Midtown

586. Nain Rouge Brewery – October 8, 2022 – Detroit, MI

Nain Rouge Brewery, serving up sinfully good beer!

I discovered the Detroit-based brewery during birthday celebrations for moi last month. Friends ordered its beer during dinner at Smith & Co., and we noticed the brewery was right across the way. So we popped over for a round of drinks after, before continuing on to Willis Show Bar.

It turns out that Smith & Co. is the only restaurant to serve Nain Rouge’s wares. The brewery also works with Eastern Michigan University’s brewing school, according to its website, aiming to “help promote diversity in the beer industry.”

What an awesome partnership! Obviously, Nain Rouge Brewery’s character is nothing like its namesake’s, that legendary creature who is said to cause mayhem in the D. Nain Rouge the brewery was, in my experience, a welcoming place devoid of drama – a chill space to enjoy pre-show drinks. But the “red dwarf,” as its name translates, has left its imprint on the brewery – in the form of its devilishly delicious beer.

Nain Rouge’s current tap list boast a range of choices, from an amber lager to a coffee stout to a honey- and hibiscus-infused wheat beer. There are three kinds of IPAs, a kölsch, a pilsner – even an Oktoberfest selection. I went for the Wisehead Chocolate Vanilla Porter, and it was right up my alley: rich, tasty, smooth.

Maybe that’s how Nain Rouge the imp is able to sneak in and cause a ruckus: by being as smooth as Nain Rouge the brewery’s beers. Maybe Nain Rouge Brewery has more in common with its namesake than I initially thought!

666 Selden St.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.nainrougebrewery.com

585. Smith & Co. – October 8, 2022 – Detroit, MI

A Saturday night spent with friends in Detroit: is there anything better? That’s especially the case when you’re dining on Smith & Co.’s Nain Rouge Mac & Cheese!

The Midtown/Cass Corridor-based restaurant and bar serves up hearty fare in a convivial environment. The interior ambiance can be described as upscale industrial: concrete floors, exposed beams, and destressed elements mixed with leather banquettes, gloss, and mod lighting.

Delving into the menu’s array of sandwiches, salads, pizzas, and entrées, I saw several choices that enticed me – the Korean Fried Chicken sandwich being one. I even toyed with the idea of getting a salad, intrigued by the Fried Green Tomato with its medley of kale, kamut, beans, radishes, red onion, snap peas, feta, croutons, mint, the titular tomatoes, and balsamic vinaigrette.

But the Nain Rouge Mac & Cheese won out – and I’m SO glad it did! The noodles were doused in creamy beer cheese and tossed with barbecue sauce-infused pulled beef, chunks of bacon, and fried onion. It was rich, flavorful, indulgent – the exact qualities you want a birthday dinner to have.

The drink I imbibed at Smith & Co. embodied those same traits. A luxurious mix of Kahlua, vodka, coffee, and dalgona topped with coffee foam, the Espresso Martini Chamber Seven was so nice, I ordered it twice! The current selection of specialty cocktails includes the Pumpkin Spice Old Fashioned and a seasonal sangria. Beer from nearby Nain Rouge Brewery is on draft, and for those who don’t drink, a Zero-Proof section features two mocktails and drinks from the likes of local leisure soda vendor, Casamara Club.

Celebrating my birthday with friends at Smith & Co. was wonderful – namely because of those friends’ company. But the delicious food and drink amplified the experience. Thanks, Smith & Co., for helping make this special day even more special!

644 Selden St.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.smithandcodetroit.com

583. Detroit Public Theatre – October 2, 2022 – Detroit, MI

Get swept away by story at Detroit Public Theatre!

Season Eight of the local theater company kicked off in a brand-new home: the renovated Third Avenue Garage building in Detroit’s Midtown/Cass Corridor neighborhood. Prior to this, Detroit Public Theatre held its plays at venues around town – most recently at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

The theater is a beauty of a building! The airy lobby is an elegant example of the industrial aesthetic, with neat concrete floors, exposed brick walls, and a wood-plank ceiling. A bar along one side serves beer, wine, cocktails, and non-alcoholic libations.

I was there to see Mud Row. Written by lauded playwright and native Detroiter Dominique Morisseau (who is also Detroit Public Theatre’s Executive Artistic Producer), the play explores themes of racism, civil rights, gentrification, and (oft-complex) family dynamics. The intimate theater was an ideal space for this emotionally raw, moving production. Seated a couple of rows from the actors, I definitely felt in on the action.

Mud Row wrapped on October 30. Detroit Public Theatre’s next production, Noura, a tale about an Iraqi immigrant family grappling with their past during the holiday season, debuts November 15. To learn more about Noura and Detroit Public Theatre’s other Season Eight productions – and to buy tickets! – click here.

3960 3rd Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.detroitpublictheatre.org

559. Bronx Bar – April 30, 2022 – Detroit, MI

What’s better than springtime Saturday in the city? Springtime Saturday in the city capped off with a visit to the Bronx Bar!

Detroit is magical any time of year for me, precisely because it fosters magical establishments such as this longtime fixture in the Midtown/Cass Corridor neighborhood.

From the colorful stained-glass lamps hanging from its ceilings to the deer figurines flanking its tables, the Bronx Bar oozes old-fashioned charm. There’s a vintage jukebox (that holds CDs!) and a dolphin figurine inexplicably wearing a bra (because why not?). Roll-up doors open one wall to the outside, offering up fresh air and street-side people watching, and patio tables flank the exterior. Chalkboard menus advertise bar fare ranging from veggie-forward (a black-bean burger; a sandwich christened the Clean Veggie) to saturated-fat-infused decadence (fried bologna, cheese sticks, a ground-chuck cheeseburger). The bar stocked with bottles means everyone is bound to find a favorite drink.

If you’re looking for a little charm infusion, look no further than this effortlessly charming place!

4476 2nd Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

528. Willis Show Bar – October 9, 2021 – Detroit, MI

To be at Willis Show Bar on a Saturday night, savoring live music!

The experience felt singular: not only because it was my first pandemic-times excursion to see live music, but because it happened at this wonderfully one-of-a-kind bar in the Cass Corridor neighborhood of Detroit.

As with many Detroit buildings, the Willis Show Bar venue has a storied past. It was in operation for nearly 30 years as a jazz club of the same name, from 1949-78. Forty years later, the current owners restored and reopened the property as a sleek tribute to its former self.

Stepping into Willis Show Bar is like stepping into a gorgeously glam portal. It’s intimate, dimly lit by candlelight and neon-purple and blue lights. Seating is offered along the sleek bar, via cozy two-top tables and wrap-around booths. The two elevated stage areas are uniquely positioned: one is tucked behind the bar; the other, near the front door. Open floor space beyond the bar leaves plenty of room for dancing.

As of the writing of this post, Willis Show Bar is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. It offers two nightly sets of live music: from 8-9 and 10-11 p.m. Admission is typically $10 when purchased in advance on Willis Show Bar’s website and $15 the day of the show. Select acts can cost more.

On the night of our visit, my friends and I sat in a booth positioned in a corner near the front door. We were right across from the singer/guitarist and keyboardist playing on the stage near the door. We attended the 10 p.m. set. Willis Show Bar’s house band, The At Will Band, was playing. They were phenomenal! They kicked out exuberant covers of funk, hip hop, R&B, and soul favorites varying from Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” to Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison” (my personal favorite of the night). The male and female singers sharing lead duties that night were both talented, but I found the male singer to be especially fantastic. He had incredible range, adeptly hitting the high notes on a Justin Timberlake cover and bringing the house down with the closer, Montell Jordan’s “This is How We Do It.”

Speaking of incredible: Willis Show Bar’s craft cocktail menu is just that. Such an intriguing menu of offerings! I selected one of the seasonal drinks, the Flannel. The melding of chai tea-infused bourbon, dry curacao, lemon, maple, nutmeg, and salt was so delicious. And it went down so easy!

Enraptured by the music and those Flannel cocktails, I was wholly surprised when the At Will’s hour-long set came to an end. It went by so quickly!

My friends and I lingered a bit after the set, listening to the then DJ-spun tunes and dreaming up our next visit to Willis Show Bar. It’s a visit that can’t come quickly enough!

4156 Third St.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.willisshowbar.com

517. SheWolf – August 6, 2021 – Detroit, MI

Dinner at SheWolf – what a special experience! It was a dream come true to finally visit the Detroit-based Italian restaurant – and a magical one, at that.

I dined at SheWolf on a Friday night in early August. My mom, stepdad, and I had a reservation for right when it opened, 5 p.m. We’d spent the previous hour priming ourselves for the experience in the backyard of The Old Miami; we were ready to eat! And SheWolf was ready to serve us.

I was struck by SheWolf’s gorgeous dining room: its sage-green walls, caramelly leather, dark-stained wood floors, and profusion of fresh flowers.

Another striking detail was how many employees were working that night. There was a full floor of them – I’m talking a pre-COVID-level, busy-weekend-night number of staff members. This was both surprising and incredibly heartening to me. I interpreted it to mean 1) SheWolf is a place where people love to work and 2) they are doing well enough during these COVID times to employ a full staff.

With its phenomenal food and impeccable service, how could SheWolf not be doing well? At least, I hope it is. We need restaurants this wonderful to thrive!

Speaking of the impeccable service at SheWolf: here’s an example. I happened to drop my napkin twice that night. Both times I did, staff members swooped in with a fresh one. Employees consistently appeared eager to step in and deliver food, decrumb our table, check on us . . .. They did so with friendly, professional attitudes, seemingly happy to be there and serving us. As someone who served in restaurants for years, I really appreciated being in the midst of this high-vibing staff who worked seamlessly together as a team. I could see myself on a crew like that . . .. But I was a patron that night at SheWolf . . . so I’ll put my serving nostalgia aside!

The server we had that night was great and adeptly guided us through SheWolf’s menu. We all ordered her recommended cocktail, Aperol These Years, a spritz incorporating strawberry, balsamic, and basil-infused Aperol. It came garnished with a marigold and went down really easy.

We shared two appetizers, again recommended by our server: the Carpaccio and the Sformato di Zucchine.

The Carpaccio was a revelation for me! I’d previously been put off by carpaccio’s layers of paper-thin, raw beef. But SheWolf’s carpaccio was so tender and flavorful, an utter delight to eat. It was accented by capers, toasted hazelnut pieces, and an ample layer of shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

The Sformato di Zucchine also blew my taste buds wide open. I didn’t know what to expect of this dish described as a “savory zucchini custard.” But wow, was it luxuriously full of flavor!

We continued our journey through SheWolf’s menu. From the carefully curated pasta, meat, and seafood dishes, I chose the Paccheri All’Arrabbiata. The dish of house-made pasta topped with a spicy lamb neck ragu, whipped ricotta, plum tomatoes, and banana peppers was SO, SO, SO, SO GOOD. The tender lamb and flavor-rich sauce! That creamy ricotta! There was a lot to exclaim over – including the house-made pasta, which was wonderfully fresh and al dente-chewy.

SheWolf’s pasta production, by the way, includes milling its own flour. Talk about dedication! There’s a glass-walled area on the way to the restrooms where the pasta is made by hand.

While the drink, appetizers, and main course I enjoyed at SheWolf were satisfying, I couldn’t stop there. Dessert was the icing on the cake of this exquisite meal.

So I savored SheWolf’s Torta di Cioccolato, a slice of flourless chocolate cake accompanied by chantilly cream, crème anglaise, and bits of honeycomb. It was a rich, chocolatey treat. But the dessert my mother ordered, the Zeppole, REALLY blew me away. These were piping-hot, freshly fried ricotta fritters, perfectly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. Dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with a drizzle of chocolate-hazelnut spread, they were exceptional.

Like those Zeppole, the entire experience of dining at SheWolf was exceptional. This is one of those meals that I find myself visiting again and again in my memory. I feel privileged to have had this special experience at this special restaurant!

438 Selden St.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.shewolfdetroit.com

462. AWAKE Café – January 30, 2020 – Detroit, MI

January2020AWAKECafe1 (2)January2020AWAKECafe2 (3)~Indie coffee house alert!~

I’m a sucker for locally-owned coffee shops, so you know I’m excited to post about my visit to AWAKE Café!

Warm and welcoming: that’s the impression this coffee house based in the Midtown neighborhood of Detroit left on me. From its kind staff to its delectable food and drink to its aesthetically pleasing, cozy environs with soothing instrumental music playing in the background, AWAKE Café encouraged me to make my visit a several-hour sojourn.

Sitting at a window-facing counter seat, typing away on my computer and savoring first a bold-flavored cold-brew iced coffee, then a beautifully nuanced, pine-infused hot tea (potentially weird-sounding, I know, but it was delightful) and one of the ooey, gooey, oh-so-tasty house-made cinnamon rolls, I felt thoroughly comfortable and at home at AWAKE Café. It’s a wonderful working environment, conducive to creating that in-the-flow momentum that makes work feel almost effortless.

Not only does AWAKE offer coffee and tea drinks and baked goods, it also proffers breakfast items, smoothies, sandwiches, and salads. Yay to offering square meals!

And about that coffee: by purchasing it, AWAKE Café is helping to support an organization called Evangelistic Faith Mission, which runs a coffee farm in Honduras that employs locals and benefits their economy. So when you frequent AWAKE Café, you can drink delicious coffee AND support a good cause – a definite win-win in my book!

4224 Third St.

Detroit, MI 48201

(Closed Sundays and Mondays)

www.awakedetroit.com

449. Mongers’ Provisions – November 29, 2019 – Detroit, MI

November2019Mongers'Provisions1 (3)I was drawn into Mongers’ Provisions by the prospect of cheese but blown away by another of its offerings: its chocolate collection.

I love cheese, but chocolate, that resides in a place smack-dab at the center of my heart. And WOW, does Mongers’ Provisions proffer a LOT of chocolate! Artisan chocolate bars, from all parts of the world and infused with all kinds of flavorings, fill shelves along one wall of the shop based in the Midtown/Cass Corridor neighborhood of Detroit. Study those shelves, and you’ll see varietals as wide-ranging as chili-infused dark chocolate and white chocolate melded with duck egg, curry, and cereal (!).

Both of those varietals listed above, by the way, were ones I got to sample during my visit to Mongers’. The employee assisting me insisted that I sample any chocolate I was interested in, an offer that I found to be extremely generous, as the bars offered at Mongers’ are not cheap. It showcases artisan chocolates, with many – if not all – focused on using cacao procured via fair-trade means. These are distinctive chocolate bars, crafted with superior ingredients. I can’t recall exactly how much that white chocolate/duck egg/curry/cereal bar cost, but I believe it was in the $12-to-$14 range. And it was phenomenal, I might add. Who knew such seemingly discordant ingredients could meld into such creamy, flavorful deliciousness?

The chili-infused dark chocolate variety I sampled at Mongers’ was quite good, as well. But it was the third bar I tasted, the Raaka Raspberry Mint, in which I decided to invest. I love the rich, almost jammy raspberry flavor and subtle hint of mint in this creamy, 65-percent dark chocolate bar, which uses unroasted cacao beans sourced from the Dominican Republic. And at $8, the price of this bar was admittedly more in line with my current budget than some of Mongers’ other chocolate offerings.

Since my visit, I’ve definitely been keeping this shop and its fantastic chocolate collection in mind. Not only do I hope to delve into it more in the future, but I also think the singular bars that comprise it would make excellent gifts, different as they are from the generic (and oft subpar) chocolates commonly found at chain grocers.

Similarly, the cheeses offered at Mongers’ are a far cry from the waxy, hyper-processed, is-there-even-dairy-in-here? stuff that often passes as cheese. They are specially curated varieties, with some – such as the Bayley Hazen Blue featured on its website – priced at over $30 a pound. These are cheeses that are meant to be savored, perhaps alongside a nice glass of wine or squares of that artisan chocolate.

Mongers’ Provisions offers more than thoughtfully compiled chocolates and cheeses. Keeping to the provisions part of its name, it also sells beer, wine, drink mixers, cured meats, and dry goods that would pair well with cheeses and chocolates, such as aged balsamic vinegar and one of my favorite locally-made products EVER, Gus & Grey jams. It also offers epic cheese and charcuterie boards; check out its website for oh-so-pretty (and mouth-watering) images of them.

I’m happy to have become acquainted with this shop that brings such care and attention to detail to its offerings and to its customer service. Thanks, Mongers’ Provisions, for being such a top-notch provider of charcuterie, cheese, and that element most near and dear to my heart: chocolate!

4240 Cass Ave., Ste. 111

Detroit, MI 48201

(with an additional location in Ferndale)

www.mongersprovisions.com

448. Spread Deli – November 29, 2019 – Detroit, MI

November2019SpreadDeli1 (3)November2019SpreadDeli2 (3)November2019SpreadDeli3 (2)Spread Deli, thank you for being you!

The deli/coffee shop based in the Midtown/Cass Corridor neighborhood of Detroit served up a mega-tasty, mega-huge sandwich to me during Thanksgiving weekend (because you know me: instead of braving the malls on Black Friday, I was trying new places!). And it did so with a friendliness that made me feel welcome to stay and hang, which I did for a while.

I started out my visit to Spread with its Big Al sandwich, a gargantuan and most delectable concoction of sliced turkey breast, mashed avocado, lettuce, onion, tomato, provolone cheese, and sriracha-infused mayo. The sandwich came with a bag of kettle-cooked potato chips and was so filling that I opted to take half of it home.

Then, from Spread’s coffee bar, I ordered a cappuccino. I savored its delicious flavor and ample amount of foam (good foam action: so integral to a cappuccino!) while I typed away at my computer from a stool at the window-facing counter.

While I was facing that window and the streetscape beyond it while at Spread, I dug the deli’s interior and the contrast between its white walls and the vibrant artwork displayed on them. Those walls were also host to numerous scrawlings (spelling out messages of gratitude for Spread and the always-fun-to-read variety of musings).

While I ate and drank and worked, patrons filtered in and out of the restaurant; Spread’s owner (who was working the sandwich counter) seemed to know most of them. I love when places foster that sense of community and repeat customers. And I know from personal experience: Spread Deli is worthy of a repeat visit!

4215 Cass Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.spreaddelidetroit.com

427. Cinema Detroit – August 25, 2019 – Detroit, MI

August2019CinemaDetroit1 (2)August2019CinemaDetroit2 (3)August2019CinemaDetroit3 (3)Cinema Detroit is doing the good work, bringing interesting movies to the Metro-Detroit masses!

The independently-run, non-profit movie theater based in the Midtown/Cass Corridor neighborhood of Detroit occasionally screens films that the corporate theater chains show (it ran BlacKkKlansman when it came out last year, for instance). But most of the movies Cinema Detroit features have a smaller reach – think indie films, documentaries, cult classics. Cinema Detroit curates its films with care, favoring those that are thoughtful or artful or have an impactful message rather than those that net mega dollars.

Take the movie I saw at Cinema Detroit on a Sunday afternoon in late August, The Farewell, a comedic drama about a Chinese family’s decision to hide its matriarch’s cancer diagnosis from her. The movie got some mainstream attention – likely in part because it starred Awkwafina of Crazy Rich Asians fame – but it’s no flashy superhero-packed blockbuster. It’s in parts funny and heartwarming, but it’s also quite dark at times, and it poses an important moral question: is it wrong to hide from a loved one that she’s dying? Or is it a kindness, a shouldering of the burden so that she doesn’t have to? The Farewell is a thinker of a film.

Cinema Detroit specializes in such films. The other movie playing that day was a documentary on Toni Morrison, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, which I’m kind of kicking myself for not returning and seeing because she’s one of my favorite authors. (Her writing is so beautiful, and her fictional characters are so wonderfully strange! That’s my Toni tangent of the post.)

The movie theater is housed in a brick building with its own gated parking area and a beautiful mural emblazoned on its side, featuring flowers and a quote by Detroit-born poet Robert Hayden: “Undiscovered suns release their light.”

Entering it, I immediately took a liking to it. Cinema Detroit definitely emits indie-theater vibes with its lobby with its homey mish-mash of sofas and stuffed chairs and its combination ticket/concessions counter, where admission (reasonably priced at $9) is sold alongside popcorn and Faygo pop and candy.

Within Cinema Detroit, there are two viewing rooms: the main theater, which appears to be – from the photos I see on Yelp; I didn’t see it in person – a traditionally laid-out theater with cushy red chairs; and the screening room, which is where I viewed The Farewell. That room (captured in the third photo shown above) is a more intimate setting, a small space with a collection of couches and chairs that could seat about 12 to 15 people, depending on how cozy you want to get.

There were eight or nine of us in the screening room viewing The Farewell that afternoon, and from my chair in the back row, I had plenty of room, as I only shared that row with one other person. But if you want to make sure you get your preferred spot to view a movie in the screening room at Cinema Detroit, it wouldn’t hurt to show up early.

I left Cinema Detroit that night jazzed up by the experience I had there. Arts and culture, for me, make life more vibrant and compelling, and it’s exciting for me to have discovered another way I can experience them. Thanks, Cinema Detroit, for doing the good work!

4126 3rd St.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.cinemadetroit.org