Metro-Detroit

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

Advertisements

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

347. M.C. ‘Wiches – July 27, 2018 – Ferndale, MI

July2018MCWiches1 (4)July2018MCWiches2 (2)The Friday before last, I was in downtown Ferndale, and I needed sustenance – hearty sustenance. Bread-and-cheese-and-meat-level sustenance. I scanned the downtown stretches of Woodward and Nine Mile, seeking somewhere to satisfy this requirement, and stumbled upon M.C. ‘Wiches sandwich shop.

After scanning its menu, I knew M.C. ‘Wiches was a place where I could stuff my face with a substantial, satisfying sandwich: specifically the seven-inch Cuban B ‘Wich. I got it on toasted wheat bread, opting to keep it simple when choosing from the various bread options, which included the intriguing Jalapeño Cheddar and a gluten-free variety. My sandwich was prepared promptly by the friendly young woman working the counter, and I settled in at one of ‘Wiches’ tables to devour it.

That Cuban B was a hefty sandwich indeed! Loaded with ham and pulled pork, pickle chunks and Swiss cheese, mustard and the signature ‘Wich Sauce (a garlic aioli), it most definitely satisfied my hunger – and was delicious while doing it.

While I found the seven-inch ‘Wich to be the perfect portion, I like that M.C. ‘Wiches offers two other sandwich sizes: the 3.5-inch Lil ‘Wich and the 14-inch Double ‘Wich. Its menu also includes two combo options that add a drink and a pickle to your ‘Wich as well as a side: depending on which one you go for, you can choose from chips, coleslaw, soup, mac-and-cheese, and baked goodies (including gluten-free varieties).

Bomb bread-and-cheese-and-meat-level sustenance offered by a friendly staff in a clean, pleasant environs: M.C. ‘Wiches is doing fast-casual right!

172 W. Nine Mile Rd.

Ferndale, MI 48220

(With an additional location in Oxford)

www.mcwiches.com

345. Emerald Theatre – July 15, 2018 – Mount Clemens, MI

July2018EmeraldTheatre2 (2)July2018EmeraldTheatre1 (2)While I was volunteering at the Femmes of Rock concert at the Emerald Theatre a few weeks ago, it hit me that it was my first time visiting the venue.

Could that be possible? I asked myself. I’d grown up in relative proximity to the Emerald; it seemed crazy to me that I’d never before witnessed a concert or other live event at the popular venue located in the heart of downtown Mount Clemens. But I’ve since racked my brain, and unless I visited the place as a kiddo and have totally forgotten it, it indeed appears that this was my first time in the space. So . . . new-place time!

The gorgeous, nearly 100-year-old (built in 1921) theater is small and intimate, as you can see from the above photo of its interior; it seats approximately 1,600. According to its website, it’s been revamped in some respects since its inception; that mural on the face of its exterior obviously isn’t circa 1921, for instance (but man, is it striking!). There’s a bar in the theater area, and upstairs there’s a sleek bar space called the Rock Room open on Friday and Saturday nights that features live performances.

While I was at the Emerald in a volunteer capacity, I was able to watch the show performed that night – which was AWESOME. The performers, Bella Electric Strings – a quartet of female violinists backed by a three-piece rock band – KILLED it! The ensemble brought mad energy and skill to the classic-rock tunes they played; I highly recommend you check them out if you’re interested: www.femmesofrock.com. And of course, check out the Emerald for a live performance!

31 N. Walnut St.

Mt. Clemens, MI 48043

www.theemeraldtheatre.com

343. The Pita Peddler – June 27, 2018 – Chesterfield, MI

June2018PitaPeddler1 (2)Visiting a friend’s new home one evening in late June also meant new-place-time for the blog (YES!), as I stopped en route for carryout at The Pita Peddler, a Mediterranean restaurant in Chesterfield.

The Pita Peddler has dine-in seating, but it was all about carryout orders the Wednesday evening I was there. Carryout business was KICKING on that night! I sat and waited for our order at the counter of the sleek, fully-stocked bar, which according to my friend is a more recent addition.

After perusing The Pita Peddler’s extensive menu loaded with traditional Mediterranean appetizers and entrees as well as a variety of non-Mediterranean salads, pita melts, and pita wraps,  I’d opted for a Fattoush side salad and Chicken Shawarma pita wrap.

The Fattoush salad was amazing, fresh and zesty and festooned with those crunchy fried pita chips that I love. Topped with grilled chicken, it would be a meal in itself. The hefty Chicken Shawarma wrap contained several ingredients in addition to the grilled chicken, pickles, and garlic sauce I’m used to: lettuce, tomatoes, and pickled banana peppers.

The banana peppers surprised me! But really, they are in the same vein as pickles with their sour vinegar pop of flavor, so why not?

I perused recipes online while writing this post to see if banana peppers in chicken shawarma dishes is a more widely embraced thing beyond The Pita Peddler’s kitchen, and apparently it is. At any rate, it’s a new concept to me. So thanks, The Pita Peddler, for expanding my horizons!

46610 N. Gratiot Ave.

Chesterfield, MI 48051

www.thepitapeddler.com

342. Baffin Brewing Company – July 23, 2018 – Saint Clair Shores, MI

June2018Baffin1 (2)June2018Baffin3 (2)It’s time to recount leg two of my recent Saint Clair Shores-based brewery tour! Readers of 100 Places in the D, welcome Baffin Brewing Company to the blog!

This brewery tour was admittedly more of a jaunt: a friend and I visited Jamex Brewing Company for the first time and then continued with Baffin Brewing Company on Jefferson Avenue north of 10 Mile Road. But it’s summer, the season for grand adventures, so why not envision a two-brewery-tour as an epic production? When visiting such delightful brewhouses as these two, it’s not hard to do!

Baffin came onto my radar after frequently passing it during my travels around Saint Clair Shores. I’d assumed it had opened within the last year because that’s when I started to notice it and was surprised to recently discover that it opened in early 2015 (Wow, how did I miss that???).

It was obvious that the general Metro-Detroit population had been hip to Baffin for longer than I had: the place was PACKED during the Saturday evening of my visit. It was standing-room-only for us initially.

We approached the bar, preparing to wait for one of the bartenders to notice us, and were pleasantly surprised when a staff member roaming the floor approached us to collect our drink orders. The promptness of being greeted and the convenience of not having to vie for the busy bartenders’ attention made an instant positive impression on me. Well played, Baffin!

I wanted to order a flight so I could sample four of Baffin’s brews, but I was worried about having to juggle the flight paddle whilst standing sans tabletop. The bartender convinced me that I simply had to hold the wooden paddle with the glasses hanging off of it level with one hand so I could select and sample with the other. Sold!

I scanned Baffin’s bar-side menu chalked with its current offerings and decided to try the Mango Unchained IPA, Citra Unchained IPA, Porter De Rosey (a porter infused with rose hips) and James Van Der Kriek (a Belgian brewed with cherry and honey). Then I balanced that flight paddle as carefully as I could and started sampling.

As the sipping and savoring of the brews ensued, I quickly discovered that I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED all of them! All four incorporated fruit and were incredibly drinkable. The Porter De Rosey, that rich, smooth brew infused with the floral flavor of the rose hips, was especially compelling to me.

(BTW, I’m loving Baffin’s beer titles that play off of celebrity names – here’s looking at you, Porter De Rosey, James Van Der Kriek, and Barley Rae Jepsen!)

Eventually, my friend and I no longer had to stand and juggle our beers, because some kind souls who were perched around a barrel fashioned as a table got up to leave and encouraged us to grab it. We sat down, and it was then that we fixated on another one of Baffin’s selling points: the free popcorn.

FREE POPCORN!!! If I wasn’t already in love with Baffin at this point, I most certainly was after discovering the cart of complimentary kernels from which you can serve yourself basketfuls (popcorn is kind of LIFE to me).

Summing up this visit, I can confidently declare: Baffin Brewing Company, leg two of my Saint Clair Shores-based brewery tour, you are AWESOMENESS with your friendly service and your flavorful brews and that sweet, sweet free popcorn. I can’t wait to revisit you!

25113 Jefferson Ave.

St. Clair Shores, MI 48081

www.baffinbrewing.com

341. Jamex Brewing Company – June 23, 2018 – Saint Clair Shores, MI

June2018Jamex2 (2)June2018Jamex1 (2)East Side brewery tour! That’s what one Saturday in late June was for me and my pal Jaclyn after a spontaneous drop-in to Josef’s European Pastry Shop of Grosse Pointe Woods.

I should clarify: this East Side brewery tour was specifically a Saint Clair Shores-based brewery tour. Jamex Brewing Company on Harper Avenue south of Nine Mile Road was our starting point.

The place was hopping with a late-afternoon crowd, including several canines (because Jamex allows dogs!). I immediately dug its welcoming vibe and décor (industrial-chic, with a most stunning turquoise-and-copper-mottled bar counter. Can I get that counter installed in my kitchen, please???).

The female bartender who served us was friendly and conversational, explaining the brewery’s background (it was opened last year by a husband-and-wife entrepreneurial duo who love beer), how often new brews are developed and rotated in (fairly regularly; new recipes are constantly in the works), and how public reception has been (overwhelmingly positive).

As we sat and chatted with her, I tried flight-sized sampler glasses of three of Jamex’s wares: the Joe Blonde (described on the chalkboard menu posted above the bar as a “blonde coffee cream ale”), Bubbalicious IPA, and Harvey Milk dark beer. I enjoyed all of them, especially the Bubbalicious with its fruity flavor and the Harvey Milk with its creamy, stout-esque consistency and hint of sweetness.

My conclusion from leg one of the Saint Clair Shores brewery tour: Jamex is definitely worth a revisit! In perusing its website today, I got excited to see all three beers I tried last month advertised as still on tap. I’d love to go back and savor those or the Lemon Drop brew (intriguing!) currently labeled as “on deck.”

21721 Harper Ave.

St. Clair Shores, MI 48080

www.jamexbrewing.com