Detroit

297. Ima – December 17, 2017 – Detroit, MI

December2017Ima1 (2)December2017Ima2 (2)December2017Ima4 (3)Today’s post recounts Visit Number 297 to a new-to-me, locally-owned place in the Metro-Detroit area since starting this blog in February 2014.

Number 297! It’s looking like Number 300 will be hit before the end of 2017 [Cue confetti]!!!!

I can’t believe I’ve covered so much ground in just under four years, yet I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface – especially when it comes to trying new restaurants, bars, and shops in Detroit itself. Sunday’s visit to Ima was my 72nd visit to a new-to-me Detroit establishment since starting 100 Places in the D, and still there are so many intriguing places in the city on my to-do list – 110 and counting! I’m excited by the fact that there are so many amazing restaurants, bars, shops, parks, and venues to try; simultaneously, I’m impatient to see them all.

Can you relate to that feeling, that mixture of anticipation and excitement and impatience? Perhaps you, like me, are a Metro-Detroiter with a list as long as your arm of all the cool places in the city you’d like to visit, and it seems like it takes you forever to cross just one item off the list. I feel you on that! Pursuing dreams – even the smallish dream of trying a new restaurant – requires more discipline than I always expect it should.

Regardless of where you live, of what you want to accomplish, however big or small, the actual logistical doing of those things can be scary – the struggle is real! I hope you’re able to spur yourself on to achieve those things you want to achieve, at whatever pace you’re able to proceed at, whether moved by motivation or inspiration or frustration or impatience (hopefully by the former two feelings over the latter two).

I’ll thank God for that sense of impatience in me; it’s what drove me down to Corktown last Sunday after reading several issues of Hour Detroit and collecting more places to visit. I could’ve easily eaten lunch at home, but I pushed myself into that place of discomfort (my fear of driving in the city persists – will that ever go away?) and headed down to Michigan Avenue.

Upon surviving my vehicular anxiety (phew!), I parked on a snowy side street near Ima and stepped inside its warm, snug interior. The noodle- and rice-bowl-centric restaurant with a cuisine that’s been described as Japanese fusion was populated by a number of patrons despite having only been open for a half hour. Greeted by a friendly server who suggested I take a counter seat, I picked one facing a white divider wall that fronted the kitchen.

I’d previously studied the menu of udon noodle dishes, rice bowls, and appetizers including shrimp-stuffed dumplings, edamame, and tacos with wakame (seaweed), green hot sauce, and “jicama shells” (who knew jicama could be fashioned into taco shells?). So I knew exactly what I wanted: the Golden Curry rice bowl with smoked pork loin.

My meal came out quickly, and I was eager to dig in to the vibrant bowl of steaming curry. It was then that I noticed my utensil choices: spoon or chopsticks.

Oh, man! I hadn’t eaten with chopsticks in the longest, but I decided to tough it out with those wooden sticks rather than embarrass myself asking for a fork, and the chopstick finagling got easier as I went. That Golden Curry was worth the struggle!

The rich curry sauce was accompanied by a flavorful nori furikake seasoning and paired well with the sticky rice, cauliflower, edamame, scallions, sauteed greens, and pink pickled ginger. The thinly sliced pork loin was perfection, tender as can be. What a filling, fresh, warming dish! I was able to take half of the ample serving home to enjoy later (sans chopsticks, admittedly).

My visit to Ima was much too quick. I’d regretted choosing the counter seat facing the white kitchen divider and abutting up to another counter seat along the wall to my right; it made me feel claustrophobic, so I didn’t linger. I should’ve squeezed into a spot along the well-populated counter fronting the window – the view of Michigan Ave. would’ve felt so much more expansive! Or maybe I could’ve negotiated a spot at one of the two long communal tables; there was another woman eating there solo. I’d definitely recommend sitting in one of those two areas if you visit Ima; don’t make the mistake I made and sit facing a blank wall when you could be people-watching and soaking in the ambiance. Going out of your way to cross a place off of your to-visit list is much too special for that!

2015 Michigan Ave.

Detroit, Michigan 48216

www.imanoodles.com

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Detroit Lover’s Holiday Gift Guide!

100 Places in the D 2017 Holiday Gift Guide

Hi, guys! I am excited about today’s post because it is [DRUM ROLL]: a Detroit Lover’s Holiday Gift Guide!!! WA-HOO!

After seeing so many holiday gift guides cropping up on other blogs, I thought it would be fun to feature a Detroit-centric one here on 100 Places in the D. I got excited when I started perusing Amazon and seeing all of the amazing Detroit-y gift options on it: apparel, books, home and entertaining-focused items, and beauty products either showcasing the D and/or created by entrepreneurs in this area. Some of these products are ones I’ve used and adore; others are ones I’m just discovering and wanting to chuck into my shopping cart.

Around the subject of gift-buying, let’s face it: it’s crunch-time, people! Hannukah starts today, Christmas is 13 days away, Kwanzaa starts the day after that, and Festivus (“for the rest of us!”) is December 23 (though I’ve read that holiday aims to be a non-commercial one, I’m sure George Costanza would’ve preferred a good ol’-fashioned gift exchange over the Feats of Strength any day. Seinfield 4 Liiiife!)

OK, I don’t know about you, but I’ve got my holiday music going to set the ambiance (*NSync’s Home for Christmas – a classic!), and I’m ready to get this party started. Let the gift-showcasing bonanza begin!

*Note: the links to products on Amazon given in this post are affiliate links.*

Apparel:

A Cool Retro T-Shirt:

Detroit swagger! Love the ’70s vibe of this shirt. To check this out on Amazon, click here.

Another Sweet Retro T-Shirt:

How fun is this vintage-esque Tigers shirt? It’s got me wondering, “How long until Opening Day?” (Answer: 107 days to go until that first home game on March 29 at Comerica Park as of the date of this posting, in case you’re wondering.)  To check this out on Amazon, click here.

Books:

A Tome Testifying to the Beauty of the City:

Detroit: The Dream is Now: The Design, Art, and Resurgence of an American City by Michel Arnaud is packed with stunning photography of local architecture and art, capturing the vibrancy of the city. To check this out on Amazon, click here.

An Engrossing Novel with Interesting Characters:

I read The Turner House by Angela Flournoy the summer before last and loved it. It follows the history of one big Detroit family (with 13 kids!), the Turners, from the parents’ migration to the city from Arkansas to their life on the fictional Yarrow street to their present-day struggles with illness, finances, relationships, and the family haint (a ghost some of the kids claim to have first spotted in childhood). A National Book Award Finalist and garnerer of other honorable distinctions! To check this out on Amazon, click here.

A Thoughtful Showcase of Neighborhoods in the D:

The Detroit Neighborhood Guidebook is a collection of 33 fiction, nonfiction, and poetry pieces penned by various contributors, with each focusing on a different area of Detroit. It aims to offer a more nuanced and complete view of the city than is typically portrayed in the media. Amen to that! To check this out on Amazon, click here.

Food and Home:

A Bag of Locally Roasted Beans:

I heart The Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company’s brews! (I recounted my visit to its Woodward Ave. location in this post.) So I was excited to see that it’s selling its beans on Amazon. Pictured above is the Whole Bean Columbian Medium Roast Gourmet Coffee Motor City Blend – YUM. To check this out on Amazon, click here.

A Serving Board Modeled as a Map of the D:

What’s a better backdrop for holiday apps than this Totally Bamboo City Life Serving Board rendition of Detroit? Loving the intricate detailing! To check this out on Amazon, click here.

A Badass Pint Glass:

Made in Detroit! The pint glass you’ll want to steal back from the friend you gifted it to. To check this out on Amazon, click here.

A Set of Colorful Coasters Repping the Home Teams:

I love, love, love this set of four coasters, each depicting a vintage ticket stub for each of Detroit’s four major professional sports teams: the Lions, Tigers, Pistons, and Red Wings. To check this out on Amazon, click here.

Delightfully Scented, Locally Handcrafted Soy Candles:

Mitten Candle Co. 2

My friends are the local entrepreneurs behind Mitten Candle Co. and these wonderful handcrafted soy candles scented with essential oils and other natural fragrance oils. So you could say I’m biased – but not really, because these candles are on POINT! I light candles daily and appreciate the good clean burn of Mitten Candle Co.’s products and the variety of scents offered, including holiday scents such as Pine Tree (sooo good) and Peppermint Mocha.  To check this out on Etsy, click here.

Health and Beauty:

For the Dude in Your Life Who’s Got Growing a Beard on His List of 2018 Resolutions:

Ferndale-based Detroit Grooming Co.’s Corktown Grooming Oil will keep those chin hairs soft and lustrous! To check this out on Amazon, click here.

For Anyone Who Wants to Make Relaxing and Feeling Good a Priority:

Who does this category not cover? I mean, I don’t know about you guys, but I’d like to make relaxing and feeling good a REAL priority in 2018. And I know goodies from the Chelsea, MI-based Little Flower Shop Co. will help me do just that. I’ve been using its Muscle Rescue Balm with soothing arnica, St. John’s wort oil, cinnamon, lavender, and peppermint since discovering it in 2016. I love using it as a natural pain-reliever for sore muscles; it’s soothing and smells AMAZING.

Other goodies offered from the Little Flower Shop: the Essential Oil Aromatherapy Gift Box (pictured above); the Set of 5 – Essential Oil Soap Set (I’ve used the soap, too – it’s good stuff!); the Bourbon Lip Balm (intriguing!), and the Beard Care Gift Set Kit (Practical-Yet-Cool Gift Alert!) Check out its wares, support a local company, and help your loved one’s kick off 2018 lookin’ and feelin’ fanstastic!

To check Little Flower Shop Co.’s Muscle Rescue Balm out on Amazon, click here.

To see it’s Essential Oil Aromatherapy Gift Box for her, click here.

The Set of 5 – Essential Oil Soap Set can found here.

The Bourbon Lip Balm can be purchased here.

And the Beard Care Gift Set Kit can be bought here.

~Happy shopping and HAPPY HOLIDAYS, all!~

*Note: the links to products on Amazon given in this post are affiliate links.*

294. Stache International – November 17, 2017 – Detroit, MI

November2017Stache1 (2)November2017Stache2 (3)November2017Stache3 (2)November2017Stache4 (3)Hi guys! I’m glad to be back on the blog sharing with you another glorious place in the D after a week off – just in time for the weekend and any exploring you may be set on doing! 🙂

I hope you all had an excellent Thanksgiving if you celebrate that holiday. I was fortunate to enjoy a four-day weekend around it, and while I didn’t end up exploring any new-to-me Detroit-area places during that timeframe, I did get up to Mt. Pleasant to visit a friend (and my old stomping grounds from my college days at CMU – Fire Up Chips!) and did a revisit of M-Brew (where I guzzled cranberry-infused hard cider and played the heck out of the Ghostbusters pinball machine in celebration of a pal’s birthday). It was delightful.

You know what else was delightful? My recent visit to Stache International! After hitting up the recently opened Eastern Market Brewing Company two weekends ago, my night out in the Eastern Market neighborhood of Detroit continued with a visit to the sandwich joint, which I discovered is not your average deli (in the best way EVER).

Stache is more bar than sandwich shop. For one, it has a full bar – plus a dimly lit, eclectically hipster-trendy-slash-mysterious vibe. There are glossy black carousel horses flanking the bar, a plethora of eye-grabbing prints on the wall, and on the night I was there, two TVs playing a black-and-white movie that appeared to be Frankenstein and episodes of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, respectively.

Pee-Wee’s Playhouse! OK, I know ol’ Pee-Wee, or rather, Paul Reubens who played him, has a tarnished past – and legitimately so – but man! did I love that show when I was a kid! I hadn’t seen it in years, and I felt a fond wave of nostalgia when I saw it playing above the Stache International bar – nostalgia that the younger friends I was with who were babies when Pee-Wee’s Playhouse ended couldn’t relate to. Man, is that show trippy to watch when you’re an adult! It fits in well with Stache’s surreal aesthetic.

While I very much enjoyed the ambiance and the blast-from-the-past TV viewing, I was ultimately at Stache for the food. I found that while its menu is small, it contains many intriguing sandwich and appetizer choices. After deliberating and taking the server’s suggestions into account, I decided on the Turkey Mondulo, which is described on Stache’s website as “House smoked pulled turkey breast marinated in chipotle & negra modelo & honey-cilantro red cabbage slaw & rosemary garlic aioli on grilled sourdough,” and added avocado per the add-on option. I also couldn’t help but spring for the Firecracker Bites, which are essentially a spring roll-mozzarella stick hybrid: spring roll wrappers loaded with cheese and local jam connoisseur Gus & Grey’s Sweet Jesus jalapeño jam and deep-fried. YES, PLEASE!

The Firecracker Bites came out first. I had gotten the order of four (there is also an order of 12) and shared them with my three companions. They were INSANELY good. I mean, deep-fried spring rolls loaded with mozzarella, asiago, and delectably sweet-and-spicy Gus & Grey jam and dunked in Cajun ranch sauce – how can you go wrong? As I’ve mentioned several times before on this blog, I’m obsessed with Gus & Grey jams, and I certainly don’t find cheesy, deep-fried items unalluring, either.

Fun fact: our server told us that the husband of the woman who owns Gus & Grey is one of the owners of Stache International – so there’s the tie-in!

And then it was on to the Turkey Mondulo, which was PHENOMENAL! I was admittedly surprised to like it so much, as I wasn’t sure how appealing a turkey sandwich with cabbage on it would be and had relied more on our server’s enthusiastic recommendation of it than my reaction to the menu description when choosing it. But it was SOOOO good. The sourdough bread was irresistibly buttered and toasted to perfection, while the turkey breast and honey-cilantro cabbage slaw were pleasingly flavorful. I swore there was cheese on the sandwich, but I’m not seeing it in the menu description, so perhaps it was the garlic aioli whose delectable creaminess I adored in addition to the creaminess of the avocado? At any rate, the sandwich was amazing. The house-made potato chips that came with it were pretty darn good, too – crispy and well-seasoned.

My night out in the Eastern Market neighborhood concluded with a revisit to Detroit City Distillery, where the good vibes garnered from Eastern Market Brewing Company and Stache amplified as DJs spinned tunes while buoyantly happy dancers let loose. It was an awesome finish to an awesome night, but I was especially happy to have had the foresight to take half of my Stache International sandwich with me so I could enjoy it again later. The place is truly worth a revisit – and not just via leftovers.

1416 E. Fisher Service Dr.

Detroit, MI 48207

www.stacheinternational.com

293. Eastern Market Brewing Company – November 17, 2017 – Detroit, MI

November2017EMBC2 (2)November2017EMBC3 (2)Last Friday night was especially fun because (as I mentioned in my last post) I spent it downtown! Friends and I enjoyed a night out in Eastern Market, which I quickly realized is more loaded with restaurants and bars than I’d thought it to be. Our first stop? The recently opened Eastern Market Brewing Company.

Right away I loved the ambiance of this craft brewery established inside of a former meat-packing facility, from the exposed bricks and bare-lightbulb lighting to succulents in vintage cans studding the long pinewood tables to the hooks left as remnants from the building’s past festooned all over the walls. Wooden plant boxes crammed with lively greenery hang from one wall; a large mural of the brewery’s logo, a frolicking elephant wielding an EMBC banner with its trunk, emblazons another.

The menu contained an expansive selection of 15 brews on the night of my visit, from which I ordered four to populate a sampler flight: the Maize Cream Ale (a light-bodied beer infused with corn), Coffee Stout, Pumpkin Hefe, and Nitro Pumpkin (which led me to learn that nitro beers incorporate actual nitrogen – interesting!). All of the beers were good, but I especially enjoyed the Pumpkin Hefe – a.k.a a Hefeweizen (wheat beer) with a pronounced pumpkin flavor, subtle sweetness, and an irresistible hint of nutmeg. What a perfect brew to sip whilst huddled away from the chilly fall night in a cozy, convivial environs!

Worth noting: Eastern Market Brewing Company doesn’t have a kitchen-backed food menu, but snacks are available for purchase (I’m not positive what kind, but it did look like bags of popcorn were on display), and you can bring in outside food, as well.

2515 Riopelle St.

Detroit, MI 48207

www.easternmarket.beer

292. Honey Bee Market La Colmena – November 11, 2017 – Detroit, MI

November2017LaColema1November2017LaColema3November2017LaColema4TGIF, guys! I’m THRILLED for it to be Friday because that means it’s finally the day when I’ll be heading down to the D for some happy-hour shenanigans at a new-for-me place or two (look out for post(s) on that next week).

I hope you’re also able to get some exploring in this weekend – unless hunkering down at home in your sweatpants is the much-needed alternative after a hectic week. If that’s the case, I totally get it – that’s my preference sometimes, too! Sweatpants are on the shortlist for Greatest Gifts EVER from the Universe for me – especially during what for us in Metro-Detroit is a chilly, oft-rainy time of year. But if you do get out this weekend and visit any new places in the Detroit area or elsewhere, please feel free to post about it in the comments field below; I’d love to hear about it!

Speaking of sweet, sweet weekends: last Saturday,  I was fortunate enough to be able to pop down to what is fast becoming one of my fave neighborhoods in Detroit, Mexicantown. After my visit to top-notch tamale joint Tamaleria Nuevo Leon, I decided to check out another nearby establishment, Honey Bee Market La Colmena.

The grocery store located near the Canadian border in Detroit is a gorgeous facility displaying ample amounts of produce, dry goods, meat, and baked goods, with a focus on Mexican and other Central American products. I’d heard rave reviews about the quality of its grocery selection and prepared foods, so I was excited to check it out.

I geek out over quality markets, no joke! A market with superior produce and specialty goods is one of my favorite places to be in the whole wide world, right up there with libraries (bookworm 4Life!), new-to-me countries, and Comerica Park. And Honey Bee Market La Colmena did not disappoint.

Despite being in existence since 1956, the shop is a new-looking, modern facility – the result of a recent renovation, according to its website, which nearly quadrupled the store in size from 4,000 to 15,000 square feet.

The front section of Honey Bee Market La Colmena displays ample amounts of fresh produce, followed by rows and rows of packaged goods ranging from canned beans and tomatoes to McClure’s pickles. Toward the back of the store are the cooler area and the meat counter, from which I purchased a couple of pounds of fajita skirt steak, which was excellent marinated, pan-seared, and put into tacos.

There’s a long table near the butcher counter displaying a myriad of tortilla options, from which I selected a pack of 30 corn tortillas (soooo many tacos in my future – and I’m NOT complaining about that!). I also bought a selection of produce, including some perfectly ripe avocadoes and five petite limes for only $1, plus some jalapeño pesto called Jala Pesto.

I would be remiss in writing this post about Honey Bee Market La Colmena if I didn’t mention its fresh-made salsa and guacamole! There are samples of it in the produce area when you first walk in; I tried both and especially loved the guacamole. I was this-close to purchasing some, but my splurges on the Jala Pesto (which was like $6) and the steak stopped me. However, know that it IS delicious and is definitely worth taking home.

As someone who loves to cook (check out my other blog, A Cookable Feast, for more on that topic), it is so nice to know that this clean, quality, well-stocked, reasonably-priced grocery store exists and that I can come here when I’m looking for ingredients for Mexican/Central American recipes that I can’t find at Meijer or another local produce market. Thank you, Honey Bee Market La Colmena, for giving me another first-rate market to geek out over!

2443 Bagley Ave.

Detroit, MI 48216

www.honeybeemkt.com

291. Tamaleria Nuevo Leon – November 11, 2017 – Detroit, MI

November2017Tamaleria1 (2)November2017Tamaleria2November2017Tamaleria3 (2)I’m so excited to bring you today’s post on Tamaleria Nuevo Leon, a tamale joint in Detroit!

This carryout restaurant is a cash-only establishment on Vernor Highway in Mexicantown. It’s a place I’ve referenced wanting to visit in a few of my recent posts, and this past weekend, I finally made it down there for some sweet, sweet tamale goodness.

You walk in and place your order at a counter. Tamales can be ordered by the dozen, half-dozen, and individually. The larger the order size for one variety of tamale that you order, the better the discount. For instance, I decided on a dozen tamales – one-half dozen pork with jalapeños and one-half dozen cheese with jalapeños – which cost me $14 before tax (as it’s $7 per each half-dozen variety of tamales). But if I had gotten all dozen tamales as pork, they would’ve only been $11. Since I wanted to try two different kinds, I was willing to pay a few extra dollars on this visit. And I still received a discount with the half-dozen orders versus ordering tamales individually, as single tamales are $1.50 each.

I LOVE Mexican food, so I was super excited to leave Tamaleria Nuevo Leon with two warm bundles of those little babies nestled in their corn husks. I finally sat down to lunch an hour-plus later, ravenous with hunger and anticipation.

My appetite was quickly sated, and I was not disappointed. Man, are these tamales melt-in-your-mouth delicious! If I had to pick a favorite, I would go with the pork ones with their meaty, spicy filling, but the cheese ones are certainly good, too. I ate eight tamales throughout the first day of getting them – not a difficult feat, as they are smaller than some tamales you will find in restaurants – more long and narrow.

If you love a good tamale, you’ve got to check out this place. Tamaleria Nuevo Leon is yet another Mexicantown gem!

2669 Vernor Hwy.

Detroit, MI 48216

 

286. Taqueria El Rey – October 14, 2017 – Detroit, MI

TaqueriaElReyOct2017-2 (3)TaqueriaElReyOct2017-3 (2)TaqueriaElReyOct2017-4 (3)TaqueriaElReyOct2017-1 (2)Hi, all! I am super excited to share today’s place with you because it is an absolute gem and I’m OBSESSED with it after eating there a few weeks ago: Taqueria El Rey in Detroit. From this Mexican restaurant, I ordered literally THE BEST tacos of my life – and very possibly the greatest meal of my life to date. They were THAT good.

I’ve visited and reported on some incredible Mexican restaurants for 100 Places in the D; El Patrón in Pontiac, Las Tortugas Taqueria in Shelby Township, and Taqueria Alma in Center Line immediately spring to mind as establishments whose wares still haunt my gastronomical dreams (in the best way possible). I have to say, though, that the carnitas tacos I had from Taqueria El Rey edged even the offerings from those fantastic establishments in the “Mind is BLOWN!” (or rather, “Taste buds are BLOWN”!) realm for me. They were ridiculously, life-affirmingly, all-is-right-with-the-world-level delicious.

Let me set the scene here before I elaborate on how insane these godly carnitas tacos were. Taqueria El Rey is on Vernor Highway in the Mexicantown neighborhood of Detroit. It’s a cash-only establishment (one that, take my word for it, is def worth withdrawing cash for) with a small dining area, a front counter with stools, and a grill near the front door where the magic is happening in real time.

The vibe inside was welcoming; I immediately felt a sense of easefulness. I felt like I had stepped into another realm far from home, one where cell phones didn’t exist and people ignored their to-do lists to relaxedly eat their lunches at counters while forming bonds with the benevolent strangers next to them.

I don’t know what exactly moved me to feel this way. Maybe it was the carefree ambiance afforded by the Latin music playing. Maybe it was that there were indeed people sitting at the front counter eating their lunches in a relaxed manner. Maybe it was the friendly young woman who took my order and told me her name was also Jackie and preceded to ask how I spelled the full version of my name (a common question when fellow Jackies meet; I am the “Jacqueline” brand of Jackie; she was Jacquelyn, if I’m remembering correctly). Whatever it was, the place emitted enough good feels in the short amount of time I waited for my carry-out order that I was like, hmm, maybe I should’ve just ordered the food for here. I’m digging this place. But when my order came, I decided, nah, I’ll wait until I get home. The practical side of me overrode the spontaneous side.

But when I got to my car and opened the carry-out box to peek in at my order of two carnitas tacos, all steaming pork and corn tortillas loaded with diced onions and cilantro and accompanied by lime wedges, radish chunks, salsa, and an intriguing green sauce, the spontaneous side roared back all like Are we insane??? We need to eat these ASAP, while they are fresh. So I did, right there in my car in the gravel parking lot abutting Taqueria El Rey. And my world was turned upside down, because they were the BEST.TACOS.EVER.

These tacos were so fresh and flavorful on their own, and then with the additions of the lime juice and the radishes and the hot salsa and the green sauce, which turned out to be an insanely good creamy jalapeño sauce, the ante was upped times a million. And all this for only $3.18 – $3.18!

I am in love with these tacos, hardcore. Like, introduce-them-to-the-family hardcore-in-love. In fact, as I exited Taqueria El Rey’s parking lot after gorging on both of them, I was like, when can I take my dad and brother here? They would love this place!

I can’t wait to make my next trip to Taqueria El Rey to eat these magical carnitas tacos drizzled in lime juice and salsa and dunked in that spicy jalapeño sauce again. I am actually hoping to make another trip down to Mexicantown this Saturday. Although here is the dilemma: my addiction to trying new places is calling me to check out another Mexicantown establishment; I’m pondering one that specializes in tamales. But hey, those two Taqueria El Rey tacos were only $3.18; certainly I could afford to visit both when those tacos cost less than the price of a latte, right?

4730 W. Vernor Hwy.

Detroit, MI 48209

www.taqueria-elrey.com

283. Treat Dreams – October 6, 2017 – Detroit, MI

TreatOct2017-1 (2)TreatOct2017-2 (2)During a recent afternoon trip to Detroit to celebrate my birthday with my mom (the mother/daughter b-day thing is kind of an annual tradition), I FINALLY visited Treat Dreams. The local ice cream slingers with shops in the Midtown/Cass Corridor area of Detroit and Ferndale are much renowned for their scrumptious, ever-changing, oft-unique ice cream flavors, so I was excited to try some of their wares.

After studying the chalkboard touting the day’s selections, including such intriguing varieties as lemon basil, pumpkin truffle, and amaretto, we decided to share the Dark Sea Olive Oil, a chocolate concoction (there was really no way it was not gonna be something chocolate for us two; we are both in agreement with chocolate being LIFE). At the last minute, I decided it had to be in a waffle bowl, because what is a better container for ice cream than a fresh-baked waffle bowl? It’s practically a bona-fide fact that it’s numero uno in the ice-cream container department – at least in my mind it is.

The Dark Sea Olive Oil ended up being an amazing choice. It was rich and creamy – likely due in large part to the olive oil – with an irresistible chocolateyness and a perfect hint of sea salt. Perfection!

Another thing I love about Treat Dreams besides its ice cream being hands-down delicious is that it also offers coffee drinks – including COFFEE DRINKS THAT CONTAIN ICE CREAM. Best.idea.EVER. There is an espresso-laced shake, as well as the Affogato al Caffé, which is a shot of espresso poured over a scoop of ice cream. The ladies working the counter told us it’s a real popular one with med students who are studying for finals (no surprise there!). I’m sure we can all think of our own excuses to need one of those in our lives, stat!

4160 Cass Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.treatdreams.com

282. Cake Ambition – October 6, 2017 – Detroit, MI

CakeAmbitionOct2017-2 (2)CakeAmbitionOct2017-1 (2)After enjoying lunch at Selden Standard and making a couple of purchases at the lovely independent bookshop Source Booksellers (which I visited for the first time on my birthday last year), my recent birthday celebration downtown with my mom continued in search of sweets. Spurred on by a recommendation of one of the Source clerks who raved about its cheesecake, we went in search of what she called the “cheesecake lady” shop next to Blossoms florist.

After locating the florist, we realized the actual name of the cheesecake shop was Cake Ambition and that it sold much more than cheesecake. The vibrantly colored space (no way you can walk into this place and not smile!) also sold a selection of cupcakes and other baked goods such as coffee cake and spinach pies; old-fashioned candies such as salt-water taffy and striped candy sticks; and packaged goodies produced by other local vendors such as the fabulous Gus & Grey, which you may remember me mentioning in previous blog posts such as this one. Its jams are FANTASTIC, with unique flavor offerings such as the blueberry-lavender Spellbound, which Cake Ambition had in stock and which I decided to purchase.

I wanted to purchase the jam not only because I love Gus & Grey but also because I wanted to support the super-cheery shop and its friendly owner. My mom and I had decided not to purchase any cheesecake from Cake Ambition because there was only one slice currently being offered, and we decided amongst ourselves that we would move on to the other dessert place we’d had in mind instead, which I’ll cover in my next post (hint: it involves ice cream!).

Even though I didn’t sample any of Cake Ambition’s baked goods, I’m happy it was brought to my attention, because now I know not only where to go if I need a shot of childhood-level cheer and nostalgia (I just love the vibe of that colorful shop!), but also where I can order a baller custom cake. The gallery on Cake Ambition’s site shows cakes sculpted into realistic-looking models of athletic shoes, a pirate ship, and the Mad Hatter hat of Alice in Wonderland-fame, to name a few of the works of art displayed there. I am fascinated by the level of artistry obviously required to craft such desserts; these guys are definitely talented!

4154 3rd St.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.cakeambition.com

281. Selden Standard – October 6, 2017 – Detroit, MI

SeldenOct2017-3 (2)SeldenOct2017-4 (2)SeldenOct2017-1 (2)October 6 was a very special day for me, because it was my birthday! And I LOVE my birthday. I find birthdays to be the ultimate excuse for myself to turn off that go-go-go, disciplined part of me that generally won’t quit and just chilling, doing what I want, and celebrating the fact that I got to spend another year on the planet.

I DO NOT work on my birthday. I haven’t since 2010. Generally my mom will take the day off with me, and we’ll spend the day together. That’s what we did this year – and the best part is, we made it a Detroit Day!!!!

Yes, we did one of my favorite things on the planet: spend the afternoon downtown, starting with a birthday lunch at a restaurant I’d been curious about for years, Selden Standard.

In case you haven’t heard of this much-lauded restaurant, Selden Standard is in the Cass Corridor neighborhood. It’s a modern-looking establishment with a bright and clean ambiance: lots of gray and white, bricks and concrete, wood-planked ceilings and wooden countertops.

It was busy on the Friday we were there; we were offered seats at the bar and the chef’s counter near the wood-fired oven and bustling kitchen crew. We chose seats at the latter and had an open view of the kitchen beyond it, which looked very clean and professional. I always appreciate a restaurant that’s not afraid to give a window into its kitchen to guests!

Selden Standard is big on shareable plates, we learned from our server. My mom and I had different things that we wanted to try, so we each got two of our own dishes. I had the Heirloom Tomato Salad and the Chicken Sugo pasta, which were both phenomenal. The flavorful heirloom tomatoes in that first dish were paired with an irresistibly creamy ricotta, crispy fried bread, and my favorite touch, mint – which I wouldn’t have expected to go so perfectly with the tomatoes and cheese, but it so did. The Chicken Sugo with campanelle noodles, tomato, ricotta, and fennel was wonderfully rich in flavor, with this lovely smokiness to it. My mom enjoyed her potato soup (which was the soup of the day) and the Grilled Shrimp with eggplant, peppers, and pickles.

It was a special birthday meal, one that I felt privileged to be out enjoying in a city I love on a weekday when I normally otherwise would have been working. Sometimes, I remind myself during times like these, you really do need to say “F’ it!” to all of the obligations and to-dos and take time out specifically to have fun so you can remember how fun life can really be – and if you can’t do that on your b-day, when can you?

Worth mentioning: Selden Standard has pretty specific hours; it’s closed for a few hours between lunch and dinner (or brunch and dinner on the weekends). Lunch currently runs from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; brunch is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; dinner is from 5 to 10 p.m. every day. The bar area has slightly extended evening hours; it’s open from 4:30 to 11 p.m. every day.

3921 Second Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.seldenstandard.com