Southwest Detroit

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

429. El Taco Veloz – August 31, 2019 – Detroit, MI

August2019ElTacoVeloz1 (2)

August2019ElTacoVeloz2 (2)El Taco Veloz is, hands-down, the BEST visit of Blog Year Six of 100 Places in the D thus far.

I’m OBSESSED with this Detroit-based purveyor of Mexican cuisine after visiting it during Labor Day weekend. I’ve exclaimed over a lot of fantastic tacos on this blog, but I seriously think El Taco Veloz’s Al Pastor tacos are the BEST tacos I’ve ever eaten. They are PHENOMENAL!!!!

It’s hard to know how to categorize El Taco Veloz: is it a restaurant, or is it a food-truck-based business? The answer I’ve arrived at is that it’s both.

When you pull up to El Taco Veloz’s given location on Toledo Street in Southwest Detroit, you see a gated parking area. Mind the wholesale produce warehouse to the right of the lot and the semi-trucks rolling in and out of it, and look towards the rear, where you’ll see two food trucks parked. Those are the El Taco Veloz kitchens/ordering stations.

Behind the El Taco Veloz trucks is a building, which contains a dining area with tables where you can enjoy food ordered from the trucks.

From one of these food trucks, I ordered six Al Pastor tacos to go, which cost under $11 – an awesome deal, especially considering the supreme deliciousness of the tacos, which I was about to discover.

I’d ordered the Al Pastor tacos to share with my dad and brother, who I was on my way to visit. But I couldn’t resist eating my two tacos right away, while they were still super fresh (sorry, Dad and Bro!). So I hunkered down at a table in El Taco Veloz’s dining room to do just that.

Opening the foil-covered to-go container, I revealed the six steaming-hot, fresh-off-the-grill Al Pastor tacos. Grilled corn tortillas were loaded with marinated shredded pork topped with cilantro and diced raw onion and accompanied by sliced raw radishes, sautéed onion, a grilled jalapeño, a lime wedge, red salsa, and a creamy, spicy green sauce (alllll that goodness for under $11!).

The experience of biting into one of those Al Pastor tacos . . . the written word cannot do it justice. All I can say is, WOW!!!! The flavor explosion these babies are bringing is just exceptional. These are not only very probably the best tacos I’ve ever eaten – they may be the best thing I’ve ever eaten, period!

Driving away from El Taco Veloz after consuming two of those magical Al Pastor tacos, I literally could not stop exclaiming to myself over how amazing they were. Every 30 or so seconds during the first several minutes of that drive, there’s me declaring “Those were SO good!” to no one but me, myself, and I. That’s how enchanting these El Taco Veloz wares are: they will make you talk out loud to yourself!

Worth noting: El Taco Veloz is a cash-only establishment (and SO worth that trip to the ATM!). AND it has a second location from which it peddles its glorious goodies: a counter inside Midtown-based convenience store Marcus Market.

6170 Toledo St.

Detroit, MI 48209

417. La Noria Bistro – July 13, 2019 – Detroit, MI

July2019LaNoriaBistro1 (2)July2019LaNoriaBistro2 (2)La Noria Bistro is gracing 100 Places in the D! If I didn’t know better, I’d say this Southwest Detroit-based restaurant was tailor-made for me, serving as it does my two favorite cuisines – Italian and Mexican – under one roof. But naturally, La Noria Bistro is serving up the cheesy, spicy, flavorful goodness to more than just my party of one. 😛

I visited La Noria Bistro on a Saturday night in mid-July. July up to that point had been cray-cray-ba-nay-nay for me, so I was thrilled to step away from the madness for a new-place visit.

As restaurants serving both Mexican and Italian food aren’t common to this area, it was funny to realize that La Noria Bistro is located next to the only other Detroit restaurant I’m aware of that features a similar menu mash-up: 100 Places in the D favorite El Barzon. It was also no surprise, then, to later discover that they are owned by the same chef.

As with El Barzon, when you walk into La Noria Bistro, you feel as if you are leaving the banal outside world behind and entering a place of enchantment. From its backlit bar with rows of gleaming bottles to its brick walls etched with archways to the royal purple linens enrobing each table, La Noria Bistro’s dining room exudes an elegance that feels as welcoming as it does sophisticated.

Mexican and Italian food hold equal footing on the menu. Calamari lives alongside Chorizo con Queso Fundido. Italian-prepared veal, pasta, and seafood dishes coexist with fajitas, tacos, and enchiladas. There’s a section devoted to pizza – and another devoted to Mexican Sandwiches. SOOOO much goodness to choose from!

Would I go Italian or Mexican, Mexican or Italian during my visit? The glorious thing about dining at La Noria Bistro was that I didn’t have to choose one of the cuisines to the exclusion of the other  – I could choose BOTH! And choose both I did.

For my beverage, I went Italian, ordering a glass of red wine (though La Noria Bistro’s extensive list of signature cocktails is deeply intriguing me as I peruse it during the writing of this post). My appetizer, the tasty complimentary chips and salsa brought to the table, was Mexican by default – but I also went the Mexican route with my entrée, the Enchiladas Rojas. For dessert, you KNOW I had to order some of that Italian tiramisu!

The Enchiladas Rojas were exquisite! I opted for my dish to include cheese enchiladas as well as chicken-stuffed ones; both were richly flavorful and well complemented by a perfectly-spiced red sauce, shredded cheese, sliced avocado, and sour cream drizzle. They were accompanied by seasoned rice and black beans.

The tiramisu was exceptional, too. It represented the Italian side of La Noria Bistro’s menu well with its layers of mascarpone cream and ladyfinger cookies well-soaked in rum flavoring.

Service at La Noria Bistro was excellent; our female server was friendly, prompt, and professional.

So while I know La Noria Bistro was not custom-made for me, my visit there certainly made it feel like it was, embodying as it did the ethos that I adore in a dining experience: top-notch food, service, and ambiance served up in a way that makes the meal – and you, as the guest – feel special. PLUS, Mexican food and Italian food comingling on one menu: does it get any better than that???

5517 Michigan Ave.

Detroit, MI 48210

https://la-noria-bistro.business.site

339. La Michoacana – June 19, 2018 – Detroit, MI

June2018LaMichoacana1 (2)June2018LaMichoacana2 (2)While I was volunteering at Clark Park in Southwest Detroit several weeks ago, word went around of a reportedly excellent Mexican ice cream shop within walking distance called La Michoacana. Naturally, our group fixated on this, and by the end of our volunteer shift, we found ourselves in the small, brightly-colored shop enjoying ice cream cones and other sweet treats.

La Michoacana offers a variety of ice creams, ice cream bars, popsicles, frozen bananas, slushies, fruit-studded dessert drinks, horchata drinks, and other goodies. I had a hankering for a double-scoop cone and opted for one with chocolate ice cream and the intriguing Mango con Chile flavor.

The chocolate ice cream was classic, creamy deliciousness. While chocolate is LIIIFE to me and I almost never opt for an ice cream treat that doesn’t incorporate it somehow, I must say that the Mango con Chile was my standout favorite here. With that sweet mango fruitiness and spicy kick of the chile, it was EXCELLENT! If you are a fan of the sweet-and-spicy combo, you’ve got to try it.

Not only was the ice cream at La Michoacana as super-tasty as we’d heard it to be, the prices were affordable, too. To my recollection, my double-scoop cone cost around $2 – a steal!

A related note around cost: my impression from my visit to La Michoacana was that its only accepted payment mode was cash. But I see that its Yelp profile shows it as accepting credit cards and that one older review mentions a $10 minimum purchase for card-facilitated purchases. I’ll plan on bringing a couple bucks with me during future visits to be safe.

Now, for those of you who are willing to take my word for it that La Michoacana is a place worth visiting, gallop out into that gorgeous summer sun and grab some icy treats!

4336 W. Vernor Hwy.

Detroit, MI 48209

338. Clark Park – June 19, 2018 – Detroit, MI

June2018ClarkPark1 (2)June2018ClarkPark2 (2)June2018ClarkPark3 (2)I’m fortunate to work at a company that allows us to spend a certain number of hours every year on volunteer initiatives. Thusly I found myself at Clark Park in Detroit on a Tuesday in mid-June to do some clean-up work through Summer in the City, a local volunteer organization.

Spending time outside on a summer’s day instead of hunched in front of a computer in my gray, florescent-lit cubicle – UMMM, yes, please! AND spending time visiting a new place, to boot, instead of hunched in said cubicle? Double-YES to that!

Clark Park is located in Southwest Detroit, in a part of town that I enjoyed with its big, beautiful old houses, community feel (cue kids running around at a cookout luncheon at a nearby school, people chatting in the street, moms taking their kids to the park), and a bomb ice cream parlor within walking distance (which I’ll totally be covering in my next post!).

The spacious park not only boasts baseball diamonds, a playground area, a community garden, ample fields, and paths for strolling and biking, it also has a ice rink!

I got excited upon seeing the ice rink, which according to Clark Park’s website is “the only regulation-sized outdoor ice hockey rink in Metro Detroit.” I realized it was the rink where the Detroit Red Wings have practiced on at least one occasion and played at least one alumni game. Pretty cool – especially to me as a Wings fan. I need to get over there the next time they grace that ice!

Loads of kiddos were running around Clark Park on the day of our visit, doing activities with volunteers and generally being adorable. The park seemed an ideal setting for such a day camp-type gathering, being as large and well maintained as it was. According to Clark Park’s website, it also hosts community events such as festivals and concerts throughout the year.

Our group did some weeding while we were at Clark Park in the afternoon, beautifying a concrete-paved play area. In the morning, we had done some mega weeding at a nearby Summer in the City garden site, which was super satisfying (I mean, we cleared some MAJOR plant debris!). It was my first time volunteering at a community garden, a long-held item on my to-do list.

I’m not sure how often Summer in the City coordinates volunteer outings at Clark Park, but its website is worth checking out if its mission of enriching Detroit via Play (fostering youth enrichment), Paint (creating murals in Detroit neighborhoods), and Plant (practicing urban gardening) intrigues you: www.summerinthecity.com. And Clark Park is certainly worth checking out if you appreciate green spaces that offer a sojourn from bustling everyday life.

1130 Clark St.

Detroit, MI 48209

www.clarkparkdetroit.com