Macomb County

345. Emerald Theatre – July 15, 2018 – Mount Clemens, MI

July2018EmeraldTheatre2 (2)July2018EmeraldTheatre1 (2)While I was volunteering at the Femmes of Rock concert at the Emerald Theatre a few weeks ago, it hit me that it was my first time visiting the venue.

Could that be possible? I asked myself. I’d grown up in relative proximity to the Emerald; it seemed crazy to me that I’d never before witnessed a concert or other live event at the popular venue located in the heart of downtown Mount Clemens. But I’ve since racked my brain, and unless I visited the place as a kiddo and have totally forgotten it, it indeed appears that this was my first time in the space. So . . . new-place time!

The gorgeous, nearly 100-year-old (built in 1921) theater is small and intimate, as you can see from the above photo of its interior; it seats approximately 1,600. According to its website, it’s been revamped in some respects since its inception; that mural on the face of its exterior obviously isn’t circa 1921, for instance (but man, is it striking!). There’s a bar in the theater area, and upstairs there’s a sleek bar space called the Rock Room open on Friday and Saturday nights that features live performances.

While I was at the Emerald in a volunteer capacity, I was able to watch the show performed that night – which was AWESOME. The performers, Bella Electric Strings – a quartet of female violinists backed by a three-piece rock band – KILLED it! The ensemble brought mad energy and skill to the classic-rock tunes they played; I highly recommend you check them out if you’re interested: www.femmesofrock.com. And of course, check out the Emerald for a live performance!

31 N. Walnut St.

Mt. Clemens, MI 48043

www.theemeraldtheatre.com

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343. The Pita Peddler – June 27, 2018 – Chesterfield, MI

June2018PitaPeddler1 (2)Visiting a friend’s new home one evening in late June also meant new-place-time for the blog (YES!), as I stopped en route for carryout at The Pita Peddler, a Mediterranean restaurant in Chesterfield.

The Pita Peddler has dine-in seating, but it was all about carryout orders the Wednesday evening I was there. Carryout business was KICKING on that night! I sat and waited for our order at the counter of the sleek, fully-stocked bar, which according to my friend is a more recent addition.

After perusing The Pita Peddler’s extensive menu loaded with traditional Mediterranean appetizers and entrees as well as a variety of non-Mediterranean salads, pita melts, and pita wraps,  I’d opted for a Fattoush side salad and Chicken Shawarma pita wrap.

The Fattoush salad was amazing, fresh and zesty and festooned with those crunchy fried pita chips that I love. Topped with grilled chicken, it would be a meal in itself. The hefty Chicken Shawarma wrap contained several ingredients in addition to the grilled chicken, pickles, and garlic sauce I’m used to: lettuce, tomatoes, and pickled banana peppers.

The banana peppers surprised me! But really, they are in the same vein as pickles with their sour vinegar pop of flavor, so why not?

I perused recipes online while writing this post to see if banana peppers in chicken shawarma dishes is a more widely embraced thing beyond The Pita Peddler’s kitchen, and apparently it is. At any rate, it’s a new concept to me. So thanks, The Pita Peddler, for expanding my horizons!

46610 N. Gratiot Ave.

Chesterfield, MI 48051

www.thepitapeddler.com

342. Baffin Brewing Company – July 23, 2018 – Saint Clair Shores, MI

June2018Baffin1 (2)June2018Baffin3 (2)It’s time to recount leg two of my recent Saint Clair Shores-based brewery tour! Readers of 100 Places in the D, welcome Baffin Brewing Company to the blog!

This brewery tour was admittedly more of a jaunt: a friend and I visited Jamex Brewing Company for the first time and then continued with Baffin Brewing Company on Jefferson Avenue north of 10 Mile Road. But it’s summer, the season for grand adventures, so why not envision a two-brewery-tour as an epic production? When visiting such delightful brewhouses as these two, it’s not hard to do!

Baffin came onto my radar after frequently passing it during my travels around Saint Clair Shores. I’d assumed it had opened within the last year because that’s when I started to notice it and was surprised to recently discover that it opened in early 2015 (Wow, how did I miss that???).

It was obvious that the general Metro-Detroit population had been hip to Baffin for longer than I had: the place was PACKED during the Saturday evening of my visit. It was standing-room-only for us initially.

We approached the bar, preparing to wait for one of the bartenders to notice us, and were pleasantly surprised when a staff member roaming the floor approached us to collect our drink orders. The promptness of being greeted and the convenience of not having to vie for the busy bartenders’ attention made an instant positive impression on me. Well played, Baffin!

I wanted to order a flight so I could sample four of Baffin’s brews, but I was worried about having to juggle the flight paddle whilst standing sans tabletop. The bartender convinced me that I simply had to hold the wooden paddle with the glasses hanging off of it level with one hand so I could select and sample with the other. Sold!

I scanned Baffin’s bar-side menu chalked with its current offerings and decided to try the Mango Unchained IPA, Citra Unchained IPA, Porter De Rosey (a porter infused with rose hips) and James Van Der Kriek (a Belgian brewed with cherry and honey). Then I balanced that flight paddle as carefully as I could and started sampling.

As the sipping and savoring of the brews ensued, I quickly discovered that I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED all of them! All four incorporated fruit and were incredibly drinkable. The Porter De Rosey, that rich, smooth brew infused with the floral flavor of the rose hips, was especially compelling to me.

(BTW, I’m loving Baffin’s beer titles that play off of celebrity names – here’s looking at you, Porter De Rosey, James Van Der Kriek, and Barley Rae Jepsen!)

Eventually, my friend and I no longer had to stand and juggle our beers, because some kind souls who were perched around a barrel fashioned as a table got up to leave and encouraged us to grab it. We sat down, and it was then that we fixated on another one of Baffin’s selling points: the free popcorn.

FREE POPCORN!!! If I wasn’t already in love with Baffin at this point, I most certainly was after discovering the cart of complimentary kernels from which you can serve yourself basketfuls (popcorn is kind of LIFE to me).

Summing up this visit, I can confidently declare: Baffin Brewing Company, leg two of my Saint Clair Shores-based brewery tour, you are AWESOMENESS with your friendly service and your flavorful brews and that sweet, sweet free popcorn. I can’t wait to revisit you!

25113 Jefferson Ave.

St. Clair Shores, MI 48081

www.baffinbrewing.com

341. Jamex Brewing Company – June 23, 2018 – Saint Clair Shores, MI

June2018Jamex2 (2)June2018Jamex1 (2)East Side brewery tour! That’s what one Saturday in late June was for me and my pal Jaclyn after a spontaneous drop-in to Josef’s European Pastry Shop of Grosse Pointe Woods.

I should clarify: this East Side brewery tour was specifically a Saint Clair Shores-based brewery tour. Jamex Brewing Company on Harper Avenue south of Nine Mile Road was our starting point.

The place was hopping with a late-afternoon crowd, including several canines (because Jamex allows dogs!). I immediately dug its welcoming vibe and décor (industrial-chic, with a most stunning turquoise-and-copper-mottled bar counter. Can I get that counter installed in my kitchen, please???).

The female bartender who served us was friendly and conversational, explaining the brewery’s background (it was opened last year by a husband-and-wife entrepreneurial duo who love beer), how often new brews are developed and rotated in (fairly regularly; new recipes are constantly in the works), and how public reception has been (overwhelmingly positive).

As we sat and chatted with her, I tried flight-sized sampler glasses of three of Jamex’s wares: the Joe Blonde (described on the chalkboard menu posted above the bar as a “blonde coffee cream ale”), Bubbalicious IPA, and Harvey Milk dark beer. I enjoyed all of them, especially the Bubbalicious with its fruity flavor and the Harvey Milk with its creamy, stout-esque consistency and hint of sweetness.

My conclusion from leg one of the Saint Clair Shores brewery tour: Jamex is definitely worth a revisit! In perusing its website today, I got excited to see all three beers I tried last month advertised as still on tap. I’d love to go back and savor those or the Lemon Drop brew (intriguing!) currently labeled as “on deck.”

21721 Harper Ave.

St. Clair Shores, MI 48080

www.jamexbrewing.com

333. Alie’s Lebanese Grill – June 3, 2018 – Sterling Heights, MI

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You know those heady first days after you discover your latest crush? Well, I’ve been in that giddy state of adoration ever since visiting Alie’s Lebanese Grill of Sterling Heights and discovering how fabulous it is.

Alie’s Lebanese Grill, I like you just as you are! (Cue throwback-reference to Bridget Jones’s Diary, that O.G. of rom-coms with its signature line that Colin Firth’s Mark Darcy bestows upon the titular character. ~SWOON~) Your attractive ambiance, top-notch cuisine, and superior service made you easy to fall for!

A tangential tidbit about Alie’s: it used to be called Ollie’s and was affiliated with two other restaurant locations of the same name, one in Dearborn and one in Dearborn Heights (I visited the Dearborn Ollie’s location for this blog in 2015). A few years ago, the Sterling Heights restaurant broke away from the Dearborn and Dearborn Heights locations to become its own entity and was renamed Alie’s.

It’s an impressive entity. Glossy and well-kept, with an ivy-covered exterior, ornate chandeliers, and beautiful stonework, Alie’s is an aesthetically pleasing setting.

Its menu is extensive, loaded with fresh juices, appetizers, salads, soups, sandwiches, and a plethora of entrees both of the meat-centric and vegetarian varieties – plus a Family Feast Combos section where groups can choose from various smorgasbord selections of classic Lebanese dishes.

Perusing this well-curated menu, I zeroed in on my Mediterranean staple, Chicken Lemon Oregano, which I can never seem to pass up because I love it so. The entrée came with the option of a side soup or salad. I ordered the Fattoush Salad, which turned out to be an excellent choice.

This salad had me raving; it was the best Fattoush Salad I’ve ever had. Its ingredients were so obviously fresh: the romaine lettuce and cucumbers were crisp, the tomatoes well-ripened, the pita chips perfectly crunchy, the dressing zesty.

This side salad was so filling, it could have easily been my meal – especially considering that it was accompanied by complimentary fresh-baked pita rounds and garlic sauce (which quite possibly constitute the premier carb-and-dip combo in this galaxy – YUMMM times infinity to that garlic-loaded sauce!).

But more deliciousness was to come: that Chicken Lemon Oregano dish, a tender, juicy, char-broiled chicken breast accompanied by a rich, garlicky, oregano-infused lemon sauce and an ample platter of rice. It was wonderfully flavorful. And it was filling; the chicken breast was huge and easily yielded leftovers.

It was a satisfying meal, delivered at a high level of service. Pleasant and courteous, the gentleman who was our server was a delight to deal with. Coupling this sterling service with the beauty of the building and the quality of the cuisine make the overall dining experience at Alie’s Lebanese Grill an enchanting one.

So, Alie’s, when can I see you next? Hopefully I can rendezvous with you again very soon, for another round of that delectable Fattoush salad and Chicken Lemon Oregano – and of course, mounds and mounds of pita rounds and garlic sauce!

33355 Van Dyke Ave.

Sterling Heights, MI 48312

www.alieslebanesegrill.com

321. Megha’s Athidhi Indian Cuisine – April 21, 2018 – Sterling Heights, MI

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Somehow, I’m never eating as much Indian food as I want to be. It’s a cuisine I adore but tend to forget about, so I’m always excited when someone who I’m planning to dine with proposes it. And when the Indian restaurant proposed to me is a new-to-me place? Well, you KNOW I’m THRILLED about that!

So it was last weekend, when I was introduced to Megha’s Athidhi Indian Cuisine in Sterling Heights and its aloo gobi and garlic naan.

Aloo gobi, you warming dish of cauliflower and potato tossed in a spicy, curry-infused sauce, how I adore thee! Megha’s Athidhi aloo gobi was on point: infused with rich spices, fresh mint, and sautéed onion and tomato, plus the perfect level of heat (I like my Indian food HOT, and the spice level didn’t disappoint me here). It was served with white rice and perfect for scooping up with the garlic naan, which was wonderfully fresh and chewy and flavorful.

I didn’t eat at Megha’s Athidhi; my friend and I ordered carryout and devoured it in front of the TV while binging Fuller House episodes (OBSESSED – keep the reboots of beloved ’90s sitcoms from my childhood coming, please!), which I highly recommend as an delightful way to enjoy this delightful Indian fare. While I can’t speak to the level of the dine-in service at the restaurant, I can vouch for our carryout orders being ready in a timely manner and the man at the pick-up counter being polite and pleasant.

While I zeroed in on one of my two Indian-cuisine obsessions while perusing Megha’s Athidhi’s menu (chicken vindaloo is my other love besides aloo gobi), I found it to be loaded with a ton more vegetarian and meat-centered entrees, appetizers, and soups. My mouth is watering and my stomach growling as I again scan the menu on the restaurant’s website and dream of being there for lunch.

Speaking of lunch, Megha’s Athidhi offers a mid-day buffet spread on weekdays. All-you-can-eat Indian buffets are, in my book, the best type of all-you-can-eat buffet – really the only kind that I adore at this point. I have a feeling I won’t be forgetting how much I love Indian cuisine anytime soon with that lunchtime smorgasbord on my mind!

2079 15 Mile Rd.

Sterling Heights, MI 48310

www.miathidhi.com

320. La Mia Lebanese Cuisine – April 18, 2018 – Clinton Township, MI

April2018LaMia1 (2)April2018LaMia2 (3)Shout-out to my friend Jac for introducing me to this gem of a restaurant, La Mia Lebanese Cuisine in Clinton Township!

We went there Wednesday and ordered carryout. I thoroughly enjoyed my shawarma wrap with its grilled pita stuffed with tender chicken, crunchy pickles, and delectably garlicky sauce. The crushed lentil soup was piping-hot, savory deliciousness, as well.

While we didn’t eat in the restaurant, I appreciated the clean, pleasant dining area and friendly service we received. I was also impressed by how quickly our carryout orders came out – they were ready in about five minutes.

I’d not previously heard of La Mia, and I live relatively close to it. It’s on a part of Gratiot Avenue – just south of Hall Road/M-59 – that I don’t often traverse. I’m admittedly fascinated by such unfamiliar pockets, those sections of towns that I live relatively close to yet rarely pass through or visit. They’re one of the best types of places to explore, if you ask me, because they’re near familiar ground and yet feel novel. Ideally, they contain all kinds of intriguing new-to-us establishments just waiting for us to discover them and declare “NEW PLACE TIME!!!!!!!!!”

Whether or not you live in the general vicinity of La Mia and/or are familiar with the neighborhood it’s in, I invite you to check it out if you’re a fan of Mediterranean food and have not yet been there. It’s a goodie!

43998 N Gratiot Ave.
Clinton Township, MI 48036

318. Cheng’s Asian Bistro – April 4, 2018 – Sterling Heights, MI

April2018Chengs1 (2)April2018Chengs2 (2)April2018Chengs3 (2)When I saw Cheng’s Asian Bistro in Sterling Heights open up a few years ago, I felt compelled to try it. Having “bistro” in its name made it sound fancy, and I mused over what the food and interior would be like beyond the unpretentious storefront located in a strip mall.

This past Wednesday, I finally made it over to Cheng’s (it cracks me up how often this is the case – that it takes me years rather than weeks to visit a place I’m curious about. Time truly flies, doesn’t it?). My dinner there turned out to be a momentous occasion in my life.

It was a momentous occasion because based off of my experience there, I have decided that I am hereby designating Cheng’s Asian Bistro as my [DRUM ROLL]: Official Chinese Carryout Joint.

If you are like me and rely on having a go-to, tried-and-true Chinese restaurant to order carryout from, one that’s so good you never question switching it, then you likely get what a big deal this is for me to be switching mine.

While overall in my life I adore – no, am OBSESSED with – trying new places, when it comes to Chinese food, I am particular; I’ve thusly ordered takeaway from the same, tried-and-true Chinese restaurant for years. But my former standby has OFFICIALLY BEEN DETHRONED by Cheng’s Asian Bistro.

It was obvious to me when I tasted Cheng’s Kung Pao chicken that it had to be this way. This version of my go-to Chinese dish was the BEST Kung Pao chicken I have ever eaten; it was PERFECT! Its fresh, crunchy vegetables, tender chicken, and optimal heat-level (I ordered the spice level as Hot, and it was my kind of hot – for-reals Hot!) had me raving. I could not stop marveling over how great the meal was during the duration of it, and I could not stop thinking about that Kung Pao chicken for the rest of the night. Cheng’s had hooked me!

So after years of driving by the restaurant and wondering what its food was like, I finally knew it was delicious enough to beat out my as-of-then go-to Chinese carryout joint – no easy feat. Was the inside of Cheng’s Asian Bistro as fancy as its name had suggested to me?

It turns out that the interior isn’t the elegant, dimly-lit environs that I’d envisioned. But it’s clean and bright and pleasant, with yellow-gold walls, dark-stained wood paneling and floors, and colorful pom-poms and paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling. Probably it offers better ambiance than many elegant, dimly-lit establishments, because let’s face it: those places can be stiff and gloomy at times. I’ll take cheery over stiff and gloomy any day.

Service was prompt and friendly at Cheng’s and prices were affordable, too: my Kung Pao dinner combination plate with its fried rice, cup of wonton soup, and egg roll was $10.95; the portion was big enough that I was able to make two meals out of it.

I’m thrilled to have had such a positive experience at Cheng’s Asian Bistro, and I can’t wait to have an excuse to order from my new Official Chinese Carryout Joint! Perhaps a sweatpants-and-movie-and-takeaway night is in order – or a celebratory dinner to commemorate when spring finally makes its way to the D for real (please may that be soon!).

43005 Hayes Rd.

Sterling Heights, MI 48313

www.chengsasianbistromi.com

317. Red Olive – March 25, 2018 – Saint Clair Shores, MI

March2018RedOlive1 (2)March2018RedOlive2 (3)I’d never heard of Red Olive restaurant until a few years ago, when I worked with a colleague who was obsessed with ordering takeout from its Auburn Hills location.

Little did I know until recently, this locally-owned chain has 16 locations – 16! – in the Metro-Detroit area. Apparently, I’d been living under a rock, and this place is beloved by many more people than my former coworker.

In fact, I recently learned that one of my very best friends is also a Red Olive regular. Her last meal before her scheduled induction to have her son last fall was its chocolate-chip pancakes. That’s right: Red Olive’s wares helped to fuel a child’s birth! That’s kind of a big deal, especially considering how wonderful this particular kiddo is.

It was becoming more and more obvious that I needed to try this Red Olive place for myself, and last Sunday, I finally did while lunching at the Saint Clair Shores outpost with my aforementioned devotee-friend.

I can’t speak for what décor has been adopted by the 15 other Red Olive locations, but this Saint Clair Shores location, not far from Lake Saint Clair, has embraced the nautical theme. Murals of sailboats afloat on a vibrant blue sea grace the walls. Dark stained wood and deeply-colored booths give the place a more refined look than that of the typical diner.

I was ravenous with hunger and psyched to discover how extensive Red Olive’s menu is. I’d admittedly assumed its offerings would be pretty basic, probably because my former coworker had ordered one meal over and over: a side-salad with ranch, lemon-rice soup, and pita bread – not the most adventurous of cuisines.

In reality, the Red Olive menu is loaded with options; the Wraps section alone was enough to excite me over its selection (there’s a Grilled Fajita Wrap, a Reuben Wrap, a Chicken Shawarma Pita Wrap . . .). An entrée-salad area boasts intriguing varieties such as Strawberry Chicken Avocado Salad, Fattoush Salad, and Chicken Avocado and Mango Salad. There’s a sandwich section; a breakfast section; a section devoted to burgers and Coney dogs. There’s an entrée section containing comfort-food classics such as meatloaf and roast chicken, a whole area devoted to gyros . . . you get the idea. There are a LOT of choices!

I zeroed in on that Chicken Shawarma Pita Wrap, as well as a baby Greek salad. My friend got a breakfast combination plate with eggs and hash browns and the like.

Our food came out quickly. The Greek salad was fresh and filling; the shawarma was wonderfully toasted on the outside and stuffed with filling, tender chicken, crunchy pickles, and delightfully garlicky sauce. YUM!

The food being delicious was the best part of the Red-Olive experience, of course, but our total bill barely topping $20 also didn’t hurt. Now I can see why this place is garnering admirers and sprouting new locations all across Metro-Detroit!

23977 Harper Ave.

St. Clair Shores, MI 48080

(With 15 additional locations in the Metro-Detroit area)

www.redoliverestaurant.com

311. Golden Donuts – March 3, 2018 – Clinton Township, MI

March2018GoldenDonuts1 (2)March2018GoldenDonuts2 (2)Donuts, glorious donuts! How I adore those little glazed nuggets of goodness and having an excuse to purchase them – and to try a new bakery for this blog, of course.

Visiting a dear friend on a Saturday morning is as good an excuse as any to purchase a half-dozen donuts from a new-to-the-blog bakery. Thusly, my visit to Golden Donuts on Harper Avenue in Clinton Township commenced a few weeks ago.

Stepping into the tiny storefront located inside a strip mall, I was reminded of another local donut shop I’d visited in the last year: Donut Factory of Warren – mainly because both had an old-fashioned vibe and elderly gentlemen hanging out in them at the time of my visit. I got the impression that the two elderly gentlemen hanging out in counter seats at Golden Donuts were regulars, that they were familiar to the woman working behind the counter, that they were killing time in the companiable way that a certain type of retiree is wont to do.

The presence of these older dudes, it was oddly comforting to me. Maybe because I aspire to one day be able to pass time that way, in the practice of sitting and doing nothing much, really; maybe it’s because elderly people remind me of my beloved grandmother who passed away last summer. Regardless of the reason why, I saw Golden Donuts being the kind of place where elderly gents like to hang out as a plus-sign, as random as that sounds.

Of course, the most critical component of a donut shop is not its perceived desirability as a hangout spot by senior citizens but whether its donuts are any good. I set out to determine this out by ordering a half-dozen of Golden Donuts’ namesake wares: a white-cream-filled donut, a custard-filled, a red-velvet glazed, a honey-glazed chocolate, a chocolate-and-sprinkle-topped glazed, and a vanilla-and-chocolate-drizzled variety that looked to be jelly-filled and that was called a Napoleon.

While the donuts I tried that day – the red velvet, the honey-glazed chocolate, the white-cream-filled – were tasty, the true star of the show was the Napoleon, the one I randomly threw into the mix because I thought my friend or her husband might like it but which I didn’t expect to try. When it ended up left in the donut box and back at home with me, I decided to give it a whirl, not really expecting it to be my thing (I’m not really a jelly-donut girl) but not wanting to waste it.

This Napoleon turned out to be not just any jelly donut: it was quite possibly the best jelly donut EVER MADE. Certainly, it was the best jelly donut I can remember eating.

First of all, this Napoleon donut wasn’t a regular donut in terms of the dough used to make it: it was more of a flaky, puff-pastry kind of consistency. And it wasn’t simply filled with strawberry jelly; half of it was, but the other half was filled with CUSTARD. This was a half-jelly-filled, half-custard-filled, puff-pastry-esque, vanilla-AND-chocolate drizzled donut! It was AMAZING!

Based off of that glorious Napoleon donut alone, I would say that Golden Donuts passes the good-donut test. If the Napoleon sounds at all intriguing to you, I encourage you to give it a try! Or if you want to check out Golden Donuts’ other wares, such as its pasties and other baked goods – or to simply sit and hang at the counter with the old dudes – that is of course cool, too.

34155 Harper Ave.

Clinton Township, MI 48035