Month: June 2018

336. Parc – June 14, 2018 – Detroit, MI

June2018Parc2 (2)June2018Parc1 (2)June2018Parc3 (2) Parc! This gorgeous restaurant featured in today’s post is the 2018 Hour Detroit Restaurant of the Year and is located in the heart of Campus Martius in downtown Detroit – muy impressive creds in my book. Its enchanting ambiance, extremely delicious food, and stellar service made it an absolute pleasure to visit.

Speaking of ambiance: local readers, have you been to Campus Martius lately? That place is kicking! At least, it was on the blue-skied, gorgeous summer night I visited Parc two weeks ago. I’ve passed that area regularly in the last six months, and man, I didn’t realize until this visit that there was that much going on down there. There was a pop-up biergarten and a giant sandbox area for the kids and outdoor seating spilling out from surrounding restaurants, such as Parc, and people climbing into the fountain (a.k.a. one seemingly inebriated man unexplainably lounging in the fountain).

In short, Campus Martius was bustling on that summer’s night in mid-June, and it was exciting to see people of all ages – families with kids, young professionals, folks of the 60-and-over demographic – out and about in the city on an otherwise average Thursday night. It felt like a meeting hub in a major metropolitan city – as it should feel – and made me think, wow, this is a great part of town that I need to spend more time in!

The interior of Parc literally opened up onto this idyllic community-park scene during the time of my visit: portions of the front of the restaurant were sans walls, fitted for the open-air concept. While the interior of the restaurant was gorgeous with its sleek bar and many-windowed walls, I was thrilled for my friends and I to nab the one open table at the time on Parc’s patio, so we could dine alfresco on that perfect summer’s night.

Speaking of dining, let’s get down to discussing the important stuff: the food. Parc’s dinner menu boasts a selection of refined appetizers (Duck Confit Croustillant and Wood-Roasted Oysters with “seaweed butter, bacon, crispy kale and pickled shallots,” for instance – I won’t even pretend to like oysters, but wow, do those ingredient paired with them sound fabulous!), side salads, pastas, and protein-centric dishes featuring such meat and seafood standouts as sea bass and veal loin.

From the pasta section, I chose the Lamb Rigatoni, which was absolutely amazing with its perfectly al dente noodles, ground lamb ragout with diced zucchini, onion, and tomato, and ample chunks of feta. It was meaty, creamy, savory, perfectly memorable deliciousness that I catch myself thinking about every time I picture Parc.

If you are a wine aficionado, you will love Parc’s menu stocked with sophisticated selections from all over the world. I stuck to a glass of the humble rosé that cost $19 for a nine-ounce pour. When it comes to wine, one of my dear loves in life, my palate may have graduated beyond cheap swill, but my wallet still has catching up to do ($10-a-bottle grocery-store wine is kind of my jam here in my early thirties).

This was a special-occasion kind of meal for me at Parc, made even more special by the friendly and sophisticated level of service my friends and I received. Dining here was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. No wonder Parc was named the 2018 Restaurant of the Year by Hour Detroit, that venerable publication whose consistently stand-out recommendations are the reason I decided to take up this whole 100 Places in the D enterprise in the first place.

800 Woodward Ave.

Detroit, MI 48226

335. El Barzon – June 12, 2018 – Detroit, MI

June2018ElBarzon4 (2)June2018ElBarzon1 (2)June2018ElBarzon2 (2)Behold, my latest obsession: El Barzon restaurant of Detroit!

Of course this restaurant that serves both Italian and Mexican dishes would pique my interest. How could I go wrong by visiting a place that embraces two of my favorite cuisines – cuisines both centered around the bewitching culinary trifecta of Spice, Sauce, and Cheese? I was immediately enamored with the concept.

I was immediately enamored with El Barzon’s ambiance as well when, on a Tuesday night two weeks ago, I pulled up to the restaurant on Junction Street in Southwest Detroit, this bright beacon with its neat red-brick exterior and abundance of vibrant flowers crammed in window boxes and perched atop the patio wall. I was even more enthused when I saw that the restaurant had its own parking lot to the rear of it (as I’ve previously mentioned on this blog ad nauseam, free lot parking in Detroit is LIFE to me, Ms. Parallel-Parking Phobic).

My friend who accompanied me to El Barzon and I entered the restaurant through the rear entrance into its semi-open-air covered patio. I was thrilled to sit on that patio with its gurgling waterfall, bar back-lit with pink and purple lighting, and tables bedecked with vases of fresh red roses.

Upon being greeted and led to a table, a basket of tortilla chips with two different kinds of salsas was placed before us – illustrating that at least in the complimentary-appetizer sense, El Barzon was promoting Mexican cuisine over Italian. Fine by me – I’m not one to refuse endless chips and salsa!

The menu was a treasure trove of delectable choices. Between both the Italian and Mexican choices, my brain was about to explode in a frenzy of indecision: should I order veal? or enchiladas? or lasagna? Italian or Mexican – Mexican or Italian???

In the end, I went with my gut instinct, and that instinct said to go with Mexican: specifically the steak-filled Enchiladas de Mole Poblano. Enchiladas have never been one to lead me astray.

Upon ordering the enchiladas, our server insisted that I sample the Mole Poblano first to ensure I liked it. Though I’d not tasted the traditional Mexican sauce prior to my visit to El Barzon, I assured him I was confident I would, as I knew it incorporated chocolate, dried chili peppers, and spices such as cinnamon – all ingredients I adored. But he persisted in advising I try the sauce first, and being one who gives high regard to servers’ opinions (I was in their shoes once myself, after all), I assented.

Sampling that Mole Poblano sauce confirmed what I’d suspected: it was rich, flavorful, totally-up-my-alley deliciousness! I could also grasp how it might not suit everyone’s preferences, especially those who are not into richly spiced items or incorporating chocolate into savory dishes.

And the enchiladas themselves! They were wonderful with their tender steak and doused in that decadent mole sauce and topped with sour cream, shredded cheese, and sliced avocado. It’s safe to say that I am steadfastly a Enchiladas de Mole Poblano enthusiast after the experience of consuming El Barzon’s.

While I’d waited for those delectable enchiladas, I’d sipped on one of the restaurant’s signature margaritas, the Jamaica, which was perfect with what the menu refers to as “hibiscus-infused tequila” and a “homemade citrus agave blend” along with triple sec and a salted rim. I’d opted to again defer to the Mexican side of the menu with this drink choice – though I did also peruse El Barzon’s extensive and impressive wine menu.

The magical ambiance and supreme food and drink were enough to label El Barzon a winner in my book; the top-notch service qualified it as a veritable champion. The gentleman who waited on us offered the epitome of prompt, pleasant, professional service, as did the other staff members who we interacted with. Their graceful action added to the elegance of the place.

The restaurant was also wonderfully clean. The ladies’ restroom at the time of my visit was so sparkling that I found myself musing “You could eat off of this restroom floor!” – an assessment wholly atypical of my usual assertion around public restrooms, which in general threaten to trigger my childhood germ phobia more often than not.

As I’ve illustrated here, I cannot rave enough about this place, the beautiful El Barzon! I could keep waxing on about it indefinitely, so let me wrap it up by simply asserting this: it’s a definite gem of the Detroit restaurant scene, and you should definitely visit it if you at all feel compelled to.

3710 Junction St.

Detroit, MI 48210

334. Detroit Cookie Co. – June 9, 2018 – Ferndale, MI

June2018DetroitCookie5 (2)June2018DetroitCookie2 (4)June2018DetroitCookie3 (2)I really don’t need to convince you to visit today’s featured place, right? I mean, who really needs much convincing around visiting a cookie joint?

I certainly didn’t need convincing around visiting Ferndale’s Detroit Cookie Co. After driving past its cheery purple-and-blue exterior scores of times, then perusing its website and laying eyes on its massive XL chocolate-chip cookie, the hype had totally built up in my head. I NEEDED a cookie from the place!

Finally, on a Saturday night a few weeks ago, the fates aligned, and I paid my first visit to Detroit Cookie Co. after a friend and I gave up waiting on a rain-delayed baseball game we were supposed to attend. As much as I love hanging out in Detroit and attending Tigers games, cookies and coffee sounded more appealing on that rainy, chilly night than braving the elements, so we scooted on out of downtown and into that bright little cookie shop on Woodward Avenue.

Other Metro-Detroiters apparently had the same idea around sugary baked goods being appealing on that gloomy night, as Detroit Cookie Co. was buzzing at the time of our visit.

Perusing the bakery cases lined with a multitude of options, including a variety of enticing cookies and croissants, the Chocolate Almond Croissant Bread Pudding with Nutella Ganache gave me pause (how insanely delicious does that sound???). But in the end, I knew I had to stay on the cookie route, so I forewent that hefty slice of bread pudding and got what my heart had been set on for weeks: the XL chocolate-chip cookie. I also got a peanut-butter-and-chocolate cookie called the Peanut Butter Volcano (because PB + Chocolate = LIIIIFEE in my book) and a small coffee.

I tore into that XL chocolate-chip cookie right away. It was studded with loads of the little chocolatey gems, making it very rich and a perfect pairing with the boldly flavored black coffee.

My friend who accompanied me to Detroit Cookie Co. ordered a cookie ice cream sandwich – because yes, the bakery has several flavors of ice cream on tap for the purpose of loading the frozen dairy goodness between layers of its fresh-baked cookies. Hers consisted of creamy vanilla ice cream set between a chocolate-chip cookie and one with peanuts and toffee chips called Night Cap that she quite enjoyed. She also got a S’mores cookie, which I later received a text from her about raving that she found it phenomenal with its chocolate and graham cracker pieces and golden-brown toasted marshmallow topping.

I myself didn’t eat the Peanut Butter Volcano I’d ordered until a few days later. I softened it a touch in the microwave and devoured that peanut butter cookie topped with a decadent dollop of creamy peanut butter coated in chocolate, and man, was it SO, SO, SO, SO good! That one was my favorite over the XL chocolate-chip cookie – though you certainly can’t go wrong with that cookie that’s bigger than your fist and loaded with double the typical amount of chocolate chips.

Of course, you CAN go wrong with a cookie that’s bigger than your fist and loaded with double the typical amount of chocolate chips if it contains gluten and animal products and those things either make you sick or just aren’t your thing. As such, it’s worth noting that Detroit Cookie Co.’s website states that both gluten-free and vegan cookie varieties are available upon request (and when I scan the photos I took there, I see at least one vegan baked good was on display at the time of my visit, so it’s possible that both vegan and gluten-free cookies are sometimes available for walk-in purchases).

So the next time it’s a rainy, chilly day, or a hot-and-sweltering day – or any day, really – and you’re craving a fresh-baked treat, consider Detroit Cookie Co. I know I won’t have to twist my own arm to do a revisit here!

23421 Woodward Ave.

Ferndale, MI 48220

333. Alie’s Lebanese Grill – June 3, 2018 – Sterling Heights, MI

June2018Alies1 (2)June2018Alies6 (2)June2018Alies5 (2)

You know those heady first days after you discover your latest crush? Well, I’ve been in that giddy state of adoration ever since visiting Alie’s Lebanese Grill of Sterling Heights and discovering how fabulous it is.

Alie’s Lebanese Grill, I like you just as you are! (Cue throwback-reference to Bridget Jones’s Diary, that O.G. of rom-coms with its signature line that Colin Firth’s Mark Darcy bestows upon the titular character. ~SWOON~) Your attractive ambiance, top-notch cuisine, and superior service made you easy to fall for!

A tangential tidbit about Alie’s: it used to be called Ollie’s and was affiliated with two other restaurant locations of the same name, one in Dearborn and one in Dearborn Heights (I visited the Dearborn Ollie’s location for this blog in 2015). A few years ago, the Sterling Heights restaurant broke away from the Dearborn and Dearborn Heights locations to become its own entity and was renamed Alie’s.

It’s an impressive entity. Glossy and well-kept, with an ivy-covered exterior, ornate chandeliers, and beautiful stonework, Alie’s is an aesthetically pleasing setting.

Its menu is extensive, loaded with fresh juices, appetizers, salads, soups, sandwiches, and a plethora of entrees both of the meat-centric and vegetarian varieties – plus a Family Feast Combos section where groups can choose from various smorgasbord selections of classic Lebanese dishes.

Perusing this well-curated menu, I zeroed in on my Mediterranean staple, Chicken Lemon Oregano, which I can never seem to pass up because I love it so. The entrée came with the option of a side soup or salad. I ordered the Fattoush Salad, which turned out to be an excellent choice.

This salad had me raving; it was the best Fattoush Salad I’ve ever had. Its ingredients were so obviously fresh: the romaine lettuce and cucumbers were crisp, the tomatoes well-ripened, the pita chips perfectly crunchy, the dressing zesty.

This side salad was so filling, it could have easily been my meal – especially considering that it was accompanied by complimentary fresh-baked pita rounds and garlic sauce (which quite possibly constitute the premier carb-and-dip combo in this galaxy – YUMMM times infinity to that garlic-loaded sauce!).

But more deliciousness was to come: that Chicken Lemon Oregano dish, a tender, juicy, char-broiled chicken breast accompanied by a rich, garlicky, oregano-infused lemon sauce and an ample platter of rice. It was wonderfully flavorful. And it was filling; the chicken breast was huge and easily yielded leftovers.

It was a satisfying meal, delivered at a high level of service. Pleasant and courteous, the gentleman who was our server was a delight to deal with. Coupling this sterling service with the beauty of the building and the quality of the cuisine make the overall dining experience at Alie’s Lebanese Grill an enchanting one.

So, Alie’s, when can I see you next? Hopefully I can rendezvous with you again very soon, for another round of that delectable Fattoush salad and Chicken Lemon Oregano – and of course, mounds and mounds of pita rounds and garlic sauce!

33355 Van Dyke Ave.

Sterling Heights, MI 48312

332. Town Pump Tavern – June 2, 2018 – Detroit, MI

June2018TownPump3 (2)June2018TownPump2 (3)Downtown Detroit in the summer on a gorgeous-weather day – is there anything BETTER than that?

The Saturday before last, I was down in the D for a Tigers game, basking in the sun and watching our boys in blue and white pull off a victory. Awash in the celebratory post-game spirit, my friends and I popped in for a drink at Town Pump Tavern, a bar located on the ground floor of the Park Avenue House building.

I immediately fell in love with this grand-looking pub. From its creeping-ivy-covered exterior and entrance paved with richly varnished wood to its interior lined with more glossy wood paneling, stamped tin ceiling tiles, and a cozy library nook, it exudes an old-fashioned elegance that is also supremely inviting.

The welcoming, convivial vibes at the Town Pump Tavern that night were also due in part to it being packed with other ballgame attendees and weekend revelers. A man singing and strumming alternative and rock standards on his acoustic guitar added to the homey pub vibe. Live music is standard after Tigers and Lions home games, according to the Town Pump’s website, as are DJs spinning tunes after 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

Another regular specialty at the Town Pump Tavern that I’m loving the sound of is its eight-dollar burger-and-beer lunch special, available daily from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (except during what it denotes as “home ‘day’ ball game” days). With this deal, you get a half-pound burger and a Molson Canadian or Miller Lite beer – or a pop if you’d prefer it. Sounds like the perfect value meal to me – especially if I get to eat that burger and sip that beer while nestled within a cushy leather armchair in that library nook!

100 W. Montcalm St.

Detroit, MI 48201

331. Baker’s Keyboard Lounge – May 30, 2018 – Detroit, MI

May2018Bakers1 (2)May2018Bakers4 (3)May2018Bakers2 (2)Excellent live music and fall-off-the-bone-tender ribs on a Wednesday night? Sign me up, please!

When a friend called as I was getting ready for work last Wednesday morning to ask if I wanted to see a live jazz performance that night at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit, I was surprisingly up for the challenge of being out late on a weeknight (summer brings it out of me).

I was itching to get in a Detroit visit to benefit my Blog Year Five challenge of visiting 50 new-to-me places in the city, which I’ve been quietly working away at since announcing it in my Blog Year Four review post.

As I write this, I’ve visited 12 new-to-me places in Detroit since the start of Blog Year Five on February 8, with Baker’s Keyboard Lounge being the 11th of those; to be on pace with the goal, I should’ve visited 17 by this point. Some catching up is in order!

It’s been fun to have an extra excuse to get down to the D more often via this challenge. The logistical aspect has been the trickiest hurdle thus far; since I don’t live or work in or adjacent to the city, getting down there generally involves some planning. My strategy thus far in working toward this 50-visits mark has been a combination of planning outings when it makes sense (because forcing something that’s meant to be fun is no fun) and letting them happen organically. And the invitation to Baker’s was definitely an instance where it happened organically.

So there I was, rolling up to Baker’s Keyboard Lounge shortly after nine p.m. on a weeknight, ready to soak in some live music and devour a delicious meal (I’d heard the food was great there). Bright white lights sparkled around the building’s marquee, radiating old-school glitz and glamour and igniting my excitement.

On Livernois Avenue near Eight Mile Road, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge perches just inside the city’s border, in close proximity to the suburbs of Hazel Park and Ferndale. Its website banner proudly declares it the “World’s Oldest Jazz Club”; in its About page, it states it has been in operation since 1933, has been hosting jazz acts since 1934, and has been deemed a historic site by the state of Michigan for being “Michigan’s jazz mecca and Detroit’s oldest jazz club in continuous operation.” How are those for creds?

Driving up to Baker’s on the night of my visit, I paid the parking attendant $3 for the privilege to park in its gated, monitored lot. The cover charge upon entrance to the building was $10.

The inside of the lounge was small, intimate, dimly lit aside from the bright lights of the stage. Photos of jazz greats hung on the walls, and flowers adorned the tables; the overall vibe was subdued elegance.

The performance was underway when we stepped inside. A band called OGD –  a trio playing keyboards, drums, and a bass guitar – was accompanied by a female singer named Sky Covington.

They were excellent. These were highly skilled musicians, effortlessly weaving the melodies of their instruments with the rich, arresting voice of this captivating singer with her powerful stage presence. Sky and the OGD were totally enchanting to listen to, and we listened reverently.

Or rather, I listened as reverently as I could while also being enthralled with my dinner, the meal featuring ridiculously tender, fall-off-the-bone, richly-sauced, INSANELY DELICIOUS barbecued ribs. Man, I need to get another helping of those ribs into my life!

At $17, this dish with its hefty helping of meaty goodness, two sides (I picked pinto-beans-and-rice and mac-and-cheese), and cornbread muffin was an absolute steal and the absolute culinary delight of my week – and very probably my year thus far. It was SO SO SO SO GOOD!

While we’re on the topic of consumable items offered at Baker’s, I feel it’s worth mentioning: alcoholic beverages can get pricey there; single-shot well drinks were $9 at the time of my visit. Considering the immense value I derived from that reasonably-priced barbecued-ribs meal, and coupling that with the fact that I only had one drink, I didn’t mind it so much, but I could see myself having sticker shock had I ordered several and been unaware of that. Knowledge is power!

And being witness to a finely-tuned musical performance by a gifted singer and musicians is power, too – a powerful experience, indeed. I often forget how great jazz is, that it’s rollicking, soothing, unruly, relatable all rolled into one and that I totally dig that. Thank you, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, for reminding me of that!

20510 Livernois Ave.

Detroit, MI 48221