Author: Jackie F.

Exploring 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!

488. Weiss’ Meats & Deli – November 21, 2020 – Chesterfield, MI

During these pandemic times, I’m finding joy in simple pleasures – such as a juicy T-bone steak from Weiss’ Meats & Deli!

The Chesterfield-based market offers exceptional service alongside its meat, seafood, and deli counters and grocery area proffering dry goods, wine and beer, produce, and other foodstuffs. The polite, friendly staff will bring your parcels of meat and seafood to the cashier counter for you – an impressive touch, in my book!

Weiss’ offers online ordering and curbside pick-up, plus party-sized subs and trays of fruits and veggies, cold cuts and cheeses, and other festive finger foods. For all of you hunters, Weiss’ offers deer processing, as well!

I am not a hunter – unless you count stalking butchers’ counters as hunting. In that case, I achieved three kills at Weiss’: the aforementioned T-bone steak, plus country ribs and two pounds of ground round. The T-bone steak was cooked the night after I visited Weiss’ and was a tender, delicious dinner. The ribs and ground round are nestled in my freezer, ready to be unearthed when simple pleasures of a carnivorous kind are called for!

51094 D.W. Seaton Dr.

Chesterfield, MI 48047

www.weissmeatsanddeli.com

487. HomeGrown Brewing Company – November 8, 2020 – Oxford, MI

Sitting in the sun at a picnic table, sipping a cider, enjoying the presence of friends – that’s an experience I don’t take for granted during this pandemic! That dream of an experience came to life a couple of weekends ago thanks to a fortuitous collision of fate: that of unseasonably warm weather and a visit to HomeGrown Brewing Company.

How can an establishment that has a mural of smiling, beer-swigging trees flanking the phrases, “Grow together not apart” and “Now go . . . drink beer & say nice stuff” be anything but delightful? I certainly had a delightful time at this Oxford-based brewery, which serves a line of house-made beers (including an amber ale, IPA, and Belgian whitbier) augmented by rotating taps of what its website refers to as “an ever-changing list of seasonal and experimental brews,” plus signature cocktails, wine, and cider.

That cider I sipped at HomeGrown in my very own dream-come-to-life moment? It’s called Wildflower and is made by Fourth Coast Ciderworks in Lake Orion. Kudos to HomeGrown for curating such a wonderful cider! It has this honeyed semi-sweetness that I just loved.

While I didn’t eat at HomeGrown, I’ve deduced via the food menu on its website that it’s serving up some pretty decadent dishes. There are salads such as the Burrata Caprese and the Roasted Cauliflower rocking fried shallots and feta cheese crème; hearty burgers and sandwiches; unaverage appetizers (see the wings with a brown-ale-infused buffalo sauce and a gorgonzola crème spread!); and entrees with the power to, via their menu descriptions alone, make my mouth water (here’s looking at you, HGBC Mac & Cheese, with your melding of beer cheese and white cheddar mornay sauce!). And HomeGrown’s dedication to using culinary ingredients obtained from Michigan farms and vendors certainly speaks to me and 100 Places in the D’s mission.

It’s looking like a revisit to HomeGrown Brewing is in order: for me to pair one of its craft brews with one of its dishes to create a dream of a dining experience – an experience I hope will again become a mainstay of my life one day.

28 N. Washington St.

Oxford, MI 48371

www.homegrownbrewco.com

486. Gravel Capital Brewing – November 8, 2020 – Oxford, MI

Two weekends ago felt like a last hurrah of summer-like weather – an incredibly fortuitous last hurrah for me, as I ran a 5K that day: one that started and ended at Gravel Capital Brewing in downtown Oxford!

In case you thought in-person 5Ks weren’t a thing in COVID times, they still are – at least according to the Michigan chapter of the Brewery Running Series, which has been putting on small – and, in my opinion, safe-feeling – 5Ks, complete with pandemic protocol such as masks required for check-in and a start-running-when-you’re-ready race model (to avoid runners congregating in crowds).

What a wonderful experience it was, to be outdoors on this unseasonably warm, sunny November day with my friends and their baby, toasting the completion of our run along the gorgeous Polly Ann Trail on Gravel Capital’s patio.

A pint was included with our 5K entrance ticket. I ordered the Rocky Rye and quite enjoyed what the brewery’s website describes as its “light fruity undertones.” Other brews currently on Gravel Capital’s menu include its Muskrat Love lager, Road Trip 2569 IPA, and Holy Hefa, described as a “Hefeweizen wheat beer with signature clove and banana character.” Several varietals of wine are also offered.

While I didn’t spend much time inside Gravel Capital – or GravCap, as it’s also called – I appreciated the rustic, laid-back ambiance evoked by elements such as the bar counter laid with knotty planks and the wall patterned with wooden circles appearing to be repurposed end caps of cable spools.

Not only was GravCap the site of a dashing-and-drinking extravaganza that day, it also hosted a mobile restaurant. Ziffel’s Food Truck served Bavarian fare such as bratwurst, schnitzel, and spaetzle. I thoroughly enjoyed one of its schnitzel sandwiches with its crispy-breaded pork topped with house-made cabbage slaw and spicy mayo, nestled in a pretzel bun and served with fries.

Interested in checking out the Michigan Brewery Running Series’ upcoming events? You can do so here: www.breweryrunningseries.com/michigan. As of the time of this writing, one more 5K is on the docket for 2020: the Polar Run, starting and ending at the Rochester Mills Production Facility in Auburn Hills on December 5. 2021 races are to be announced soon! I look forward to participating in another event with this awesome group that champions awesome local breweries such as Gravel Capital Brewing!

14 N. Washington St.

Oxford, MI 48371

www.gravcapbrewing.com

485. Lula’s Café – November 5, 2020 – Shelby Township, MI

Yay for Lula’s Café!

The Shelby Township-based restaurant/coffee shop serves an assortment of caffeinated beverages and meals that are both healthful and decadent (see the Buddha quinoa bowl with its goat cheese, egg, and assortment of veggies and the “Chocolate” Pudding made from avocado, cacao, and maple syrup). It boasts breakfast-centric items such as the goodness-laden Acai Bowl and hearty Breakfast Burrito, plus protein-and-plant-packed bowls, salads, wraps, and smoothies.

The café’s interior is minimalist-chic with its predominantly black-and-white color palette and exposed-bulb lighting, but it also manages to feel cozy and welcoming, with homey touches such as chalkboard menus and a profusion of potted plants. The staff member who assisted me augmented those welcoming vibes with her kind and conversational demeanor; she made me feel at home at Lula’s, even though I was there for only a few minutes.

I contemplated lingering longer when I saw Lula’s patio. With its cheerful lime-green chairs and strands of overhead lights, it enticed me to sit and stay a while. I almost did! But after hours of running errands, my home’s pull exuded more power.

My lunch from Lula’s, the Southwest salad (sans cheese), was AWESOME with its ample chunks of tender grilled chicken, turkey bacon, corn, diced red onion, and avocado on a bed of fresh spinach and drizzled with creamy chipotle dressing. This was my second time eating the salad; a friend had brought me carryout from Lula’s back in September. Because somewhere doesn’t count as a new-place visit unless I go there myself, I had an excuse to again eat from Lula’s – which I’m more than happy to have done!

45271 Market St.

Shelby Twp., MI 48315

www.lulas-cafe.com

484. Estia Greek Street Food – October 6, 2020 – Troy, MI

I didn’t need to eat at Estia Greek Street Food to know I’d love it – but I’m glad I did!

The locally-owned fast-casual chain touts the build-your-own meal, of which I’m a fan (visits to KouZina, 2941 Mediterranean Street Food, and Chickpea Kitchen are proof of that!). A carryout lunch from its Troy location seemed an apt way to celebrate my birthday.

While Estia’s build-your-own gyro and salad options enticed me, its rice bowl was, for me, the no-brainer choice. I crafted mine from rice pilaf, pork, sliced pepperoncini, sweet stewed peas, raw red onion, English cucumber, garlic spread, spicy feta sauce, and Greeko-De-Gallo (the restaurant’s riff on pico de gallo).

Chicken and lamb are the other meat offerings at Estia (besides pork). Vegetarian and gluten-free options (including gluten-free pita bread) are marked on the menu, which also offers sides such as spinach pie, fries, baklava, and chicken-lemon rice soup. So many enchanting choices to be made!

I was certainly enchanted by the choices I made at Estia. The rice bowl was SO good with its crispy-cooked pork, fresh veggies, and vibrant flavors (those garlic and spicy feta spreads – !!!).

I relished that meal to the last bite. It was my birthday, after all – calories didn’t count. And even if they did, I wouldn’t care, because I wouldn’t stop eating that rice bowl, so tasty it was. To have my prediction about Estia Greek Street Food come true was a birthday blessing indeed.

2897 W. Maple Rd.

Troy, MI 48084

(With an additional location in Warren)

www.goestia.com

483. The Gathering Coffee Co. – October 6, 2020 – Detroit, MI

October 6 was a day worth celebrating. Not only was it my birthday, but with my jaunt to The Gathering Coffee Co. in Detroit, it was my first coffee shop visit in over eight months! Adoring indie coffee houses as I do, this was a Cue-the-Confetti! moment.

You know I had to celebrate my special day with a trip to the D! And what could be more special than visiting a coffee shop that dared to open this summer amidst a pandemic?

According to its website, the Milwaukee Junction-based business is a “philanthropic missioned coffee company, seeking to use storytelling and gathering tables as key components to create and promote unity within the local community and city; standing with the belief that together, we are capable of more than we ever could do alone.”

It’s certainly cultivated a beautiful space from which to carry out that mission. Gathering’s interior is industrial-chic with its concrete floors, wood-beam ceiling with exposed ductwork, walls of brick and stark white, and gracefully curved barista counter constructed from grainy wood. Vases of fresh flowers grace tables, and potted plants hold state. Portraits, presumably of local community members, collage one wall, while a striking mural – a sketch of several sets of closely-gathered hands grasping plants – dominates another. Both art displays aptly encapsulate the coffee house’s community-centered focus.

I wanted to immerse myself in that space, to sit in it and admire it as I sipped my beverage. Alas, my COVID protocol excludes indoor dining! So I was happy to see that Gathering had tables set outdoors, in the strip of grass facing its storefront.

I took the iced oat milk latte with a house-made maple whiskey syrup that I ordered from the cheerful barista out to one of those tables. Full disclosure: I lasted less than 10 minutes in the nippy wind and shadows. But the drink was delicious; the espresso in it was on point, richly flavored, and the oat milk was nice and creamy. My birthday was officially a flavorful one thanks to The Gathering Coffee Co.

2831 E. Grand Blvd.

Detroit, MI 48211

www.gatheringcoffee.com

482. Park 600 – October 2, 2020 – Rochester, MI

In early October, I got to dine out on the Park 600’s beautiful patio. Take that, COVID-19!

The Park 600 is a restaurant at the independently-owned Royal Park Hotel in Rochester. While I’d never visited the hotel previously, I’d heard word of its elegance and was excited at the opportunity to experience it firsthand when I was invited to dine at the restaurant.

While I didn’t eat inside the Park 600, I was able to admire its interior while grabbing a drink at the bar. The restaurant exudes both modernity and class in its gorgeous mix of earth-toned elements – its rich wood paneling, bronze chandelier lighting, and granite-topped bar counter.

Inside that restaurant, I felt a longing for pre-COVID times – times when I ate in inviting establishments such as this one on a regular basis! But I haven’t felt up to indoor dining since the virus hit – and I doubt I will anytime soon.

The silver lining of it all was that I got to eat on The Park 600’s patio, and that was a lovely experience indeed – despite the temperature hovering around 50 degrees on that evening. Heat lamps – and coats – made the covered portion of patio pleasant. I admired the flagstone terrace in the soft white glow of the strings of bulbs strung overhead.

This outing familiarized me with the Park 600’s dinner menu, which currently features a profusion of luxe appetizers (Tuna Tartare, Baked Double Cream Brie, and Prime Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio are examples), plus soups, salads, pizzas, and protein-centric dishes such as the Filet Mignon and Crispy Skin Mediterranean Sea Bass.

The dish I decided on, the Roast Chicken (sans the wild mushrooms) was excellent. I’d chosen it because I was looking to behave myself by taking a break from red meat (my preferred protein) – but WOW, did Park 600 do poultry right via this dish! The chicken breast was so tender and flavorful served in the house-made marsala pan sauce, pairing well with the spinach, carrots, and parmesan mashed potatoes. I thoroughly enjoyed it all.

Satisfied as I was by this excellent dinner, the friendly, attentive server didn’t have to twist my arm to get me to order from the Park 600’s dessert menu! My dinner companion and I shared a slice of the chocolate cake, which was well worth the decadence with its layers of rich mousse.

In short, the dining experience was a stellar one – one I’m grateful to have had despite the pandemic. Thanks, Park 600, for an evening worth celebrating!

600 E. University Dr.

Rochester, MI 48307

(Open for lunch/brunch as well as dinner; check its website for hours)

www.royalparkhotel.net/park-600.htm

481. The Little Mustard Seed Café and Shoppe – September 26, 2020 – New Baltimore, MI

A summer-like Saturday in late September was worth celebrating with an alfresco lunch at The Little Mustard Seed Café and Shoppe.

The restaurant/retail space in downtown New Baltimore promotes itself as an organic, gluten-free café with a focus on fresh ingredients. Chalkboard menus showcasing a variety of soups, salads, sandwiches, smoothies, pizzas, baked goods, and coffee drinks line the walls of its bright, bunting-bedecked interior. Also sold are a carefully curated selection of dry goods: packaged snacks, jams, and honeys, plus gift-friendly items such as naturally-derived lip balms.

I enjoyed the seedy, obviously house-made bread of the Club sandwich I ordered at The Little Mustard Seed. It went well with the turkey, ham, turkey bacon, tomato, mixed greens, and cheese that constituted its iteration of the classic sandwich.

If you’re looking to eat a healthful, whole-foods-focused meal AND support a local business, you can’t go wrong with The Little Mustard Seed! Summer-like weather abounding or not, it’s worth a visit.

5111 Washington St.

New Baltimore, MI 48047

www.thelittlemustardseedcafe.com

480. Zo’s Good Burger – September 5, 2020 – Detroit, MI

Labor Day is a time for burgers – though is there NEVER a time for burgers? Certainly it’s always burger time at Zo’s Good Burger – and hooray for that!

This burger joint near Wayne State University is serving up decadent iterations of its namesake food. These are not your father’s burgers – unless your father’s burgers are made of such luxe ingredients as pretzel buns, caramelized onions, and jalapeño poppers.

Zo’s offers both signature burgers (its House Burgers) and a build-your-own-burger option. It also has sandwich wraps in varieties such as Veggie and Chicken Bacon Ranch, plus chicken strips and nuggets and side portions of the decadent deep-fried goodies also featured as burger ingredients (cheese sticks and onion rings being prime examples).

There’s a build-your-own-fries option where you can soup up your spuds with add-ons such as crispy chicken, cheese sauce, and coleslaw. And what burger joint would be complete without shakes? Zo’s offers vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and Oreo varieties. The restaurant is also halal – meaning its quite-tasty bacon is turkey, not pork.

While House Burgers such as the Southwest (topped with pepper jack cheese, grilled jalapeños, and hot sauce – all spicy goodies I adore) and BBQ (complete with Swiss cheese, onion rings, bacon, and barbecue sauce) enticed me, I went the build-your-own route. That allowed me to construct the monster of a burger shown in the above photo, a quarter-pound beef patty nestled within a brioche bun and topped with bacon, tomato, pickles, raw onion, Good Burger Sauce (similar to the Big Mac’s special sauce – but better!), mustard, and my personal-fave component: mac ‘n’ cheese bites (!). I also ordered a side of the Cajun fries.

Digging into my carryout order from Zo’s was an absolute delight. How did hamburgers even exist before the mac-‘n’-cheese-bites add-on? The crispy-battered, creamy, and cheesy nuggets deliciously enhanced the juicy burger. They melded with the mustard, the Good Burger sauce, the pickles, and all the other ingredients I’d chosen to make one SPECTACULAR burger.

I gorged on that Zo’s burger and those spiced Cajun fries until they were gone, my stomach satisfied, my Labor Day weekend a happy one.

2894 W. Grand Blvd.

Detroit, MI 48202

(With additional locations in Canton, Dearborn, and Garden City)

www.zosgoodburger.com

479. El Rey de las Arepas – August 30, 2020 – Detroit, MI

Ah, El Rey de las Arepas, you beacon of fresh, flavorful Venezuelan vittles! My heart sings, my stomach growls, my mouth waters as I lovingly recall my visit to you!

The restaurant in Southwest Detroit had long been on my radar before my late-August visit. This much-anticipated jaunt felt like the perfect one to execute in celebration of my recent emergence from a six-week illness that greatly limited my diet (and that had me consumed with Food Network programming – apparently to torture myself with constant reminders of everything cheesy, fried, and fattening I couldn’t consume???).

After much pondering of El Rey de las Arepas’ menu pre-visit, I called in a carryout order of the K-Rod patacon and one of the restaurant’s namesake offerings, the arepa.

Pick-up was super easy; while El Rey de las Arepas’ interior wasn’t open to visitors at the time of my visit, an outside-facing window counter was. The friendly woman behind the counter chatted with me as she rang me up, saying she hoped I enjoyed the food when she found out I was a first-time visitor.

I hoped I enjoyed the food, too – and I was pretty sure I would when I unpackaged it and saw how amazing it looked!

Looks were not deceiving. The K-Rod, a sandwich with fried plantains as the bread and a generous filling of meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, avocado, and pink and green sauces, was AWESOME. The flavorful pork was a good choice for the meat filling (chicken and shredded beef were also options), and I was excited to have sides of the sooo-good pink and green sauces to augment what was already drizzled on the patacon.

And the arepa! WOW is an understated exclamation for that little baby. My reaction as I was eating it was, “How can something seemly so simple taste this good???” The mini sandwich of tender shredded beef and savory shredded white cheese nestled in between two fresh-grilled, pillowy corn-flour flatbreads was PHENOMENAL. Much love, El Rey de las Arepas, for blowing my mind and my taste buds here! I need to come back and buy not just one arepa but MANY-MANY-MANY.

BTW, dear readers: if you’re unfamiliar with Venezuelan pink and green sauces (as I was), here’s what my internet sleuthing turned up. The pink sauce, or Salsa Rosada, primarily consists of ketchup and mayonnaise. Different recipes I saw kicked up that combo with ingredients such as brandy, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. The green sauce is called guasacaca and is typically made with such ingredients as avocado, parsley, cilantro, vinegar, and garlic. Yum!

7701 McGraw Ave.

Detroit, MI 48210