Restaurants/Bars

451. Pho Lucky – December 15, 2019 – Detroit, MI

December2019PhoLucky1 (2)December2019PhoLucky3 (2)December2019PhoLucky2 (2)A gloomy, chilly winter’s day is SO the ideal time to enjoy a steaming bowl of pho. Let Pho Lucky be the facilitator of that experience for you!

I visited Pho Lucky’s Detroit location on a Sunday afternoon in mid-December. I was excited to learn that the restaurant located on Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit has it own free parking area; it’s behind the restaurant, noted by signs. HOORAY to this rarity of free parking downtown!

Once sat at a table inside the restaurant, I appreciated Pho Lucky’s long, window-lined dining room offering up views of the cityscape outside and what natural light was to be had at the moment. I scoped out the menu and was tempted by photos of Pho Lucky’s vermicelli bowls, laden as they were with plentiful portions of meat and noodles topped with lettuce, herbs, bean sprouts, peanuts, and green onion.

But I had come for Pho Lucky’s signature dish, the pho, and I knew I’d be disappointed if I left without trying it. So I turned my attention away from the vermicelli bowls and rice plates and onto its namesake dish.

Pho Lucky offers twelve different varieties of pho at its Detroit location. It defines the popular Vietnamese dish on its menu as “served in a bowl of clear beef broth, with thinly sliced rare eye round steak, cooked beef, meat balls, tendon and beef tripes; alongside húng quế (Asian basil), cilantro, lime, bean sprouts, hoisin sauce and siracha.” Yum, yum, and yum!

I didn’t opt for the pho variety that contains all of those aforementioned meats, the House Special – mostly because I haven’t yet been able to convince myself to try tripe (game to make this a 2020 culinary goal, Self?). Instead, I ordered the P4, the Phở Tái, Chín, Bò Viên. This pho contained the rare eye round steak, cooked beef, and beef meat balls.

The meal came out quickly, a bountiful, steaming bowl of broth loaded with meat and noodles and accompanied by a plate piled with bean sprouts, Asian basil, fresh sliced jalapeño, and a lime wedge.

I squeezed some lime juice into the pho, generously topped it with add-ons, and took my first bite. It was delicious! With its warm broth, hearty meats, ample rice noodles (long and ideal for slurping!), and fresh veggie toppings, I was all about Pho Lucky’s pho. For good measure, I added in hearty amounts of sriracha (because no dish can ever be too spicy in my book!).

Facing the chill outdoors was more bearable as I left Pho Lucky with a full stomach, ample leftovers, and a warmed spirit (successful new-place visits always bring on the warm-and-fuzzies for me!). Regardless of time of year, this Vietnamese restaurant is worth a visit – but oh, how satisfying its namesake dish is during these gray-skied winter days!

3111 Woodward Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

(with additional locations in Novi, Redford, and Southfield)

www.pholucky.net

448. Spread Deli – November 29, 2019 – Detroit, MI

November2019SpreadDeli1 (3)November2019SpreadDeli2 (3)November2019SpreadDeli3 (2)Spread Deli, thank you for being you!

The deli/coffee shop based in the Midtown/Cass Corridor neighborhood of Detroit served up a mega-tasty, mega-huge sandwich to me during Thanksgiving weekend (because you know me: instead of braving the malls on Black Friday, I was trying new places!). And it did so with a friendliness that made me feel welcome to stay and hang, which I did for a while.

I started out my visit to Spread with its Big Al sandwich, a gargantuan and most delectable concoction of sliced turkey breast, mashed avocado, lettuce, onion, tomato, provolone cheese, and sriracha-infused mayo. The sandwich came with a bag of kettle-cooked potato chips and was so filling that I opted to take half of it home.

Then, from Spread’s coffee bar, I ordered a cappuccino. I savored its delicious flavor and ample amount of foam (good foam action: so integral to a cappuccino!) while I typed away at my computer from a stool at the window-facing counter.

While I was facing that window and the streetscape beyond it while at Spread, I dug the deli’s interior and the contrast between its white walls and the vibrant artwork displayed on them. Those walls were also host to numerous scrawlings (spelling out messages of gratitude for Spread and the always-fun-to-read variety of musings).

While I ate and drank and worked, patrons filtered in and out of the restaurant; Spread’s owner (who was working the sandwich counter) seemed to know most of them. I love when places foster that sense of community and repeat customers. And I know from personal experience: Spread Deli is worthy of a repeat visit!

4215 Cass Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.spreaddelidetroit.com

447. Berkley Common – November 14, 2019 – Berkley, MI

November2019BerkleyCommon2 (2)November2019BerkleyCommon3 (3)On a gloomy night during these, the shortest days of the year, Berkley Common was for me a beacon of warmth, conviviality, and culinary goodness!

I met a friend at the restaurant based in downtown Berkley on a weeknight in mid-November. Right away, I was captivated by its interior, which I would describe as a mix of rustic (forest-scape murals on the walls, lots of wood finishes), industrial-chic contemporary (minimalist light fixtures, exposed ductwork, earth tones), and retro (it’s got a jukebox!) all wrapped into one.

Next, I was knocked out by my drink selection. From Berkley Common’s menu of craft cocktails, I chose the server-recommended Smoke Ring for my Halo, which was FANTASTIC with its melding of blanco tequila, mezcal, lime, blueberry, jalapeño, and agave. I loved the mix of sweet, smoky, and spicy – SO perfect!

And then, I was blown away by my dinner choice. From the menu of appetizers, sliders, salads, hirata buns, burgers, tacos, and other goodies (which included various vegetarian/vegan and gluten-free options), I chose spare ribs with a Thai peanut barbecue sauce. They were oh-so-tasty, tender nuggets of meaty goodness slathered with rich, flavorful sauce, sprinkled with crushed peanuts and water chestnuts, and served on a bed of roasted vegetables. My stomach definitely had the warm-and-fuzzies after eating them!

And I left Berkley Common feeling all-around full of the warm-and-fuzzies after that lovely evening of dinner, drinks, and bonding with a friend. It was dark outside, but the light of that positive experience would buoy me in that darkness!

3087 12 Mile Rd.

Berkley, MI 48072

(Closed Mondays; open for dinner Tuesdays through Fridays, brunch/lunch and dinner Saturdays and Sundays)

www.berkleycommon.com

445. Detroit Shipping Company / Coop Caribbean Fusion – November 10, 2019 – Detroit, MI

November2019DetroitShippingCo.1 (2)November2019DetroitShippingCo.3 (2)November2019DetroitShippingCo.5 (2)November2019DetroitShippingCo.4 (2)The Detroit Shipping Company is a container for a lot of things: art galleries, live music, event space, bars, a food hall. There’s a place that sells coffee and ice cream (-320º Coffee and Creamery), a space that holds pop-up shops, a podcast studio, and plenty of outdoor seating (ah, patio weather!), including on a rooftop deck.

The 10,000-square-foot complex located at 474 Peterboro Street gets its name from the fact that it’s been constructed from metal shipping containers, which have been painted a striking metallic blue hue.

I visited Detroit Shipping Company on a Sunday afternoon in November. I went solo, a status I admittedly regretted upon walking into the food hall on the first floor of the building.

The place had the kind of atmosphere that begged to be shared with someone: lively, convivial, celebratory. Groups of family and friends clustered at the long wooden tables in the food hall, eating, drinking, and having a ball. I wanted to be there eating, drinking, and having a ball with my friends! But I decided to make the best of my solo time on that day, reminding myself that I could always do a revisit with pals.

Detroit Shipping Company’s food hall reminded me of a mall food court – except much hipper and with much more compelling offerings. Communal tables presided in the center, and a full bar and stalls staffed by local restauranteurs ringed the perimeter. A guitarist serenaded patrons from a second-floor balcony.

When checking out the foodstuffs offered at Detroit Shipping Company prior to my visit, I was immediately intrigued by the choices. There was a taco joint (Brujo Tacos and Tapas), a place that offered Thai cuisine (Bangkok 96 Street Food), a stand serving Nepalese dumplings (Momo Cha). And there was the stall from which I decided to eat: Coop Caribbean Fusion.

I was attracted to the restaurant’s flavorful-sounding food, specifically the Motor City Chicken Sandwich and Caribbean Fries. Those become my lunch!

After ordering that sandwich and fries at the Coop counter, I was given a buzzer that lit up and vibrated when my meal was ready.

Greeted by the sight of the open-face fried chicken sandwich nestled on a bed of Texas toast and slathered in barbecue sauce, bacon, cilantro, coleslaw, and aioli and French fries loaded with queso fresco cheese, Caribbean seasonings, cilantro, and cilantro-infused aioli, I was excited to dig in.

The meal was a flavor explosion! The barbecue sauce on Coop’s Motor City Chicken Sandwich was rich and flavorful, as was the coleslaw; its crispy chicken was juicy and tasty. And with their creamy queso fresco and zesty seasonings, the Caribbean Fries were the show-stealer of the meal for me, fried to an ideal crispness and loaded as they were with those luxurious toppings. Mmm mmm and MMM!

I’d planned to end my visit to Detroit Shipping Company with some ice cream from -320º Coffee and Creamery, but I was so stuffed from that decadent lunch from Coop that I opted to forego it. A return to this receptacle for ample food, drink, creativity, and community is in order, anyway; Detroit Shipping Company is the kind of place that entreats one to visit again and again – whether solo or with friends.

474 Peterboro St.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.detroitshippingcompany.com

www.coopdetroit.com

443. Mint 29 – October 29, 2019 – Dearborn, MI

October2019Mint291 (2)October2019Mint292 (2)I visited Mint 29 on October 29 – and I’m just realizing that numerical synchronicity!

Not that you need to wait for a numerical synchronicity to visit this Dearborn-based establishment – and you shouldn’t, because it promises to be fantastic regardless of day of month.

A friend and I stumbled across the restaurant located in West Downtown Dearborn during a September visit to Unburger. That purveyor of vegan deliciouness is adjacent to Mint 29, and as we sat and enjoyed our meals in the outdoor courtyard area they share, we were intrigued by the pretty fall decorations festooning Mint 29’s portion of patio and the well-dressed servers making their rounds. Seeking a place to dine in late October, the restaurant was an obvious choice to both of us.

Entering Mint 29 on that Tuesday evening, the trek out to Dearborn in the dark immediately felt worth it.

The restaurant’s interior had warm vibes. Industrial decor details (brick walls, concrete floors, exposed ductwork) and polished elegance (crystal glassware; a gilt-edged mirror above the well-lit, well-organized bar) melded to make a space that felt both welcoming and refined. Convivial patrons present that evening were obviously enjoying their food, drink, and conversation, and I was happy to be a part of them.

Mint 29’s dinner menu showcases a selection of steak and seafood dishes, plus striking salads such as the Season Salad with its grapefruit, dried cranberries, cashews, toasted pistachios, blue cheese, and Sweet Japanese Dressing. It’s a upscale menu with upscale prices and sides that come à la carte.

I was tempted to order one of those striking salads: the Chicken Citron with its marinated, seared chicken breast on a bed of rapini, carrots, and wild rice and its cilantro-lime dressing was calling to me, as it was to my friend who was dining with me at Mint 29.

That Chicken Citron salad seemed like the sensible choice for our pocketbooks. But we were both being lured by less sensible choices: her the Mediterranean Sea Bass, and me the 16-Ounce Bone-In Ribeye.

In the end, we said “F it!” and took the leap toward culinary opulence. I added a side of Smashed Potato to my order, while she opted for the side of Sautéed Wild Mushrooms. While we waited for our food to come out, I sat and sipped a glass of pinot noir.

When that 16-Ounce Bone-In Ribeye arrived, I knew it’d been worth the wager. Served on a wooden cutting board with roasted garlic cloves and house-made zip sauce, it was a positively regal slab of meat, with neat criss-crossing grill marks and a perfectly red center (I’d ordered the steak rare: my first time doing that! I never thought I’d order a steak rare, but medium-rare wasn’t cutting it lately; it was consistently coming out overcooked to me, so I finally realized, “Hmm, maybe I’m ordering wrong.”).

That bone-in ribeye tasted as exquisite as it looked: tender and juicy and flavorful and SO good accompanied by the roasted garlic and zip sauce and the rich smashed potatoes, which had arrived in a heaping mound that easily constituted two side portions.

My friend enjoyed her sea bass and sautéed mushrooms, as well, and we agreed that Mint 29 is a keeper. It up-leveled what would have otherwise been a routine Tuesday night into an effervescent adventure.

22000 Michigan Ave.

Dearborn, MI 48124

(Closed Sundays)

www.mint29.com

442. Go! Sy Thai – October 27, 2019 – Detroit, MI

October2019Go!SyThai1 (2)October2019Go!SyThai2 (3)Go! Sy Thai was bustling during my Sunday evening visit a few weeks ago – and for good reason. The Cass Corridor-based, fast-casual iteration of local restaurant chain Sy Thai proffers tasty food in plentiful portions.

Take the Curry Noodle dish that I ordered: it yielded two full meals for me – and then some (and I’m – by most people in my life’s considerations – an eater; I don’t mess around!).

This Curry Noodle dish was not only abundant in size, it was also supremely delicious with its richly flavored red coconut curry sauce slathering weighty rice noodles, fresh green onion and bean sprouts, crushed peanut, and the tender chunks of beef I opted for as my protein (I also chose to get the dish sans the egg it usually comes with).

At Go! Sy Thai, you order at the counter and wait for your food to be called out when it’s ready. The overhead menu showcases an ample list of offerings: classic Thai soups, small plates, and rice and noodle dishes.

For entrée dishes, you select the protein you’d like to be included (beef, chicken, shrimp, or tofu – or a vegetable mix in place of protein) and your desired spice level (Mild, Medium, Hot, X Hot, or Top of the Line).

For the spice level for my Curry Noodle with beef, I selected X Hot and was pleased with it: it was definitely hot in the way that I love, but it wasn’t so spicy that it was rendered inedible (a nearly nonexistent occurrence for me, the person who literally dumps cayenne pepper all over her popcorn – but STILL, props to Go! Sy Thai for rating their spice levels accurately! I know that when it comes down to it, spice level is subjective, but some places get it SO obviously wrong).

Another fun fact about this location of Go! Sy Thai: it’s neighbor to another local goodie, Tou & Mai; the establishments are connected by a short corridor. Tasty, plentifully-portioned Thai food and boba tea mere steps from one another is a set-up I can certainly get behind!

4240 Cass Ave., Ste. 103

Detroit, MI 48201

(with an additional Detroit location on Griswold St.)

www.gosythai.com

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

439. Taqueria Mi Pueblo – October 6, 2019 – Detroit, MI

October2019MiPueblo1 (2)October2019MiPueblo2 (5)October2019MiPueblo3 (2)October 6 was a monumental day for me. Not only was it my birthday, it was also the day that I finally consumed some of Taqueria Mi Pueblo’s sweet, sweet cuisine.

I’d learned of Mi Pueblo, a Mexican restaurant in Detroit, years prior from an uncle who lives in the city and raved that it was, hands-down, his favorite Mexican restaurant. I’d dreamed of visiting it and attempted a few times to schedule dinners there, to no avail.

Mi Pueblo was starting to become my white whale: looming tantalizingly and ever elusively in my mind – which made it an ideal spot for a birthday lunch with my mom and stepdad. The visit was finally happening!!!

It was after 1 when we arrived at Mi Pueblo on this warm and sunny Sunday afternoon. It was kicking; we waited about 15 minutes for a table. I took the time to peruse Mi Pueblo’s menus and soak up its ambiance.

The place was bringing some good vibes. Mi Pueblo’s exterior is striking, with its neat brown-brick façade, vibrant yellow signage, and bright flowers. Its interior is even more cheerful with its color-splashed walls, strung garlands of bunting, art-bedecked tabletops, and profusion of potted plants.

When we got a table and sat down to it, we joined lively groups of patrons – many of whom appeared to be families – enjoying meals and camaraderie on that Sunday afternoon. I again scanned Mi Pueblo’s extensive food and drink menus.

The beverage menu is loaded with various margarita varietals, fruity cocktails, and fun frozen drinks. Mi Pueblo boasts a full bar and has an extensive tequila collection; in addition to liquor, it offers wine and draft and bottled beer. A virgin cocktail section is available for those who opt to go sans alcohol, as are fresh juices, milkshakes, bottles of Mexican pop, and traditional drinks such as horchata.

And Mi Pueblo’s food menu! It’s loaded with the most delectable-sounding of Mexican dishes: burritos, tacos, enchiladas, a whole section of tostadas, tortas, quesadillas, fajitas, and more. A dessert section caps off the menu, proffering goodies such as tres leches cake, flan, and Tamales de Dulce (sweet tamales). Yum!

After careful deliberation, I chose the Enchiladas Dinner with its three enchiladas (I opted for one chicken, one cheese, and one ground beef) slathered in red sauce, plus a lime margarita on the rocks with salt.

I sipped the tasty (and massive) margarita and munched on the complimentary chips and salsa while waiting for our food to come out.

We didn’t have to wait long. My Enchiladas Dinner arrived in all of its gorgeous cheese- and sauce-slathered glory, I took a bite, and my palate exclaimed WOW!

Mi Pueblo’s enchiladas were bursting with flavor. The red sauce was superior to most other enchilada sauces I’ve tasted: more spice-infused, and more nuanced. The meat was hearty; the cheese was fresh-tasting; the rice and refried beans were solid accompaniments. All melded together to form supreme deliciousness that made my heart and my stomach very happy.

I left Taqueria Mi Pueblo that afternoon feeling full and content, the good birthday vibes sustained. I’d finally become acquainted with the restaurant I’d wanted to visit most over the last several years, and it was a beautiful thing – and a beautiful way to start a new year of life (ushering in a new phase by exploring new places? You can’t go wrong with that!).

7278 Dix St.

Detroit, MI 48209

www.mipueblorestaurant.com

438. Lumen Detroit – October 5, 2019 – Detroit, MI

October2019Lumen1 (3)October2019Lumen2 (2)Because I’m one of those people who unabashedly adores my birthday, I’m always looking for special ways to celebrate it. With its beautiful ambiance, welcoming service, on-point cocktails, and tasty dishes, Lumen Detroit helped create some of that specialness during my most recent birthday weekend.

The restaurant in downtown Detroit is both elegant and contemporary in ambiance with its clean white tiling, glossy wood paneling, and clusters of bronze orb lighting. The glass-walled dining room offers panoramic views of the cityscape outside and patrons dining on Lumen’s patio (who were present on the night of my visit, despite it being rather chilly).

Lumen’s menu proffers a variety of delicious-sounding dishes. As I was canvassing for spots to hold this dinner earlier in the week and perusing said menu, I specifically had a hankering for ribeye steak, which Lumen’s menu didn’t offer. But it did have a New York strip steak served with bernaise butter, aioli, and fries flavored with herbs and truffles.

And its menu held an item that definitively caught my attention – surprisingly, considering my hankering for red meat: the Power Salad, a concoction of arugula and kale and spinach and asparagus and grains and mango and avocado and crispy chickpeas and a Green Goddess dressing that had my palate exclaiming “WOW!”

Other compelling items on Lumen’s menu: appetizers such as a crab cake served with sriracha aioli and Asian slaw and the especially intriguing to me Everything Bagel Wings; soups and other entrée salads besides the Power salad; and dishes such as the Lumen Burger, Vegetarian Bolognese, and Pei Mussels prepared with white wine and chorizo sausage or green curry.

I went into my dinner at Lumen expecting to order that Power Salad, or maybe the New York strip. What was funny – and perhaps a synchronistic gift from the birthday gods – is that when our server came to greet us and tell us the night’s specials, a ribeye steak was one of them! It was like, WHAAATTT? Of course, I HAVE to get that!

So I did. I ordered the ribeye steak with broccoli rabe as the accompanying vegetable. And for my pre-dinner drink, I selected the most phenomenal signature cocktail, which was lavender-hued, potent, and so wonderfully flavored . . . and whose name I (yet again) forgot to take down. But I’m going to cut myself some slack here for this lapse in memory, because I was in the moment that night, enjoying time with the five friends who had gathered to celebrate with me. So, just know that it’s my personal experience that Lumen’s drinks are delectable little liquid bombs of tastiness and tipsiness.

Once our food came out, I dug into my ribeye. It was overcooked considering the temperature request I’d given of medium-rare (it was medium, bordering on medium-well), but the flavor was still phenomenal. And the broccoli rabe accompanying it paired well with it.

And an overcooked steak wasn’t about to kill the birthday magic for me. Overall, the experience at Lumen was great. It was a facilitator of good food, lovely ambiance, and wonderful connection and conversation. I left that night feeling that I’d had the ideal birthday celebration before my actual birthday had occurred. If my birthday somehow got cancelled the next day, I’d still feel like I was ushering in my 35th year on a high note, and Lumen Detroit was definitely a part of making that high note happen.

1903 Grand River Ave.

Detroit, MI 48226

(Closed Mondays)

www.lumendetroit.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