Oakland County

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

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

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

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

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

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

28 N. Washington St.

Oxford, MI 48371

www.homegrownbrewco.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 N. Washington St.

Oxford, MI 48371

www.gravcapbrewing.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2897 W. Maple Rd.

Troy, MI 48084

(With an additional location in Warren)

www.goestia.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

600 E. University Dr.

Rochester, MI 48307

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

www.royalparkhotel.net/park-600.htm

474. Carnival Market – May 9, 2020 – Pontiac, MI

May2020CarnivalMarket1 (3)May2020CarnivalMarket2 (2)Grocery stores are, blessedly, one of the places we can visit during the COVID-19 pandemic. And that means I got to visit Carnival Market in Pontiac recently!

As with many of the places I highlight on 100 Places in the D, I’d known about and been wanting to visit Carnival Market for years. The grocery store features all manner of Latin American foodstuffs, including house-made tortilla chips, salsas, and desserts. It even operates an in-store Mexican restaurant with a full menu.

I was fortunate enough to try Carnival Market’s restaurant fare last year when it was brought in for lunch at my then place of work. WOW, was it delicious! The tacos, chips, and salsas were AMAZING, and my desire to visit the store amped up. Somehow, another half a year passed before I did that . . ..

Not having visited Carnival Market became a blessing in the time of COVID, when it became one of the few public places I was able to explore. Entering the store was an absolute thrill for me – both as someone who loves to grocery shop and as one who has been starved for adventure.

Carnival Market’s interior was clean and stocked with neatly-stacked produce and other well-curated wares. One row was nothing but bagged and bulk spices; another section contained refrigerated cases showcasing multiple varieties of house-made salsas and pretty desserts. There were shelves of flour and corn tortillas, some of which were locally made; a meat counter; a bakery section; ample aisles of dry goods, dairy, frozen foods, beverages (including beer), and household cleaning supplies. It was a cornucopia of grocery goodness!

I picked up a variety of produce; a package of tostadas; bags of corn and flour tortillas; two kinds of house-made salsa (the Red Hot Salsa and the Super Hot Green Salsa); a bottle of hot sauce; and an individually-sized portion of tres leches cake.

It’s been so fun to enjoy these purchases! I’ve found Carnival Market’s salsas to be phenomenal, bursting with flavor. The chips are awesome, too: thick, well-fried and addictively crunchy. And the tres leches cake, wonderfully soaked as it was in sweetened condensed milk, captured my heart with its decadence.

I’m all about looking for the bright spots in this pandemic, and my visit to Carnival Market was definitely a bright spot. I’m excited to be in proximity of this well-curated grocery store and the joyful prospect of visiting it again.

1101 E. Walton Blvd.

Pontiac, MI 48340

www.carnival-market.com

467. Knapp’s Donuts – February 21, 2020 – Troy, MI

February2020Knapp'sDonuts1 (2)February2020Knapp'sDonuts2 (2)As of the writing of this post, Knapp’s Donuts is one of the many Metro-Detroit-area businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic; its doors are currently closed. With any luck, both its Rochester and Troy-based locations – the latter of which I recently visited – will reopen soon, and we can all enjoy its delightful donuts again.

After years of hearing my mom rave about Knapp’s Donuts and wanting to try them myself, I finally made that happen when I stopped there on a Friday morning in February. I was on my way to my last day at a job that I’d worked at for 4.5 years, and I thought it would be nice to bring my team (and myself) some donuts.

I picked out eight donuts in a variety of flavors, including Boston crème, chocolate glazed, cinnamon-sugar, and sour cream.

I knew I had to try the sour cream, as that varietal has become a personal favorite in recent years. It was SO delicious: perfectly moist on the inside and crispy-fried on the outside, with a honey-sweet glaze. I could see from eating that sour cream donut what all the hype around Knapp’s was about!

I also got to try one of its chocolate glazed donuts, which was quite tasty, too; my coworkers who opted in on the baked goodies enjoyed them, as well.

Once Knapp’s is open again, I have a feeling its patrons are going to be rejoicing by grabbing its delectable donuts by the dozens! May that time come quickly.

6057 Rochester Rd.

Troy, MI 48085

(with an additional location in Rochester)

465. MI-Combat – February 15, 2020 – Rochester Hills, MI

February2020MI-Combat1 (3)Look at you, MI-Combat, bringing out the inner child in me!

MI-Combat doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of place that would bring out one’s inner kiddo, does it? I mean, the name has a word related to warfare in it. But it’s the service the place offers, laser-tag games, that brought out that child-like wonder in me.

I visited MI-Combat on a Saturday night in mid-February, to attend the birthday party of a friend’s husband. Because my friend booked a party package with MI-Combat, our group had access to a party room area that we were able to bring snacks into and keep our stuff in; we were also served pizza after our game session as part of the package.

For the game play, we suited up into vests and headbands that had sensors in them that made us targets for the laser guns, which were crafted to look like assault rifles and came with a strap you could wear across your chest. As part of the party package, we had 90 minutes to play various games of laser tag on MI-Combat’s two-level course that’s been designed to look like a Detroit cityscape (its website calls it “Battlefield Red Dawn,” describing it as a “Live Hollywood Movie Set”). It’s a really cool course, with plenty of elements to hide behind, such as pallets and a police car, and within (including a police station and a structure painted to look like American Coney Island. Heck yes, American Coney Island!).

We played along with others who weren’t a part of our group, breaking up into two teams to play numerous games, each with a short time range (around five minutes) and  different objectives and each led by a staff member, who was there if we had questions or needed help with our guns or reactivating into the game after we’d been “killed,” for games where that was applicable.

For one game, the other team had the objective to take out all of our team members within a certain time range; if any of our team survived until the end of that game, we won. Another game had us searching for a backpack hidden within the course (while we shot at each other); the team that found the backpack before the other won.

The games were fast-paced, and once I got the hang of using the gun and how to reset myself to get back into a challenge after I’d been shot, I had a lot of fun and got pretty competitive around the whole thing. Screens in our team base tracked the players on each team’s stats, and I was excited to see that while I certainly wasn’t one of the top players, I also wasn’t the very worst (we’d been prompted to create accounts on a stat-tracking site before the game session so that we’d have profiles where these stats could be tracked).

The games went by in a blur, and I was sad to see them be over – though very happy to dig into some pizza after the activity, which was more strenuous than I and some of my team members had expected (with lots of running and crouching involved, the challenges were a great workout!). The overall experience was a lot of fun, and I’d definitely recommend you check out MI-Combat should the inner child – and adult in you! – perk up at the idea of playing energetic laser tag games in this engaging setting.

2636 S. Adams Rd.

Rochester Hills, MI 48309

www.mi-combat.com

461. SheHive – January 21, 2020 – Ferndale, MI

January2020SheHive1 (3)I dig SheHive – and that’s no surprise to me, championing as it does values that strongly resonate with me: community, learning, and female empowerment!

I visited the Ferndale-based business for the first time last month, to take one of the many classes it offers – forums on topics as wide-ranging as public speaking, learning the tarot, body positivity, astrology, group coaching, burlesque, and crocheting.

According to a section titled “What we Value” on the Learn More page of SheHive’s website, it’s all about helping women “find the joy and magic in a life lived on the other side of should.” I love that! How often do we let the things we think we should be doing hold us back from the things we actually want to do?

SheHive also presents itself as a safe space for women. I think it’s important for everyone to have areas of their lives where they feel comfortable being themselves, especially for those of us who identify as female. There are too many environments in this world that can make us feel unsafe and less-than. Here’s to cultivating spaces that remind us of the warriors that we actually are!

The two classes I’ve taken thus far at SheHive have been filled with high-vibing goodness. The women I’ve met there have been lovely, and the room the classes have taken place within is a vibrantly decorated and inviting space, complete with an essential oil diffuser and complimentary snacks (including wine!).

If you are interested in scoping out the classes available at SheHive, check out the Upcoming Events section; a link to it is on the Home page of its website.

2505 Hilton Rd., Ste. 107

Ferndale, MI 48220

www.theshehive.com

460. Boston Tea Room – January 21, 2020 – Ferndale, MI

January2020BostonTeaRoom1 (2)Boston Tea Room: what an emporium of high-vibing goodness!

I’d intended to explore the shop based in downtown Ferndale for years. When I finally attempted to in late December of last year, I discovered that it’d moved to another location: still in Ferndale, but north of downtown, in a suite in a building on Woodward Heights Boulevard. I visited it several weeks later.

When I stepped inside the large, beautiful space that the Boston Tea Room is now located within, I was happy that I’d waited to visit. The friendly employee who helped me select a deck of tarot cards to purchase told me it’s about five times the size of the former space. It was a delight to walk through the airy storeroom with its well-organized displays of spiritually-centered goodies: tarot cards, books, crystals, candles, clothing, incense, jewelry and accessories, and more.

Boston Tea Room is more than a shop: it also offers tarot readings, sessions with mediums and intuitive counselors, workshops on topics such as journaling, astrology, and reading oracle cards, and Level I and Level II reiki attunement/certification classes. Like I said, it’s an emporium of goodness! And I’m glad to have finally become acquainted with it.

1220 Woodward Heights Blvd.

Ferndale, MI 48220

www.bostontearoom.com

454. The Balkan House – December 30, 2019 – Ferndale, MI

December2019BalkanHouse1 (4)December2019BalkanHouse2 (2)Look at you, The Balkan House, coming in at the 11th hour in 2019 to infuse my gastronomical-year-that-was with some WOW!

I had the first döner kebab of my life at the Ferndale-based restaurant, and I’m OBSESSED.

I hadn’t heard of this Turkish pita sandwich that’s popular in Germany until I stumbled across a Detroit Free Press article on The Balkan House last month. My mouth watered as I read about the restaurant’s signature dish, consisting of a Balkan pita bread called lepinja stuffed with gyro meat, onion, tomato, cucumber, lettuce, and purple cabbage and slathered in a garlicky yogurt sauce. Yes, yes, and yes, screamed my taste buds: this was a dish I had to try!

Fortuitously, I would be in close proximity to The Balkan House’s recently-opened Ferndale storefront a few days after reading that article. The original, Hamtramck-based location opened last summer, offering classic Balkan fare such as grah (bean soup) and cevapi (Bosnian sausages), plus that döner kebab, which people apparently went crazy over (how did I miss that???) – leading The Balkan House owner to expand operations.

Stepping inside the interior of the long, narrow restaurant on the afternoon of my visit, I queued up to the counter, scoping out the menu above it. My choice was easy: I was there to try that döner kebab, which is served at The Balkan House with lamb-and-beef-based gyro meat (my choice), chicken, or falafel. It also comes with a side of fries.

I gave my order, paid, and took a seat at one of the tables in the restaurant. My food arrived quickly, a hefty pita sandwich accompanied by an ample serving of fries.

I took my first bite of that döner kebab, and O.M.G., was I greeted by EPIC DELICIOUSNESS!!!

The lepinja bread was so soft and pillowy, the gyro meat both tender and crispy and so well-seasoned – by far the best gyro meat I’ve ever had. And that garlic sauce, and those fresh, crunchy veggies . . . all I can say is WOW, WOW, and WOW! I can’t use that exclamatory word enough here – The Balkan House’s döner kebab warrants the excitement.

I practically inhaled that döner kebab and the perfectly soft-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside French fries that accompanied it. I ate the whole thing then and there and left feeling full and satisfied. It was one of those “Now THAT was a meal!” moments, a moment that I live for and love to savor afterwards.

I’m sure the other items on The Balkan House’s menu are wonderful, and I’d be curious to try them; I’m not well-versed with Balkan food (despite being of Croatian descent), and I love experiencing new-to-me cuisines. But I have a feeling The Balkan House is going to be one of those places where I return and order the same thing over and over again, because how will I be able to resist the sweet siren call of that döner kebab??? It’s a special dish indeed, and I’m glad I got to add the act of eating it to my collection of magical culinary experiences of 2019.

314 W. 9 Mile Rd.

Ferndale, MI 48220

(With an additional location in Hamtramck)

www.balkanhouse-restaurant.business.site