Nightlife

274. The Apparatus Room – September 14, 2017 – Detroit, MI

20170914_18375020170914_184245How ’bout this as a testimonial for ya? The food was so good at The Apparatus Room that I forgot to take photos of its dazzling interior.

That testimonial is from, yes, yours truly, and that’s exactly what happened when I visited The Apparatus Room on a weeknight in mid-September. I was digging the Spring Vegetable Fritter in all of its deep-fried, dunked-in-spiced-crema glory and the Crispy Confit Chicken Sandwich with its irresistible spicy mayo so hard that I completely blanked on taking photos of anything but them. But I want you to see the dining room of The Apparatus Room with your own eyes, because it is spectacular with its white marble bar, old-school-elegant booths upholstered in earth tones, and multitude of bare lightbulbs hanging on strings around the bar area like glittering stars. So click the below link to the Apparatus Room’s website when you’re done reading and check it out!

The Apparatus Room is relatively new to the Detroit restaurant scene; it opened in May – which is also when the hotel it’s inside, The Detroit Foundation Hotel, opened to the public. Wow, is that place STUNNING! It’s no surprise it’s that gorgeous given the ambiance of its premier restaurant, and I’m actively looking for an excuse to stay there someday. The Apparatus Room got its name because the hotel is housed inside a former fire station, and the dining-room area is said to be where the fire engines and related equipment were housed. Sounds like yet another success story of a shuttered building in Detroit being repurposed and brought back into glory – love it!

If you visit The Apparatus Room sans reservation and can’t get a table in the dining area (which was what happened to my friend and I when we got there), I highly recommend sitting at the bar, where you’ll get attentive service, an abbreviated – yet tantalizing – food menu (~cue me geeking out over that Spring Vegetable Fritter and Crispy Confit Chicken Sandwich~)  and an excellent vantage point of the whole scene. We were later offered a table in the dining area after sitting at the bar, but we liked it up there so much that we decided not to move.

250 W Larned St.

Detroit, Michigan 48226

(Inside the Detroit Foundation Hotel)

www.detroitfoundationhotel.com/apparatus-room

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273. The Keep – September 14, 2017 – Detroit, MI

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When I descended the stairs to this broodingly dark basement bar with intimate clustered seating, a faux fireplace, and the overall vibe of some old dude’s study, I immediately entered major-like-mode with The Keep. While the subterranean bar on Cadillac Square in downtown Detroit likes to keep a low profile (pun intended!), it’s garnered a loyal following, as reflected by several Yelp reviews in which the posters echoed the sentiment of worrying that their overwhelmingly positive testimonials would make the place too popular. Don’t worry, guys, your secret is safe with us!

If anyone wants to make a modern-day version of Cheers set in a basement bar in Detroit, he/she would be wise to slot The Keep as the first location-scouting stop. Not only is that dimly lit little underground retreat enchantingly cozy and inviting, but the bartenders – at least the one who was on staff when I was there – are super friendly, too. The female bartender helped my friend and I deliberate among the intriguing choices on The Keep’s craft cocktail menu, causing me to settle on the Bearded Lady, a delightful whiskey concoction with notes of orange, vanilla, and spices. That Bearded Lady will help you kick off your weekday happy-hour session right!

Only two other patrons were in The Keep at the same time as my friend and me: a guy and gal around our ages. We chatted with them at the bar as we stood and waited for our drinks, remarking on the oft-arduous rush-hour commute from Detroit to the ‘burbs (which I’m familiar with from my days working in Dearborn) and his recent move to the area. Probably it was talking with them and the bartender that made me think of the Cheers reference. Who doesn’t love discovering a place where the people may not know your name, but they’re willing to learn it?

Worth noting: The Keep’s entrance is off of Congress Street rather than Cadillac Square (as you may have noticed from reading the sign in the above photo of the unusable door). Look for a nondescript entryway leading to those basement stairs and below-ground glory.

140 Cadillac Sq.

Detroit, MI 48226

272. The Rec Bowl – September 13, 2017 – Mount Clemens, MI

20170913_18053520170913_193326 (2)The Rec Bowl is a bowling alley in Mount Clemens. But in the warm-weather months, it’s also a popular venue for live music, which I discovered firsthand during a Wednesday-night visit in mid-September.

My uncle and his girlfriend frequent The Rec Bowl regularly for its live music shows, which are held in an open-air bar area attached to the outside of the bowling alley. Cover was $5 on the night I was there, and man, did the people flock out! I’d heard that the place had a dedicated following, and it was true; people reserved tables to make sure they got spots to check out the night’s entertainment. Nearly every attendee appeared to be in the 60-plus age bracket (with the great majority looking to be solidly in their 70s), which delighted me, because come on – I want to be one of those octogenarians venturing out to see live music on a Wednesday night and twirling about on the dance floor! When I retire, I most certainly plan to double-down on exploring the Detroit area and the rest of the world, because if not then, when?

The band that night was the Dave Bennett Quartet, a jazz band led by a clarinet player named – you guessed it – Dave Bennett. Those guys were great; they played their hearts out, and the audience loved them, as did I. I am predisposed to enjoy jazz because my paternal grandfather was a jazz drummer and obsessed with it, and it reminds me of him. And also, I simply find jazz pleasant, an escape for my brain.

While my cranium was immersed in a cray-cray-ba-nay-nay roller-coaster ride of jazz notes, my tummy was tripping hard on my corned beef sandwich, that delightful amalgamation of red meat, Swiss cheese, and buttery toasted rye bread – MMMM. I noticed on the Rec Bowl’s website that it showcases a more extensive menu than the one that was offered to us on the patio; inside the building it appears to offer a more expanded variety of sandwiches, salads, and appetizers such as fried cauliflower, chili fries, and Nacho Supreme (three completely valid excuses right there to round up some friends and get in some bowling!).

It doesn’t look like The Rec Bowl will feature any more live music for the rest of the year; we’ll have to wait until next year to groove out. But the indoor bowling alley – plus the darts and billiards that are also offered – are available year-round and will likely prove to be a tempting option on those long winter nights when it’s dark at 5 p.m. and there’s a foot of snow on the ground (but let me not go there yet!).

40 Crocker Blvd.

Mt. Clemens, MI 48043

www.therecreationbowl.com

268. Steelhouse Tavern – August 16, 2017 – Troy, MI

20170816_19182620170816_19175120170816_183754I tried my first Monte Cristo waffle via brunch at Red Crown this July, but it wasn’t until my visit to Steelhouse Tavern in Troy last month that I had my first legit sandwich-version Monte Cristo.

I know the Monte Cristo sandwich is said to have evolved from the Croque Monsieur, the traditional French ham-and-cheese sandwich, but man, is this one of the most American things I have ever eaten! A sandwich loaded with two kinds of meat (turkey and ham), two kinds of cheese (Swiss and American), and raspberry jelly; dunked in tempura batter; deep-fried to a delectable crispiness; dusted with powdered sugar (because why not?); and served with tater tots, those venerable nuggets of potato goodness? That is ‘Merica with a Capital “M,” my friends!

I know I’m a ‘Merican at heart because despite finding much of what goes on in this country these days completely bonkers, and despite how into healthy, whole-foods-based eating I am, I still relish the chance to go out and ingest my entire day’s saturated-fat intake in one sitting via a glorious grease-bomb such as Steelhouse Tavern’s Monte Cristo sandwich. Because meat-and-cheese-and-sweet-and-deep-fried is a combo that refuses to be ignored!

I experienced this glorious first brush with Steelhouse’s Monte Cristo while sitting out on its patio enjoying happy hour. From 4 to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, you get access to a happy-hour menu with food and drink deals such as $5 appetizers and half-off select cocktails if you sit on the patio or in the bar area. The Monte Cristo wasn’t a happy-hour deal, but I did get to savor a Steelhouse Vesper cocktail and some Smoked Pork Nachos at the discounted rates.

I loved Steelhouse’s covered patio. Sure, it faces the strip-mall parking lot, but the patio itself is beautiful, with dark wicker chairs, sleek high-top bar stools, cool accent lighting, flat-screen TVs, and a fire pit. The sophisticated-tavern vibe carries on to the interior of the restaurant, which is glossy yet welcoming. There’s a big round bar near the entrance that was packed with patrons on the night I was there.

If you’re looking to visit Steelhouse Tavern but are interested in healthier fare than the Monte Cristo, its menu includes more sensible choices such as the Steelhouse Sirloin Steak, Cedar Plank Salmon, and Seared Ahi Tuna Salad in addition to the traditional bar fare (burgers, wings, nachos, and sandwiches). Because let’s face it: while meat-and-cheese-and-sweet-and-deep-fried is a combo that refuses to be ignored, it’s not one that’s practical to ingest on a daily basis.

1129 E. Long Lake Rd.

Troy, MI

www.steelhousetroy.com

264. Watermark Bar & Grille – August 11, 2017 – Saint Clair Shores, MI

20170811_21022520170811_19063120170811_190715 As with several of the current restaurants on the Nautical Mile, the Watermark Bar & Grille has a legacy: it used to be the Beach Grill and then Tin Fish. You might think those ghosts of its hard-partying past would be hard to shake. But the Watermark seems determined to carve out its own identity, with modern nautical-themed decor, an extensive menu, and regular live music out on that gorgeous lakeside patio.

If being right on Lake St. Clair jamming to lively tunes brings out a propensity to be festive with the adult beverages (I mean, who could blame you, especially in these beautiful days of extended summer weather!), you only need to turn to the Watermark’s wide-ranging food menu to bring you back to center. It’s packed with a variety of hearty sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, signature hot dogs (such as The Southwestern, smothered in guacamole, jalapeños, cream cheese, and cilantro and wrapped in bacon – deluxe!), noodle dishes, Tex-Mex fare, and more upscale, surf- and turf-centric entrees such as filet and barramundi topped with crab meat and hollandaise sauce. I got the steak fajitas and enjoyed loading them up with grilled peppers and onions, Spanish rice, salsa, cheese, and guacamole.

Unlike some lakefront restaurants, the Watermark is open year-round. So even after the fair weather wanes, you can sit in its expansive dining room and gaze out onto the water, dreaming of the days post-thaw when you can hit that patio.

24420 Jefferson Ave.

St Clair Shores, MI 48080

www.watermarkbarandgrille.com

263. Penny Black – August 9, 2017 – Rochester, MI

20170809_18022620170809_191028I’d been wanting to sit on the patio of Penny Black since I’d first spotted it last summer. Every time I walked past it for those next few months that I was regularly in downtown Rochester, the flower-bedecked, string-light-emblazoned terrace was crammed with happy-looking people engaged in lively chatter and appearing to have the best of fun. Granted, I passed it while en route to a short-lived second-job I lamented having picked up, so the scene looked even more convivial/the epitome of freedom to me during those occasions when I was questioning for the umpteenth time, “Why did I decide to take on another job again?

When I finally sat down for the first time on that Penny Black patio during a gorgeous evening in August this summer, I was long overdue. And I got to taste that sweet, sweet freedom once and for all!

I met my mother at Penny Black on a Wednesday night with ample time to enjoy the happy-hour food and drink specials. We took advantage and ordered a couple of discounted signature cocktails (fruity little numbers whose names escape me now) as well as the Vegetable Egg Rolls and Eggplant Napoleon (breaded and fried eggplant discs smothered in mozzerella cheese and served on a bed of tomato dipping sauce – delicious). Not on the happy-hour menu but equally enticing with its slathering of barbecue sauce and loads of chicken, bacon, red onion, and cheese was the BBQ Chicken Flatbread.

Penny Black’s food menu is not all apps and flatbreads; it also boasts a wide selection of entree salads, sandwiches, burgers, and signature dishes such as the Southwest Glazed Tuna Skewers and Barbacoa Beef Enchilada. Plus, currently on the dessert menu just in time for fall is a YATES DONUT BREAD PUDDING crafted from the cider mill’s donuts and topped with an apple creme anglaise. Ok, yes, please! I’ll take that with a side of freedom out on the patio while we’ve still got this exceptionally warm weather.

124 W 4th St.

Rochester, MI 48307

www.pbrochester.com

258. Axle Brewing Company – July 7, 2017 – Ferndale, MI

20170707_203746 (2)Hi guys – TGIF! I’m really excited about the place I’m highlighting today, Axle Brewing Company. I LOVED this brewery when I visited it back in early July and NEED to go back – it’s a revisit-category establishment, for sure!

Axle Brewing opened in early June and is located in Ferndale north of Eight Mile; it’s close to the Detroit border and the Avenue of Fashion neighborhood (an area I visited for the first time last weekend and am excited to explore more of). The brewery is a beautiful facility, sleek and modern looking, with white-tiled walls, a brick-paver patio with a fire pit, and plenty of communal seating. The wait for a table was long when we got there on a Friday evening; we put our name in but ended up getting seats at the bar because it was first-come, first-serve there. We weren’t called for a table until we were halfway through our food, but we didn’t care at all because sitting at the bar was fun, and the food at Axle was IN-F’IN-SANE!

Truly, the eats were phenomenal, like engaging-a-food-orgy-your-mouth-phenomenal. The lamb burger I got with an onion marmalade, arugula, cheese, and a pesto mayo was juicy and tender and flavorful and about 100 more delightful adjectives. The Twice-Fried Frites with spicy dipping aioli were beyond addictive. The Dill Pickle Cheese Curds dunked in the accompanying ale-infused barbecue sauce . . . seriously! This is NEXT-LEVEL food here!

Probably there is nothing better to my Type-A, go-go-go personality than turning off my brain for a while and enjoying the company of loved ones and libations while I consume the most delicious, flavorful, saturated-fat-laden food ever, so eating this meal at Axle Brewing with friends while sipping on the well-crafted Noble Ghost Grindgeist blonde beer with its fruity undertones was complete heaven.

Worth noting: Axle Brewing is closed on Mondays; it opens at 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and at 11 on Saturdays and Sundays (and there’s a brunch menu!).

567 Livernois St.

Ferndale, MI 48220

www.axlebrewing.com

257. Urbanrest Brewing Company – July 7, 2017 – Ferndale, MI

20170707_190418 (2)20170707_190413 (3)Nestled in a residential-ish area about a half-mile north of downtown Ferndale is Urbanrest Brewing Company, a brewery that opened a few months ago. I visited it only about a week after it opened to sip some TGIF- themed brews with a few friends.

Housed in what looks to be a former industrial building, the interior of Urbanrest emanates those chill, industrial-chic vibes that so many recently-opened Detroit-area restaurants have got going on (Phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes-brandishing-reclaimed-wood-and-exposed-ductwork is kind of our thing around here. I dig it.). It’s welcoming and homey, with flowers in glass-bottle vases on the tables, a cluster of comfy chairs here, a pool table there. And board games! Board games and beer are pretty much a match made in heaven, in my opinion.

During my visit, I tried a sampler of the pale ale, porter, and saison that were on the menu at the time; all of them were delicious. I’m obviously sorely lacking on details as to how they tasted (this visit being two months ago and my knowledge of beer being rudimentary). But I can confidently share that the place garnered my beer connoisseur friend’s seal of approval – and she knows her stuffs.

I need to go back to Urbanrest and try some of its kombucha. I’m no kombucha expert, either (I’ve drank it once in my life), but the Jasmine Jun Kombucha, described on the menu on Urbanrest’s website as “Jasmine green tea fermented with local wildflower honey,” sounds phenomenal. And at only .5% alcohol by volume, it’s a great choice if you’re looking to keep it sober-ish, because you’d have to drink like a dozen of those to match the alcohol content in one of Urbanrest’s beers (helpful tidbit to know, right?).

Urbanrest doesn’t have a full food menu, but it offers some charcuterie boards, and its website says that food trucks regularly come through, and who doesn’t love the whimsy of ordering from a food truck?

Worth noting: the Urbanrest taproom is only open Thursdays through Sundays (check its website for hours).

2615 Wolcott Ave.

Ferndale, MI 48220

www.urbanrest.com

256. Red Crown – July 2, 2017 – Grosse Pointe Park, MI

20170702_114710 (2)20170702_130215 (2)20170702_121700 (3)Hi guys! I hope you had a wonderful Labor Day weekend and were able to enjoy the lovely weather and get some fantastic exploring in. I got a Detroit fix with a visit to a recently-opened coffee shop that is just LOVELY – more on that when I eventually catch up on this backlog of posts!

I was reminded of all of the places I’ve visited in the last two months and have yet to write about when recently scrolling through my phone photo gallery; a lot of awesome establishments are waiting to be profiled, and I hate that I’m so behind because I can’t wait to share all of the goodness with you. But it is what it is; I’m sure all of you can relate to that feeling of being behind on life stuffs and not wanting to let it get to you. One step at a time, right? And today’s step is to chronicle an AWESEOME restaurant called Red Crown in Grosse Pointe Park, where I went for brunch during the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Yes, Grosse Pointe Park is represented on the blog – it’s a first for that city! And what an excellent representation of Grosse Pointe Park – Red Crown is fabulous. I love it’s ambiance, for one – it’s modern and stylish and fun and totally embracing the building’s legacy as the Standard Oil Red Crown Service Station built in the 1930s, with elements of the garage-y façade being maintained. And that patio! What a lovely patio, with its open air and cheery red umbrellas – and when I was there, a performer singing and playing piano and stirring up chill, brunch-y vibes.

And the Monte Cristo waffle I ordered – glorious! I admit when it came to the table, I was like, “Huh? This isn’t what I ordered,” because I expected it to be the stereotypical beefy brick of a Monte Cristo sandwich, except with waffles instead of bread. It was not; as you can see from the photo above, the dish looks like typical waffles, until you look closely at those waffles and see the layers of cheese and meat pressed onto one side of them. But despite the unassuming size, the flavor of this waffle mash-up was mighty, and the accompanying raspberry jelly and mustard sauce complemented it nicely.

I would love to come back to Red Crown for dinner. It leans toward Southern and barbecued offerings, which I totally dig. I want to order up an appetizer of fried green tomatoes, share a Southern Sampler for Two (described as “smoked Carolina pulled pork, RC brisket, Saint Louis style ribs, and baby back ribs” – yummm), and gorge myself with mac and cheese on that gorgeous patio in the last dregs of warm weather.

15301 Kercheval Ave.

Grosse Pointe Park, MI 48230

www.redcrowngp.com

255. Rochester Chop House – June 29, 2017 – Rochester, MI

20170809_195900 (2)20170629_181820 (2)Hi, guys! OK, I can’t seem to get it together on getting this blog up to date during this cray-cray-ba-nay-nay summer, so here I am today, posting about a visit that happened TWO MONTHS ago! But that’s life sometimes, right? Perfectionism is going right out the window – good riddance! We’ve gotta talk about Rochester Chop House in downtown Rochester.

I visited the Rochester Chop House on a Thursday in late June after my mom and step-dad officially tied the knot after 10 years together! So we were there for a legit celebratory dinner. Given the special occasion-y vibe of the dimly-lit, demure restaurant interior and its upscale menu offerings (various steaks; upper-crust seafood selections such as King crab legs, lobster tails, and scallops), this was the perfect place to be toasting a recent matrimony. I ordered the 22-ounce bone-in ribeye with its glorious fat marbling and flavor – delicious!

Rochester Chop House is part of the Kruse and Muer restaurant group. It’s interesting because it’s connected to another Kruse and Muer restaurant, Kabin Kruser’s, which is in the front of the building when you first walk in. It’s a more casual, seafood-oriented establishment with a lively vibe. I hear its fish tacos are great!

www.kruseandmuerrestaurants.com