Month: September 2022

574. Oak & Reel – August 22, 2022 – Detroit, MI

What a fantastic experience dining at Oak & Reel was! From the food to the service to the ambiance, this Detroit-based Italian restaurant is serving up top-tier excellence.

I’d become familiar with Oak & Reel from Hour Detroit‘s coverage of it. The magazine crowned Oak & Reel 2022 Restaurant of the Year. Detroiters must’ve took notice, because the restaurant was packed when my friend and I arrived at 7:30 on a Monday night. Fortunately, we were able to snag two open seats at the bar.

Oak & Reel’s interior is a pretty, airy space, a pleasing mixture of industrial and contemporary elements. I loved the profusion of potted plants and striking hexagon tiles that covered one section of ceiling.

Service at the restaurant was excellent. The bartender who waited on us was a delight, friendly and attentive. He praised my drink choice, the Serpenti, an utterly delicious mixture of tequila reposado, passionfruit, lime, and calabrian chile. I love a spicy cocktail!

From the octopus Bolognese to the butter-poached halibut to the Raw portion featuring oysters, tuna, and other ocean delicacies, seafood is featured heavily on Oak & Reel’s menu. But there are plenty of options for non-seafood-lovers, too (take it from me, who is one of them!). One is the Caramelle, a pasta dish featuring ribbon-like strips of ravioli filled with short rib meat and topped with blistered yellow and red grape tomatoes, bread crumbs, and marjoram. This was my order, and it was exceptional! The house-made pasta was perfectly tender, and I savored the rich filling, crunchy bread crumbs, and vibrance of the blistered tomatoes and herbs.

After a meal that perfect, I didn’t need dessert – but I strongly considered it. How could I not, when Oak & Reel was offering tempting choices such as the Triple Chocolate Tarte with orange and cacao nibs and the Bomboloni, donuts with rosemary sugar and lemon anglaise?

Just like those desserts, the experience of dining at Oak & Reel was an extra-special treat – one that I definitely yearn to savor again!

2921 E. Grand Blvd.

Detroit, MI 48202

573. Bowlero – August 10, 2022 – Royal Oak, MI

Bowlero is a place to be! What a delightful time warp this bowling alley/bar is.

The locally-owned, Royal Oak-based Bowlero has been around since 1957. But its age isn’t the sole reason for its cool vintage looks; Bowlero was renovated in 2019. It’s intentionally retro, in a ’70s-heavy way, incorporating groovy design motifs, lots of orange, and throwback programming playing on the TVs (Grease the night I was there). The women’s room alone is a selfie-lover’s dream with its flashy pink-and-orange wallpaper, mirrors with cartoonishly-shaped frames holding cans of Aqua Net, and a Ms. Pac Man arcade game.

The area of Bowlero that has a decidedly more contemporary feel is the lounge. Retro elements are incorporated into the decor of the long, narrow room, but it has a more hipster than hippie feel. The bar serves up wine, beer and hard cider (including multiple Michigan brews), and specialty cocktails featuring Michigan-made spirits (Two James, Valentine, Detroit City Distillery, Petoskey’s Gypsy Vodka). One such cocktail is Bowlero’s take on a White Russian, The Bowlero Orange Russian: a blend of Gypsy Vodka, Tia Maria, Cointreau, and vegan creamer.

Besides offering 16 lanes of bowling and seasonal bowling leagues, Bowlero regularly features no-cover live music (every Friday and Saturday), themed nights (Punk Nite and 80s Video Night being two examples), karaoke, and other events. Check this calendar for the current line-up, then boogie on over to Bowlero!

4209 Coolidge Hwy.

Royal Oak, MI 48073

572. Berkley Coffee – August 5, 2022 – Oak Park, MI

Berkley Coffee has charm for days! From the drinks to the service to the ambiance, the good vibes are on overdrive at this Oak Park-based coffee shop, performance venue, and non-alcoholic bar.

Yes, Berkley Coffee isn’t based in Berkley, but Oak Park. But who cares? It’s Berkley adjacent – and its coffee is delicious. Berkley Coffee roasts it own beans and offers multiple varieties with origins ranging from Ethiopia to India, Nicaragua to Brazil.

The shop has multiple identities by design. By day, it’s the coffee shop, which is how I experienced it. I spent a couple of hours working at Berkley Coffee one morning, at a table bordering the performance stage. I loved the ambiance – both the lively energy (the place was bustling with customers that Friday morning) and the interior aesthetic. Berkley Coffee’s main room has a contemporary feel, with industrial details and neutral hues accented by pops of color (potted plants; stained glass in a pretty pattern of turquoise, white, and gold). Shelves housing nonalcoholic beers, wines, shrubs, syrups, and other drinks and drink ingredients dominate one corner. A room dubbed the East Room offers additional seating, books, children’s toys, a piano, and a plethora of board games.

I learned that Berkley Coffee takes a unique approach to ordering coffee. Cylindrical containers holding individual portions of beans are stacked on shelves facing the customer. When you place your order, you pick one of the vials and hand it to the barista, and they grind the beans and make your drink.

Staff members kindly ushered clueless me through the process, recommending bean varieties based on my preferences. I had two drinks that morning: a cappuccino with Brazilian beans and oat milk and a Japanese iced coffee with Ethiopian beans. Both were fantastic! (The Japanese-style iced coffee was something I’d never heard of but turned out to be a drink I regularly enjoy at home: fresh-brewed hot coffee poured over ice.)

By night, the main room of Berkley Coffee is the performance space. The shop regularly hosts bands and other performers. Amps, mics, PA equipment, guitars and other instruments are available for performers. The bar whips up cocktails that range from non-alcoholic versions of classics such as the Manhattan and Mai Tai to signature drinks with intriguing flavor components such as pine syrup, sesame oil, and blood orange cordial. According to Berkley Coffee’s website, it’s dedicated to offering a space where guests can socialize and enjoy live entertainment while also being sober.

With so much good to experience at Berkley Coffee, days’ and days’ worth of revisits are warranted!

14661 W. 11 Mile Rd., Ste. 500

Oak Park, MI 48237

571. The Royal Eagle – July 26, 2022 – Harper Woods, MI

100 Places in the D is all about unprecedented experiences – and my visit to The Royal Eagle was certainly that!

This was my first time visiting a place in Harper Woods for the blog. Harper Woods is represented on 100 Places in the D! But more than that, this was an experience of stepping into another world. The Royal Eagle is a restaurant located on the grounds of a Russian Orthodox Catholic monastery located in a residential neighborhood.

St. Sabbas Monastery originated in 1999. The religious organization bought multiple adjoining properties in the neighborhood and converted them into the monastery.

It’s a singular experience to walk off a quiet, well-kept residential street through the gates of a monastery, which is also well-kept and quiet – and absolutely stunning! – but which you don’t expect to find in a suburban neighborhood. Lush gardens, a profusion of vibrant colors, fill the grounds of St. Sabbas, and the church and other buildings inhabit the Russian Orthodox style, with distinctive spires, use of color, and beautiful detailing. The outdoor seating area, where teas are held, struck me as especially beautiful with its umbrella-bedecked patio seating, mini clock tower, and gazebo lit by strings of light in the midst of the garden oasis.

And there in the midst of that garden oasis was The Royal Eagle. The volunteer-run restaurant hosts dinners, high teas, and monthly cooking classes; proceeds benefit the monastery. The current cooking class series is called Cooking with Grace and is taught by Chef Petr Balcarovsky. The theme of the session I attended in July was French Medieval Courts.

I didn’t take photos inside The Royal Eagle because cell phone use was discouraged, but you can see photos of it on Yelp. It’s cozy, dimly-lit, old-fashioned, outfitted with rich wooden furnishings, jewel tones, and the ornate detailing characteristic of the monastery.

The Cooking with Grace class was more a cooking demonstration. Chef Petr showed us how to prepare a multi-course meal, periodically pulling participants up to assist with chopping, stirring, emulsifying. A generous appetizer spread was served during the demonstration, and at its conclusion, we got to eat the foods we learned to prepare. We had a vegetable potage (soup), which was exquisitely delicious despite consisting of simple ingredients such as carrots, onion, and celeriac juice. Next was cornish hen with poivre jaunet, or yellow pepper sauce. The sauce was a piquant concoction of red wine vinegar, toasted breadcrumbs, crushed black peppercorns, ginger, saffron, and cloves. For dessert, there was Fontainebleau, a decadent dessert consisting of heavy cream, faisselle cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract whipped to perfection and served with powdered sugar-dusted berries and mint. Yum, yum, and YUM!

I had such a lovely time learning and eating, chatting and imbibing at this cooking class. I came alone but sat at a table with three other ladies, two of whom were friends and brought bottles of wine that they graciously shared. (The Royal Eagle doesn’t serve alcohol but encourages cooking class participants to bring their own bottles of wine. A list of recommended wine pairings was emailed prior to our class.)

It was, all around, a wonderful Tuesday evening. I highly recommend a visit to The Royal Eagle if you’re looking to infuse wonder into your everyday, as well!

18745 Old Homestead Dr.

Harper Woods, MI 48225

570. Coffee Break Cafe – July 26, 2022 – Eastpointe, MI

Coffee Break Cafe has a devoted following! And it’s easy to see why. The coffee house tucked into a strip mall in Eastpointe serves delicious drinks.

During my visit to Coffee Break Cafe, not one but two customers raved to me about how great the place was. One loved it for studying; the other, as his regular supplier of coffee beans (which he said he’s taken with him all over the world). Both loved the owner, who is a friendly, welcoming guy.

Speaking of those beans: Coffee Break Cafe roasts its own. It offers varieties from all over the world – places such as Kenya, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala. The shop offers a plethora of coffee- and tea-based drinks. There’s an array of lattes, in enticing flavors such as Cherry Fudge, Cheesecake, and Tiramisu, and flavored cappuccinos, too. Baked goods and bottled drinks (pop, juice, sparkling water) are also available.

During my visit, I enjoyed a cold brew iced coffee and a Chai Tea Latte. The Chai Tea Latte was especially good: rich, foam-capped, warmly spiced deliciousness.

Next time you need a break from the world, make Coffee Break Cafe your place of respite!

19156 E. 10 Mile Rd.

Eastpointe, MI 48021

569. Motor City Wine – July 23, 2022 – Detroit, MI

Motor City Wine is many things: a wine shop, a wine bar, a host of live music . . . and the site of one of the most gorgeous patios in Detroit!

Motor City Wine’s offerings have obviously been thoughtfully curated. There are more than just the usual varieties from the usually-featured winemaking regions. Stroll through its Instagram account (motorcitywine) to see wines from all over the world: the Czech Republic, South Africa, the country of Georgia. Buy a bottle from the shop and drink it in the bar by paying a $10 corkage fee. Or purchase a glass featured on the bar’s menu. Wine not your thing? Motor City Wine also serves beer.

Live music is another regular offering at Motor City Wine. Its website’s September calendar shows DJs and musicians playing sets Thursdays through Sundays. Restaurant pop-ups are also a regular occurrence.

And that patio! It’s a pretty, greenery-infused retreat – the perfect place to savor a glass of Motor City Wine’s wares.

1949 Michigan Ave.

Detroit, MI 48216

568. Max & Ollie’s – July 14, 2022 – Mount Clemens, MI

Max & Ollie’s offers a sweet selection of old and new! The shop in downtown Mount Clemens has a thoughtfully curated collection of vintage clothing, jewelry, accessories, glassware, china, and other home goods. And it’s got brand-new items, too: candles by Mitten Candle Co., for one. Not only are these handmade soy candles crafted made by a friend of mine, they smell downright fabulous (the Firewood scent alone – SO good!).

And Max & Ollie’s is fabulous, too! Not only for stocking my friend’s candles and giving beautiful pre-owned goods a second life, but also for having an owner who is warm and welcoming. This is definitely a small business worth championing!

65 Macomb Pl.

Mt. Clemens, MI 48043

567. La Roche – July 2, 2022 – Royal Oak, MI

Stepping into La Roche means entering a sweet treasure trove of goodies! The shop based in downtown Royal Oak proffers plenty of items that make ideal gifts: candles, jewelry, figurines, fancy soaps, incense, apparel, and more. The “more” includes Michigan-centric items and an impressive selection of air plants.

509 S. Washington Ave.

Royal Oak, MI 48067

566. Electric Ave Bikes – June 19, 2022 – Detroit, MI

Looking to rent or buy an electric bike, get yours serviced, or tour Detroit via e-bike? Look no further than Electric Ave Bikes!

The shop on Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit is all things e-bikes. Part of the Michigan-based bike shop chain American Cycle & Fitness, Electric Ave Bikes is owned and operated by Jason Hall. Jason cofounded Slow Roll, the Monday-night bike ride that routinely drew a couple thousand riders to the streets of Detroit.

Regretfully, I never participated in a Slow Roll ride. But I did get to experience a bike ride with Jason this past June! Because Jason offers bike tours via his other company, RiDetroit. Electric Ave Bikes supplies the e-bikes and is the starting point for those tours.

I went on RiDetroit’s Five Neighborhood tour. For two hours, we rode all over Detroit: to Eastern Market, the Dequindre Cut, the riverfront, downtown, and Greektown. It was fabulous! Along the way, Jason shared bits of history about the neighborhoods we explored and the art we saw. We opened our e-bikes up on the Dequindre Cut, zipping along the smooth path so easefully! I didn’t realize how easy the e-bike made it until I returned to the Dequindre Cut a couple of weeks later on a regular bike. Much frenzied pedaling ensued!

In addition to offering several e-bike tours (including a pizza-themed one!), RiDetroit hosts a walking tour exploring Eastern Market’s murals. Check out its current offerings here.

3613 Woodward Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

565. Alex’s Family Dining – June 18, 2022 – Rochester Hills, MI

Alex’s Family Dining impressed me! The Rochester Hills-based restaurant has upscale-diner vibes (see above for a photo of its stylish, earth-toned interior) and a plentiful menu.

Half of that menu is populated by breakfast items – omelets, waffles, pancakes, and plenty of combo plates. But the lunch and dinner portion boasts ample options, too: salads and sandwiches, pitas and wraps, plates ranging from Shrimp Stir Fry to Shish Kabob, Chicken Parmesan to Baby Back Barbecue Ribs.

But it was Alex’s servers who impressed me most. There were only a couple of them there at the time of my visit, but they worked together to man the dining room – which filled up shortly after I arrived to meet friends for breakfast one Saturday morning – like a well-oiled machine. They weaved around the room with graceful efficiency, focused yet nonurgent. As a former server who still appreciates the craft, I felt like I was watching a dining room ballet.

And what did I order for that breakfast ballet meal at Alex’s? A Roasted Turkey Wrap, naturally! That might not speak breakfast – but I’d been up for hours already, and it sounded good. And Alex’s Roasted Turkey Wrap WAS good. With its thick-sliced turkey breast, Swiss cheese, zesty coleslaw, and Thousand Island dressing, it was filling and flavorful. Plus, it came with chips. Who doesn’t love chips?

3178 S. Rochester Rd.

Rochester Hills, MI 48307

(With an additional location in Berkley)