Oakland County

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

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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

397. Leon & Lulu – March 15, 2019 – Clawson, MI

March2019LeonandLulu2 (2)March2019LeonandLulu3 (2)Leon & Lulu, what a breath of fresh air you were for me!

I’d been wanting to visit the Clawson-based store since I’d learned about it several years prior, and having some time to kill before a nearby dinner date with a friend on a Friday night in mid-March, I decided to check it out.

It’d been a rough couple of weeks for me from an emotional standpoint. I was in need of that giddiness I get from visiting an awesome new place. And I definitely got it when I stepped inside Leon & Lulu.

The place is a cornucopia of brightly colored, aesthetically beautiful delights! Upon stepping inside Leon & Lulu’s large storefront, I immediately felt the relief of the baddie feelings melting away, replaced by a jolt of excitement.

An employee greeted me immediately, and when I told him it was my first time visiting the shop, he welcomed me and explained how the building was a former roller rink (a disco ball from back then is still suspended from the ceiling).

I got to exploring. Leon & Lulu is packed with artwork, furniture, and other home goods; clothing, jewelry, and bags; pottery, candles, and potholders emblazoned with snarky sayings. It also stocks books, toys, funny socks, stationary, handmade greeting cards, Michigan-centric items, and loads more.

Leon & Lulu is one of those places where you can go to get a fabulous, one-of-a-kind item that makes the perfect gift. Many of the products it proffers have a humorous bent, such as a book it recently featured in an Instagram post titled The Best Places to Pee: A Guide to the Funky & Fabulous Bathrooms of Portland.

After about a half hour of browsing, I opted to go the humorous route with my purchase, buying an oven mitt decorated with a drawing of a 1950s-esque woman cooking and the caption “droppin’ a new recipe on your ass.”

The explosion of creativity on display at Leon & Lulu, the beauty and the whimsy of the items sold, and the friendly customer service that I received provided much-needed emotional respite to me that night, and for that, I am exceptionally grateful. My visit there was a reminder of the power of exploring to positively shake up one’s life, to get the good energies going. Whatever mood you’re in, this one is definitely worth a visit!

96 W. 14 Mile Rd.

Clawson, MI 48017

www.leonandlulu.com

393. Cantoro Trattoria – February 16, 2019 – Troy, MI

February2019Cantoro1 (2)February2019Cantoro2 (2)February2019Cantoro3 (2)I love Italian food; it’s so rich and comforting and luxurious on the palate! At least, it’s all of those things when it’s done well. And, as I discovered on a chilly evening in mid-February, Cantoro Trattoria in Troy does Italian well.

My mom and stepdad had been raving about the restaurant for months, so I was excited to finally visit it with them for dinner. I was impressed by its sleek modern interior; the prompt, friendly, and polite service that we received; and the delicious cuisine.

The Napoli Caprese salad we shared, for instance, was excellent with its luscious mozzarella, ripe tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. So was my entrée, the Tagliatelle alla Bolognese with its weighty house-made noodles and hearty tomato sauce laden with pancetta and ground beef, veal, and sausage.

Cantoro’s menu is loaded with delectable-sounding offerings such as these. It offers a variety of appetizers, pizzas, pastas, and grill items such as Costoletta di Vitello (veal rib chop) and Branzino alla Griglia (Mediterranean sea bass).

Sitting there in the glitzy dining room of Cantoro Trattoria, sipping red wine and enjoying great food and company, I felt as cozy as can be despite the freezing outdoor temperature. My heart was warm, and my stomach was full – who can ask for anything else?

1695 E. Big Beaver Rd.

Troy, MI 48083

(With an additional location in Plymouth)

www.cantorotrattoria.com/troy

384. One Night Stan’s – December 31, 2018 – Waterford, MI

december2018onenightstans1 (2)Wayyyyy back when, on the very last night of 2018, I saw a comedy show at One Night Stan’s in Waterford. It was hilarious, and the staff of One Night Stan’s were excellent hosts. And that is about as much as I can say about that, because at the point I’m writing this, that was over five-and-a-half months ago, and yeah . . . the memory is hazy at this point (and not because I enjoyed too many adult beverages during this New Year’s Eve show, I swear!). But I DO know that I had a great time at One Night Stan’s and that I’ll take any excuse to enjoy live comedy, so kudos to its owners for introducing another venue for this hilarious art form to the Metro-D!

4761 Highland Rd.

Waterford, MI 48328

www.onenightstanscomedyclub.com

381. Antihero – December 12, 2018 – Ferndale, MI

December2018AntiHero1 (4)Bringing the color and flavor explosions: that’s Antihero for ya! I visited the recently-opened Japanese restaurant on Nine Mile Road in downtown Ferndale back in mid-December.

Antihero’s restrooms: they’re what’s bringing the color explosion. These are quite possibly the most awesome restrooms I have ever seen, boasting vibrantly-hued, cartoon-esque, panoramic murals that make you happy you had to go pee.

Both times I was in the ladies’ room during my visit, I encountered a fellow patron as she walked in, exclaimed over the murals, and pulled out her phone to take a picture. I should have taken a picture of the ladies’ room myself to include here – but really, the art is worth experiencing yourself!

The dining room of Antihero features more subdued – yet just as beautiful – mural artwork. The space is dimly lit, chic elegance, with starburst chandelier lighting and blond wooden booths and communal tables.

A collection of craft cocktails (with fun names such as Late Night Party Store and Dandy) helms Antihero’s drink menu, which is rounded out by selections of draft and bottled beers.

The food menu consists of small plates, noodle dishes, and a hibachi section with meat, seafood, and veggie selections that you can cook yourself on a hibachi grill brought to the table.

I was intrigued by the hibachi offerings (partially because items from that selection came with the whimsically-monikered Fuck Yea sauce), but I ultimately opted for two small plates for my main course: the Smashed Fingerling Potato and the Smoked Brisket Bun.

The Smashed Fingerling Potato dish was BOMB! HERE is the flavor explosion I was talking about. These potatoes with their creamy kewpie mayo, yakisoba sauce, chopped nori, and scallions were so richly delicious. I’m super impressed whenever I find vegetarian dishes that are as rich and sumptuous – or more so – as meat-based dishes; the Smashed Fingerling Potato fits into this category.

The Smoked Brisket Bun was also tasty with its incredibly tender beef complemented by a zesty chili-hoisin sauce and a pillowy-soft bun.

And then, there was dessert! I couldn’t pass up the Mochi Donut with its orange-oil-and-apple-cider glaze. The donuts were freshly-fried heaven, with an intriguingly chewy texture lent from the mochi rice paste they were made from.

In short, this visit to Antihero was most definitely a win! It’s no wonder the place is great: it’s owned by the same local restaurateurs behind the fantastic Ferndale staples Imperial and Public House.

231 W. Nine Mile Rd.

Ferndale, MI 48220

www.antiheroferndale.com

376. Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters – November 21, 2018 – Rochester, MI

November2018DessertOasis1 (3)Pre-holiday coffee-shop coziness! That was what I was in the mood for when I jaunted over to Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters in downtown Rochester on the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving.

It appeared I wasn’t the only one who had that objective in mind: the coffee shop was bustling when I arrived around 3:30 p.m. The crowd almost overwhelmingly appeared to be composed of college students getting their homework on (studying the night before a holiday weekend? How ambitious!).

While it looked like I wasn’t going to find an open table in the crowded café before my order of a cappuccino and chocolate croissant came up, Fate intervened, and I was able to nab a seat at a small table.

I spent over an hour in the coffee shop, soaking in its congenial vibes whilst working on my computer and receiving a delicious infusion of caffeine and sugar via the cappuccino and croissant.

As made evident by its name, Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters is – like me – into the sweet treats. According to its website, the cheesecake it sells slices of is made in-house daily and is offered in such intriguing flavor varieties as Banana Nutella, Baklava, and Tiramisu. Cookies, savory puff pastries, and other baked goods (including vegan desserts) are also sold.

I’ve heard Dessert Oasis periodically offers live music, as well. I would love to come back on a performance night and incorporate that into the experience  – although the inviting ambiance, gracious staff, and delicious food and drink that characterized this visit are in themselves more than enough to warrant a return.

336 S. Main St.

Rochester, MI 48307

(With additional locations in Detroit and Royal Oak)

www.docr.coffee

375. Gran Castor – November 13, 2018 – Troy, MI

November2018GranCastor1 (3)November2018GranCastor2 (2)November2018GranCastor3 (2)Gran Castor: you WOW’ed me!

It’s always thrilling to dine at a new-to-me restaurant I’ve been looking forward to trying and have it exceed my expectations. That’s what Gran Castor, the latest opening by the Union Joints restaurant group (which also owns local faves the Clarkston Union, Union Woodshop, Vinsetta Garage, Honcho, and Fenton Fire Hall) did when I visited it on a Tuesday evening several weeks ago.

Remember what restaurant was previously located at the intersection of Big Beaver and Rochester roads in Troy? That’s right: a Hooters. Now the building that housed that notorious chain-franchise purveyor of wings is Gran Castor, the restaurant/coffee bar with a gorgeous aesthetic and delectable cuisine.

Check out the above photos of Gran Castor’s dining area, complete with pleasing pops of color, mod Southwestern vibes, cozy seating areas, and eye-catching fireplace-in-the-round. Is it not STUNNING? I immediately felt a boost of happiness when I settled into that bright, beautiful, welcoming space for an after-work dinner with a friend.

Gran Castor’s food menu reminds me of that of one of its sister restaurants, Honcho of Clarkston. While the overall vibe of the cuisine is Latin, ingredients of Asian origin are prevalent in dishes such as fried chicken tacos with a “spicy soy fish sauce glaze” and a rice bowl including “kimchi house pickled jalapeño and carrots.”

It becomes even more apparent what a fusion menu Gran Castor’s is when you check out the pizza section and see how many traditionally Latin ingredients are included in the offerings there: see the Papas y Chorizo pizza with its chorizo sausage, mole rojo, and salsa criolla and The Mallmann with its chimichurri sauce and queso fresco.

For my entrée, I went with a relatively un-fusion-y offering: the Gran Castor Burrito stuffed with pulled pork. With its tender meat, smoked cheddar cheese, black beans, cactus pico, lettuce, and queso sauce, plus sides of refried beans and cilantro-lime rice, it was incredibly flavorful and satisfying.

I saved half of the large-and-in-charge Gran Castor Burrito to take home and looked toward the dessert menu. My friend and I were psyched to see that as at Honcho, that menu included fresh-fried mini donuts with chocolate and caramel dipping sauces. We opted for an order to share.

If I’m remembering correctly, eight donuts came standard with that dessert, and our server was kind enough to throw in a few more. These donuts were AMAZING: freshly fried, pillowy-soft-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside decadence – especially when dipped in the rich chocolate and caramel sauces.

Our awesome server went above and beyond in offering us a top-notch dining experience, throwing in a sample of Gran Castor’s house-made soft serve for each of us, as well, and WOW – my mind and taste buds were BLOWN by how YUM that stuff was. The twisty soft serve included the cinnamony Mexican Dark Chocolate flavor and the wonderfully nuanced Vanilla-Chamomile. I loved, loved, LOVED both.

And I loved Gran Castor. From its striking interior and delicious cuisine to its stand-out service, it offered a memorable dining experience that had me super enthused about the prospect of a repeat visit (I NEED more of that soft-serve in my life!).

2950 Rochester Rd.

Troy, MI 48083

www.grancastor.com

370. Crispelli’s – October 10, 2018 – Berkley, MI

October2018Crispellis1 (2)October2018Crispellis4 (2)October2018Crispellis3 (2)The pizza drew me to Crispelli’s of Berkley, but what captured my heart was its salad.

The heart-capturing was specifically carried out by Crispelli’s Mediterranean salad, with its wonderfully zesty lemon-oregano dressing and super-fresh-tasting ingredients: crisp mixed greens and cucumber; marinated red onion; vibrant beets; briny Kalamata olives; creamy chunks of feta; and crunchy toasted breadstick.

This Mediterranean salad is LIIIFFEEE, my friends. I got the side-salad version of it, which was hearty for its size; entrée and family-sized versions are also available. In my humble opinion, it would 100 percent not be a mistake to come to this pizzeria and order that salad as your entrée. And that’s saying a lot, because I love me some pizza.

And Crispelli’s, the local pizza purveyor with additional locations in Troy and West Bloomfield (and a bakery, Bread by Crispelli’s, in Royal Oak), is known for its pizza. It’s kind of a big deal around these parts, so it’s crazy to me that it took me over 4.5 years of blogging at 100 Places in the D to finally sample its wares. The Red Pie pizza I  ordered, with its chunks of fresh mozzarella, sausage, caramelized onion, and Detroit-style deep-dish crust (patrons are given a choice between that and thin crust), was good. But I’m telling ya, that salad!

Aesthetics-wise, I enjoyed the mish-mash of ambiance at the Berkley location of Crispelli’s. The front part is casual: an order-at-the-counter dining hall-type set up. The back area is fancier, with a bar and servers to attend to guests, and there are patio areas where you can receive sit-down service, as well. I enjoyed sitting on the front patio in what was presumably my last outdoor dining experience of the year (R.I.P. ’til 2019, patio season!).

28939 Woodward Ave.

Berkley, MI 48072

www.crispellis.com