Restaurants/Bars

473. King’s Pizza – May 8, 2020 – Clinton Township, MI

May2020King'sPizza1 (2)May2020King'sPizza2 (3)My visit to King’s Pizza was 25 years in the making.

I’d wanted to try the pizza from this Clinton Township-based carryout joint since I was a kid and we started receiving flyers in the mail for it. The pies in the pictures on the flyers always looked so delectably cheesy. My mother, despite my appeals, was not interested in giving King’s Pizza a whirl. My childhood dream was deferred.

In recent years, the dream was revived. Passing its storefront periodically on 15 Mile Road, I mused that King’s Pizza would be a perfect candidate for a 100 Places in the D visit, since it’s locally owned.

With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the restaurant business and the world in general, I hadn’t tried any new-to-me places since my March 12 visit to Guiseppe’s Restaurant in Chesterfield. I did some pretty hardcore sheltering-in-place at the start of the stay-at-home mandate period, not driving anywhere for four weeks straight. Then when I did go out, it was to grocery stores, where I stocked up on wayyyy too much food. I wanted to support local restaurants that were open for carryout and delivery – but first, I had to eat up all my groceries!

My current goal is to try a new-to-me restaurant once a week on average. I want to support locally-owned restaurants and do my part to help keep them open. While one person getting carryout once a week from local chains is a tiny action in itself, hopefully if those of us who are able to do so chip in in this manner, we can make a difference in helping keep beloved restaurants open.

King’s Pizza made it easy for me to do my part. It offers delivery, but I wanted to (safely) pick up the pizza in person so it would count as a “visit” for the blog. So I opted for carryout and picked up my pizzas via a drive-through window that’s been set up for carryout orders. It was really easy and made contact minimal.

King’s offers both build-your-own and signature pizza options, plus a food menu filled with all other manner of goodies: chicken, ribs, fish and chips, cheesy breadsticks, pasta, salads, subs, and more. Who needs extra-large grocery orders when you have access to such a bountiful menu?

Pondering my order from King’s, that round cheese pizza featured so enticingly in many an advertising flyer was a no-brainer. I ordered a large one, plus a small round of one of its specialty pizzas that captured my attention, the Chicken Mediterranean.

When I arrived home with my two pizzas after driving through a freakish snow flurry (because snow-in-May is the kind of world we are living in right now???), I was soooo excited to try them. It was the MOMENT OF TRUTH!

I grabbed a slice of the cheese pizza, took a bite, and . . . it tasted like cheese pizza. LOL. I don’t know what I was expecting, but after 25 years of fantasizing about what a pizza tastes like, you’ve built up a lot of hype. It was good cheese pizza, though!

The Chicken Mediterranean was fantastic. It was bringing the flavor with its cheesy mozzarella, savory chicken, salty feta, zesty red onion and banana peppers, dash of oregano, and drizzle of olive oil.

After gorging on multiple pieces of both pies, I still had plenty of leftovers. And here’s the interesting thing I learned about that King’s cheese pizza: it was excellent reheated. Maybe it wasn’t warm enough when I had it on my first go-around (it did have to travel and endure me taking multiple photos of it before eating it), but having it piping-hot out of the oven with its gooey cheese and its excellent crust, all well-done on the outside yet delectably doughy on the inside . . . well, that satisfied my 1990s-era dream of an epic Italian pie just fine.

20571 15 Mile Rd.

Clinton Twp., MI 48035

(with an additional location in Roseville)

www.kingspizza.com

472. Guiseppe’s Restaurant – March 12, 2020 – Chesterfield, MI

March2020Guiseppe's1 (2)March2020Guiseppe's3 (2)Guiseppe’s Restaurant was the last establishment I dined at before the coronavirus blew up here in Metro-Detroit. I’m so grateful to have had the experience of eating dinner there with a friend before this necessary period of social isolation set in.

For those of you who have lost loved ones to this virus, who are battling the virus yourselves, or whose lives have been affected by it in other terrible ways, I am sorry, and I am sending love to you. I know this little post on an Italian restaurant in Chesterfield, MI isn’t the kind of thing that can ease your pain in any real way, but I hope it provides a momentary diversion for those of you who are seeking it.

Guiseppe’s is located in a strip mall. Its interior is unpretentious and homey – and it serves up a mean Eggplant Parmesan.

The restaurant was offering a 2-for-$20 special during my visit, meaning you could purchase two featured meals – with soup or salad included – for only $10 bucks apiece. The Eggplant Parmesan I opted for was part of that special. It was delicious with its melt-in-your-mouth breaded and fried eggplant slathered in rich tomato sauce and cheese and served with a side of al dente penne pasta.

That 2-for-$20 menu is available Sundays through Thursdays and includes a variety of pasta dishes (including Manicotti, Homemade Lasagna, and Spaghetti Carbonara), plus chicken- and fish-centric meals such as Chicken Marsala and Beer Battered Fish and Chips.

Guiseppe’s regular dinner menu features a more in-depth list of pasta dishes, plus appetizers, salads, pizzas, and meat-focused entrées such as Steak Siciliano, Veal Scaloppini, and Shrimp Casalinga. The restaurant has a full bar; I enjoyed a tasty glass of pinot noir while there.

As of the writing of this post, Guiseppe’s was still open, accepting carryout orders only. So you can still experience its delectable Italian cuisine at this time if you’re local and looking to take a break from cooking.

49120 Gratiot Ave.

Chesterfield, MI 48051

www.giuseppesrestaurant.net

468. Lazybones Smokehouse – March 4, 2020 – Roseville, MI

March2020LazybonesSmokehouse1 (2)March2020LazybonesSmokehouse2 (2)March2020LazybonesSmokehouse3 (3)Serendipity led me to Lazybones Smokehouse – and am I glad it did!

I’d been wanting to visit the barbecue joint in Roseville for years; I pass it regularly on Groesbeck en route to 696, and I’d long intended to incorporate a visit there with a jaunt along that route.

Cancelled plans on a Wednesday night in early March led me to execute that plan on the fly. I was two-thirds of the way to a meet-up in Ferndale when I learned it’d been postponed. Not wanting to waste the drive, I decided a stop at Lazybones upon doubling back would make lemonade out of the lemons I’d been handed (or, pulled pork out of a pig of a situation? Cheesy-Dad-joke-level pun intended!).

I entered the carryout restaurant and studied the menu above the counter. The employee helping me explained that there wasn’t an individual-portion combo plate. There was the Texas Sampler, which includes tastes of all of Lazybones’ smoked meats, plus two pint-sized portions of sides and four slices of cornbread, and the Family Feast option, which showcased way more food than I was looking to reckon with; otherwise, menu items were available à la carte, in various sizes. (The restaurant also offers a catering menu that includes packages and a wider selection of dishes than its restaurant carryout menu.)

I studied the array of smoked meats (including brisket, pork belly, chicken, turkey, and sausage), sandwiches, salads, and sides and chose the two meats that were the obvious choices for me: the Carolina Pulled Pork and the St. Louis Spareribs – plus sides of the Baked Mac and Cheese and the Vinegared Garlic Slaw and a slice of the Honey Buttered Cornbread. It was more food than I needed, for sure, but I wanted to sample several items (and who says leftovers are a bad thing)?

I was so excited to get home and dig into my feast! And dig in I did. I tried a little of everything, slathering the pulled pork and ribs with Lazybones’ vibrant sauces (I’d opted to try the Carolina Vinegar and Screamin’ Inferno varieties. A third barbecue sauce was thrown in for good measure; I’m unclear on its identify but suspect it was the Hillbilly due to the “HB” written on the outside of its container) and taking turns dipping into the sides.

The clear star of the show in that meal? The Carolina Pulled Pork. It was phenomenal, so tender and flavorful that it didn’t need sauce to be utterly delectable – though I still doused it with sauce because I am a sauce gal, and Lazybones’ are very tasty. But man, was it good!

I enjoyed the meaty St. Louis Spareribs, as well; they had a great smoky flavor. I appreciated that the Vinegared Garlic Slaw wasn’t drowning in mayonnaise; it was zesty, peppery, and garlicky and actually tasted like a healthy vegetable that could aid in counteracting all of the saturated fat I was eating. The Baked Mac and Cheese was covered in creamy dairy goodness, and the Honey Buttered Cornbread delivered a craved carb infusion.

I got my money’s worth of that meal, eating off of it two additional times in subsequent days. Thanks to Lazybones Smokehouse, what could’ve been a bummer of an evening was instead a spur-of-the-moment rendezvous with deliciousness!

27475 Groesbeck Hwy.

Roseville, MI 48066

www.lazybonessmokehouse.net

466. Mutiny Tiki Bar – February 16, 2020 – Detroit, MI

February2020MutinyBar1 (2)February2020MutinyBar2 (3)It feels massively bittersweet to be writing this post about my mid-February visit to Mutiny Tiki Bar. I had an amazing time at this wonderful, high-vibing bar in Southwest Detroit – but knowing that I couldn’t go there today if I wanted to brings tears to my eyes.

The coronavirus has impacted so many of us globally. For many, it has meant devastatingly life-altering or fatal consequences for themselves and/or their loved ones. My heart goes out to those who have been directly impacted by the virus in terrible ways, and I know my plight – to be stuck inside while we attempt to curb and end this thing in Michigan – is utterly miniscule compared with the suffering and grief those people have experienced. I am living a life of luxury and comfort in comparison, and I acknowledge that and am grateful for the fact that thus far, my family, friends, and I have been able to stay safe.

I acknowledge that, and . . . I miss exploring already. Monday was a bad day for me, when the directive came through from our governor for dine-in restaurants, coffee shops, and bars to close – plus gyms, recreation areas, spas, and the like (a.k.a., the fun stuff). I totally get and respect this decision, I know it’s necessary, and yet, it still SUCKS. Exploring Metro-Detroit has become much, much harder right now; even stepping out at all has become, at the very least, an ethical dilemma – not to mention, what could be a matter of life and death for vulnerable populations . . .  and we don’t know when that’s going to change.

And all of our beloved locally-owned restaurants and bars and shops . . . what is going to happen to them? How many of them will not be able to survive the shutdown, and how many of their employees are financially struggling by being unable to work?

The silver lining around this horrible time for local small businesses and their employees is that there are multiple ways that we as patrons can still support them. We can buy gift cards online to use toward future visits, grab carryout from those that are offering it (should we feel comfortable venturing out), purchase goods from their online shops, and even tip local bartenders for drinks we’ve made at home via a site called Go Tip Em (www.gotipem.com), which I became aware of via cocktaildetroit‘s Instagram account. We can do our part!

Hopefully such seemingly small actions can accumulate and make a big difference in keeping all of the wonderful independently-owned establishments in Detroit and the surrounding tri-county area operating. I, for one, am going to start doing my part by procuring online some of Lake Orion coffee house A Bean to Go‘s delectable beans (LOVE their brews and the vibe of their shop!) and browsing Detroit-based Pages Bookshop‘s internet store for that book club pick I can no longer get from the library.

Enough of the spotlight on this awful virus: it’s time to move on to cheerier topics and the hope of brighter times – times when we can again patronize stellar establishments such as this one, Mutiny Tiki Bar!

I enjoyed the heck out of my visit to this bar. Located in an unmarked brick building, it can be challenging to spot, but using the reference points of other landmarks (it’s at the corner of Vernor Highway and Lansing Street; it’s next to Chicago’s Pizza) helps to locate it.

The no-frills ambiance ends outside; Mutiny’s interior is a fun mix of hipster chill and tropical vibes. The interior is paneled in wood and accented with bamboo. Colored twinkle lights, gauzy netting, pretty parasol umbrellas, and voluminous amounts of grassy-looking fibers that appear to be dried palm fronds (or faux stuff constructed to look like them) hang from the ceiling, while flowered leis are draped over the turquoise bar chairs and all manner of other surfaces. Carved masks, colorful buoys, and tropically-themed photos and other goodies decorate the walls. It all melds together to form a visually arresting atmosphere.

It also melds together to form very relaxed, very friendly, ultra-good vibes. Maybe it was the boosted spirits of me and my friend who had come to Mutiny for a Sunday Funday celebration; maybe it was our awesome bartender, who was attentive and welcoming in a very chill way; maybe it was the cool gal sitting near us at the bar who we struck up a conversation with and who my friend brought in on our shot-taking hijinks, but man, the vibes were EXCELLENT at the place!

I had such a good time sampling Mutiny’s wares: its tasty Old Salt cocktail with its Patron tequila, tomatillo syrup, chili salt rim, and flaming lime (shown on the right in the photo of the drinks above) and its Banana Bread Shot – which O.M.G., is phenomenal. Like, WOW-THIS-IS-DEFINITELY-ONE-OF-THE-BEST-DRINKS-I’VE-EVER-CONSUMED phenomenal.

Not gonna lie, my friend and I each had two of those Banana Bread shots; they were so good that we felt compelled to do a take-two on them (and we had an excuse to use: celebrating my procuring of a much-desired new job). The menu description of this delectable little baby says it all: “molasses infused Bacardi Banana, coco nib, cinnamon, cream.” It truly tastes like the most luxurious banana bread you’ve ever eaten and is so, so YUMMMM.

Once we get the all-clear to be out and about again and Mutiny Tiki Bar is reopened, I have a feeling it’s going to be KICKING. It is so worth a visit, and in the great, grand scheme of things, it’ll be reopened again before we know it.

4654 Vernor Hwy.

Detroit, MI 48209

www.mutinybar.com

463. Rocco’s Italian Deli – January 30, 2020 – Detroit, MI

January2020Rocco'sItalianDeli1 (2)January2020Rocco'sItalianDeli2 (2)My mouth still waters when I think about the meatball sub I ordered at Rocco’s Italian Deli over a month ago. That Want Nonna to Make You a Meatball? sub was exquisite with its tender beef meatballs nestled in an irresistibly chewy bun and slathered in flavorful marinara sauce, mozzarella, and Parmesan!

Rocco’s is more than a sandwich shop. The establishment based in the Cass Corridor neighborhood of Detroit is also a grocer offering shelves of Italian dry-goods staples such as pasta, canned tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, and wine, plus a full deli counter proffering olives and slice-to-order cheeses and cured meats. It’s also a bar, serving beer, wine, and cocktails – AND a coffee house, serving coffee and espresso drinks. All that wrapped into one – with killer sandwiches, to boot!

I’m apparently not the only one who finds Rocco’s so appealing: it was bustling with clientele when I entered it on the afternoon of my visit. The lunch crowd was in full swing! I’d hoped to stay and enjoy my sandwich at one of its tables or counter seats, but based off of the scarcity in seating at that time, I opted for carryout instead.

Scanning Rocco’s prepared-foods menu of entrée salads and sandwiches, I encountered numerous delectable-sounding options before making Want Nonna to Make You a Meatball? my choice. Take, for instance, the Mozz and Mozz of Fun sandwich boasting fresh mozzarella, roasted tomato, basil pesto, and balsamic drizzle and the Little Puzzo Loves His Pork with its roasted pork, sautéed broccoli rabe, and sharp provolone. Yum and YUM!

I ordered at the counter, and despite the busyness, waited no more than 10 minutes for my order; Rocco’s staff was operating as a well-oiled, sandwich-building, salad-slinging machine!

Once home, I dug into my Want Nonna to Make You a Meatball? sub and found that my choice was justified. It was DELICIOUS! I ate it with such relish that I didn’t pause to take a photo of it. Bonus points go to Rocco’s for putting the marinara sauce on the side to ensure the optimal sponginess of the sandwich bread once I bit into it (hooray for not-soggy sandwiches!).

My consensus around Rocco’s Italian Deli is obvious to me: it’s DEFINITELY revisit-worthy. My intention for Visit Number Two: to enjoy one of its tasty sandwiches in-house, accompanied by a glass of red wine or a cappuccino (or both!).

3627 Cass Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

(Closed Sundays)

www.roccosdetroit.com

459. Lost River – January 19, 2020 – Detroit, MI

January2020LostRiver1 (2)January2020LostRiver3 (4)January2020LostRiver2 (3)January2020LostRiver4 (3)I don’t do Sunday-Funday extravaganzas nearly enough – as my visit to Lost River reminded me.

A friend and I sought libations at the tiki-themed bar on the East Side of Detroit after walking through the VERY cool, very-view-worthy Robolights Detroit exhibit at the MOCAD (Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit) one Sunday in mid-January.

Walking into Lost River felt like walking into another dimension. The bar had its own atmosphere, one that was dimly lit and strewn with faux flowers and vines, fishing nets, twinkle lights, and island-inspired memorabilia and artwork. This is the kind of place where it feels totally possible to forget the time of day, season, and geographical location.

One wall brandished a striking floral mural, and another held a projector screen showing Gilligan’s Island episodes and vintage cartoons. In front of that screen was a xylophone, on which musician Roland Remington played melodically trippy tunes. The tiny place was jam-packed full of ambiance.

Lost River’s drink menu also wasn’t short on ambiance. It features signature cocktails, an array of intriguing tropical beauties encased in all manner of fancy glassware and bedecked with accessories such as rubber duckies, fresh flowers, fruit and herb garnishes – even a skewer of mini marshmallows and a doll-sized firepit to toast them on for one drink (the Fiery Skeleton).

I seriously considered ordering the Morning Routine, a boozy take on cereal and milk (containing a generous portion of Fruity Pebbles), but opted instead for the Rum Barrel, a drink described on Lost River’s menu as containing Appleton Rare Blend, Plantation Xaymaca, and Angostura 5 Year Old rums, grapefruit and lime juices, grenadine, honey falernum, allspice, and bitters. It was tasty – fruity and refreshing!

Lost River doesn’t have its own food menu, but it often hosts pop-up restaurants. Gajiza Dumplins is a frequent food contributor, and we were fortunate to have them there on the night of our visit. My friend enjoyed some of their vegan dumplings, and I savored a bowl of khao soi. Gajiza Dumplings’ take on one of my favorite Thai dishes was excellent with its richly flavored coconut curry broth, chicken thigh meat, egg noodles, and garnishes of pickled cabbage, fried shallots, crunchy noodles, cilantro, chili paste, and a lime wedge. We shared the Tiki Tots, which were supreme comfort-food deliciousness: perfectly crispy, perfectly grease-saturated tater tots tossed in black garlic oil, peanuts, fried shallots, Parmesan cheese, and various spices, served with spicy mayo. Yum, yum, and YUM!

This evening at Lost River was a Sunday-Funday extravaganza I was not soon to forget: it seriously colored that following Monday – and the rest of my week – in rosy-hued, tropically-infused, xylophone-plinky vibes. Thank you, Lost River, for transporting me to an isle of carefree fun for a couple of hours!

15421 Mack Ave.

Detroit, MI 48224

(Closed Mondays and Tuesdays)

www.lostrivertiki.com

458. Cork and Gabel – January 17, 2020 – Detroit, MI

January2020CorkandGabel1 (2)January2020CorkandGabel3 (2)January2020CorkandGabel4 (2)Detroit jaunts warm my heart, even on the coldest of days. And a jaunt to Corktown’s Cork and Gabel on a Friday night in mid-January was no exception to this rule.

On ambiance alone, I was captivated with this place from the get-go. Opening Cork and Gabel’s big metal door (which is made from a recycled oil tank, BTW; the whole of the tank makes up a lobby area) and stepping over the threshold, I was greeted by a vibrant display of super-cool graffiti art – and THAT was just in the lobby!

The interior of Cork and Gabel is warm and inviting, a mash-up of industrial-chic and antique vibes with its minimalist light fixtures, brick walls, distressed-wood bar front, and repurposed elements such as the aforementioned oil tank.

According to a FAQ sheet put on the tables at Cork and Gabel, several of the elements that comprise the restaurant are recycled ones getting a new lease on life (which I LOVE). There’s a bell hanging above the bar from around the turn of the 20th century that used to belong to a Detroit business called Fulton Engine and Iron Works that is rung any time a round of at least twelve drinks is bought at the bar. We got to hear it rung while we were there! There’s fencing from Mt. Elliott Cemetery, and brick pavers that used to line the streets of Detroit now line the Cork and Gabel patio. There are former gas carriage lights from the mid-1800s that have been converted to electric lights. History reinvigorated!

The creativity and ingenuity doesn’t end with Cork and Gabel’s ambiance. The restaurant practices a type of repurposing with its food menu, too, melding Irish, Italian, and German cooking to form its cuisine, which is heavy on comfort fare (making it especially ideal at this time of year). Its dinner menu offers hearty salads, appetizers, and meat-centric dishes such as the Bangers and Mash, Schnitzel BLT, and Prosciutto Tortellini. A brunch menu is also offered on Saturday and Sundays and includes a most gargantuan Bloody Mary (the Ultimate Bloody Mary), a quart-sized portion loaded with foodstuffs (including meat, cheese, and a full-blown breakfast sandwich) that makes me wish I liked Bloody Marys (I love the whimsy of these loaded ones!).

But it’s not all meat-and-dairy-laden goodness at Cork and Gabel: vegetarian and vegan options such as the Mushroom Risotto (made with vegetable stock) and Meatless Sausage Pasta are available, too. It’s always good to be able to support veg friends!

After perusing Cork and Gabel’s craft cocktail menu and ordering a drink from our awesome server (the fantastic The Southwest, which was right up my alley with its ancho-jalapeño-infused tequila, lime juice, and honey-habanero simple syrup), I studied that food menu and opted for the dish that I’d kept coming back to: the C&G Burger. Based off of the ingredients listed on the menu – lettuce, tomato, bacon, Guinness-caramelized onions, and TWO kinds of cheese: a black pepper-infused mozzarella and what was described as a “crispy Dubliner cheese” – I suspected this was going to be one hefty burger.

I wasn’t mistaken in that assumption. The C&G Burger was indeed a hulking display of comfort-food decadence, comprised as it was of a big beef patty on a toasted brioche bun and loaded with that glut of toppings, accompanied by a slew of French fries.

The meal did not disappoint: it was rich, satisfying tastiness! My favorite part of the C&G Burger was that crispy Dubliner cheese, which turned out to be wedges of cheese that were breaded and deep-fried into extreme YUM-ness.

From ambiance to service, from food to drink, the whole of my visit to Cork and Gabel was a super satisfying one – one that warmed my heart on that chilly winter’s night, for sure.

2415 Michigan Ave.

Detroit, MI 48216

(Closed Tuesdays)

www.corkandgabel.com

457. Vast Kitchen and Bar – January 7, 2020 – Shelby Township, MI

January2020VastKitchenandBar1 (3)January2020VastKitchenandBar2 (3)Vast Kitchen and Bar = my first culinary crush of 2020!

I thoroughly enjoyed my dining experience at this Shelby Township-based restaurant. Everything about it was fantastic: the ambiance, the service, the drinks, the food. I’m all about starting a new year off strong, and Vast helped me to do that, transforming what would have otherwise been an ordinary Tuesday night in early January into a gastronomical voyage!

Walking into Vast, I instantly felt at home. Its interior exudes modern class and coziness with its rich red walls, dark leather booths, glossy wood finishes, and rows of backlit bottles gleaming above the bar.

The server who waited on me and the friend I dined with at Vast made the place feel even more welcoming. Friendly, helpful, and professional, she provided excellent service. A former waitress, I can’t help but be attuned to the level of customer care provided at a restaurant; it can truly make or break a meal for me. Thanks to our server at Vast for helping to make the experience awesome!

On to the drinks! From Vast’s selection of signature cocktails, I selected the Tradition in Fashion, an amped-up Old Fashioned that was perfection with its bourbon melded with raw sugar, cherry liqueur, and black walnut-flavored bitters. I enjoyed it so much that I ordered a second (twist my arm!).

Superior ambiance, service, and drinks: I was already swooning over Vast at this point. And then came the pièce de résistance: the meal I ordered as my entrée, the Signature Meat Loaf.

This meat loaf is by far THE BEST I have ever had. Drenched in gravy, served on a bed of mashed potatoes and creamed corn, it was rich, tender, flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness – and topped with delectably crispy-battered onion rings, to boot. It was SO SO SO SO GOOD.

According to Vast’s menu, this meatloaf is crafted from a mix of meats: ground beef, pork, and veal. And according to my taste buds, it’s crafted from PURE MAGIC.

Besides offering that mythic-level meatloaf, Vast’s dinner menu contains a collection of upscale appetizers (see the Tuna Poke Bowl, Pei Mussels, and Beef Carpaccio), burgers, salads, steaks, seafood dishes, and other hearty entrées. I doubt I could go there and order anything other than that Signature Meat Loaf as long as it’s on the menu, but I can see how dishes such as the Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna and the Roasted Red Pepper Alfredo Pasta would be just as tempting.

Vast Kitchen and Bar, it’s official: I’m in crush with you! Thank you for being you and for providing such a top-notch dining experience.

52969 Van Dyke Rd.

Shelby Twp., MI 48316

www.vastkitchenandbar.com

454. The Balkan House – December 30, 2019 – Ferndale, MI

December2019BalkanHouse1 (4)December2019BalkanHouse2 (2)Look at you, The Balkan House, coming in at the 11th hour in 2019 to infuse my gastronomical-year-that-was with some WOW!

I had the first döner kebab of my life at the Ferndale-based restaurant, and I’m OBSESSED.

I hadn’t heard of this Turkish pita sandwich that’s popular in Germany until I stumbled across a Detroit Free Press article on The Balkan House last month. My mouth watered as I read about the restaurant’s signature dish, consisting of a Balkan pita bread called lepinja stuffed with gyro meat, onion, tomato, cucumber, lettuce, and purple cabbage and slathered in a garlicky yogurt sauce. Yes, yes, and yes, screamed my taste buds: this was a dish I had to try!

Fortuitously, I would be in close proximity to The Balkan House’s recently-opened Ferndale storefront a few days after reading that article. The original, Hamtramck-based location opened last summer, offering classic Balkan fare such as grah (bean soup) and cevapi (Bosnian sausages), plus that döner kebab, which people apparently went crazy over (how did I miss that???) – leading The Balkan House owner to expand operations.

Stepping inside the interior of the long, narrow restaurant on the afternoon of my visit, I queued up to the counter, scoping out the menu above it. My choice was easy: I was there to try that döner kebab, which is served at The Balkan House with lamb-and-beef-based gyro meat (my choice), chicken, or falafel. It also comes with a side of fries.

I gave my order, paid, and took a seat at one of the tables in the restaurant. My food arrived quickly, a hefty pita sandwich accompanied by an ample serving of fries.

I took my first bite of that döner kebab, and O.M.G., was I greeted by EPIC DELICIOUSNESS!!!

The lepinja bread was so soft and pillowy, the gyro meat both tender and crispy and so well-seasoned – by far the best gyro meat I’ve ever had. And that garlic sauce, and those fresh, crunchy veggies . . . all I can say is WOW, WOW, and WOW! I can’t use that exclamatory word enough here – The Balkan House’s döner kebab warrants the excitement.

I practically inhaled that döner kebab and the perfectly soft-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside French fries that accompanied it. I ate the whole thing then and there and left feeling full and satisfied. It was one of those “Now THAT was a meal!” moments, a moment that I live for and love to savor afterwards.

I’m sure the other items on The Balkan House’s menu are wonderful, and I’d be curious to try them; I’m not well-versed with Balkan food (despite being of Croatian descent), and I love experiencing new-to-me cuisines. But I have a feeling The Balkan House is going to be one of those places where I return and order the same thing over and over again, because how will I be able to resist the sweet siren call of that döner kebab??? It’s a special dish indeed, and I’m glad I got to add the act of eating it to my collection of magical culinary experiences of 2019.

314 W. 9 Mile Rd.

Ferndale, MI 48220

(With an additional location in Hamtramck)

www.balkanhouse-restaurant.business.site

453. 313 Pizza Bar – December 28, 2019 – Lake Orion, MI

December2019313PizzaBar1 (2)December2019313PizzaBar2 (2)December2019313PizzaBar3 (2)Detroit-style pizza = my heart. I love that doughy, crispy, greasy, cheesy, saucy stuff! So of course I had to visit the recently opened 313 Pizza Bar in downtown Lake Orion.

Full disclosure: I’m related to one of the owners of this place. But familial bias aside, my conclusion after my visit is that 313 Pizza Bar is proffering up some very tasty pizza!

The restaurant is in downtown Lake Orion, on the site of the former Lockhart’s BBQ. The building is bringing the industrial vibes, all brick walls and bare-bulb lighting and exposed ductwork. There’s a cozy bar area on the first floor, with strands of twinkle lights strung above it. During my visit, I sat in the second-floor dining area, which has its own bar area and a wall of windows offering views of the cityscape outside.

Besides offering signature and build-your-own pizza options, 313 Pizza Bar serves appetizers such as bruschetta, cheese bread, and meatballs, plus hearty sandwiches (here’s looking at you, Muffuletta and Philly Cheesesteak!) and salads (so you can counterbalance the doughy, crispy, greasy, cheesy, saucy aspect of the meal with some greens).

While the appetizers and sandwiches sounded appealing, I was at 313 Pizza Bar for its namesake dish, so I zeroed in on that Signature Pizzas section. Many intriguing choices were showcased there: see the Spicy Sausage and Peppers with its mix of hot Italian sausage, banana peppers, green peppers, and red onion and the Tangy BBQ Chicken with its Tangy Carolina BBQ Sauce – both prime options for revisit meals for me. But it was the Chicken Pesto pizza that captured our collective attention during this meal, along with individually-sized salads (the Green Garden for me, the Antipasto for my fellow diners).

Our salads came out quickly, beds of greens loaded up with ingredients. The Antipasto salad was especially stacked with goodies: salami and ham and cheese and chickpeas, artichoke hearts and cherry tomatoes and cucumber and black olives and banana peppers. I enjoyed my Green Garden salad with its crispy croutons and spicy banana peppers.

Then it was on to the main course! The Chicken Pesto pizza arrived in all of its cheesy, crispy-crusted glory. The large-sized pizza contained eight pieces and was essentially two, four-slice pizzas, meaning that every piece was one of the much-beloved corner pieces (WOO-HOO!).

With its crust that was both doughy and crispy (YEAH, Detroit-style pizza!), its flavorful pesto sauce and thick layer of mozzarella cheese studded with chunks of chicken breast and fresh garlic dusted in Parmesan and pecorino romano, this Chicken Pesto pizza was delicious! I savored several pieces of it, gorging on its rich, carb-and-dairy-laden goodness.

Oh, Detroit-style pizza, how you sustain me during these stark winter days! Thank you, 313 Pizza Bar, for being a purveyor of this much-beloved local delicacy!

37 E. Flint St.

Lake Orion, MI 48362

www.313pizza-bar.com