Month: August 2018

354. Detroit Vegan Soul – August 23, 2018 – Detroit, MI

August2018DetroitVeganSoul1 (2)August2018DetroitVeganSoul2 (2)August2018DetroitVeganSoul3 (4)Detroit Vegan Soul = my latest culinary crush!

If you’ve been following 100 Places in the D for any amount of time, you’ll know I’m not vegan (I praised a delectably beefy cheeseburger in my last post). But I eat a mostly processed-free, heavy-on-the-plants diet when I eat at home and enjoy trying out vegan and vegetarian restaurants due to my love of produce and clean eats.

Thusly, Detroit Vegan Soul was on my to-visit list; it had been for years. I decided this summer HAD to be the one I finally got over there and tried the Coconut “BLT” Wrap, for which I’d heard high praise.

After spontaneously asking a friend if she’d like to accompany me to the restaurant last Thursday, the Grandmont Rosedale-based location was the one we decided open (there’s another location – the original one – in the West Village neighborhood of Detroit). FINALLY, it was time for me to order up a dish of Detroit Vegan Soul!

When we arrived at the Northwest Detroit-area neighborhood with its grand old houses where Detroit Vegan Soul – West resides, I got excited. I’m an East-Side suburbanite and don’t venture much beyond the East-Side Detroit neighborhoods – unless I’m going to Southwest Detroit (so.much.culinary.goodness there!). Northwest Detroit is new territory for me – territory that I can’t wait to explore further.

This West-Side location of Detroit Vegan Soul is on Grand River Avenue, down the way from Pages Bookshop (an independent bookstore that has long been on my radar) and across the street from another soul food restaurant – of the meat variety – called Auntie Betty’s Café (which, with its constant stream of carryout customers and invitation to “Get Hooked” emblazoned on its windows, intrigued me).

But this post is not about those other places – this post is about Detroit Vegan Soul, which fully deserves the spotlight. From the ambiance to the service to the food, the experience it proffered was excellent.

The restaurant’s interior is fairly small but offers various seating options. It’s clean and pleasant, all dark wood, lime-green walls, and exposed-bulb lighting. Fronting the restaurant is a patio table that carryout guests can dine at (our server explained that Detroit Vegan Soul is in the process of getting this patio area adherent to zoning laws that will allow them to serve guests there).

Our server was great: polite, friendly, and attentive. He put in my friend’s order of the Soul Platter and mine of the Coconut “BLT” Wrap, and our meals came out promptly.

I was impressed by the amount of food that came with my order. This BLT wrap was hefty, loaded with coconut bacon, creamy avocado, juicy tomato, crisp lettuce, and Vegenaise (which is – you guessed it – a mayonnaise substitute). I got it with a whole-wheat wrap; a raw collard leaf was also a wrap option.

With my first bite into this Coconut “BLT” Wrap, I was blown away by how much the coconut bacon tasted like actual bacon! I didn’t notice the inherent coconut flavor at all at first – all I noticed was the smoky bacon-y goodness. Eventually, I did become aware of the coconut’s original flavor profile – but it didn’t matter, because the sandwich was so delicious. The coconut bacon was cut in little chips – like bacon bits – rather than in thick slices as I’d expected.

A fresh spinach salad with a zesty dressing was a lovely accompaniment to the wrap – as were the yam fries. They were cut into coin shapes like chips but soft on the inside like a typical fry; the seasoning on them was AMAZING.

I ate heartily of this meal and had enough remaining on my plate to take leftovers home. I found the amount of food included with the Coconut “BLT” Wrap a great value for the $9.69 price tag, especially considering that vegan/vegetarian/clean-eating establishments can be pricey.

BTW, my friend loved the Soul Platter, which consisted of dairy-free mac-and-cheese, collard greens, black-eyed peas and rice, glazed yams (her favorite part), and a cornbread muffin.

It was obvious during the course of our visit that it wasn’t just us who had fallen in love with Detroit Vegan Soul. While the place was mostly empty when my friend and I walked in around 6:30 p.m., we watched it fill up over the next hour with dine-in patrons and carryout guests. By the end of our visit, the line of people waiting to reach the counter ended near the front door. Look at you, Detroit Vegan Soul, garnering culinary crushes left and right!

19614 Grand River Ave.

Detroit, MI 48223

(with another location on Agnes Street in the West Village neighborhood of Detroit; check website for each location’s specific hours and days of operation)

www.detroitvegansoul.com

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353. 5th Tavern – August 12, 2018 – Bloomfield Township, MI

August20185thTavern1 (2)August20185thTavern2 (2)5th Tavern is POPULAR among the brunch crowd.

I learned this when I attended a baby shower at the Bloomfield Township-based restaurant on a Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago. The place was KICKING when I walked in at noon, to the point where I found myself having flashbacks of pure-chaos Sunday afternoon shifts (the shift that’s most likely to end with someone breakdown-crying, in my experience) from my restaurant-server past.

The crowd was enjoying 5th Tavern’s weekend brunch buffet and live music by a gentleman playing what appeared to be an electric clarinet (I had no idea woodwind instruments came in electric form!). The restaurant’s classy ambiance and outdoor patio seating most likely enhanced the appeal of the place for the clientele, as well.

The baby shower I attended at the 5th Tavern was tucked away in a room separate from the main dining area, so we were somewhat insulated from the hubbub. The celebration offered a set lunch menu with three items to choose from: the Salmon Salad, Chicken Marsala, and American Kobe Burger.

I’m not one to put stock in Kobe beef being superior, but let me tell you, this American Kobe Burger was AWESOME. It was a thick-patty burger that came cooked at a standard temperature of medium that was incredibly tender and juicy and delicious. MAN, was it perfect topped with melted cheese and nestled within a brioche bun! The accompanying fries were excellent, too: thicker cut and crispy-fried on the outside while soft on the inside . . . YUM. It’s 9:15 in the morning as I’m writing these words, and I am hardcore craving that 5th Tavern American Kobe Burger.

So despite the lively crowd giving me server-nightmare-esque flashbacks, I enjoyed the fact that I got to spend time at 5th Tavern on that Sunday afternoon. I’d love to go back and try more of its menu, which is loaded with various salads, sandwiches, burgers, flatbreads, and meat- and seafood-centric entrées (such as Lamb Chops and Michigan Cherry BBQ Salmon).

I’m also intrigued by the various promotions that 5th Tavern offers throughout the week, including happy-hour food and drink deals Mondays through Fridays from 3 to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to closing and half-off bottles of wine on Wednesdays. No wonder the place is such a popular hangout!

2262 S. Telegraph Rd.

Bloomfield Twp., MI 48302

www.5thtavern.com

352. Elie’s – August 1, 2018 – Birmingham, MI

August2018Elies4 (2)August2018Elies2 (2)August2018Elies3 (2)Tender steak, toasted pinenuts, and sautéed onions nestled on a bed of hummus? Fattoush salad with crisp vegetables, crunchy pita chips, and zesty dressing? Yes, yes, and YES, please!

These are the dishes I enjoyed at Elie’s, a Mediterranean restaurant in downtown Birmingham, whilst lunching on its lovely patio earlier this month.

While Elie’s lunch menu is loaded with delectable-sounding choices that I’d love to explore further (ranging from Lamb Shawarma to Shish Tawook to Homemade Chicken Pot Pie), the hummus with tenderloin was a no-brainer for me.

I mean, creamy hummus and red meat combined – how could that not equal GLORIOUS? And it was glorious, especially when scooped up with soft, piping-hot pita bread.

The Fattoush salad was equally fresh and flavorful and delicious. I got the large-sized salad, which was substantial and more than I needed; I easily filled up on half of it.

The restaurant’s pretty patio was an ideal place to dine; the location along Pierce Street makes it a prime spot for people-watching. As the sands in the hourglass are running out on our patio days here in Metro Detroit, I find myself especially appreciating any opportunity to dine alfresco.

All in all, my experience at Elie’s was a pleasant one – one that I would definitely say YES to again.

263 Pierce St.

Birmingham, MI 48009

www.eliesgrill.com

351. La Dolce Vita – July 28, 2018 – Detroit, MI

July2018LaDolceVita1 (2)July2018LaDolceVita2 (2)Fellow patio lovers, rejoice, because today we’re talking about La Dolce Vita in Detroit and its supreme example of terrace living!

Touting itself as “Detroit’s best-kept secret,” the Italian restaurant on Woodward Avenue north of McNichols with a nondescript brown-brick exterior that’s all blink-and-you-might-miss it (and I did initially) is indeed hiding a Secret Garden-esque oasis around back.

Beyond its rear parking lot and valet-only parking ($5) beckons this gorgeous gated patio with its gurgling fountain, stately trees, walls thick with ivy, and vibrant flowers. It’s lovely. Sitting on La Dolce Vita’s patio made me feel like I was on vacation in Europe rather than off a gritty stretch of Woodward.

Partly because of this exceptional ambiance and partly because of the prices, I’d categorize La Dolce Vita as an upscale establishment. While costs aren’t shockingly high, they are more robust than those of the typical area Italian restaurant (side soups and salads are à la carte, for instance).

The restaurant also appeared to attract a particular category of clientele: older folks with money. I marveled as wave after wave of chicly dressed sixty-plus-year-olds crossed its threshold. They weren’t the only ones frequenting the restaurant; there were younger people, more casually dressed people, families – but they appeared to be the prime demographic on this Saturday night.

Overall, the place was kicking; the patio was full the whole time my friend and I were there (we were lucky to get the lone open table outside upon our arrival), and the interior of the restaurant filled over the course of our visit.

And you don’t have to be of a certain age or financial status to enjoy La Dolce Vita, my friend and I found. We basked in the glory of dining alfresco on a warm summer’s night, sipping wine and enjoying rich, flavorful fare. I deemed delicious both the minestrone soup with its chunky vegetables and the veal saltimbocca (Medaglioni D Vitello Saltimbocca on the menu) with its fresh sage, prosciutto, and rich wine butter sauce.

While I visited La Dolce Vita at dinner, I’d love to return for its Sunday brunch, which according to its website features bottomless servings of mimosas and Bloody Marys, a band playing patioside, and a wear-pajamas theme (!) the second Sunday of each month. That patio plus patrons in nightshirts and fuzzy slippers guzzling bottomless mimosas? Now THAT I gotta see!

17546 Woodward Ave.

Detroit, MI 48203

www.ldvrestaurant.net

350. Andrews on the Corner – July 27, 2018 – Detroit, MI

July2018AndrewsOnTheCorner2 (3)On a recent guided tour of Detroit’s oldest bars, I frolicked at the Two-Way Inn, Abick’s, and Nancy Whiskey. The Two-Way Inn and Abick’s were new-to-me visits – and hence, they were new to 100 Places in the D (YAY!), while Nancy Whiskey was a revisit, as I first made the 116-year-old bar’s acquaintance during the 2017 Corktown 5K/parade shenanigans (though I was thrilled to experience the Irish pub’s patio during warm weather this time around!).

Then there was Andrews on the Corner, our final stop on the tour – and another new place for both me and the blog (YES!).

I was immediately intrigued by this riverfront-adjacent downtown bar when our tour guide mentioned that it’s historically been a hangout for Detroit Red Wings players and coaches. Our guide explained that both Scotty Bowman and Mike Babcock are said to have had beers at Andrews before coaching Stanley Cup finals matches, while a bartender on duty told me that Steve Yzerman (my childhood love!) once offered to buy the joint. Whether these tidbits are fact or fabricated lore, I loved learning them because I’m a big Wings fan – and how cool is it imagining championship teams holding court at Andrews?

At any rate, the family-run bar that’s currently in its centennial year (Happy 100th, Andrews!) is laden with framed photos of Wings players. It also features a food menu loaded with delectable-sounding sandwich and appetizer options, including poutine (YUM) and the compelling Hot and Spicy Mac n’ Cheese Bites (which feel like they leapt straight from my brain and onto that menu – I mean, cheese AND spice AND fried??? Yes, please!). And of course, Andrews offers a full bar, replete with local craft brews.

The visit to Andrews on the Corner concluded the guided tour of four of Detroit’s oldest bars – but I’m still mentally reveling in the experience and can’t wait to tour more of the ancient taverns currently in operation. If you’re a local or planning a visit to Detroit, I highly encourage you to check out all four of the enchanting, history-laden bars I hung out in during this tour – and any others that are calling to you. The city is definitely chock-full of charming watering holes, be they old or new!

201 Jos. Campau Ave.

Detroit, MI 48207

www.andrewsonthecorner.com

349. Abick’s – July 27, 2018 – Detroit, MI

July2018Abicks1 (2)July2018Abicks3 (2)July2018Abicks2 (2)Abick’s is represented on 100 Places in the D!!!

All four of the oldest-of-the-old Detroit bars that I recently toured were AMAZING; Abick’s – the oldest family-run bar in continuous operation in Detroit – stands out as my favorite.

Located in a residential neighborhood of Southwest Detroit, the bar has long been a fixture of the community, having opened in 1907.

Step inside, and you’ll see why it’s lasted so long: the welcoming staff, homey, down-to-earth environs, and cheap drink prices are the perfect components of a classic neighborhood hangout – and let me not forget the solemn-eyed Mastiff hunkered down near the bar and compelling artifacts on display that highlight the establishment’s rich history.

Speaking of Abick’s lengthy and lasting life span, here’s an important component of it: according to the guide whose tour brought me to the bar, it has historically been a hangout for police officers and firefighters. This is highlighted by the existence of call boxes inside the bar – old-fashioned telephone boxes that back in the day enabled police and firefighter patrons to be in communication with their offices while they were frequenting Abick’s (how’s that for catering to one’s market?). Nowadays, the call boxes are locked (and, according to our guide, are storage lockers for high-end liquor).

The call box shown in the photo above is housed in a small room toward the back of Abick’s designated as a cigar lounge. Glass cases displaying a multitude of medals bestowed on the bar by police and firefighter clientele also adorn the walls of this room.

Further highlighting Abick’s rich history is a slideshow display in the main area of the bar recounting significant moments in its timeline and that of the Abick family. Tracing the evolution of both via the information presented there, it was wonderful to realize that Abick’s and the family who own and operate it have been supporting the community in various ways (offering free food to patrons during the Great Depression, for instance) for over 110 years! What better place to encapsulate the enduring spirit of Detroit than this one?

A final tidbit worth noting: Abick’s is a cash-only establishment (consider it another aspect that adds to its old-school appeal).

3500 Gilbert St.

Detroit, MI 48210

348. Two-Way Inn – July 27, 2018 – Detroit, MI

July20182-WayInn1 (2)July20182-WayInn2 (3)July20182-WayInn3 (4)The Friday before last, I toured some of Detroit’s oldest bars, and it was AWESOME.

When I say old bars, I mean OLD! Like, pre-Prohibition old! Detroit being one of the oldest cities in the country, it’s got a rich history, and that rich history includes grand ol’ watering holes, some of which have been in operation for a hundred years or more.

I’ve been dying to tour all of the oldest-of-the-old Detroit bars since I read an article highlighting them in Hour Detroit several years ago. I wanted to design a tour of those I hadn’t hit yet and attempted to one night in June. Plotting them on a map, I noticed the bars that interested me were scattered around the city and realized the endeavor would be logistically complex. So I did an internet search for guided tours of Detroit’s oldest bars, found one, and recruited friends along for the (bus) ride. Operation Antique Saloon Shenanigans was underway!

The experience they crafted being an absolute delight, I planned to give a glowing shout-out to the tour provider in this post – until I remembered that they prefer to keep the identities of the four bars visited on the tour a secret. Since I want to cover the bars that were new-to-me places here on 100 Places in the D but don’t want to overtly ruin the surprise of the tour, I’m going to keep the company’s identity anonymous. Just know that it’s great and that if you search “oldest bars in Detroit tour” online, you can pretty easily figure out its name and that of this entertaining, enlightening, downright fun tour.

On to today’s featured bar: the Two-Way Inn! It was our first stop on the tour and currently holds the distinction of being the oldest continuously running bar in Detroit, with an inauguration date of 1876.

1876! That’s a mere 11 years after the Civil War ended!

Guys, this place is LIIIIFFFEE. It’s got this gorgeous dark wooden bar that was paid for by Stroh’s in exchange for the promise to peddle its beer. It’s got a pool table and colored twinkle lights festooning the bar and an antique cigarette machine advertising a cost of five cents. The walls are studded with old photographs and deer antlers and an epic velvet painting of John Wayne. Basically, it’s got coziness and character for days and is saturated with history.

Speaking of history, here’s an interesting tidbit: according to our tour guide, the Two-Way Inn got its name from its two entrances and the habit its male patrons had of entering through the front door and exiting out the back. He explained that many wives of the patrons were angry that their husbands squandered their paychecks at the bar. When a wife suspected her husband was drinking at the Two-Way Inn, she’d show up at its front door looking for him. A lookout would identify the wife and alert her husband of her presence, and he’d roll out the back door before she saw him. Sneaky rascals! In present-day time, the front door is the sole door through which patrons can enter.

Another fun detail about the Two-Way Inn is that there’s a bell hanging above the bar that you should take care not to ring – unless you’re prepared to purchase a round of drinks for the house! We joked that the tallest guy in our tour should stand near the bell, increasing the odds of him inadvertently knocking it with his head and being forced to buy all of our beverages.

About 45 minutes were spent by our group at this glorious establishment (and at each of the other three bars we visited on the tour). We were the tavern’s sole patrons during that time – though a Pabst rep did pop in with hats, free PBR, and other swag, to the delight of the group. I sipped a Short’s Soft Parade, chatted with my friends, the tour guide, and others in our group of approximately 15, and crushed hard on this bar with 142 years of operation under its belt and counting. Two-Way Inn, I’m delighted to have made your acquaintance!

17897 Mt. Elliott St.

Detroit, MI 48212

www.2wayinn.com

347. M.C. ‘Wiches – July 27, 2018 – Ferndale, MI

July2018MCWiches1 (4)July2018MCWiches2 (2)The Friday before last, I was in downtown Ferndale, and I needed sustenance – hearty sustenance. Bread-and-cheese-and-meat-level sustenance. I scanned the downtown stretches of Woodward and Nine Mile, seeking somewhere to satisfy this requirement, and stumbled upon M.C. ‘Wiches sandwich shop.

After scanning its menu, I knew M.C. ‘Wiches was a place where I could stuff my face with a substantial, satisfying sandwich: specifically the seven-inch Cuban B ‘Wich. I got it on toasted wheat bread, opting to keep it simple when choosing from the various bread options, which included the intriguing Jalapeño Cheddar and a gluten-free variety. My sandwich was prepared promptly by the friendly young woman working the counter, and I settled in at one of ‘Wiches’ tables to devour it.

That Cuban B was a hefty sandwich indeed! Loaded with ham and pulled pork, pickle chunks and Swiss cheese, mustard and the signature ‘Wich Sauce (a garlic aioli), it most definitely satisfied my hunger – and was delicious while doing it.

While I found the seven-inch ‘Wich to be the perfect portion, I like that M.C. ‘Wiches offers two other sandwich sizes: the 3.5-inch Lil ‘Wich and the 14-inch Double ‘Wich. Its menu also includes two combo options that add a drink and a pickle to your ‘Wich as well as a side: depending on which one you go for, you can choose from chips, coleslaw, soup, mac-and-cheese, and baked goodies (including gluten-free varieties).

Bomb bread-and-cheese-and-meat-level sustenance offered by a friendly staff in a clean, pleasant environs: M.C. ‘Wiches is doing fast-casual right!

172 W. Nine Mile Rd.

Ferndale, MI 48220

(With an additional location in Oxford)

www.mcwiches.com