Happy Hour

268. Steelhouse Tavern – August 16, 2017 – Troy, MI

20170816_19182620170816_19175120170816_183754I tried my first Monte Cristo waffle via brunch at Red Crown this July, but it wasn’t until my visit to Steelhouse Tavern in Troy last month that I had my first legit sandwich-version Monte Cristo.

I know the Monte Cristo sandwich is said to have evolved from the Croque Monsieur, the traditional French ham-and-cheese sandwich, but man, is this one of the most American things I have ever eaten! A sandwich loaded with two kinds of meat (turkey and ham), two kinds of cheese (Swiss and American), and raspberry jelly; dunked in tempura batter; deep-fried to a delectable crispiness; dusted with powdered sugar (because why not?); and served with tater tots, those venerable nuggets of potato goodness? That is ‘Merica with a Capital “M,” my friends!

I know I’m a ‘Merican at heart because despite finding much of what goes on in this country these days completely bonkers, and despite how into healthy, whole-foods-based eating I am, I still relish the chance to go out and ingest my entire day’s saturated-fat intake in one sitting via a glorious grease-bomb such as Steelhouse Tavern’s Monte Cristo sandwich. Because meat-and-cheese-and-sweet-and-deep-fried is a combo that refuses to be ignored!

I experienced this glorious first brush with Steelhouse’s Monte Cristo while sitting out on its patio enjoying happy hour. From 4 to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, you get access to a happy-hour menu with food and drink deals such as $5 appetizers and half-off select cocktails if you sit on the patio or in the bar area. The Monte Cristo wasn’t a happy-hour deal, but I did get to savor a Steelhouse Vesper cocktail and some Smoked Pork Nachos at the discounted rates.

I loved Steelhouse’s covered patio. Sure, it faces the strip-mall parking lot, but the patio itself is beautiful, with dark wicker chairs, sleek high-top bar stools, cool accent lighting, flat-screen TVs, and a fire pit. The sophisticated-tavern vibe carries on to the interior of the restaurant, which is glossy yet welcoming. There’s a big round bar near the entrance that was packed with patrons on the night I was there.

If you’re looking to visit Steelhouse Tavern but are interested in healthier fare than the Monte Cristo, its menu includes more sensible choices such as the Steelhouse Sirloin Steak, Cedar Plank Salmon, and Seared Ahi Tuna Salad in addition to the traditional bar fare (burgers, wings, nachos, and sandwiches). Because let’s face it: while meat-and-cheese-and-sweet-and-deep-fried is a combo that refuses to be ignored, it’s not one that’s practical to ingest on a daily basis.

1129 E. Long Lake Rd.

Troy, MI


263. Penny Black – August 9, 2017 – Rochester, MI

20170809_18022620170809_191028I’d been wanting to sit on the patio of Penny Black since I’d first spotted it last summer. Every time I walked past it for those next few months that I was regularly in downtown Rochester, the flower-bedecked, string-light-emblazoned terrace was crammed with happy-looking people engaged in lively chatter and appearing to have the best of fun. Granted, I passed it while en route to a short-lived second-job I lamented having picked up, so the scene looked even more convivial/the epitome of freedom to me during those occasions when I was questioning for the umpteenth time, “Why did I decide to take on another job again?

When I finally sat down for the first time on that Penny Black patio during a gorgeous evening in August this summer, I was long overdue. And I got to taste that sweet, sweet freedom once and for all!

I met my mother at Penny Black on a Wednesday night with ample time to enjoy the happy-hour food and drink specials. We took advantage and ordered a couple of discounted signature cocktails (fruity little numbers whose names escape me now) as well as the Vegetable Egg Rolls and Eggplant Napoleon (breaded and fried eggplant discs smothered in mozzerella cheese and served on a bed of tomato dipping sauce – delicious). Not on the happy-hour menu but equally enticing with its slathering of barbecue sauce and loads of chicken, bacon, red onion, and cheese was the BBQ Chicken Flatbread.

Penny Black’s food menu is not all apps and flatbreads; it also boasts a wide selection of entree salads, sandwiches, burgers, and signature dishes such as the Southwest Glazed Tuna Skewers and Barbacoa Beef Enchilada. Plus, currently on the dessert menu just in time for fall is a YATES DONUT BREAD PUDDING crafted from the cider mill’s donuts and topped with an apple creme anglaise. Ok, yes, please! I’ll take that with a side of freedom out on the patio while we’ve still got this exceptionally warm weather.

124 W 4th St.

Rochester, MI 48307


207. Filippa’s – November 3, 2016 – Shelby Township, MI

20161103_173754I’ve been curious about Filippa’s for a long time. Several of my coworkers from my longtime serving job that I held in my late 20s had previously worked for years at that restaurant, and stories they told about the place – legends, really – piqued my curiosity. A few of my other server friends now work there, and I knew that they were happy with the place and that it was supposed to be quite a classy establishment.

(Tangent: if you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, you’re familiar with how intertwined the server network can be – everyone works with someone who knows someone they worked with at that other place . . . the interconnections never ceases to amaze me!).

Random fact: Teen Mom aficianados may also remember Filippa’s as the restaurant where Tyler proposed to Catelynn back in like Season 1 (yes, I used to be a devotee of that show). A friend who was working there that day said they filmed their entrance through the restaurant door alone like three times. Teen Mom gossip!

Last Thursday, I was definitely not at Filippa’s for a Catelynn/Tyler spotting. I was there to celebrate my friend’s upcoming nuptials. A group of us ladies had appetizers and drinks there before moving on to a wine-and-painting bachelorette soiree.

I unfortunately didn’t take any photos of the restaurant’s interior, but the bar area where we sat was quite swanky. I was told the restaurant had recently underwent renovations, and they apparently went well; the place gives off a very solid, polished vibe. The bar area was busy, most likely due to the happy hour specials; every day from 3 to 6 p.m. there are half-off appetizers, $5 glasses of wine and martinis (of the latter, I had a delightful chocolate one), and $3 draft beers and well drinks. I’m not sure whether the Cajun steak bites I ordered qualified as a half-off appetizer, to be honest; I was having so much fun, I didn’t pay attention. But damn, was that steak juicy and flavorful! Two-thumbs-up to the notion of stopping by Filippas’s for some post-work drinks and grub when you have the chance.

45125 Mound Rd.

Shelby Twp., MI 48317


199. Grand Tavern – October 12, 2016 – Rochester Hills, MI

20161012_17180620161012_171926Happy Monday, all! I hope you had an excellent weekend of getting out and exploring.

Ok, maybe your Monday is not going so happily. Maybe you, in a pre-coffee haze, have stapled your suit jacket sleeve to your mouse pad. Or, even worse, you’ve forgotten your suit jacket entirely and are only 24 minutes in to eight painstaking hours of frosting over in the sub-zero, arctic tundra God-forsaken landscape of your office (Seriously, who within the corporate landscape decided running the AC 365 days a year was a good idea????).

The Monday transition can be hard, for reals. I know, if you work a meh day job, you’ve gotta have something to look forward to all day, to sustain you through all the inane coworker small talk and bureaucratic drudgery. You need . . . HAPPY HOUR.

As part of the Fun Committee (yep) for my team at my day job, I was recently tasked with organizing a team happy hour. After much research – which was more prolonged than it needed to be, admittedly, because I had my own agenda of wanting it to be a new place for this blog – I stumbled across Grand Tavern in Rochester Hills. I saw it was close to my work and had daily specials, and I’d never been there. Done!

Grand Tavern exceeded my expectations. I expected it to be a pretty standard sports bar, which it is, but more amazing. First of all, our waitress brought us baskets of potato chips for free – deliciously seasoned potato chips that appeared to be house-made. I could not stop eating them. Seriously, I wasn’t even that hungry when I got there!

Happy hour was until 6 p.m., so I scored a $3 glass of Chardonnay. It wasn’t the greatest glass of Chardonnay, but still. I am young enough to appreciate a cheap drink!

And then, one of my coworkers suggested we split the Grand Nachos appetizer among the four of us. This thing was monstrous, a huuuugggeee oval platter of tortilla chips loaded with beef and refried beans and tons of cheese and deliciousness. I could not stop eating them. I probably ate the most of everyone. And still, there were nachos left on the platter. I wish I would’ve remembered to have taken a picture of them.

Split amongst the four of us, our bill before tip was about $5.50 apiece! That was with three out of four of us having one alcoholic drink each and splitting the nachos ($12) four ways, and me eating so much I had a stomachache. It’s the best value I’ve encountered on my visits in a long while.

3512 Marketplace Cir.
Rochester Hills, MI 48309



117. Goodnight Gracie Jazz and Martini Bar – April 18, 2015 – Royal Oak, MI


The Vixen martini! Photo courtesy of C. Partin

On this Saturday night I was in Royal Oak to see one of my favorite comedians, Marc Maron, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre. We had a pre-show dinner at Goodnight Gracie’s, a tiny little martini bar next to D’Amato’s – and apparently owned by the same people, because they share a website and a food and drink menu. Does that mean I’ve already been to Goodnight Gracie if I’ve previously eaten at D’Amato’s? I’m going to say no. They’re next to each other but contained in separate spaces; I went to the latter for a fancy Italian dinner; and this was happy hour (yes, they do extend happy hour to Saturday night here – exciting!). Six-dollar martinis and eight-dollar three-plates of sliders on a Saturday night – I’ll take it!

224 S Sherman Dr,
Royal Oak, MI 48067


93. Cork Wine Pub – December 29, 2014 – Pleasant Ridge, MI



Happy hour runs all night at Cork Wine Pub on Mondays, so how could I not go this evening? It’s a cozy space to enjoy some excellent (and affordable) happy-hour small plates and a bottle of one of the over 100 wines served. An exquisite-looking dinner and weekend brunch menu are offered, as well.

23810 Woodward Ave.
Pleasant Ridge, MI 48069


43. The Oakland Art Novelty Company – August 7, 2014 – Ferndale, MI



The Patsy and Edina and the Le Antoinette, two happy hour offerings

I was so excited to finally get to The Oakland. A friend and I went for its happy hour, and it was delightful! I loved the old-fashioned richness of its interior, which is dark and candlelit and helps you to feel that you’ve been transported to an alternate reality.

It reminds me of a similar concept to The Sugar House in Detroit – meticulously created specialty cocktails served in an old-fashioned environment – though I must admit, I prefer The Oakland. Its menu doesn’t boast the voluminous selection that The Sugar House’s does, but the staff I encountered was very friendly and knowledgeable, and I’m sure they could make anything you asked for. Plus, it has a great happy hour that features delicious $5 drinks – quite a deal, considering that the average regular drink price there is double to triple that.

201 W. 9 Mile Rd.

Ferndale, MI 48220


35. Local Kitchen and Bar – July 14, 2014 – Ferndale, MI


The patio at Local Kitchen and Bar


Delicious chicken-fried chicken dish with chopped tomato and arugula salad

I’ve been really loving exploring Ferndale. It’s just full of delightfully charming bars and restaurants! Take Local Kitchen and Bar, with it’s Monday half-off-bottles-of-wine-deal that had one friend declaring it “Champs Monday.”

And poutine! Who doesn’t love good poutine?

Plus, Local has a really adorable patio.

344 W. 9 Mile Rd.
 Ferndale, MI 48220


24. Vinotecca – May 22 – Royal Oak, MI


This place has AMAZING happy hour deals, especially considering it’s in Royal Oak – half off glasses of wine, small plates, and pizza (and I believe the craft cocktails may be half off, as well) and twenty percent off bottles of wine every day (even weekends!) from 4-6 p.m. and on Thursdays from 9 p.m. to close. I got the Asian spring rolls and the margherita pizza – both awesome – and enjoyed an hour of wine-sipping and people-watching with mi madre.

419 South Main St.

Royal Oak, MI 48067


17. J. Baldwin’s – May 1, 2014 – Clinton Township, MI


I have owned a home in a neighborhood near this place for three years, dated and was friends with people who worked here and still had never been to J. Baldwin’s. When I finally made it in there this May, I was quite impressed. Baldwin’s had a fire last summer and didn’t reopen until this February, and the renovations are gorgeous. It’s a small restaurant but has great atmosphere. They have an awesome happy hour, too – their 586 menu features eight food and drink items (including such delicious martinis as those featured in the photo of one of my besties, above) at five dollars, served six days a week. Hit it up!

16981 18 Mile Rd.

Clinton Township, MI 48038