Month: November 2017

294. Stache International – November 17, 2017 – Detroit, MI

November2017Stache1 (2)November2017Stache2 (3)November2017Stache3 (2)November2017Stache4 (3)Hi guys! I’m glad to be back on the blog sharing with you another glorious place in the D after a week off – just in time for the weekend and any exploring you may be set on doing! ūüôā

I hope you all had an excellent Thanksgiving if you celebrate that holiday. I was fortunate to¬†enjoy a¬†four-day weekend around it, and while I didn’t¬†end up exploring any¬†new-to-me Detroit-area places during that timeframe, I did get up to Mt. Pleasant to visit a friend (and my old stomping grounds from my college days at CMU – Fire Up Chips!) and did a revisit of M-Brew (where I¬†guzzled cranberry-infused hard cider and played the heck out of the Ghostbusters pinball machine in celebration of a pal’s birthday). It was delightful.

You know what else was delightful? My recent visit to Stache International! After hitting up the recently opened Eastern Market Brewing Company two weekends ago, my night out in the Eastern Market neighborhood of Detroit continued with a visit to the sandwich joint, which I discovered is not your average deli (in the best way EVER).

Stache is more bar than sandwich shop. For one, it has a full bar –¬†plus¬†a dimly lit, eclectically hipster-trendy-slash-mysterious vibe. There are glossy black carousel horses flanking the bar, a plethora of eye-grabbing prints on the wall, and on the night I was¬†there, two TVs playing a black-and-white movie that appeared to be Frankenstein and¬†episodes of¬†Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, respectively.

Pee-Wee’s Playhouse! OK, I know ol’ Pee-Wee, or rather, Paul Reubens who played him, has a tarnished past –¬†and legitimately so – but man! did I love that show when I was a kid! I hadn’t seen it in years, and I felt a fond wave of nostalgia when I saw it playing above the Stache International bar – nostalgia that¬†the younger friends I was with who were babies when¬†Pee-Wee’s Playhouse¬†ended couldn’t relate to. Man, is that show trippy to watch when you’re an adult! It fits in well with Stache’s surreal¬†aesthetic.

While I very much enjoyed the ambiance and the blast-from-the-past TV viewing, I was ultimately at Stache for the food. I found that while its menu is small,¬†it contains many intriguing sandwich and appetizer¬†choices. After deliberating and taking the server’s suggestions into account, I decided on the Turkey Mondulo, which is described on Stache’s website as “House smoked pulled turkey breast marinated in chipotle & negra modelo & honey-cilantro red cabbage slaw & rosemary garlic aioli on grilled sourdough,” and added¬†avocado per the add-on option. I also couldn’t help but spring for the Firecracker Bites, which are essentially a spring roll-mozzarella stick hybrid: spring roll wrappers loaded with cheese and local jam connoisseur Gus & Grey’s Sweet Jesus jalape√Īo jam and¬†deep-fried. YES, PLEASE!

The Firecracker Bites came out¬†first. I had gotten the order of four (there is also an order of 12)¬†and shared them with my three companions. They were INSANELY good. I mean, deep-fried spring rolls loaded with¬†mozzarella, asiago,¬†and delectably sweet-and-spicy Gus & Grey jam and dunked in Cajun ranch sauce – how can you go wrong? As I’ve mentioned several times before on this blog, I’m obsessed with Gus & Grey jams, and I certainly don’t find cheesy, deep-fried items unalluring, either.

Fun fact: our server told¬†us that the husband of the woman who owns Gus & Grey is one of the owners of Stache International – so there’s the tie-in!

And then it was on to the Turkey Mondulo, which was PHENOMENAL! I was admittedly surprised to like it so much, as I wasn’t sure how appealing a turkey sandwich with cabbage on it would be and had relied more on our server’s enthusiastic recommendation of it than my reaction to the menu description when choosing it. But it was SOOOO good. The sourdough bread was irresistibly buttered and toasted to perfection, while the turkey breast and honey-cilantro cabbage slaw were pleasingly flavorful. I swore there was cheese on the sandwich, but I’m not seeing it in the menu description, so perhaps it was the garlic aioli whose delectable creaminess I¬†adored in addition to the creaminess of the avocado? At any rate, the sandwich was amazing. The house-made potato chips that came with¬†it were pretty darn good, too – crispy and well-seasoned.

My night out in the Eastern Market neighborhood concluded with a revisit to Detroit City Distillery, where the good vibes garnered from Eastern Market Brewing Company and Stache amplified as DJs spinned tunes while buoyantly happy dancers let loose. It was an awesome finish to an awesome night, but I was especially happy to have had the foresight to take half of my Stache International sandwich with me so I could enjoy it again later. The place is truly worth a revisit Рand not just via leftovers.

1416 E. Fisher Service Dr.

Detroit, MI 48207

www.stacheinternational.com

Advertisements

100 Places in the D’s Top 10 Places Visited in Year 3

20161008_180428

Cornerstone Barrel House (#198)

OK, this post is months and months and months overdue. Usually after the end of each 100 Places in the D blogging year (which ends in early February, given that the anniversary of the first post on the blog is February 8), I’ll give a top-ten list of my favorite places visited during that timeframe. I¬†still hadn’t done that¬†for¬†Blog Year 3 – until now (FINALLY!).

Given that it’s Thanksgiving Eve and that many of my fellow¬†Metro-Detroiters will have ample time to go out and explore¬†this holiday weekend, I thought¬†it would be an ideal occasion¬†to¬†post this belated-yet-still-relevant¬†top-ten list for Blog Year 3, which specifically encompassed February 8, 2016 through February 7, 2017.¬†So here they are,¬†my faves of the bunch,¬†listed in no particular order; they¬†are¬†all Number 1s in my heart!

20160214_103823

Detroit Institute of Bagels (#164)

Detroit Institute of Bagels (#164, Detroit): Turkey, Bacon &¬†Avocado¬†sandwich with gouda and¬†spicy mayo on a toasted Everything bagel – be still my heart!!! Loved the friendly staff and pleasant vibes of this Corktown bagel shop, too; it’s the kind of place I could hang around all day. A must-visit.

Cornerstone Barrel House (#198, Detroit): Classy and contemporary yet down-to-earth, the Woodward Avenue whiskey bar is the perfect place to enjoy both the company of friends AND an excellent meal (tomato caprese salad AND juicy sirloin steak AND bread pudding made with Krispy Kreme donuts? OH YEAH.).

Natalie’s Bakery (#208, Madison Heights): This bakery’s got the goods! The rosemary-garlic ciabatta and seven-grain loaves of bread I picked up from¬†Natalie’s were¬†fantastic – perfect for Thanksgiving stuffing – while the pumpkin-mousse-filled fried croissant pastry is as ridiculously delicious as it sounds.

Chartreuse Kitchen and Cocktails (#194, Detroit): I had probably the best dining experience of my life at this gorgeous restaurant with exceptional food (those tender spare ribs! That killer corned-beef sandwich!). The fact that it happened during my 32nd birthday lunch made it that much more special.

20161027_210403

Tom’s Tavern (#204)

Tom’s Tavern (#204, Detroit): I felt a wave of sadness while writing this when I realized that I have not been back to Tom’s Tavern, that most venerable and glorious of Detroit dive-bar establishments – because Tom’s Tavern is¬†EPIC and demands to be experienced first-hand at least once a year. One of the most¬†magical places I’ve ever been.

Mabel Gray (#175, Hazel Park): You know how Mabel Gray has gotten a crap-ton of accolades? The reason for that is totally legit, I discovered, when I enjoyed one of the best restaurant meals in my memory (I’m sensing a trend here) in¬†its ribeye steak (perfection!) and chocolate torte.

Le Petit Zinc (#169, Detroit): This charming, colorful crepe café off the beaten path in Corktown was inherently lovable. That citron sucre (lemon-sugar) crepe! I recently read that Le Petit Zinc is currently location-less after its landlord gave it the boot from its once-home on Trumbull Street РWah Wah. Hopefully it will be back soon!

20161006_153220

Source Booksellers (#195)

Source Booksellers (#195, Detroit): My heart was grabbed by Source the instant I walked into the Cass Corridor bookshop. Small, thoughtfully curated, and with an owner who is downright lovely, it emanates this welcoming, community-fostering vibe. SO. GOOD.

El Patr√≥n (#193, Pontiac): With an extensive salsa bar and carnitas enchiladas that equal YUMMM times INFINITY, there was no way I was not going to fall hard for this place. Mexican is LIFE when it’s done right, and El Patr√≥n does it RIGHT.

The Old Miami (#196, Detroit): The dive bar majorly captured my affections with its charmingly grandma-esque backyard area. How many days until summer?

293. Eastern Market Brewing Company – November 17, 2017 – Detroit, MI

November2017EMBC2 (2)November2017EMBC3 (2)Last Friday night was especially fun because (as I mentioned in my last post) I spent it downtown! Friends and I¬†enjoyed a night out in Eastern Market, which I quickly realized is more loaded with restaurants and bars than I’d thought it to be. Our first stop? The recently opened Eastern Market Brewing Company.

Right away I loved the ambiance of this craft brewery established¬†inside of a former meat-packing facility, from the exposed bricks and¬†bare-lightbulb lighting to¬†succulents in vintage cans studding the¬†long¬†pinewood tables to the¬†hooks left as remnants¬†from the building’s past festooned all over the walls. Wooden plant boxes crammed with lively¬†greenery¬†hang from one wall; a large¬†mural of the brewery’s¬†logo, a frolicking elephant wielding an EMBC banner with its trunk, emblazons another.

The menu contained an expansive selection of 15 brews on the night of my visit, from which I ordered four to populate a sampler flight: the Maize Cream Ale (a light-bodied beer infused with corn), Coffee Stout, Pumpkin Hefe, and Nitro Pumpkin (which led me to learn that nitro beers incorporate actual nitrogen Рinteresting!). All of the beers were good, but I especially enjoyed the Pumpkin Hefe Рa.k.a a Hefeweizen (wheat beer) with a pronounced pumpkin flavor, subtle sweetness, and an irresistible hint of nutmeg. What a perfect brew to sip whilst huddled away from the chilly fall night in a cozy, convivial environs!

Worth noting: Eastern Market Brewing Company doesn’t have a kitchen-backed food menu, but snacks are available for purchase (I’m not positive what kind, but it did look like bags of popcorn were on display), and you can bring in outside food, as well.

2515 Riopelle St.

Detroit, MI 48207

www.easternmarket.beer

292. Honey Bee Market La Colmena – November 11, 2017 – Detroit, MI

November2017LaColema1November2017LaColema3November2017LaColema4TGIF, guys! I’m¬†THRILLED for it to be Friday because that means it’s¬†finally the day when I’ll be heading down to the D for some happy-hour shenanigans at a new-for-me place¬†or two (look out for post(s) on that next week).

I hope you’re also able to get some exploring in this weekend – unless hunkering down at home in your sweatpants is¬†the much-needed alternative after a hectic week. If that’s the case, I totally get it – that’s my preference sometimes, too! Sweatpants are on the shortlist for Greatest¬†Gifts EVER from the Universe for me – especially during what for us in Metro-Detroit is a chilly, oft-rainy¬†time of year. But if you do get out this weekend and visit any new places in the Detroit area or elsewhere, please feel free to post about¬†it in the comments field below; I’d love to hear about it!

Speaking of sweet, sweet weekends: last Saturday,  I was fortunate enough to be able to pop down to what is fast becoming one of my fave neighborhoods in Detroit, Mexicantown. After my visit to top-notch tamale joint Tamaleria Nuevo Leon, I decided to check out another nearby establishment, Honey Bee Market La Colmena.

The grocery store located near the Canadian border in Detroit¬†is a gorgeous facility displaying ample amounts of produce, dry goods, meat, and baked goods, with a focus on Mexican and other Central American products. I’d heard rave reviews about the quality of its grocery selection and prepared foods, so I was excited to check it out.

I geek out over quality markets, no joke! A market with superior produce and specialty goods is one of my favorite places to be in the whole wide world, right up there with libraries (bookworm 4Life!), new-to-me countries, and Comerica Park. And Honey Bee Market La Colmena did not disappoint.

Despite being in existence since 1956, the shop is a new-looking, modern facility Рthe result of a recent renovation, according to its website, which nearly quadrupled the store in size from 4,000 to 15,000 square feet.

The front section of Honey Bee Market La Colmena displays ample amounts¬†of fresh produce, followed by rows and rows of¬†packaged goods ranging from canned¬†beans¬†and tomatoes to¬†McClure’s pickles. Toward the¬†back of the store are the¬†cooler area and the meat counter, from which I purchased¬†a couple of pounds of fajita skirt steak, which was excellent marinated, pan-seared, and put into tacos.

There’s¬†a¬†long table¬†near the butcher counter displaying a myriad of tortilla options, from which I selected a pack of 30 corn tortillas¬†(soooo many tacos in my future – and¬†I’m NOT complaining about that!). I also¬†bought a selection of produce, including¬†some perfectly ripe avocadoes and five¬†petite limes for only¬†$1,¬†plus some¬†jalape√Īo pesto¬†called Jala Pesto.

I would be remiss in writing this post about Honey Bee Market La Colmena if I didn’t mention¬†its fresh-made salsa and guacamole! There are samples of it in the produce area when you first walk in; I tried both and especially loved the guacamole. I was this-close to purchasing some, but my splurges on the Jala Pesto (which was like $6) and the steak stopped me. However, know that it IS delicious and is definitely worth taking home.

As someone who loves to cook (check out my other blog, A Cookable Feast, for more on that topic), it is so nice to know that this clean, quality, well-stocked, reasonably-priced¬†grocery store exists and that I can come here when I’m looking for ingredients for Mexican/Central American recipes that I can’t find at Meijer or another local produce market. Thank you, Honey Bee Market La Colmena, for giving me another¬†first-rate market to geek out over!

2443 Bagley Ave.

Detroit, MI 48216

www.honeybeemkt.com

291. Tamaleria Nuevo Leon – November 11, 2017 – Detroit, MI

November2017Tamaleria1 (2)November2017Tamaleria2November2017Tamaleria3 (2)I’m so excited to bring you today’s post on Tamaleria Nuevo Leon, a tamale joint in Detroit!

This carryout restaurant¬†is a cash-only establishment on Vernor Highway in Mexicantown. It’s a place I’ve referenced wanting to visit in a few of my recent posts, and this past weekend, I finally made it down there for some sweet, sweet tamale goodness.

You walk in and place your order at a counter. Tamales can be ordered by the dozen, half-dozen, and individually. The larger the order size¬†for one variety of tamale that you order, the better the discount. For instance, I decided on a dozen tamales – one-half dozen pork with jalape√Īos and one-half dozen cheese with¬†jalape√Īos – which cost me $14 before tax (as it’s $7 per each half-dozen variety of tamales). But if I had gotten all dozen tamales as pork, they would’ve only been $11. Since I wanted to try two different kinds, I was willing to pay a few extra dollars on this visit. And I still received a discount¬†with the¬†half-dozen orders versus ordering tamales individually, as¬†single tamales are $1.50 each.

I LOVE Mexican food, so I was super excited to leave Tamaleria Nuevo Leon with two warm bundles of those little babies nestled in their corn husks. I finally sat down to lunch an hour-plus later, ravenous with hunger and anticipation.

My appetite was quickly sated, and I was not disappointed. Man, are these tamales melt-in-your-mouth delicious! If I had to pick a favorite, I would go with the pork ones with their meaty, spicy filling, but the cheese ones are certainly good, too. I ate eight tamales throughout the first day of getting them Рnot a difficult feat, as they are smaller than some tamales you will find in restaurants Рmore long and narrow.

If you love a good tamale, you’ve got to check out this place. Tamaleria Nuevo Leon¬†is yet another Mexicantown gem!

2669 Vernor Hwy.

Detroit, MI 48216

 

290. 3 Winks – November 10, 2017 – Ferndale, MI

November20173Winks2 (2)November20173Winks (2)Hi, guys! Happy Monday! I hope you had an excellent weekend exploring. I was fortunate to be able to check out a couple of new places this weekend, including 3 Winks, a gift shop in downtown Ferndale.

I was admittedly motivated to visit this shop by my massage therapist giving me a $10 promotional gift card for it. Once I walked into 3 Winks, I was glad that she had. It contained such cute stuff!

This is the kind of small shop so packed with an assortment of interesting items that it can take you several rotations around it to examine it fully, its wares including such fun gift ideas as mugs and tea towels embossed with funny sayings, fancy scented soaps, quirky greeting cards – including greeting cards paired with bath salts – jewelry, lotions, Michigan-centric wine glasses, and scarves.

After much deliberation in my several rounds around the shop, I decided on a printed scarf that I hoped would push me out of my mostly-black wardrobe comfort zone (sure, black is chic, but let’s face it, day after day of it can get boring without a little accessorizing). The scarf cost more than the gift card value, which I was happy about, because with the 3 Wink’s owner being so nice and its offerings so eclectic and fun, I wanted to support the shop by sending some actual dollars toward it.

As is no surprise given the nature of this blog, supporting small businesses is important to me. I mean, who wants all of the shopping options to be corporate-drone options? Not moi – which is why I’m going to keep 3 Winks in mind when I’m in need of a thoughtful gift item or treat for myself.

203B E. Nine Mile Rd.
Ferndale, MI 48220

www.3winksgifts.com

289. The Fed – November 3, 2017 – Clarkston, MI

November2017Fed1 (2)November2017Fed2 (2)November2017Fed4 (2)November2017Fed7 (2)Hiya, guys! TGIF! The weekend¬†with its beautiful chasm of open¬†time and space¬†beckons with its¬†invitation to explore, and¬†you can bet I’ll be checking out¬†at least one new place this weekend. As I mentioned in last week’s Taqueria El Rey post, I was hoping to return to Mexicantown last weekend to try a much-lauded tamale shop, but my plans changed, and I didn’t end up making it. Wah wah. So that place is still on my list, and/or I might check out¬†a new-to-me¬†Detroit coffee shop,¬†as I always appreciate a good indie java joint (killer ambiance+cappuccino¬†is my version of rainbows+butterflies – so magical!).

Do you have a new-to-you place you are looking to try this weekend? If you’re in need of inspiration and are local, may I humbly suggest The Fed in downtown Clarkston? I met a friend there for dinner last Friday night and LOVED it. Now THERE is some killer ambiance!

Seriously, this restaurant housed in a building that was once a bank (complete with private rooms inside of former bank vaults) is STUNNING. I was immediately obsessed with its décor. Starting from the outside of the building with its stone brickwork and Spanish-tile roof: ivy clings to walls, lightbulbs are festooned about the ample patio space, heat lamps are aflame so the outdoor tables can be enjoyed into the chilly temps. No one was eating outside on the night I was there (the current temps likely being too chilly even for heating lamps), but there was a couple sitting out there presumably waiting for others or for a table, and they seemed quite comfortable.

And the interior of The Fed: well, there are so many gorgeous details to absorb that it’s almost overwhelming. It’s like you’re eating dinner in a living space straight from a chic decorating magazine, one with¬†an eclectic collection of lighting fixtures¬†(globe, paper-lantern, reading-lamp,¬†minimalist-bulb), seating options¬†(structured couches with brightly patterned pillows and furry throw rugs, rattan chairs), and general decorative awesomeness (white marble tabletops, a plethora of eye-pleasing pottery, wall hangings, tiny pots in plants – you name it) with¬†an emphasis on neutrals, particularly white. It’s a clean, modern,¬†luxurious-looking space, and I fell for it hard. Can every space I interact with throughout my day look like The Fed (especially my corporate-job office) – please?

Ambiance is important to me, yes – I love a pretty space – but of course, my numero-uno is the food. I was intrigued by The Fed’s menu, which our waitress explained is influenced by the kitchen’s farm-to-table focus; it changes periodically in order to embrace seasonal menu items.

After exploring the menu options, including various appetizers, salads, flatbreads, fish dishes (including sushi plates), tacos, and meat-centric entrees such as filet, I decided on the Angry Pig flatbread with its braised pork, cilantro pesto, corn kernels, diced tomatoes, sliced shallots, red onion, jack cheese, and spicy mayo drizzle. My friend and I also decided to get the crispy cauliflower appetizer to share. Both were awesome! The cauliflower was breaded and deep-fried and tossed in a sweet-and-sour-type sauce; it was a glorious vegan version of sweet-and-sour chicken. The flatbread was loaded with rich Southwestern-esque flavor; the crust especially intrigued me because it tasted like it was sourdough to me, and how many places do a sourdough pizza crust?

I was happy to love the meal I had at The Fed after previously scanning its Yelp reviews and finding mixed opinions. Some raved about the food, while some found it to be overpriced and/or just not good. I can only vouch for my own experience, and I’m psyched that it was a positive one, of course, but you can continue the detective work and try out The Fed for yourself. Let me know what you think of it if you go (you can post in the comments field below)!

15 S. Main St.

Clarkston, MI 48346

288. Jefferson Street Pub – October 28, 2017 – Harrison Township, MI

Oct2017JeffersonStPub3 (3)Oct2017JeffersonStPub2 (2)Halloween, how I miss you already!

I love that spooky holiday – the dressing up, the decorations, the candy, the Halloween movie marathons (no matter how many times I watch those films, I find myself filled with a mix of terror and suspense and¬†Really? You people haven’t learned yet that this guy never dies? Come on now!).

Despite¬†having an extreme fondness for Halloween, I’ve admittedly¬†been lazy about actively celebrating it the last couple of years. Case in point: I went out the Saturday prior to Halloween this year without dressing up; I couldn’t motivate myself to come up with a costume. True, I purposefully wore a dress that looked straight out of the ’70s and¬†did my eye makeup all retro in case anyone asked me what I was, so¬†I could riff and be like, “I’m a groovy girl from the era of lava lamps and Led Zeppelin!” But let’s face it:¬†I was completely phoning it in, and no one thought I was dressed up like anything, so that didn’t count.

I was ruing my laziness when I got to Jefferson Street Pub in Harrison Township that night and saw it crawling with Halloween shenanigans. I resolved right then and there, OK, next year I am NOT phoning it in; next year I will welcome Halloween in costume! Because just look at all of these characters Рthey are a delight!

I was at Jefferson Street Pub to see my dad’s band, Rock Steady,¬†play. My dad has been in bands pretty much my whole life; he sings and used to play guitar, and I don’t see his band play nearly enough. That would change, I’d¬†decided, with this Halloween show. I would score good-daughter points, and the band would be dressed up like pirates – Ahoy to both!

I was so glad I¬†went because I had a blast, not only because of the rockin’ music and bonding time with my dad¬†but also because I¬†dug Jefferson Street Pub pretty much immediately upon walking into it.¬†The¬†bar is¬†relatively small and had a cozy, homey vibe on the night I was there, with twinkle lights festooned about¬†and¬†spooky decorations, of course. An area near the back of the bar¬†acted as¬†the band’s stage area, with room for dancing ghosts and ghouls to mingle.

The bar was full when my friend and I got there, but we were fortunate to find an abandoned table. We perched on our chairs, ordered our drinks, and watched the merry madness.

Shortly thereafter, the joint reached an elevated level of bustling when a busload of costumed revelers arrived. We learned that the Jefferson Street Pub was part of a Halloween pub-crawl circuit; a flier I saw in the bathroom gave the cost to participate as $10. Not a bad deal!

You should have seen the costumes on these people; these new arrivals¬†were decked out. The one that enthralled me the most – in a creeped-out way – was the scary clown. You can see him in the photo above. Is he not one of the creepiest clowns EVER? He gives me the willies just looking at him still! I continuously amused myself that night by looking at him and laughing/shuddering at how creepy he was, to the point that he¬†eventually noticed me, looked¬†right at¬†me, and¬†faux-menacingly (I hope) pointed his butcher’s knife at me. Yikes!

Scary Clown¬†was the¬†runner-up¬†in the crowd-voted costume contest that was held for that busload of bargoers; the¬†winner was¬†a goofy-looking, semi-pro-esque basketball¬†player who brought his own ball to dribble in the bar (you can also see him in the photo above). His costume was fun and deserved the win, but it wasn’t as captivating, in my opinion,¬†as that grotesque clown!

Being at Jefferson Street Pub reiterated for me¬†that a) while going out at night and drinking has lost much of the luster I prescribed to it in my youth, it can still be a riot (when practiced responsibly, of course); b) dressing in costume¬†when going¬†out during¬†Halloween weekend¬†is CRITICAL! because if I don’t, I’ll regret it and c) I am never seeing the movie It. Also, d) seeing my dad’s band or other bands play is FUN! I love soaking up the good vibes that live music emanates. And lastly but not leastly, e) Jefferson Street Pub is a keeper! It’s down-to-earth, lively atmosphere and affordable prices hooked me. I’ll be looking for it to be involved in that Halloween pub crawl next year so I can board the school bus with the other partygoers!

36611 Jefferson Ave.

Harrison Twp., MI 48045

287. Burgrz – October 19, 2017 – Rochester Hills, MI

Oct2017Burgerz1 (2)Oct2017Burgerz4 (2)Oct2017Burgerz2 (4)I had totally dismissed¬†Burgrz. I’d seen it around, in downtown Royal Oak and in Rochester Hills, and I was like, OK, this totally has to be a corporate nationwide chain. I mean, Burgrz with a “z”? I totally judged that “z,” man.

Then one of my coworkers recommended we go to lunch there because it was one of his fave area restaurants.¬†Its burgers and waffle fries were awesome, in his opinion. And I was like, OK, I’m down. I went¬†on the Burgrz website and learned that it is indeed¬†a locally-owned establishment, with the now sole location in Rochester Hills (the Royal Oak one has closed); knowing that certainly piqued my interest. New-place time!

I stepped inside the fast-casual restaurant to discover a clean, modern vibe, with brick, wood, and chrome décor accents, red booths, and black-and-white cityscape photography displayed on the walls.

Scoping out the colorful chalkboard menus above the counter, I decided on the California burger with its bacon, tomato, mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, avocado, and lettuce. I nixed the lettuce and subbed spicy mayo for the regular mayo, and my coworker and I ordered to share a large side of the Sweet & Salty Combo, a platter of both regular and sweet potato waffle fries.

Our food was delivered to our booth quickly. The California burger was WOW. It was juicy and flavorful and melt-in-your-mouth delicious on its own, and with that creamy avocado, spicy mayonnaise, meaty tomato, and rich cheddar cheese and bacon, it was next-level. Truly, truly, truly an awesome burger.

The Sweet & Salty waffle fries were great, too: perfectly crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and accompanied by a spicy ketchup, which has to be up there in the list of best inventions ever. I mean, how did I ever eat fries without spicy ketchup? It added a nice zing to the fries, especially the sweet potato fries.

So yes, Burgrz may be a casual establishment that looks like a generic chain with that “z” in its name, but the verdict is in: it cooks up a DAMN GOOD burger – the kind of burger you think about for days afterword (that’s always the mark of a good meal to me: will I dream about it for days after eating it?). And it’s clean, and the staff is attentive, and the ambiance is nice, and those waffle fries with the spicy ketchup! It’s a local gem that should not be dismissed.

3204 Walton Blvd.

Rochester Hills, MI 48309

www.burgrz.com

286. Taqueria El Rey – October 14, 2017 – Detroit, MI

TaqueriaElReyOct2017-2 (3)TaqueriaElReyOct2017-3 (2)TaqueriaElReyOct2017-4 (3)TaqueriaElReyOct2017-1 (2)Hi, all! I am super excited to share today’s place with you because it is an absolute gem and I’m OBSESSED with it after eating there a few weeks ago: Taqueria El Rey in Detroit. From this Mexican restaurant, I ordered literally THE BEST tacos of my life – and very possibly the greatest meal of my life to date. They were THAT good.

I’ve visited and reported on some incredible Mexican restaurants for 100 Places in the D; El Patr√≥n in Pontiac, Las Tortugas Taqueria in Shelby Township, and Taqueria Alma¬†in Center Line¬†immediately spring¬†to mind as¬†establishments whose wares¬†still haunt my gastronomical dreams (in the best way possible). I have to say, though,¬†that the carnitas tacos I had from Taqueria El Rey edged even the offerings from those fantastic establishments in the “Mind is BLOWN!” (or rather, “Taste buds are BLOWN”!) realm for me. They were¬†ridiculously, life-affirmingly, all-is-right-with-the-world-level delicious.

Let me set the scene here before I elaborate on how insane these godly carnitas tacos were. Taqueria El Rey is on Vernor Highway¬†in¬†the¬†Mexicantown neighborhood of Detroit. It’s a cash-only establishment (one that, take my word for it,¬†is def¬†worth withdrawing cash for) with a small dining area, a front counter with stools, and a grill near the front door where the magic is happening in real time.

The vibe inside was welcoming; I immediately felt a sense of easefulness. I felt like I had stepped into another realm far from home, one where cell phones didn’t exist and¬†people ignored their to-do lists to relaxedly¬†eat their lunches at counters while¬†forming bonds with the benevolent strangers next to them.

I don’t know what¬†exactly moved me to feel this way. Maybe it was the carefree ambiance afforded by the Latin music playing. Maybe it was that there were indeed people sitting at the front¬†counter eating their lunches in a relaxed manner. Maybe it was the friendly young woman who took my order and told me her name was also Jackie and preceded to ask how I spelled the full version of my¬†name (a common question when fellow Jackies meet; I am the “Jacqueline” brand of Jackie; she was Jacquelyn, if I’m remembering correctly). Whatever it was, the place emitted enough good feels¬†in the short amount of time I waited for my carry-out order that¬†I was like, hmm, maybe I should’ve just¬†ordered the food for¬†here. I’m digging¬†this place. But when my order came, I decided, nah, I’ll wait until I get home. The practical side of me overrode the spontaneous side.

But when I got to my car and opened the carry-out box to peek in at my order of two carnitas tacos, all steaming pork and corn tortillas loaded with diced onions and cilantro and accompanied by lime wedges, radish chunks, salsa, and an intriguing green sauce, the spontaneous side roared back all like Are we insane??? We need to eat these ASAP, while they are fresh. So I did, right there in my car in the gravel parking lot abutting Taqueria El Rey. And my world was turned upside down, because they were the BEST.TACOS.EVER.

These¬†tacos¬†were so fresh and flavorful on their own, and then with the additions of the lime juice and the radishes and the hot salsa and the green sauce, which turned out to be¬†an insanely good creamy jalape√Īo sauce, the ante was upped¬†times a million. And all this for only $3.18 – $3.18!

I am in love with these tacos, hardcore. Like, introduce-them-to-the-family hardcore-in-love. In fact, as I exited Taqueria El Rey’s parking lot after gorging on both of them, I was like, when can I take my dad and brother here? They would love this place!

I can’t wait to make my next trip to Taqueria El Rey to eat these magical carnitas tacos drizzled in lime juice and salsa and¬†dunked in that spicy jalape√Īo sauce again. I am actually hoping to make another trip down to Mexicantown this Saturday. Although here is the dilemma: my addiction to trying new places is calling me to check out another Mexicantown establishment; I’m pondering one that specializes in tamales. But hey, those two Taqueria El Rey¬†tacos were only $3.18; certainly I could afford to visit both when those tacos cost less than the price of a latte, right?

4730 W. Vernor Hwy.

Detroit, MI 48209

www.taqueria-elrey.com