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!

367. Detroit RiverWalk / Cullen Plaza – October 6, 2018 – Detroit, MI

October2018DetroitRiverWalk2 (3)October2018DetroitRiverWalk4 (2)October2018DetroitRiverWalk1 (2)October2018DetroitRiverWalk6 (2)The Detroit RiverWalk + Cullen Plaza = I’m in LOVE!

Somehow I made it all the way to my 34th birthday without traversing the Detroit RiverWalk. It had been on my list of to-visits since the inception of 100 Places in the D in 2014. I’d walked the Windsor side of the Detroit River a number of years ago. I’d resolved to experience the Detroit side this summer . . . and summer came and went.

It was looking yet again like the Detroit RiverWalk would be relegated to the ever-elusive “next year.” And then Destiny intervened: an Eastern Market-themed cycling tour I’d signed up for through Wheelhouse Detroit started and ended at the bike shop’s Detroit location, which happened to be based along the riverfront in Cullen Plaza. The RiverWalk jaunt was HAPPENING! And it was happening on my birthday, which made it extra special.

What a treasure this slice of Detroit is! Until my visit, I had no idea just how gorgeous this area along the riverfront is, landscaped to feel like a natural oasis, a retreat from urban life.

This is one of those free public resources that begs to be used. And people were using it on the afternoon I was there: after furious bouts of rain throughout the morning, it had cleared up, and people of all ages were out walking, biking, chatting, playing, and enjoying the riverfront bounty. It was wonderful to see all of these folks mixing and mingling together, sharing this space.

Imagine the scene, one of gardens and benches and wild grasses waving in the wind; cyclists and scooters and dog walkers; families and elderly friends and pensive souls staring off across the water. See kiddos scrambling around inside a giant-sized sandbox, a captivating boardwalk carousel, display boards highlighting wildlife that call this area home.

And see the Detroit River, its majestic blue-green surface. I was surprised by how magnetizing I found its pull, how soothing its effect was on me. Maybe there’s something to be said for the school of thought touting the benefits of being around large bodies of water.

Not only does Cullen Plaza foster the above-mentioned splendor, it also offers these amenities: a playground; public restrooms; concession stands during warm-weather months (the carousel is also in operation during warm weather only, according to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy website); and the pièce de résistance: free lot parking.

And as mentioned, Cullen Plaza is home to the Wheelhouse Detroit bike shop – which in addition to offering guided tours, rents out bikes that can be ridden along the RiverWalk and elsewhere.

Try as I might here, the grandeur of the Detroit RiverWalk and Cullen Plaza can’t be adequately outlined in writing; both demand an in-person experience. Summer is the obvious time to visit the riverfront, but I’ll advocate for an autumn-time drop-in: the brooding beauty of the season is sure to provide a striking back-drop to the already stunning landscape.

1340 Atwater St.

Detroit, MI 48207

www.detroitriverfront.org/riverfront/east-riverfront/cullen-plaza

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366. Rocky’s Historic Eastern Market – October 6, 2018 – Detroit, MI

October2018Rockys1 (2)October2018Rockys2 (2)During my recent birthday jaunt to Eastern Market via a bike tour with Wheelhouse Detroit, I made a first-time visit to Rocky’s Historic Eastern Market, a dry-goods store on Russell Street.

What an impressive assortment of goodies this place peddles! Certain items especially caught my eye:

-The wide assortment of nuts and nut butters, including the intriguing ghost-pepper peanuts and spicy peanut butter

-Locally-made goods such as Gus & Grey jams (an obsession of mine!)

-A bulk candy section brimming with chocolates and glossy hard candies in every color of the rainbow, delighting my inner six-year-old

-Ant Wafers. These are chocolate-covered confections crunchy with – you guessed it – real black ants(!).

I left Rocky’s with an item small enough to easily carry back with me on my bike: a jar of Gus & Grey’s Hubba! Hubba! raspberry-habanero jam. Those ghost-pepper peanuts still entice me, though!

2489 Russell St.

Detroit, MI 48207

365. Germack – October 6, 2018 – Detroit, MI

October2018Germack1 (2)October2018Germack3 (2)Surrendering to the experience at play brought about my visit to Germack last Saturday.

If you read my last post regarding my visit to Wheelhouse Detroit, you’ll know that Saturday was my birthday and the day I took a guided bike tour to Eastern Market during rain showers. During a hiatus in the tour where our group was allowed to explore Eastern Market on our own, I found myself wandering in a downpour with two hours on my hands and no umbrella.

What to do? I felt crabbiness at the situation start to settle in – then shrugged it off. Nope, I wasn’t doing the bad-mood thing – not on my birthday. “Surrender to the adventure” became my mantra.

The practice was at play then. After fortifying myself with some pierogis from the People’s Pierogi Collective stand at Eastern Market (and discovering that its Corned Beef and Swiss pierogis are LIFE), I surrendered to the adventure by wandering towards Germack’s Russell Street-based café and shop.

As you may already be aware, Germack is a Detroit-based purveyor of nuts, coffee, chocolates, dried fruits, and other dry goods. (When I think Germack, the Tigers-branded bags of roasted and salted shelled peanuts sold at Comerica Park always come to mind. So simple and yet so addictive!) According to its website, it’s also an O.G. of nut-roasting, declaring itself the “oldest roaster of pistachio nuts in the United States” (who knew?).

Aware of the company’s rich local history, I was pleased at the opportunity to visit Germack. Desire for a hot beverage and to scoot my soaked and bedraggled-looking personage away from the crowds was also a motivating factor.

The building’s interior is allocated for the coffee house on the left and the shop on the right, with no dividing wall in between. I didn’t browse the shop, but I know it sells nuts and coffee and chocolates and spices and coffee-brewing equipment and probably a myriad of other things. In that visit, I was focused on ordering a coffee, settling down, and drying off.

I ordered a cappuccino and felt extremely fortunate to nab the last open table in the bustling café. My cappuccino was brought to me, and it was boldly flavored and piping-hot. Initially disappointed that I had no book with me, I remembered the reading app on my phone and opened a writing about – interestingly enough – being relaxed about life to encourage a positive outcome.

The book’s stance could be dismissed as woo-woo, sure. But as I sat there reading it, sipping my cappuccino and enjoying the urban-rustic coziness of the Germack shop, I realized that my mood had become relaxed, present, pleasant. And that – miraculously! – the rain had alchemized into blue skies and sunshine. Surrendering to the adventure felt pretty good right about then.

2517 Russell St.

Detroit, MI 48207

www.germack.com

364. Wheelhouse Detroit – October 6, 2018 – Detroit, MI

October2018WheelhouseDetroit1 (3)October 6, 2018: a gnarly-weather day + my birthday + the day I visited Wheelhouse Detroit for the first time and took a guided tour with them.

I embrace the birthday warm-and-fuzzies wholeheartedly, because what better holiday exists than one where you get to celebrate being born/still being alive? I like to do special stuff on my birthday, and a bike tour with Wheelhouse Detroit remained undone on my 2018 bucket list, so I decided to book a spot on its Eastern Market-themed outing that landed on my birthday.

I knew when I booked the Saturday tour earlier in the week that I was taking a risk with the weather. Cue to one-and-a-half hours before the start of the event and me staring gaping-mouthed from my living room couch at the torrential downpour outdoors. Rut-roh.

I was tempted to scrap the whole thing, chucking the $50 I’d paid for the tour ($35 for the tour itself, $10 for a bike rental, plus fees) to stay planted on my couch reading a novel. But that wouldn’t be a birthday adventure, would it? I called Wheelhouse Detroit to confirm the noon tour was still on (it was – I was told they only cancel when extreme weather of the thunder-and-lightning variety is involved), and did my best to surrender to whatever journey unfolded.

Arriving at Wheelhouse Detroit’s riverfront shop based in Cullen Plaza (formerly Rivard Plaza) on Atwater Street during a brief hiatus from the showers, I was glad to see that four other tour attendees had shown up. I was asked to sign a waiver, given my helmet and a poncho, and my bike seat was adjusted by a staff member.

Hopping on the bike, I was pleased with how comfortable it was. I’m no bike expert, so I couldn’t tell you what kind it was besides . . . standard bike? It was obviously quality but wasn’t some intimidating racing bike or anything. It was super comfortable and easy to ride, to my relief. To my memory, I’ve only ridden a bike once in the last three-plus years (since my Summer 2015 Nautical Ride excursion): on an extremely bumpy, zippy downhill mountain route that did not inspire confidence in my cycling abilities. I was seeking ease and comfort on this Detroit bike tour, and I found it.

The three-hour tour started with our guide, Henry, routing us to Eastern Market via the Dequindre Cut.

The Dequindre Cut – so MAGICAL! I want to cover it in its own post on 100 Places in the D – it deserves to be highlighted – but I wasn’t able to stop and take any photos of it during this ride. A return trip to adequately capture the beauty of this bike/pedestrian path running along the site of a former rail line under overpasses vibrant with artwork is definitely in order.

We approached Eastern Market after 20 minutes of riding, amidst a fresh downpour. We had two hours to explore the market independently, we were told by Henry.

I wasn’t especially enthused to learn that two hours of the three-hour tour were dedicated to exploring Eastern Market on my own, in a downpour, on my birthday. But hey, surrendering-to-the-adventure was the theme of the day, and after some initial crabby wandering in the rain outside Eastern Market like a wet dog, I adjusted my attitude and did just that. I’ll highlight what new-to-me places I visited during this time in upcoming posts.

When our group reconvened, we rode for another 40 minutes, back down the Dequindre Cut and along the Riverfront. It was a lovely ride – all sunshine and blue skies by that point (hooray!) – and I adored it.

Overall, this tour with Wheelhouse Detroit was great. Henry was a kind and pleasant guide, riding at an easy pace, signaling when we needed to turn, guarding our bikes during the Eastern Market sojourn, and providing interesting information about the Eastern Market and RiverWalk (including plans for the RiverWalk’s expansion).

Considering that the Eastern Market trek is the shortest of Wheelhouse Detroit’s tours in terms of mileage biked at five miles (most advertise mileages in the teens), I should’ve suspected that the shopping portion would occupy a considerable chunk of it. I’d love to explore some of the longer tours, including those that highlight Southwest Detroit, Belle Isle, and “Haunted Detroit” (a showcase of allegedly ghost-populated locales running this October in honor of the spooky month-end holiday).

Of course, Wheelhouse Detroit is more than a provider of tours. According to its website, the shop sells new and used bikes as well as a myriad of cycling-related products, including tires, tools, helmets, clothing, and biking-related accessories such as locks, cargo bags, and lights. Bikes can be rented independent of the tours for jaunts along the riverfront and throughout the city, as well.

1340 E. Atwater St.

Detroit, MI 48207

(with an additional location in Hamtramck)

www.wheelhousedetroit.com

363. Dutch Girl Donuts – September 28, 2018 – Detroit, MI

September2018DutchGirlDonuts1 (3)September2018DutchGirlDonuts2 (2)DUTCH GIRL DONUTS is gracing 100 Places in the D!!!!

After several years of fantasizing about tasting the Detroit-based donut shop’s much-lauded wares, I resolved to finally make the dream a reality last Friday morning and planned a pre-work visit.

Part of the reason I’d put off visiting Dutch Girl Donuts for so long was the parking situation. The bakery doesn’t have its own lot; street parking is required. And if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you likely know that I legit have a phobia around street parking in city settings and generally avoid it at all costs. Thusly, the idea of parallel parking along oft-hectic Woodward Avenue in order to visit Dutch Girl Donuts was not tickling me.

And then there was the whole bullet-proof glass thing. Some online reviewers had mentioned the fact that Dutch Girl Donuts had bullet-proof glass separating the bakery employees from patrons, leading me to speculate on why such protection was needed. Was it wise to visit Dutch Girl Donuts on my own?

These worries around parking and security swirled in my head as I contemplated making the visit. In the end, I decided to go for it and trust my gut. If I got to the donut shop and didn’t like the look of parking options or of the neighborhood itself, I could just drive on by and find another bakery to visit.

It turned out – as is generally the case – that my fears were unfounded. The stretch of Woodward Avenue near Seven Mile that Dutch Girl Donuts is located on felt totally safe to me. Given that the donut shop is open 24 hours, perhaps the bullet-proof glass serves more as a necessary security precaution in the evening hours, or perhaps it’s a relic of the past. Either way, I felt comfortable in the area in and around the bakery – as I did parking along Woodward.

I was easily able to procure a parking spot near the donut shop, parking behind a few other cars. There was enough space to maneuver so that parallel parking wasn’t a traumatic experience, and traffic along Woodward was more sparse than I expected, so I didn’t feel like I was walking out into an onslaught of oncoming traffic when I exited the car.

(Interesting parking-related tidbit: there is a fire hydrant right at the curb near Dutch Girl Donuts, which people were flagrantly disregarding and parking right in front of; park if you dare in that premium zone).

Dutch Girl Donuts had a decent amount of traffic coming in and out of it when I walked up – mostly pleasant-looking older folks. I joined the line formed in the donut shop’s tiny interior and watched the goods get made while waiting to be helped. Freshly fried twisted donuts being plopped into a pool of glaze caught my eye. Glorious!

I only had to wait a few minutes before it was my turn to order. I decided on a half-dozen donuts, which were $4.50. I got one plain cake donut, two cake donuts with chocolate frosting, a sour cream, a glazed chocolate-cake stick, and a twisted glazed. I paid in cash; it’s worth noting here that Dutch Girl Donuts accepts credit cards but requires a maximum purchase of $5 when paying with them.

I practically skipped out of the donut shop with excitement. Cruising along I-75 en route to work, I knew I couldn’t wait until I got there to sample the procured goodies; I grabbed one of the cake donuts with chocolate frosting out of the bag and took a bite. The donut was delicious, incredibly soft and fresh-tasting.

And then there was the sour cream donut.

When I got to work, I decided I wanted to sample another donut before I walked in. I went with the sour cream, and O.M.G.

Perfectly soft on the inside and crispy on the outside, dunked in an irresistible glaze, ridiculously fresh, this sour cream donut was quite easily the best donut I have ever had. I instantly wished I had gotten a half-dozen of them.

That’s not to say the other donuts I got from Dutch Girl Donuts weren’t wonderful. The glazed chocolate-cake stick donut ranked right up there with the sour cream, with that perfect crisp and glazing on the outside and pillowy softness on the inside. The plain cake and twisted glazed donuts were also very good; as with the others, they were obviously very freshly made.

This premium on freshness is huge; so much of what makes a donut wonderful is how recently it was made. So thank you, Dutch Girl Donuts, for doing the work and producing AMAZING donuts 24-7. Perhaps I’ll skip the cider mills this fall and do a revisit to your delightful donut shop in the D instead!

19000 Woodward Ave.

Detroit, MI 48203

(Open 24 hours Mondays through Fridays;

closes at 6 p.m. Saturdays and reopens at 1 a.m. Monday mornings)

362. Shawarma Stop – September 25, 2018 – Sterling Heights, MI

September2018ShawarmaStop1 (3)September2018ShawarmaStop3 (3)Shawarma Stop = a WIN! I’ve got all good feels about this Mediterranean fast-casual restaurant in Sterling Heights.

During my visit Tuesday night, the restaurant’s dining area was clean and welcoming, the staff on duty were warm and polite, and the food was delivered quickly and downright DELICIOUS.

I admittedly glanced over Shawarma Stop’s menu that night more than perused it, because I knew what I wanted for my dinner: a chicken shawarma pita wrap and a small fattoush salad. I’m stuck on those two when it comes to Mediterranean food (as I am crushed lentil soup, and lemon-oregano chicken, and hummus, and of course garlic sauce . . .), especially the fattoush salad. Man, is that a good salad!

But some fattoush salads are better than others – and Shawarma Stop’s is one of the best I’ve had. The lettuce, cucumber, and tomato in it were fresh, the dressing was perfectly zesty, and most critically: the pita chip pieces were fried extra crispy so they stayed crunchy when tossed in the dressing, which made my heart VERY happy (soggy pita chips make for a sad fattoush-eating experience, indeed). AND the small version of the salad was much bigger than I expected; it’s an amply-sized side salad! That made my heart even more happy.

The chicken shawarma with its tender grilled chicken, tangy pickles, juicy tomatoes, and wonderfully bold garlic sauce was tasty, too. It was also large enough that I was able to take half of it home to enjoy as leftovers.

Now that I’ve examined Shawarma Stop’s menu more closely, I feel I MUST go back and try the build-your-own-pita-or-bowl option where you get to choose from a variety of choices the protein, sauce, and four toppings you’d like in your meal. I love the build-your-own concept, and I’m already envisioning a beef shawarma bowl with hummus, white rice, feta, onion, and banana peppers . . . Mmmm.

Other options on Shawarma Stop’s menu include an assortment of salads, appetizers, sides, and pitas, plus grill items such as shish kabob, lamb chops, and a whole deboned chicken. Combination platters designed to serve two, four, seven, or 12 people are also available.

Whether you’re looking to grab carryout or have a quick and pleasant dine-in experience, Shawarma Stop is so worth the trip. I’m already craving another of its fattoush salads and pondering a revisit!

13903 19 Mile Rd.

Sterling Heights, MI 48313

www.shawarmastoponline.com

361. Bolero – September 19, 2018 – Detroit, MI

September2018Bolero1 (3)September2018Bolero2 (2)Filet on a Wednesday night? How luxurious! Thanks to a visit last week to Bolero, I enjoyed a sumptuous meal that included that tender cut of beef.

A friend and I have gotten into a groove of trying new places on weeknights, and I’m LOVING it! Visiting downtown Detroit post-workday is especially thrilling to me; it transforms what could otherwise be a banal evening of me in my robe wrangling dinner out of leftovers and perusing my DVR for scraps (come on, fall TV line-up!) into one of adventure and excitement.

The excitement last Wednesday started with me doing one of my Favorite Things in Life (SOOO J/K): seeking parking in the crowded Midtown area of Detroit. Fortunately, there is a garage on Forest Avenue near Bolero that had reasonable rates that night (it cost $6 for under two hours of parking; I believe it’s a Wayne State University structure, but it was open to visitors).

If you plan to visit Bolero and are street-parking-phobic like me, I’d recommend parking in this garage if it’s open, as the curbs in this area are KICKING now that Wayne State’s school year is in full swing. Worth noting: this structure is a pay-at-a-kiosk-before-you-leave operation, where you have to walk to the pay station near the elevators on the first floor, insert the ticket you received when you drove into the garage, then pay the given amount with cash or credit card. You then have 15 minutes to exit the structure.

With parking shenanigans out of the way, it was on to Bolero! The Latin restaurant owned by the same proprietors who operate Vicente’s Cuban Cuisine opened last December. My visit to Vicente’s in March has been a highlight of Blog Year Five, so I was enthused about trying Bolero.

Arriving in the midst of happy hour, which touts food and drink specials Tuesdays through Fridays from 4 to 6:30 p.m., we kicked off the night with a round of $2 shots. Their selling point: the strong, light-colored liquor of which they consisted came in mini shot glasses fashioned from chocolate (YUM!).

I then ordered a glass of red wine as well as the aforementioned filet, the Bife de Buey a La Argentina. The eight-ounce tenderloin was excellent, cooked a perfect medium-rare and incredibly tender. It came with a side of chimichurri sauce that was BOMB (I could practically drink that stuff, it was so good!). Accompaniments of roasted potatoes and asparagus rounded out the meal.

I boxed part of the Bife de Buey to take home and scoped out Bolero’s dessert tray. When I saw the restaurant offered chocolate tres leches cake, I was sold. Being a tres leches lover AND a chocolate lover, this cake was absolute heaven to me in all its spongy, sweet-cream-saturated glory.

Not only was the meal at Bolero superb, the service we received was stellar. Our server was perfectly attentive, polite, and friendly. She also scored major points with me when, unprompted, she brought me an extra side of that life-changing chimichurri sauce to take home with my leftovers.

So thank you, Bolero, for offering a memorable dining experience on what could have otherwise been a forgettable Wednesday evening!

51 W. Forest Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.bolerodetroit.com

360. TreeRunner Adventure Park – September 13, 2018 – West Bloomfield, MI

September2018TreeRunner1 (2)September2018TreeRunner3 (4)A workday spent frolicking above the forest canopy? Sign me up!

Last week, I got to fulfill a several-years-held dream of visiting TreeRunner Adventure Park in West Bloomfield – on my employer’s dime! My department at my day job was required to attend a six-hour retreat at the park. We spent half of the day on land, completing various team-building exercises, and the other half up in the air, navigating ropes courses and zip lines.

According to its website, “over 165 exciting obstacles and zip lines, five difficulty levels, and 10 different courses” constitute TreeRunner Adventure Park. Adding to the experience is the fact that the zip lining and obstacle maneuvering occurs in a wooded area, making one feel as if she is flitting among the treetops like a human-sized squirrel.

The ground-oriented team-building exercises (working a multi-person set of wooden skis in unison; figuring out how to get from one platform to another so as to avoid imaginary lava; etc.) were fun. But I was all about the aerial obstacles, which I performed during the second half of the day.

I completed a ropes course for the first time during a vacation in Ecuador earlier this year and LOVED it. I got the same rush from it that I did as an eight-year-old climbing the pine trees in my backyard. And I’d experienced the exhilaration of zip lining during a trip to Costa Rica a decade ago, soaring along routes strung over lush expanses of rainforest.

TreeRunner Adventure Park’s obstacles don’t reside in the mountains of South America, nor a tropical rainforest. They’re in a wooded area behind a Jewish community center in the Metro-D. But the intricate networks of platforms and ropes and pulleys hung at varying height levels among the leafy green canopy are fascinating to behold – and to navigate.

The navigating was especially interesting blindfolded.

The guides at Treerunner Adventure Park don’t usually facilitate blindfolded obstacle-course runs. My employer asked for this element to be added to the experience so that those not participating in the aerial activities (due to an aversion to heights or the park-imposed weight restriction) could participate as guides, shouting instructions from the ground to blindfolded teammates in the trees. Climbers were allowed to scale vertical ladders and perform the zip lines sans blindfold, but our eyes had to be covered for the obstacle runs.

I was resistant to the blindfold at first. The aerial activities I’d been gung ho about performing became nerve-wracking to contemplate without the benefit of sight.

I ended up, however, enthusiastically enjoying the added challenge of completing the obstacle runs blindfolded. My team’s guide offered great support with his descriptive directions, while I learned to feel with my feet for evidence of each hanging plank, block, and bridge I needed to navigate. Secured as I was via harness to the sturdy wire running the length of each obstacle, I knew that even if I did falter, I’d be caught.

Ditching the blindfold for the zip-line portions of the course proved worthwhile. The zip lines on the Level 3 run my team completed were much abbreviated compared with the loping ones I rode in Costa Rica, but they still delivered the rush of barreling airborne through the trees.

Overall, my experience at TreeRunner Adventure Park was super rewarding. Not only did it help me and my colleagues hone our teamwork, leadership, and communication skills, it also helped us connect to our inner-child selves on a day when we normally would’ve been hunched over our computers in our cubicles. Here’s to traipsing among the tree branches instead!

6600 W. Maple Rd.

West Bloomfield, MI 48322

(Open Friday through Sunday to the public;

group reservations available Monday through Thursday)

www.treerunnerwestbloomfield.com

359. Detroit Vintage – September 9, 2018 – Detroit, MI

September2018DetroitVintage1 (4)September2018DetroitVintage3 (2)September2018DetroitVintage2 (2)Detroit Vintage is MAGICAL!

This most enchanting of coffee shops is in an unlikely location, sandwiched as it is between a weed dispensary and a liquor store on Eight Mile Road in Detroit.

But does pure, magical goodness depend on prime real estate from which to derive its powers? Heck no! If anything, the disparity between Detroit Vintage and the surrounding area enhances the ethereal otherworldliness beyond the coffee shop’s threshold.

This place is STUNNING, a cozy-beyond-cozy space decorated with knick-knacks and bunting and stacks of books and twinkle lights and chandeliers and cushy leather chairs and COLOR – so much bold, bright color. Another delight of a gem in the D!

As is often the case with otherworldly realms, entering Detroit Vintage can be complicated – at least for a first-time visitor unaware of the admittance process.

While I’d read online prior to visiting the coffee shop that patrons should access it via its back entrance, when I attempted to do so, I encountered a locked metal gate obscured by colorful decorations beyond the exterior door.

Is this right? I stepped back to re-assess the building.

In the meantime, two more would-be first-time visitors to Detroit Vintage appeared. Together we puzzled over the latched gate-door – until a woman inside heard and let us in.

It turned out that this door was the proper one through which to enter; to gain admittance, we were supposed to ring a bell attached to the gate-door, which we had missed.

Once inside, I could see why Detroit Vintage is guarded so carefully. I was immediately taken with the beautiful space, as I was with the two welcoming women who ran it.

I ordered a cappuccino at the counter to the rear of the shop and was told that it would be delivered to me. I took a seat at a small wooden table decorated with a stack of books and a teapot stuffed with flowers and soaked up the enchanting ambiance, complete with classical music playing softly in the background.

My cappuccino was brought to me a few minutes later. It was piping-hot, perfect on that blustery Sunday afternoon, with a deliciously rich flavor.

I spent about an hour nestled inside Detroit Vintage on that visit, in sweet sojourn from the outside world. The charming environs captured my imagination, and I knew I would be back for a revisit. Magical spaces such as this linger long in my memory!

10335 W. 8 Mile Rd.

Detroit, MI 48221

(Open Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; cash only)

www.bucky313.wixsite.com/detroit-vintage-

 

358. Ottava Via – September 6, 2018 – Detroit, MI

September2018OttavaVia1 (3)September2018OttavaVia3 (2)Ottava Via: what a delight! This restaurant exceeded my expectations, presenting an immensely enjoyable dining experience.

I didn’t hold much in the way of expectations around Ottava Via prior to going there because I didn’t know much about it. Here’s what I knew: it served Italian, was located in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit, and a friend of mine had once snatched a barely-eaten appetizer off an abandoned table there and eaten it (apparently it was too enticing to pass up!). AND it was on my collected list of places to visit, so I’d likely read something good about it at some point. With that background information in mind, I recruited a pal for a dinnertime visit and motored down to Michigan Avenue.

Pulling up to the restaurant’s storefront, I realized I’d passed its nondescript black-and-white sign quite a few times. I also realized its demure appearance belies the glory that resides just behind it.

Pulling around to the rear of Ottava Via to park, I saw this gorgeous gated patio with pots of flowers, strings of twinkle lights, and wooden communal tables. A fire burned in a brick fireplace, and adjacent to the patio was a bocce court where guests could play the traditional Italian game. It was a hidden paradise!

There was no way my friend and I weren’t sitting in that garden enclave, especially during the last dregs of the warm-weather season. We plopped down at one of those communal tables and soaked up the pleasant patio-side vibes.

I perused Ottava Via’s menu and was quickly sold on the Ragout Alla Bolognese with its veal- and pork-infused sauce, though several of the small-plate and pizza options intrigued me, including the prosciutto- and cheese-stuffed fried Arancini balls and two of my fave Italian classics, Caprese salad and Margherita pizza. My friend ordered the Artichoke pizza with its namesake veggie, pecorino cheese, garlic, lemon zest, and a spinach pesto sauce.

The meals came out promptly, and I was pumped to dig into the Ragout Alla Bolognese with its thick pappardelle egg noodles, meaty sauce, and dollops of fresh ricotta.

Dug in I did, to discover that the dish was delicious. The sauce was rich, the ricotta was creamy, the noodles were wonderfully fresh and flavorful. I enjoyed those house-made pappardelle noodles in that Ragout Alla Bolognese as much as I did the sauce, which surprised me. I guess I’m used to eating dried pasta that tastes more like the cardboard box it came in than a from-scratch culinary staple with a rich tradition. Ottava Via’s pappardelle pasta definitely tastes like the latter; it’s a prime component of the Ragout Alla Bolognese rather than simply a vessel for the sauce.

My friend raved about her pizza with its chunks of artichokes and pesto sauce, and it looked so appealing that I had to try a bite of it; it was tasty, and I would have loved to scarf the whole of it myself.

To drink wine and eat pizza and pasta while dining alfresco and enjoying good company: is there anything better than that? In the scheme of life, it’s a simple experience, and yet the unadulterated pleasure it offers makes it a magical one – especially when dining at a place that offers as much in the way of cuisine and ambiance as Ottava Via does.

1400 Michigan Ave.

Detroit, MI 48216

www.ottavaviadetroit.com