Author: Jackie F.

Exploration is a major theme in both of my blogs, 100 Places in the D (where I chronicle my quest to visit new-to-me restaurants, bars, shops, parks, etc. in the Metro-Detroit area) and A Cookable Feast (a food blog focused on whole-foods-based cooking, located at www.acookablefeast.com). I love to try new things and exercise my creativity. I believe that life should be full of adventures - even if the adventures we seek aren't of the crazy mountain-climbing, skydiving variety. Everyday adventures can be pretty darn awesome, too!

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

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! 🙂

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 jalapeño 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 – and not just via leftovers.

1416 E. Fisher Service Dr.

Detroit, MI 48207

www.stacheinternational.com

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

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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!

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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.

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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 – Wah Wah. Hopefully it will be back soon!

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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 Patrón (#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 Patrón 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 – interesting!). All of the beers were good, but I especially enjoyed the Pumpkin Hefe – a.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 – the 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 jalapeño 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 jalapeños and one-half dozen cheese with jalapeños – 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 – not a difficult feat, as they are smaller than some tamales you will find in restaurants – more 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