Oak Park

572. Berkley Coffee – August 5, 2022 – Oak Park, MI

Berkley Coffee has charm for days! From the drinks to the service to the ambiance, the good vibes are on overdrive at this Oak Park-based coffee shop, performance venue, and non-alcoholic bar.

Yes, Berkley Coffee isn’t based in Berkley, but Oak Park. But who cares? It’s Berkley adjacent – and its coffee is delicious. Berkley Coffee roasts it own beans and offers multiple varieties with origins ranging from Ethiopia to India, Nicaragua to Brazil.

The shop has multiple identities by design. By day, it’s the coffee shop, which is how I experienced it. I spent a couple of hours working at Berkley Coffee one morning, at a table bordering the performance stage. I loved the ambiance – both the lively energy (the place was bustling with customers that Friday morning) and the interior aesthetic. Berkley Coffee’s main room has a contemporary feel, with industrial details and neutral hues accented by pops of color (potted plants; stained glass in a pretty pattern of turquoise, white, and gold). Shelves housing nonalcoholic beers, wines, shrubs, syrups, and other drinks and drink ingredients dominate one corner. A room dubbed the East Room offers additional seating, books, children’s toys, a piano, and a plethora of board games.

I learned that Berkley Coffee takes a unique approach to ordering coffee. Cylindrical containers holding individual portions of beans are stacked on shelves facing the customer. When you place your order, you pick one of the vials and hand it to the barista, and they grind the beans and make your drink.

Staff members kindly ushered clueless me through the process, recommending bean varieties based on my preferences. I had two drinks that morning: a cappuccino with Brazilian beans and oat milk and a Japanese iced coffee with Ethiopian beans. Both were fantastic! (The Japanese-style iced coffee was something I’d never heard of but turned out to be a drink I regularly enjoy at home: fresh-brewed hot coffee poured over ice.)

By night, the main room of Berkley Coffee is the performance space. The shop regularly hosts bands and other performers. Amps, mics, PA equipment, guitars and other instruments are available for performers. The bar whips up cocktails that range from non-alcoholic versions of classics such as the Manhattan and Mai Tai to signature drinks with intriguing flavor components such as pine syrup, sesame oil, and blood orange cordial. According to Berkley Coffee’s website, it’s dedicated to offering a space where guests can socialize and enjoy live entertainment while also being sober.

With so much good to experience at Berkley Coffee, days’ and days’ worth of revisits are warranted!

14661 W. 11 Mile Rd., Ste. 500

Oak Park, MI 48237


532. Ernie’s Market – October 30, 2021 – Oak Park, MI

Ernie’s Market! What a delight it was to finally experience this iconic Oak Park-based shop and its beloved sandwich.

The red-bricked convenience store/deli holds court on a corner in a residential neighborhood, looking like it’s straight out of the 1950s – because it is. Ernie’s Market opened in 1955 and is run today by the son of the original owners. He’s also named Ernie.

Maybe you’ve heard of Ernie and his big personality and big sandwiches. I was fortunate to encounter both during my visit.

The shop itself is tiny in stature, with a couple of rows of drinks, snacks, and other convenience items. At the back is the deli counter. Everywhere else is crowded with memorabilia: framed articles; Ernie’s-centric artwork; and accolades the market has won over the years (and it’s won MANY – including best-of nods from Hour Detroit and numerous WDIV Detroit Vote 4 the Best awards).

Ernie’s Market offers what it calls “Build It Your Way” sandwiches. There’s the Ernie’s Special, which includes one meat and your choice of toppings; the Ernie’s Double (which has two meats); and the Ernie’s Club with – you guessed it – three meats. And then there’s the Monster.

I think the main draw to Ernie’s Market is that Monster, which has received lots of press – and for good reason. It’s the seven-meat version of the Ernie’s Special, a compilation of turkey, ham, pastrami, pepperoni, salami, chicken, and corned beef. All that meat on a kaiser bun with cheese PLUS your choice of veggies and sauces. And that’s not all! The pièce de résistance of the sandwich is Ernie’s Love Spice, the shop’s proprietary blend of spices.

You know I had to try that Monster sandwich! The only modification I made was to nix the salami (since I don’t like it) and to add extra ham in its place. For veggies, I went with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, banana peppers, and jalapeños. I said yes to cheese, yes to mustard (but not mayo), and yes to the Love Spice (obvi!). All those ingredients were nestled in hefty layers between two halves of an uncut, onion-flecked kaiser bun.

When you’re a first-timer at Ernie’s and order the Monster, it’s requisite for them not to cut the sandwich in half for you. Initiation into the Ernie’s Market legion means taking that Monster head on!

It was such fun to be in the shop and orchestrate the build of that Monster sandwich. The staff members I interacted with were friendly and welcoming. I even got to interact with Ernie himself!

He said hi to me warmly – so warmly, I admit, that I felt sure he was confusing me with someone else he knew. Because of this, I’m embarrassed to admit, I didn’t say hi back at first. Then I realized it was him – Ernie himself!

I didn’t know that Ernie greets all of his customers so enthusiastically. According to the shop’s website, Ernie’s customary greeting to patrons is “Hey Baby!” because he wants people to know he cares about them – even if he doesn’t know their names.

That explains the “Hey Baby!” greeting Ernie gave a father and his young daughter while I was there. I’d assumed he knew them well. Maybe he did – or maybe he was displaying his customary warmth. Regardless, once I got past my initial confusion around his reception of me, it felt wonderful to be welcomed so congenially by Ernie – who, once he heard it was my first time trying his sandwich, said he hoped I liked it.

I hoped I liked the Monster, too!

My hopes were not to be dashed. The epic sandwich was epically delicious! What a kaleidoscope of flavors that Monster sandwich was.

The sheer number of ingredients and jaw-defying height of the sandwich meant that each bite was different. My favorite bites included the hearty meat with that soft kaiser bun, those spicy jalapeños and bananas peppers, and an ample smattering of Love Spice. That’s no surprise, given that I’m a lover of all things spicy. In fact, I bought a bag of Better Made’s Hot ‘n Spicy Corn Chips from Ernie’s to accompany that Monster sandwich.

You may be wondering: did I finish that Monster in one sitting? [Drum Roll] I did not. I ate over half of it for lunch that day. That meant I got to enjoy the leftovers for dinner! They were delicious toasted in the oven.

I wonder if Ernie would find toasting his sandwich sacrilegious. I have to think he’d be all for it. “Whatever makes you happy, Baby!” I can imagine him saying.

Worth noting: Ernie’s is a cash-only establishment – but totally worth the trip to the ATM!

8500 Capital St.

Oak Park, MI 48237


131. Forgotten Harvest – July 11, 2015 – Oak Park, MI


Photo courtesy of Yvonne

Photo courtesy of Yvonne

Photo courtesy of Yvonne

Guys, I have been horrible at maintaining the blog this past month! In part, I blame summer and all of this gorgeous, lovely phenomenal weather we’ve been having the past two weeks (Finally! I’m loving it!). And getting a new day job and all of the hustle and bustle that comes with that (22 miles closer to home – yay!). Excuses, excuses – but I’ve holed myself up in a coffee shop on this lovely Sunday afternoon (after a phenomenal brunch at Toast in Ferndale – a post will be coming on that soon!) to try to catch up. I really do hate being behind on stuff – and I’ve done some cool stuff this month that I want to share!

I really wanted to go into my experience volunteering at Forgotten Harvest three weeks ago, not only because working in its beautiful Oak Park facility was new to me, but because it is an incredibly impressive charitable organization that does lifesaving work. Living in the Metro-Detroit area my whole life, I’ve been aware of Forgotten Harvest’s presence and the fact that it provides food for those in need, but I had no idea of the magnitude of its scope (it delivers food to 280 area organizations that help the hungry, according to its website) or the fact that it rescues so much food from going into landfills (48.8 million pounds last year alone!). It does this by means such as procuring food from local groceries chains – Kroger being one – that has been deemed unsellable but that is still perfectly good. The Saturday I was there for the morning volunteer session, our job was to pack yellow squash and then zucchini into plastic Kroger bags – in bunches of 1-3, depending on size. The bags would then be distributed in packages that would go to local families. We had to examine the vegetables to make sure there were no soft spots/other signs of them going bad and discard the ones that were, but most of them were perfectly good. Some were a little nicked up, and a few looked a bit unconventional (I came across at least one pair of yellow squash that were joined together lengthwise but perfectly fine to use), but overall they were totally fine. It was a reminder of how stringent American-consumer expectations are when it comes to produce (It has to look perfect! It has to be as big as your face!) – often, in this era of pesticides, GMOs, and factory farming, to our detriment. But that’s a whole other topic; I won’t get on my soapbox about that here!

Long story short, in just a few hours, me and the other volunteers (I think there were about 20 of us total -12 from the Meet-Up group I volunteered through and then some other volunteers with other affiliations) packed about 9,500 pounds of zucchini and yellow squash! We definitely couldn’t have done it without the help of the full-time Forgotten Harvest workers, who were there to count and weigh the bags we packed and to bring in additional pallets of vegetables as we burned through them. They were an amazing crew! Apparently they were short-staffed the day I was there, but the ones there operated like frickin’ bosses. I can’t say enough about how hard they worked, or about how clean and professionally maintained the warehouse was. If you are looking for a meaningful volunteer opportunity in the area, you should definitely check this place out! The Meet-Up group I volunteered through, Good Karma, has a standing monthly volunteer opportunity scheduled with Forgotten Harvest; they take groups over there every second Saturday for 8:45 a.m. to 12 p.m. shifts. The pictures above were taken by group member Yvonne. Thanks, Yvonne!

21800 Greenfield Rd.

Oak Park, MI 48237


89. The Book Beat – December 19, 2014 – Oak Park, MI


What a little gem this place is. The Book Beat is one of the rare independent bookstores that continues to thrive. Wind through its shelf mazes and browse its carefully curated collections of new and used tomes, being careful to dodge the occasional box of books scattered about on the floor (they just add character!). Several people who appeared to be regulars filtered in and out during my short time here, which made me happy, because it illustrated that bookstores like this are not only places of commerce but places of communion, too (take that, Barnes & Noble!).

26010 Greenfield Rd.
Oak Park, MI 48237