Month: February 2017

231. Central Kitchen and Bar – February 13, 2017 – Detroit, MI

20170213_122414-2I deeply respect any establishment that makes me crave a turkey burger, so I know that Central Kitchen and Bar and I are pals after my recent visit.

I’m generally not a huge fan of ground bird. I find it to be a pales-in-comparison substitute for its beef counterpart with all of its savory, fatty, red-meat goodness. But the turkey burger on Central Kitchen and Bar’s lunch menu invoked me. Blackened and festooned with avocado and sweet peppers and muenster cheese on a brioche bun, it tasted as irresistible as its menu description made it out to be. A side of fries with garlic aioli further cemented the friendship between me and this tiny-yet-chic restaurant located off the lobby of the First National Building, the grand skyscraper that looms above Campus Martius in the heart of downtown.

This turkey burger wasn’t the only intriguing item on the menu. From the Roasted Baby Carrots salad with arugula, pepitas, feta labneh, and a fig sherry dressing to the Vegetarian Tacos with blackened roasted cauliflower, avocado, and crema, the other entrees items sounded equally as compelling.

660 Woodward Ave., #4A

Detroit, MI 48226

www.centraldetroit.com

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230. Thee Office Pub & Cookery – February 11, 2017 – Romeo, MI

20170211_133111-220170211_120617-2OK, Thee Office Pub & Cookery = favorite name ever! Is that not an intriguing moniker? When my friend who lives in Almont and I were trying to think of a halfway spot between our homes to meet for lunch the Saturday before last, she proposed downtown Romeo and some restaurant options there; this one got my vote on name alone.

I’m gathering that this unique name comes from the fact that Thee Office Pub & Cookery is comprised of two rooms with distinct personalities: the restaurant side (the Cookery), which looks like a traditional dining area, and the pub side, which is everything I love in a bar: dimly lit and rustic, with wood paneling and eye-catching memorabilia (a fish made out of beer bottle caps, for instance) scattered all over the walls; reasonable prices; and friendly, attentive service.

I ordered the Cuban sandwich, which was excellent! The last Cuban sandwich I had (at a restaurant not in the Metro-Detroit area – we know better!) was crappy, so I was relieved to have its memory erased from my mind by this delicious one.

So Thee Office Pub & Cookery = amazing-ness! And downtown Romeo – I’m loving it, too! I’d actually never been down there prior to this, which is kind of shocking to me, considering I only live about a half hour from it. It’s a really cute small town with an old-fashioned vibe. On the Saturday we visited, there was an ice sculpture event going on, with many of the local businesses featuring outside their doors a Valentine’s Day-themed ice sculpture also incorporating some aspect of their trade (the dentist had one of a smile with hearts etched around it, while the toy store had an ice castle with hearts carved into it). And there was a horse-drawn carriage giving rides. Definitely planning to come back and soak in more of the town.

128 S. Main St.

Romeo, MI 48065

www.theeofficepub.com

Reflections on Year Three of 100 Places in the D

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The patio of #196, The Old Miami, Year Three

As 100 Places in the D celebrated its three-year anniversary on February 8 (woo-hoo!), it’s time to reflect back on the last year and how I stacked up against the goals I set for the blog.

OK, so overall, I kind of sucked at achieving the Blog Year Three goals. The Type A part of me is annoyed about that, but the fun-loving, relaxed part of me is like, “Hey, it’s OK – there’s always this year!” I’m liking the latter perspective. The journey of doing the exploring for and maintaining of the blog this year was fun, and fun is the reason I’m doing all of this. Still, I plan to better prioritize this year’s goals – which I’ll reveal here, too – for the sheer enjoyment of the challenge of pursuing them.

Getting into last year’s goals: the first one was to visit 60-75 new places. I achieved that one, visiting 66 new places (YAY!). To be honest, I didn’t remember that I’d given myself such a number range; somewhere along the line, I forgot that and fixated on my goal being 65 specifically. No matter – I hit the mark either way.

My second goal was to visit at least 25 new places in Detroit proper and to get more comfortable driving down there by making solo visits to the city at least once a month. I ended up visiting 19 places downtown – not the target number, but decent. And I was awesome about pushing myself to drive down to the D regularly for about the first third of the year; then I fell off in the spring. Whoops. I’m still easily flummoxed by the cray-cray network of roads in the downtown epicenter – I was just driving down there Monday en route to a new place and doing my usual death-grip-the-steering-wheel-and-try-not-to-hyperventilate routine – but can we all agree that it’s advanced-level driving down there? Seriously, those roads are WILD! I’m at a point where I’m at least proud that I push myself to drive downtown despite my fear of it. I love visiting Detroit, and I’m not going to let my nerves around being behind the wheel stop me.

I flat-out failed at my third goal, which was to visit one new-to-the-blog city a month. Given that I didn’t even write my Year Two reflections post and goals until March 5, nearly one month into the start of Blog Year Three, I was already setting myself up for failure on this one. Poor planning and prioritizing of this goal further exacerbated things, and a few months in, I’d already pretty much abandoned pursuing it. In the end, I only ended up visiting six new-to-the-blog cities in Year Three, those being:

Bloomfield Hills

Bloomfield Township

Harrison Township

Hazel Park

Oakland Township

Pontiac

To these six fine cities: you are a delight – I am happy to have gotten to know you better!

What are my goals this year? Well, for one, I’m vowing to reattempt this quest to visit an average of one new-to-the-blog city per month. The goal intrigues me, and I think with even a little bit of planning and foresight I can achieve it, because there are still quite a few Metro-Detroit cities where I haven’t visited places for the blog. I’ve compiled a list of 12 prospect towns so I can plan ahead. I visited one of them last weekend (post forthcoming!) and will be hitting another next week, so I’ve got a good start.

In terms of overall volume of visits, my goal is 71 new places (so I can hit 300 lifetime-total places visited by the end of this blog year!). That means I’ll need to visit an average of six places a month, which seems doable – but again, it will take intentional planning. My third goal to visit at least 20 places in Detroit – about two a month – which should also be easy enough to hit if I actually track it.

These goals are worth tracking, I’m realizing, because they involve stuff that is fun to me, and fun stuff is important stuff. So I’m going to make them a priority in my life, for the sheer pleasure of achieving them, because one thing I’m realizing as an adult is that finding enjoyment in every day is critical to ensuring one doesn’t become one of those shriveled up, miserable people.

It’s too easy for me to get caught up in responsibilities and to-dos and mortgage payments and with-what-money-am-I-going-to-buy-that-new-dryer scenarios? But I’ve decided I won’t not let myself stay mired in all of that stressful adulting. I’m going to continue eating dinners at former auto shops (here’s looking at you, Katoi!), taking in music at the dive-iest of dive bars (Tom’s Tavern, my love!!!!!!), and searching for the ideal coffee shop (Eos Café, you are pretty damn near perfect). ~Sigh.~ Sounds like a delight.

In case this kind of analytical numbers stuff interests you as it does me, here’s a breakdown of stats for the Year Three visits:

Number of places visited in Year Three: 66

Number of cities visited: 23

Breakdown by county: Macomb: 12; Oakland: 27; Wayne: 27

Breakdown by city:

Detroit: 19

Plymouth: 8

Royal Oak: 5

Clinton Township: 3

Pontiac: 3

Rochester: 3

Saint Clair Shores: 3

Clarkston: 2

Ferndale: 2

Madison Heights: 2

Rochester Hills: 2

Shelby Township: 2

Warren: 2

Auburn Hills: 1

Berkley: 1

Bloomfield Township: 1

Bloomfield Hills: 1

Harrison Township: 1

Hazel Park: 1

Mount Clemens: 1

Northville: 1

Oakland Township: 1

Troy: 1

And to recap, my goals for Year Four (February 8, 2017 through February 7, 2018) are:

-Visit 71 new places.

-Visit places in at least 12 new-to-the-blog cities.

-Visit at least 20 new places in Detroit.

Thanks for nerding out with me on this post and for following The 100 Places journey. Here’s to Year Four and to your own exploring this year!

229. The Morrie – February 5, 2017 – Royal Oak, MI

20170205_122447-2Today is a special day for 100 Places in the D, because it’s the first day of Blog Year 4!!!

I honestly can’t believe I’ve been posting on this blog for THREE years. I started 100 Places in the D in February 2014 with the daunting goal of visiting 100 new-to-me and locally-owned restaurants, bars, shops, parks, etc. within the Tri-County Metro-Detroit area over the span of a year, and somehow, I achieved and exceeded that goal with 102 visits.

My goal going forward was not to aim for 100 new visits each additional year, but to maintain the blog simply because I enjoy the hell out of it – it’s an excuse to make sure I continue to explore the area, get out of my comfort zone, and discover new-to-me local establishments. Thank you for following my journey, and if you’re intrigued by the prospect of starting your own version of the 100 Places Challenge whether you live in the D or elsewhere, I encourage you: please do it! Making exploring a priority has so brightened my life and expanded my horizons, and I hope it does the same for you if you’re inspired to follow in suit.

The Morrie restaurant in downtown Royal Oak has the distinction of being the last place I visited within Year Three of the blog. I didn’t achieve all of my goals set for Year Three (as always, I wish I had went further afield from my East Side environs more frequently than I did – there’s always Year Four for that), but I’m pretty pleased with what I did accomplish and mostly, with the fact that I’ve kept this all going. I’ll share a Year Three review soon.

Mostly, I have this rich and lively area to thank for the longevity of 100 Places in the D. D and Metro-D, I heart you! You never cease in unveiling intriguing new places for me to visit. 🙂

Take downtown Royal Oak, for one. It’s a fount of new establishments lately. What the heck is going on down there with the crazy turnover these last few years? Every time I go down to Main Street, I discover that a few more places have closed and new ones are slated to take their places. I hope for the sake of the businesses involved that it stabilizes down there. But one upside is that there are always new places for me to try despite the fact that I’ve been regularly visiting downtown Royal Oak since my teenage years.

The Morrie is one such recently opened establishment. It’s down near Bigalora, and according to a Detroit Free Press article I found online, it was formerly the Franklin Wine Store, which I kind of remember but never visited. I discovered The Morrie on Yelp when searching for a new brunch spot.

The rock-n-roll-themed restaurant/bar is a sleekly modern, beautiful space. There’s a wall plastered in classic vinyl and record sleeves. The Morrie’s big pull is that it hosts live music a few times a week: on Fridays and Saturdays and sometimes Thursdays, according to its website. A small stage juts out from the far end of the restaurant, intimately close to guest seating – an awesome vantage point from which to experience live music.

Live music wasn’t in the cards on my visit, because I was there for Sunday brunch. So were a lot of other people – specifically dudes, which my friend noticed, commenting, “Have you ever seen this many men at brunch?” There were two large tables of young guys near us. Apparently The Morrie is bro-brunch approved! We joked about getting her husband on board.

The restaurant’s brunch menu has such an eclectic mix of items that it’s easy to see how it would appeal to everybody in some way. There are classic breakfast items (French toast, pancakes, chicken-and-waffles) and iconic brunch items with a unique spin (three different varieties of Eggs Benedict, including one with pork belly and a five-space hollandaise and another incorporating potato skins). There’s a Croissant ‘Wich and bagels-and-lox, and there are items encased in bowls: the Smoked Salmon Bowl, Southwest Bowl, the Veggie Bowl. There’s a jazzed-up order of avocado toast sprinkled with pepitas, sunflower seeds, and chipotle-and-lime-infused salt, and there’s a sandwich called Chick Norris.

As someone who goes to brunch quite regularly but is not really a brunch person (conventional breakfast foods don’t especially thrill me), I so appreciate the vibrance, creativity, and extensive nature of this menu. I ended up getting the Asian Ramen salad, a filling bowl of shredded cabbage and carrots, thinly sliced red bell peppers, radishes, bean sprouts, orange segments, and crispy breaded chicken in a peanut curry dressing. I also ordered a side of beautifully fresh fruit and a whipped cream-topped Spanish coffee, the latter because the waitress suggested it and because Spanish coffees are one of those drinks that I love and always forget about.

Royal Oak has loved and forgotten many a restaurant, but I can’t see The Morrie succumbing to turnover anytime soon. It’s obvious a lot of care has been put into curating the interior design, the menu, and the bands (you can see a list of the scheduled live acts on The Morrie’s website under the “Music” section).

511 S. Main St.

Royal Oak, MI 48067

www.themorrie.com

228. Caffé Far Bella – February 4, 2017 – Saint Clair Shores, MI

20170204_134238-220170204_134843-2Hello again – and by the way, Happy February! I have a fondness in my heart for February, which is kind of hilarious to me considering that I used to hate it.

I hated February because it always was that part of the winter for me that felt like an unendurable slog, like “REALLY? MORE snow, MORE ice, MORE gloom?” Then I got sick of hating it and decided to find reasons to love it – which I actually got pretty good at.

February for me now is all about unending coziness (so.many.blankets), notable gains in daylight (it’s actually light out until 6 p.m. now – YES!!!), and making excuses for self-indulgences like fresh raspberries and good books (Valentine’s Day IS next week = good excuse to spoil ourselves). And it’s a time of hot beverages – lots and lots of warming tea and coffee.

Speaking of hot beverages, I stumbled across Caffè Far Bella this weekend while driving around on the East Side and craving a cappuccino. My GPS pulled it up as an option in Saint Clair Shores, and once I realized exactly where it’s located, I was like, “Oh, yeah! This is the coffee shop next to Cedar Garden I’ve always wondered about!”

Now I know: Caffè Far Bella is a delight. Stepping inside, I discovered a cozy, inviting space decorated in hearts and snowflakes. The man who greeted me behind the counter, who I believe owns the shop with his wife, emanated cheerfulness in that contagious way that makes you smile, too. After some harried driving about town, I was more than ready to sink down at a table in this friendly space with a steaming beverage, an Italian fig cookie, and the newspaper.

It was so nice to take time out to read the comics (when in the heck was the last time I did that?) and enjoy my cookie and decaf cappuccino, which were excellent. It was the first time I’d had the decaf variety of my favorite coffee drink, and I have to say, I did not taste the difference. In fact, it was one of the best cappuccinos I’ve had, so yay to rich flavor + no jitters!

In addition to selling a variety of coffee drinks and teas, Caffè Far Bella offers an extensive selection of baked goods, breakfast items, sandwiches, soups, and salads, making it a viable breakfast or lunch option. Also worth noting: it closes early most days – at 4 on Saturdays and at 5 every other day of the week except Thursdays, when it’s open until 7.

23415 Greater Mack Ave.

St. Clair Shores, MI 48080

www.cafefarbella.com

227. Rockin’ Cupcakes – January 27, 2017 – Rochester Hills, MI

20170127_133037-220170127_133721-2Ummm . . . I feel like the cupcakes in the photo above speak for themselves. Are they glorious or what??? That is SIX different varieties of chocolate cupcake you are seeing, including one with a caramel center; one with peanut butter buttercream, chocolate coating, and crushed pretzels; and another, as the menu describes it, with “Red wine infused chocolate cake, filled with red wine chocolate ganache, and topped with wine infused buttercream” – YOW! (That one was AWESOME.)

I had a Groupon for Rockin’ Cupcakes, the place where I got these exquisite dollops of perfection, and the Friday before last, on my brother’s birthday, I thought, here is an excuse to use this bad boy. On my lunch break, I headed out to Rochester Hills and the bakery’s tiny, colorful storefront, tucked within a sprawling plaza next to Papa Joe’s market.

I already knew its cupcakes were going to be awesome because I’d tried them before. For my birthday last October, a coworker brought me some of Rockin’ Cupcakes’ wares. Because I didn’t set foot in the place to get those baked goods, I didn’t count it then for my blog (my rule is that I have to physically visit a new-to-me place in order for it to be valid). But the moist and decadent cupcakes I had then convinced me I needed to go.

It was so fun to step away from work and into this cheery shop to muse over which mouthwatering varieties with the classic rock-themed names (Paint it Black, Yellow Submarine, The Rolling Stone) I was going to pick for my half-dozen. The pleasant young woman working the counter took the time to describe the cupcakes, helping me to decide. In the end, I purchased the chocolate assortment, because chocolate is LIIIIIFE. Luckily, my brother and other family members I shared them with are pretty keen on it, too.

Everyone exclaimed over how rich and moist the cupcakes were. That buttercream frosting – killer!

Worth noting: Rockin’ Cupcakes is open Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., but according to its website, if it runs out of cupcakes before the formal closing time, it will close early. So it wouldn’t hurt to call the shop before you visit to make sure it’s open.

6906 N. Rochester Rd.

Rochester Hills, MI 48306

www.rockincupcakesrochester.com

226. Bath City Bistro – January 20, 2017 – Mount Clemens, MI

20170120_185259-220170120_193450-2Happy Saturday, guys! If you are local and looking for somewhere to hang tonight, try Bath City Bistro in Mount Clemens.

Downtown Mount Clemens in general, I feel, is underrated. Every time I hang out down there, I end up exclaiming, “Why don’t we come down here more often?” I’m reminded of the fun shops and restaurants that call The Clem home. And truly – how had I never been to Bath City Bistro prior to two weeks ago?

I’d been hearing about the restaurant/bar/feather bowling court for years. In case you’re not familiar with the latter, feather bowling, to my understanding, is a game where the objective is to hurl wooden wheel-shaped balls down a court to get them as close as possible to the feather at the end of it. I didn’t engage in any rounds of feather bowling during my time at Bath City Bistro – but I’m intrigued! The courts were busy during my visit, and I could hear the intermittent rumblings of the play as a friend and I enjoyed dinner.

The restaurant’s expansive dining area has a cozy, classy vibe and is equipped with plenty of TVs if you are looking to keep tabs on a big game while you eat. A variety of domestic and craft beers, wines, and specialty cocktails are offered via the drink menu.  The dinner menu is also wide-ranging, boasting an array of appetizers, pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, and signature entrees varying from a fajita bowl to a filet, ribs to fish tacos, Belgian sausages to chimichurri-glazed steak and shrimp. I ordered one of the nightly specials, a flavorful grass-fed Delmonico steak with roasted vegetables, plus a bowl of cheese-crusted French onion soup (broth + cheese = pretty much the antidote to winters in Michigan).

Our server was awesome, friendly and attentive. She brought us these fresh rolls with this crack-like cinnamon butter that transported me back to my college waitressing days at a steakhouse when I used to smuggle bread and its equally addictive cinnamon and honey butters to a server station, where I would crouch in hiding and gorge. Those were the days! Thanks, Bath City Bistro, for transporting me back to my college days and for being so awesome in general!

75 Macomb Place

Mt. Clemens, MI 48043

www.bathcitybistro.com

225. Katoi – January 18, 2017 – Detroit, MI

20170118_17380620170118_17390120170118_173909The first half of January, I didn’t do any exploring – I was too busy recovering from the busy holiday season and acclimating to 2017, I guess! I’d been dying to get down to Detroit for weeks and weeks, and I was there to see Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at the Fisher Theatre the week after New Year’s – but alas, no exploring of new places occurred then (the neighborhood around Fisher Theatre is sorely lacking in restaurants and bars –  local restaurateurs, scope it out!). So I was psyched to have an excuse to go downtown again on the 18th – not only because I was going to the Red Wings/Bruins game thanks to a generous friend who gifted me a ticket for Christmas, but also because I knew we’d be trying at least one new place (yay to friends who are open to exploring!).

I was especially enthused when my friend said she was down for dining at Katoi. The Thai restaurant, which opened last year, had been on my radar thanks to a coworker who is supplying the restaurant with her free-range, organic pork. She’d praised the creativity and skill of the head chef and commented on the unique space that housed the restaurant.

Apparently, I wasn’t paying enough attention when she spoke about the building, because I didn’t realize that Katoi is housed in what appears to be a former auto shop. It’s also on a stretch of Michigan Avenue in Corktown that’s less lively than the strip that houses Sugar House and Slow’s and Astro Coffee and Gold Cash Gold about a third of a mile down. Perhaps the desolation I felt was summoned by the GPS navigating us off of Michigan Ave. to the trash-strewn alley behind the restaurant, telling us that we had arrived . . . yeah, NO, GPS.

At any rate, the outside of Katoi is nondescript and deceptive, belying the awesomeness that is inside. Stepping across the threshold of this former industrial building, I stepped into – what else? – a trendy, intimate dining space, all exposed brick, frosted glass, and colorful lighting. Like so many other buildings in Detroit, this one has been reborn into something completely different from what it once was. I never tire of discovering the various incarnations of this city. The repurposing, the creativity – it’s so exciting!

The menu presented so many intriguing options that it was hard to select only a few. Most dishes were more like small plates than full-blown entrees, so my friend and I ended up sharing four: the Stir-Fried Brussels Sprouts with a cashew cream sauce, the nuanced Thrice Cooked Sweet Potatoes, the spicy Drunken Pastrami Noodles, and the meaty Crispy Spareribs coated with a caramel fish sauce crust. All were delicious, but the vegetable dishes were our hands-down faves; they were so flavorful! My friend and I were like, “We need someone to cook us vegetables this delicious every day!”

We also had some KILLER cocktails whose names I neglected to take note of. Mine was pink, grapefruit-infused, flavorful, and strong.

When we left Katoi around 6:45 to head to the Joe, the tiny waiting area was packed, and the lot, alleyway, and street outside the restaurant were littered with cars parked every-which-way. Not a bad draw for a Wednesday night in the middle of winter!

2520 Michigan Ave.

Detroit, MI 48216

www.katoidetroit.com