Metro-Detroit

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

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376. Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters – November 21, 2018 – Rochester, MI

November2018DessertOasis1 (3)Pre-holiday coffee-shop coziness! That was what I was in the mood for when I jaunted over to Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters in downtown Rochester on the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving.

It appeared I wasn’t the only one who had that objective in mind: the coffee shop was bustling when I arrived around 3:30 p.m. The crowd almost overwhelmingly appeared to be composed of college students getting their homework on (studying the night before a holiday weekend? How ambitious!).

While it looked like I wasn’t going to find an open table in the crowded café before my order of a cappuccino and chocolate croissant came up, Fate intervened, and I was able to nab a seat at a small table.

I spent over an hour in the coffee shop, soaking in its congenial vibes whilst working on my computer and receiving a delicious infusion of caffeine and sugar via the cappuccino and croissant.

As made evident by its name, Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters is – like me – into the sweet treats. According to its website, the cheesecake it sells slices of is made in-house daily and is offered in such intriguing flavor varieties as Banana Nutella, Baklava, and Tiramisu. Cookies, savory puff pastries, and other baked goods (including vegan desserts) are also sold.

I’ve heard Dessert Oasis periodically offers live music, as well. I would love to come back on a performance night and incorporate that into the experience  – although the inviting ambiance, gracious staff, and delicious food and drink that characterized this visit are in themselves more than enough to warrant a return.

336 S. Main St.

Rochester, MI 48307

(With additional locations in Detroit and Royal Oak)

www.docr.coffee

375. Gran Castor – November 13, 2018 – Troy, MI

November2018GranCastor1 (3)November2018GranCastor2 (2)November2018GranCastor3 (2)Gran Castor: you WOW’ed me!

It’s always thrilling to dine at a new-to-me restaurant I’ve been looking forward to trying and have it exceed my expectations. That’s what Gran Castor, the latest opening by the Union Joints restaurant group (which also owns local faves the Clarkston Union, Union Woodshop, Vinsetta Garage, Honcho, and Fenton Fire Hall) did when I visited it on a Tuesday evening several weeks ago.

Remember what restaurant was previously located at the intersection of Big Beaver and Rochester roads in Troy? That’s right: a Hooters. Now the building that housed that notorious chain-franchise purveyor of wings is Gran Castor, the restaurant/coffee bar with a gorgeous aesthetic and delectable cuisine.

Check out the above photos of Gran Castor’s dining area, complete with pleasing pops of color, mod Southwestern vibes, cozy seating areas, and eye-catching fireplace-in-the-round. Is it not STUNNING? I immediately felt a boost of happiness when I settled into that bright, beautiful, welcoming space for an after-work dinner with a friend.

Gran Castor’s food menu reminds me of that of one of its sister restaurants, Honcho of Clarkston. While the overall vibe of the cuisine is Latin, ingredients of Asian origin are prevalent in dishes such as fried chicken tacos with a “spicy soy fish sauce glaze” and a rice bowl including “kimchi house pickled jalapeño and carrots.”

It becomes even more apparent what a fusion menu Gran Castor’s is when you check out the pizza section and see how many traditionally Latin ingredients are included in the offerings there: see the Papas y Chorizo pizza with its chorizo sausage, mole rojo, and salsa criolla and The Mallmann with its chimichurri sauce and queso fresco.

For my entrée, I went with a relatively un-fusion-y offering: the Gran Castor Burrito stuffed with pulled pork. With its tender meat, smoked cheddar cheese, black beans, cactus pico, lettuce, and queso sauce, plus sides of refried beans and cilantro-lime rice, it was incredibly flavorful and satisfying.

I saved half of the large-and-in-charge Gran Castor Burrito to take home and looked toward the dessert menu. My friend and I were psyched to see that as at Honcho, that menu included fresh-fried mini donuts with chocolate and caramel dipping sauces. We opted for an order to share.

If I’m remembering correctly, eight donuts came standard with that dessert, and our server was kind enough to throw in a few more. These donuts were AMAZING: freshly fried, pillowy-soft-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside decadence – especially when dipped in the rich chocolate and caramel sauces.

Our awesome server went above and beyond in offering us a top-notch dining experience, throwing in a sample of Gran Castor’s house-made soft serve for each of us, as well, and WOW – my mind and taste buds were BLOWN by how YUM that stuff was. The twisty soft serve included the cinnamony Mexican Dark Chocolate flavor and the wonderfully nuanced Vanilla-Chamomile. I loved, loved, LOVED both.

And I loved Gran Castor. From its striking interior and delicious cuisine to its stand-out service, it offered a memorable dining experience that had me super enthused about the prospect of a repeat visit (I NEED more of that soft-serve in my life!).

2950 Rochester Rd.

Troy, MI 48083

www.grancastor.com

370. Crispelli’s – October 10, 2018 – Berkley, MI

October2018Crispellis1 (2)October2018Crispellis4 (2)October2018Crispellis3 (2)The pizza drew me to Crispelli’s of Berkley, but what captured my heart was its salad.

The heart-capturing was specifically carried out by Crispelli’s Mediterranean salad, with its wonderfully zesty lemon-oregano dressing and super-fresh-tasting ingredients: crisp mixed greens and cucumber; marinated red onion; vibrant beets; briny Kalamata olives; creamy chunks of feta; and crunchy toasted breadstick.

This Mediterranean salad is LIIIFFEEE, my friends. I got the side-salad version of it, which was hearty for its size; entrée and family-sized versions are also available. In my humble opinion, it would 100 percent not be a mistake to come to this pizzeria and order that salad as your entrée. And that’s saying a lot, because I love me some pizza.

And Crispelli’s, the local pizza purveyor with additional locations in Troy and West Bloomfield (and a bakery, Bread by Crispelli’s, in Royal Oak), is known for its pizza. It’s kind of a big deal around these parts, so it’s crazy to me that it took me over 4.5 years of blogging at 100 Places in the D to finally sample its wares. The Red Pie pizza I  ordered, with its chunks of fresh mozzarella, sausage, caramelized onion, and Detroit-style deep-dish crust (patrons are given a choice between that and thin crust), was good. But I’m telling ya, that salad!

Aesthetics-wise, I enjoyed the mish-mash of ambiance at the Berkley location of Crispelli’s. The front part is casual: an order-at-the-counter dining hall-type set up. The back area is fancier, with a bar and servers to attend to guests, and there are patio areas where you can receive sit-down service, as well. I enjoyed sitting on the front patio in what was presumably my last outdoor dining experience of the year (R.I.P. ’til 2019, patio season!).

28939 Woodward Ave.

Berkley, MI 48072

www.crispellis.com

368. Loui’s Pizza – October 6, 2018 – Hazel Park, MI

October2018Louis1 (2)October2018Louis2 (4)October2018Louis3 (3)Loui’s Pizza: I’m OBSESSED!!!!

The last-but-most-certainly-not-least of the five new places I visited on my 34th birthday, the Hazel Park-based pizzeria majorly exceeded my expectations, even dethroning Buddy’s Pizza as my favorite local pizza purveyor, which is a VERY BIG DEAL.

I actually feel sacrilegious saying I like Loui’s Pizza better than Buddy’s, because Buddy’s is a part of the family mythology on my mother’s side. My great-grandma made the sauce at the original, still-open location at Six Mile and Conant in Detroit. Buddy’s Pizza is sort of in our DNA – or at the very least, our go-to main course for family celebrations. But MAN, is Loui’s Pizza good!

The pizzeria was PACKED when my mom, stepdad, and I arrived around 7:30 on that rainy Saturday evening. Its cheery red interior felt homey and welcoming with its ceilings hung with twinkle lights and multitude of empty wine bottles signed by patrons; it vibrated with good energy. Loui’s cozy-retro confines felt like the warmth of a beloved grandparent’s hug: safe and secure and reassuring.

Our server was prompt and friendly. While we waited for our pizza, we shared an individual-sized antipasto salad. I’m generally not one for antipasto salads, but this one impressed me: it was fresh and flavorful, with chunks of ham in addition to the salami and a tasty dressing.

And then, it was the moment of truth: our pizza arrived. I bit into my first slice of sausage-and-onion-topped pie, and O.M.G.

Loui’s pizza may be the best pizza I have ever eaten; it’s certainly the best pizza I can recall eating. The cheese was rich, plentiful, and flavorful. The edges of the crust were crispy, greasy deliciousness. The bottom part of the crust was not super well-done, allowing us to taste its doughiness – which we enjoyed, because it was wonderful tasting. The sauce was not as plentiful as Buddy’s, and also not as strongly flavored, and we liked that.

We all agreed: this iteration of Detroit-style pizza was better than Buddy’s, however awkward that was to admit in the face of our family mythology (sorry, Buddy’s – we still love you!).

The gloriousness of Loui’s pizza continued for me with the two leftover slices I took home along with a portion of cheesy breadsticks my mom had ordered to-go because they’d taunted us from a nearby table. How good those were, too! They were loaded with that rich, flavorful cheese.

Two weeks later, I’m still dreaming of Loui’s and its epic pizza and breadsticks. I want to hole up within its cozy interior and get some of that cheesy, greasy, doughy perfection back into my belly!

Worth noting: Loui’s is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

23141 Dequindre Rd.

Hazel Park, MI 48030

362. Shawarma Stop – September 25, 2018 – Sterling Heights, MI

September2018ShawarmaStop1 (3)September2018ShawarmaStop3 (3)Shawarma Stop = a WIN! I’ve got all good feels about this Mediterranean fast-casual restaurant in Sterling Heights.

During my visit Tuesday night, the restaurant’s dining area was clean and welcoming, the staff on duty were warm and polite, and the food was delivered quickly and downright DELICIOUS.

I admittedly glanced over Shawarma Stop’s menu that night more than perused it, because I knew what I wanted for my dinner: a chicken shawarma pita wrap and a small fattoush salad. I’m stuck on those two when it comes to Mediterranean food (as I am crushed lentil soup, and lemon-oregano chicken, and hummus, and of course garlic sauce . . .), especially the fattoush salad. Man, is that a good salad!

But some fattoush salads are better than others – and Shawarma Stop’s is one of the best I’ve had. The lettuce, cucumber, and tomato in it were fresh, the dressing was perfectly zesty, and most critically: the pita chip pieces were fried extra crispy so they stayed crunchy when tossed in the dressing, which made my heart VERY happy (soggy pita chips make for a sad fattoush-eating experience, indeed). AND the small version of the salad was much bigger than I expected; it’s an amply-sized side salad! That made my heart even more happy.

The chicken shawarma with its tender grilled chicken, tangy pickles, juicy tomatoes, and wonderfully bold garlic sauce was tasty, too. It was also large enough that I was able to take half of it home to enjoy as leftovers.

Now that I’ve examined Shawarma Stop’s menu more closely, I feel I MUST go back and try the build-your-own-pita-or-bowl option where you get to choose from a variety of choices the protein, sauce, and four toppings you’d like in your meal. I love the build-your-own concept, and I’m already envisioning a beef shawarma bowl with hummus, white rice, feta, onion, and banana peppers . . . Mmmm.

Other options on Shawarma Stop’s menu include an assortment of salads, appetizers, sides, and pitas, plus grill items such as shish kabob, lamb chops, and a whole deboned chicken. Combination platters designed to serve two, four, seven, or 12 people are also available.

Whether you’re looking to grab carryout or have a quick and pleasant dine-in experience, Shawarma Stop is so worth the trip. I’m already craving another of its fattoush salads and pondering a revisit!

13903 19 Mile Rd.

Sterling Heights, MI 48313

www.shawarmastoponline.com

360. TreeRunner Adventure Park – September 13, 2018 – West Bloomfield, MI

September2018TreeRunner1 (2)September2018TreeRunner3 (4)A workday spent frolicking above the forest canopy? Sign me up!

Last week, I got to fulfill a several-years-held dream of visiting TreeRunner Adventure Park in West Bloomfield – on my employer’s dime! My department at my day job was required to attend a six-hour retreat at the park. We spent half of the day on land, completing various team-building exercises, and the other half up in the air, navigating ropes courses and zip lines.

According to its website, “over 165 exciting obstacles and zip lines, five difficulty levels, and 10 different courses” constitute TreeRunner Adventure Park. Adding to the experience is the fact that the zip lining and obstacle maneuvering occurs in a wooded area, making one feel as if she is flitting among the treetops like a human-sized squirrel.

The ground-oriented team-building exercises (working a multi-person set of wooden skis in unison; figuring out how to get from one platform to another so as to avoid imaginary lava; etc.) were fun. But I was all about the aerial obstacles, which I performed during the second half of the day.

I completed a ropes course for the first time during a vacation in Ecuador earlier this year and LOVED it. I got the same rush from it that I did as an eight-year-old climbing the pine trees in my backyard. And I’d experienced the exhilaration of zip lining during a trip to Costa Rica a decade ago, soaring along routes strung over lush expanses of rainforest.

TreeRunner Adventure Park’s obstacles don’t reside in the mountains of South America, nor a tropical rainforest. They’re in a wooded area behind a Jewish community center in the Metro-D. But the intricate networks of platforms and ropes and pulleys hung at varying height levels among the leafy green canopy are fascinating to behold – and to navigate.

The navigating was especially interesting blindfolded.

The guides at Treerunner Adventure Park don’t usually facilitate blindfolded obstacle-course runs. My employer asked for this element to be added to the experience so that those not participating in the aerial activities (due to an aversion to heights or the park-imposed weight restriction) could participate as guides, shouting instructions from the ground to blindfolded teammates in the trees. Climbers were allowed to scale vertical ladders and perform the zip lines sans blindfold, but our eyes had to be covered for the obstacle runs.

I was resistant to the blindfold at first. The aerial activities I’d been gung ho about performing became nerve-wracking to contemplate without the benefit of sight.

I ended up, however, enthusiastically enjoying the added challenge of completing the obstacle runs blindfolded. My team’s guide offered great support with his descriptive directions, while I learned to feel with my feet for evidence of each hanging plank, block, and bridge I needed to navigate. Secured as I was via harness to the sturdy wire running the length of each obstacle, I knew that even if I did falter, I’d be caught.

Ditching the blindfold for the zip-line portions of the course proved worthwhile. The zip lines on the Level 3 run my team completed were much abbreviated compared with the loping ones I rode in Costa Rica, but they still delivered the rush of barreling airborne through the trees.

Overall, my experience at TreeRunner Adventure Park was super rewarding. Not only did it help me and my colleagues hone our teamwork, leadership, and communication skills, it also helped us connect to our inner-child selves on a day when we normally would’ve been hunched over our computers in our cubicles. Here’s to traipsing among the tree branches instead!

6600 W. Maple Rd.

West Bloomfield, MI 48322

(Open Friday through Sunday to the public;

group reservations available Monday through Thursday)

www.treerunnerwestbloomfield.com

355. Shatila Bakery – August 23, 2018 – Dearborn, MI

August2018Shatila4 (2)August2018Shatila1 (2)August2018Shatila2 (2)August2018Shatila3 (2)SHATILA BAKERY IS ON 100 PLACES IN THE D!!! [Cue official-sounding bugles and confetti!!!]

You guys, I’m super excited about this post, because visiting Shatila Bakery in Dearborn was EPIC. This bakery is amazing!

Prior to my visit, I’d assumed Shatila Bakery was awesome because I’d sampled its baklava on several occasions when a coworker at a former job brought it into the office. Baklava is one of my favorite desserts (all that rich honey, crunchy pistachios, and flaky phyllo dough . . . YES, PLEASE), and Shatila does baklava RIGHT. Needless to say, when a friend mentioned she wanted to visit the bakery’s Dearborn location, I didn’t need convincing to tag along.

Knowing how tasty Shatila’s baklava was and seeing how extensive its hours of business are (the Dearborn location is open from 7:30 a.m. to at least 11 p.m. – sometimes 12 a.m.! – daily), I knew the place had to be a big deal. But I was surprised by what I encountered when I walked into the bakery.

Cue to: a vaulted ceiling. A food-court-esque seating area surrounded by twinkle-light-strewn palm trees, supplemented by outdoor patio seating. An ice cream counter with house-made ice cream. And the pièce de résistance: a wraparound bakery counter filled with shelf after shelf of enticing cakes, cookies, and traditional Mediterranean desserts, including various varieties of baklava.

I was beside myself with delight. This was not simply a bakery: Shatila was an experience!

An experience that called for preparation. This was not the type of place where you dawdled around deliberating, my friend and I decided. We’d each picked a paper ticket designating the order we would be waited on upon our arrival but dismissed them once we realized we needed time to study the display cases and the myriad of options they encased. We did just that for a good 10 minutes before we felt confident enough to pick out numbers again – at which point, a sizable crowd had gathered inside the bakery.

Despite the crowd, it didn’t take long for our second round of numbers to be called. Shatila was amply staffed, and its staff members moved with the precision and professionalism of a well-trained army. When it was my turn, I was ready: I ordered six pieces of baklava and a chocolate bool (or boll – I’m admittedly not clear on the spelling), a round confection coated in chocolate that I was told was filled with pistachios.

When I got home, I saw an extra piece of baklava slipped in amongst the six I’d ordered – whether accidentally or intentionally, I’m not sure (I had mentioned to the staff member who served me that I was a first-time visitor and loved baklava, so thanks to him if it was intentional!).

That extra piece of baklava sweetening the deal aside, all of the goodies I got from Shatila that day were delicious. I especially enjoyed two pieces of baklava shaped like little phyllo cups nestling whole pistachios and drenched in honey. The chocolate bool was lovely, too; it appeared to be filled with nougat in addition to the nuts and was rich, chocolatey goodness.

After tasting those delectable desserts, I deemed it official: Shatila Bakery is revisit-worthy! I’m not sure if I’ll ever get past ordering loads of baklava when I return, but if I do, I have to try a slice of the knafeh (described on Shatila’s website as “a shredded dough pastry stuffed with sweet cream or cheese and topped with sugar syrup” – Mmmm) – and a slice of the chocolate mousse cake – oh, and the Jordan almonds . . ..

14300 W. Warren Ave.

Dearborn, MI 48126

(With an additional location in West Bloomfield)

www.shatila.com

353. 5th Tavern – August 12, 2018 – Bloomfield Township, MI

August20185thTavern1 (2)August20185thTavern2 (2)5th Tavern is POPULAR among the brunch crowd.

I learned this when I attended a baby shower at the Bloomfield Township-based restaurant on a Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago. The place was KICKING when I walked in at noon, to the point where I found myself having flashbacks of pure-chaos Sunday afternoon shifts (the shift that’s most likely to end with someone breakdown-crying, in my experience) from my restaurant-server past.

The crowd was enjoying 5th Tavern’s weekend brunch buffet and live music by a gentleman playing what appeared to be an electric clarinet (I had no idea woodwind instruments came in electric form!). The restaurant’s classy ambiance and outdoor patio seating most likely enhanced the appeal of the place for the clientele, as well.

The baby shower I attended at the 5th Tavern was tucked away in a room separate from the main dining area, so we were somewhat insulated from the hubbub. The celebration offered a set lunch menu with three items to choose from: the Salmon Salad, Chicken Marsala, and American Kobe Burger.

I’m not one to put stock in Kobe beef being superior, but let me tell you, this American Kobe Burger was AWESOME. It was a thick-patty burger that came cooked at a standard temperature of medium that was incredibly tender and juicy and delicious. MAN, was it perfect topped with melted cheese and nestled within a brioche bun! The accompanying fries were excellent, too: thicker cut and crispy-fried on the outside while soft on the inside . . . YUM. It’s 9:15 in the morning as I’m writing these words, and I am hardcore craving that 5th Tavern American Kobe Burger.

So despite the lively crowd giving me server-nightmare-esque flashbacks, I enjoyed the fact that I got to spend time at 5th Tavern on that Sunday afternoon. I’d love to go back and try more of its menu, which is loaded with various salads, sandwiches, burgers, flatbreads, and meat- and seafood-centric entrées (such as Lamb Chops and Michigan Cherry BBQ Salmon).

I’m also intrigued by the various promotions that 5th Tavern offers throughout the week, including happy-hour food and drink deals Mondays through Fridays from 3 to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to closing and half-off bottles of wine on Wednesdays. No wonder the place is such a popular hangout!

2262 S. Telegraph Rd.

Bloomfield Twp., MI 48302

www.5thtavern.com

352. Elie’s – August 1, 2018 – Birmingham, MI

August2018Elies4 (2)August2018Elies2 (2)August2018Elies3 (2)Tender steak, toasted pinenuts, and sautéed onions nestled on a bed of hummus? Fattoush salad with crisp vegetables, crunchy pita chips, and zesty dressing? Yes, yes, and YES, please!

These are the dishes I enjoyed at Elie’s, a Mediterranean restaurant in downtown Birmingham, whilst lunching on its lovely patio earlier this month.

While Elie’s lunch menu is loaded with delectable-sounding choices that I’d love to explore further (ranging from Lamb Shawarma to Shish Tawook to Homemade Chicken Pot Pie), the hummus with tenderloin was a no-brainer for me.

I mean, creamy hummus and red meat combined – how could that not equal GLORIOUS? And it was glorious, especially when scooped up with soft, piping-hot pita bread.

The Fattoush salad was equally fresh and flavorful and delicious. I got the large-sized salad, which was substantial and more than I needed; I easily filled up on half of it.

The restaurant’s pretty patio was an ideal place to dine; the location along Pierce Street makes it a prime spot for people-watching. As the sands in the hourglass are running out on our patio days here in Metro Detroit, I find myself especially appreciating any opportunity to dine alfresco.

All in all, my experience at Elie’s was a pleasant one – one that I would definitely say YES to again.

263 Pierce St.

Birmingham, MI 48009

www.eliesgrill.com