Month: December 2017

298. El Camino – December 20, 2017 – Keego Harbor, MI

December2017ElCamino1 (2)December2017ElCamino3 (4)December2017ElCamino4 (3)Keego Harbor is represented on 100 Places in the D! The new-to-the-blog city is home to El Camino, a Mexican joint that opened earlier this year. And you know I was psyched to check it out because I ADORE Mexican food to the jillionth degree (the cheese, the spice, the vibrancy of flavor – ¡sí, sí, and sí!).

Walking into the restaurant for lunch on Wednesday, I was immediately taken with its whimsically eclectic decor. Where else do you see wicker lighting fixtures, red accent walls, gilded mirrors, mini cacti, and avocado chairs (yes, avocado chairs: lime-green seats studded with an image of a halved avocado) all comingling? I was even more thrilled, of course, to discover the deliciousness of the food and drink.

The Not Cho Mojito is a refreshing riff on a mojito: it’s less sweet, infused with tequila rather than rum, and steeped with cilantro instead of mint. That little guy goes down easy, as does the chips and salsa sampler, which was AMAZING. The fresh tortilla chips are thick, crispy, grease-saturated little triangles of heaven – especially when dipped into the pico de gallo, salsa verde, and charred tomato-pineapple salsa. I especially enjoyed the salsa verde with its zesty lime flavor – a pleasant surprise for me, as I’m generally not a big fan of the green sauce.

And the tacos: they were glorious flavor bombs, tender meat sprinkled with Cotija cheese and nestled in pillowy corn tortillas. I ordered the Carne Asada with grilled steak and the Al Pastor with shredded, slow-roasted pork and grilled pineapple. I appreciated how liberally filled they were and how fresh and flavorful they tasted. They were an apt reminder that Mexican food is LIFE – not that I needed a reminder of that, of course, but I’ll take it!

2807 Orchard Lake Rd.

Keego Harbor, MI 48320

www.elcamino.cool

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297. Ima – December 17, 2017 – Detroit, MI

December2017Ima1 (2)December2017Ima2 (2)December2017Ima4 (3)Today’s post recounts Visit Number 297 to a new-to-me, locally-owned place in the Metro-Detroit area since starting this blog in February 2014.

Number 297! It’s looking like Number 300 will be hit before the end of 2017 [Cue confetti]!!!!

I can’t believe I’ve covered so much ground in just under four years, yet I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface – especially when it comes to trying new restaurants, bars, and shops in Detroit itself. Sunday’s visit to Ima was my 72nd visit to a new-to-me Detroit establishment since starting 100 Places in the D, and still there are so many intriguing places in the city on my to-do list – 110 and counting! I’m excited by the fact that there are so many amazing restaurants, bars, shops, parks, and venues to try; simultaneously, I’m impatient to see them all.

Can you relate to that feeling, that mixture of anticipation and excitement and impatience? Perhaps you, like me, are a Metro-Detroiter with a list as long as your arm of all the cool places in the city you’d like to visit, and it seems like it takes you forever to cross just one item off the list. I feel you on that! Pursuing dreams – even the smallish dream of trying a new restaurant – requires more discipline than I always expect it should.

Regardless of where you live, of what you want to accomplish, however big or small, the actual logistical doing of those things can be scary – the struggle is real! I hope you’re able to spur yourself on to achieve those things you want to achieve, at whatever pace you’re able to proceed at, whether moved by motivation or inspiration or frustration or impatience (hopefully by the former two feelings over the latter two).

I’ll thank God for that sense of impatience in me; it’s what drove me down to Corktown last Sunday after reading several issues of Hour Detroit and collecting more places to visit. I could’ve easily eaten lunch at home, but I pushed myself into that place of discomfort (my fear of driving in the city persists – will that ever go away?) and headed down to Michigan Avenue.

Upon surviving my vehicular anxiety (phew!), I parked on a snowy side street near Ima and stepped inside its warm, snug interior. The noodle- and rice-bowl-centric restaurant with a cuisine that’s been described as Japanese fusion was populated by a number of patrons despite having only been open for a half hour. Greeted by a friendly server who suggested I take a counter seat, I picked one facing a white divider wall that fronted the kitchen.

I’d previously studied the menu of udon noodle dishes, rice bowls, and appetizers including shrimp-stuffed dumplings, edamame, and tacos with wakame (seaweed), green hot sauce, and “jicama shells” (who knew jicama could be fashioned into taco shells?). So I knew exactly what I wanted: the Golden Curry rice bowl with smoked pork loin.

My meal came out quickly, and I was eager to dig in to the vibrant bowl of steaming curry. It was then that I noticed my utensil choices: spoon or chopsticks.

Oh, man! I hadn’t eaten with chopsticks in the longest, but I decided to tough it out with those wooden sticks rather than embarrass myself asking for a fork, and the chopstick finagling got easier as I went. That Golden Curry was worth the struggle!

The rich curry sauce was accompanied by a flavorful nori furikake seasoning and paired well with the sticky rice, cauliflower, edamame, scallions, sauteed greens, and pink pickled ginger. The thinly sliced pork loin was perfection, tender as can be. What a filling, fresh, warming dish! I was able to take half of the ample serving home to enjoy later (sans chopsticks, admittedly).

My visit to Ima was much too quick. I’d regretted choosing the counter seat facing the white kitchen divider and abutting up to another counter seat along the wall to my right; it made me feel claustrophobic, so I didn’t linger. I should’ve squeezed into a spot along the well-populated counter fronting the window – the view of Michigan Ave. would’ve felt so much more expansive! Or maybe I could’ve negotiated a spot at one of the two long communal tables; there was another woman eating there solo. I’d definitely recommend sitting in one of those two areas if you visit Ima; don’t make the mistake I made and sit facing a blank wall when you could be people-watching and soaking in the ambiance. Going out of your way to cross a place off of your to-visit list is much too special for that!

2015 Michigan Ave.

Detroit, Michigan 48216

www.imanoodles.com

296. Downtown Café – December 8, 2017 – Rochester, MI

December2017DowntownCafe2 (2)December2017DowntownCafe1 (2)I’m a sucker for ambiance. When seeking out new places to visit, I find myself particularly attracted to elegant-contemporary, hipster-industrial, and down-to-earth-dive-y places. I like glossy, exciting, striking, mysterious, exuberantly welcoming environments.

Cozy-unpretentious isn’t an ambiance I generally gravitate toward, because let’s face it: cozy-unpretentious is not that exciting of a vibe. But my visit to Downtown Café on Main Street in downtown Rochester last Friday reminded me that cozy-unpretentious places can be awesome – especially when they serve up drool-worthy meals.

Perhaps my experience with this breakfast/lunch joint can serve as a reminder for me to not judge a book by its cover. Because now that I really ponder it, why shouldn’t cozy-unpretentious be considered a desirable vibe? My beloved late Gram could be described as both cozy and unpretentious, and she’s the best person I’ve ever known.

And yes, the small dining interior of the Downtown Café may not contain such dramatic decorative elements as exposed brickwork, crystal chandeliers, and tables crafted from repurposed wood. But it’s pleasant and comfortable, an easy place to sit and catch up with friends (no bumping music to shout over here!).

And its Turkey Reuben! It is utterly delicious with its buttery grilled rye bread, thick-piled turkey breast, gooey Swiss cheese, and savory coleslaw and Russian Dressing. I demolished mine and the coin-shaped seasoned French fries that came with it. Love, love, love this sandwich.

The sandwich section of the Downtown Café’s menu is obviously representative of the lunch side of the menu, as are the salad and appetizer sections. Entrée salads offered include the Bruschetta Salad, Sun-Dried Cherry Salad, and the classic local favorite that originated with the bygone Hudson department store, the Maurice Salad (which always makes me nostalgic for childhood and lunches at Hudson’s with my mom and/or grandmother).

Breakfast items constitute the rest of Downtown Café’s menu, including such tantalizing choices as the Asparagus, Spinach, Portabella Mushroom and Swiss Cheese Omelet; Almond Crusted French Toast; and homemade quiche.

After my experience at the Downtown Café, I’m thinking I should add cozy-unpretentious to my list of preferred ambiances. It’s a reminder for me that a restaurant doesn’t have to look flashy or gritty or glamorous to serve up amazing food.

Plus, I noticed in its Yelp profile that the Downtown Café offers seating on a gorgeous outdoor patio during the warm-weather months – a fact that was not evident to me during my dead-of-winter visit. And I’m ALWAYS a sucker for alfresco ambiance!

Worth noting: the Downtown Café is truly a breakfast/lunch joint, as reflected by its hours of operation (7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays).

606 N. Main St.

Rochester, MI 48307

www.downtowncaferochester.com

Detroit Lover’s Holiday Gift Guide!

100 Places in the D 2017 Holiday Gift Guide

Hi, guys! I am excited about today’s post because it is [DRUM ROLL]: a Detroit Lover’s Holiday Gift Guide!!! WA-HOO!

After seeing so many holiday gift guides cropping up on other blogs, I thought it would be fun to feature a Detroit-centric one here on 100 Places in the D. I got excited when I started perusing Amazon and seeing all of the amazing Detroit-y gift options on it: apparel, books, home and entertaining-focused items, and beauty products either showcasing the D and/or created by entrepreneurs in this area. Some of these products are ones I’ve used and adore; others are ones I’m just discovering and wanting to chuck into my shopping cart.

Around the subject of gift-buying, let’s face it: it’s crunch-time, people! Hannukah starts today, Christmas is 13 days away, Kwanzaa starts the day after that, and Festivus (“for the rest of us!”) is December 23 (though I’ve read that holiday aims to be a non-commercial one, I’m sure George Costanza would’ve preferred a good ol’-fashioned gift exchange over the Feats of Strength any day. Seinfield 4 Liiiife!)

OK, I don’t know about you, but I’ve got my holiday music going to set the ambiance (*NSync’s Home for Christmas – a classic!), and I’m ready to get this party started. Let the gift-showcasing bonanza begin!

*Note: the links to products on Amazon given in this post are affiliate links.*

Apparel:

A Cool Retro T-Shirt:

Detroit swagger! Love the ’70s vibe of this shirt. To check this out on Amazon, click here.

Another Sweet Retro T-Shirt:

How fun is this vintage-esque Tigers shirt? It’s got me wondering, “How long until Opening Day?” (Answer: 107 days to go until that first home game on March 29 at Comerica Park as of the date of this posting, in case you’re wondering.)  To check this out on Amazon, click here.

Books:

A Tome Testifying to the Beauty of the City:

Detroit: The Dream is Now: The Design, Art, and Resurgence of an American City by Michel Arnaud is packed with stunning photography of local architecture and art, capturing the vibrancy of the city. To check this out on Amazon, click here.

An Engrossing Novel with Interesting Characters:

I read The Turner House by Angela Flournoy the summer before last and loved it. It follows the history of one big Detroit family (with 13 kids!), the Turners, from the parents’ migration to the city from Arkansas to their life on the fictional Yarrow street to their present-day struggles with illness, finances, relationships, and the family haint (a ghost some of the kids claim to have first spotted in childhood). A National Book Award Finalist and garnerer of other honorable distinctions! To check this out on Amazon, click here.

A Thoughtful Showcase of Neighborhoods in the D:

The Detroit Neighborhood Guidebook is a collection of 33 fiction, nonfiction, and poetry pieces penned by various contributors, with each focusing on a different area of Detroit. It aims to offer a more nuanced and complete view of the city than is typically portrayed in the media. Amen to that! To check this out on Amazon, click here.

Food and Home:

A Bag of Locally Roasted Beans:

I heart The Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company’s brews! (I recounted my visit to its Woodward Ave. location in this post.) So I was excited to see that it’s selling its beans on Amazon. Pictured above is the Whole Bean Columbian Medium Roast Gourmet Coffee Motor City Blend – YUM. To check this out on Amazon, click here.

A Serving Board Modeled as a Map of the D:

What’s a better backdrop for holiday apps than this Totally Bamboo City Life Serving Board rendition of Detroit? Loving the intricate detailing! To check this out on Amazon, click here.

A Badass Pint Glass:

Made in Detroit! The pint glass you’ll want to steal back from the friend you gifted it to. To check this out on Amazon, click here.

A Set of Colorful Coasters Repping the Home Teams:

I love, love, love this set of four coasters, each depicting a vintage ticket stub for each of Detroit’s four major professional sports teams: the Lions, Tigers, Pistons, and Red Wings. To check this out on Amazon, click here.

Delightfully Scented, Locally Handcrafted Soy Candles:

Mitten Candle Co. 2

My friends are the local entrepreneurs behind Mitten Candle Co. and these wonderful handcrafted soy candles scented with essential oils and other natural fragrance oils. So you could say I’m biased – but not really, because these candles are on POINT! I light candles daily and appreciate the good clean burn of Mitten Candle Co.’s products and the variety of scents offered, including holiday scents such as Pine Tree (sooo good) and Peppermint Mocha.  To check this out on Etsy, click here.

Health and Beauty:

For the Dude in Your Life Who’s Got Growing a Beard on His List of 2018 Resolutions:

Ferndale-based Detroit Grooming Co.’s Corktown Grooming Oil will keep those chin hairs soft and lustrous! To check this out on Amazon, click here.

For Anyone Who Wants to Make Relaxing and Feeling Good a Priority:

Who does this category not cover? I mean, I don’t know about you guys, but I’d like to make relaxing and feeling good a REAL priority in 2018. And I know goodies from the Chelsea, MI-based Little Flower Shop Co. will help me do just that. I’ve been using its Muscle Rescue Balm with soothing arnica, St. John’s wort oil, cinnamon, lavender, and peppermint since discovering it in 2016. I love using it as a natural pain-reliever for sore muscles; it’s soothing and smells AMAZING.

Other goodies offered from the Little Flower Shop: the Essential Oil Aromatherapy Gift Box (pictured above); the Set of 5 – Essential Oil Soap Set (I’ve used the soap, too – it’s good stuff!); the Bourbon Lip Balm (intriguing!), and the Beard Care Gift Set Kit (Practical-Yet-Cool Gift Alert!) Check out its wares, support a local company, and help your loved one’s kick off 2018 lookin’ and feelin’ fanstastic!

To check Little Flower Shop Co.’s Muscle Rescue Balm out on Amazon, click here.

To see it’s Essential Oil Aromatherapy Gift Box for her, click here.

The Set of 5 – Essential Oil Soap Set can found here.

The Bourbon Lip Balm can be purchased here.

And the Beard Care Gift Set Kit can be bought here.

~Happy shopping and HAPPY HOLIDAYS, all!~

*Note: the links to products on Amazon given in this post are affiliate links.*

295. Chazzano Coffee Roasters – December 6, 2017 – Ferndale, MI

December2017Chazzano1 (2)December2017Chazzano2 (2)Hi, guys – happy Friday! If you’re looking to start the weekend with a little caffeine-fueled enthusiasm, may I suggest Chazzano Coffee Roasters in Ferndale?

As with many places I’ve covered on this blog, Chazzano had been on my radar for years. I’d passed the coffee shop many a time, dreaming of stopping in and savoring a cappuccino. Tuesday I finally made that dream a reality. I was dying to check out a new place after a 2.5-week lull, and I was going to be in Ferndale anyway, so why not tack on the visit?

The reason for me being in Ferndale on that day? A massage. And you know, downing a caffeinated beverage is how I routinely prepare for a relaxing rubdown. Just kidding – consuming a strong coffee drink in the late afternoon pre-massage = probably not the wisest choice I’ve made all week. But sometimes you’ve got to throw caution to the wind in the name of exploration, right?

And regardless of the soundness of my decision relative to what followed after, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Chazzano. The tiny coffee shop is the perfect place to hang out, savor a coffee drink, and get some work done. Both classic rock and funky hip-hop played during my time there, which I was totally jamming to as I TCB’ed (Took Care of Business!) on my computer. More importantly, the coffee was on point! My cappuccino was richly flavored, capped by a weighty foam, and totally delicious.

It wasn’t a surprise that the coffee was good given that Chazzano roasts its own beans and is purported to take care in curating and crafting its coffee. A selection of single-origin brews are available from locations such as Ethiopia, Nicaragua, and Brazil; various loose leaf teas and even organic vegan hot chocolate are available.

I left Chazzano feeling pleasantly buzzed but not overly amped by the caffeine; by the end of my massage, the jitters had entered the equation. When I told her about my pre-appointment foray, my massage therapist commented on how massages have a circulatory affect and that mine had probably accelerated the affects of the cappuccino in me. Perhaps this was actually a blessing, chasing the coffee out of my system sooner than it would’ve exited if I hadn’t gotten a massage.

At any rate, I was happy to have treated myself to that Chazzano visit, because it infused my Tuesday with a little specialness – and I’ll take more specialness in my everyday life whenever I can get it.

1737 East 9 Mile Rd.

Ferndale, MI 48220

www.chazzanocoffee.com