Metro-Detroit

476. Kawaii Bubble Tea – June 21, 2020 – Clinton Township, MI

June2020Kawaii1 (2)June2020Kawaii2 (3)Summer heat can cause us to seek out refreshing moments of respite. Kawaii Bubble Tea is ready to facilitate such an experience!

The Clinton Township-based shop serves bubble tea, also known as boba tea. The drink originated in Taiwan and is an infusion of tea, sweetened milk and/or flavorings, ice, and tapioca pearls or jellies.

Kawaii offers fruit teas and milk teas. You choose your tea – black, green, or passion  – and up to two flavor enhancers. With the fruit teas, you can choose from flavors such as Strawberry, Lychee, Green Apple, and Mango; with the milk teas, options such as Bubblegum, Spiced Chai, and Cookies N Cream. Both fruit and milk teas can be poured over ice or blended with ice to make slushies.

And of course, there’s the pièce de résistance: the boba! At Kawaii, you choose from three different kinds of boba: the traditional pearl, which is dark and chewy and made from tapioca; the Popping Pearls, explained on its website as “juice balls that burst and disintegrate”; and Coconut Jellies, which are described as “firm and chewy” and of the three, closest resemble candy to me. The Popping Pearls and Coconut Jellies come in a variety of flavors.

Confession time: prior to visiting Kawaii, I’d not been a bubble tea person. I learned about it in high school and was excited to try it but found the tapioca pearls distracting rather than whimsical. I decided it wasn’t for me – until recently.

I found myself increasingly intrigued by Kawaii’s signage, the cute cartoon fox logo and “i”s dotted with hearts in its name. And from scoping out the shop’s menu online, I learned it served Thai tea. I was sold. I even decided I’d opt for the boba; experiencing them again would be an adventure. In this action-starved quarantine time, any adventure, large or small, was a win in my book!

I walked into the shop on a Sunday afternoon and took a spot in line, constituting one of the four customers allowed inside at once due to COVID-19 guidelines. A chalkboard mounted above the counter displayed the shop’s offerings, while the counter itself proffered brightly-colored macarons (a tantalizing possibility to ponder!) and other snacks.

I went for the large Thai tea served over ice and traditional tapioca pearls, downing half of the sweet, milky beverage on the car ride home. When the first tapioca pearl entered my mouth, I was surprised. I’d expected the eating of the boba to be a deliberate exercise, but many of them slid up the canal of the thick straw without effort.

I was also surprised by the fact that I didn’t mind the boba this time around. They struck me as mostly flavorless, with a faint hint of celery (anyone else taste that?). As I chewed and chewed and chewed (there were a lot of boba in my drink), I found them growing on me; they were pretty fun to eat. The tapioca pearls have distinctly moved out of the Distracting category and into the Whimsical. (Thanks for converting me, Kawaii!)

As of the writing of this post, Kawaii Bubble Tea is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and open from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. It is also currently carryout only; you can order online via its website or downloadable app or in-person at the shop. Please see its website for additional ordering guidelines – and enjoy the refreshing respite it offers!

43301 Garfield Rd.

Clinton Township, MI 48038

www.kawaiibubbletea.com

475. Chickpea Kitchen – May 22, 2020 – Sterling Heights, MI

May2020ChickpeaKitchen1 (2)May2020ChickpeaKitchen2 (2)I’m relishing every bright spot I encounter these days, and visiting Chickpea Kitchen was a definite bright spot!

I hope all of you are staying safe, healthy, and as grounded as you can. It’s been such an intense time here in the U.S. with the coronavirus raging and the brutal murder of George Floyd by police and the aftermath of that. June has personally been a struggle for me as I attempt to keep my spirits up while normal life continues to elude us and division tears our country apart. I’m hopeful that someday we can be a more united country where systemic racism and hate is not a thing. I mean, come on, America! But in the present-day, it can feel awfully bleak.

So any positive experiences cropping up during this time – wow, have they been blessings! I haven’t tried many new places lately: only two in the last month and a half – which you know has me antsy. I have, however, re-experienced some delightful establishments (yeah Fattoush, Modern Cone, and Irish Tavern!). And I did successfully execute a visit to Chickpea Kitchen the Friday night of Memorial Day weekend.

I was super impressed by the Sterling Heights-based Mediterranean restaurant when I entered it to pick up my carryout. Masks were required to enter, and the place was sparkling clean. There were tables placed in front of the ordering counter to force social distance between patrons and employees, and all of the staff wore masks.

Chickpea Kitchen offers soups, salads, several varieties of house-made hummus, and other goodies such as French fries and desserts. But its featured menu items are its build-your-own pitas and bowls, where you get to choose the protein, hummus, vegetables, and sauce you’d like to include in your meal.

I love a good build-your-own option! I was excited to build a rice bowl with grilled steak, onions, cucumbers, chickpeas, pickled turnips, spinach, pickled cabbage, garlic sauce, and bell pepper hummus. I also ordered a small fattoush salad, because it’s hard for me to go to a Mediterranean place and not order one!

Arriving home with my food and digging in was a thrill. The fattoush salad was one of the best I’ve had; I loved its crunchy pita chips, zesty dresssing and finely chopped onion, cucumber, and tomato.

And the bowl: it was SOOO delectably tasty, packed full of flavor! I loved the combination of tender steak, vibrant veggies, and flavorful hummus and garlic sauce. It was so wonderful that I ate most of it – which was a stretch, considering that I’d also eaten the whole fattoush salad. But it was a very worthwhile indulgence – especially at under $14 for both items.

As of the writing of this post, Chickpea Kitchen appears to be offering carryout only. Check it out if you’re in need of a bright spot in your day!

39525 Mound Rd.

Sterling Heights, MI 48310

(Closed Sundays)

www.mychickpea.com

474. Carnival Market – May 9, 2020 – Pontiac, MI

May2020CarnivalMarket1 (3)May2020CarnivalMarket2 (2)Grocery stores are, blessedly, one of the places we can visit during the COVID-19 pandemic. And that means I got to visit Carnival Market in Pontiac recently!

As with many of the places I highlight on 100 Places in the D, I’d known about and been wanting to visit Carnival Market for years. The grocery store features all manner of Latin American foodstuffs, including house-made tortilla chips, salsas, and desserts. It even operates an in-store Mexican restaurant with a full menu.

I was fortunate enough to try Carnival Market’s restaurant fare last year when it was brought in for lunch at my then place of work. WOW, was it delicious! The tacos, chips, and salsas were AMAZING, and my desire to visit the store amped up. Somehow, another half a year passed before I did that . . ..

Not having visited Carnival Market became a blessing in the time of COVID, when it became one of the few public places I was able to explore. Entering the store was an absolute thrill for me – both as someone who loves to grocery shop and as one who has been starved for adventure.

Carnival Market’s interior was clean and stocked with neatly-stacked produce and other well-curated wares. One row was nothing but bagged and bulk spices; another section contained refrigerated cases showcasing multiple varieties of house-made salsas and pretty desserts. There were shelves of flour and corn tortillas, some of which were locally made; a meat counter; a bakery section; ample aisles of dry goods, dairy, frozen foods, beverages (including beer), and household cleaning supplies. It was a cornucopia of grocery goodness!

I picked up a variety of produce; a package of tostadas; bags of corn and flour tortillas; two kinds of house-made salsa (the Red Hot Salsa and the Super Hot Green Salsa); a bottle of hot sauce; and an individually-sized portion of tres leches cake.

It’s been so fun to enjoy these purchases! I’ve found Carnival Market’s salsas to be phenomenal, bursting with flavor. The chips are awesome, too: thick, well-fried and addictively crunchy. And the tres leches cake, wonderfully soaked as it was in sweetened condensed milk, captured my heart with its decadence.

I’m all about looking for the bright spots in this pandemic, and my visit to Carnival Market was definitely a bright spot. I’m excited to be in proximity of this well-curated grocery store and the joyful prospect of visiting it again.

1101 E. Walton Blvd.

Pontiac, MI 48340

www.carnival-market.com

473. King’s Pizza – May 8, 2020 – Clinton Township, MI

May2020King'sPizza1 (2)May2020King'sPizza2 (3)My visit to King’s Pizza was 25 years in the making.

I’d wanted to try the pizza from this Clinton Township-based carryout joint since I was a kid and we started receiving flyers in the mail for it. The pies in the pictures on the flyers always looked so delectably cheesy. My mother, despite my appeals, was not interested in giving King’s Pizza a whirl. My childhood dream was deferred.

In recent years, the dream was revived. Passing its storefront periodically on 15 Mile Road, I mused that King’s Pizza would be a perfect candidate for a 100 Places in the D visit, since it’s locally owned.

With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the restaurant business and the world in general, I hadn’t tried any new-to-me places since my March 12 visit to Guiseppe’s Restaurant in Chesterfield. I did some pretty hardcore sheltering-in-place at the start of the stay-at-home mandate period, not driving anywhere for four weeks straight. Then when I did go out, it was to grocery stores, where I stocked up on wayyyy too much food. I wanted to support local restaurants that were open for carryout and delivery – but first, I had to eat up all my groceries!

My current goal is to try a new-to-me restaurant once a week on average. I want to support locally-owned restaurants and do my part to help keep them open. While one person getting carryout once a week from local chains is a tiny action in itself, hopefully if those of us who are able to do so chip in in this manner, we can make a difference in helping keep beloved restaurants open.

King’s Pizza made it easy for me to do my part. It offers delivery, but I wanted to (safely) pick up the pizza in person so it would count as a “visit” for the blog. So I opted for carryout and picked up my pizzas via a drive-through window that’s been set up for carryout orders. It was really easy and made contact minimal.

King’s offers both build-your-own and signature pizza options, plus a food menu filled with all other manner of goodies: chicken, ribs, fish and chips, cheesy breadsticks, pasta, salads, subs, and more. Who needs extra-large grocery orders when you have access to such a bountiful menu?

Pondering my order from King’s, that round cheese pizza featured so enticingly in many an advertising flyer was a no-brainer. I ordered a large one, plus a small round of one of its specialty pizzas that captured my attention, the Chicken Mediterranean.

When I arrived home with my two pizzas after driving through a freakish snow flurry (because snow-in-May is the kind of world we are living in right now???), I was soooo excited to try them. It was the MOMENT OF TRUTH!

I grabbed a slice of the cheese pizza, took a bite, and . . . it tasted like cheese pizza. LOL. I don’t know what I was expecting, but after 25 years of fantasizing about what a pizza tastes like, you’ve built up a lot of hype. It was good cheese pizza, though!

The Chicken Mediterranean was fantastic. It was bringing the flavor with its cheesy mozzarella, savory chicken, salty feta, zesty red onion and banana peppers, dash of oregano, and drizzle of olive oil.

After gorging on multiple pieces of both pies, I still had plenty of leftovers. And here’s the interesting thing I learned about that King’s cheese pizza: it was excellent reheated. Maybe it wasn’t warm enough when I had it on my first go-around (it did have to travel and endure me taking multiple photos of it before eating it), but having it piping-hot out of the oven with its gooey cheese and its excellent crust, all well-done on the outside yet delectably doughy on the inside . . . well, that satisfied my 1990s-era dream of an epic Italian pie just fine.

20571 15 Mile Rd.

Clinton Twp., MI 48035

(with an additional location in Roseville)

www.kingspizza.com

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