Detroit

471. E&L Supermercado – March 8, 2020 – Detroit, MI

March2020E&LSupermercado1 (2)March2020E&LSupermercado2 (2)As of the writing of this post, I haven’t been to a grocery store in almost two weeks – or anywhere, really. But it cheers me to know that wonderful grocery stores such as E&L Supermercado are still in operation during this challenging time, doing the noble work of feeding the masses.

I visited the Southwest Detroit-based grocery store in early March, marveling over its well-stocked meat counter, mounds of fresh produce, array of fresh-baked breads and sweets, and ample selections of locally-made corn and flour tortillas, house-made salsas, and Mexican dry grocery goods.

I enjoyed shopping in the store bustling with families and friends running into each other. After perusing all of the goodies, I came out with a variety of fruits and vegetables, a sack of house-made tortilla chips, bags of fresh flour tortillas, canned salsa, a package of El Milagro non-GMO tostadas (LOVE those – they’re so deliciously crunchy!), and what turned out to be my favorite purchase, a container of E&L Supermercado’s house-made Salsa a la Diabla.

I ADORE spicy food. But I’ll admit: buying a salsa labeled “Salsa of the Devil” from a Mexican grocery store gave me pause; I wondered if it would be more heat than I could handle. Happily, it was not; that Salsa a la Diabla was nowhere near as spicy as I’d expected it to be – but it was wonderful.

It brought the heat, but in a pleasant way – at least, in a pleasant way for someone who has a high heat tolerance (I acknowledge that those who prefer mild heat might indeed find it as hot as a work of Satan’s); it had such beautifully nuanced flavor. It struck me as more of an oily, spice-infused paste than a traditional salsa; it didn’t have chunks of tomatoes or veggies in it but appeared to contain an ample amount of ground red chiles. I became OBSESSED with it, consuming it daily mixed into meals or slathered on E&L Supermercado’s perfectly crispy, salty tortilla chips – until it ran out and I found myself scrambling for an excuse to drive down to buy more.

Even if E&L Supermercado wasn’t doing the work of heroes at this intense time in history, feeding people fresh and nutritious and tasty food when they need it most, I’d still view the store as a superpower for manufacturing that Salsa a la Diabla and for offering such stellar produce and groceries. E&L Supermercado has definitely been added to my rotation of top-notch locally-owned markets!

6000 W. Vernor Hwy.

Detroit, MI 48209

www.el-supermercado.com

470. Mexicantown Bakery – March 8, 2020 – Detroit, MI

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Mexicantown Bakery’s churro, chocolate croissant, and coffee tres leches cake

Baked goods most definitely make my heart – and my stomach – smile, so recounting this visit to Mexicantown Bakery is a real treat.

The Southwest Detroit-based bakery offers a plethora of fresh-made goodies: loaves of bread, buns, cake, cookies, cupcakes, churros, conchas (Mexican sweet bread), flan, and the like. A long row of display cases line a section of its interior near its front door. Patrons are able to select items displayed in those cases themselves using tongs or parchment paper and to place them on plastic trays, which they can then proceed with to the cashier counter.

Additional displays of fresh-baked treats abound, including in cases built into the cashier counter and in a refrigerated case toward the back of the store that holds what I consider to be Mexicantown Bakery’s pièce de résistance: its tres leches cake.

Tres leches in its classic form is, to me, one of the finest baked goods ever – and Mexicantown Bakery has upped the ante by offering it in additional flavor varieties, including chocolate, caramel, and coffee. I HAD to try that coffee one, so I grabbed one of the plastic containers offering up a large piece of it (what I’d consider as two slices in one).

I also picked these items out of the choose-it-yourself display cases: a chocolate croissant; a caramel-stuffed churro; a slice of chocolate cake swirled with strawberry filling; and a cupcake rendered to look like a giant version of the classic cream-filled Hostess cupcake, complete with the white icing squiggle on top.

Yep, I went a little crazy, procuring five desserts all for myself: but it’s hard not to go crazy at a place showcasing such delectable delights as Mexicantown Bakery!

All of those desserts were DELICIOUS. I got a real kick out of eating the mega Hostess-cupcake clone and savoring its rich cream center, as I savored the strawberry filling in the slice of chocolate cake. The croissant was especially tasty heated up in the microwave, its center oozing melted chocolate, while the churro was a cinnamon-infused indulgence.

But that tres leches cake – oh, that tres leches cake! It’s taking the cake (pun intended, naturally) as the best thing I’ve eaten thus far this year. WOW, was it phenomenal: so rich and spongy and sumptuous, soaked in sweet, milky goodness, with a wonderful coffee flavor and creamy decadence that was immensely satisfying. I ate it over several sittings, relishing every bite and daydreaming about buying more of it. With any luck, a revisit to Mexicantown Bakery will be sooner rather than later.

As of the writing of this post, it appears that Mexicantown Bakery is open despite the coronavirus crisis; its Facebook page mentions modified hours, but I don’t see a post about it closing (perhaps it’s considered a carryout place and allowed to stay active). Regardless of whether it’s in operation now or not, I’m sure its business has been affected during this challenging time. Whenever this awful situation has resolved and we can be out and about again as we were before, please consider patronizing this wonderful establishment. Independently-owned Detroit businesses such as Mexicantown Bakery will need our patronage more than ever.

4300 W. Vernor Hwy.

Detroit, MI 48209

www.mexicantownbakery.com

Detroit Charities to Help During the Coronavirus Crisis

October2018DetroitRiverWalk2 (3)Watching Detroit become one of the cities hit hardest by the coronavirus is a terrible thing. As if many of its citizens weren’t struggling enough in day-to-day life, now they have to contend with a deadly virus ripping through their neighborhoods. To call what they’re going through right now unfair is a vicious understatement.

It feels silly in the face of such suffering to feel like I can help – which is exactly why I’m writing this post: as a reminder to myself and to anyone who reads it that we can help, that our small actions can add up to make a difference. One kind act, one relatively small donation can snowball into a massive positive effect!

In the spirit of that can-do optimism, here are some Detroit-based (and Detroit adjacent) charities that could really use our help during this time. If you’re able to give any amount financially or to volunteer your services to any of them that are still accepting volunteers, I’m sure they would very much appreciate it!

COTS: This has long been one of my favorite local organizations to support. COTS offers temporary shelter and a plethora of other resources to those in need – from assistance obtaining housing and employment to financial education and access to job training. www.cotsdetroit.org

Detroit Area Agency on Aging: The elderly are an especially vulnerable population at this time. Detroit Area Agency on Aging is helping them by delivering meals to senior citizens who are unable to leave their homes or prepare meals on their own via its Meals on Wheels program. www.detroitseniorsolution.org

Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries: Another longtime favorite of mine, this charity provides food, shelter, and a variety of supportive programs, such as treatment for substance abuse and assistance upon exiting correctional facilities. www.drmm.org

Forgotten Harvest: Procuring food that would otherwise go to waste and distributing it to those in need is Forgotten Harvest’s mission. Now more than ever, they need financial help to deliver that food. www.forgottenharvest.org

Turning Point: The Macomb County-based advocate for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence is facing the virus head-on, continuing to offer beds at its shelter and services such as it 24/7 crisis line and Forensic Nurse Examiner Program. While it’s not based in Detroit or Wayne County, I felt compelled to feature it here because I have personal experience working with the women who run it and wanted to give a shout-out to their bravery, resilience, and do-gooder-ness. www.turningpointmacomb.org

United Way for Southeastern Michigan: The mainstay Metro-Detroit charity has established its COVID-19 Community Response Fund to help local aid organizations who are assisting the community in the midst of the pandemic. www.unitedwaysem.org

469. TARDIS Detroit – March 8, 2020 – Detroit, MI

March2020TARDISDetroit1 (2)March2020TARDISDetroit2 (2)March2020TARDISDetroit3 (3)Here’s one establishment that’s able to stay open during the coronavirus crisis: TARDIS Detroit.

The stock in the lending library based in the Woodbridge neighborhood of Detroit is patron-maintained; it runs on the take-a-book, leave-a-book philosophy. The wooden structure has been crafted to look like the TARDIS time machine from the British sci-fi TV show Doctor Who – though rather than its acronym standing for “Time and Relative Dimension in Space,” it means “Totally Awesome Reading Dispensary in Society.” Love it!

TARDIS Detroit is located in a grassy lot in a residential neighborhood at the corner of West Warren Avenue and Vermont Street. Approaching it on a sunny Sunday morning in early March, I felt as giddy as a child. Visiting the TARDIS combined three things I love: art, books, and exploring, and it was so fun to open first the outer doors, then the intricately painted sliding inner doors to reveal the bookshelves within.

Those shelves contained a variety of books, including a copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a cookbook touting fruit-based dishes, and a novel by Hilary Duff. But it was a hardcover copy of Walden and Other Writings by Henry David Thoreau that prompted me to take it with me (and which, in hindsight, feels like an especially apt selection given the state of seclusion I’ve been forced to take up by current world events). In return, I left three books from my personal library that I’d brought with me.

It’s a dark time for Detroit; the coronavirus is ravaging it. I’ve struggled with whether releasing such a post at this time is even appropriate; I’ve went through with it because I’m hoping it serves as a reminder of all that is great about Detroit and that joyful experiences are still available.

It’s a small comfort to know that there are structures out there such as TARDIS Detroit that one can visit to pick up a book (perhaps on one of our sanctioned outdoor recreational jaunts?), without having to encounter another soul. It may not be an actual time machine, but through the tomes it houses, it’s serving as a portal to other dimensions – and escapism through the worlds constructed by books is a much-desired commodity for those of us who are privileged enough to be able to engage in it during this nightmare of a time.

1944 W. Warren Ave.

Detroit, MI 48208

466. Mutiny Tiki Bar – February 16, 2020 – Detroit, MI

February2020MutinyBar1 (2)February2020MutinyBar2 (3)It feels massively bittersweet to be writing this post about my mid-February visit to Mutiny Tiki Bar. I had an amazing time at this wonderful, high-vibing bar in Southwest Detroit – but knowing that I couldn’t go there today if I wanted to brings tears to my eyes.

The coronavirus has impacted so many of us globally. For many, it has meant devastatingly life-altering or fatal consequences for themselves and/or their loved ones. My heart goes out to those who have been directly impacted by the virus in terrible ways, and I know my plight – to be stuck inside while we attempt to curb and end this thing in Michigan – is utterly miniscule compared with the suffering and grief those people have experienced. I am living a life of luxury and comfort in comparison, and I acknowledge that and am grateful for the fact that thus far, my family, friends, and I have been able to stay safe.

I acknowledge that, and . . . I miss exploring already. Monday was a bad day for me, when the directive came through from our governor for dine-in restaurants, coffee shops, and bars to close – plus gyms, recreation areas, spas, and the like (a.k.a., the fun stuff). I totally get and respect this decision, I know it’s necessary, and yet, it still SUCKS. Exploring Metro-Detroit has become much, much harder right now; even stepping out at all has become, at the very least, an ethical dilemma – not to mention, what could be a matter of life and death for vulnerable populations . . .  and we don’t know when that’s going to change.

And all of our beloved locally-owned restaurants and bars and shops . . . what is going to happen to them? How many of them will not be able to survive the shutdown, and how many of their employees are financially struggling by being unable to work?

The silver lining around this horrible time for local small businesses and their employees is that there are multiple ways that we as patrons can still support them. We can buy gift cards online to use toward future visits, grab carryout from those that are offering it (should we feel comfortable venturing out), purchase goods from their online shops, and even tip local bartenders for drinks we’ve made at home via a site called Go Tip Em (www.gotipem.com), which I became aware of via cocktaildetroit‘s Instagram account. We can do our part!

Hopefully such seemingly small actions can accumulate and make a big difference in keeping all of the wonderful independently-owned establishments in Detroit and the surrounding tri-county area operating. I, for one, am going to start doing my part by procuring online some of Lake Orion coffee house A Bean to Go‘s delectable beans (LOVE their brews and the vibe of their shop!) and browsing Detroit-based Pages Bookshop‘s internet store for that book club pick I can no longer get from the library.

Enough of the spotlight on this awful virus: it’s time to move on to cheerier topics and the hope of brighter times – times when we can again patronize stellar establishments such as this one, Mutiny Tiki Bar!

I enjoyed the heck out of my visit to this bar. Located in an unmarked brick building, it can be challenging to spot, but using the reference points of other landmarks (it’s at the corner of Vernor Highway and Lansing Street; it’s next to Chicago’s Pizza) helps to locate it.

The no-frills ambiance ends outside; Mutiny’s interior is a fun mix of hipster chill and tropical vibes. The interior is paneled in wood and accented with bamboo. Colored twinkle lights, gauzy netting, pretty parasol umbrellas, and voluminous amounts of grassy-looking fibers that appear to be dried palm fronds (or faux stuff constructed to look like them) hang from the ceiling, while flowered leis are draped over the turquoise bar chairs and all manner of other surfaces. Carved masks, colorful buoys, and tropically-themed photos and other goodies decorate the walls. It all melds together to form a visually arresting atmosphere.

It also melds together to form very relaxed, very friendly, ultra-good vibes. Maybe it was the boosted spirits of me and my friend who had come to Mutiny for a Sunday Funday celebration; maybe it was our awesome bartender, who was attentive and welcoming in a very chill way; maybe it was the cool gal sitting near us at the bar who we struck up a conversation with and who my friend brought in on our shot-taking hijinks, but man, the vibes were EXCELLENT at the place!

I had such a good time sampling Mutiny’s wares: its tasty Old Salt cocktail with its Patron tequila, tomatillo syrup, chili salt rim, and flaming lime (shown on the right in the photo of the drinks above) and its Banana Bread Shot – which O.M.G., is phenomenal. Like, WOW-THIS-IS-DEFINITELY-ONE-OF-THE-BEST-DRINKS-I’VE-EVER-CONSUMED phenomenal.

Not gonna lie, my friend and I each had two of those Banana Bread shots; they were so good that we felt compelled to do a take-two on them (and we had an excuse to use: celebrating my procuring of a much-desired new job). The menu description of this delectable little baby says it all: “molasses infused Bacardi Banana, coco nib, cinnamon, cream.” It truly tastes like the most luxurious banana bread you’ve ever eaten and is so, so YUMMMM.

Once we get the all-clear to be out and about again and Mutiny Tiki Bar is reopened, I have a feeling it’s going to be KICKING. It is so worth a visit, and in the great, grand scheme of things, it’ll be reopened again before we know it.

4654 Vernor Hwy.

Detroit, MI 48209

www.mutinybar.com

464. Good Cakes and Bakes – February 4, 2020 – Detroit, MI

February2020GoodCakesandBakes1 (2)February2020GoodCakesandBakes2 (3)February2020GoodCakesandBakes3 (2)I love a good baked good! I can resist candy, but put a spongy little nugget of frosted cake in front of me, and I have a much harder time resisting. This is especially true of spongy little nuggets of frosted cake that come from stellar establishments such as Good Cakes and Bakes.

The bakery based in the Avenue of Fashion neighborhood of Detroit offers enticing house-made treats; cakes, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, muffins, sweet breads, cinnamon rolls, and scones are offerings, as are homemade soups and coffee. Vegan options are also available.

According to its website, Good Cakes and Bakes uses organic and/or locally-sourced ingredients for its wares whenever possible, which I love! Organic ingredients = one more justification I can use to cram a baked good into my mouth. 🙂

Walking into the storefront of Good Cakes and Bakes, I was greeted not only by the gleaming displays of goodies but the vibrancy of its interior. Whimsical dessert-centric murals grace the walls, and the whole place is teeming with color and welcoming vibes. Tables provide ample seating for guests to sit and enjoy the tasty treats they’ve purchased.

The woman working the counter was friendly – and a good salesperson. She convinced me to purchase four cupcakes based off of the number of slots in the cardboard box she was using to pack my order (I was only going to order three, but . . . twist my arm!).

Good Cakes and Bakes offers cupcakes in varieties as varied as Banana Pudding and Frutti Pebbles. Being the chocolate lover that I am, I zeroed in on the ones that featured that ingredient, opting for the Chocolate, Chocolate Salted Caramel, German Chocolate, and Red Velvet varieties.

I sat and enjoyed the Red Velvet cupcake right then and there, savoring its rich cream-cheese frosting. The other three, the Chocolate, Chocolate Salted Caramel, and German Chocolate, were enjoyed later at home. And WOW, did those three especially blow me away! They were total beacons of deliciousness with their moist, tender-crumbed cake and ample amounts of sumptuous frosting.

The German Chocolate was so decadent with its delightfully sticky, coconut-laced frosting, while the Chocolate Salted Caramel surprised me with the vibrancy of its flavor, from the melding of the savory sea salt and sweet caramel flavors with the rich vanilla frosting and moist, decadent chocolate cake to the chewy caramel square that bedecked it. And the Chocolate was a supreme example in less being more with its harmonious melding of moist cake and luxurious frosting festooned with sprinkles and a chocolate drizzle.

As if those delectable cupcakes weren’t incentive enough to return to Good Cakes and Bakes: I was also signed up for the bakery’s rewards program during my visit. This program allows customers to accrue points every time they make purchases at Good Cakes and Bakes and earn redeemable rewards. MORE motivation to enjoy baked goods? I’LL TAKE IT – thanks, Good Cakes and Bakes!

19363 Livernois Ave.

Detroit, MI 48221

(Closed Sundays and Mondays)

www.goodcakesandbakes.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

462. AWAKE Café – January 30, 2020 – Detroit, MI

January2020AWAKECafe1 (2)January2020AWAKECafe2 (3)~Indie coffee house alert!~

I’m a sucker for locally-owned coffee shops, so you know I’m excited to post about my visit to AWAKE Café!

Warm and welcoming: that’s the impression this coffee house based in the Midtown neighborhood of Detroit left on me. From its kind staff to its delectable food and drink to its aesthetically pleasing, cozy environs with soothing instrumental music playing in the background, AWAKE Café encouraged me to make my visit a several-hour sojourn.

Sitting at a window-facing counter seat, typing away on my computer and savoring first a bold-flavored cold-brew iced coffee, then a beautifully nuanced, pine-infused hot tea (potentially weird-sounding, I know, but it was delightful) and one of the ooey, gooey, oh-so-tasty house-made cinnamon rolls, I felt thoroughly comfortable and at home at AWAKE Café. It’s a wonderful working environment, conducive to creating that in-the-flow momentum that makes work feel almost effortless.

Not only does AWAKE offer coffee and tea drinks and baked goods, it also proffers breakfast items, smoothies, sandwiches, and salads. Yay to offering square meals!

And about that coffee: by purchasing it, AWAKE Café is helping to support an organization called Evangelistic Faith Mission, which runs a coffee farm in Honduras that employs locals and benefits their economy. So when you frequent AWAKE Café, you can drink delicious coffee AND support a good cause – a definite win-win in my book!

4224 Third St.

Detroit, MI 48201

(Closed Sundays and Mondays)

www.awakedetroit.com

459. Lost River – January 19, 2020 – Detroit, MI

January2020LostRiver1 (2)January2020LostRiver3 (4)January2020LostRiver2 (3)January2020LostRiver4 (3)I don’t do Sunday-Funday extravaganzas nearly enough – as my visit to Lost River reminded me.

A friend and I sought libations at the tiki-themed bar on the East Side of Detroit after walking through the VERY cool, very-view-worthy Robolights Detroit exhibit at the MOCAD (Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit) one Sunday in mid-January.

Walking into Lost River felt like walking into another dimension. The bar had its own atmosphere, one that was dimly lit and strewn with faux flowers and vines, fishing nets, twinkle lights, and island-inspired memorabilia and artwork. This is the kind of place where it feels totally possible to forget the time of day, season, and geographical location.

One wall brandished a striking floral mural, and another held a projector screen showing Gilligan’s Island episodes and vintage cartoons. In front of that screen was a xylophone, on which musician Roland Remington played melodically trippy tunes. The tiny place was jam-packed full of ambiance.

Lost River’s drink menu also wasn’t short on ambiance. It features signature cocktails, an array of intriguing tropical beauties encased in all manner of fancy glassware and bedecked with accessories such as rubber duckies, fresh flowers, fruit and herb garnishes – even a skewer of mini marshmallows and a doll-sized firepit to toast them on for one drink (the Fiery Skeleton).

I seriously considered ordering the Morning Routine, a boozy take on cereal and milk (containing a generous portion of Fruity Pebbles), but opted instead for the Rum Barrel, a drink described on Lost River’s menu as containing Appleton Rare Blend, Plantation Xaymaca, and Angostura 5 Year Old rums, grapefruit and lime juices, grenadine, honey falernum, allspice, and bitters. It was tasty – fruity and refreshing!

Lost River doesn’t have its own food menu, but it often hosts pop-up restaurants. Gajiza Dumplins is a frequent food contributor, and we were fortunate to have them there on the night of our visit. My friend enjoyed some of their vegan dumplings, and I savored a bowl of khao soi. Gajiza Dumplings’ take on one of my favorite Thai dishes was excellent with its richly flavored coconut curry broth, chicken thigh meat, egg noodles, and garnishes of pickled cabbage, fried shallots, crunchy noodles, cilantro, chili paste, and a lime wedge. We shared the Tiki Tots, which were supreme comfort-food deliciousness: perfectly crispy, perfectly grease-saturated tater tots tossed in black garlic oil, peanuts, fried shallots, Parmesan cheese, and various spices, served with spicy mayo. Yum, yum, and YUM!

This evening at Lost River was a Sunday-Funday extravaganza I was not soon to forget: it seriously colored that following Monday – and the rest of my week – in rosy-hued, tropically-infused, xylophone-plinky vibes. Thank you, Lost River, for transporting me to an isle of carefree fun for a couple of hours!

15421 Mack Ave.

Detroit, MI 48224

(Closed Mondays and Tuesdays)

www.lostrivertiki.com

458. Cork and Gabel – January 17, 2020 – Detroit, MI

January2020CorkandGabel1 (2)January2020CorkandGabel3 (2)January2020CorkandGabel4 (2)Detroit jaunts warm my heart, even on the coldest of days. And a jaunt to Corktown’s Cork and Gabel on a Friday night in mid-January was no exception to this rule.

On ambiance alone, I was captivated with this place from the get-go. Opening Cork and Gabel’s big metal door (which is made from a recycled oil tank, BTW; the whole of the tank makes up a lobby area) and stepping over the threshold, I was greeted by a vibrant display of super-cool graffiti art – and THAT was just in the lobby!

The interior of Cork and Gabel is warm and inviting, a mash-up of industrial-chic and antique vibes with its minimalist light fixtures, brick walls, distressed-wood bar front, and repurposed elements such as the aforementioned oil tank.

According to a FAQ sheet put on the tables at Cork and Gabel, several of the elements that comprise the restaurant are recycled ones getting a new lease on life (which I LOVE). There’s a bell hanging above the bar from around the turn of the 20th century that used to belong to a Detroit business called Fulton Engine and Iron Works that is rung any time a round of at least twelve drinks is bought at the bar. We got to hear it rung while we were there! There’s fencing from Mt. Elliott Cemetery, and brick pavers that used to line the streets of Detroit now line the Cork and Gabel patio. There are former gas carriage lights from the mid-1800s that have been converted to electric lights. History reinvigorated!

The creativity and ingenuity doesn’t end with Cork and Gabel’s ambiance. The restaurant practices a type of repurposing with its food menu, too, melding Irish, Italian, and German cooking to form its cuisine, which is heavy on comfort fare (making it especially ideal at this time of year). Its dinner menu offers hearty salads, appetizers, and meat-centric dishes such as the Bangers and Mash, Schnitzel BLT, and Prosciutto Tortellini. A brunch menu is also offered on Saturday and Sundays and includes a most gargantuan Bloody Mary (the Ultimate Bloody Mary), a quart-sized portion loaded with foodstuffs (including meat, cheese, and a full-blown breakfast sandwich) that makes me wish I liked Bloody Marys (I love the whimsy of these loaded ones!).

But it’s not all meat-and-dairy-laden goodness at Cork and Gabel: vegetarian and vegan options such as the Mushroom Risotto (made with vegetable stock) and Meatless Sausage Pasta are available, too. It’s always good to be able to support veg friends!

After perusing Cork and Gabel’s craft cocktail menu and ordering a drink from our awesome server (the fantastic The Southwest, which was right up my alley with its ancho-jalapeño-infused tequila, lime juice, and honey-habanero simple syrup), I studied that food menu and opted for the dish that I’d kept coming back to: the C&G Burger. Based off of the ingredients listed on the menu – lettuce, tomato, bacon, Guinness-caramelized onions, and TWO kinds of cheese: a black pepper-infused mozzarella and what was described as a “crispy Dubliner cheese” – I suspected this was going to be one hefty burger.

I wasn’t mistaken in that assumption. The C&G Burger was indeed a hulking display of comfort-food decadence, comprised as it was of a big beef patty on a toasted brioche bun and loaded with that glut of toppings, accompanied by a slew of French fries.

The meal did not disappoint: it was rich, satisfying tastiness! My favorite part of the C&G Burger was that crispy Dubliner cheese, which turned out to be wedges of cheese that were breaded and deep-fried into extreme YUM-ness.

From ambiance to service, from food to drink, the whole of my visit to Cork and Gabel was a super satisfying one – one that warmed my heart on that chilly winter’s night, for sure.

2415 Michigan Ave.

Detroit, MI 48216

(Closed Tuesdays)

www.corkandgabel.com