Cass Corridor

586. Nain Rouge Brewery – October 8, 2022 – Detroit, MI

Nain Rouge Brewery, serving up sinfully good beer!

I discovered the Detroit-based brewery during birthday celebrations for moi last month. Friends ordered its beer during dinner at Smith & Co., and we noticed the brewery was right across the way. So we popped over for a round of drinks after, before continuing on to Willis Show Bar.

It turns out that Smith & Co. is the only restaurant to serve Nain Rouge’s wares. The brewery also works with Eastern Michigan University’s brewing school, according to its website, aiming to “help promote diversity in the beer industry.”

What an awesome partnership! Obviously, Nain Rouge Brewery’s character is nothing like its namesake’s, that legendary creature who is said to cause mayhem in the D. Nain Rouge the brewery was, in my experience, a welcoming place devoid of drama – a chill space to enjoy pre-show drinks. But the “red dwarf,” as its name translates, has left its imprint on the brewery – in the form of its devilishly delicious beer.

Nain Rouge’s current tap list boast a range of choices, from an amber lager to a coffee stout to a honey- and hibiscus-infused wheat beer. There are three kinds of IPAs, a kölsch, a pilsner – even an Oktoberfest selection. I went for the Wisehead Chocolate Vanilla Porter, and it was right up my alley: rich, tasty, smooth.

Maybe that’s how Nain Rouge the imp is able to sneak in and cause a ruckus: by being as smooth as Nain Rouge the brewery’s beers. Maybe Nain Rouge Brewery has more in common with its namesake than I initially thought!

666 Selden St.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.nainrougebrewery.com

585. Smith & Co. – October 8, 2022 – Detroit, MI

A Saturday night spent with friends in Detroit: is there anything better? That’s especially the case when you’re dining on Smith & Co.’s Nain Rouge Mac & Cheese!

The Midtown/Cass Corridor-based restaurant and bar serves up hearty fare in a convivial environment. The interior ambiance can be described as upscale industrial: concrete floors, exposed beams, and destressed elements mixed with leather banquettes, gloss, and mod lighting.

Delving into the menu’s array of sandwiches, salads, pizzas, and entrées, I saw several choices that enticed me – the Korean Fried Chicken sandwich being one. I even toyed with the idea of getting a salad, intrigued by the Fried Green Tomato with its medley of kale, kamut, beans, radishes, red onion, snap peas, feta, croutons, mint, the titular tomatoes, and balsamic vinaigrette.

But the Nain Rouge Mac & Cheese won out – and I’m SO glad it did! The noodles were doused in creamy beer cheese and tossed with barbecue sauce-infused pulled beef, chunks of bacon, and fried onion. It was rich, flavorful, indulgent – the exact qualities you want a birthday dinner to have.

The drink I imbibed at Smith & Co. embodied those same traits. A luxurious mix of Kahlua, vodka, coffee, and dalgona topped with coffee foam, the Espresso Martini Chamber Seven was so nice, I ordered it twice! The current selection of specialty cocktails includes the Pumpkin Spice Old Fashioned and a seasonal sangria. Beer from nearby Nain Rouge Brewery is on draft, and for those who don’t drink, a Zero-Proof section features two mocktails and drinks from the likes of local leisure soda vendor, Casamara Club.

Celebrating my birthday with friends at Smith & Co. was wonderful – namely because of those friends’ company. But the delicious food and drink amplified the experience. Thanks, Smith & Co., for helping make this special day even more special!

644 Selden St.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.smithandcodetroit.com

583. Detroit Public Theatre – October 2, 2022 – Detroit, MI

Get swept away by story at Detroit Public Theatre!

Season Eight of the local theater company kicked off in a brand-new home: the renovated Third Avenue Garage building in Detroit’s Midtown/Cass Corridor neighborhood. Prior to this, Detroit Public Theatre held its plays at venues around town – most recently at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

The theater is a beauty of a building! The airy lobby is an elegant example of the industrial aesthetic, with neat concrete floors, exposed brick walls, and a wood-plank ceiling. A bar along one side serves beer, wine, cocktails, and non-alcoholic libations.

I was there to see Mud Row. Written by lauded playwright and native Detroiter Dominique Morisseau (who is also Detroit Public Theatre’s Executive Artistic Producer), the play explores themes of racism, civil rights, gentrification, and (oft-complex) family dynamics. The intimate theater was an ideal space for this emotionally raw, moving production. Seated a couple of rows from the actors, I definitely felt in on the action.

Mud Row wrapped on October 30. Detroit Public Theatre’s next production, Noura, a tale about an Iraqi immigrant family grappling with their past during the holiday season, debuts November 15. To learn more about Noura and Detroit Public Theatre’s other Season Eight productions – and to buy tickets! – click here.

3960 3rd Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.detroitpublictheatre.org

559. Bronx Bar – April 30, 2022 – Detroit, MI

What’s better than springtime Saturday in the city? Springtime Saturday in the city capped off with a visit to the Bronx Bar!

Detroit is magical any time of year for me, precisely because it fosters magical establishments such as this longtime fixture in the Midtown/Cass Corridor neighborhood.

From the colorful stained-glass lamps hanging from its ceilings to the deer figurines flanking its tables, the Bronx Bar oozes old-fashioned charm. There’s a vintage jukebox (that holds CDs!) and a dolphin figurine inexplicably wearing a bra (because why not?). Roll-up doors open one wall to the outside, offering up fresh air and street-side people watching, and patio tables flank the exterior. Chalkboard menus advertise bar fare ranging from veggie-forward (a black-bean burger; a sandwich christened the Clean Veggie) to saturated-fat-infused decadence (fried bologna, cheese sticks, a ground-chuck cheeseburger). The bar stocked with bottles means everyone is bound to find a favorite drink.

If you’re looking for a little charm infusion, look no further than this effortlessly charming place!

4476 2nd Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

528. Willis Show Bar – October 9, 2021 – Detroit, MI

To be at Willis Show Bar on a Saturday night, savoring live music!

The experience felt singular: not only because it was my first pandemic-times excursion to see live music, but because it happened at this wonderfully one-of-a-kind bar in the Cass Corridor neighborhood of Detroit.

As with many Detroit buildings, the Willis Show Bar venue has a storied past. It was in operation for nearly 30 years as a jazz club of the same name, from 1949-78. Forty years later, the current owners restored and reopened the property as a sleek tribute to its former self.

Stepping into Willis Show Bar is like stepping into a gorgeously glam portal. It’s intimate, dimly lit by candlelight and neon-purple and blue lights. Seating is offered along the sleek bar, via cozy two-top tables and wrap-around booths. The two elevated stage areas are uniquely positioned: one is tucked behind the bar; the other, near the front door. Open floor space beyond the bar leaves plenty of room for dancing.

As of the writing of this post, Willis Show Bar is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. It offers two nightly sets of live music: from 8-9 and 10-11 p.m. Admission is typically $10 when purchased in advance on Willis Show Bar’s website and $15 the day of the show. Select acts can cost more.

On the night of our visit, my friends and I sat in a booth positioned in a corner near the front door. We were right across from the singer/guitarist and keyboardist playing on the stage near the door. We attended the 10 p.m. set. Willis Show Bar’s house band, The At Will Band, was playing. They were phenomenal! They kicked out exuberant covers of funk, hip hop, R&B, and soul favorites varying from Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” to Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison” (my personal favorite of the night). The male and female singers sharing lead duties that night were both talented, but I found the male singer to be especially fantastic. He had incredible range, adeptly hitting the high notes on a Justin Timberlake cover and bringing the house down with the closer, Montell Jordan’s “This is How We Do It.”

Speaking of incredible: Willis Show Bar’s craft cocktail menu is just that. Such an intriguing menu of offerings! I selected one of the seasonal drinks, the Flannel. The melding of chai tea-infused bourbon, dry curacao, lemon, maple, nutmeg, and salt was so delicious. And it went down so easy!

Enraptured by the music and those Flannel cocktails, I was wholly surprised when the At Will’s hour-long set came to an end. It went by so quickly!

My friends and I lingered a bit after the set, listening to the then DJ-spun tunes and dreaming up our next visit to Willis Show Bar. It’s a visit that can’t come quickly enough!

4156 Third St.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.willisshowbar.com

463. Rocco’s Italian Deli – January 30, 2020 – Detroit, MI

January2020Rocco'sItalianDeli1 (2)January2020Rocco'sItalianDeli2 (2)My mouth still waters when I think about the meatball sub I ordered at Rocco’s Italian Deli over a month ago. That Want Nonna to Make You a Meatball? sub was exquisite with its tender beef meatballs nestled in an irresistibly chewy bun and slathered in flavorful marinara sauce, mozzarella, and Parmesan!

Rocco’s is more than a sandwich shop. The establishment based in the Cass Corridor neighborhood of Detroit is also a grocer offering shelves of Italian dry-goods staples such as pasta, canned tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, and wine, plus a full deli counter proffering olives and slice-to-order cheeses and cured meats. It’s also a bar, serving beer, wine, and cocktails – AND a coffee house, serving coffee and espresso drinks. All that wrapped into one – with killer sandwiches, to boot!

I’m apparently not the only one who finds Rocco’s so appealing: it was bustling with clientele when I entered it on the afternoon of my visit. The lunch crowd was in full swing! I’d hoped to stay and enjoy my sandwich at one of its tables or counter seats, but based off of the scarcity in seating at that time, I opted for carryout instead.

Scanning Rocco’s prepared-foods menu of entrée salads and sandwiches, I encountered numerous delectable-sounding options before making Want Nonna to Make You a Meatball? my choice. Take, for instance, the Mozz and Mozz of Fun sandwich boasting fresh mozzarella, roasted tomato, basil pesto, and balsamic drizzle and the Little Puzzo Loves His Pork with its roasted pork, sautéed broccoli rabe, and sharp provolone. Yum and YUM!

I ordered at the counter, and despite the busyness, waited no more than 10 minutes for my order; Rocco’s staff was operating as a well-oiled, sandwich-building, salad-slinging machine!

Once home, I dug into my Want Nonna to Make You a Meatball? sub and found that my choice was justified. It was DELICIOUS! I ate it with such relish that I didn’t pause to take a photo of it. Bonus points go to Rocco’s for putting the marinara sauce on the side to ensure the optimal sponginess of the sandwich bread once I bit into it (hooray for not-soggy sandwiches!).

My consensus around Rocco’s Italian Deli is obvious to me: it’s DEFINITELY revisit-worthy. My intention for Visit Number Two: to enjoy one of its tasty sandwiches in-house, accompanied by a glass of red wine or a cappuccino (or both!).

3627 Cass Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

(Closed Sundays)

www.roccosdetroit.com

449. Mongers’ Provisions – November 29, 2019 – Detroit, MI

November2019Mongers'Provisions1 (3)I was drawn into Mongers’ Provisions by the prospect of cheese but blown away by another of its offerings: its chocolate collection.

I love cheese, but chocolate, that resides in a place smack-dab at the center of my heart. And WOW, does Mongers’ Provisions proffer a LOT of chocolate! Artisan chocolate bars, from all parts of the world and infused with all kinds of flavorings, fill shelves along one wall of the shop based in the Midtown/Cass Corridor neighborhood of Detroit. Study those shelves, and you’ll see varietals as wide-ranging as chili-infused dark chocolate and white chocolate melded with duck egg, curry, and cereal (!).

Both of those varietals listed above, by the way, were ones I got to sample during my visit to Mongers’. The employee assisting me insisted that I sample any chocolate I was interested in, an offer that I found to be extremely generous, as the bars offered at Mongers’ are not cheap. It showcases artisan chocolates, with many – if not all – focused on using cacao procured via fair-trade means. These are distinctive chocolate bars, crafted with superior ingredients. I can’t recall exactly how much that white chocolate/duck egg/curry/cereal bar cost, but I believe it was in the $12-to-$14 range. And it was phenomenal, I might add. Who knew such seemingly discordant ingredients could meld into such creamy, flavorful deliciousness?

The chili-infused dark chocolate variety I sampled at Mongers’ was quite good, as well. But it was the third bar I tasted, the Raaka Raspberry Mint, in which I decided to invest. I love the rich, almost jammy raspberry flavor and subtle hint of mint in this creamy, 65-percent dark chocolate bar, which uses unroasted cacao beans sourced from the Dominican Republic. And at $8, the price of this bar was admittedly more in line with my current budget than some of Mongers’ other chocolate offerings.

Since my visit, I’ve definitely been keeping this shop and its fantastic chocolate collection in mind. Not only do I hope to delve into it more in the future, but I also think the singular bars that comprise it would make excellent gifts, different as they are from the generic (and oft subpar) chocolates commonly found at chain grocers.

Similarly, the cheeses offered at Mongers’ are a far cry from the waxy, hyper-processed, is-there-even-dairy-in-here? stuff that often passes as cheese. They are specially curated varieties, with some – such as the Bayley Hazen Blue featured on its website – priced at over $30 a pound. These are cheeses that are meant to be savored, perhaps alongside a nice glass of wine or squares of that artisan chocolate.

Mongers’ Provisions offers more than thoughtfully compiled chocolates and cheeses. Keeping to the provisions part of its name, it also sells beer, wine, drink mixers, cured meats, and dry goods that would pair well with cheeses and chocolates, such as aged balsamic vinegar and one of my favorite locally-made products EVER, Gus & Grey jams. It also offers epic cheese and charcuterie boards; check out its website for oh-so-pretty (and mouth-watering) images of them.

I’m happy to have become acquainted with this shop that brings such care and attention to detail to its offerings and to its customer service. Thanks, Mongers’ Provisions, for being such a top-notch provider of charcuterie, cheese, and that element most near and dear to my heart: chocolate!

4240 Cass Ave., Ste. 111

Detroit, MI 48201

(with an additional location in Ferndale)

www.mongersprovisions.com

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

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

434. Tou & Mai – September 22, 2019 – Detroit, MI

September2019TouandMai1 (4)Tou & Mai, satisfying my Thai iced tea cravings!

I visited Thailand in January of this year and became enchanted with one of its signature drinks, the Thai iced tea – a yummy concoction of black tea and sweetened condensed milk. I’d not had one of those delectable babies since being back in the states and had vowed all summer that I’d hunt one down here at home.

It took me until a Sunday afternoon in late September (LOL) to finally focus on this objective. At least I achieved it before summer was officially over – and at least the weather was sunny and summer-like, with a high temperature in the upper 80s.

My Thai iced tea break at Tou & Mai occurred after a browsing session of shops – including Hugh, Source Booksellers, and Nora – in the Midtown/Cass Corridor area of Detroit.

While I knew exactly what I wanted, I browsed the tea shop’s menu while waiting in line. Tou & Mai’s signature offering is boba tea (also known as bubble tea), tea drinks with chewy tapioca pearls and/or jellies added to them.

Tou & Mai’s drink menu is separated into categories: Flavoured Fruit Tea (fruity drinks with a green-tea base); Flavoured Milk Tea (dairy-infused black teas); Real Fruit Smoothie (drink blends including varieties such as Red Adzucki Bean and Creamy Avocado); Extra Special Treat (next-level goodies such as the Litchi Mohito mocktail and the Peaches & Cream slushie infused with vanilla ice cream); and Vietnamese Caffé Latté (which, like the Thai iced tea, incorporate condensed milk).

The Toppings section of Tou & Mai’s menu includes such intriguing drink add-ins as Kiwi Popping Boba, Mango Popping Boba, Coffee Jellie, and Flan Custard.

Tou & Mai isn’t simply a boba tea shop; it’s also what it refers to on its website as an “Asian Mini Mart,” offering grocery items from Southeast Asia such as candy, cookies, condiments, and noodles. It’s also a place that celebrates the owners’ Hmong heritage, selling embroidered, hand-crafted goods made by Hmong artisans.

The Hmong people comprise an ethnic group with its origins in Southeast Asia. I’d admittedly been ignorant of the Hmong’s existence until a few months ago, when I watched an episode of CNN’s United Shades of America featuring them and their story.

The Hmong were recruited by the U.S. government to aid America in the fighting of the Vietnam war. Post-war, many of them fled their homes in fear of persecution for being American allies, and some ended up in the U.S., including here in the Metro-D. According to Tou & Mai’s website, a small Hmong community still exists here today.

So Tou & Mai is much more than the place that quite deliciously satisfied my appetite for Thai iced tea on a sunny September Sunday: it’s a boba tea shop/grocer/celebrator of culture. And it’s definitely worth a visit!

4240 Cass Ave., Ste. 102

Detroit, MI 48201

www.touandmai.com