Restaurants/Bars

523. PizzaPlex – September 19, 2021 – Detroit, MI

Is there anything better than a summer’s day in Detroit? I think not – especially when it’s spent on PizzaPlex’s patio, enjoying one of its INCREDIBLE pies!

The pizzeria is located in Southwest Detroit, in delightful proximity to Clark Park, El Club, and Mexicantown Bakery. Besides that of being located in one of my favorite Detroit neighborhoods, it holds an honorable distinction: it’s a certified maker of authentic Neapolitan pizza. This accreditation is awarded by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, an organization dedicated to preserving the method of pizza-making that originated in Naples, Italy.

It’s a big deal to be certified by the AVPN, which has specific rules around what constitutes a true Neapolitan pie; see its regulations around everything from cooking temperature to dough thickness to how peeled tomatoes are crushed (by hand). There are fewer than 900 AVPN-certified pizzerias in the world, according to Pizza Plex’s most recent newsletter – and only two in Michigan.

Such a certification means nothing if the taste isn’t there. But I’m here to tell you that the taste is wholly present at PizzaPlex!

I was in the mood for an outdoor lunch on the day of my visit. So I sat at a table in PizzaPlex’s backyard seating area: a delightful little hideaway. There I listened to the breeze rustle branches while admiring a mural featuring monarch butterflies and vibrant swirls of color.

I decided to forego a drink but admired PizzaPlex’s collection of beers, craft cocktails, digestifs, and Italian wines. I started instead with its side salad, a super-fresh mix of greens and cherry tomatoes drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and deliciously pungent Parmigiano.

Then came my pie: a Margherita. PizzaPlex’s rendition of the classic pie was phenomenal. Its fresh basil leaves, tomato sauce, drizzles of olive oil, and ample chunks of mozzarella had the pizza bursting with flavor. But the real showstopper was the crust.

I’m not typically a pizza-crust person. I eat it, but it’s not why I’m there. When it comes to PizzaPlex’s pie, though, I’m most decidedly a crust person! It has to be the best I’ve ever eaten.

This Margherita’s dough was fire-kissed on the outside, yet so sumptuously doughy and chewy. It’s hard to put into words how something so seemingly simple could taste so wonderful; it begs to be experienced. The Neapolitan spirit was in full force in this pizza dough!

Another element of PizzaPlex where that Neapolitan spirit is fully alive is in its pay-it-forward program – sospeso, as it’s called in Naples. It allows patrons to pre-purchase meals for future guests. What a win-win it is to visit PizzaPlex when you can allow both yourself and a fellow human to enjoy its delicious pies!

4458 W. Vernor Hwy.

Detroit, MI 48209

www.pizzaplex.com

522. River’s Edge Brewing Company – August 14, 2021 – Milford, MI

Dining on River’s Edge Brewing Company’s patio was a deliciously relaxing way to end a busy day.

The locally-owned brewery in downtown Milford showcases a selection of house-made beers. These include its PSAle (an IPA described on its menu as “Pineapple. Citrus. Hoppy.”) and a stout named Fritter Frank, whose flavor profile includes autumn-esque elements (coffee, donuts, cider, and cinnamon). Several hard ciders from Northville Winery & Brewing Company are also offered.

I enjoyed one of those ciders during my time at River’s Edge: the Blue River. A smooth, not-too-sweet mix of blueberry and apple, it went down easy. It was summer in a glass!

I also had an excellent Greek salad at River’s Edge. It was a fresh and flavorful medley of mixed greens, seasoned chicken, pickled red onion, yellow pepper rings, olives, tomato, cucumber, feta, and a zesty house-made vinaigrette. The brewery’s food offerings include hearty sausages, wraps, and sandwiches – the perfect accompaniments to ice-cold brews. Pop-up menus offered by outside entities such as Barlow’s Gourmet BBQ and Burger Burger are regular occurrences, as well.

125 S. Main St., Ste. 400

Milford, MI 48381

www.riversedgebrew.com

521. Bakehouse 46 – August 14, 2021 – Rochester, MI

Here’s Bakehouse 46, offering up a sweet serving of collaboration! And cupcakes, and donuts, and cider . . ..

Located in downtown Rochester, Bakehouse 46 marries Blake Farms (of cider mill and hard cider fame) and Cupcake Station (whose eponymous treats have been delighting Metro Detroiters since 2006) with a sleek style that’s all its own. If you’re familiar with these beloved local businesses, you already know this is one EPIC mash-up!

I visited Bakehouse 46 during a jaunt in mid-August that had me bustling around downtown Rochester: to Catching Fireflies, The Home Bakery, and the farmer’s market. All that shopping worked up a hunger in me. Enter the Bakehouse Club: a delightfully soft Everything bagel sandwiching layers of bacon, ham, turkey, arugula, tomato, cheese, and scallion cream cheese.

WOW, was that sandwich delicious! What a melding of flavors: rich cheeses, smoky meats, juicy tomato, and zesty seasonings. And arugula! Bakehouse 46, you had me at the Everything-bagel sandwich – but add fresh, peppery arugula to the mix, and my taste buds are kvelling!

Bakehouse 46’s menu showcases several breakfast- and lunch-oriented bagel sandwiches. It also sells bagels sans the sandwich filling, plus coffee and the previously mentioned cupcakes, donuts, and cider. Check the shop’s online menu for its enticing – and numerous! – cupcake offerings, which include Snickers, Chai Latte, and Bump-a-licious (Bakehouse 46’s riff on Bumpy cake).

As someone whose grew up on Blake’s donuts (donuts so fresh as to make you cry tears of joy when you bite into them!) – I know Bakehouse 46’s are bound to be special. Blake’s cider (the best of the best!) is served there, too. There are also caramel apples made from Blake’s apples, and Blake’s jams and maple syrups. Other baked goods such as cheesecake bars, cookies, and brownies are sold at the shop, as well.

Let’s talk about the shop itself. Bakehouse 46’s interior is an ultra-modern, ultra-gorgeous amalgamation of glistening white tile, slate-blue walls, wood floors and furnishings, and buttery leather furniture. Potted plants, accent pillows, and a red Oriental rug provide pops of color. It’s a feast for the eyes – the perfect counterpart to the culinary feasting facilitated by Bakehouse 46’s menu. Here’s to harmonious collaboration!

205 S. Main St.

Rochester, MI 48307

(With an additional location in Birmingham)

www.bakehouse46.com

517. SheWolf – August 6, 2021 – Detroit, MI

Dinner at SheWolf – what a special experience! It was a dream come true to finally visit the Detroit-based Italian restaurant – and a magical one, at that.

I dined at SheWolf on a Friday night in early August. My mom, stepdad, and I had a reservation for right when it opened, 5 p.m. We’d spent the previous hour priming ourselves for the experience in the backyard of The Old Miami; we were ready to eat! And SheWolf was ready to serve us.

I was struck by SheWolf’s gorgeous dining room: its sage-green walls, caramelly leather, dark-stained wood floors, and profusion of fresh flowers.

Another striking detail was how many employees were working that night. There was a full floor of them – I’m talking a pre-COVID-level, busy-weekend-night number of staff members. This was both surprising and incredibly heartening to me. I interpreted it to mean 1) SheWolf is a place where people love to work and 2) they are doing well enough during these COVID times to employ a full staff.

With its phenomenal food and impeccable service, how could SheWolf not be doing well? At least, I hope it is. We need restaurants this wonderful to thrive!

Speaking of the impeccable service at SheWolf: here’s an example. I happened to drop my napkin twice that night. Both times I did, staff members swooped in with a fresh one. Employees consistently appeared eager to step in and deliver food, decrumb our table, check on us . . .. They did so with friendly, professional attitudes, seemingly happy to be there and serving us. As someone who served in restaurants for years, I really appreciated being in the midst of this high-vibing staff who worked seamlessly together as a team. I could see myself on a crew like that . . .. But I was a patron that night at SheWolf . . . so I’ll put my serving nostalgia aside!

The server we had that night was great and adeptly guided us through SheWolf’s menu. We all ordered her recommended cocktail, Aperol These Years, a spritz incorporating strawberry, balsamic, and basil-infused Aperol. It came garnished with a marigold and went down really easy.

We shared two appetizers, again recommended by our server: the Carpaccio and the Sformato di Zucchine.

The Carpaccio was a revelation for me! I’d previously been put off by carpaccio’s layers of paper-thin, raw beef. But SheWolf’s carpaccio was so tender and flavorful, an utter delight to eat. It was accented by capers, toasted hazelnut pieces, and an ample layer of shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

The Sformato di Zucchine also blew my taste buds wide open. I didn’t know what to expect of this dish described as a “savory zucchini custard.” But wow, was it luxuriously full of flavor!

We continued our journey through SheWolf’s menu. From the carefully curated pasta, meat, and seafood dishes, I chose the Paccheri All’Arrabbiata. The dish of house-made pasta topped with a spicy lamb neck ragu, whipped ricotta, plum tomatoes, and banana peppers was SO, SO, SO, SO GOOD. The tender lamb and flavor-rich sauce! That creamy ricotta! There was a lot to exclaim over – including the house-made pasta, which was wonderfully fresh and al dente-chewy.

SheWolf’s pasta production, by the way, includes milling its own flour. Talk about dedication! There’s a glass-walled area on the way to the restrooms where the pasta is made by hand.

While the drink, appetizers, and main course I enjoyed at SheWolf were satisfying, I couldn’t stop there. Dessert was the icing on the cake of this exquisite meal.

So I savored SheWolf’s Torta di Cioccolato, a slice of flourless chocolate cake accompanied by chantilly cream, crème anglaise, and bits of honeycomb. It was a rich, chocolatey treat. But the dessert my mother ordered, the Zeppole, REALLY blew me away. These were piping-hot, freshly fried ricotta fritters, perfectly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. Dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with a drizzle of chocolate-hazelnut spread, they were exceptional.

Like those Zeppole, the entire experience of dining at SheWolf was exceptional. This is one of those meals that I find myself visiting again and again in my memory. I feel privileged to have had this special experience at this special restaurant!

438 Selden St.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.shewolfdetroit.com

516. Too Ra Loo – August 3, 2021 – Rochester, MI

Visiting Too Ra Loo was a highlight of my week-long staycation in early August. The restaurant/bar based in downtown Rochester provided integral staycation elements: delicious food and drink and a pretty patio (the optimal environment from which to enjoy summer sunshine and conversation with a good friend!).

Based on its name, I’d assumed Too Ra Loo was an Irish bar. But according to its website, it’s actually inspired by “Italian influences and inventive fare.”

Both Italian influence and inventive spirit are evidenced in Too Ra Loo’s pizza offerings. The extensive list of pies include the Belgian with its brussels sprouts, bacon, parmesan, and balsamic glaze and the Lafayette topped with the makings of a Detroit coney dog (chili, mustard, hot dog, and red onion, naturally!).

Too Ra Loo’s menu offers a wide-ranging variety of dishes besides those pizzas. The Small Plates section offers both traditional bar apps (nachos, quesadilla) and more refined ones (mussels in a “red curry coconut broth,” a whitefish pâté). There are entrée salads, burgers and sandwiches, and comfort-food fare such as the Steak and Potatoes and Spaghetti with Meatballs.

I surprised myself by choosing from that menu the Ancient Grains, a salad featuring a mix of greens and kale topped with lentils, chickpeas, pepitas, shredded carrots, zucchini, and cabbage, quinoa, and other grains and tossed in a citrus vinaigrette. I generally wouldn’t choose a healthful salad from a menu that includes such decadent fare as a Reuben sandwich or Cheeseburger pizza! But that Ancient Grains salad called to me in that moment. And I’m so glad it did, because it was FANTASTIC! All those fresh, hearty, healthful ingredients melded together to form supreme deliciousness. Despite its generous proportions, I gobbled that Ancient Grains salad in its entirety, savoring every flavorful, nourishing bite.

I also savored a pint of hard cider chosen from Too Ra Loo’s extensive beer menu. Many of the craft beers and ciders featured are Michigan made. And while I did said savoring outside, on Too Ra Loo’s patio, I’d love to return for a drink and a meal inside.

I’d characterize Too Ra Loo’s attractive dining room as upscale-industrial: lots of gleaming dark wood, brick, and exposed duct work. A wrap-around bar dominates the center, and plenty of TVs are featured throughout, primed to broadcast the games du jour. It’s a totally inviting space to cozy up with good food and friends – staycation or otherwise!

139 S. Main St.

Rochester, MI 48307

www.tooraloorochester.com

515. Kuzzo’s Chicken and Waffles – July 24, 2021 – Detroit, MI

A summer Saturday in Detroit, visiting Kuzzo’s Chicken and Waffles? Yes, please! As this season of sunshine and heat waves winds down, I’m more than happy to reminisce about my visit to the famed Avenue of Fashion-based restaurant.

I’d aspired to dine at Kuzzo’s for years. So it was exciting to make that dream a reality when a friend agreed to lunch with me there in late July. We weren’t the only ones with Kuzzo’s on the brain that day – the place was bustling with patrons! We waited about 40 minutes for a table before scoring seats at the bar.

While Kuzzo’s interior is fairly small, it brimmed with energy on the day of our visit. Something about the acoustics of the place (the high ceilings?) seemed to amplify sound – but hey, that added to the convivial vibe! I dug the restaurant’s bright red walls and stylish, contemporary look, its signature decorative detail: the definition of “kuzzo” painted above the bar. (That definition reads, “A term of endearment for one who is a friend or family member / A person of a kindred culture, race or nation.”)

Speaking of the bar: Kuzzo’s offers fun cocktails, including Spiked Kool-Aid (your childhood classic – adulting with Tito’s vodka!), a Pear Punch that its menu refers to as a “patio pounder,” and Mimosa Flights (which include four different flavor varieties of the classic champagne-and-juice riff).

As tempting as those cocktails were, I had my eye on the prize at Kuzzo’s that day: the chicken!

While I love both chicken and waffles, I admittedly prefer to enjoy them separate from each other. This feels totally sacrilegious to admit in a post about a restaurant whose oeuvre revolves around the combo! But it’s why I bypassed the 12 chicken-and-waffles combos on Kuzzo’s menu and went with Hazel’s Southern Platter. It features three pieces of fried chicken, two sides (I opted for the Mac & Cheese and Candied Yams), and a cornbread muffin.

If you also aren’t a chicken-and-waffles devotee, you’ll find plenty of other appealing choices on Kuzzo’s menu. It showcases several omelets and a variety of breakfast combo plates, including ones featuring biscuits and gravy, salmon croquettes, and chicken and grits. There are also a couple of sandwich offerings, including the Chicken BLT and the Nashville Hot Chicken (whose menu descriptions are literally making my mouth water!).

When my order arrived, I saw there’d been a mix-up. My Hazel’s Southern Platter was supposed to feature a breast, a leg, and a thigh. But it came with two pieces of chicken – both breasts. I communicated the mix-up, and the third chicken piece arrived – and was another breast. I didn’t have the heart to tell our bartender server about the bungle; she was busy enough! So I embraced the three-breast meal. I was happy to find the white-meat chicken to be quite juicy. The breading was nice and crispy, too.

But you know what the biggest surprise was for me on that Hazel’s Southern Platter? The Candied Yams. WOW, were they DELICIOUS! Those little root veggie nuggets were loaded with flavor. They were in this cinnamon-laced syrup that was SO good. I could eat a bucket of those candied yams!

My friend had one of Kuzzo’s omelets and loved it. Both of us made an unconventional choice that day at the chicken-and-waffles restaurant. But I must say, as I peruse Kuzzo’s menu now, I feel I wouldn’t mind returning to try one of its namesake choices: maybe the Mrs. Irene (waffles and fried chicken smothered in gravy and onions) or the Big Red (red velvet waffles with a cream cheese glaze paired with three wings or chicken tenders). Enticing choices abound on that menu!

19345 Livernois Ave.

Detroit, MI 48221

www.kuzzoschickenandwaffles.com

514. Deshi Kitchen – July 16, 2021 – Sterling Heights, MI

Friday night carryout from Deshi Kitchen: what a treat!

In these COVID times, having the ability to order takeaway is not something I take for granted – even now that life is (somewhat) back to normal. I felt that sentiment the night I picked up my meal from this Sterling Heights-based Indian restaurant.

It was a delight to devour Deshi’s delicious fare. The chicken vindaloo I ordered was optimally spicy, while the aloo gobi was utterly tasty with its potato and cauliflower chunks tossed in a sauce of warm spices. The garlic naan was fresh, pillowy goodness!

Deshi’s menu boasts a plethora of favorite Indian dishes, including chicken korma, butter chicken, goat curry, palak paneer, and biryani.

43095 Hayes Rd.

Sterling Heights, MI 48313

www.deshikitchenmi.com

513. Lamir Mediterranean Cuisine – July 9, 2021 – Clinton Township, MI

Lamir Mediterranean Cuisine is serving up deliciously fresh fare!

The Clinton Township-based restaurant’s specialty is Persian cuisine. Its menu features dishes such as koobedeh (skewers of broiled, spice-infused ground beef), barg (marinated, thinly-sliced beef filet), and mahiche (slow-cooked lamb shank in a saffron tomato sauce). Other beloved Mediterranean fare from shawarma to falafel, tabbouli to grape leaves are also offered. I’ve gotten carryout twice from Lamir and have been impressed by the polite, friendly service, fresh ingredients, and ample portions.

The first time I ordered from Lamir, I had its Hummus with Gallaba entrée. It features sautéed beef and vegetables on a bed of hummus. Lamir’s entrées include a side plus soup or salad, so I also opted for rice and a fattoush (included with entrees for an upcharge).

From that one meal’s plentiful portions, I made three. The saffron rice and the fattoush each filled large carryout containers. My entrée abounded with creamy hummus topped with a hefty portion of beef and vegetables.

I loved the freshness of the fattoush salad, its zesty dressing tossed with onion, cucumber, tomato, romaine, and pita chips. The hummus was delicious slathered on the pieces of pita bread that accompanied it. And the gallaba’s beef was tender; both it and the sautéed vegetables were richly flavored. I was INTO it! So into it that I ordered it again a month later.

That time, I got the hummus and gallaba separate from each other so I could enjoy each component on its own. I also ordered six extra pieces of Lamir’s fresh-baked pita bread, which is SO good warmed and slathered in hummus. I can’t help but love that it’s shaped like little hearts. But then again, there are many things to love about Lamir and its food!

39890 Garfield Rd.

Clinton Twp., MI 48038

www.lamirmediterranean.com

512. Le Andos Cafe – June 19, 2021 – Macomb, MI

Le Andos Cafe is for breakfast connoisseurs!

The Macomb-based restaurant has something for everyone. But breakfast lovers will go especially ga-ga over this place. Le Andos’ list of breakfast offerings is impressive and extensive. It offers a slew of omelets, French toast, waffles, crepes, pancakes, combo plates, breakfast wraps and sandwiches, and other beloved breakfast items.

There are six different versions of eggs Benedict alone on Le Andos’ menu, including the Philly Style layered with shaved steak, onion, bell pepper, and mushroom and another featuring your choice of crab cake or salmon. There are 12 different types of French toast, and 18 different kinds of omelets! The former includes decadent options such as Salted Caramel (French toast topped with caramel, pecans, sea salt, and powdered sugar), Banana Foster Stuffed (featuring banana, raisins, pecans, and a sweet cream cheese filling), and Red Velvet Stuffed (which skips the breakfast pretense and goes straight to dessert, featuring three slices of red velvet cake!). The latter includes omelet varieties that range from Hawaiian to Greek to Corned Beef and Swiss.

Dessert breakfasts seem to be Le Andos’ domain. I get giddy with excitement when I read the Pancakes section of the menu. Nutella Stuffed Pancakes, Birthday Cake Stuffed Pancakes, AND Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes? Pancakes incorporating banana, coconut, and pecan then layered with Le Andos’ cream cheese filling, pineapple, powdered sugar, and mango and raspberry syrups? (That’s the Tropical Breeze pancakes.) This is the stuff of childhood dreams! And I haven’t even touched the Waffles and Sweet Crepes sections of Le Andos’ menu. See the Cannoli crepe including every part of the iconic Italian dessert, from filling to shell to chocolate chips!

So yes, Le Andos’ breakfast menu is epic. But the café also boasts a sizeable lunch menu featuring a variety of burgers, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and more. The restaurant is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays as of the writing of this post.

During my brunch-time visit to Le Andos, I opted for the Monte Cristo, a heftily-portioned crepe stuffed with turkey, ham, and melted Swiss and American cheeses; sprinkled with powdered sugar; and drizzled with raspberry melba sauce. It’s included in the Savory Crepes section of Le Andos’ menu, but obviously, it’s a mash-up of sweet and savory – as is the iconic sandwich it’s inspired by. And it’s utterly rich and delicious!

It was hard to choose just this one dish from Le Andos’ offerings. I could go on and on about the creativity of its menu. As someone who loves to cook – and eat – it inspires me to get into my kitchen and create! Or . . . maybe I could just revisit Le Andos and order those Birthday Cake Stuffed Pancakes. 🙂

15433 Hall Rd.

Macomb, MI 40448

www.leandoscafe.com

511. BurgerFin – June 12, 2021 – Clinton Township, MI

I love burgers AND patio dining. So of course I was game for a mash-up of the two with a visit to BurgerFin.

The Clinton Township-based restaurant (at The Mall at Partridge Creek) is all about mash-ups. Its menu features both burgers and sushi.

A burger-joint-slash-sushi-bar! Have you heard of one of those? I certainly hadn’t until BurgerFin. But why not serve both sushi and burgers if you’re going to do them as well as BurgerFin does?

Seafood is not my thing. So I don’t find much reason to eat sushi. But did I wish seafood was my thing when I saw BurgerFin’s Las Vegas rolls? Most definitely! Filled with salmon, cream cheese, and avocado, they’re deep-fried and drizzled with spicy mayo and sriracha, then topped with jalapeños and sesame seeds. What flavor amalgamation! Other sushi offerings on BurgerFin’s menu are its Spicy Tuna Roll, Shrimp Tempura Roll, and California Roll.

While I’m not a sushi aficionado, I’m pretty into burgers. And BurgerFin’s intrigued me.

I should clarify: BurgerFin’s burgers are actually sliders, the baby cousin of the sandwiched-sized original. Not all these sliders feature beef patties. Choices range from Crispy Chicken to the Maple Bourbon BLT (BurgerFin’s riff on the classic bacon sandwich) to the Mobster Lobster filled with lobster salad, scallions, and a tangy mustard sauce.

I opted for the BBQ Bacon Me Crazy beef sliders topped with grilled onions, melted cheddar, bacon, and barbecue sauce. They were delicious little burger nuggets! I ordered them as part of BurgerFin’s slider meal combo, which includes two sliders and a side of fries or salad. I opted for the house salad.

This salad was EXCELLENT! I feel a little silly raving about a side salad, but honestly, it was SO good. The mixed greens, red onion, tomato, and cucumber were SO fresh and tasty, and I loved the zesty vinaigrette dressing and crunchy croutons. Add salads to the list of things BurgerFin does well! Its menu does include an elaborate build-your-own salad option that presents a variety of nuts and seeds, fruits and veggies, greens and cheeses, proteins and dressings.

Those healthful salads on BurgerFin’s menu are balanced by decadent deep-fried fare. Under Appetizers, see the bacon-studded Mac & Cheese bites served with ranch dressing and the Crispy Brussel Sprouts coated in chile lime sauce and parmesan cheese. Drool over the Fries & Sauces section’s Bonfire Fries with their layers of seasoning, sriracha, and Fat Tire-laced beer cheese.

Try it all, from sliders to sushi, salad to those Bonfire Fries. BurgerFin will totally embrace your meal mash-up!

17380 Hall Rd.

Clinton Twp., MI 48038

www.burgerfin.com