Cass Corridor

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

433. Hugh – September 22, 2019 – Detroit, MI

September2019Hugh1 (3)September2019Hugh2 (2)Hugh, in a nutshell, sells pretty things!

A more accurate assessment of the shop based in Detroit’s Cass Corridor neighborhood is that it sells items that are both aesthetically pleasing AND functional: well-designed home goods such as glassware, barware, candles, clocks, coffee-table books, and furniture, plus personal care items and accessories.

Hugh’s interior is a well-organized place, pleasing to browse. The woman working the store the Sunday afternoon I visited was welcoming, and while I didn’t end up buying anything, I was especially intrigued by the Chemex coffee makers, elegant glass vessels (which remind me of beakers with their middles cinched) used to make pour-over coffee. Now that I’ve read this post on Hugh’s blog about the history of these coffee makers, I’m feeling increasingly taken with them. Maybe it’s time for a revisit?

If you aren’t in the area, you can still shop for Hugh’s pretty-slash-purposeful wares via its website (which also shows more furniture available for sale than is on display in its brick-and-mortar store).

4240 Cass Ave, Ste. 107

Detroit, MI 48201

(Closed Mondays and Tuesdays)

www.thankhugh.com

428. Nora – August 25, 2019 – Detroit, MI

August2019Nora1 (3)My trip to Nora was a visit-within-a-visit!

After purchasing a ticket at Cinema Detroit on a Sunday afternoon in late August and finding myself a half-hour early for the movie I was there to see, I decided to make a quick jaunt to nearby Nora to check it out and kill some time before the show.

It took some brisk walking to and from the theater and the shop based in the Cass Corridor neighborhood of Detroit to make the visit happen, but: mission accomplished! I was able to browse Nora’s beautifully curated collection of books, home goods, beauty care, clothing, greeting cards, accessories, and other items.

A striking collection of conically-shaped taper candles in various sizes and colors caught my eye, and I opted to purchase a turquoise one in the smallest size. The woman working the shop that day (who I presume is the owner) was friendly and welcoming in her interactions with me, as she was when I returned several weeks later to select another of the candles to accompany the first one (which looked like it needed a friend to join it on its perch on my family room table).

So, the verdict is in: whether you only have a few minutes to spare or time for an expanded browsing session, Nora is worth a visit! It’s an ideal place to pick up a thoughtful gift or eye-catching item for your home.

4240 Cass Ave., Ste. 109

Detroit, MI 48201

www.noramodern.com

427. Cinema Detroit – August 25, 2019 – Detroit, MI

August2019CinemaDetroit1 (2)August2019CinemaDetroit2 (3)August2019CinemaDetroit3 (3)Cinema Detroit is doing the good work, bringing interesting movies to the Metro-Detroit masses!

The independently-run, non-profit movie theater based in the Midtown/Cass Corridor neighborhood of Detroit occasionally screens films that the corporate theater chains show (it ran BlacKkKlansman when it came out last year, for instance). But most of the movies Cinema Detroit features have a smaller reach – think indie films, documentaries, cult classics. Cinema Detroit curates its films with care, favoring those that are thoughtful or artful or have an impactful message rather than those that net mega dollars.

Take the movie I saw at Cinema Detroit on a Sunday afternoon in late August, The Farewell, a comedic drama about a Chinese family’s decision to hide its matriarch’s cancer diagnosis from her. The movie got some mainstream attention – likely in part because it starred Awkwafina of Crazy Rich Asians fame – but it’s no flashy superhero-packed blockbuster. It’s in parts funny and heartwarming, but it’s also quite dark at times, and it poses an important moral question: is it wrong to hide from a loved one that she’s dying? Or is it a kindness, a shouldering of the burden so that she doesn’t have to? The Farewell is a thinker of a film.

Cinema Detroit specializes in such films. The other movie playing that day was a documentary on Toni Morrison, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, which I’m kind of kicking myself for not returning and seeing because she’s one of my favorite authors. (Her writing is so beautiful, and her fictional characters are so wonderfully strange! That’s my Toni tangent of the post.)

The movie theater is housed in a brick building with its own gated parking area and a beautiful mural emblazoned on its side, featuring flowers and a quote by Detroit-born poet Robert Hayden: “Undiscovered suns release their light.”

Entering it, I immediately took a liking to it. Cinema Detroit definitely emits indie-theater vibes with its lobby with its homey mish-mash of sofas and stuffed chairs and its combination ticket/concessions counter, where admission (reasonably priced at $9) is sold alongside popcorn and Faygo pop and candy.

Within Cinema Detroit, there are two viewing rooms: the main theater, which appears to be – from the photos I see on Yelp; I didn’t see it in person – a traditionally laid-out theater with cushy red chairs; and the screening room, which is where I viewed The Farewell. That room (captured in the third photo shown above) is a more intimate setting, a small space with a collection of couches and chairs that could seat about 12 to 15 people, depending on how cozy you want to get.

There were eight or nine of us in the screening room viewing The Farewell that afternoon, and from my chair in the back row, I had plenty of room, as I only shared that row with one other person. But if you want to make sure you get your preferred spot to view a movie in the screening room at Cinema Detroit, it wouldn’t hurt to show up early.

I left Cinema Detroit that night jazzed up by the experience I had there. Arts and culture, for me, make life more vibrant and compelling, and it’s exciting for me to have discovered another way I can experience them. Thanks, Cinema Detroit, for doing the good work!

4126 3rd St.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.cinemadetroit.org

378. Honest John’s – November 24, 2018 – Detroit, MI

November2018HonestJohns1 (2)November2018HonestJohns2 (3)Happy New Year’s Eve! While as of the date of this post it’s the very last day of 2018, here at 100 Places in the D, we’ll be exploring the year almost-past for at least a few more weeks (because somebody get a wee bit behind in her blogging).

Today it’s all about Honest John’s of Detroit! I visited the Midtown/Cass Corridor-based establishment after a tour of the Motown Museum back in November. Hungry and not wanting adventure-time in Detroit to end, I decided to hit Honest John’s for lunch.

The restaurant had been on my radar for a while. I’d envisioned it as a diner, as I knew it opened early (at 7 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 9 a.m. on Sundays) and served hearty breakfasts and other comfort-food fare. When I walked into its crowded interior that Saturday afternoon, I realized I’d been mistaken.

Honest John’s is most definitely a bar – a gloriously down-to-earth pub whose ceiling was festooned with colored twinkle lights (presumably in honor of the holiday season) and walls adorned with neon-light signage. While it opens early, it’s also open nightly until 2 a.m.

The neon-light signs spell out sayings like “Sobriety Sucks” and “Men Lie” – adages that doubtless tie in with the honesty theme of the bar’s name.

I found myself getting cold feet about eating lunch alone in that crowded bar – until I spied an open two-top table in the corner of the restaurant and reminded myself that I am indeed badass enough to dine solo. (We all are – how did fear of eating alone become a thing in our society, anyway? I mean, it is truly the least of our worries.)

My server was great: friendly, prompt, and polite. I perused the brunch menu and gave him my order of the Eastsider sandwich (essentially a Reuben, which is also on the menu; it subs out the sauerkraut for coleslaw), side of curly fries, and a hard cider from Starcut Ciders (which I’d not heard of previously but which I learned is a hard-cider brand owned by Michigan-based Short’s Brewing Company).

The sandwich and fries came out quickly, and they were BOMB! That Eastsider sandwich was so delectable with its layers of tender corned beef, melted Swiss, crunchy coleslaw, and creamy Thousand Island dressing nestled between buttery toasted rye bread . . . Mmmmmm. Writing about it is totally bringing me back to that glorious moment of consumption!

The portion sizes of both the Eastsider sandwich and the curly fries were ample, and I was easily able to save half of the sandwich and fries to take home with me.

I left Honest John’s with a happy heart and stomach, thrilled to have discovered yet another awesome restaurant/bar in the city and eagerly anticipating my return. I would say I’m excited to further explore Honest John’s food menu; it offers a wide array of breakfast items, sandwiches, burgers, and enticingly calorie-laden appetizers (hello, chili cheese fries!). But the truth is, I can’t wait to have another brush with that Eastsider Reuben – it’s perfection!

488 Selden St.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.honestjohnsdetroit.com

374. Marcus Market – October 27, 2018 – Detroit, MI

October2018Marcus2 (2)October2018Marcus1 (3)After a latte-sipping visit to Urban Bean Co. one rainy Saturday afternoon in late October, I wasn’t ready to go home, so I decided to jaunt over to Marcus Market to check it out.

I’d expected the Midtown/Cass Corridor-based business to be an indie grocery shop à la the now-defunct (R.I.P!) Parker Street Market. It is that, but it’s also a liquor store – and a purveyor of smoothies – and tacos!

As witnessed during my late-afternoon visit, the liquor-store aspect appears to be the most popular – at least among the college-student demographic. There were loads of young adults making alcoholic beverage purchases, presumably in preparation for Saturday night (ah, I remember those days!). Marcus Market has a wide selection of liquor, craft beer, and wine.

It also offers a variety of grocery items (bagged coffees, juices, snacks, soups and other canned goods, etc.) and goods you’d find in a drugstore (such as school supplies).

And then there are the two counters toward the back of the store, where the smoothies and tacos, respectively, are offered!

Who doesn’t love a fresh smoothie? I will say, however, that the food counter I’m most excited by in Marcus Market is the one that offers tacos, because that is helmed by El Taco Veloz, a Mexican restaurant based in Southwest Detroit that I’ve yet to visit but learned about this year and SO want to check out. Their tacos are supposed to be BOMB – and you can see from online reviews of Marcus Market that people are digging the ones they’ve ordered from the satellite location of El Taco Veloz located there.

I want to have the full El Taco Veloz experience at its original location in Southwest Detroit (where you order from a food truck and then eat in the dining area in the building behind it), so I did not partake of it within Marcus Market. But isn’t it awesome that Marcus Market helps peddle these purportedly glorious tacos – and so much other stuff?

4614 Second Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

372. Royale with Cheese – October 18, 2018 – Detroit, MI

October2018RoyalewithCheese1 (2)October2018RoyalewithCheese3 (2)October2018RoyalewithCheese2 (2)Last month, in between visiting Sfumato, a perfumery by day, and Castalia, its cocktail bar alter-ego, a friend and I hit up Royale with Cheese, a Midtown/Cass Corridor-based burger joint.

OMG, had I been eager to try this place! Photos of its beefy burgers exuberantly laden with sides had enticed me from its Yelp profile for months, so it was exciting to finally be immersed within the Royale with Cheese experience.

I got in line at the counter of the fast-casual restaurant and scoped out the overhead menu. I decided on the namesake burger, the Royale, with its pulled smoked brisket topped with cole slaw, avocado, caramelized onions, corn relish, a gouda fondue, and Royale sauce (how’s that for decadence?). I added a side of tater tots – because tots make my heart happy – and my friend and I paid for our food and found a seat in Royale’s dining area to await our orders’ arrival.

Admittedly, I thought the Royale was going to be a burger, with a traditional beef patty and pulled brisket loaded on top of that, so when ordering I’d asked if a cooking temperature was taken for the burger and gave my preferred doneness of medium. But while awaiting my order, I was approached by a kitchen staff member and asked whether I knew the Royale didn’t contain a beef patty – it was pure brisket – and whether I wanted to change my order upon knowing that information.

Whoops – apparently I’d been amiss in my interpretation of the menu. I was a little disappointed to realize I hadn’t ordered an actual burger but decided to stick with the namesake sandwich in the name of exploration – and also in gratitude to the staff member who’d come out to clarify things for me (why make his job harder by changing my order on the fly?).

The food came out promptly thereafter, and I wasn’t disappointed in my decision. Generously coated in rich barbecue sauce, the pulled brisket on the Royale was a tender, flavorful base for the other indulgent ingredients, specifically the creamy avocado and the gouda fondue. Mmm, mmm, mmm, MMM! The tater tots were irresistibly crispy, as well.

After relishing our meals and feeling satisfyingly full, my friend and I agreed that we needed to return to try Royale’s milkshakes. I am thinking the shakes with their house-made custard-ice-cream bases would be meals in themselves – and what sumptuous meals they would make with such flavor options as Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cookie Butter and Nutella, and Chocolate Espresso!

In addition to burgers, sandwiches, and shakes, Royale with Cheese offers salads, soup, and Bites, appetizer-esque snacks that threaten to rival the desserts and main courses in their richness: see the Fried Mac & Cheese and the Nacho Cheese Ravioli, the latter of which is described on Royale’s online menu as “handmade deep-fried Doritos Ravioli filled with Jalapeño Nacho Cheese, ‘New World’ Roasted Tomato Sauce.” Dang! Royale with Cheese is NOT messing around in the decadence department!

4163 Cass Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.royaledetroit.com