Oakland County

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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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

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

290. 3 Winks – November 10, 2017 – Ferndale, MI

November20173Winks2 (2)November20173Winks (2)Hi, guys! Happy Monday! I hope you had an excellent weekend exploring. I was fortunate to be able to check out a couple of new places this weekend, including 3 Winks, a gift shop in downtown Ferndale.

I was admittedly motivated to visit this shop by my massage therapist giving me a $10 promotional gift card for it. Once I walked into 3 Winks, I was glad that she had. It contained such cute stuff!

This is the kind of small shop so packed with an assortment of interesting items that it can take you several rotations around it to examine it fully, its wares including such fun gift ideas as mugs and tea towels embossed with funny sayings, fancy scented soaps, quirky greeting cards – including greeting cards paired with bath salts – jewelry, lotions, Michigan-centric wine glasses, and scarves.

After much deliberation in my several rounds around the shop, I decided on a printed scarf that I hoped would push me out of my mostly-black wardrobe comfort zone (sure, black is chic, but let’s face it, day after day of it can get boring without a little accessorizing). The scarf cost more than the gift card value, which I was happy about, because with the 3 Wink’s owner being so nice and its offerings so eclectic and fun, I wanted to support the shop by sending some actual dollars toward it.

As is no surprise given the nature of this blog, supporting small businesses is important to me. I mean, who wants all of the shopping options to be corporate-drone options? Not moi – which is why I’m going to keep 3 Winks in mind when I’m in need of a thoughtful gift item or treat for myself.

203B E. Nine Mile Rd.
Ferndale, MI 48220

www.3winksgifts.com

289. The Fed – November 3, 2017 – Clarkston, MI

November2017Fed1 (2)November2017Fed2 (2)November2017Fed4 (2)November2017Fed7 (2)Hiya, guys! TGIF! The weekend with its beautiful chasm of open time and space beckons with its invitation to explore, and you can bet I’ll be checking out at least one new place this weekend. As I mentioned in last week’s Taqueria El Rey post, I was hoping to return to Mexicantown last weekend to try a much-lauded tamale shop, but my plans changed, and I didn’t end up making it. Wah wah. So that place is still on my list, and/or I might check out a new-to-me Detroit coffee shop, as I always appreciate a good indie java joint (killer ambiance+cappuccino is my version of rainbows+butterflies – so magical!).

Do you have a new-to-you place you are looking to try this weekend? If you’re in need of inspiration and are local, may I humbly suggest The Fed in downtown Clarkston? I met a friend there for dinner last Friday night and LOVED it. Now THERE is some killer ambiance!

Seriously, this restaurant housed in a building that was once a bank (complete with private rooms inside of former bank vaults) is STUNNING. I was immediately obsessed with its décor. Starting from the outside of the building with its stone brickwork and Spanish-tile roof: ivy clings to walls, lightbulbs are festooned about the ample patio space, heat lamps are aflame so the outdoor tables can be enjoyed into the chilly temps. No one was eating outside on the night I was there (the current temps likely being too chilly even for heating lamps), but there was a couple sitting out there presumably waiting for others or for a table, and they seemed quite comfortable.

And the interior of The Fed: well, there are so many gorgeous details to absorb that it’s almost overwhelming. It’s like you’re eating dinner in a living space straight from a chic decorating magazine, one with an eclectic collection of lighting fixtures (globe, paper-lantern, reading-lamp, minimalist-bulb), seating options (structured couches with brightly patterned pillows and furry throw rugs, rattan chairs), and general decorative awesomeness (white marble tabletops, a plethora of eye-pleasing pottery, wall hangings, tiny pots in plants – you name it) with an emphasis on neutrals, particularly white. It’s a clean, modern, luxurious-looking space, and I fell for it hard. Can every space I interact with throughout my day look like The Fed (especially my corporate-job office) – please?

Ambiance is important to me, yes – I love a pretty space – but of course, my numero-uno is the food. I was intrigued by The Fed’s menu, which our waitress explained is influenced by the kitchen’s farm-to-table focus; it changes periodically in order to embrace seasonal menu items.

After exploring the menu options, including various appetizers, salads, flatbreads, fish dishes (including sushi plates), tacos, and meat-centric entrees such as filet, I decided on the Angry Pig flatbread with its braised pork, cilantro pesto, corn kernels, diced tomatoes, sliced shallots, red onion, jack cheese, and spicy mayo drizzle. My friend and I also decided to get the crispy cauliflower appetizer to share. Both were awesome! The cauliflower was breaded and deep-fried and tossed in a sweet-and-sour-type sauce; it was a glorious vegan version of sweet-and-sour chicken. The flatbread was loaded with rich Southwestern-esque flavor; the crust especially intrigued me because it tasted like it was sourdough to me, and how many places do a sourdough pizza crust?

I was happy to love the meal I had at The Fed after previously scanning its Yelp reviews and finding mixed opinions. Some raved about the food, while some found it to be overpriced and/or just not good. I can only vouch for my own experience, and I’m psyched that it was a positive one, of course, but you can continue the detective work and try out The Fed for yourself. Let me know what you think of it if you go (you can post in the comments field below)!

15 S. Main St.

Clarkston, MI 48346

287. Burgrz – October 19, 2017 – Rochester Hills, MI

Oct2017Burgerz1 (2)Oct2017Burgerz4 (2)Oct2017Burgerz2 (4)I had totally dismissed Burgrz. I’d seen it around, in downtown Royal Oak and in Rochester Hills, and I was like, OK, this totally has to be a corporate nationwide chain. I mean, Burgrz with a “z”? I totally judged that “z,” man.

Then one of my coworkers recommended we go to lunch there because it was one of his fave area restaurants. Its burgers and waffle fries were awesome, in his opinion. And I was like, OK, I’m down. I went on the Burgrz website and learned that it is indeed a locally-owned establishment, with the now sole location in Rochester Hills (the Royal Oak one has closed); knowing that certainly piqued my interest. New-place time!

I stepped inside the fast-casual restaurant to discover a clean, modern vibe, with brick, wood, and chrome décor accents, red booths, and black-and-white cityscape photography displayed on the walls.

Scoping out the colorful chalkboard menus above the counter, I decided on the California burger with its bacon, tomato, mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, avocado, and lettuce. I nixed the lettuce and subbed spicy mayo for the regular mayo, and my coworker and I ordered to share a large side of the Sweet & Salty Combo, a platter of both regular and sweet potato waffle fries.

Our food was delivered to our booth quickly. The California burger was WOW. It was juicy and flavorful and melt-in-your-mouth delicious on its own, and with that creamy avocado, spicy mayonnaise, meaty tomato, and rich cheddar cheese and bacon, it was next-level. Truly, truly, truly an awesome burger.

The Sweet & Salty waffle fries were great, too: perfectly crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and accompanied by a spicy ketchup, which has to be up there in the list of best inventions ever. I mean, how did I ever eat fries without spicy ketchup? It added a nice zing to the fries, especially the sweet potato fries.

So yes, Burgrz may be a casual establishment that looks like a generic chain with that “z” in its name, but the verdict is in: it cooks up a DAMN GOOD burger – the kind of burger you think about for days afterword (that’s always the mark of a good meal to me: will I dream about it for days after eating it?). And it’s clean, and the staff is attentive, and the ambiance is nice, and those waffle fries with the spicy ketchup! It’s a local gem that should not be dismissed.

3204 Walton Blvd.

Rochester Hills, MI 48309

www.burgrz.com

285. Breakfast Club – October 8, 2017 – Farmington Hills, MI

BreakfastClubOct2017-4 (2)BreakfastClubOct2017-3 (2)BreakfastClubOct2017-2 (3)Farmington Hills is represented on the blog! Yes, Farmington Hills is a new-to-the-blog city on 100 Places in the D!

My knowledge of Farmington Hills is limited to the time I spent there working my first job out of college, a six-month paid internship at a publishing company. I don’t have much memory of the city and its ethos from that time; I didn’t venture out for lunch much or for after-work happy hours ever. So I was excited to have an excuse to become reacquainted with it a few weeks ago when it turned out to be a logical halfway meeting point for me and friends from Mt. Pleasant who’d been in Ann Arbor for a wedding. We decided on the aptly named restaurant, Breakfast Club, for our Sunday a.m. meet-up.

Once I exited the expressway and rolled into Farmington Hills, I remembered, right, it’s not too different from where I live: the respectable-suburbia category of turf. Breakfast Club is located in a strip mall on 10 Mile Road. It’s open for lunch and breakfast daily; its extensive menu includes dishes from both mealtimes.

The most intriguing choice on Breakfast Club’s menu for me has to be the Oven Baked French Toast, which you’ll see a picture of if you pull up the menu on the restaurant’s website. It’s a brick of a thing that more resembles a gargantuan serving of bread pudding than French toast; it’s topped with luscious-looking berries, coffee cake crumbles, and raspberry sauce. WOW.

I’ve become leery of ordering sweet, carb-centric items such as French toast, pancakes, and waffles at restaurants for fear of the energy crash that inevitably occurs a few hours later, but I would love to go back to Breakfast Club and split a salad and then the Oven Baked French Toast for dessert; I think that would be a happy compromise.

What did I end up ordering at Breakfast Club if not the Oven Baked French Toast? Well, because I’m more of a lunch person than a breakfast person, I zeroed in on the sandwiches on the menu and decided on the Pot Roast hoagie with its thinly sliced beef, sauteed onions, gooey provolone, and just the right amount of horseradish sauce, accompanied by a side of mixed fruit. The sandwich was big enough that I was able to save half of it to take away, which I was happy about, because it was super delicious and reheated well in the oven so I could recreate the whole comfort-food-indulgence experience in the comfort of my own home.

Speaking of home-sweet-home, the ambiance of Breakfast Club was sophisticated-cozy; the warm-hued walls, floral accents, paintings and wall hangings, and floral tablecloths evoked the feeling of dining in a loved one’s home.  A chalkboard with the specials of the day also hung on one wall, which my friends ordered from: one had the Benedict Con Queso, and the other had the Cactus Chili Bowl. Both dishes looked amazing, constituted big ol’ portions, and were reportedly quite tasty, too; they had me wishing I could rethink my attitude around eggs (which alas, I’m not a fan of, limiting me from trying many breakfast dishes on restaurant menus).

In addition to ample amounts of egg-centric dishes – including omelets and benedicts plus egg-studded combos and breakfast bowls – Breakfast Club’s breakfast portion of the menu includes various pancake, waffle, and French toast choices, while the lunch portion has the sandwich section I mentioned earlier, plus entree salads, soups, and soup-salad-sandwich combo options.

For me, the most charming aspect of this bustling brunch spot actually involved the part of the meal that is generally the most uncharming: the check presentation. Because on the day we were there, we were each given a chocolate-covered strawberry to go along with our bill. What a delightful way to soften the financial blow to patrons’ pocketbooks! I have no idea whether Breakfast Club does this all day every day or if it’s a gesture limited to Sundays or just-because times, but I thought it was an ingenious above-and-beyond customer-service move, the perfect gesture to distinguish itself from the other area breakfast/lunch joints.

38467 W. 10 Mile Rd.

Farmington Hills, MI 48335

www.breakfastclubfarmingtonhills.com

279. Chomp – September 26, 2017 – Rochester, MI

October2017Chomp1 (2)This week I learned that the holiday lights start appearing on the buildings in downtown Rochester in mid-October. Mid-October! I’m not ready for that time of year yet and am trying to block out all references to it that I’m starting to see (I’m steadfastly one of those “It’s still fall!” people). Downtown Rochester did otherwise give off autumn vibes when I was down there Monday evening, with pots of mums on display and fallen leaves skittering about on a brisk wind.

The reason I was in downtown Rochester Monday was to take a re-take photo of Chomp, a restaurant I visited for lunch a few weeks ago and where I enjoyed a ridiculously good sandwich, The Nolan, an amalgamation of – get this – turkey, bacon, Brie, fig jam, arugula, and pear. It was HEAVEN. I mean, a turkey sandwich with rich Brie AND sweet fig jam AND peppery arugula AND juicy pear AND bacon – are you kidding me???? It was fantastic.

Chomp’s menu in general abounds with amazing-sounding sandwiches, wraps, quesadillas, and burgers that I need to return and sample more of. Raw juices and smoothies are also offered.

The restaurant is a casual establishment. You walk up and order at a counter, then can take a seat in the dining area, and your sandwich will be brought out to you. Our food was delivered promptly on the day I was there, despite the fact that a sizable lunch crowd had descended upon the tiny establishment.

I believe the best restaurant meals are the ones that make you think about them for days after eating them. The Nolan was certainly on my mind after my encounter with it; I mused about recreating it at home but have yet to do so. But I know that with months of cold weather and waning daylight setting in, I’ll be looking for things like that sandwich to be bright spots in my day (because inevitably it’s the little things that brighten life, isn’t it?). And if I can’t recreate that bacon-Brie-arugula-pear-and-fig-jam turkey sandwich, well, I certainly know where I can find it.

200 S Main St.

Rochester, MI 48307

278. A Bean to Go – September 23, 2017 – Lake Orion, MI

Bean1Bean3I had the BEST ICED COFFEE OF MY LIFE at A Bean to Go in downtown Lake Orion a few weeks ago. It was prepared with cold-brewed coffee, and it was wonderfully rich in flavor – not at all like the watery iced coffee you’re presented with at some java joints. And it was strong – that coffee had me revving for hours afterward! Granted, that’s not a hard thing to achieve in someone with a low caffeine threshold like me, but still. What I’m trying to say is, this stuff is the good stuff!

I had to lead with that information because it was the first thing that popped into my head when I thought of A Bean to Go as I sat down to write – that COFFEE! While the delightful cold-brew sealed the deal, I’d gathered that I’d like the Lake Orion shop from the moment I stepped into its interior with its rustic-chic, inviting vibe and plenty of work spaces. This is the perfect place to camp out and get some writing, studying, or other work done whilst infusing one’s veins with a steady stream of delectably-flavored caffeine.

No wonder A Bean to Go has such excellent coffee; it roasts its own beans at its facility in Goodrich, MI, where it also has another coffee shop location, as I found out on its website. It sells bags of its various bean blends in the Lake Orion shop and on its website.

Not only did I get to experience another Grade-A coffee shop in the Metro-Detroit area with this visit (I collect them like baseball cards!), I also was able to represent Lake Orion on 100 Places in the D. Yes, Lake Orion is a new-to-the-blog city! We’ve got back-to-back repping-new-cities posts with this one and yesterday’s on Colasanti’s!

While I’m on the topic of Lake Orion, can I comment on how cute its downtown is? It was my first time down there, and I was digging its picturesque small-town vibes. I will definitely be going back there at some time in the foreseeable future – at the very least to revisit to A Bean to Go.

16 West Flint St.

Lake Orion, MI 48362

www.abeantogo.com

277. Colasanti’s Market & Snook’s Butcher Shoppe – September 17, 2017 – Highland, MI

Colasanti's1 (2)Colasanti's2Highland is represented on 100 Places in the D!

I feel particularly joyous about Highland being a new-to-the-blog city because of its distance from where I live in Macomb County (it’s an hour due west of me). I was slated to trek out there for a friend’s baby shower, and I thought, “hmm, could I kill two birds with one stone and get a 100 Places visit in, too?”

Happily, the shower venue was about a mile from Colasanti’s Market & Snook’s Butcher Shoppe, a produce market-slash-butcher shop that piqued my interest.

I was curious about the two names attached to this establishment and discovered the backstory on its website. Snook’s Butcher Shoppe opened on its own in 1979; it moved inside Colasanti’s Market in 1989 at the prompting of the grocery store. Then in 2007, the owner of Snook’s purchased Colasanti’s, and the two entities officially merged. So that’s why the long name!

I am somewhat obsessed with gourmet markets (selecting high-quality produce is a joy to me – nerdy I know, but it’s an art form!), so it’s no surprise that I loved this joint. The large, well-stocked facility is a home-chef’s haven; it offers everything from rows and rows of gorgeous fresh produce; the butcher counter; a plethora of grocery items; baked goods; prepared meals; an ample wine and craft-beer area; bulk foods – AND it has an affiliation with English Gardens where it lets them sell in its parking lot.

If you are in the market for some fresh produce, some fancy hummus, some singular salsa, some fall-focused flowers, or if you are like me and simply like to visit these kinds of places to decompress and get inspiration, then you’ve got to check out this grocery store with the mouthful of a name! Colasanti’s Market & Snook’s Butcher Shoppe, you are AWESOME.

468 S Milford Rd.

Highland, MI 48357

www.colasantis.com