Sunday, June 28, 2009

Comerica CityFest Starts in Two Days

The 2009 Comerica CityFest, which happens annually every Fourth of July weekend, starts this Wednesday, July 1st in Detroit's New Center area (Woodward and W. Grand Blvd., by the Fisher Building). In addition to a stellar lineup of free musical performances ranging from some of Detroit's finest (from Bettye LaVette to the Silent Years) to rising national acts (Mat Kearney, the Veronicas), the festival, as always, has a enormous assortment of the metro area's best eats. Though it is now called "CityFest" (an acknowledgement that it is a festival celebrating everything about the city and not just its food), its "Tastefest" roots still hold strong.

Behold, the menu (with a few notations, courtesy of moi):

Restaurants Selling “Tastes” of Their Specialties

Aw ... Shucks
Williamsburg, MI
Roasted Sweet Corn with hot butter and assorted spices

Bangkok Cuisine Express II
4216 Woodward Ave, Detroit
Gang Dang, Kao Pad, Cashew Chicken, Thai Style Pork Sausage, Vegetable Roll

Centaur Bar
2233 Park Ave, Detroit
Calypso Baby Back Ribs, Thai Peanut Chicken Salad, Blackened Shrimp Skewers, Cheesecake Lollipops

Chan’s Café
Hollywood, FL
Chicken on a Stick, Shrimp Fried Rice, Veggie Lomein, Veggie Fried Rice, Egg Roll
Note: Why is everything better on a stick?

Cheeburger Cheeburger
17398 Haggerty Rd, Livonia
Cheeseburger with fun toppings, Mahi Sandwich, Seasoned Curly Fries

Clubhouse Tavern
Lower Level Fisher Building
3011 West Grand Blvd, Detroit
Choose your flavor Wings, French Fries

Damon’s Grill
3150 Boardwalk, Ann Arbor
Baby Back Ribs, Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich, Chicken or Steak Kabob, Soft Pretzel Sticks

Fiesta Bowl
Houston, TX
Chicken, Seafood or Beef Taco Salad
Note: TX? WTF?

Finn & Porter
Doubletree Guest Suites Fort Shelby/Detroit Downtown
“The official hotel of Comerica Cityfest”
525 West Lafayette Blvd, Detroit
Sushi rolls
Note: Really? Sushi rolls?

Happy’s Pizza
7450 Woodward, Detroit
Pizza Slices, Wing Dings, Bread Sticks
Note: I like pizza!

Harbor House
34250 Groesbeck, Clinton Township & Greektown 440 Clinton Street, Detroit
Shrimp, Catfish, Jambalaya

Kirk’s Open Pit Bar-B-Q
33766 Woodward Ave, Birmingham
Spare Ribs, Rib Tips, BBQ Chicken, Sweet Potato Fries, Coleslaw

Kola’s Food Factory
17168 Fort St, Riverview
Crispy Jumbo Chicken Wings, Nacho Grande, Shrimp Taco, Pulled Pork, Butterfly Chips

Lazybones Smokehouse
27475 Groesbeck Hwy, Roseville
BBQ Beef Sandwich, Applewood Smoked BBQ Ribs, Pig Candy, Double Stuffed Pig Burger, Pit Smoked Beans, Honey Buttered Cornbread, Smoke House Slaw
Note: Pig candy. Try it. Like bacon wrapped in crack-cocaine.

Marwood Inn
6062 River Rd, East China
Seafood Wrap, Chicken Caesar Wrap, Chicken Caesar Salad, Steak Caesar Salad, Razz-Cherry Chicken Salad, Cold Rainbow Salad

Maverick’s Sliders
Detroit, MI
Beef, Chicken and Fish Sliders

Motown Kabob
6501 Woodward, Detroit
Chicken Schwarma Sandwich, Falafel Sandwich, Hommous, Tabouli

Mozart Catering
Canton, OH
Potato and Cheese Pierogies, German Potato Pancake, Cabbage and Noodles, German Beer Bratwurst

New Eastern Flame
304 South Ashley, Ann Arbor
Chicken Tandoori, Plaka Panir with rice, Black-eye Pea Salad, Samosa, Vegetarian Grape Leaves
Note: Samosa. Mmmm. Deep-fried mashed 'taters. Yum.

New Center Eatery
3100 W Grand Blvd, Detroit
Chicken & Waffles, Fish & Waffles, Jerk Dusted Baby Back Ribs, Broasted Potatoes

1456 Woodward, Detroit
Gang Gai, Pad Thai, Spring Rolls

Pizzeria Venti
655 West Kirby, Detroit
Bolini, Bocce Balls, Timpanini, Pizza Slice, Side Salad, Cannoli
Note: WHAT? A pizza place I don't know about in Detroit? Ohmygodhavetogo.

Red Wood Grill
Commerce Twp, MI
BBQ Chicken Drumstick, Pulled Pork Sandwich, Fresh Watermelon, French Fries
Note: I'll bring my own damn watermelon. You can get a whole one in Mexicantown for like a dollar.

Rice Bowl Fresh Asian Kitchen
New Center One Building 3031 W Grand Blvd, Detroit & Millender Center 555 Brush, Detroit
General Tso Chicken, Sweet & Sour Chicken, Sesame Chicken, Shrimp Fried Rice, Vegetable Fried Rice

Skewers House of Kabob
19217 Newburg, Livonia
Shish Kabob, Chicken Kabob, Kafta, Grape Leaves

The Melting Pot of Troy
888 West Big Beaver Rd, Troy
Teriyaki Sirloin, Cajun Chicken, Strawberries & Chocolate
Note: I always get the strawberries and chocolate hoping that they'll be better than what they are, but they never are.

The Potato Factory
Detroit, MI
The All American, The Motown

Union Jacks
Detroit, MI
Fish-n-Chips, Fish Sandwich, Coleslaw, Deep Fried Mars Bar, Deep Fried Twinkie

Unique Creations
Detroit, MI
Jerk Ribs, Vegetarian Lasagna, Stuffed Bell Pepper, Grilled BBQ Sweet Plantains, Greens, Hot Water Cornbread

Waves Inn
20351 Grand River, Detroit
Fried Crab Cakes, Catfish Nuggets, Fried Ocean Perch, Fried Okra, BBQ French Fries



Trenton Ice Cream Shoppe
“The official ice cream of Comerica Cityfest”
2081 West Rd, Trenton
Ice Cream Cones, Sundaes, Sanders Cream Puff Sundae. itti Bitz and Lemon Chill

Bear Claw Coffee
Doubletree Guest Suites Fort Shelby/Detroit Downtown
“The official hotel of Comerica Cityfest”
525 West Lafayette Blvd, Detroit
Hot and Cold Coffee, Espresso and Tea drinks

Bloomfield Canopy Cheesecake Co
White Lake, MI
Original Cheesecake with toppings, Cheesecake Lollipop

Casey’s New York Style Ice
Harper Woods, MI
Authentic Italian Ice

Good Girls Go to Paris Crepes
2 John R, Detroit
Crepes with sweet filling

Sweet Potato Sensations
17346 Lasher Road, Detroit
Traditional Sweet Potato Pie, Sweet Potato Pecan Pie, Sweet Potato Cheesecake, Sweet Potato Cookies
Note: The sweet potato cheesecake sells out fast.

The Chocolate Gallery Café
3672 Chicago Rd, Warren
Chocolate Buckingham Torte, Fudge Brownies w/Chocolate Chips, Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Miniature Chocolate Decadence Tortes

The CupCake Kitchen
The Mall at Partridge Creek
17410 Hall Rd, Clinton Twp
Assorted Cupcakes and icing

The Funnel Cake Place
Hollywood, FL
Funnel Cakes with toppings
Note: FL? WTF?

Union Jacks The Great British Bakery
Detroit, MI
Deep-fried Mars Bars, Deep Fried Twinkies, Scottish Trifle, Strawberry Scone
Note: Deep-fried Mars Bars. A CityFest tradition.

Tickets are available at 16 for $10.00, with most food items costing from 3-7 each. Bring cash and bottled water (because trust me, you don't want to have to pay for it there--though there are always some entrepreneurial souls parked along W. Grand Boulevard selling bottled water out of coolers for $1.00 each, a much better deal if you forgot to bring your own). And while it is always tempting to visit all of your favorites, there is no better opportunity than CityFest to branch out and try something new. I'm telling you, pig candy: like bacon-flavored crack.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Fate of Taste Pizzabar

Photo by Sean Gabriel Photography

I do hope that this is premature, and that the issues that plagued Taste Pizzabar have since been resolved and the place is staying open after all. After opening in January to much local excitement and in a flurry of strategic marketing, and receiving rave reviews for their phenomenal food and eclectic atmosphere (service was always a bit hit-or-miss, but at just now 6 months of being operational one could conclude that these are still simple growing pains; the restaurant has barely had time to find its legs, though it was popular from the very start), I've heard rumors of the semi-official kind that Taste will be closing.

The reasons are even more disheartening--management involved in illegal activities, stealing money and so forth, ultimately leading to owner Dale Daniels having to terminate several employees including upper management. Though I've not been able to speak with Dale himself to confirm why closing is necessary since the bad eggs have been weeded out (it would seem that the major problems had been solved and they can now continue to operate their normal business), I hope that my own information was incorrect and that they will indeed still be serving pizzas into the wee hours as before.

However, this doesn't look likely. Staff has already been slashed to the absolute bare bones and as of a week and a half ago, patronage has seemed to respond in kind. The Friday night trance DJs are gone, as are apparently the customers. It is sad to see yet another otherwise great restaurant suffer the fate of bad management, and it makes my heart ache for Daniels, whose dream of owning his own place has effectively been crushed.

In a way, this one also hits me a little close to home. Since they opened, I've been involved and in some ways have been a bit of a buzz-creator. I covered them in Real Detroit the weekend after they first opened. I gave them high marks both here and in D-Tales, which was then reported back to me as being a big source of traffic (which I believe, because at the time I was told this the person didn't even know I was the author of these blogs). The following month I organized a Detroit Synergy Supper Club with them. I convinced my friend who organizes the Detroit Guerrillas to hold an event there. Most recently I featured them in an article on Detroit's new gourmet pizzerias in Model D. In a way, I almost kind of felt territorial about the place--as if it were my discovery, my baby.

For me, this isn't just the loss of a top-rate pizza place--and I LOVE PIZZA--nor is it the sad failure of a person I've come to be quite fond of; I almost feel as if it were a personal failure, too. of right now, at this very moment, Taste remains open. Perhaps it won't be for much longer...or perhaps Fate has been a little kinder than has been previously reported to me and the waters have parted and the skies opened, allowing this clever little "pizzabar" to remain open, hopefully for many years to come.
Let's hope so.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Slows Top 10 in the Nation for BBQ Eats

Well, well, Detroit! Aren't we just coming into our own on the national scene?

First, we get some love for our fabulous Detroit-style pizzas from GQ. Then, MORE pizza-love (and a little bit of taco love, and love for this very blog) from the New York Post. And now--the one, the ONLY, Bon Appetit magazine has named not one but TWO Michigan restaurants as being the tops in "relatively new" BBQ joints.

Of course, "relative" is relative--both Slows Bar BQ in Detroit and Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor have been around enough years to no longer constitute as "new." (And hell, in restaurant years--at 4 and 5 years open, respectively--these places might as well have historic designations.) However, I am certainly not about to look a gifthorse in the mouth, especially since I know horses bite.

I will conspicuously avoid speaking on Zingerman's as I continue to have myself convinced that Ann Arbor just simply isn't an extended part of metro Detroit, even though it is becoming increasingly obvious that indeed it really is.

So...Slows. Grats! While I do think this place is wonderful, I think it is wonderful in that "Gee I'm really glad we have a fun eclectic trendy popular place like this in Detroit" sort of way and not so much in that "This just might be some of the best BBQ food in all of North America" sort of way.

BUT. As far as fun eclectic trendy popular places go, this one is certainly on par with any such place you might find in more major-er cities, and in fact might even be hard-pressed to find such a fun eclectic trendy popular place as this in cities like the mysteriously meat-phobic L.A. or Manhattan, where "BBQ" might as well be a four-letter word. And while the food is good--perhaps even really good--I'd still bet a brisket that the whole of the giddy-up South does it better.

BUT. What makes Slows so great isn't necessarily the food--it is how quintessentially Detroit it is, right down to the Ghettoblaster on tap and the bar full of shaggy-haired Detroit hipsters (up to and including shaggy-haired hipster Phillip Cooley, the owner of the joint and a genuine Detroit booster, making a reputation for himself as the guy to go to for help when you want to start a business--just ask anyone who has started a business in the last two years). The music you'll hear will always be a mix of of indie rock, new and old--from Bob Dylan to the Hard Lessons and every bit of rock-and-roll randomness in between.

Trendy, yes. But in that anti-trendy trendy way that is so entirely Detroit. The beers on tap are a fine selection of boutique breweries, representing a number of Michigan brews as well as beer from Oregon, Pennsylvania, and even Sri Lanka. The menu is a clever take on classic deep-South BBQ joint dishes, from the meat, meat, and more meat to the comfort food favorite mac-and-cheese (the one dish here that probably gets more lip service than the piles of meat). The crowd is a revolving collection of hipsters, foodies and Tigers fans. The vibe is 100% Detroit, pure and simple.

There might be better restaurants. And there might be better places for BBQ grub. But if this is the place that has been chosen to rep our city in the national media (presenting Detroit in an all-too-uncommon fun and trendy light), I think Detroit has done pretty well for itself.

Congratulations again, Slows, and thanks for making it work for the rest of us.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Coming to Detroit in September!

The innaugural Detroit Restaurant Week! Details are still very much in the planning stages at this time and little information is available to be shared, but...I can say that Paxahau (the producers of Movement: Detroit's Electronic Music Festival) is on board, and that it is going to be quite the ambitious undertaking.

As a longtime supporter and promoter (to the point of harping) of the wonderful and eclectic culinary scene here in Detroit, I cannot begin to adequately express how excited I am to hear about this! Check back regularly for updates on this hoping-it-will-be historic event--and what better present for a food-loving September baby like myself! Happy birthday to me, indeed!

Upcoming Dining Events

Thursday, June 18th: Wines on the Riverfront—Australia and New Zealand, at Andiamo Detroit Riverfront

Our Wines On The Riverfront events are held every Thursday thru August on our patio facing the beautiful Detroit and Canada Skylines, and are co-hosted by Andiamo Sommelier Lisa Ribaudo, and her wine team. You’ll explore 5 wines paired with Tapas style appetizers prepared by Chef Ed. Enjoy a beautiful setting, along with great food, wine, and a bit of education too!

Where: Andiamo Riverfront, Detroit
When: 6:30PM-8:30PM
Tix: $35.00 plus tax & gratuity

Thursday, June 18th: Third Thursday Cocktail Party at the Scarab Club

Join the Scarab Club and Detroit Synergy for a special third Thursday cocktail party, where Steven Ellis will be stirring up the spirits, with a literary theme. $5.00 cover at the door. Light hors d'oeuvres and cash bar.

In celebration of the Scarab Club's June Literary Celebration our charity partner for the evening is the United Way Reading Village project. Please bring at least one new children's book for kids ages infant through five years. Thank you for supporting this exciting program.

Where: The Scarab Club, Detroit
When: 6:30PM-8:30PM
Tix: $5.00

Thursday, June 18th: DYP Mixer at Fifth Avenue Royal Oak

Join DYP at Fifth Avenue - Royal Oak inside the main bar and charming billiards lounge. Enjoy a laid back atmosphere, drink specials and a game of billiards. The evening begins in the main bar (downstairs) and continues in the billiards lounge (upstairs) @ 8 p.m. Casual attire.

Thursday, June 18, 2009
6:30 pm - until
Fifth Avenue - Royal Oak
215 W. Fifth Street
Royal Oak, MI 48067
(248) 542-9922

DYP is a volunteer-driven organization and we welcome people of all ages and backgrounds to participate. A thirteen-member Leadership Team governs and oversees the organization’s operations and affairs. Getting involved is as simple as attending our meetings and helping out with projects, as needed.

DYP General Meeting
4:00pm - 6:00pm
Team Detroit (South Entrance)
550 Town Center Dr., Dearborn, MI 48126

To RSVP, email

Where: Fifth Avenue, Royal Oak
When: 6:30PM-midnight
Tix: Free admission

Friday, June 19th: The 20/20 Wine Tasting at Opus One

20 Featured Wines
$20.00 per Guest

Join Opus One as we present "Summer in a Glass" a tasting of offerings to drink this Spring and Summer. 20 wines for $20.00 paired with a selection of appetizers from our Chef Tim Gizinsky. This is sure to spark your imagination and educate your palette. Don't miss the newest drink trend this summer "Wine-Tales" a blend of classic cocktail flavors with signature wines.
Call Now for Reservations Space is Limited: (313) 961-7766 Press 1 for Reservations.

Where: Opus One, Detroit
When: 6:00PM-8:00PM
Tix: $20.00

Friday, June 19th: Morton’s of Troy Malbec Tasting

Morton's The Steakhouse explores Argentina's famous Malbec varietal with a Malbec Tasting on Friday, June 19. Enjoy select 2006 thru 2008 medium to full-bodied red wines with ripe fruit flavors of plum and blackberry.

The wines will be paired with Morton's signature appetizers including cheese, broiled sea scallops and sliced tenderloin.

Where: Morton’s the Steakhouse, Troy
When: 6:00PM-7:30PM
Tix: $45.00

Saturday, June 20th-Sunday, June 21st: The Ultimate Martini Overnight at the Holiday Inn Express

A unique and unforgettable overnight getaway awaits you in Downtown Detroit. Come learn how to make the perfect martini's in our University's interactive martini class where you will make your own martini's to taste. For those individuals who do not drink, we have an interactive non alcoholic drink mixing class where you will learn the abc's of mixing great tasting drinks. Later in the evening you will come to full a course dinner. (Dinner menu to be posted shortly).

Beginning at 12:00 Midnight our Old School Pajama Mixer with P- Tyme playing hustle music and giving lessons, card games and for even more fun a dating game. The next morning you can get in your early morning swim in the hotel's pool or workout in the fitness room. You will enjoy a breakfast buffet before checking out. (Breakfast menu to be posted shortly)

Space is limited so register below and do not miss out on what promises to be a fun overnight get-a-way.

Where: The Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites, Detroit
When: 3:00PM-1:00PM
Tix: $99.00 per person (based on double occupancy)

Sunday, June 21st: Duo Escobar at Le Petit Zinc

Duo Escobar is Steve and Dennis, the heartbeat of Grupo Escobar- one of the few Afro-Cuban based bands in Detroit. Their duo of percussion and guitar spreads the repetoire a little further, including Argentinian classics, Flamenco, Samba and more.
Part of the Sunday brunch series at Le Petit Zinc. Music at 12 noon; $1 min. donation added to the bill.

Tuesday, June 23rd & Thursday, June 25th: Wines on the Riverfront—Spain and Portugal, at Andiamo on the Riverfront

Our Wines On The Riverfront events are held every Thursday thru August on our patio facing the beautiful Detroit and Canada Skylines, and are co-hosted by Andiamo Sommelier Lisa Ribaudo, and her wine team. You’ll explore 5 wines paired with Tapas style appetizers prepared by Chef Ed. Enjoy a beautiful setting, along with great food, wine, and a bit of education too!

Where: Andiamo on the Riverfront, Detroit
When: 6:30PM-8:30PM
Tix: $35.00

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Slice of History and Pie: Luigi's

Last week was my Grandma's (or G-Mama, as my two-year-old cousin calls her and a moniker I have since taken up) 74th birthday. I'm very close with G-Mama, and am the only member of the family who doesn't treat her like a feeble-minded elderly woman (we theorize it's because of the whole parent-child vs. grandparent-grandchild dynamic, and I'm the only grandchild not currently wearing diapers). We go out to dinner and we talk politics and foreign affairs; we psychoanalyze the other family members and share privately what we really think about their questionable decisions. G-Mama rocks.

She doesn't like to go anywhere too fancy because "I don't want you to spend all your money on me!"--though last year when we went to the Hill Seafood and Chophouse in Grosse Pointe she enjoyed the hell out of it and I just hid the bill--so I decided to take her to Luigi's in Harrison Township.

Okay, I admit: there was an ulterior motive here. I love pizza. Perhaps I've mentioned this? I love pizza. And Luigi's was just named one of the top 25 pizzas in the country by GQ magazine, so it was high time I gave it another look-see.

But for G-Mama, this was a place that, 50 years ago, she and my grandfather used to go when they were dating, and not much has changed since then. They still use the same plastic red-and-white checkered table cloths, the same cozy dining room strung up with fake ivy and Christmas lights, the same old banquet chairs, the same faux-"terrace" by the entrance, the same squintily dim lighting, and hell, for all I know the same silverware: big on nostalgia and small on elbow room.

The interior of the restaurant, from the website

Luigi's opened in 1953 as a local pizza parlor, and has expanded their menu to include classic Italian fare. Whitefish, lamb chops, linguine alfredo, eggplant parmesan...a pretty generic menu, though from previous trips I can vouch that the dishes are hearty and tasty. Raw oysters are also offered, as any good lake-side restaurant must. (The boater crowd does love their oysters.)

The wine list is nothing to add to the local cannon, but much like the rest of the Luigi's experience, its charm is in its simplicity, and the reason people continue to fill the place on even a Tuesday night is not because of its trendy cuisine or its designer wine list--they go because it feels like home. Sure, it might not be the home they grew up in, but definitely someone's home, and there's still a certain comfort in that. You can almost see the little old Italian lady stirring up sauces in the back, pinching the ear of one of the young whipper-snapper waiters when he tries to rush her.

Okay, maybe I take the old-school Italian eatery analogy too far--those whipper-snapper waiters are predominantly Caucasian females who probably grew up in nearby St. Clair Shores, but still--you get the sense that the little old Italian lady could be back there, barking orders in Italian even though she understands English perfectly well but refuses to speak it.

Yes, Luigi's nostalgic decor is echoed in the equally nostalgic home-cookin'--it's substance over style here. Portions are huge, and the smell that envelops your senses upon walking in--a blast of butter and garlic and heaven. It's cozy, no doubt--and by that I mean the tables are pushed as close together as possible to squeeze in a 75-person capacity, which means the back of your chair will likely be butt-up against the back of someone's else's--but this is all part of its charm. I challenge anyone to visit this east side landmark and not at least fall in love with the charm of the place. If it helps, you can take my G-Mama with you, whose nostalgic recollections of how the place hasn't changed a bit since she and Grandpa dated 50 years ago is sure to melt even the most jaded of hearts.

G-Mama got a gi-normous slab of prime rib ("I'm only ordering it if you let me pay for it." "Yes, Grandma, I will let you pay for it." "Do you promise?" "Yes, I promise." Yeah, right. Oh, G-Mama...), and I opted for a classic pepperoni 'za with butter-parmesan crust. This is exactly what I order from Hungry Howie's, and truth be told, it tasted almost exactly like Hungry Howie's. Which is great, because I love Hungry Howie's! But honestly, the pizza was scrumptious. Yes, scrumptious. Like, "Nom nom nom" scrumptious.

The sauce was exactly what it should be--mild and tomatoey, not pasty and overly-spicy; the pepperoni was just the kind of pepperoni I like best--small, flavorful, and so crispy they curl up at the edges; the cheese was good and gobby; the crust buttery and parmesany; the whole thing greasy and DELICIOUS. This is a classic pizza parlor-style crust, hand-tossed rounds just like you get at, well, Hungry Howie's. It might not be gourmet but it's the kind of pizza you want to eat by the shovelful. The Gourmet Veggie is the one that caught the attention of GQ's Alan Richman (made with fresh broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, yellow squash, portabella mushrooms, red onion, and grated asiago cheese), but on a return trip I will gun for the 5-Star, made with mozzarella, provolone, cheddar, parmesan, and romano cheeses. I love cheese.

We stuffed our faces, laughed, reminisced, talked about the family, and God bless her she even asked about my blogs. Yes, my 74-year-old grandmother is now familiar with the term "blog" and what it means, and has taken a genuine interest in mine...she doesn't even have a computer but damnit she knows what a blog is! It was nostalgic and cozy and wonderful. This is a great place for the unpretentious to go and just have a good evening.

Luigi's is open seven days a week, and they have a lovely patio open in the summertime that is great once fish fly season ends. (And if you have no idea what I'm referring to, you must not be from the east side.) They have a full bar and offer their full menu for carry-out. The crowd is a consistently casual crowd of families, friends, and couples, all east side lake -types (which means they either have a boat or know someone who does--not a yacht, or a sailboat, but the kind you pack full of friends and a few cases of Bud Light...THAT kind of boat crowd). Equally perfect for a non-threatening first date or a night out with G-Mama, Luigi's has the kind of charm that only a place with more than 50 years behind it can have, and that charm is infectious.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Model D: A Southwest Detroit Taco Cart Crawl

Featured this week in Model D:

"It's a sunny Saturday afternoon in Southwest Detroit. I'm having a double espresso at the recently relocated Café Con Leche with two travel writers from New York, one a staunch Detroit sympathizer with his very own pro-Detroit blog and the other with the middle name 'Rocket,' which is just noteworthy in its own right.

'We're about to embark upon a taco cart crawl -- a journey through the energetic, bustling neighborhoods of Southwest Detroit for some of the best street-side vendors of movable meats. There is no room for timidity here; this is a culinary adventure and a rarely enjoyed cultural tour, right here in our own urban backyard..."

(Read the rest of this story by yours truly here.)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Eat at Tom's

Perhaps not the typical everyman placeholder-type establishment that the originator snowclone "Eat at Joe's" phrase refers to, but Tom's Oyster Bar is certainly worth a second look.

I admit to not giving this place a fair shake. Whenever someone would mention "Tom's," I would immediately think of its Royal Oak location, which would immediately make me think of Royal Oak, which would immediately make me think of the overly-trendy and sub-par restaurants that are all the rage in Royal Oak, which would immediately make me think of how much I dislike Royal Oak, which immediately made me react to the mention of Tom's with a dismissive "Ugh."

However, a few days ago I was out walking towards Hart Plaza and was a bit peckish, so I decided to scope out the territory of this one downtown eatery I have so stubbornly resisted. If you'll recall, I sneered at the Metro Times Best of 2009 Reader's Poll where Tom's was voted as having the best appetizers ("I think this is one of those instances where people didn't know what else to put"). Well, I might talk a big game, but I must admit it piqued my curiosity. So off to Tom's I went.

As soon as I walked in I was an immediate sucker for the hand-written chalkboard signs announcing the wine list and the raw bar items (modeled after classic New England fish market fresh catch chalk board signs), the old-fashioned-y enormous wood bar, the waitstaff dressed in crisp shirts and Boston-ish aprons (I don't know what is so distinctly Boston-ish about them, but when I think of what a Boston-ish waiter’s ensemble would look like, this is what I see…that, or a barbershop quartet), and the classic Detroit-style stamped-tin ceiling, all illuminated by the brilliant early afternoon sunlight. The overall effect is of an airy, seaside 19th century pub, and I was smitten. It felt clean, cozy and inviting. I plopped down and studied the wine board, settling on a Late Harvest Riesling from Leelanau Cellars--a deeply honeyed, crisp Michigan wine, and one that sadly many local sommeliers do not choose to keep in their cellars.

From there, it was on to that famed appetizer list: order off the Raw Board and choose from a wide selection of fresh oysters from such shucker hotspots as Prince Edward Island and Virginia, or perhaps try one of the house-smoked appetizers, including salmon, shrimp, and a variety of pates. Hot appetizers run the gamut from seared scallops to crab cakes (as well as steamed mussels served in a cute miniature tin bucket), and cold appetizers boast peel-and-eat shrimp and a variety of sushi (which I’ve heard is only so-so but that’s what they get for trying to do a Japanese dish in a New England-style fish house). The prices are admittedly a little high—most apps will run around $10.00-$12.00, which is a bit north of the standard $6.00-$8.00 for this type of mid-level casual restaurant. However, the offerings here are a little higher-quality than at the average “Joe” establishment, what with the wide range of fresh oysters flown from all over the country as well as the fish smoked in-house daily and the housemade sausage and pate.

I opted for the Charlevoix Whitefish Sausage, since I’ve found that you really just can’t go wrong ordering whitefish anything (and if you agree with my assessment here and are ever out by way of St. Clair, the whitefish pate at the Chuck Muer restaurant the River Crab, served as a precursor to every meal—or at least it was 8 years ago when I was last there—is absolutely outstanding, and even worth the drive). And it was wonderful, served very simply with crackers, horseradish (or some such god-awful seafood dipping sauce), and a lemon. The waiter was even kind enough to bring me some dinner rolls, since I had a mad carb craving not easily satisfied by the menu items.

The rest of the menu deserves a good perusal as well. Tom’s is always crowded at lunchtime and offer a great selection of salads and sandwiches that appeal to a wide range of tastes (though again, $12.99 for a Po-Boy is approaching criminal, and $13.99 for a spinach salad is downright unreasonable). Tom’s also offers a selection of seafood chowders and bisques which I’ve heard are unanimously meh; what can I say, once you’ve had good chowder it’s hard to go back to the standard stuff. The dinner menu is actually the most reasonably priced of the bunch (in fact, some of the fish actually cost less than that spinach salad), offering a pretty average range of fish, chicken, steak, and pasta. Perch, Sea Bass and the like—nothing quite like the Nairagi you can get at Northern Lakes Seafood Co., but good enough when you're hungry for some seafood. For dessert, you can sample a Detroit classic: a Sander’s hot fudge sundae. Or their renowned Key Lime Pie, made with the same recipe for 20 years and lauded for its southern Florida authenticity.

I applaud the presence of the Michigan wine on the menu, but it appears to be a stand-alone. The rest of the wine list hails mostly from California, though the Avalon and Sterling Cabernets listed by the glass makes me happy. The beer list here is outstanding, however, with an extensive list of bottled beers from all over the world. Most are relatively common, but take into consideration that the places where Asahi, Sapporo, and Kirin are stocked are typically not the same places that keep Pilsner Urquell and Spaten Optimator lying around.

And so it is I’ve come to the conclusion: I’ve been a little too hard on Tom’s. It’s got a great vibe and offers an eclectic mix of food and drink, even if some are hits and others misses. The biggest drawback here are the menu items that can’t justify their own high price points (the spinach salad is served with bacon! No other meat, just bacon!), but barring that Tom’s is a fun casual eatery, with a great location right by the Riverfront and GM's world headquarters, making it a perfect place for locals, travelers, and business types alike to meet.

So, uh…sorry about that, Tom.

Upcoming Dining Events

Friday, June 5th: Summer Wine Tastings at Cuisine

Friday June 5, 2009
Join us on the patio or inside
for our 5th annual Summer Wine Tasting series.
This Friday we’ll be celebrating Italy
Complimentary Hors D’oeuvre

Beni di Bastasiolo Wines

Dolcetto d’ Alba
Barbera d’ Alba “Sovrana”
Moscato d’ Asti

Friday evenings
Price per person is $15.00

Monday, June 8th: Vision Cellars Wine Dinner featuring Winemaker Mac MacDonald at Forest Grill

Forest Grill is proud to welcome Mac MacDonald from the highly acclaimed Vision Cellars winery for an exclusive dinner at the Forest Grill. Vision Cellars is a boutique winery located in the Russian River Valley, specializing in award winning, single vineyard Pinot Noirs.

The dinner at the Forest Grill will focus on five wines, paired with five courses, for an unforgettable evening of food and wine. Mac MacDonald will be on hand to discuss the wines, and his vision, while dining alongside the guests for a rare and unique experience.
Please call in advance for reservations.

Where: The Forest Grill, Birmingham
When: 6:30PM-9:30PM
Tix: $85.00 plus tax and gratuity

Wednesday, June 10th: Michigan Beer Dinner featuring Bells Brewery at Maggiano’s Little Italy

Join us for a very unique and special event as our Chefs match up their creative menu with selections from Bells Brewery. Dave Munro from Bells Brewery will be here to discuss the pairings, share with us the history of Bells and answer any questions you may have.
Seating is limited so make your reservations today. Please contact the restaurant directly to make reservations.

Cost includes all applicable taxes and service charges.

Where: Maggiano’s Little Italy, Troy
When: 5:30PM-9:00PM
Tix: $55.00

Thursday, June 11th: Wines on the Riverfront Explore France at Andiamo

Our Wines On The Riverfront events are held every Thursday thru August on our patio facing the beautiful Detroit and Canada Skylines, and are co-hosted by Andiamo Sommelier Lisa Ribaudo, and her wine team. You’ll explore 5 wines paired with Tapas style appetizers prepared by Chef Ed. Enjoy a beautiful setting, along with great food, wine, and a bit of education too!

Where: Andiamo Riverfront, Detroit
When: 6:30PM-8:30PM
Tix: $35.00 plus tax & gratuity

Thursday, June 11th: Royal Oak Restaurant Stroll

Appetizers will begin at 6pm at Mirepoix followed by dinner at D'Amato's at 7pm. Enjoy dessert a bit later at 8:15 at Andiamo and wrap up the evening with a nightcap at 9 at Oak City Grille. Tickets are $50 per person. This event is hosted by Know Advertising. Please register online at or send questions to

Where: Downtown Royal Oak, various locations
When: 6:00PM
Tix: $50.00

Thursday, June 11th: Italian Wine Tasting at Vivio’s in Eastern Market

Enjoy an evening of wines and food from Italy. We are featuring a winemaker flown in direct from Lombardy, Italy. Attendance is limited so you will have an opportunity to meet and chat with the Italian winemaker. Wines will be available that night for sale at Detroit's finest wine seller-Cost Plus Wine Warehouse directly on the corner from us.

Where: Vivio’s Eastern Market, Detroit
When: 7:00PM-10:00PM
Tix: $25.00

Monday, June 1, 2009

BravoBravo Ultimate Dining Package

In addition to a great night of dining and music, the Michigan Opera Theatre Volunteer Association (MOTVA) Young Professionals have taken this year's BravoBravo! fundraising efforts to a new level with the ultimate diner's delight raffle.

BravoBravo! 2009 Raffle

Tickets: $10.00 each

Grand Prize

"The Ultimate Dining Package"

Includes gift certificates from 30 spectacular restaurants participating in BravoBravo! 2009:

Andiamo Restaurant Group
Angelina Italian Bistro
Beans & Cornbread
Bourbon Steak
Cadillac Cafe
Centaur/Town Pump
Chen Chow
Crave Restaurant & Sushi Bar & Lounge
Detroit Beer Company
Espresso Jazzy Cafe'
Jacoby's German Biergarten
La Zingara Trattoria
Majestic Cafe'
The Melting Pot
Mon Jin Lau
Opus One
Slow's BBQ
Small Plates
Vincente's Cuban Cuisine
Wolfgang Puck Grille

PLUS! A cooking class for up to 8 people donated by Canape Catering, a case of frozen food items from Moo Moo's Cuisine, two tickets on the Infinity and Ovation Yacht Charter Cruise for a wine dinner, and $150 basket from Sander's Candy

2nd Prize

"MGM Grand Detroit Overnight Package"

One-night stay at the MGM Grand Detroit Hotel, dinner for two at Saltwater, and gift certificate for Immerse Spa.

Drawing takes place at 9pm on Friday, June 5, 2009; need not be present to win.

Please contact Alexis Ellis via email or by phone to purchase tickets: