exciting for me, because my birthday was Thursday, and I LOVE birthdays. I’ll be going out with friends tonight in Detroit, and I was down there Thursday with my mom for my actual birthday. I took the day off work – as I do every year, as I’m a firm believer that no one should spend his or her birthday slaving for The Man. My mom almost always takes my birthday off work, too, which is awesome of her, and we spend the day together.

After thinking for weeks that I wanted to devote my birthday to exploring downtown Wyandotte (I’ve heard good things about it, and I plan to visit it sometime soon for the blog), I was like, no, it has to be Detroit. It just does.

As you may know from reading this blog, I love going to the city. It’s a magical place for me. Detroit is my spirit animal!

I didn’t have to deliberate for long over my lunch spot. Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails has been on my list of places to visit for the last several years, ever since I read Hour Detroit‘s high praise of it and spied its vibrant green walls within its pages.

The restaurant is located in the Museum District, in the grand Park Shelton building at the corner of Kirby and Woodward streets; its entrance faces the Detroit Historical Museum.

I’m totally burying the lead here, but I had quite possibly the best restaurant meal of my life at Chartreuse. I know I am always raving on the blog about how great the places I visit are – we have a lot of awesome restaurants in the area! But I’m telling you, Chartreuse is exceptional.

My mom and I started with the Michigan Apple and Jicama appetizer, a unique blend of apples, jicama, celery leaves, smoked cashews, bacon, oregonzola (a cheese very similar to gorgonzola), and house-made fermented hot sauce. Then we shared the spare ribs and smoked corned beef sandwich.

The spare ribs were the best I’ve ever had. Man, were they good! I can’t even describe how fall-off-the-bone tender and flavorful they were. They were marinated in a “togarashi, soy mirin glaze” and paired with – believe it or not – a raw potato and seaweed salad. As our server explained to us, this side sounds like it would be nasty – raw potato??? – but it is crazy-good. The flavors were lively; the potatoes didn’t taste raw at all because they were shaved so thinly and marinated in this rich sauce.

The Smoked Corned Beef sandwich was a revelation. Relative to the ones I’ve had before it, this is not even the same species of corned beef sandwich. Slices of toasted, butter-soaked rye bread held thick cuts of corned beef, purple cabbage, pungent beer mustard, and melted white cheddar.

Then our server surprised us with a complimentary dessert – a creamy, custardy pudding with flecks of vanilla bean, a lime glaze, shortbread cookie pieces, and fresh blueberries. An excellent end to an excellent meal.

It was beyond a meal; it was an experience! That’s the mark of exceptional restaurants; they are experience purveyors as much as they are food purveyors. Because not only was Chartreuse Kitchen’s food some of the absolute best of my life, but the other details comprising the visit were captivating, as well.

The service was friendly, personal, and on-point. The ambiance was fabulous. This was a place that had me thinking, “Should I go back to serving again? I would have so much fun working here!” From the lime-green walls to the hanging dried flowers to the living wall of succulents, the decor is striking and inviting. And from our perch at the bar, we got a front-seat view of the adjacent kitchen line, where we got to watch the chef and his crew meticulously assemble appetizer platters for a private vodka tasting.

Thursday afternoon alcohol tastings? I LOVE this city!

15 E. Kirby St., Ste. D

Detroit, MI 48202

www.chartreusekc.com