Oakland County

441. Old Detroit Burger Bar – October 25, 2019 – Troy, MI

October2019OldDetroitBurgerBar1 (3)October2019OldDetroitBurgerBar2 (3)I love a big, juicy burger any day of the week, but especially on Fridays. Because burgers scream “TGIF!” to me!

Old Detroit Burger Bar is serving up the big, juicy burger goodness any day of the week, not solely Fridays. But my recent visit to the local restaurant chain’s Troy location did fall on a Friday – and I was vibing hard on its TGIF-infused aura.

The restaurant’s interior is sleek sports bar with a comfy feel: lots of browns and grays and glossy wood, accented with neon-blue fluorescent lighting. A bar with wraparound seating dominates one section; flat-screen TVs abound and are tuned in to the sport matches du jour.

Old Detroit Burger Bar’s food menu showcases much more than its namesake item: it’s got appetizers, entrée salads, sandwiches, and dishes such as Homemade Lasagna Dinner and The Lake St. Clair (fish and chips, naturally). It even serves its rendition of a Coney dog and a loose Coney burger. But my eyes were zeroed in on its burger section because: see Paragraph 1.

Names of Old Detroit Burger Bar hamburgers have a local slant to them. There’s The Ambassador, The Michigan Ave., the I-75. That last burger, by the way, is a two-pounder loaded with grilled onions, jalapeños, and American, Swiss, AND cheddar cheeses, served with Thousand Island dressing. According to Old Detroit Burger Bar’s website, if you finish one of those behemoths, you can get your picture added to a wall of fame devoted to I-75 slayers.

And there’s the burger I decided to order, The Vernor. The half-pound hamburger is bringing Southwest Detroit-inspired flair with its jalapeños, green peppers, guacamole, American and cheddar cheeses, and sour cream served on the side. I opted for tater tots to accompany mine.

My table’s food came out quickly, and I used the steak knife stabbed into my Vernor burger to cut its hefty form in half. It was everything I’d hoped it would be: juicy, beefy, cheesy, spicy, guac-laden deliciousness! The tater tots were tantalizingly crispy, greasy nuggets of spud.

My Vernor burger was so big that I was easily able to save a chunk of it to take home – though it was so tasty that I did ponder devouring the whole thing then and there (maybe if there was a wall of fame involved, I would have!).

3946 Rochester Rd.

Troy, MI 48083

(With additional locations in Lapeer, Lake Orion, and Clawson)

www.olddetroitburgerbar.com

437. The Fifth Wall Escape Rooms – October 5, 2019 – Ferndale, MI

October2019FifthWallEscapeRooms1 (2) In the first week of October, it was that time of year for me again: BIRTHDAY TIME! Celebration was obviously in order, and a visit with friends to The Fifth Wall Escape Rooms in Ferndale kicked off the festivities.

I’d been wanting to try out an escape room for a while, and while checking out the local options, I ran across The Fifth Wall Escape Rooms. It intrigued me right away, as it’s a locally-owned establishment with rooms that incorporate Michigan elements and with themes that seemed much more creative to me than those of the downtown-based branch of a national escape-room chain heavily advertised on Google.

The three rooms to choose from at The Fifth Wall Escape Rooms at the time (and as of the writing of this post) were The Purple Gang (billed as an “introductory escape room” on the Fifth Wall website; it gives an abbreviated escape time of 25 minutes); The Harry Houdini Trap; and Weirder Stuff, a creepy caper held in a cabin in 1980s northern Michigan.

I opted for the Weirder Stuff room and recruited five friends to join me in the one-hour escape extravaganza.

When we entered The Fifth Wall Escape Rooms at the time of our booking, we were greeted by two guys who I assumed were the owners and given an introductory explanation of the room parameters: the rules, point system, etc. We were being given one hour to crack the numerical code that would allow us to escape the room, though we had the option to stay in the room beyond that point (until the full hour was up) if we wanted to continue to solve the full puzzle and earn additional points. Our group of six would have the room to ourselves, as we were the only ones to book it during that timeslot (the Weirder Stuff room holds 10 people).

We then watched a short introductory video giving us further context on the mission we were about to embark on and were ushered into our escape-room scenario.

The configuration of the room, as well as the puzzles presented within it, were much more elaborate than I’d expected. I don’t want to give away any of the elements of the room or its storyline, so I’ll simply say that it’s obvious that a lot of care and creativity were poured into the crafting of this room by The Fifth Wall team and that they did an excellent job creating an immersive experience. Also, the spooky/supernatural elements of the Weirder Stuff room make it an ideal outing for Halloween season.

After about 52 minutes of intense sleuthing, our group cracked the code that would let us out of the cabin we’d been locked within! We, however, decided to spend the remainder of the hour attempting to crack the full puzzle of the room.

We fell short. It was a bummer to gain peak momentum in the last 15 minutes of the challenge and not be able to see the full exercise through – but that’s how the escape-room game goes!

At the end of the hour, our hosts entered the room and gave us feedback about how we did and answered some questions we had about puzzles that stumped us. They said we’d gotten a lot farther in the Weirder Stuff room than most groups did, which made us feel better about the endeavor of which it seemed we’d just started to scratch the surface.

The Fifth Wall guys had also popped in aurally via a loudspeaker during the challenge to give us hints when we’d been stuck on certain elements, which was helpful.

My takeaway from my first escape-room experience was that it was much more challenging than I’d expected (I definitely had moments of feeling like the whole thing was over my head during the Weirder Stuff room) but super entertaining. I was pleased at how well my friends and I worked together; it was fun to participate as a team in such a novel experience. The Fifth Wall Escape Rooms, thanks for helping me kick off my birthday celebration in such an enjoyable and engaging way!

1930 Hilton Rd.

Ferndale, MI 48220

www.fifthwallescape.com

436. Albert’s Coney Grill – October 4, 2019 – Auburn Hills, MI

October2019AlbertsConeyGrill1 (2)October2019AlbertsConeyGrill2 (2)Dining at Albert’s Coney Grill proved to be a delicious endeavor.

The Coney Island-style restaurant located in Auburn Hills presented a clean, well-lit dining room; quick, pleasant service; and tasty, affordable food during my lunchtime visit earlier this month.

Albert’s menu is extensive, featuring various culinary avenues: appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, and burgers; seafood dishes and stir-fries; Italian and Greek fare; a whole page devoted to breakfast items; and of course, Coney dogs.

Choosing my meal that day was easy, as I was in the mood for a salad and zeroed in on the Chicken Greek Salad on Albert’s menu. The friend who I dined with that day ordered the Chicken Strip Salad.

Our salads arrived quickly and were HUGE. They were accompanied by addictively chewy pita bread triangles; dressing came on the side in plastic squeeze bottles.

I doused that Chicken Greek Salad with ample amounts of Greek dressing and loved every bite of its crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes, crunchy cucumber and onion, pickled beets, creamy feta, zesty olives, spicy pepperoncini, and tender grilled chicken.

The salad was so big that after eating my fill at lunch that day, I had a meal-sized portion left to enjoy for dinner. Thanks, Albert’s Coney Grill, for handling two meals in one fell swoop for me!

2061 Featherstone Rd.

Auburn Hills, MI 48326

(Closes at 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays)

www.albertsconey.com

421. Drifter Coffee – August 6, 2019 – Ferndale, MI

August2019DrifterCoffee1 (2)August2019DrifterCoffee2 (2)My visit to Drifter Coffee inserted a little slice of tranquility into an otherwise busy day. I’d long been wanting to visit the Ferndale-based coffee shop, and I’m glad I finally did on a Tuesday afternoon in early August. I got to enjoy its warm hospitality, homey ambiance, and delicious coffee – not to mention, the mean chocolate-chip shortbread cookie it serves!

The shop gets its name from the business’ heritage of being a coffee purveyor on wheels. Drifter Coffee started out as a purely mobile establishment, selling its wares for four years from what it lovingly refers to on its website as its “coffee caboose,” a sweet vintage travel trailer.

The Ferndale-based shop opened earlier this year, in partnership with local coffee roaster Gooseneck Coffee Co., which has its roasting room on site. Yay for indie-business fusion! The coffee caboose still roves about town, vending Drifter Coffee’s goodies at sites such as Eastern Market and the Wayne State Farmers Market.

While I haven’t had the pleasure of encountering Drifter Coffee’s mobile storefront, I loved the vibes of its storefront planted in Ferndale, just down the road from Urbanrest Brewing.

It’s a beautiful space. The lower level is bright and airy and hosts the coffee counter and a seating area featuring a wall of windows and a plethora of potted plants. Outdoor seating is also available.

Upstairs is another seating area with a variety of places from which to perch: cushy couches and chairs, tables, and even a desk. This area is furnished more like someone’s home than a coffee shop; it’s cozy, with lots of books strewn about, more potted plants, and even a throw blanket nestled upon one of its couches. I loved kicking back in this upstairs seating area whilst savoring the richly-flavored iced coffee and tasty chocolate-chip shortbread cookie I’d ordered from the friendly baristas downstairs.

Indie coffee shops are my jam, and I’m always psyched to find a great one. Drifter Coffee is, most definitely, a great one!

770 Woodward Hts.

Ferndale, MI 48220

(Closed Mondays)

www.driftercoffee.com

411. Royal Indian Cuisine – June 4, 2019 – Troy, MI

June2019RoyalIndian1 (2)I’m always down to eat Indian food; I dig it (it hearts spice and flavor as much as I do). So when a friend suggested a visit to one of her favorite Indian restaurants, Royal Indian Cuisine in Troy, I was game.

Royal Indian’s menu proffers a plethora of classic Indian dishes, soups, appetizers, tandoori breads, and desserts. Selections are clearly marked as vegetarian or non-vegetarian, which was helpful for my vegan friend. A daily lunch buffet is also offered.

I ordered one of my Indian-cuisine staples during my visit to Royal Indian: Aloo Gobi, with its chunks of potato and cauliflower in their rich, spicy sauce. I also enjoyed a side of Garlic Naan bread, because: naan (enough said!).

3877 Rochester Rd.

Troy, MI 48083

www.myroyalindiancuisine.com

410. Woodpile BBQ Shack – May 23, 2019 – Clawson, MI

May2019WoodpileBBQShack1 (2)May2019WoodpileBBQShack2 (3)Making a visit to Woodpile BBQ Shack in Clawson just before Memorial Day this past May made me feel, in retrospect, like I was ushering in the summer. Because for me, summer isn’t summer without barbecued meat!

I love ribs. I love their tender, fatty, savory, fall-off-the bone goodness, their flavorful dry rubs and rich sauce.

All of these adjectives describe ribs done right, of course – it’s possible to get ribs wrong. Fortunately, as I discovered during my visit, Woodpile BBQ Shack does ribs right!

The barbecue joint offers all manner of smoked meats: chicken, cheddar sausage, beef brisket, pulled pork, and spare ribs grace the menu. Combo plates are available, including two-meat and three-meat options (each of which include two sides), as are sandwiches and group-centered meals such as the Feast for Four.

Woodpile BBQ Shack is not just in the smoked-meats game; they also serve ice cream – made by Treat Dreams!!! If you’ve ever tasted this local purveyor’s wares, you get what a big deal that is (I still dream about its Dark Sea Olive Oil ice cream I enjoyed on my birthday two years ago). I admittedly can’t imagine having room for dessert after gorging on barbecue, but if I did, I’d go for the Bourban Pecan Pie ice cream, which is labeled as a signature flavor crafted for Woodpile and described on the restaurant’s website menu as “sweet and salty and sticky and boozy!” [cue drooling].

During my visit to Woodpile BBQ Shack, I had the Two Meat Combo plate with pulled pork, spare ribs, and sides of the Mac & Cheese and Roadside Pit Beans. It was DELICIOUS, all of the rich, tender, fatty, savory bliss described above.

Ordering at Woodpile is done at a counter. Seating is available in a dining area that is open-air during the warm-weather months, as it was during my visit. It’s got a fun, rustic feel, all wood beams and corrugated metal, with tables incorporating wooden barrels into their design. There’s a bar out there that serves beer, wine, and liquor.

Mourning summer’s end as I write this post on the last day of August (R.I.P., Summer 2019!), I’m reminded that barbecue can – and should – be enjoyed at any time of year. Places like Woodpile Barbecue Shake make that deliciously possible.

303 S. Main St.

Clawson, MI 48017

www.woodpilebbqshack.com

406. Pinky’s Rooftop – May 4, 2019 – Royal Oak, MI

May2019Pinkys2 (2)Mannequin heads topped with cotton-candy beehives and drinks crackling with dry ice: these were items available for order at Royal Oak-based restaurant Pinky’s Rooftop during my visit on a Saturday night in early May.

The trendy restaurant with its Instagram-worthy pink-hued dining room and rooftop patio is at the site of the former Red Fox English Pub (which happened to be Visit Number 48 for 100 Places in the D – check out this vintage post on it!). Worth noting: to enter Pinky’s, you must go in through its ground-floor sister restaurant, Diamonds Steak & Seafood, which is at the same address. Pinky’s is above it.

Pinky’s had recently opened at the time of my visit, and to be honest, it showed: food took quite a while to come out. But our server was wonderful, earnest and friendly, and it was fun to soak in the sassy ambiance and watch those cotton-candy beehive desserts sail out into the dining room. (BTW, if you look closely at the lower-right-hand corner of the above photo, you can spot one of the black mannequin heads with its pink hairdo: it’s against the wall, nearly blending into the mural.)

Pinky’s menu boasts a plethora of elaborate cocktails, including the Pink Circus with its cotton-candy topper; the Frosé, All Day frozen rosé drink; the Pinky’s Ice Pops (a glass of prosecco or brut rosé with the boozy popsicle of your choice plunked into it); and the afore-referenced cocktail, the Dancing Raspberries with its billowing plumes of dry-ice clouds. It also offers a wine list and selection of craft beers and spirits.

The food menu proffers a variety of small plates, including the items I indulged in during my visit: the Lime Chip Trio with its pots of mango salsa, pico de gallo, and guacamole and surprisingly seasoned chips (reminiscent of barbeque potato chips) and the Short Rib Wonton Tacos with their petite, deep-fried shells and toppings of pickled chilies, avocado, and radish.

A brunch menu is available at Pinky’s on Saturdays and Sundays and includes such intriguing-sounding dishes as Eggs in Purgatory and Cake Batter Red Velvet Waffles (Wow!).

100 S. Main St.

Royal Oak, MI 48067

www.pinkysroyaloak.com

401. Candle Wick Shoppe – March 19, 2019 – Ferndale, MI

March2019CandleWickShoppe1 (2)March2019CandleWickShoppe3 (2)March2019CandleWickShoppe2 (2)After cozy journaling time at Civitas Coffee House in Hazel Park on a Tuesday afternoon in mid-March, I continued on to downtown Ferndale, where I visited a place I’d long been curious about: Candle Wick Shoppe.

The store sells all kinds of high-vibing products: candles, crystals, essential oils, incense, books, jewelry, and other goodies. According to its website, reiki sessions are also offered through the shop.

While at Candle Wick Shoppe, I enjoyed interacting with the friendly sales clerk, who helped me pick out my purchases. I went with a smoothly polished and satisfyingly hefty rose quartz stone, a rainbow-luminescent stone called opalite, and a tall blue candle dedicated to the third-eye chakra.

I love crystals for their different meanings and their beauty, and I’m obsessed with candles (I burn them daily), so I was happy to add to my collection of both – as happy as I was to soak up the calming, positive energy radiated by Candle Wick Shoppe.

175 W. 9 Mile Rd.

Ferndale, MI 48220

www.candlewickshoppe.com

400! Civitas Coffee House – March 19, 2019 – Hazel Park, MI

March2019Civitas1 (2)Visit Number 400 is hitting 100 Places in the D!!! Say hello to Civitas Coffee House of Hazel Park.

I adore indie coffee shops with their funky, cozy vibes, sense of community-fostering, and ability to make me feel as if I’m hiding away from the oft-chaotic world for a moment of blissful respite. So I was excited to visit this new-to-me one for some tranquil journaling time (fueled by a caffeine jolt, naturally).

The interior of Civitas Coffee House has a welcoming ambiance, with warm wood paneling, ample natural lighting, and walls painted a denim blue. During my visit in mid-March, tiny vases holding lime-green carnations graced each table.

I visited Civitas Coffee House for about 45 minutes, sipping a cappuccino whilst writing and enjoying the coffee-shop ambiance. The experience provided me with that special feeling of repose that only coffee houses can evoke, so: mission accomplished, Civitas!

Reflecting upon the milestone of this visit five months after it occurred (better late than never, eh?), I’m amazed by the fact that up to this point – and in just over five years – I’d visited 400 new-to-me, locally-owned places in the Metro-Detroit area. FOUR HUNDRED! Here’s to the magic of starting a project and seeing where it takes you.

906 E. 9 Mile Rd.

Hazel Park, MI 48030

(Closed Sundays)

https://civitas-coffee-house.business.site/

398. Three Cats Café – March 15, 2019 – Clawson, MI

March2019ThreeCatsCafe1 (2)March2019ThreeCatsCafe2 (2)March2019ThreeCatsCafe4 (2)After my visit to the lovely Leon & Lulu on a Friday night in mid-March, I continued on to the Three Cats Café, its sister business just next-door.

I was enchanted with the place. The Clawson-based establishment is more than a café housed in a former movie theater, its glittery marquee intact and its street-facing ticket booth still present, complete with a “talking” vendor mannequin rattling off facts about the place. It’s also an expansive shop selling artwork, mugs, handmade cards, and other perfect-for-gifting goodies, much of which are locally made and/or Michigan-centric.

The café counter of Three Cats Café is in the front of the building, near the entrance, while the shop/seating area is behind it. The nature of my visit (a pre-dinner-date jaunt) didn’t allow me to sample any of the café’s delectable-sounding soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and other goodies (though the Not Your Mama’s Grilled Cheese w/ Cup of Tomato Basil Soup on its current online menu is hitting me pretty hard with the cravings right now!). Instead, I opted for a cappuccino from its menu of coffee and tea drinks.

This cappuccino was steamy, creamy, foam-laden deliciousness that I enjoyed while sitting at a table in the Three Cats shop/seating area. It’s a brightly colored, aesthetically pleasing space, an ideal place to retreat from the outside world and relax. I could feel myself unwinding with every sip.

116 W. 14 Mile Rd.

Clawson, MI 48017

www.threecatscafe.com