Southwest Detroit

471. E&L Supermercado – March 8, 2020 – Detroit, MI

March2020E&LSupermercado1 (2)March2020E&LSupermercado2 (2)As of the writing of this post, I haven’t been to a grocery store in almost two weeks – or anywhere, really. But it cheers me to know that wonderful grocery stores such as E&L Supermercado are still in operation during this challenging time, doing the noble work of feeding the masses.

I visited the Southwest Detroit-based grocery store in early March, marveling over its well-stocked meat counter, mounds of fresh produce, array of fresh-baked breads and sweets, and ample selections of locally-made corn and flour tortillas, house-made salsas, and Mexican dry grocery goods.

I enjoyed shopping in the store bustling with families and friends running into each other. After perusing all of the goodies, I came out with a variety of fruits and vegetables, a sack of house-made tortilla chips, bags of fresh flour tortillas, canned salsa, a package of El Milagro non-GMO tostadas (LOVE those – they’re so deliciously crunchy!), and what turned out to be my favorite purchase, a container of E&L Supermercado’s house-made Salsa a la Diabla.

I ADORE spicy food. But I’ll admit: buying a salsa labeled “Salsa of the Devil” from a Mexican grocery store gave me pause; I wondered if it would be more heat than I could handle. Happily, it was not; that Salsa a la Diabla was nowhere near as spicy as I’d expected it to be – but it was wonderful.

It brought the heat, but in a pleasant way – at least, in a pleasant way for someone who has a high heat tolerance (I acknowledge that those who prefer mild heat might indeed find it as hot as a work of Satan’s); it had such beautifully nuanced flavor. It struck me as more of an oily, spice-infused paste than a traditional salsa; it didn’t have chunks of tomatoes or veggies in it but appeared to contain an ample amount of ground red chiles. I became OBSESSED with it, consuming it daily mixed into meals or slathered on E&L Supermercado’s perfectly crispy, salty tortilla chips – until it ran out and I found myself scrambling for an excuse to drive down to buy more.

Even if E&L Supermercado wasn’t doing the work of heroes at this intense time in history, feeding people fresh and nutritious and tasty food when they need it most, I’d still view the store as a superpower for manufacturing that Salsa a la Diabla and for offering such stellar produce and groceries. E&L Supermercado has definitely been added to my rotation of top-notch locally-owned markets!

6000 W. Vernor Hwy.

Detroit, MI 48209

www.el-supermercado.com

470. Mexicantown Bakery – March 8, 2020 – Detroit, MI

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Mexicantown Bakery’s churro, chocolate croissant, and coffee tres leches cake

Baked goods most definitely make my heart – and my stomach – smile, so recounting this visit to Mexicantown Bakery is a real treat.

The Southwest Detroit-based bakery offers a plethora of fresh-made goodies: loaves of bread, buns, cake, cookies, cupcakes, churros, conchas (Mexican sweet bread), flan, and the like. A long row of display cases line a section of its interior near its front door. Patrons are able to select items displayed in those cases themselves using tongs or parchment paper and to place them on plastic trays, which they can then proceed with to the cashier counter.

Additional displays of fresh-baked treats abound, including in cases built into the cashier counter and in a refrigerated case toward the back of the store that holds what I consider to be Mexicantown Bakery’s pièce de résistance: its tres leches cake.

Tres leches in its classic form is, to me, one of the finest baked goods ever – and Mexicantown Bakery has upped the ante by offering it in additional flavor varieties, including chocolate, caramel, and coffee. I HAD to try that coffee one, so I grabbed one of the plastic containers offering up a large piece of it (what I’d consider as two slices in one).

I also picked these items out of the choose-it-yourself display cases: a chocolate croissant; a caramel-stuffed churro; a slice of chocolate cake swirled with strawberry filling; and a cupcake rendered to look like a giant version of the classic cream-filled Hostess cupcake, complete with the white icing squiggle on top.

Yep, I went a little crazy, procuring five desserts all for myself: but it’s hard not to go crazy at a place showcasing such delectable delights as Mexicantown Bakery!

All of those desserts were DELICIOUS. I got a real kick out of eating the mega Hostess-cupcake clone and savoring its rich cream center, as I savored the strawberry filling in the slice of chocolate cake. The croissant was especially tasty heated up in the microwave, its center oozing melted chocolate, while the churro was a cinnamon-infused indulgence.

But that tres leches cake – oh, that tres leches cake! It’s taking the cake (pun intended, naturally) as the best thing I’ve eaten thus far this year. WOW, was it phenomenal: so rich and spongy and sumptuous, soaked in sweet, milky goodness, with a wonderful coffee flavor and creamy decadence that was immensely satisfying. I ate it over several sittings, relishing every bite and daydreaming about buying more of it. With any luck, a revisit to Mexicantown Bakery will be sooner rather than later.

As of the writing of this post, it appears that Mexicantown Bakery is open despite the coronavirus crisis; its Facebook page mentions modified hours, but I don’t see a post about it closing (perhaps it’s considered a carryout place and allowed to stay active). Regardless of whether it’s in operation now or not, I’m sure its business has been affected during this challenging time. Whenever this awful situation has resolved and we can be out and about again as we were before, please consider patronizing this wonderful establishment. Independently-owned Detroit businesses such as Mexicantown Bakery will need our patronage more than ever.

4300 W. Vernor Hwy.

Detroit, MI 48209

www.mexicantownbakery.com

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

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

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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