Ferndale

582. Mai Tiki Bar – September 30, 2022 – Ferndale, MI

Mai Tiki Bar is a sweet escape!

Tucked away behind an unmarked door inside TigerLily sushi bar (formerly Antihero), the Ferndale-based speakeasy tiki bar is a whimsical kaleidoscope of colors and flavors: the perfect contrast to the muted winter landscape soon to befall Metro Detroit.

Mai offers an array of tropically inspired drinks served in the way characteristic of tiki bars: in visually arresting ceramic tiki mugs bedecked with fun garnishes such as mint leaves, pineapple wedges, and orchid blooms – or half a flaming lime (that’s the garnish for The Zombie!). The bulk of Mai’s specialty cocktails incorporate rum and fruit juices – another trait characteristic of tiki bars. But the drinks are much more nuanced than the ones you’d find at a stereotypical tiki bar (those kinds that cater to tourists in popular vacation spots). Mai’s incorporate interesting ingredients such as orgeat syrup, cinnamon, and pomegranate.

Take one of the drinks I ordered, The Jungle Bird. Its blackstrap rum, Campari, and demerara syrup melded with pineapple and lime juices to make a drink that was one part sweet, one part bitter – and one hundred percent delicious! I especially enjoyed the molasses flavor brought by the blackstrap rum.

But humans can’t live on wonderfully nuanced liquid libations alone. When you’re in need of nourishment after downing a Mai Tai or two, look to Mai’s food menu. The assortment of plates offer something for everyone, from veg lovers to meat-focused folks to seafood fanatics intrigued by the Mai Tiki Shrimp, Aku Roll, and three kinds of fish tacos (salmon, hamachi, and tuna).

I went the veg and meat route, ordering Mai’s Chicken Karage and Shishito Peppers. A flavorful yuzu chili aioli accompanied the tender Chicken Karage. And wonder accompanied the Shishito Peppers! The cooked peppers were topped with bonito flakes, which were moving – writhing all over the peppers.

Apparently, this is a common occurance. Bonito flakes are shaved dried fish; when sprinkled on hot foods, the heat causes them to rehydrate, and they start wiggling as a result. But it was my first time experiencing this phenomenon, and it was hard to shake the feeling that they were alive. Order those Shishito Peppers and play a party trick on your friends!

Party trick or not, visiting Mai Tiki Bar is a shindig in itself. Vibrant ambiance and compelling food and drink make it a escape worth taking.

231 W. 9 Mile Rd.

Ferndale, MI 48220

www.maitikibar.com

537. Got Pho – December 5, 2021 – Ferndale, MI

Got Pho was a beacon of warmth on a blustery day!

The warmth came in the form of Got Pho’s Drunken Noodles with beef. The piping-hot noodles not only warmed my belly but delighted my taste buds. With their tender beef, rich sauce, fragrant Thai basil, and sautéed onion, green pepper, and bean sprouts, these Drunken Noodles were delicious! I ordered them without egg and still found them incredibly filling, with enough left over for a whole other meal.

Billing itself as Asian fusion, the Ferndale-based restaurant offers much more than those Drunken Noodles. As you may have guessed, its sells pho – seven different kinds, to be exact (including a vegan option for our plant-based friends). Got Pho’s menu also features Chinese favorites such as sesame and sweet and sour chicken; stir-frys and pad Thai; pad see ew and grilled short ribs . . . the list goes on and on! It’s a list worth checking out, and a restaurant most definitely worth a try.

172 W. Nine Mile Rd.

Ferndale, MI 48220

www.gotphoferndale.com

526. Culantro – October 2, 2021 – Ferndale, MI

Culantro is a win-win-win kind of place. It’s serving up food that’s 1) delicious, 2) affordable, and 3) not-your-usual fare – at least, not for Metro Detroit.

The Ferndale-based fast-casual restaurant serves Peruvian food. I’d never had Peruvian food before I went to Peru this September. Because of that trip, I was especially intrigued by Culantro.

I’d loved the food in Peru. The meals I’d eaten there featured lots of rice, meat, and veggies. So it was no surprise to be attracted to the Culantro Bowl, a rice bowl laden with chicken, corn, black beans, peppers, tomato, red onion, and cilantro and drizzled in lime juice, aji verde sauce, and garlic sauce. It was fresh, flavorful, and utterly delicious!

I also said yes to a side of Yucas Fritas. The slices of yuca – similar in taste and starchiness to potatoes – were prepared like fries, lightly fried on the outside. They came with a delightfully spicy dipping sauce.

And how could I resist the magnetic pull of Culantro’s Dulce de Leche cake? Its layers of rich frosting, fluffy cake, and creamy caramel made giving in to temptation wholly worthwhile.

Those are three items from Culantro’s menu, which showcases popular Peruvian dishes such as ceviche, lomo saltado (a stir fry of steak and veggies), and pollo a la brasa (chicken slow-roasted over charcoals). It’s a menu most definitely worth exploring!

22939 Woodward Ave.

Ferndale, MI 48220

www.culantroperu.com

461. SheHive – January 21, 2020 – Ferndale, MI

January2020SheHive1 (3)I dig SheHive – and that’s no surprise to me, championing as it does values that strongly resonate with me: community, learning, and female empowerment!

I visited the Ferndale-based business for the first time last month, to take one of the many classes it offers – forums on topics as wide-ranging as public speaking, learning the tarot, body positivity, astrology, group coaching, burlesque, and crocheting.

According to a section titled “What we Value” on the Learn More page of SheHive’s website, it’s all about helping women “find the joy and magic in a life lived on the other side of should.” I love that! How often do we let the things we think we should be doing hold us back from the things we actually want to do?

SheHive also presents itself as a safe space for women. I think it’s important for everyone to have areas of their lives where they feel comfortable being themselves, especially for those of us who identify as female. There are too many environments in this world that can make us feel unsafe and less-than. Here’s to cultivating spaces that remind us of the warriors that we actually are!

The two classes I’ve taken thus far at SheHive have been filled with high-vibing goodness. The women I’ve met there have been lovely, and the room the classes have taken place within is a vibrantly decorated and inviting space, complete with an essential oil diffuser and complimentary snacks (including wine!).

If you are interested in scoping out the classes available at SheHive, check out the Upcoming Events section; a link to it is on the Home page of its website.

2505 Hilton Rd., Ste. 107

Ferndale, MI 48220

www.theshehive.com

460. Boston Tea Room – January 21, 2020 – Ferndale, MI

January2020BostonTeaRoom1 (2)Boston Tea Room: what an emporium of high-vibing goodness!

I’d intended to explore the shop based in downtown Ferndale for years. When I finally attempted to in late December of last year, I discovered that it’d moved to another location: still in Ferndale, but north of downtown, in a suite in a building on Woodward Heights Boulevard. I visited it several weeks later.

When I stepped inside the large, beautiful space that the Boston Tea Room is now located within, I was happy that I’d waited to visit. The friendly employee who helped me select a deck of tarot cards to purchase told me it’s about five times the size of the former space. It was a delight to walk through the airy storeroom with its well-organized displays of spiritually-centered goodies: tarot cards, books, crystals, candles, clothing, incense, jewelry and accessories, and more.

Boston Tea Room is more than a shop: it also offers tarot readings, sessions with mediums and intuitive counselors, workshops on topics such as journaling, astrology, and reading oracle cards, and Level I and Level II reiki attunement/certification classes. Like I said, it’s an emporium of goodness! And I’m glad to have finally become acquainted with it.

1220 Woodward Heights Blvd.

Ferndale, MI 48220

www.bostontearoom.com

454. The Balkan House – December 30, 2019 – Ferndale, MI

December2019BalkanHouse1 (4)December2019BalkanHouse2 (2)Look at you, The Balkan House, coming in at the 11th hour in 2019 to infuse my gastronomical-year-that-was with some WOW!

I had the first döner kebab of my life at the Ferndale-based restaurant, and I’m OBSESSED.

I hadn’t heard of this Turkish pita sandwich that’s popular in Germany until I stumbled across a Detroit Free Press article on The Balkan House last month. My mouth watered as I read about the restaurant’s signature dish, consisting of a Balkan pita bread called lepinja stuffed with gyro meat, onion, tomato, cucumber, lettuce, and purple cabbage and slathered in a garlicky yogurt sauce. Yes, yes, and yes, screamed my taste buds: this was a dish I had to try!

Fortuitously, I would be in close proximity to The Balkan House’s recently-opened Ferndale storefront a few days after reading that article. The original, Hamtramck-based location opened last summer, offering classic Balkan fare such as grah (bean soup) and cevapi (Bosnian sausages), plus that döner kebab, which people apparently went crazy over (how did I miss that???) – leading The Balkan House owner to expand operations.

Stepping inside the interior of the long, narrow restaurant on the afternoon of my visit, I queued up to the counter, scoping out the menu above it. My choice was easy: I was there to try that döner kebab, which is served at The Balkan House with lamb-and-beef-based gyro meat (my choice), chicken, or falafel. It also comes with a side of fries.

I gave my order, paid, and took a seat at one of the tables in the restaurant. My food arrived quickly, a hefty pita sandwich accompanied by an ample serving of fries.

I took my first bite of that döner kebab, and O.M.G., was I greeted by EPIC DELICIOUSNESS!!!

The lepinja bread was so soft and pillowy, the gyro meat both tender and crispy and so well-seasoned – by far the best gyro meat I’ve ever had. And that garlic sauce, and those fresh, crunchy veggies . . . all I can say is WOW, WOW, and WOW! I can’t use that exclamatory word enough here – The Balkan House’s döner kebab warrants the excitement.

I practically inhaled that döner kebab and the perfectly soft-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside French fries that accompanied it. I ate the whole thing then and there and left feeling full and satisfied. It was one of those “Now THAT was a meal!” moments, a moment that I live for and love to savor afterwards.

I’m sure the other items on The Balkan House’s menu are wonderful, and I’d be curious to try them; I’m not well-versed with Balkan food (despite being of Croatian descent), and I love experiencing new-to-me cuisines. But I have a feeling The Balkan House is going to be one of those places where I return and order the same thing over and over again, because how will I be able to resist the sweet siren call of that döner kebab??? It’s a special dish indeed, and I’m glad I got to add the act of eating it to my collection of magical culinary experiences of 2019.

314 W. 9 Mile Rd.

Ferndale, MI 48220

(With an additional location in Hamtramck)

www.balkanhouse-restaurant.business.site

437. The Fifth Wall Escape Rooms – October 5, 2019 – Ferndale, MI

October2019FifthWallEscapeRooms1 (2) In the first week of October, it was that time of year for me again: BIRTHDAY TIME! Celebration was obviously in order, and a visit with friends to The Fifth Wall Escape Rooms in Ferndale kicked off the festivities.

I’d been wanting to try out an escape room for a while, and while checking out the local options, I ran across The Fifth Wall Escape Rooms. It intrigued me right away, as it’s a locally-owned establishment with rooms that incorporate Michigan elements and with themes that seemed much more creative to me than those of the downtown-based branch of a national escape-room chain heavily advertised on Google.

The three rooms to choose from at The Fifth Wall Escape Rooms at the time (and as of the writing of this post) were The Purple Gang (billed as an “introductory escape room” on the Fifth Wall website; it gives an abbreviated escape time of 25 minutes); The Harry Houdini Trap; and Weirder Stuff, a creepy caper held in a cabin in 1980s northern Michigan.

I opted for the Weirder Stuff room and recruited five friends to join me in the one-hour escape extravaganza.

When we entered The Fifth Wall Escape Rooms at the time of our booking, we were greeted by two guys who I assumed were the owners and given an introductory explanation of the room parameters: the rules, point system, etc. We were being given one hour to crack the numerical code that would allow us to escape the room, though we had the option to stay in the room beyond that point (until the full hour was up) if we wanted to continue to solve the full puzzle and earn additional points. Our group of six would have the room to ourselves, as we were the only ones to book it during that timeslot (the Weirder Stuff room holds 10 people).

We then watched a short introductory video giving us further context on the mission we were about to embark on and were ushered into our escape-room scenario.

The configuration of the room, as well as the puzzles presented within it, were much more elaborate than I’d expected. I don’t want to give away any of the elements of the room or its storyline, so I’ll simply say that it’s obvious that a lot of care and creativity were poured into the crafting of this room by The Fifth Wall team and that they did an excellent job creating an immersive experience. Also, the spooky/supernatural elements of the Weirder Stuff room make it an ideal outing for Halloween season.

After about 52 minutes of intense sleuthing, our group cracked the code that would let us out of the cabin we’d been locked within! We, however, decided to spend the remainder of the hour attempting to crack the full puzzle of the room.

We fell short. It was a bummer to gain peak momentum in the last 15 minutes of the challenge and not be able to see the full exercise through – but that’s how the escape-room game goes!

At the end of the hour, our hosts entered the room and gave us feedback about how we did and answered some questions we had about puzzles that stumped us. They said we’d gotten a lot farther in the Weirder Stuff room than most groups did, which made us feel better about the endeavor of which it seemed we’d just started to scratch the surface.

The Fifth Wall guys had also popped in aurally via a loudspeaker during the challenge to give us hints when we’d been stuck on certain elements, which was helpful.

My takeaway from my first escape-room experience was that it was much more challenging than I’d expected (I definitely had moments of feeling like the whole thing was over my head during the Weirder Stuff room) but super entertaining. I was pleased at how well my friends and I worked together; it was fun to participate as a team in such a novel experience. The Fifth Wall Escape Rooms, thanks for helping me kick off my birthday celebration in such an enjoyable and engaging way!

1930 Hilton Rd.

Ferndale, MI 48220

www.fifthwallescape.com

421. Drifter Coffee – August 6, 2019 – Ferndale, MI

August2019DrifterCoffee1 (2)August2019DrifterCoffee2 (2)My visit to Drifter Coffee inserted a little slice of tranquility into an otherwise busy day. I’d long been wanting to visit the Ferndale-based coffee shop, and I’m glad I finally did on a Tuesday afternoon in early August. I got to enjoy its warm hospitality, homey ambiance, and delicious coffee – not to mention, the mean chocolate-chip shortbread cookie it serves!

The shop gets its name from the business’ heritage of being a coffee purveyor on wheels. Drifter Coffee started out as a purely mobile establishment, selling its wares for four years from what it lovingly refers to on its website as its “coffee caboose,” a sweet vintage travel trailer.

The Ferndale-based shop opened earlier this year, in partnership with local coffee roaster Gooseneck Coffee Co., which has its roasting room on site. Yay for indie-business fusion! The coffee caboose still roves about town, vending Drifter Coffee’s goodies at sites such as Eastern Market and the Wayne State Farmers Market.

While I haven’t had the pleasure of encountering Drifter Coffee’s mobile storefront, I loved the vibes of its storefront planted in Ferndale, just down the road from Urbanrest Brewing.

It’s a beautiful space. The lower level is bright and airy and hosts the coffee counter and a seating area featuring a wall of windows and a plethora of potted plants. Outdoor seating is also available.

Upstairs is another seating area with a variety of places from which to perch: cushy couches and chairs, tables, and even a desk. This area is furnished more like someone’s home than a coffee shop; it’s cozy, with lots of books strewn about, more potted plants, and even a throw blanket nestled upon one of its couches. I loved kicking back in this upstairs seating area whilst savoring the richly-flavored iced coffee and tasty chocolate-chip shortbread cookie I’d ordered from the friendly baristas downstairs.

Indie coffee shops are my jam, and I’m always psyched to find a great one. Drifter Coffee is, most definitely, a great one!

770 Woodward Hts.

Ferndale, MI 48220

(Closed Mondays)

www.driftercoffee.com

401. Candle Wick Shoppe – March 19, 2019 – Ferndale, MI

March2019CandleWickShoppe1 (2)March2019CandleWickShoppe3 (2)March2019CandleWickShoppe2 (2)After cozy journaling time at Civitas Coffee House in Hazel Park on a Tuesday afternoon in mid-March, I continued on to downtown Ferndale, where I visited a place I’d long been curious about: Candle Wick Shoppe.

The store sells all kinds of high-vibing products: candles, crystals, essential oils, incense, books, jewelry, and other goodies. According to its website, reiki sessions are also offered through the shop.

While at Candle Wick Shoppe, I enjoyed interacting with the friendly sales clerk, who helped me pick out my purchases. I went with a smoothly polished and satisfyingly hefty rose quartz stone, a rainbow-luminescent stone called opalite, and a tall blue candle dedicated to the third-eye chakra.

I love crystals for their different meanings and their beauty, and I’m obsessed with candles (I burn them daily), so I was happy to add to my collection of both – as happy as I was to soak up the calming, positive energy radiated by Candle Wick Shoppe.

175 W. 9 Mile Rd.

Ferndale, MI 48220

www.candlewickshoppe.com

381. Antihero – December 12, 2018 – Ferndale, MI

December2018AntiHero1 (4)Bringing the color and flavor explosions: that’s Antihero for ya! I visited the recently-opened Japanese restaurant on Nine Mile Road in downtown Ferndale back in mid-December.

Antihero’s restrooms: they’re what’s bringing the color explosion. These are quite possibly the most awesome restrooms I have ever seen, boasting vibrantly-hued, cartoon-esque, panoramic murals that make you happy you had to go pee.

Both times I was in the ladies’ room during my visit, I encountered a fellow patron as she walked in, exclaimed over the murals, and pulled out her phone to take a picture. I should have taken a picture of the ladies’ room myself to include here – but really, the art is worth experiencing yourself!

The dining room of Antihero features more subdued – yet just as beautiful – mural artwork. The space is dimly lit, chic elegance, with starburst chandelier lighting and blond wooden booths and communal tables.

A collection of craft cocktails (with fun names such as Late Night Party Store and Dandy) helms Antihero’s drink menu, which is rounded out by selections of draft and bottled beers.

The food menu consists of small plates, noodle dishes, and a hibachi section with meat, seafood, and veggie selections that you can cook yourself on a hibachi grill brought to the table.

I was intrigued by the hibachi offerings (partially because items from that selection came with the whimsically-monikered Fuck Yea sauce), but I ultimately opted for two small plates for my main course: the Smashed Fingerling Potato and the Smoked Brisket Bun.

The Smashed Fingerling Potato dish was BOMB! HERE is the flavor explosion I was talking about. These potatoes with their creamy kewpie mayo, yakisoba sauce, chopped nori, and scallions were so richly delicious. I’m super impressed whenever I find vegetarian dishes that are as rich and sumptuous – or more so – as meat-based dishes; the Smashed Fingerling Potato fits into this category.

The Smoked Brisket Bun was also tasty with its incredibly tender beef complemented by a zesty chili-hoisin sauce and a pillowy-soft bun.

And then, there was dessert! I couldn’t pass up the Mochi Donut with its orange-oil-and-apple-cider glaze. The donuts were freshly-fried heaven, with an intriguingly chewy texture lent from the mochi rice paste they were made from.

In short, this visit to Antihero was most definitely a win! It’s no wonder the place is great: it’s owned by the same local restaurateurs behind the fantastic Ferndale staples Imperial and Public House.

231 W. Nine Mile Rd.

Ferndale, MI 48220

www.antiheroferndale.com