Restaurants/Bars

280. Luigi’s – October 3, 2017 – Harrison Township, MI

LuigisOct2017-1 (2)LuigisOct2017-2 (2)I’m always thrilled to discover another legit, family-owned, real-deal Italian restaurant in the Detroit area, because I am an Italian-restaurant snob. I am a quarter Italian via the bloodline of my beloved maternal grandmother, who was second-generation Italian-American (her parents’ parents were from Italy), and I always wish I was more Italian; I romanticize that part of my heritage, because what’s not to like? For one, Italian food is LIFE. All that garlic and sauce and cheese and spices and rich flavor – the BEST! OK, I know there is more to being Italian than the food, but the food does play an integral role in the culture – and for good reason, given its sky-high deliciousness factor.

Luigi’s in Harrison Township is one of those legit, family-owned, real-deal Italian restaurants peddling cuisine steeped in sky-high deliciousness. According to its website, it’s been around since 1953, which I wasn’t surprised to find out, as the restaurant interior has a real old-school vibe. It feels like a bit of a labyrinth as you wind through the low-ceilinged, multi-roomed structure – but in the coziest of ways.

The restaurant is dimly lit; red twinkle lights festoon the dining area around the bar; the tables are intimately close together and covered in red-and-white-checked tablecloths. The ladies room is hilariously tiny; the walls of its only stall are super low, where my head was sticking clear up above them while I was standing in there. A lady who was waiting in line while I was in there and I were cracking up because it felt awkwardly intimate; we’re locking eyes as I’m finishing up going to the bathroom. Not your usual restroom-stall setup in 2017! If you’re a woman and tall in heels as I am, maybe don’t wear them on the day you visit Luigi’s – or do if you want a laugh.

Anyway, enough about Luigi’s amusing bathroom proportions – let’s talk about the food! I’m on a real eggplant parmesan kick lately, so that’s what I ordered. It was perfection: crispy-fried breaded eggplant covered with mozzarella cheese, cradled on a bed of linguine doused in tomato sauce. From my recollection, eggplant parm isn’t on Luigi’s menu, but of course they’ll make it for you, because every Italian restaurant worth its salt will make you eggplant parmesan (and it will be DELICIOUS.). A quality side-salad came with meal – it was actual greens, not some sad iceberg concoction being passed off as a salad, which I much appreciated. I had a glass of pinot noir and a slice of rich, creamy tiramisu for dessert and was thoroughly stuffed by the time my bill came. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the entire meal cost just over $28 before the tip, which I found quite reasonable, especially given the generous portions.

If you’re in the area and looking to visit Luigi’s (you so should!), it’s definitely worth noting that its website currently states that it will be shut down for construction in the near future; the expected dates of closure are October 30 to November 20, 2017 (maybe the ladies’ room is getting a remodel?). Here’s hoping the renovations will retain the restaurant’s singular charm.

36691 Jefferson Ave.

Harrison Twp., Michigan 48045

www.luigisoriginal.com

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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

276. Lyla’s Catering – September 16, 2017 – Grosse Pointe Woods, MI

Lyla's1Lyla's2Lyla's3 (2)On the jaunt from an Arts and Scraps donation run in Detroit to Saint Clair Shores, I decided lunch was in order and that this would be the perfect opportunity to visit Lyla’s Catering, a Lebanese catering and carry-out establishment I’d read about in Hour Detroit a few years ago. And with that Grosse Pointe Woods, a new-to-the-blog city, was represented!

Four of the five Grosse Pointe neighborhoods have now been repped on 100 Places in the D (Grosse Pointe Shores is left). But the most important thing about that day is that I got a scrumptious, flavorful, filling meal at Lyla’s.

I stepped into its sunny orange interior and ordered from the friendly owners the fatoush salad with grilled chicken, plus two spinach pies and two pieces of baklava. They were ready quickly, and I ate a portion of the huge fatoush salad while sitting at one of the two tables inside Lyla’s, savoring the freshness of the greens,  tomato chunks, cucumber slices, and crispy pita chips tossed in the garlic, lemon, and olive oil dressing and the slices of warm marinated chicken breast. What a perfect on-the-go meal: healthful and hearty and void of processed ingredients!

I had the rest of the salad for dinner that night, as well as one of the spinach pies and both pieces of the baklava. The triangular dough-encased mini pie with its vibrant spinach filling had this irresistible hint of nutmeg, and the baklava with its honey-drenched layers of phyllo dough was straight-up addictive.

Lyla’s has both its carry-out and catering menus on its website, so you can check out their offerings and order ahead should you decide to visit – which I highly recommend you do!

20083 Mack Ave.

Grosse Pointe Woods, MI 48236

www.lylascatering.com

274. The Apparatus Room – September 14, 2017 – Detroit, MI

20170914_18375020170914_184245How ’bout this as a testimonial for ya? The food was so good at The Apparatus Room that I forgot to take photos of its dazzling interior.

That testimonial is from, yes, yours truly, and that’s exactly what happened when I visited The Apparatus Room on a weeknight in mid-September. I was digging the Spring Vegetable Fritter in all of its deep-fried, dunked-in-spiced-crema glory and the Crispy Confit Chicken Sandwich with its irresistible spicy mayo so hard that I completely blanked on taking photos of anything but them. But I want you to see the dining room of The Apparatus Room with your own eyes, because it is spectacular with its white marble bar, old-school-elegant booths upholstered in earth tones, and multitude of bare lightbulbs hanging on strings around the bar area like glittering stars. So click the below link to the Apparatus Room’s website when you’re done reading and check it out!

The Apparatus Room is relatively new to the Detroit restaurant scene; it opened in May – which is also when the hotel it’s inside, The Detroit Foundation Hotel, opened to the public. Wow, is that place STUNNING! It’s no surprise it’s that gorgeous given the ambiance of its premier restaurant, and I’m actively looking for an excuse to stay there someday. The Apparatus Room got its name because the hotel is housed inside a former fire station, and the dining-room area is said to be where the fire engines and related equipment were housed. Sounds like yet another success story of a shuttered building in Detroit being repurposed and brought back into glory – love it!

If you visit The Apparatus Room sans reservation and can’t get a table in the dining area (which was what happened to my friend and I when we got there), I highly recommend sitting at the bar, where you’ll get attentive service, an abbreviated – yet tantalizing – food menu (~cue me geeking out over that Spring Vegetable Fritter and Crispy Confit Chicken Sandwich~)  and an excellent vantage point of the whole scene. We were later offered a table in the dining area after sitting at the bar, but we liked it up there so much that we decided not to move.

250 W Larned St.

Detroit, Michigan 48226

(Inside the Detroit Foundation Hotel)

www.detroitfoundationhotel.com/apparatus-room

273. The Keep – September 14, 2017 – Detroit, MI

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When I descended the stairs to this broodingly dark basement bar with intimate clustered seating, a faux fireplace, and the overall vibe of some old dude’s study, I immediately entered major-like-mode with The Keep. While the subterranean bar on Cadillac Square in downtown Detroit likes to keep a low profile (pun intended!), it’s garnered a loyal following, as reflected by several Yelp reviews in which the posters echoed the sentiment of worrying that their overwhelmingly positive testimonials would make the place too popular. Don’t worry, guys, your secret is safe with us!

If anyone wants to make a modern-day version of Cheers set in a basement bar in Detroit, he/she would be wise to slot The Keep as the first location-scouting stop. Not only is that dimly lit little underground retreat enchantingly cozy and inviting, but the bartenders – at least the one who was on staff when I was there – are super friendly, too. The female bartender helped my friend and I deliberate among the intriguing choices on The Keep’s craft cocktail menu, causing me to settle on the Bearded Lady, a delightful whiskey concoction with notes of orange, vanilla, and spices. That Bearded Lady will help you kick off your weekday happy-hour session right!

Only two other patrons were in The Keep at the same time as my friend and me: a guy and gal around our ages. We chatted with them at the bar as we stood and waited for our drinks, remarking on the oft-arduous rush-hour commute from Detroit to the ‘burbs (which I’m familiar with from my days working in Dearborn) and his recent move to the area. Probably it was talking with them and the bartender that made me think of the Cheers reference. Who doesn’t love discovering a place where the people may not know your name, but they’re willing to learn it?

Worth noting: The Keep’s entrance is off of Congress Street rather than Cadillac Square (as you may have noticed from reading the sign in the above photo of the unusable door). Look for a nondescript entryway leading to those basement stairs and below-ground glory.

140 Cadillac Sq.

Detroit, MI 48226

272. The Rec Bowl – September 13, 2017 – Mount Clemens, MI

20170913_18053520170913_193326 (2)The Rec Bowl is a bowling alley in Mount Clemens. But in the warm-weather months, it’s also a popular venue for live music, which I discovered firsthand during a Wednesday-night visit in mid-September.

My uncle and his girlfriend frequent The Rec Bowl regularly for its live music shows, which are held in an open-air bar area attached to the outside of the bowling alley. Cover was $5 on the night I was there, and man, did the people flock out! I’d heard that the place had a dedicated following, and it was true; people reserved tables to make sure they got spots to check out the night’s entertainment. Nearly every attendee appeared to be in the 60-plus age bracket (with the great majority looking to be solidly in their 70s), which delighted me, because come on – I want to be one of those octogenarians venturing out to see live music on a Wednesday night and twirling about on the dance floor! When I retire, I most certainly plan to double-down on exploring the Detroit area and the rest of the world, because if not then, when?

The band that night was the Dave Bennett Quartet, a jazz band led by a clarinet player named – you guessed it – Dave Bennett. Those guys were great; they played their hearts out, and the audience loved them, as did I. I am predisposed to enjoy jazz because my paternal grandfather was a jazz drummer and obsessed with it, and it reminds me of him. And also, I simply find jazz pleasant, an escape for my brain.

While my cranium was immersed in a cray-cray-ba-nay-nay roller-coaster ride of jazz notes, my tummy was tripping hard on my corned beef sandwich, that delightful amalgamation of red meat, Swiss cheese, and buttery toasted rye bread – MMMM. I noticed on the Rec Bowl’s website that it showcases a more extensive menu than the one that was offered to us on the patio; inside the building it appears to offer a more expanded variety of sandwiches, salads, and appetizers such as fried cauliflower, chili fries, and Nacho Supreme (three completely valid excuses right there to round up some friends and get in some bowling!).

It doesn’t look like The Rec Bowl will feature any more live music for the rest of the year; we’ll have to wait until next year to groove out. But the indoor bowling alley – plus the darts and billiards that are also offered – are available year-round and will likely prove to be a tempting option on those long winter nights when it’s dark at 5 p.m. and there’s a foot of snow on the ground (but let me not go there yet!).

40 Crocker Blvd.

Mt. Clemens, MI 48043

www.therecreationbowl.com

268. Steelhouse Tavern – August 16, 2017 – Troy, MI

20170816_19182620170816_19175120170816_183754I tried my first Monte Cristo waffle via brunch at Red Crown this July, but it wasn’t until my visit to Steelhouse Tavern in Troy last month that I had my first legit sandwich-version Monte Cristo.

I know the Monte Cristo sandwich is said to have evolved from the Croque Monsieur, the traditional French ham-and-cheese sandwich, but man, is this one of the most American things I have ever eaten! A sandwich loaded with two kinds of meat (turkey and ham), two kinds of cheese (Swiss and American), and raspberry jelly; dunked in tempura batter; deep-fried to a delectable crispiness; dusted with powdered sugar (because why not?); and served with tater tots, those venerable nuggets of potato goodness? That is ‘Merica with a Capital “M,” my friends!

I know I’m a ‘Merican at heart because despite finding much of what goes on in this country these days completely bonkers, and despite how into healthy, whole-foods-based eating I am, I still relish the chance to go out and ingest my entire day’s saturated-fat intake in one sitting via a glorious grease-bomb such as Steelhouse Tavern’s Monte Cristo sandwich. Because meat-and-cheese-and-sweet-and-deep-fried is a combo that refuses to be ignored!

I experienced this glorious first brush with Steelhouse’s Monte Cristo while sitting out on its patio enjoying happy hour. From 4 to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, you get access to a happy-hour menu with food and drink deals such as $5 appetizers and half-off select cocktails if you sit on the patio or in the bar area. The Monte Cristo wasn’t a happy-hour deal, but I did get to savor a Steelhouse Vesper cocktail and some Smoked Pork Nachos at the discounted rates.

I loved Steelhouse’s covered patio. Sure, it faces the strip-mall parking lot, but the patio itself is beautiful, with dark wicker chairs, sleek high-top bar stools, cool accent lighting, flat-screen TVs, and a fire pit. The sophisticated-tavern vibe carries on to the interior of the restaurant, which is glossy yet welcoming. There’s a big round bar near the entrance that was packed with patrons on the night I was there.

If you’re looking to visit Steelhouse Tavern but are interested in healthier fare than the Monte Cristo, its menu includes more sensible choices such as the Steelhouse Sirloin Steak, Cedar Plank Salmon, and Seared Ahi Tuna Salad in addition to the traditional bar fare (burgers, wings, nachos, and sandwiches). Because let’s face it: while meat-and-cheese-and-sweet-and-deep-fried is a combo that refuses to be ignored, it’s not one that’s practical to ingest on a daily basis.

1129 E. Long Lake Rd.

Troy, MI

www.steelhousetroy.com

267. Juan Miguel’s – August 12, 2017 – Clinton Township, MI

20170910_163706 (2)20170812_183531August 12 was a busy day for me, as I’d inadvertently overbooked my social calendar. The up side was that I got to hang out with two beloved friends and try three new places in one day, with visits to the Beverly Hills Grill and Michigan Beer Growler Co.  in the afternoon and Juan Miguel’s in Clinton Township in the evening.

Mexican food is one of the Universe’s greatest gifts to us earthlings, in my opinion. All that cheese and spice and flavor and YUMMM. So of course I was excited to check out Juan Miguel’s, crafter of many cheesy-spicy-flavorful Mexican goodies.

The restaurant’s menu is extensive, affordable, and contains all of the faves: tacos, enchiladas, chimichangas, burritos, nachos, chile rellenos, fajitas, botanas . . . you get it. It also contains a few items that you won’t generally see being peddled at the conventional U.S. Mexican restaurant, such as menudo (beef tripe soup – a.k.a. soup make from stomach tissue – a.k.a. not the average patron’s thing but a traditional dish that many do enjoy) and nopalitos, described on the menu as “Tender pieces of cactus cooked with eggs, onions, green peppers, and our special spices.” I’ve never thought of cactus as being edible, AND I’m completely intrigued by this dish!

My palate wasn’t up for beef tripe or cactus during my visit to Juan Miguel’s – because it was up for cheesy beef enchiladas with Spanish rice and beans instead. Of course, my palate is always up for cheesy beef enchiladas with Spanish rice and beans because it is LIFE. And the beef enchiladas at Juan Miguel’s certainly hold up their end of the bargain with the whole cheesy-spicy-flavorful YUMMM-factor.

21342 Hall Rd.

Clinton Twp., MI 48038

www.juanmiguels.com

266. Michigan Beer Growler Co. – August 12, 2017 – Beverly Hills, MI

20170812_150804 (2)20170812_14585020170812_135214My time in the city of Beverly Hills on a Saturday this past August continued after lunch at the Beverly Hills Grill with a visit to Michigan Beer Growler Co.

This tiny establishment located in a strip mall is – DRUM ROLL – a “growler filling station”! It’s got 26 craft beers on tap (plus a couple of hard ciders and craft sodas thrown in for good measure). You can bring in your own growler or buy 32-ounce and 64-ounce bottles at the station and carry away your fave brews to enjoy on the go (well, not literally on the go – you know what I mean).

I’d never heard the term “growler filling station” before perusing Michigan Beer Growler Co.’s website, but the concept of one has captured my imagination. I’m nowhere near a beer aficionado, but I like the idea of a place that gives beer lovers an excuse to discover, geek out over, and collect in one place their fave craft brews so they can share them with other beer lovers. It just seems fun. (Hmm, maybe it reminds me at a metaphorical level of how I’m discovering, geeking out over, and collecting local establishments on this blog?)  I also love that most of the beers featured here are from Michigan-based breweries. Brews from New Holland, Right Brain, Batch, Arbor, and Odd Side graced the chalkboard line-up during my visit.

While Michigan Beer Growler Co. brands itself as a growler filling station and peddler of beer- and/or Michigan-related products (such as t-shirts, pretzels, popcorn, and water bottles) rather than a bar, you can order flights and pints of the selections on draft to enjoy in-house. There is seating at the counter, at a few interior tables, and on a tiny patio abutting the parking lot. We sat on that little terrace, and I enjoyed a pint of the New Holland Lost Dune blueberry ale (I’ll never tire of berry-infused beer), while my friend sampled multiple beers via a flight (I have no memory now of which ones she got, but they were probably all IPAs because they are her jam).

Worth noting: Michigan Beer Growler Co. is open seven days a week, but the hours are limited on Mondays (it’s open from 3-8 p.m.) and Sundays (12-6 p.m.). The rest of the week, it opens at 11 and closes at either 8 or 9 p.m. depending on the day.

31221 Southfield Rd.

Beverly Hills, MI 48025

www.michiganbeergrowlerco.com

265. Beverly Hills Grill – August 12, 2017 – Beverly Hills, MI

20170812_13440020170812_133916Beverly Hills is represented on 100 Places in the D! It’s another new-to-the-blog city!

I remember when I learned that a city named Beverly Hills existed in the Detroit area. I was 22, a life-long Michigan resident, and I had no idea that there was a town named after a Hollywood enclave a mere half hour from downtown until I encountered it en route to a staffing agency where I was filling out paperwork for a job. That’s the exciting thing for me about the Detroit area: it’s bigger than I ever realized as a kid (I can leave my house and drive for an hour and still be in the Tri-Country area?), and there are still so many cities within this territory that I have no familiarity with. Metro-Detroiters who live in what for me is a far-flung locale (like Livonia – I have no clue what it’s like!) are equally as clueless of where I call home in Southern Macomb County.  It’s fascinating to me. I love exploring and uncovering for myself the cities I previously had no idea about.

It’s no surprise, then, that I was psyched to finally spend some quality time with the once-unknown-to-me city of Beverly Hills when my friend Jaclyn agreed to meet me there on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon last month. Our first stop: the Beverly Hills Grill.

For years I’d listened to one friend rave over that elegant establishment that is part of the Roberts Restaurant Group (proprietors of such area staples as Town Tavern and Roadside B&G), so I was thrilled to finally eat there. I ordered the Pulled Chicken salad and devoured every bit of its wholesome, flavorful goodness. The menu describes it best: “Port Soaked Cranberries / Wild Rice / Almonds / Crispy Won Tons / Maple & English Mustard Vinaigrette” – a.k.a. PURE YUMNESS that certainly lived up to all of the hype.

I had been torn about what to order, because multiple tantalizing choices piqued my interest. I was this close to getting the Kobe Meatloaf with its cabernet wine sauce, portobello mushrooms, shallots, and veggies. And because the weekend menu features brunch options, there were a host of breakfast choices available as well, such as the Bananas Foster French Toast, Breakfast Toastada and Corned Beef Hash – and of course, ample boozy brunch drinks.

Because of the Beverly Hills Grill, I am no longer unfamiliar with the town that shares its namesake. I can move on to another of the Metro-Detroit cities that are uncharted territory for me (Livonia, I’m coming for you!).

31471 Southfield Rd.

Beverly Hills, MI 48025

www.beverlyhillsgrill.com