Metro-Detroit

472. Guiseppe’s Restaurant – March 12, 2020 – Chesterfield, MI

March2020Guiseppe's1 (2)March2020Guiseppe's3 (2)Guiseppe’s Restaurant was the last establishment I dined at before the coronavirus blew up here in Metro-Detroit. I’m so grateful to have had the experience of eating dinner there with a friend before this necessary period of social isolation set in.

For those of you who have lost loved ones to this virus, who are battling the virus yourselves, or whose lives have been affected by it in other terrible ways, I am sorry, and I am sending love to you. I know this little post on an Italian restaurant in Chesterfield, MI isn’t the kind of thing that can ease your pain in any real way, but I hope it provides a momentary diversion for those of you who are seeking it.

Guiseppe’s is located in a strip mall. Its interior is unpretentious and homey – and it serves up a mean Eggplant Parmesan.

The restaurant was offering a 2-for-$20 special during my visit, meaning you could purchase two featured meals – with soup or salad included – for only $10 bucks apiece. The Eggplant Parmesan I opted for was part of that special. It was delicious with its melt-in-your-mouth breaded and fried eggplant slathered in rich tomato sauce and cheese and served with a side of al dente penne pasta.

That 2-for-$20 menu is available Sundays through Thursdays and includes a variety of pasta dishes (including Manicotti, Homemade Lasagna, and Spaghetti Carbonara), plus chicken- and fish-centric meals such as Chicken Marsala and Beer Battered Fish and Chips.

Guiseppe’s regular dinner menu features a more in-depth list of pasta dishes, plus appetizers, salads, pizzas, and meat-focused entrées such as Steak Siciliano, Veal Scaloppini, and Shrimp Casalinga. The restaurant has a full bar; I enjoyed a tasty glass of pinot noir while there.

As of the writing of this post, Guiseppe’s was still open, accepting carryout orders only. So you can still experience its delectable Italian cuisine at this time if you’re local and looking to take a break from cooking.

49120 Gratiot Ave.

Chesterfield, MI 48051

www.giuseppesrestaurant.net

468. Lazybones Smokehouse – March 4, 2020 – Roseville, MI

March2020LazybonesSmokehouse1 (2)March2020LazybonesSmokehouse2 (2)March2020LazybonesSmokehouse3 (3)Serendipity led me to Lazybones Smokehouse – and am I glad it did!

I’d been wanting to visit the barbecue joint in Roseville for years; I pass it regularly on Groesbeck en route to 696, and I’d long intended to incorporate a visit there with a jaunt along that route.

Cancelled plans on a Wednesday night in early March led me to execute that plan on the fly. I was two-thirds of the way to a meet-up in Ferndale when I learned it’d been postponed. Not wanting to waste the drive, I decided a stop at Lazybones upon doubling back would make lemonade out of the lemons I’d been handed (or, pulled pork out of a pig of a situation? Cheesy-Dad-joke-level pun intended!).

I entered the carryout restaurant and studied the menu above the counter. The employee helping me explained that there wasn’t an individual-portion combo plate. There was the Texas Sampler, which includes tastes of all of Lazybones’ smoked meats, plus two pint-sized portions of sides and four slices of cornbread, and the Family Feast option, which showcased way more food than I was looking to reckon with; otherwise, menu items were available à la carte, in various sizes. (The restaurant also offers a catering menu that includes packages and a wider selection of dishes than its restaurant carryout menu.)

I studied the array of smoked meats (including brisket, pork belly, chicken, turkey, and sausage), sandwiches, salads, and sides and chose the two meats that were the obvious choices for me: the Carolina Pulled Pork and the St. Louis Spareribs – plus sides of the Baked Mac and Cheese and the Vinegared Garlic Slaw and a slice of the Honey Buttered Cornbread. It was more food than I needed, for sure, but I wanted to sample several items (and who says leftovers are a bad thing)?

I was so excited to get home and dig into my feast! And dig in I did. I tried a little of everything, slathering the pulled pork and ribs with Lazybones’ vibrant sauces (I’d opted to try the Carolina Vinegar and Screamin’ Inferno varieties. A third barbecue sauce was thrown in for good measure; I’m unclear on its identify but suspect it was the Hillbilly due to the “HB” written on the outside of its container) and taking turns dipping into the sides.

The clear star of the show in that meal? The Carolina Pulled Pork. It was phenomenal, so tender and flavorful that it didn’t need sauce to be utterly delectable – though I still doused it with sauce because I am a sauce gal, and Lazybones’ are very tasty. But man, was it good!

I enjoyed the meaty St. Louis Spareribs, as well; they had a great smoky flavor. I appreciated that the Vinegared Garlic Slaw wasn’t drowning in mayonnaise; it was zesty, peppery, and garlicky and actually tasted like a healthy vegetable that could aid in counteracting all of the saturated fat I was eating. The Baked Mac and Cheese was covered in creamy dairy goodness, and the Honey Buttered Cornbread delivered a craved carb infusion.

I got my money’s worth of that meal, eating off of it two additional times in subsequent days. Thanks to Lazybones Smokehouse, what could’ve been a bummer of an evening was instead a spur-of-the-moment rendezvous with deliciousness!

27475 Groesbeck Hwy.

Roseville, MI 48066

www.lazybonessmokehouse.net

467. Knapp’s Donuts – February 21, 2020 – Troy, MI

February2020Knapp'sDonuts1 (2)February2020Knapp'sDonuts2 (2)As of the writing of this post, Knapp’s Donuts is one of the many Metro-Detroit-area businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic; its doors are currently closed. With any luck, both its Rochester and Troy-based locations – the latter of which I recently visited – will reopen soon, and we can all enjoy its delightful donuts again.

After years of hearing my mom rave about Knapp’s Donuts and wanting to try them myself, I finally made that happen when I stopped there on a Friday morning in February. I was on my way to my last day at a job that I’d worked at for 4.5 years, and I thought it would be nice to bring my team (and myself) some donuts.

I picked out eight donuts in a variety of flavors, including Boston crème, chocolate glazed, cinnamon-sugar, and sour cream.

I knew I had to try the sour cream, as that varietal has become a personal favorite in recent years. It was SO delicious: perfectly moist on the inside and crispy-fried on the outside, with a honey-sweet glaze. I could see from eating that sour cream donut what all the hype around Knapp’s was about!

I also got to try one of its chocolate glazed donuts, which was quite tasty, too; my coworkers who opted in on the baked goodies enjoyed them, as well.

Once Knapp’s is open again, I have a feeling its patrons are going to be rejoicing by grabbing its delectable donuts by the dozens! May that time come quickly.

6057 Rochester Rd.

Troy, MI 48085

(with an additional location in Rochester)

465. MI-Combat – February 15, 2020 – Rochester Hills, MI

February2020MI-Combat1 (3)Look at you, MI-Combat, bringing out the inner child in me!

MI-Combat doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of place that would bring out one’s inner kiddo, does it? I mean, the name has a word related to warfare in it. But it’s the service the place offers, laser-tag games, that brought out that child-like wonder in me.

I visited MI-Combat on a Saturday night in mid-February, to attend the birthday party of a friend’s husband. Because my friend booked a party package with MI-Combat, our group had access to a party room area that we were able to bring snacks into and keep our stuff in; we were also served pizza after our game session as part of the package.

For the game play, we suited up into vests and headbands that had sensors in them that made us targets for the laser guns, which were crafted to look like assault rifles and came with a strap you could wear across your chest. As part of the party package, we had 90 minutes to play various games of laser tag on MI-Combat’s two-level course that’s been designed to look like a Detroit cityscape (its website calls it “Battlefield Red Dawn,” describing it as a “Live Hollywood Movie Set”). It’s a really cool course, with plenty of elements to hide behind, such as pallets and a police car, and within (including a police station and a structure painted to look like American Coney Island. Heck yes, American Coney Island!).

We played along with others who weren’t a part of our group, breaking up into two teams to play numerous games, each with a short time range (around five minutes) and  different objectives and each led by a staff member, who was there if we had questions or needed help with our guns or reactivating into the game after we’d been “killed,” for games where that was applicable.

For one game, the other team had the objective to take out all of our team members within a certain time range; if any of our team survived until the end of that game, we won. Another game had us searching for a backpack hidden within the course (while we shot at each other); the team that found the backpack before the other won.

The games were fast-paced, and once I got the hang of using the gun and how to reset myself to get back into a challenge after I’d been shot, I had a lot of fun and got pretty competitive around the whole thing. Screens in our team base tracked the players on each team’s stats, and I was excited to see that while I certainly wasn’t one of the top players, I also wasn’t the very worst (we’d been prompted to create accounts on a stat-tracking site before the game session so that we’d have profiles where these stats could be tracked).

The games went by in a blur, and I was sad to see them be over – though very happy to dig into some pizza after the activity, which was more strenuous than I and some of my team members had expected (with lots of running and crouching involved, the challenges were a great workout!). The overall experience was a lot of fun, and I’d definitely recommend you check out MI-Combat should the inner child – and adult in you! – perk up at the idea of playing energetic laser tag games in this engaging setting.

2636 S. Adams Rd.

Rochester Hills, MI 48309

www.mi-combat.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

457. Vast Kitchen and Bar – January 7, 2020 – Shelby Township, MI

January2020VastKitchenandBar1 (3)January2020VastKitchenandBar2 (3)Vast Kitchen and Bar = my first culinary crush of 2020!

I thoroughly enjoyed my dining experience at this Shelby Township-based restaurant. Everything about it was fantastic: the ambiance, the service, the drinks, the food. I’m all about starting a new year off strong, and Vast helped me to do that, transforming what would have otherwise been an ordinary Tuesday night in early January into a gastronomical voyage!

Walking into Vast, I instantly felt at home. Its interior exudes modern class and coziness with its rich red walls, dark leather booths, glossy wood finishes, and rows of backlit bottles gleaming above the bar.

The server who waited on me and the friend I dined with at Vast made the place feel even more welcoming. Friendly, helpful, and professional, she provided excellent service. A former waitress, I can’t help but be attuned to the level of customer care provided at a restaurant; it can truly make or break a meal for me. Thanks to our server at Vast for helping to make the experience awesome!

On to the drinks! From Vast’s selection of signature cocktails, I selected the Tradition in Fashion, an amped-up Old Fashioned that was perfection with its bourbon melded with raw sugar, cherry liqueur, and black walnut-flavored bitters. I enjoyed it so much that I ordered a second (twist my arm!).

Superior ambiance, service, and drinks: I was already swooning over Vast at this point. And then came the pièce de résistance: the meal I ordered as my entrée, the Signature Meat Loaf.

This meat loaf is by far THE BEST I have ever had. Drenched in gravy, served on a bed of mashed potatoes and creamed corn, it was rich, tender, flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness – and topped with delectably crispy-battered onion rings, to boot. It was SO SO SO SO GOOD.

According to Vast’s menu, this meatloaf is crafted from a mix of meats: ground beef, pork, and veal. And according to my taste buds, it’s crafted from PURE MAGIC.

Besides offering that mythic-level meatloaf, Vast’s dinner menu contains a collection of upscale appetizers (see the Tuna Poke Bowl, Pei Mussels, and Beef Carpaccio), burgers, salads, steaks, seafood dishes, and other hearty entrées. I doubt I could go there and order anything other than that Signature Meat Loaf as long as it’s on the menu, but I can see how dishes such as the Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna and the Roasted Red Pepper Alfredo Pasta would be just as tempting.

Vast Kitchen and Bar, it’s official: I’m in crush with you! Thank you for being you and for providing such a top-notch dining experience.

52969 Van Dyke Rd.

Shelby Twp., MI 48316

www.vastkitchenandbar.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

453. 313 Pizza Bar – December 28, 2019 – Lake Orion, MI

December2019313PizzaBar1 (2)December2019313PizzaBar2 (2)December2019313PizzaBar3 (2)Detroit-style pizza = my heart. I love that doughy, crispy, greasy, cheesy, saucy stuff! So of course I had to visit the recently opened 313 Pizza Bar in downtown Lake Orion.

Full disclosure: I’m related to one of the owners of this place. But familial bias aside, my conclusion after my visit is that 313 Pizza Bar is proffering up some very tasty pizza!

The restaurant is in downtown Lake Orion, on the site of the former Lockhart’s BBQ. The building is bringing the industrial vibes, all brick walls and bare-bulb lighting and exposed ductwork. There’s a cozy bar area on the first floor, with strands of twinkle lights strung above it. During my visit, I sat in the second-floor dining area, which has its own bar area and a wall of windows offering views of the cityscape outside.

Besides offering signature and build-your-own pizza options, 313 Pizza Bar serves appetizers such as bruschetta, cheese bread, and meatballs, plus hearty sandwiches (here’s looking at you, Muffuletta and Philly Cheesesteak!) and salads (so you can counterbalance the doughy, crispy, greasy, cheesy, saucy aspect of the meal with some greens).

While the appetizers and sandwiches sounded appealing, I was at 313 Pizza Bar for its namesake dish, so I zeroed in on that Signature Pizzas section. Many intriguing choices were showcased there: see the Spicy Sausage and Peppers with its mix of hot Italian sausage, banana peppers, green peppers, and red onion and the Tangy BBQ Chicken with its Tangy Carolina BBQ Sauce – both prime options for revisit meals for me. But it was the Chicken Pesto pizza that captured our collective attention during this meal, along with individually-sized salads (the Green Garden for me, the Antipasto for my fellow diners).

Our salads came out quickly, beds of greens loaded up with ingredients. The Antipasto salad was especially stacked with goodies: salami and ham and cheese and chickpeas, artichoke hearts and cherry tomatoes and cucumber and black olives and banana peppers. I enjoyed my Green Garden salad with its crispy croutons and spicy banana peppers.

Then it was on to the main course! The Chicken Pesto pizza arrived in all of its cheesy, crispy-crusted glory. The large-sized pizza contained eight pieces and was essentially two, four-slice pizzas, meaning that every piece was one of the much-beloved corner pieces (WOO-HOO!).

With its crust that was both doughy and crispy (YEAH, Detroit-style pizza!), its flavorful pesto sauce and thick layer of mozzarella cheese studded with chunks of chicken breast and fresh garlic dusted in Parmesan and pecorino romano, this Chicken Pesto pizza was delicious! I savored several pieces of it, gorging on its rich, carb-and-dairy-laden goodness.

Oh, Detroit-style pizza, how you sustain me during these stark winter days! Thank you, 313 Pizza Bar, for being a purveyor of this much-beloved local delicacy!

37 E. Flint St.

Lake Orion, MI 48362

www.313pizza-bar.com

 

447. Berkley Common – November 14, 2019 – Berkley, MI

November2019BerkleyCommon2 (2)November2019BerkleyCommon3 (3)On a gloomy night during these, the shortest days of the year, Berkley Common was for me a beacon of warmth, conviviality, and culinary goodness!

I met a friend at the restaurant based in downtown Berkley on a weeknight in mid-November. Right away, I was captivated by its interior, which I would describe as a mix of rustic (forest-scape murals on the walls, lots of wood finishes), industrial-chic contemporary (minimalist light fixtures, exposed ductwork, earth tones), and retro (it’s got a jukebox!) all wrapped into one.

Next, I was knocked out by my drink selection. From Berkley Common’s menu of craft cocktails, I chose the server-recommended Smoke Ring for my Halo, which was FANTASTIC with its melding of blanco tequila, mezcal, lime, blueberry, jalapeño, and agave. I loved the mix of sweet, smoky, and spicy – SO perfect!

And then, I was blown away by my dinner choice. From the menu of appetizers, sliders, salads, hirata buns, burgers, tacos, and other goodies (which included various vegetarian/vegan and gluten-free options), I chose spare ribs with a Thai peanut barbecue sauce. They were oh-so-tasty, tender nuggets of meaty goodness slathered with rich, flavorful sauce, sprinkled with crushed peanuts and water chestnuts, and served on a bed of roasted vegetables. My stomach definitely had the warm-and-fuzzies after eating them!

And I left Berkley Common feeling all-around full of the warm-and-fuzzies after that lovely evening of dinner, drinks, and bonding with a friend. It was dark outside, but the light of that positive experience would buoy me in that darkness!

3087 12 Mile Rd.

Berkley, MI 48072

(Closed Mondays; open for dinner Tuesdays through Fridays, brunch/lunch and dinner Saturdays and Sundays)

www.berkleycommon.com