Month: September 2017

268. Steelhouse Tavern – August 16, 2017 – Troy, MI

20170816_19182620170816_19175120170816_183754I tried my first Monte Cristo waffle via brunch at Red Crown this July, but it wasn’t until my visit to Steelhouse Tavern in Troy last month that I had my first legit sandwich-version Monte Cristo.

I know the Monte Cristo sandwich is said to have evolved from the Croque Monsieur, the traditional French ham-and-cheese sandwich, but man, is this one of the most American things I have ever eaten! A sandwich loaded with two kinds of meat (turkey and ham), two kinds of cheese (Swiss and American), and raspberry jelly; dunked in tempura batter; deep-fried to a delectable crispiness; dusted with powdered sugar (because why not?); and served with tater tots, those venerable nuggets of potato goodness? That is ‘Merica with a Capital “M,” my friends!

I know I’m a ‘Merican at heart because despite finding much of what goes on in this country these days completely bonkers, and despite how into healthy, whole-foods-based eating I am, I still relish the chance to go out and ingest my entire day’s saturated-fat intake in one sitting via a glorious grease-bomb such as Steelhouse Tavern’s Monte Cristo sandwich. Because meat-and-cheese-and-sweet-and-deep-fried is a combo that refuses to be ignored!

I experienced this glorious first brush with Steelhouse’s Monte Cristo while sitting out on its patio enjoying happy hour. From 4 to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, you get access to a happy-hour menu with food and drink deals such as $5 appetizers and half-off select cocktails if you sit on the patio or in the bar area. The Monte Cristo wasn’t a happy-hour deal, but I did get to savor a Steelhouse Vesper cocktail and some Smoked Pork Nachos at the discounted rates.

I loved Steelhouse’s covered patio. Sure, it faces the strip-mall parking lot, but the patio itself is beautiful, with dark wicker chairs, sleek high-top bar stools, cool accent lighting, flat-screen TVs, and a fire pit. The sophisticated-tavern vibe carries on to the interior of the restaurant, which is glossy yet welcoming. There’s a big round bar near the entrance that was packed with patrons on the night I was there.

If you’re looking to visit Steelhouse Tavern but are interested in healthier fare than the Monte Cristo, its menu includes more sensible choices such as the Steelhouse Sirloin Steak, Cedar Plank Salmon, and Seared Ahi Tuna Salad in addition to the traditional bar fare (burgers, wings, nachos, and sandwiches). Because let’s face it: while meat-and-cheese-and-sweet-and-deep-fried is a combo that refuses to be ignored, it’s not one that’s practical to ingest on a daily basis.

1129 E. Long Lake Rd.

Troy, MI

www.steelhousetroy.com

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267. Juan Miguel’s – August 12, 2017 – Clinton Township, MI

20170910_163706 (2)20170812_183531August 12 was a busy day for me, as I’d inadvertently overbooked my social calendar. The up side was that I got to hang out with two beloved friends and try three new places in one day, with visits to the Beverly Hills Grill and Michigan Beer Growler Co.  in the afternoon and Juan Miguel’s in Clinton Township in the evening.

Mexican food is one of the Universe’s greatest gifts to us earthlings, in my opinion. All that cheese and spice and flavor and YUMMM. So of course I was excited to check out Juan Miguel’s, crafter of many cheesy-spicy-flavorful Mexican goodies.

The restaurant’s menu is extensive, affordable, and contains all of the faves: tacos, enchiladas, chimichangas, burritos, nachos, chile rellenos, fajitas, botanas . . . you get it. It also contains a few items that you won’t generally see being peddled at the conventional U.S. Mexican restaurant, such as menudo (beef tripe soup – a.k.a. soup make from stomach tissue – a.k.a. not the average patron’s thing but a traditional dish that many do enjoy) and nopalitos, described on the menu as “Tender pieces of cactus cooked with eggs, onions, green peppers, and our special spices.” I’ve never thought of cactus as being edible, AND I’m completely intrigued by this dish!

My palate wasn’t up for beef tripe or cactus during my visit to Juan Miguel’s – because it was up for cheesy beef enchiladas with Spanish rice and beans instead. Of course, my palate is always up for cheesy beef enchiladas with Spanish rice and beans because it is LIFE. And the beef enchiladas at Juan Miguel’s certainly hold up their end of the bargain with the whole cheesy-spicy-flavorful YUMMM-factor.

21342 Hall Rd.

Clinton Twp., MI 48038

www.juanmiguels.com

266. Michigan Beer Growler Co. – August 12, 2017 – Beverly Hills, MI

20170812_150804 (2)20170812_14585020170812_135214My time in the city of Beverly Hills on a Saturday this past August continued after lunch at the Beverly Hills Grill with a visit to Michigan Beer Growler Co.

This tiny establishment located in a strip mall is – DRUM ROLL – a “growler filling station”! It’s got 26 craft beers on tap (plus a couple of hard ciders and craft sodas thrown in for good measure). You can bring in your own growler or buy 32-ounce and 64-ounce bottles at the station and carry away your fave brews to enjoy on the go (well, not literally on the go – you know what I mean).

I’d never heard the term “growler filling station” before perusing Michigan Beer Growler Co.’s website, but the concept of one has captured my imagination. I’m nowhere near a beer aficionado, but I like the idea of a place that gives beer lovers an excuse to discover, geek out over, and collect in one place their fave craft brews so they can share them with other beer lovers. It just seems fun. (Hmm, maybe it reminds me at a metaphorical level of how I’m discovering, geeking out over, and collecting local establishments on this blog?)  I also love that most of the beers featured here are from Michigan-based breweries. Brews from New Holland, Right Brain, Batch, Arbor, and Odd Side graced the chalkboard line-up during my visit.

While Michigan Beer Growler Co. brands itself as a growler filling station and peddler of beer- and/or Michigan-related products (such as t-shirts, pretzels, popcorn, and water bottles) rather than a bar, you can order flights and pints of the selections on draft to enjoy in-house. There is seating at the counter, at a few interior tables, and on a tiny patio abutting the parking lot. We sat on that little terrace, and I enjoyed a pint of the New Holland Lost Dune blueberry ale (I’ll never tire of berry-infused beer), while my friend sampled multiple beers via a flight (I have no memory now of which ones she got, but they were probably all IPAs because they are her jam).

Worth noting: Michigan Beer Growler Co. is open seven days a week, but the hours are limited on Mondays (it’s open from 3-8 p.m.) and Sundays (12-6 p.m.). The rest of the week, it opens at 11 and closes at either 8 or 9 p.m. depending on the day.

31221 Southfield Rd.

Beverly Hills, MI 48025

www.michiganbeergrowlerco.com

265. Beverly Hills Grill – August 12, 2017 – Beverly Hills, MI

20170812_13440020170812_133916Beverly Hills is represented on 100 Places in the D! It’s another new-to-the-blog city!

I remember when I learned that a city named Beverly Hills existed in the Detroit area. I was 22, a life-long Michigan resident, and I had no idea that there was a town named after a Hollywood enclave a mere half hour from downtown until I encountered it en route to a staffing agency where I was filling out paperwork for a job. That’s the exciting thing for me about the Detroit area: it’s bigger than I ever realized as a kid (I can leave my house and drive for an hour and still be in the Tri-Country area?), and there are still so many cities within this territory that I have no familiarity with. Metro-Detroiters who live in what for me is a far-flung locale (like Livonia – I have no clue what it’s like!) are equally as clueless of where I call home in Southern Macomb County.  It’s fascinating to me. I love exploring and uncovering for myself the cities I previously had no idea about.

It’s no surprise, then, that I was psyched to finally spend some quality time with the once-unknown-to-me city of Beverly Hills when my friend Jaclyn agreed to meet me there on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon last month. Our first stop: the Beverly Hills Grill.

For years I’d listened to one friend rave over that elegant establishment that is part of the Roberts Restaurant Group (proprietors of such area staples as Town Tavern and Roadside B&G), so I was thrilled to finally eat there. I ordered the Pulled Chicken salad and devoured every bit of its wholesome, flavorful goodness. The menu describes it best: “Port Soaked Cranberries / Wild Rice / Almonds / Crispy Won Tons / Maple & English Mustard Vinaigrette” – a.k.a. PURE YUMNESS that certainly lived up to all of the hype.

I had been torn about what to order, because multiple tantalizing choices piqued my interest. I was this close to getting the Kobe Meatloaf with its cabernet wine sauce, portobello mushrooms, shallots, and veggies. And because the weekend menu features brunch options, there were a host of breakfast choices available as well, such as the Bananas Foster French Toast, Breakfast Toastada and Corned Beef Hash – and of course, ample boozy brunch drinks.

Because of the Beverly Hills Grill, I am no longer unfamiliar with the town that shares its namesake. I can move on to another of the Metro-Detroit cities that are uncharted territory for me (Livonia, I’m coming for you!).

31471 Southfield Rd.

Beverly Hills, MI 48025

www.beverlyhillsgrill.com

264. Watermark Bar & Grille – August 11, 2017 – Saint Clair Shores, MI

20170811_21022520170811_19063120170811_190715 As with several of the current restaurants on the Nautical Mile, the Watermark Bar & Grille has a legacy: it used to be the Beach Grill and then Tin Fish. You might think those ghosts of its hard-partying past would be hard to shake. But the Watermark seems determined to carve out its own identity, with modern nautical-themed decor, an extensive menu, and regular live music out on that gorgeous lakeside patio.

If being right on Lake St. Clair jamming to lively tunes brings out a propensity to be festive with the adult beverages (I mean, who could blame you, especially in these beautiful days of extended summer weather!), you only need to turn to the Watermark’s wide-ranging food menu to bring you back to center. It’s packed with a variety of hearty sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, signature hot dogs (such as The Southwestern, smothered in guacamole, jalapeños, cream cheese, and cilantro and wrapped in bacon – deluxe!), noodle dishes, Tex-Mex fare, and more upscale, surf- and turf-centric entrees such as filet and barramundi topped with crab meat and hollandaise sauce. I got the steak fajitas and enjoyed loading them up with grilled peppers and onions, Spanish rice, salsa, cheese, and guacamole.

Unlike some lakefront restaurants, the Watermark is open year-round. So even after the fair weather wanes, you can sit in its expansive dining room and gaze out onto the water, dreaming of the days post-thaw when you can hit that patio.

24420 Jefferson Ave.

St Clair Shores, MI 48080

www.watermarkbarandgrille.com

263. Penny Black – August 9, 2017 – Rochester, MI

20170809_18022620170809_191028I’d been wanting to sit on the patio of Penny Black since I’d first spotted it last summer. Every time I walked past it for those next few months that I was regularly in downtown Rochester, the flower-bedecked, string-light-emblazoned terrace was crammed with happy-looking people engaged in lively chatter and appearing to have the best of fun. Granted, I passed it while en route to a short-lived second-job I lamented having picked up, so the scene looked even more convivial/the epitome of freedom to me during those occasions when I was questioning for the umpteenth time, “Why did I decide to take on another job again?

When I finally sat down for the first time on that Penny Black patio during a gorgeous evening in August this summer, I was long overdue. And I got to taste that sweet, sweet freedom once and for all!

I met my mother at Penny Black on a Wednesday night with ample time to enjoy the happy-hour food and drink specials. We took advantage and ordered a couple of discounted signature cocktails (fruity little numbers whose names escape me now) as well as the Vegetable Egg Rolls and Eggplant Napoleon (breaded and fried eggplant discs smothered in mozzerella cheese and served on a bed of tomato dipping sauce – delicious). Not on the happy-hour menu but equally enticing with its slathering of barbecue sauce and loads of chicken, bacon, red onion, and cheese was the BBQ Chicken Flatbread.

Penny Black’s food menu is not all apps and flatbreads; it also boasts a wide selection of entree salads, sandwiches, burgers, and signature dishes such as the Southwest Glazed Tuna Skewers and Barbacoa Beef Enchilada. Plus, currently on the dessert menu just in time for fall is a YATES DONUT BREAD PUDDING crafted from the cider mill’s donuts and topped with an apple creme anglaise. Ok, yes, please! I’ll take that with a side of freedom out on the patio while we’ve still got this exceptionally warm weather.

124 W 4th St.

Rochester, MI 48307

www.pbrochester.com

262. Donut Factory – August 9, 2017 – Warren, MI

20170809_13060620170809_13061620170809_143236Four words, people: CHOCOLATE HONEY-GLAZED DONUT. Those four words equal pure shining goodness and love, in my vocabulary!

Last month, I discovered that the people at the Donut Factory – a bakery/café on Mound Road just south of 12 Mile in Warren – most definitely know what the heck they are doing when they craft their namesake pastry. For a mere 95 cents, I got in return a little nugget of Heaven named CHOCOLATE HONEY-GLAZED DONUT that was delectably crispy and sweet-honey-kissed on the outside and sumptuously soft and chocolatey on the inside. YES QUEEN!

I’m thrilled that I decided to make the detour to the Donut Factory that afternoon while en route from an offsite work meeting, because discovering one more place where top-notch baked goods are crafted makes me feel that much more equipped to deal with life (donuts are an effective antidote to have in one’s back pocket when adulting gets squirrely). I stopped there because I thought it was one of two donut shops in Warren that I have on my 100 Places to-visit spreadsheet (one of my nerdiest and most beloved creations). I realized when I looked there later that it wasn’t (the shops on my list are Donut Castle and Daily Dozen. Apparently Warren is loaded with delightful independently-owned donut shops).  I guess it was Fate that brought me to the Donut Factory – so thank you for that, Universe!

According to its Yelp profile, the Donut Factory is open 24 hours Tuesdays through Fridays (so you can get your donut fix at any time of day! Imagine donuts after a visit to another Warren gem, Dragonmead Microbrewery – NEXT-LEVEL). On Saturday, it closes at 4 p.m. and is wholly closed on Sunday (good, because the saints who make these babies deserve to live a life outside of donut cobbling). It reopens on Monday at 4 a.m.

Besides donuts, the Donut Factory offers other food, too – soups and sandwiches and pasties. You can go in there and sit in one of the booths or at the counter and enjoy a meal in a pleasant, low-key, kinda quaint environment where time feels like it is standing still – in a good way. Because time moves too quickly sometimes, doesn’t it?

There’s a massively popular corporate-chain donut/coffee shop right next to the Donut Factory. I like this chain; I frequented it regularly at one point in my past. But when I see this chain store parked next to the Donut Factory, a humble, locally-owned establishment cranking out fried rings of pure deliciousness at a 24/7 pace, I feel like shaking my fist at them and screaming, “No! No! You will not threaten the Donut Factory!” I mean, not cool, corporate chain, not cool.

But the profound thing about buying power is that we can decide which place of the two we want to support with our dollars – or whether we want to support both. It’s our choice. So the next time you’re in the 12 Mile-and-Mound area and feel like doing a little experiment, give ’em both a taste test and see what you think. For the record, my vote is with the Donut Factory.

28805 Mound Rd.

Warren, MI 48092

261. The Hudson Café – July 16, 2017 – Detroit, MI

20170716_11431320170716_120209One of my favorite versions of Heaven is taking in a ballgame at Comerica Park during a perfect-weather day (my other versions are: 1) shopping in a gourmet Italian produce market and 2) browsing in a multi-leveled independent bookshop. Yes, I am kind of a nerd). And when I venture downtown for a day game, I like to make a day of it – to have a meal and/or drinks beforehand. So in anticipation of my mom and I going down to the D back in July for what seems to be becoming our annual mother-daughter ballgame, I of course was like, “Can we go somewhere for brunch beforehand – preferably somewhere that is new to both of us?” Because yeah, trying new places is my pinnacle obsession these days (and happily, one that my loved ones indulge).

My mom suggested The Hudson Café, a breakfast/lunch restaurant that she’d heard good things about. She’d attempted to eat there during Memorial Day weekend, but her and my stepdad decided not to endure the long wait for a table at the time they were there, so they went to the Woodward location of Avalon International Breads instead (excellent alternate choice – LOVE those guys!).

Armed with this knowledge of how busy the joint could be, we settled in for a long wait at The Hudson Café – and got a table after about an hour, which wasn’t all that bad because we could jaunt up and down Woodward in the interim (and shop at lovely nearby Avalon, procuring a loaf of its insanely delish Farnsworth Family Farm sourdough and some Gus and Grey Floozie peach bourbon jam – oh yeahhh. Can’t help fan-girling over that place!).

Once triumphantly seated inside The Hudson Café after our lengthy wait, I enjoyed the bustling atmosphere and brightly colored murals of breakfast foods interspersed with Detroit landmarks. My mom ordered the banana pancakes, and I decided on the Chicken Pesto sandwich.

Let me say one thing about The Hudson Café: its portions are GENEROUS! The banana pancakes were huge – like, bigger-than-your-face huge. The Chicken Pesto sandwich, with its hefty grilled chicken breast, slabs of tomato, and smotherings of mozzarella, spinach, and pesto on weighty ciabatta bread, did not come to play. It and the double-serving of sweet potato fries that accompanied it meant gastronomical business! Hungry tummies are turning into happy, full (possibly overstuffed-and-in-need-of-a-nap) tummies after a visit here!

Besides offering the usual breakfast-centric fare (a generous variety of pancakes, waffles, French toast, sweet/savory crepes, omelettes, Eggs Benedict dishes, and other egg-centric fare), The Hudson Café’s menu boasts numerous entrée-salad and sandwich choices such as the Chicken Pesto.

1241 Woodward Ave.

Detroit, MI 48226

www.hudson-cafe.com

260. Testa Barra – July 13, 2017 – Macomb, MI

20170713_20265620170713_19511220170713_195117I was admittedly primed to love Testa Barra, because when I rolled up there for dinner back in July not long after the then-new restaurant had opened, I saw working there that night not one, not two, but three people I knew from my bygone serving glory days (two former coworkers and a friend I’d met tangentially from us serving at the same place at different times). AND I was dining with a friend who I also knew from said time period. So basically, I was revving high on excitement and nostalgia and getting to catch up with four beloved people all at once; given my ecstatic state, I probably could have eaten cardboard soaked in rubbing alcohol and given it two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Fortunately, the meal I partook in that night at Testa Barra, the Italian restaurant opened this year by the Baldwin Restaurant Group (owners of J. Baldwin’s in Clinton Township), was incredibly delicious in its own right – not simply rose-colored by my overzealous “Those were the days!” reminiscences about my serving shenanigans.

Sitting in the pretty glassed-in porch area of the restaurant dotted with succulent plants and festooned with strands of lights, we started with an arancini appetizer, fried balls of creamy, cheesy rice that were pure goodness. I continued on with the pasta Bolognese: handmade strozzapretti (kind of a twisty tube-noodle) topped with a rich, spicy, flavorful Cabernet-infused beef pasta sauce and ample amounts of ricotta cheese. SO GOOD and a definite far cry from cardboard soaked in rubbing alcohol! And for dessert, I savored some of my friend’s vanilla gelato garnished with crushed biscotti cookies.

My verdict, then, is that the food at Testa Barra is highly delectable in its own right – which is good, because in all seriousness, I wouldn’t return of my own volition to a restaurant with meh food no matter how many people I knew who worked there. I mean, there are far too many superior restaurants in the Metro-D for that!

48824 Romeo Plank Rd.

Macomb, MI 48044

www.testabarra.com

259. The Rustic Bluebird – July 8, 2017 – Romeo, MI

20170708_131050 (2)20170708_124731 (2)I like downtown Romeo. It’s got a homey, small-town vibe that I find comforting. And the Rustic Bluebird fits in well within that tranquil aesthetic. It’s a café with a cheery vibe and a wide selection of sandwiches, salads, and bowls (as in veggie bowls, nacho bowls, etc.) that you order from the counter.

The Power Bowl that I decided on was delicious – and HUGE! I definitely got my money’s worth here with a portion size that easily gave me two filling meals from this brown-rice bowl loaded with mixed greens, black beans, chickpeas, avocado, walnuts, sunflower seeds, cranberries, cucumber, onion, and Swiss cheese.

211 N. Main St.

Romeo, MI 48065

www.therusticbluebird.com