Metro-Detroit

435. Unburger Grill – September 24, 2019 – Dearborn, MI

September2019Unburger1 (2)September2019Unburger3 (2)September2019Unburger2 (2)Unburger Grill, you phenomenal purveyor of vegan goodness, you had my palate exclaiming “WOW!” over and over during my recent visit to you!

I’m not vegan – or vegetarian – but I enjoy eating plant-based cuisine. Impressive vegan and vegetarian establishments reside in the Metro-D, making the meatless fare taste as good as – or better than – the animal-based originals.

Unburger Grill in Dearborn is one of those impressive vegan establishments. The fast-casual restaurant serves burgers with house-made patties made from plants; Black Bean Portobello, Spicy Chickpea and Zucchini, Sweet Potato and Quinoa, and Ultimate (described on Unburger’s website menu as “using a blend of the best vegan meat alternatives available”) are the varieties offered.

Diners choose what patty and bun they’d like for the style of burger they select at Unburger: Basic, Mushroom Swiss, Southwestern, Mac Style, or Sweet BBQ. The restaurant also serves vegan sandwiches, sausages, salads, soups, nachos, air-fried French fries, and other veggie-based sides.

A fact I didn’t know before the writing of this post: Dearborn has two downtown areas, West Downtown Dearborn and East Downtown Dearborn. Unburger is located in West Downtown Dearborn.

I’d never seen any downtown area of Dearborn and was excited to discover for myself the area where Unburger is located. It’s super cute! My friend who accompanied me to Unburger and I got enthused about exploring it more in the future.

Behind Unburger and some adjacent businesses is a courtyard with tables where patrons can sit and enjoy their meals. After walking into Unburger and ordering our burgers at the counter, we sat at one of the tables outside and waited for our burgers to be brought to us. They arrived quickly.

I ordered the Mac Style burger with a Spicy Chickpea and Zucchini patty and whole-grain bun, plus a side of the air-fried French fries. It was A-MAZING. The Spicy Chickpea and Zucchini patty was SO full of flavor; it was wonderful. It was definitely the best vegan patty I’ve ever had, hands-down!

Honestly, I found myself liking that Spicy Chickpea and Zucchini patty better than a traditional beef patty – and that’s high praise from me, as I LOVE red meat. Unburger, look at you, making me a plant-based burger convert!

It wasn’t only the Spicy Chickpea and Zucchini patty on my Mac Style burger that was deliciously flavorful – the entire burger was, too. The Mac Style burger was – you guessed it – a vegan riff on McDonald’s Big Mac. It was delicious with its lettuce, onion, pickles, vegan cheese, and Thousand Island dressing – and hefty, to boot. Between eating that Big Mac and the crispy French fries, I was stuffed upon leaving Unburger!

Another thing I liked about Unburger was that the staff was really nice. How employees treat me at a place definitely makes a difference in how I recall it; excellent meals can be marred by snotty staff, and I appreciate how lovely the staff at Unburger was the night of my visit. Thanks, Unburger, for being so welcoming – and for cooking up fare that is both healthful and INCREDIBLY TASTY!

22018 Michigan Ave.

Dearborn, MI 48124

www.unburgergrill.com

431. Mike’s on the Water – September 4, 2019 – Saint Clair Shores, MI

September2019MikesontheWater1 (2)September2019MikesontheWater2 (2)September2019MikesontheWater3 (2)Post-Labor Day, I strove to hang on to that summer feeling by dining at Mike’s on the Water.

The Saint Clair Shores-based restaurant’s epic patio fronts Lake Saint Clair, offering up a picturesque view of the water and nearby marina. The patio itself is crowded with eye-catching knickknacks and features an outdoor bar area.

More epic features of Mike’s on the Water, because this place is seriously tricked out:

-An ice cream truck parked near its entrance proffering tasty frozen treats!

-A food truck on its rooftop patio (see it in the first photo above?) serving select menu items!

I didn’t get a chance to enjoy the ice cream truck or rooftop patio/food truck during my visit to Mike’s on the Water, because the ice cream truck wasn’t open and because my friend who accompanied me and I were all about the main-level patio, where Mike’s on the Water’s full food and beverage menu are available.

Browsing the variety of appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, tacos, burgers, and seafood entrée items offered on Mike’s on the Water’s menu, I opted for the Classic Corned Beef Reuben with a side of tater tots. The sandwich was delicious with its ample portions of corned beef, Swiss Cheese, sauerkraut, and creamy Thousand Island dressing on grilled rye bread; the tater tots were delectably crispy, grease-saturated goodness.

Sipping a glass of red wine while eating that Reuben and tater tots, laughing and talking to my friend and enjoying the view from Mike’s on the Water’s patio . . . it doesn’t get much better than that. Thanks, Mike’s on the Water, for helping me hang on to that summer feeling just a little bit longer!

24530 E. Jefferson Ave.

St. Clair Shores, MI 48080

www.mikesonthewater.com

430. Le Detroit Macaron – September 1, 2019 – Hamtramck, MI

September2019LeDetroitMacaron1 (2)September2019LeDetroitMacaron2 (2)Le Detroit Macaron is a virtuoso creator of its namesake French confection! Its brightly-hued, vibrantly-flavored macarons are downright delicious.

My visit to the Hamtramck-based bakery went down on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. I was seeing a friend on Labor Day and wanted to bring her a very cool (and also very belated) birthday present. Pondering things she loves, macarons popped into my head, and I knew a long-anticipated visit to Le Detroit Macaron was in order. All the bakery does is those meringue-esque, melt-in-your-mouth cookies with their rich layer of ganache sandwiched in between.

Arriving at the adorable shop with its white-and-black-striped awning and window boxes overflowing with flowers, I stepped inside and was greeted by a cornucopia of fresh-baked macarons displayed in glass cases. There were loads of varieties – macarons in every shade of the rainbow!

After speaking with the woman working the counter and pondering the options, I decided on six macarons for my friend and four for myself (because you know I couldn’t leave Le Detroit Macaron without grabbing some of its goodies for myself!).

For moi, I ordered macarons in these four flavor varieties: Hazelnut, Chocolate Malt, Rose Cardamom, and chocolate-chip espresso (I didn’t capture the exact name of that latter one). For my friend, I chose the macarons shown in the above photo: the Chocolate Malt and chocolate-chip espresso varieties I’d gotten for myself, as well as Chai, Fruity Pebbles, Lavender, and Oreo Cheesecake (aren’t those the most YUM-sounding flavors?).

The macarons that I bought for myself didn’t last more than a few minutes beyond my visit to Le Detroit Macaron. I exited the bakery, climbed into my car, and proceeded to scarf all four cookies in quick succession. I tried to savor them and make them last, but MAN! they were so delightful that I just.couldn’t.stop eating them.

The Hazelnut macaron was admittedly a little stale, though still tasty in flavor. But the Chocolate Malt, Rose Cardamom, and chocolate-chip espresso: WOW! were those so delectably fresh and soft and bursting with flavor! The rich chocolate ganache of the Chocolate Malt, the fragrant floral flavor of the Rose Cardamom, and the supreme chocolate-plus-coffee combo of the chocolate-chip espresso were SO SO SO good!

I drove away from Le Detroit Macaron sad that my allotment of macarons were gone but satisfied with getting to experience their deliciousness, however fleeting. I resisted digging into my friend’s macarons and gifted them to her the next day, and she reported back that she enjoyed them.

The next time I need a gift – whether for myself or others – I know where to go: back to Le Detroit Macaron! (Hmm, my birthday is soon; I could totally justify a repeat visit this weekend . . ..)

2756 Evaline St.

Hamtramck, MI 48212

www.ledetroitmacaron.shop

421. Drifter Coffee – August 6, 2019 – Ferndale, MI

August2019DrifterCoffee1 (2)August2019DrifterCoffee2 (2)My visit to Drifter Coffee inserted a little slice of tranquility into an otherwise busy day. I’d long been wanting to visit the Ferndale-based coffee shop, and I’m glad I finally did on a Tuesday afternoon in early August. I got to enjoy its warm hospitality, homey ambiance, and delicious coffee – not to mention, the mean chocolate-chip shortbread cookie it serves!

The shop gets its name from the business’ heritage of being a coffee purveyor on wheels. Drifter Coffee started out as a purely mobile establishment, selling its wares for four years from what it lovingly refers to on its website as its “coffee caboose,” a sweet vintage travel trailer.

The Ferndale-based shop opened earlier this year, in partnership with local coffee roaster Gooseneck Coffee Co., which has its roasting room on site. Yay for indie-business fusion! The coffee caboose still roves about town, vending Drifter Coffee’s goodies at sites such as Eastern Market and the Wayne State Farmers Market.

While I haven’t had the pleasure of encountering Drifter Coffee’s mobile storefront, I loved the vibes of its storefront planted in Ferndale, just down the road from Urbanrest Brewing.

It’s a beautiful space. The lower level is bright and airy and hosts the coffee counter and a seating area featuring a wall of windows and a plethora of potted plants. Outdoor seating is also available.

Upstairs is another seating area with a variety of places from which to perch: cushy couches and chairs, tables, and even a desk. This area is furnished more like someone’s home than a coffee shop; it’s cozy, with lots of books strewn about, more potted plants, and even a throw blanket nestled upon one of its couches. I loved kicking back in this upstairs seating area whilst savoring the richly-flavored iced coffee and tasty chocolate-chip shortbread cookie I’d ordered from the friendly baristas downstairs.

Indie coffee shops are my jam, and I’m always psyched to find a great one. Drifter Coffee is, most definitely, a great one!

770 Woodward Hts.

Ferndale, MI 48220

(Closed Mondays)

www.driftercoffee.com

420. Modern Cone – August 2, 2019 – Saint Clair Shores, MI

August2019ModernCone1 (2)August2019ModernCone2 (3)Modern Cone is bringing the flavor to 100 Places in the D! The ice cream joint in Saint Clair Shores is all about decadent dessert concoctions, which I discovered during my visit there in early August.

Ice cream is not one of my usual culinary obsessions (cake and tacos and even salads are more likely to fill my food fantasies), but MAN! did I crave it this summer. Hilariously, it came to mind most after filling meals such as the one I enjoyed at The Charlevoix just prior to visiting Modern Cone. I guess on these occasions I wanted to keep the gastronomical fun going!

My friend who dined with me at The Charlevoix that night was on the same wavelength as me, suggesting ice cream just as I’d been dreaming about it. Thus, I was introduced to the glory of Modern Cone.

This is not your typical purveyor of frosty treats, my friends: Modern Cone is bringing opulence to ice cream! It offers signature sundaes (called Stackers, presumably because of their characteristic way of stacking alternating layers of ice cream and other ingredients) laden with sauces and toppings ranging from chocolate chips to cereal bits to mini marshmallows; cookie ice cream sandwiches; and the option to build your own Stacker creation.

All manner of ice cream varieties are sold at Modern Cone, from Blueberry Muffin Top to Carolina Peach to what might as well be declared the official state flavor: Michigan Pot Hole (described on the menu on Modern Cone’s website as “Thick, black-tar fudge in chocolate ice cream with chunks of chocolate asphalt”).

Customized ice cream cakes (with the ability to choose which ice cream is layered inside) are also offered by Modern Cone, as are “Nachos,” which allow patrons to choose which two types of ice cream, three toppings, and two sauces get piled onto “chips” made from waffle cone pieces (AMAZING!!!).

After browsing the ice creams in Modern Cone’s shop and perusing its colorful chalkboard menu, my choice was obvious to me: I HAD to go with the PB Overload Stacker sundae with its peanut-butter chips, pretzel bits, Reese’s peanut butter-cup pieces, and Nutella and peanut butter sauces paired with chocolate-peanut butter ice cream (because the chocolate-and-peanut-butter combo is pretty much my spirit animal).

The PB Overload Stacker did not disappoint. Its rich ice cream and ample layers of sauces and toppings melded together into a sundae of supreme deliciousness. PB Overload = dessert PERFECTION!

I’ve fondly recalled this visit to Modern Cone on numerous occasions over the month-and-a-half that has elapsed since, periodically pestering my friend over the prospect of a return trip. The visit personifies summer for me – but how lucky we are to be able to savor Modern Cone’s goodness regardless of the time of year!

28616 Harper Ave.

St. Clair Shores, MI 48081

www.moderncone.com

419. The Charlevoix – August 2, 2019 – Grosse Pointe Park, MI

August2019Charlevoix1 (2)August2019Charlevoix2 (3)August2019Charlevoix4 (3)You know that perfect summer’s evening where your look is on-point, the weather is bathwater-balmy,  and you’re wholly immersed in the present moment, which happens to be really freaking awesome? That was the kind of summer evening it was when I visited The Charlevoix – in no small part because the Grosse Pointe Park-based restaurant is really freaking awesome!

On that first Friday in August, I was cognizant of standing on the threshold of summer’s end, and I was all about squeezing out every little last juicy bit of it before its conclusion. It was opportune to be visiting The Charlevoix that evening for dinner and drinks with a friend, because the experience totally helped me maintain that seize-the-moment ethos.

Entering The Charlevoix, I immediately resonated with its interior’s industrial/contemporary look, its exposed ductwork, wood- and brick-paneled walls, potted plants, and orange stools providing pops of color. The place emits relaxed, welcoming vibes.

Food-wise, The Charlevoix is big on small plates. The Snacks section has a sophisticated take on pub-grub fare, featuring dishes such as Chilaquiles Rojo and Mini Smoked Salmon Salad Sandwiches. There are areas devoted to tacos and wings, plus po’ boy sandwiches in varieties such as Fried Tofu and Vietnamese Chicken Sausage.

When compiling my meal at The Charlevoix, I ordered from three out of four of those menu sections, opting for the Elotes, Carnitas taco, and Thai Style wings.

The Elotes was most decadent with its slathering of jalapeño mayonnaise coated with a generous portion of Cotija cheese, cilantro, and chili powder. It’s corn on the cob done right!

With its pillowy-soft corn tortilla and tender shredded pork garnished with tomatillo salsa, jalapeño conserva, and cilantro, the Carnitas taco was quite tasty.

And those Thai Style Wings: they married the complementary contrast of a crispy-skinned exterior and juicy, meaty interior. Tossed in a Thai vinaigrette, smoked mayonnaise, chili, cilantro, and mint, they brought a kaleidoscope of flavors.

As much as I dug the food I ate at The Charlevoix (and I did!), the drink I sipped there was my favorite part of the dining experience. The Hot Hot Heat cocktail I chose from the selection of signature drinks was AWESOME with its vibrant mix of jalapeno-flavored tequila, blood-orange liqueur, cilantro-infused simple syrup, Tajin seasoning, hot sauce, and lime. It was sweet and spicy and the kind of drink that goes down, real, REAL easy.

Service was great at The Charlevoix; our waitress was friendly and approachable and took good care of us.

The overall vibe of my visit to this restaurant was that it simply felt right to be there, enjoying the food, drink, and laid-back conviviality. I’m sure it feels this way to dine at The Charlevoix whether it’s January or June, and I especially appreciated it on that peak summer’s evening in early August.

14927 Charlevoix St.

Grosse Pointe Park, MI 48215

www.thecharlevoix.com

418. Fattoush Lebanese Grill – July 19, 2019 – Clinton Township, MI

July2019Fattoush1 (3)July2019Fattoush2 (3)July2019Fattoush3 (2)Two reasons to get excited about Fattoush Lebanese Grill of Clinton Township: 1) its FANTASTIC Mediterranean cuisine and 2) DEEP-FRIED OREOS!!!

I don’t think Lebanese restaurant when I think purveyor of deep-fried Oreos, but Fattoush has got ’em, and let me tell you, they are an EXQUISITE with their fried, cakey outer coating, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate-and-cream center, ample drizzles of chocolate, caramel, and strawberry sauces, and whipped cream, strawberry, and powdered-sugar garnishes.

I didn’t know about the deep-fried Oreos before visiting Fattoush – or need them to bring me in the door (though I’m certainly thrilled to have encountered them). Mediterranean food is my JAM! I love discovering another Mediterranean restaurant in the Metro-D to add to my mental rolodex. So when a friend suggested meeting for dinner at Fattoush on a Friday night in mid-July, I was game.

One reason my friend knew about and liked Fattoush was because it has a noteworthy vegan menu. The restaurant has meatless takes on traditional Lebanese dishes (chicken and beef shawarma wraps made with Beyond meat) and other popular fare (a burger, nachos, and quesadilla made with animal-free protein). She enjoyed the vegan chicken shawarma wrap with its hefty pieces of plant-based chicken, juicy pickles, and zesty garlic sauce.

The main portion of Fattoush’s menu is extensive, showcasing classic Lebanese favorites such as grape leaves, hummus, and kibbee, tabouli salad and crushed lentil soup, kabobs and ghallaba. The dessert section boasts decadent fare in addition to those deep-friend Oreos: fried cheesecake, baklava, and a molten chocolate cake, for instance. Fresh juice and fruit smoothies are also served.

I’m fairly obsessed with fattoush salads at this stage in my life (they’ve got everything you need: zing and crunch and deep-fried pita!), so it was a no-brainer for me to order a large one with grilled chicken as my entrée during this visit. And Fattoush’s iteration of its namesake dish was excellent with its ample portion of tender, perfectly-seasoned grilled chicken, crispy pita pieces, zesty dressing, and fresh mix of romaine lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and red onion. (Man, I’m so dearly craving that salad now!)

As a former server, there’s no way I could end this post on Fattoush without giving a shout-out to the wonderful waitress who took care of me and my friend there. She was prompt and friendly and incredibly welcoming.

This visit to Fattoush Lebanese Grill confirmed for me that the restaurant is not only for Mediterranean-food enthusiasts, it’s for food enthusiasts in general. With its ample vegan options, top-notch Lebanese cuisine, and ultra-luxe desserts (Deep-Fried Oreos 4L!!!), Fattoush offers something for everyone.

41170 Hayes Rd.

Clinton Twp., MI 48038

www.fattoushgrill.com

411. Royal Indian Cuisine – June 4, 2019 – Troy, MI

June2019RoyalIndian1 (2)I’m always down to eat Indian food; I dig it (it hearts spice and flavor as much as I do). So when a friend suggested a visit to one of her favorite Indian restaurants, Royal Indian Cuisine in Troy, I was game.

Royal Indian’s menu proffers a plethora of classic Indian dishes, soups, appetizers, tandoori breads, and desserts. Selections are clearly marked as vegetarian or non-vegetarian, which was helpful for my vegan friend. A daily lunch buffet is also offered.

I ordered one of my Indian-cuisine staples during my visit to Royal Indian: Aloo Gobi, with its chunks of potato and cauliflower in their rich, spicy sauce. I also enjoyed a side of Garlic Naan bread, because: naan (enough said!).

3877 Rochester Rd.

Troy, MI 48083

www.myroyalindiancuisine.com

410. Woodpile BBQ Shack – May 23, 2019 – Clawson, MI

May2019WoodpileBBQShack1 (2)May2019WoodpileBBQShack2 (3)Making a visit to Woodpile BBQ Shack in Clawson just before Memorial Day this past May made me feel, in retrospect, like I was ushering in the summer. Because for me, summer isn’t summer without barbecued meat!

I love ribs. I love their tender, fatty, savory, fall-off-the bone goodness, their flavorful dry rubs and rich sauce.

All of these adjectives describe ribs done right, of course – it’s possible to get ribs wrong. Fortunately, as I discovered during my visit, Woodpile BBQ Shack does ribs right!

The barbecue joint offers all manner of smoked meats: chicken, cheddar sausage, beef brisket, pulled pork, and spare ribs grace the menu. Combo plates are available, including two-meat and three-meat options (each of which include two sides), as are sandwiches and group-centered meals such as the Feast for Four.

Woodpile BBQ Shack is not just in the smoked-meats game; they also serve ice cream – made by Treat Dreams!!! If you’ve ever tasted this local purveyor’s wares, you get what a big deal that is (I still dream about its Dark Sea Olive Oil ice cream I enjoyed on my birthday two years ago). I admittedly can’t imagine having room for dessert after gorging on barbecue, but if I did, I’d go for the Bourban Pecan Pie ice cream, which is labeled as a signature flavor crafted for Woodpile and described on the restaurant’s website menu as “sweet and salty and sticky and boozy!” [cue drooling].

During my visit to Woodpile BBQ Shack, I had the Two Meat Combo plate with pulled pork, spare ribs, and sides of the Mac & Cheese and Roadside Pit Beans. It was DELICIOUS, all of the rich, tender, fatty, savory bliss described above.

Ordering at Woodpile is done at a counter. Seating is available in a dining area that is open-air during the warm-weather months, as it was during my visit. It’s got a fun, rustic feel, all wood beams and corrugated metal, with tables incorporating wooden barrels into their design. There’s a bar out there that serves beer, wine, and liquor.

Mourning summer’s end as I write this post on the last day of August (R.I.P., Summer 2019!), I’m reminded that barbecue can – and should – be enjoyed at any time of year. Places like Woodpile Barbecue Shake make that deliciously possible.

303 S. Main St.

Clawson, MI 48017

www.woodpilebbqshack.com

407. Che Cosa – May 11, 2019 – Clinton Township, MI

May2019CheCosa1 (2)May2019CheCosa2 (2)May2019CheCosa3 (2)Che Cosa!!! I got excited when I realized the next post on the docket for 100 Places in the D was this one for the Clinton Township-based coffee house, because I totally dig this place.

On a busy Saturday in mid-May, I was between engagements and looking to kill time at a coffee shop, and I’d long been curious about Che Cosa, which happily fit logistically into the scheme of my day. So I stopped in to see what it was all about.

The interior of Che Cosa is cozy, with furnishings (such as the plush leather couch shown above) that make you feel as if you’re hanging out in someone’s home. Then you see the tall metal shelf loaded with large jars of roasted beans, and it’s abundantly clear that you are in a shop that is serious about its coffee.

After waiting on a rush of customers ahead of me, the woman working the counter that morning explained that shelf of beans to me. She said the owner of Che Cosa roasts the many varieties of coffee beans on display and adds flavoring to some.  Beans with luxurious-sounding flavorings, such as Banana Nut Bread and Cinnamon Danish, are available for purchase via a cup of fresh-brewed coffee or bagged for at-home brewing.

Foods such as soup, ice cream, and biscotti are available for purchase at Che Cosa, too. But I was all about the liquid caffeinated goodness that day.

I was tempted to order a cup of coffee made with the flavored beans (Southern Pecan Pie, you were calling my name!), but in the end I went with my old-faithful coffee-shop order: a cappuccino. And I was glad I ordered that cappuccino, because it was the best one I could remember drinking!

The word that kept coming to mind as I sipped Che Cosa’s cappuccino was “balanced.” Its flavors were perfectly balanced: the espresso didn’t taste burnt, nor watered down by too much milk, and there was an ideal amount of foam. That Che Cosa cappuccino was perfect.

Not only was the coffee at Che Cosa delicious, but I really enjoyed how welcoming it felt to be there. For most of the time that I hung out there, I chatted with the woman working the counter and a gentleman who was a Che Cosa regular. He told me about his life, and I told him about mine, and the barista chimed in about her life, and it was just a really, really nice experience to connect with some kindly strangers during an outing when I’d simply been looking to kill some time and check out a new place. Cozy, community-fostering, and brewing up a damn good cappuccino: that’s Che Cosa for ya!

Worth noting: Che Cosa’s hours of operation appear to vary, so it’s worth calling before a visit to make sure it’s open.

24394 Crocker Blvd.

Clinton Twp., MI 48036

Phone: (586) 477-1200