Nightlife

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

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

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

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

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

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

3087 12 Mile Rd.

Berkley, MI 48072

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

www.berkleycommon.com

445. Detroit Shipping Company / Coop Caribbean Fusion – November 10, 2019 – Detroit, MI

November2019DetroitShippingCo.1 (2)November2019DetroitShippingCo.3 (2)November2019DetroitShippingCo.5 (2)November2019DetroitShippingCo.4 (2)The Detroit Shipping Company is a container for a lot of things: art galleries, live music, event space, bars, a food hall. There’s a place that sells coffee and ice cream (-320º Coffee and Creamery), a space that holds pop-up shops, a podcast studio, and plenty of outdoor seating (ah, patio weather!), including on a rooftop deck.

The 10,000-square-foot complex located at 474 Peterboro Street gets its name from the fact that it’s been constructed from metal shipping containers, which have been painted a striking metallic blue hue.

I visited Detroit Shipping Company on a Sunday afternoon in November. I went solo, a status I admittedly regretted upon walking into the food hall on the first floor of the building.

The place had the kind of atmosphere that begged to be shared with someone: lively, convivial, celebratory. Groups of family and friends clustered at the long wooden tables in the food hall, eating, drinking, and having a ball. I wanted to be there eating, drinking, and having a ball with my friends! But I decided to make the best of my solo time on that day, reminding myself that I could always do a revisit with pals.

Detroit Shipping Company’s food hall reminded me of a mall food court – except much hipper and with much more compelling offerings. Communal tables presided in the center, and a full bar and stalls staffed by local restauranteurs ringed the perimeter. A guitarist serenaded patrons from a second-floor balcony.

When checking out the foodstuffs offered at Detroit Shipping Company prior to my visit, I was immediately intrigued by the choices. There was a taco joint (Brujo Tacos and Tapas), a place that offered Thai cuisine (Bangkok 96 Street Food), a stand serving Nepalese dumplings (Momo Cha). And there was the stall from which I decided to eat: Coop Caribbean Fusion.

I was attracted to the restaurant’s flavorful-sounding food, specifically the Motor City Chicken Sandwich and Caribbean Fries. Those become my lunch!

After ordering that sandwich and fries at the Coop counter, I was given a buzzer that lit up and vibrated when my meal was ready.

Greeted by the sight of the open-face fried chicken sandwich nestled on a bed of Texas toast and slathered in barbecue sauce, bacon, cilantro, coleslaw, and aioli and French fries loaded with queso fresco cheese, Caribbean seasonings, cilantro, and cilantro-infused aioli, I was excited to dig in.

The meal was a flavor explosion! The barbecue sauce on Coop’s Motor City Chicken Sandwich was rich and flavorful, as was the coleslaw; its crispy chicken was juicy and tasty. And with their creamy queso fresco and zesty seasonings, the Caribbean Fries were the show-stealer of the meal for me, fried to an ideal crispness and loaded as they were with those luxurious toppings. Mmm mmm and MMM!

I’d planned to end my visit to Detroit Shipping Company with some ice cream from -320º Coffee and Creamery, but I was so stuffed from that decadent lunch from Coop that I opted to forego it. A return to this receptacle for ample food, drink, creativity, and community is in order, anyway; Detroit Shipping Company is the kind of place that entreats one to visit again and again – whether solo or with friends.

474 Peterboro St.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.detroitshippingcompany.com

www.coopdetroit.com

441. Old Detroit Burger Bar – October 25, 2019 – Troy, MI

October2019OldDetroitBurgerBar1 (3)October2019OldDetroitBurgerBar2 (3)I love a big, juicy burger any day of the week, but especially on Fridays. Because burgers scream “TGIF!” to me!

Old Detroit Burger Bar is serving up the big, juicy burger goodness any day of the week, not solely Fridays. But my recent visit to the local restaurant chain’s Troy location did fall on a Friday – and I was vibing hard on its TGIF-infused aura.

The restaurant’s interior is sleek sports bar with a comfy feel: lots of browns and grays and glossy wood, accented with neon-blue fluorescent lighting. A bar with wraparound seating dominates one section; flat-screen TVs abound and are tuned in to the sport matches du jour.

Old Detroit Burger Bar’s food menu showcases much more than its namesake item: it’s got appetizers, entrée salads, sandwiches, and dishes such as Homemade Lasagna Dinner and The Lake St. Clair (fish and chips, naturally). It even serves its rendition of a Coney dog and a loose Coney burger. But my eyes were zeroed in on its burger section because: see Paragraph 1.

Names of Old Detroit Burger Bar hamburgers have a local slant to them. There’s The Ambassador, The Michigan Ave., the I-75. That last burger, by the way, is a two-pounder loaded with grilled onions, jalapeños, and American, Swiss, AND cheddar cheeses, served with Thousand Island dressing. According to Old Detroit Burger Bar’s website, if you finish one of those behemoths, you can get your picture added to a wall of fame devoted to I-75 slayers.

And there’s the burger I decided to order, The Vernor. The half-pound hamburger is bringing Southwest Detroit-inspired flair with its jalapeños, green peppers, guacamole, American and cheddar cheeses, and sour cream served on the side. I opted for tater tots to accompany mine.

My table’s food came out quickly, and I used the steak knife stabbed into my Vernor burger to cut its hefty form in half. It was everything I’d hoped it would be: juicy, beefy, cheesy, spicy, guac-laden deliciousness! The tater tots were tantalizingly crispy, greasy nuggets of spud.

My Vernor burger was so big that I was easily able to save a chunk of it to take home – though it was so tasty that I did ponder devouring the whole thing then and there (maybe if there was a wall of fame involved, I would have!).

3946 Rochester Rd.

Troy, MI 48083

(With additional locations in Lapeer, Lake Orion, and Clawson)

www.olddetroitburgerbar.com

438. Lumen Detroit – October 5, 2019 – Detroit, MI

October2019Lumen1 (3)October2019Lumen2 (2)Because I’m one of those people who unabashedly adores my birthday, I’m always looking for special ways to celebrate it. With its beautiful ambiance, welcoming service, on-point cocktails, and tasty dishes, Lumen Detroit helped create some of that specialness during my most recent birthday weekend.

The restaurant in downtown Detroit is both elegant and contemporary in ambiance with its clean white tiling, glossy wood paneling, and clusters of bronze orb lighting. The glass-walled dining room offers panoramic views of the cityscape outside and patrons dining on Lumen’s patio (who were present on the night of my visit, despite it being rather chilly).

Lumen’s menu proffers a variety of delicious-sounding dishes. As I was canvassing for spots to hold this dinner earlier in the week and perusing said menu, I specifically had a hankering for ribeye steak, which Lumen’s menu didn’t offer. But it did have a New York strip steak served with bernaise butter, aioli, and fries flavored with herbs and truffles.

And its menu held an item that definitively caught my attention – surprisingly, considering my hankering for red meat: the Power Salad, a concoction of arugula and kale and spinach and asparagus and grains and mango and avocado and crispy chickpeas and a Green Goddess dressing that had my palate exclaiming “WOW!”

Other compelling items on Lumen’s menu: appetizers such as a crab cake served with sriracha aioli and Asian slaw and the especially intriguing to me Everything Bagel Wings; soups and other entrée salads besides the Power salad; and dishes such as the Lumen Burger, Vegetarian Bolognese, and Pei Mussels prepared with white wine and chorizo sausage or green curry.

I went into my dinner at Lumen expecting to order that Power Salad, or maybe the New York strip. What was funny – and perhaps a synchronistic gift from the birthday gods – is that when our server came to greet us and tell us the night’s specials, a ribeye steak was one of them! It was like, WHAAATTT? Of course, I HAVE to get that!

So I did. I ordered the ribeye steak with broccoli rabe as the accompanying vegetable. And for my pre-dinner drink, I selected the most phenomenal signature cocktail, which was lavender-hued, potent, and so wonderfully flavored . . . and whose name I (yet again) forgot to take down. But I’m going to cut myself some slack here for this lapse in memory, because I was in the moment that night, enjoying time with the five friends who had gathered to celebrate with me. So, just know that it’s my personal experience that Lumen’s drinks are delectable little liquid bombs of tastiness and tipsiness.

Once our food came out, I dug into my ribeye. It was overcooked considering the temperature request I’d given of medium-rare (it was medium, bordering on medium-well), but the flavor was still phenomenal. And the broccoli rabe accompanying it paired well with it.

And an overcooked steak wasn’t about to kill the birthday magic for me. Overall, the experience at Lumen was great. It was a facilitator of good food, lovely ambiance, and wonderful connection and conversation. I left that night feeling that I’d had the ideal birthday celebration before my actual birthday had occurred. If my birthday somehow got cancelled the next day, I’d still feel like I was ushering in my 35th year on a high note, and Lumen Detroit was definitely a part of making that high note happen.

1903 Grand River Ave.

Detroit, MI 48226

(Closed Mondays)

www.lumendetroit.com

 

432. El Club – September 8, 2019 – Detroit, MI

September2019ElClub1 (2)September2019ElClub2 (4)September2019ElClub3 (2)September2019ElClub4 (3)El Club! The venue in Southwest Detroit is an all-ages club that hosts musical acts on a near nightly basis. It’s also where I saw Stef Chura and Ezra Furman perform on a Sunday night in September.

I’d been wanting to experience El Club since I read about it in Hour Detroit a year or two ago and was thrilled when I saw that one of my favorite contemporary musicians, Ezra Furman, was going to be performing there. I ordered tickets right away – and was even more psyched when I saw that closer to the show date, local artist Stef Chura and her band were added to the bill. I was familiar with her music and knew she would rock out!

I’m not familiar, in general, with the artists featured on El Club’s events calendar. I presume most of them are up-and-coming performers or those who appeal to more niche audiences. I’m admittedly not at all hip to the alt-music scene – though after my visit to El Club, I want to be!

The venue’s concert floor is relatively small, looking to accommodate no more than a couple hundred people – and that’s frankly part of its appeal. It’s what makes seeing a show at El Club exciting – you’re going to be right down there on the floor, in the action, a part of a live musical experience that is much more visceral, more alive, than being stuck up in the nosebleeds at some slickly produced yet lifeless stadium show.

The show I attended at El Club was billed as starting at 7 – but that ended up being when the doors opened for the night, which my friend and I discovered when we arrived at the club about 45 minutes early, the sole early birds in sight (LOL). Our early arrival did make parking simple; there’s a lot across the street from El Club where parking is free, so we parked there.

Killing time was easy, as beautiful Clark Park is only a few minutes’ walk away, and we sat on a hill there and watched people being led through square dances by a bluegrass band. It was a surprisingly moving experience, people of all ages and races coming together to joyfully perform these old-timey dance moves.

Back at El Club once the doors opened, I got a beer from the bar (which is a full bar serving beer, wine, and liquor), and my friend and I hung out on El Club’s picturesque patio with its garlands of lights and mural swirling with vibrant colors.

We were waiting not just for the show to start, but for the pizza to appear, because El Club serves slices of the pie. I was under the impression that El Club makes the pizza, but on that night, it arrived via outside delivery. Regardless, it was fresh and delicious.

Sometime after 8, we heard an explosion of music – the show was starting! Stef Chura and her band had boarded the stage; they played for about a half hour to 45 minutes, and they killed it!

Stef Chura’s voice mesmerized me; its got this alt-’90s vibe that I really dig, and I legit found myself thinking “I wanna be a cool rock star like her!” (Maybe in my next lifetime.)

After about a 20-minute break, Ezra Furman and his band hit the stage and also rocked out HARD. It was exciting to see a guy whose music I’ve admired for so long playing that music right in front of me. I actually found myself exclaiming a few times, “He looks the same as in his pictures!” (LOL – bless me with my obvious, fan-girling statement!)

As Ezra thanked us in the crowd for coming out on a Sunday night to support the arts, I felt a proclamation welling up inside of me: “I am going to CHANGE my life: I’m going to see live music more; I’m going to visit El Club all of the time!” I had drank the El Club Kool-Aid – and it felt good.

Flashing forward nearly a month: I haven’t been back to El Club since that night; I’ve let daily life with all of its routines and obligations pull me back into its orbit. But I’m still excited by the memory of my visit there and scan its newsletter every week, seeking the act that will make another magic moment out of my everyday life.

4114 W. Vernor Hwy.

Detroit, MI 48209

www.elclubdetroit.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

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

415. The Skip – June 29, 2019 – Detroit, MI

June2019TheSkip1 (2)June2019TheSkip2 (2)In the Summer 2019 awards gala being staged in my head right now, The Skip, hands-down, wins the prize for Tastiest Cocktail Concoction.

I became acquainted with The Skip during a superhero-themed bike bar crawl I went on with friends in late June. After stops at Eastern Market-based Cøllect and 100 Places in the D forever-favorite Motor City Brewing Works, we cycled over to the bar located in The Belt, the alleyway in downtown Detroit featuring vibrant artwork and awesome locally-owned businesses.

The Skip is small, but it’s mighty when it comes to offering up ambiance; it’s got trippy-meets-tropical vibes with its disco ball, multi-hued lighting, tropical wallpaper, and faux-flower garlands. On the night of my visit, The Skip was open-air, its roll-up front pulled up to expose it to The Belt and the crowds weaving through it.

When I went to order a drink at The Skip, the bartender who served me recommended that magical drink that would become my Tastiest Cocktail Concoction of Summer 2019: the Irish Coffee.

The Skip’s Irish Coffee is not your typical Irish Coffee; it’s an exquisite version of the classic drink. It’s made with Old Forester Whiskey, a cold-brew-coffee concentrate, cream, and sugar – and then it’s frozen. The result is a boozy-milkshake-esque, ultra-delectable treat that will lovingly haunt your taste buds for months to follow.

Naturally, The Skip offers other alcoholic beverages besides this swoon-worthy Irish Coffee; it has a full bar serving up signature cocktails (labeled “Fancy Drinks” on its menu), a few other frozen drinks, wine, and craft beer. It’s also got a food menu showcasing tacos and several other dishes that sound just perfect for calming cocktail-imbued munchies, including a chicken empanada with a coconut-chili gravy and a hot dog made of Wagyu beef topped with cilantro, hot sauce, pickled shallots, and mustard.

Despite its island theme and complementary nature toward the warm-weather months, The Skip is open year-round, doing the good work of proffering that nectar-of-the-gods-worthy Irish Coffee to downtown revelers.

1234 Library St.

Detroit, MI 48226

www.theskipdetroit.com

414. Cøllect – June 29, 2019 – Detroit, MI

June2019Collect1 (2)June2019Collect2 (2)During the last weekend in June, I went on a blast of a superhero-themed bike bar crawl (nothing like cycling with a posse of Power Rangers!). Cøllect was our first stop on that jaunt.

We started on our bikes at Cullen Plaza, riding the Dequindre Cut to the Eastern Market area and the bar, which resides above its sister restaurant, Gather.

Cøllect’s focus is craft beers, many of which are locally made. It’s got 14 beers on tap, plus bottled and canned varieties. It also offers cider, mead, kombucha, and red and white wines for those who aren’t into the ales and lagers, according to its website – and if those options still don’t suffice, you can bring cocktails from Gather up to Cøllect (nice!). Gather’s food menu is also available to order at Cøllect.

During my group’s visit, we ordered drinks at the bar and took them up to Cøllect’s rooftop patio, which offers picturesque views of the city. The beer I enjoyed there was delicious, a chocolatey stout, though I can’t recall its name or who made it. I do recall that the bartender on duty at Cøllect was cool about answering my questions and offering samples.

Other rad aspects of Cøllect: it serves free popcorn (LOVE!). And while food isn’t allowed on the rooftop patio, if you do want to munch on that free popcorn or Gather’s grub, the good news is that Cøllect’s main interior is a beautiful space, bright and airy with its white walls, blonde plank floors, and smatterings of potted plants and vases of flowers. Not bad digs from which to savor one of those well-curated brews!

1454 Gratiot Ave., 2nd Fl.

Detroit, MI 48207

(Closed Mondays)

www.gatherdetroit.com/cllect

413. The Marble Bar – June 6, 2019 – Detroit, MI

June2019MarbleBar1 (2)June2019MarbleBar2 (2)June2019MarbleBar3 (4)My Summer-2019-in-New-Place-Visit-Snapshots reverie continues with The Marble Bar in Detroit, where I experienced a StorySLAM event held by The Moth.

It’s hard for me to write about my experience at The Marble Bar without focusing on this StorySLAM event that I was there to see. The bar is the host of these monthly open-mics held by The Moth Detroit, during which audience members go onstage and tell a five-minute story based around a given theme. Judges in the audience rate each of the ten StorySLAM competitors’ stories, and a winner is crowned at the end. The event is recorded by Detroit’s NPR affiliate, WDET 101.9 FM, for possible use in the radio station’s The Moth show/podcast.

The theme on the night I attended the StorySLAM in June was chemistry. This translated to yarns being spun about all kinds of chemistry: romantic chemistry; the academic subject of chemistry; the evolving chemistry of a parent-child bond; the chemistry one feels with one’s hometown.

All of the stories were engaging. Some were emotional; others were hilarious. I marveled at how comfortable all of the storytellers seemed speaking in front of an audience, especially since The Moth organizers had had to cajole the last few participants into putting their hats into the ring so that there would be the required ten contestants.

The winner of the StorySLAM was a man who told a hilarious story about meeting a guy in college who he had instant bromance chemistry with, only to find out months later while visiting a relative that this guy was his cousin!

I had a lot of fun on this night at The Marble Bar, but I experienced it as more of a theater than a bar, with the dance floor overtaken with rows of seats rather than rowdy revelers waiting for the beat to drop. I’m guessing playing host to The Moth on a monthly basis is working for The Marble Bar, because the place was packed, with not a few attendees (including myself and the friend who accompanied me) having to resort to standing-room-only spots. But I can’t speak to what it’s like on a typical night.

I do see from looking at The Marble Bar’s Facebook page that it appears to host a lot of DJs and other musicians, and I know it’s got a super-cool enclosed patio space with an outdoor bar, so I imagine that it’d be an awesome hang on any other night of the month.

But if you can make it to one of The Moth’s monthly StorySLAM competitions hosted at The Marble Bar, I would highly recommend it. Tickets are $15 and go on sale one week prior to the event; see www.themoth.org/events for upcoming StorySLAM dates being held at The Marble Bar.

1501 Holden St.

Detroit, MI 48208

(Closed Tuesdays)