Sunday, June 20, 2010

Great Lake: Chicago's Best Pizza Made By Detroiters

Some people really like Chicago-style pizza. I do not. And, in case you've never ever read this blog before, I LOVE pizza. What's not to like, you ask? Well let me tell you: super-thick, super-dry crust stuffed full of consistently mediocre toppings slathered in pools of what can only be described as overdone marinara sauce -- which is really just NEVER good by its own nature, kind of like mayonnaise or ipecac -- equals a big fat steaming pile of FAIL.

I've had a historically ambivalent attitude towards Chicago. People like to talk about all the great a long-time retail worker the thought of spending any of my free time utilizing "shopping" as a leisure activity makes me feel not unlike the way I do after a late-night bender: my head throbs, I find it difficult to bend my knees, and I'm more than a little nauseous. People talk about Navy Pier and the river...we have a river. Maybe you've noticed? It's kind of nice; you should check it out sometime. And people talk about the dining.

Chicago and Detroit have a lot in common. We're both Midwestern cities built around a river. We were both made rich by industrialization. But while Chicago was still little more than a meat-packing town, Detroit was flourishing as one of the richest cities in the country (circa late-1800s...throughout the first half of the 1900s we were THE richest city in the country). THEN Chicago hosted the World's Columbian Exposition (designed in large part by Frederick Law Olmsted who designed Belle Isle...seriously, you should go check out our river), and all of a sudden it was all "OOOOOHH, look at Chicago, we all love it now" and it's been that way ever since.

I sometimes wonder how different things may have turned out had Detroit ever bothered to put a bid on that.

Chicago's okay. In current times it has clearly succeeded where Detroit has massively failed. Some of the neighborhood districts are pretty cool -- Wicker Park, Andersonville. But for the most part...meh, it's a'ight. One of the so-called "arguments" I hear fellow (and I wish I didn't even have to designate these people as such) "Detroiters" often make is that the dining scene is sooooo much better in Chicago. This proclammation also makes me feel not unlike the way I do after a late-night bender, but I'll save that rant for the company of the like-minded where it probably best belongs.

Much like Detroit, Chicago is primarily a blue-collar meat-and-potatoes kind of town. I still hear chefs claim that Detroit is still stuck in this mentality, but I actually disagree on that point--our old-school steakhouses have all but disappeared, and we've seen an uprising of boutique bistros and cross-cultural fusion fare that is worlds removed from the steakhouses of yore.

But NOW I digress. Yep--just now.

Chicago is still stuck in that old steakhouse mentality, which makes most of their dining kind of boring. Plus they tout that wretched pizza, and I think I've made it pretty clear how I feel about THAT. So, Chicago--what've you got for me? Impress me. I'm waiting.

Clearly I'm feeling a bit self-indulgent today; how's THAT for an intro?

Thanks to a hot tip provided to me by someone who should damn well know these things, I found my way to Great Lake Pizza. This in itself is no small accomplishment. Located at 1477 W. Balmoral Ave. in the Andersonville neighborhood, anyone staying in Chicago's downtown area must be prepared for a bit of a drive. I was committed to the idea, and so must you be. In more ways than one.

Great Lake doesn't exactly make it easy to visit their restaurant. In fact, I suspect that they actually want to deter you from visiting. They are only open 5:30-9:30pm Wednesdays - Saturdays. That's all. That's it. And with their 14-seat dining room -- 14 seats -- you've got to get there EARLY to get a table. And I mean EARLY. I got there around 4:30, not realizing they didn't open until 5:30 (Who??? Who does that??? On the weekend??? In Chicago???), and already there was a line. The four people in front of me then immersed me in their Great Lake lore: like stories from a bitter battlefield I heard of hour-long drives only to be turned away at 7:00pm because the restaurant was "filled for the rest of the night," and refusals to accommodate a family because the dining room was not equipped for children's seats, nor was there room for a stroller. If you've watched enough Seinfeld then you know where this is going.

At this point on my Chicago trip I was pretty much over the whole "waiting in line for food" thing. I don't even remember the last time I waited in line to eat before this; utterly ridiculous. Chicago, you have too many fucking people. However, you can keep them, because I like always being able to find a seat at my favorite places.

Anyway, I dipped out to make a booze run at the nearby In Fine Spirits wine shop (Great Lake is a B.Y.O.B. kind of place, which is one cool thing that Chicago does that Michigan's irrationally strict liquor laws does not allow), where I found a plethora of MICHIGAN beers! Ironically a lot of my favorite breweries are actually closer to Chicago than Detroit. Founders! New Holland! Oh happy day...Chicago, maybe you're not so bad after all!

By the time I got back (I may have hung around for a quick 6-bottle wine tasting) the line looked like that^.

Okay, seriously, it's 14 seats inside. This is what 14 seats look like when you can't do a panoramic view. Kind of cute, very simple. They serve water in carafes with plastic cups, the silverware is rolled in hand towels, and they charge a corking/disposal fee for any alcohol you bring in. They also have a selection of various randomness for sale (pasta sauce, a book on bacon, purses), which I can only assume is a small collection of "shit the owners like" which has really no practical or feasible commercial purpose. That right there sounds like a great way to run a business -- the whole ethos is reflected throughout the place.

The daily menu is posted on the wall. Those are your options. That's all. That's it. Don't you DARE try to order a pepperoni pizza, or God save your ever-loving soul, supreme. These are your only options: 1, 2, and 3. If you look closely, you'll see that you are given the choice of adding certain items to certain pizzas. I tried the tomato, homemade mozzarella, aged Dante cheese and herbs PLUS the cremini mushrooms.

I did not order this correctly.

When you walk in, you must line up single-file at the cash register. If you have someone with you, he/she is responsible for securing you a seat, should you be so lucky as to find a table open. The dining room consists of 3 2-tops and one 8-top, making communal-style seating pretty much your only option (unless you get there at 4:30 in the afternoon and wait in line for an hour). You then sidle up to the register when it is your turn. You will know it is your turn because owner Lydia Esparza will look up and glare at you. At this point you must open your mouth and place your order. Do not stutter. Speak loudly and clearly. ANNUNCIATE. When I sort of stammer over the "plus cremini mushrooms" part, I get a terse "What.", but not like a "What" like an "I didn't hear you, can you repeat that?" -- a "What" like a "I goddamn well heard you but I'm going to make you say it again so you will learn to speak more clearly next time." "PLUS CREMINI MUSHROOMS" (SIR YES SIR!). I then present my credit card as a form of payment, a Visa logo being the intangible representation of money which can be exchanged for goods and services.

This was not the right time to do this.

Lydia looks at the card. Then looks at me like I might possibly ACTUALLY be the most ignorant and irritating person who has ever walked the face of the planet EVER, and that by just having to acknowledge my existence she is putting herself out greatly. "You don't pay until you get the pizza," she says through gritted teeth as she glares at her next victim.

"Oh. I'm. Sorry." I slinked off to my hard-won seat, scolded and ashamed.

Then I took this picture (above). Lydia was not happy about this. I received a glare so almighty it made the unused eggs in my ovaries uncomfortable. I slowly put the camera down, bowed my head quietly and put my hands in my lap. No pizza for you, one year.

But despite my most obvious blunders, the pizza came. And OH did it. Piping hot. Fresh, gooey cheese. Decadent cremini mushrooms (one of my favorite varietals, if mushrooms can be called such). Delicate tomato sauce -- as in TOMATO, as in fresh, ripe, red and juicy tomatoes plucked and diced, NOT marinara sauce, nonono. And a crust that must surely have been made with the touch of a god.

What Lydia Esparza (along with her husband, co-owner and co-chef Nick Lessins) may lack in tableside manner she more than makes up for with her dough. That whole coal-burning-oven, brich-oven, stone-oven craze that's happening in the pizza world right now? Pshaw. Lydia and Nick scoff at your stinking stones and bricks and coal. This is all done in a gas oven baby, and at 650 degrees F. They use more than one kind of flour...and that's about all anyone seems to know. But that crust...thick on the outside with a delicate crispness, though still tender and chewy to the tear, and dough-soft on the inside where it cradles the exquisite toppings (all either made in-house or sourced locally, with all of their suppliers listed on the menu board)...this may just be one of the most divine pizza crusts I have ever experienced. No wonder Alan Richman named it Number One Pizza in the Country. My heart will always lie with Supino Pizzeria, but this was other-wordly.

And of course, it takes a Detroiter. Nick and Lydia are Detroit transplants, she from the city and he from the suburbs. So while this may appear to be a win for Chicago, I consider it to really be a win for Detroit. That's right, folks: it took two Detroiters to show Chicago how pizza should be done.

Some things people might not like: Limited hours, limited seating, high prices ($19-23 for a 14'', and that's the only size they come in, that's all, that's it), limited options, no alcohol, and the Soup Nazi takes your order. (Full disclosure: she did warm up a bit as the meal progressed, even smiling at me at one point. I suppose we all have bad days--I was rarely a ray of sunshine when a customer would yell "EXCOOOOSE ME!" from across the store and I would spin around and say "YEAH." with a grimace.) But for pizza lovers...TRUE pizza lovers...this place is worth a pilgrimage.

Just try not to make eye contact.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Supper Club at Foran's Deluxe Diner

Foran’s Grand Trunk Pub is a little slice of Detroit history…not to mention a big slice of craft brew heaven for beer aficionados and locals alike. Named the “Grand Trunk Pub” to honor the building’s history as the Grand Trunk Railroad’s ticket station, Foran’s maintains much of the original building’s 1900s original architecture, from the vaulted ceilings to the exposed brick walls, hardwood floors and brass chandeliers.

Foran’s is a celebration of Detroit through-and-through. With the largest selection of Michigan craft brews you’ll find anywhere (including some hard-to-find favorites like Shorts, Arcadia, New Holland, and Founders, as well as a monthly featured brewery which is Detroit’s own Atwater Block Brewery this month) and an emphasis on all things locally-sourced (breads from Avalon, meats and produce from Eastern Market, Faygo in glass bottles), it’s no wonder that Foran’s is packed full of locals all hours of the day and night. Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name…in Detroit, that place is Foran’s.

Foran’s recently acquired the space next door – formerly Eph’s – to open Foran’s Deluxe Diner. In this space they will expand their menu, and while the Diner itself is not open for regular hours quite yet, their weekly Thursday night Supper Club is a go. This month, Detroit Synergy’s Supper Club will join the Foran’s Deluxe Diner Supper Club on Thursday, June 24 at 6:00PM for a special menu at a very low prix fixe price: only $25 per person, and that includes a glass of wine (NOTE: this price does NOT include tax or gratuity).

~Antipasto Salad
~Prime Rib with twice-baked potato and steamed vegetables
~Ice Cream Sundae
~One glass of wine with entrée

Afterwards, be sure to hang out at the bar next door and enjoy the best crowd in the city with the best beer to match. Because of extremely limited capacity, this will be another non-traditional Supper Club event. There is a strict 25-person limit. You MUST RSVP to in advance.

There is no pre-payment or prix fixe menu for this event; diners will be billed individually at the restaurant.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Real Detroit Weekly: Terry's Terrace

"At first, it would be easy to assume that Terry's Terrace is just another bar taken over by boat-loving folks. But current owners Heather and Nick Ritts (high school sweethearts, by the way), who have owned the place for the past six years, are nothing if not perfectionists. They re-imagined Terry's to be a reflection of themselves and what they like and want to see.

'Hence you won't get any of the live bands cranked up at top volume making conversation impossible. But you will get 99 different beers available by the bottle and 25 on tap. And the gold star: they also carry a wide selection of Michigan craft brews both by the bottle and on tap, including big names like Bells and Cellis White, but also smaller favorites such as Founders and New Holland. Huzzah!..."

Read the rest of the article here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Real Detroit Weekly: Youngers Irish Tavern

"Youngers Irish Tavern in Romeo may be a bit of a hike for some people, but for north Macomb County folks, this place is a go-to hot spot. New for this summer, they just opened an outdoor patio in addition to an upstairs deck with its own bar. On an early Wednesday afternoon, this place was filled with families, retirees, golfers and 20-somethings enjoying some cold beers on a hot day and their $1 Wednesday burger special.

'Yep, you read that right — a buck.

'You want specials? Youngers abides. Monday: half-off pizza; Tuesday: create your own pasta (starting at $3); Wednesday: $1 burgers; Thursday: half-off appetizers; Friday: all-you-can-eat BBQ (with all the fixin's); Saturday: prime rib dinner ... not to mention different drink specials daily.

'And they don't mess around in the kitchen, either. Youngers prepares everything in-house from scratch — from their homemade bread and pizza dough (made fresh daily) to salad dressings and pasta sauces..."

Read the rest of the article here.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Metro Times Best-Of Breakdown 2010 (Staff Picks)

Word to the wise: do not go to Foran's on an empty stomach. Then don't proceed to do several shots of Jameson('s) and drink many dark high-alcohol beers with names like El Mole Ocho. Then don't eat a container full of cold pesto-chicken pasta in about 30 seconds. Just saying.

And now, if I can get these trembles under control, I give my opinion on how other people's opinions are wrong. Or possibly, in this case, right. Let's find out.

Staff Picks

Best New Restaurant — Upscale
Café Via

No argument. Not many new upscale places to choose from, anyway.

Best Discount Splurge
Atlas Global Bistro

Christian Borden is a fucking genius.

Best Fine-Dining Value
Bistro 222

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!! This was going to be my super-top-secret special find!!! DAMN YOU, METRO TIMES!

Best Pre-Theater — Moderate
The Majestic Cafe

Or Union Street, I'm comfortable with either.

Best Service
Due Venti
No kidding? Not that I'm arguing, this just seems like a damn-near impossible category to judge.

Best Return to Roots
Cinco Lagos

Best Mexican in Milford! (*crickets*)

Best Recession Makeover
Big Beaver Tavern
Allow me to add an additional quote from the blurb: "Among the new items is the huge burger whose $12.99 price tag comes with a T-shirt proclaiming that 'I Ate the Big Beaver.'" The jokes just write themselves, people.

Best New Spinoff

Agreed. Me likey some dim sum.

Best New Dining Destination
Grosse Pointe

NFW, I was JUST saying something about this on Facebook! GP is all of 15 minutes away from me and yet I act like it's freakin' Ann Arbor. I greatly enjoyed the Hill Chophouse when I was there a couple of years ago, and I really want to check out Dylan's and Robusto's. And the Dirty Dawg Jazz Cafe since it was named "Restaurant of the Year" by Hour, a designation I'm just a tad bit skeptical of.

Best Reason to Dine in Tecumseh
Evans St. Station

Where the fuck is Tecumseh?

Best Al Fresco in the Vicinity of Downtown Detroit
Le Petit Zinc Creperie & Café

Which is NOT CLOSED. I repeat: NOT CLOSED.

Best Ann Arbor Restaurant
Eve: The Restaurant

She's opening a Cuban-esque place soon too, called Frita Batido.

Best Seafood

Gorgeous interior, but my socks failed to be knocked off by it. Still, stellar service and beautiful inside.

Best Barbecue
Union Woodshop

:O :O :O I'm not even going to say it.

Best Sandwich Shop
Famous Izzy's Restaurant and Bakery

Except for you have to go to Roseville.

Best Sandwich Shop — Downtown Detroit
Lunchtime Global
If only they were open past 5pm I might actually go.

Best Sushi Lounge

It was a-ight. They pretty much lifted their entire sushi menu from Crave, even named some of the rolls by the same name. And $17 for their signature roll? They can keep it. Much prefer Sakana, right across the street.

Best Small Plates
Cliff Bell's

3 words: Duck Confit Biscuit.

Best Thin-Crust Pizza
Supino Pizzeria


Best New Haven Pizza
Tomatoes Apizza


Best Pizza and Wine

YES YES YES YES YES!!!!! (*pounding the table*)
Pant...pant...pant...oh, that was good, just what I needed.

Best Soups
Modern Food & Spirits
Another one that seems like it would be impossible to judge.

Best Upscale Burger
Motor Burger
888 Erie St. E., Windsor, Ontario; 519-252-8004

A burger worth crossing the border for? Hope they don't find the 2 dozen kilos of cocaine in my trunk. I'm just kidding, that much coke would never fit in my trunk.

Best Falafel

Israel is cool. Or not, if you're Palestinian.

Best Pommes Frites
Relax, it just means French fries.

Best Pho
Thang Long


Best Duck

Mmmmmm, duck. Duck confit biscuit. Wait, wrong place. Mmmmm, crispy duck skin.

Best Place to Order a Calamari Appetizer and Bottle of Wine
El Barzón

Your choice: bomb-ass Mexican or bomb-ass Italian. Both under the same roof, and the wine is CHEAP.

Best Corned Beef Hash
Farmer's Restaurant

I heard that place was terrible. I dig the corned beef hash at Woodbridge Pub though, not that this is something I order on any kind of regular basis anywhere.

Best Tacos al Pastor
Los Altos

Screw the beef; where's the pork?

Best Sweet Potato Fries

And probably the only thing I would ever eat here.

Best Crêpes
What Crêpe?

2 words: Mushroom Madness.

Best Hot & Sour Soup
Dong Sing

Heh, you said "dong."

Best Soul Food Restaurant
Beans & Cornbread: A Soulful Bistro

Is this the only soul food place white people know about? I'm sorry for my kind.

Best Italian Restaurant — Non-Chain

Fuck yes.

Best Greek Restaurant
Cyprus Taverna

Again, they're pretty much all the same.

Best Middle Eastern Restaurant
Anita's Kitchen

Another white people joke.

Best Authentic Mediterranean Restaurant
Lebanese Grill

Alright, this list now gets excruciatingly specific so I'm just going to barrel through it down to the next categorical theme.

Best Local Innovation in Middle Eastern Cuisine
La Saj Lebanese Grill

Best Cheap Middle Eastern Restaurant
Beirut Kabob

Best Ethnic Restaurant on a Budget
Aladdin Sweets & Café

Best Ethiopian Restaurant
Taste of Ethiopia


Best Indian Restaurant
Rangoli Indian Cuisine

Best Indian Buffet
Royal Indian Cuisine

Best Indian Street Food
Neehee's Indian Vegetarian Street Food

VERY surprised this one didn't make the readers' poll. Or maybe it did, I gotta be honest I kind of skimmed that category.

Best Vietnamese Restaurant
Da Nang

One of my top 10 favorite finds of 2009.

Best Thai Restaurant

At least it's not Sala Thai. But again, these places are kind of all the same. And Asian people all look the same, too. (Calm it down, I was being sarcastical.)

Best Chinese Take-Out
Gim Ling

Rrrrrr???? This is new to me. I am interested.

Best Retro Experience
Mr. Paul's Chop House


Best Irish Pub Food
Dick O'Dow's

Gus O'Connor's in Rochester (NOT Novi or the other one). Dick O'Dow's has good food, but Gus's has the most and best authentic Irish cuisine. And they have Magner's. Farking Magner's man, bloody hell brilliant!

Best Friendly Neighborhood Bar and Grill
Motor City Brewing Works

FORAN'S!!!!! But yeah, I like this place well enough.

Best Diner
Northside Grill

What the...? Oh, it's in Ace Deuce, that's why.

Best Slow Food
Mind Body & Spirits
You know, there are so many restaurants doing the Slow Food thing now that aren't necessarily proclaiming how they do the Slow Food thing that it makes me kind of over this place, even though I've never been. Gimmicks bother me, even if it's a gimmick I stand behind (sustainability in food, supporting local farmers, etc.). Plus a friend in both the construction and bar business told me that it isn't even CLOSE to being possible to occupy a building and operate a restaurant that is nearly as "green" as they claim to be, and I believe that without doing any additional research whatsoever.

Best 'Blunch'
The Fly Trap

It would be called "brunch" but that requires booze, which they do not have.

Best Street Food Destination
Eastern Market

Southwest Detroit!

Best Restaurant for Cocktail Hour

Ahhhhh, THERE it is!

Best Takeout
Lazybones Smokehouse

Again, another tough category. I mean, pretty much EVERYWHERE does takeout. How do you even begin to qualify it?

Best Restaurant to Spot Anthony Bourdain

I want his job.

Best Restaurant to Mourn
Annam Restaurant Vietnamien
No doubt. Also, Tribute.

Best Hospital Food
Hummous, Oakwood Hospital, Dearborn
Isn't Matt Prentice doing the food at the Henry Ford in West Bloomfield now too? Dude, I wanna go to the hospital for dinner.

Best Rationale for Naming a Restaurant
Parrot Cove Yacht Club


Best Mexican Sit-Down Lunch Counter
La Mexicana #4

Waterford, what what! Don't know if you knew this, but Waterford is FULL of Mexican restaurants and taquerias. Elizabeth Lake Rd. is the new Vernor!

Best Urban Poolside Dining
Lefty's Lounge

I don't know why this makes me think of The Big Lebowski, but it does.

Best Restaurant Where You Can't Find a Seat


Best Food Recommendation from an Olympic Gold Medalist
Buffalo Empañada at the Prickly Pear

That guy's a tool, but the dish sounds yummy. Actually, I don't really know if he's a tool, I just wanted to say that. It seems likely, anyway.

Best Ice Cream
Guernsey Farms Dairy

I LOVE dairy. Dairy dairy dairy. Milk and cheese and ice cream, deeeelicious dairy. If I ever become lactose intolerant, I will die of starvation entirely by choice.

Best Unusual Dairy
Erma's Original Frozen Custard

God bless custard, too.

Best Neighborhood Bakery
Mexicantown Bakery

*tear* Thank you, Metro Times. Thank you.

Best Desserts
Rattlesnake Club

Iridescence too!

Thanks for playing the 2010 edition of "Nicole makes fun of Metro Times readers then acknowledges that the staff still knows what the fuck they're talking about." I look forward to doing this again next year, and maybe (and thanks to a reader for suggesting this) doing one of my own. And it will be the BEST. LIST. EVER. Because I am full of win. That is all.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Metro Times Best-Of Breakdown 2010 (Readers Picks)

Hi there. It's ahhhhhh, it's been awhile, I know. Look, I've just been really busy with...things. You know how that goes, right? So. what's been up? You look well. Been keeping busy? Ha...yeah, this isn't awkward at all.

Okay guys, so my complete lack of original content here lately hasn't escaped my attention, and I can no longer pretend that it may be escaping yours. I've had some lifey stuff to deal with, and some jobby stuff to deal with, and the rest of the time I've been at Foran's (and Ian K. Washington if you take my stool again I swear to Christ). Oh! I've been helping with the FOOD+FUN guide put out by the Downtown Detroit Partnership (the print version anyway)! So, you know, there was that. I guess what I'm saying is, it's not you it's me. I'm just really focused on my career right now and I need to prioritize things that are most important and...WHOA let me stop there, just got a little too Twilight Zoney.

Anyway, I'd like to put this little bit of unpleasantness behind us, can we? To start, I want to begin with one of my favorite things to do: making fun of the readers' picks from this year's Metro Times Best-Of. Oh, people just make me laugh and laugh and laugh sometimes! I know this issue came out, like, two months ago, but like I said--look man, there's a lot of ins and outs, ups and downs...

So without further delay, the snark you've come to know and love and miss so very much (besides, I like ragging on the Metro Times because I STILL DON'T FUCKING WRITE FOR THEM, DO YOU HEAR ME JACKMAN, and I learned from when I was a kid that the best way to get a boy to like you is to make fun of him and beat him up):

Readers' Picks
Some people shouldn't be allowed to feed themselves.

Best New Restaurant
Best Steakhouse — Wayne County
We're off to a good start. Let's see how long this lasts. PS, there's like a MEEEEELION categories here, and no "Best Happy Hour"??? Or maybe there's a separate section for that, my time is limited people. Either way, Roast should win that too.

Best Restaurant to Take Out-of-Towners
Best Barbecue — Wayne
Best Beer Selection in a Restaurant
Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $50 — Wayne
Slows Bar-B-Q
And here we go. Look, we get it: you people love it. There are now two different trendy BBQ places downtown set to open soon that are going to try to compete with it, but it won't make a lick of difference because you fucking people LOVE it and nothing is ever going to change that, especially you suburbanites who I'm pretty sure think that this is the only restaurant in the whole entire city of Detroit. Oh, to be Phil Cooley...or at least have his eyes, he's got dreamy eyes.
(NOTE: My pithy comments are in no way a reflection of how I feel about Slows. I actually think it's a great place for this city and the fact that it has received so much favorable national press is a HUGE asset for Detroit. Phil Cooley and his partners have done an amazing job creating a place that is welcoming and fun for everyone who walks in the door, and that's what has made it so successful. Congratulations to them on that; they should be very proud. My ONLY gripe is that people from outside the city only seem to know/pay attention to this place, and I just wish THAT at least was different. However, at least this is something positive that they know about, and that right there is good enough. I wouldn't be me if I didn't snark, but in my heart of Detroit hearts I mean no offense so don't confuse it, k? Making fun of suburbanites here, not Slows or its ownership.)

Best Romantic Restaurant — Wayne
The Whitney

Giggidy giggidy giggidy giggidy. (<----that's a reference to my old "my future husband" joke. Which I am resurrecting effective immediately. Giggidy.) Best Romantic Restaurant — Oakland county
Melting Pot

Nothing more romantic than being stuck in a private dining room with someone else's screaming kid as you skewer and boil your own raw meat, I say.

Best Wine Selection in a Restaurant
Best Romantic Restaurant — Macomb county

This is so full of fail I can't even acknowledge it.

Best Romantic Restaurant — Washtenaw County
The Earle

This is what I keep hearing, from at least one trusted source (and there ain't many of those). I'll go if someone else drives and buys.

Best Restaurant View
Coach Insignia

Up until recently, I would have agreed, but the water-level panoramic view of the Riverfront at Forty-Two Degrees North beats all. I am also a huge fan of the patio at It's a Matter of Taste, as you can see in the June issue of 944 Detroit.

Best After-Hours Restaurant — Wayne
Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $15 — Wayne
Best Coney Island — Wayne
Lafayette Coney Island

Oh, Jesus Christ. I would say "best" only if it were "only." And it's not, btw.

Best After-Hours Restaurant — Oakland
Best Coney Island — Oakland & Washtenaw
Leo's Coney Island

Guys, there are other after-hours places besides Coney Islands. Just FYI. How about Como's? That's an improvement at least.

Best Coney Island — Macomb
Best After-Hours Restaurant — Macomb
Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $15 — Macomb
Best Late-Night Eatery
National Coney Island

Best After-Hours Restaurant — Washtenaw
Fleetwood Diner


Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $15 — Oakland
Fly Trap

Okay, yeah. Maybe Pete's Broadway Cafe too.

Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $15 — Washtenaw
Jerusalem Garden


Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $50 — Wayne
Tie: Mario's
4222 Second Ave., Detroit; 313-832-1616

Okay, first of all, WHO can possibly spend less than $50 at Mario's (a). (b) I should just stop fighting the Slows phenomenon and learn to just accept it. I could argue that there are dozens of other quality under-$50 restaurants in the downtown area and if you people would just give them a chance you would see that there really is something out there other than Slows, which isn't to say that Slows isn't good or that it doesn't provide a fantastic experience, it's just that I'd like for you to broaden your horizons a bit and really experience the city and see all it has to offer, that's all...but it would be a waste of breath. Phil Cooley has dreamy eyes.

Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $50 — Oakland

Only if I'm not eating.

Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $50 — Macomb
Best Steakhouse — Macomb
Mr. Paul's Chop House

Under $50 at Mr. Paul's??? Did I miss something?

Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $50 — Washtenaw

You've got to be fucking kidding me. I think it costs $50 just to walk in the door. HAHA, jokes about how expensive Zingerman's is!!! LOL!!! In all honesty, yes, it will be under $50--but remember, we're still talking sandwiches here and this ain't the under $15 category.

Best Italian Cuisine — Wayne, Oakland & Macomb

Excuse me, my stomach just flip-flopped.

Best Italian Cuisine — Washtenaw
Never even heard of it.

Best French Cuisine
Le Petit Zinc
Sorry, CLOSED.
RETRACTION: Not closed. Thank you to my future husband for doing the fact checking I *should* have done myself and kindly informing me.

Best Greek Cuisine
Pegasus Taverna
They're pretty much all the same.

Best Eastern European Cuisine
Polish Village Cafe

They're pretty much all the same.

Best Mexican Cuisine — Wayne
Xochimilco Restaurant

How about, only Mexican Cuisine in Wayne County people know the name of! I'll take a $1.25 taco truck carnitas taco ANY. DAY.

Best Mexican Cuisine — Oakland
Zumba Mexican Grille

How about, only Mexican Cuisine in Oakland County people know the name of! I'm fighting a losing battle here. Is Milford still Oakland County? Cinco Lagos!

Best Mexican Cuisine — Macomb
El Charro

How about...oh, fuck it.

Best Mexican Cuisine — Washtenaw
Tie: Tio's
La Fiesta Mexicana

How about I have no idea.

Best Caribbean Cuisine
Bahama Breeze

Must mean "only." Jerk spicy and tin drums does not a Caribbean restaurant make.

Best African Cuisine
Blue Nile

At least it's not Taste of Ethiopia. Which is the other option.

Best Chinese Cuisine — Wayne


Best Chinese Cuisine — Oakland
P.F. Chang's

What, we don't like Hong Hua anymore? Does Hong Hua even still exist? OH, SNAP, Mon Jin Lau lost!?! :O

Best Chinese Cuisine — Macomb
Tie: Golden Harvest
P.F. Chang's

Wok Inn, bitches!!!

Best Chinese Cuisine — Washtenaw
Great Lakes Chinese Seafood

I'm useless here.

Best Thai Cuisine — Wayne County
Bangkok 96

They're pretty much all the same. x4

Best Thai Cuisine — Oakland
Siam Spicy

Best Thai Cuisine — Macomb
Sy Thai Shore Restaurant

Best Thai Cuisine — Washtenaw
Tup Tim Thai

Best Indian Cuisine — Wayne


Best Indian Cuisine — Oakland

Best Indian Cuisine — Macomb
Four-way tie; Indo Pak
27707 Dequindre Rd., Madison Heights; 248-541-3562
New Delhi
37222 Dequindre Rd., Sterling Heights; 586-264-3333
Rangoli Indian Grill
44631 Mound Rd., Sterling Heights; 586-726-8811
The Chettinad
2079 15 Mile Rd., Sterling Heights; 586-446-9430
Good goddamn, look at all this damn Indian food in the MC!

Best Indian Cuisine — Washtenaw
Raja Rani
400 S. Division St., Ann Arbor; 734-995-1545
307 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-663-1500

There's a lot of Indian places, huh?

Best Middle Eastern Cuisine — Wayne

Don't argue with the Arabs. Thees guy, he makes the BEST falafel, thees guy over here.

Best Middle Eastern Cuisine — Oakland
Anita's Kitchen

I hear conflicting things about this place. White people love it, Arabs think it's disgusting. Let's see, whose opinion should I lean towards...

Best Middle Eastern Cuisine — Macomb
Cedar Garden
Never been.

Best Middle Eastern Cuisine — Washtenaw
Jerusalem Garden

Heard good things.

Best Korean Cuisine
Wasabi Korean and Japanese

I like.

Best Japanese Cuisine
Tie: Benihana
Noble Fish
I half agree.

Best Cheap Breakfast — Wayne
Honest John's
Are they still open since the owner left?

Best Cheap Breakfast — Oakland
Club Bart

Only if you don't get the bottomless mimosas. Which are cheap in their own right, but a "cheap breakfast" that does not make.

Best Cheap Breakfast — Macomb
Phoenix Coney

I think I've been there. Where's it at again? Is it by the Clem?

Best Cheap Breakfast — Washtenaw
Tie: Beezy's
20 N. Washington St., Ypsilanti; 734-485-9625
Northside Grill
1015 Broadway, Ann Arbor; 734-995-0965


Best Breakfast or Brunch — Wayne
Russell Street Deli

When I think "brunch" I think "booze," which they do not have. Everything else, sure.

Best Breakfast or Brunch — Oakland

I can agree with this, though I know a few other places that I wish to keep secret lest you people flood them, too.

Best Breakfast or Brunch — Macomb
The Pantry

Been AGES, but was always good.

Best Breakfast or Brunch — Washtenaw
Café Zola

THAT's the one I keep confusing with Detroit's Chez Zara! Oh, LOL @me!

Best All-Around Buffet
Palette Dining Studio
If the words "best" and "buffet" just HAD to be in the same sentence.

Best Soul Food — Detroit
Steve's Soul Food Restaurant

Best Soul Food — Suburbs
Beans and Cornbread

I like how separate counties didn't get their own. What are you trying to say, guys? Hmmm? I just discovered this new place out in Grand Blanc...hell if I can remember the name of it, but DAMN good cornbread.

Best Sushi
Noble Fish


Best Barbecue — Oakland
Memphis Smoke

Not even good.

Best Barbecue — Macomb
Lazybones Smokehouse

Tug-off-the-bone style dry-rub ribs, if memory serves.

Best Barbecue — Washtenaw
Blue Tractor
They serve beer in cans ironically. They get my vote!

Best Vegan or Vegetarian
Inn Season Café

But why?

Best Seafood Restaurant — Wayne
Detroit Fish Market
Hahahahahahahaha-CLOSED! This place blew anyway. HARD. Best runner-up: Saltwater. Or, hell, the tuna sashimi at Wolfgang Puck is actually even better and you need to start believing me when I say this because I am always always right.

Best Seafood Restaurant — Oakland
Lily's Seafood

Northern Lakes.

Best Seafood Restaurant — Macomb
Red Lobster

Aw, shucks--I suppose I could have expected nothing less from my Macomb County brethren. Which is funny because they all live near Lake St. Clair and there's A LOT of seafood places along Lake St. Clair. But Red Lobster is for the seafood lover in you, and really, who can resist those cheddar biscuits?

Best Seafood Restaurant — Washtenaw
Real Seafood Company

Best Steakhouse — Oakland
Ruth's Chris Steak House

I guess. It's difficult to be impressed by a steakhouse anymore.

Best Steakhouse — Washtenaw
The Chop House

And as an alternate for Wayne County aside from Roast, I submit: the booby bar. Seriously. The Coliseum or the Penthouse Club specifically, but I have yet to find a booby bar steak or burger that doesn't put most others to shame. And they have lunch specials!

Best Wings
Buffalo Wild Wings
I do loooooove me some spicy garlic sauce (I put it on pizza!), but this award should go to Sweetwater Tavern.

Best Burger — Wayne
Miller's Bar

Not by a long shot, but it's got the best kitcsh factor.

Best Burger — Oakland
Red Coat Tavern

Best Burger — Macomb
Five Guys Burger and Fries


Best Burger — Washtenaw
Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger


Best Neighborhood Pizza — Wayne
Supino Pizzeria


Best Neighborhood Pizza — Oakland
Best Pizza in a Bar — Macomb

So much pizza in this area and you all always vote for Buddy's.

Best Neighborhood Pizza — Macomb
Jet's Pizza

Oh hell, why not Little Caesar's Hot-n-Ready? :P

Best Neighborhood Pizza — Washtenaw
Pizza House

Only when you're drunk.

Best Brewpub or Microbrewery — Wayne
Best Pizza in a Bar — Wayne
Motor City Brewing Works

I like this place. I don't think it wins at either, but I do like this place.

Best Pizza in a Bar — Oakland
Green Lantern
Okay, yes.

Best Pizza in a Bar — Washtenaw

Best Gourmet Pizza
Amici's Pizza

I'm getting bored with this.

Best Deli — Wayne

Best Deli — Oakland
Al's Famous Deli


Best Deli — Macomb
Tie: Bread Basket Deli
2201 E. Eight Mile Rd., Warren; 586-754-0055
New York Deli
2715 E. 14 Mile Rd., Sterling Heights; 586-826-9330; three more locations in Macomb County

Best Deli — Washtenaw
Zingerman's Deli

Best Brewpub or Microbrewery — Oakland
Woodward Avenue Brewers
FAIL! How does Bastone take "Best place to spend under $50" but it DOESN'T take this one? *sigh*

Best Brewpub or Microbrewery — Macomb
Dragonmead Microbrewery
See, everything else has its own separate categories ("neighborhood pizza" vs. "pizza in a bar")--so why are the brewpubs or microbreweries getting the short stick here? Should be: Best Microbrewery, Tie: Kuhnhenn Brewing Co. & Dragonmead. Best Brewpub: Sherwood Brewing Co.

Best Brewpub or Microbrewery — Washtenaw
Arbor Brewing Co.

Ugh, that's as bad as the WAB. Beer, meh; food, more meh. JOLLY PUMPKIN!!!! I would also accept Grizzly Peak.

Best Wine Bar

Only wine bar. Wait, there's one in Rochester now too, isn't there? Oh well, Vinotecca by default.

Best Crêpes
Good Girls Go to Paris

I am also a big big fan of What Crepe?

Best Appetizers in a Restaurant


Best Bakery — Wayne
Avalon International Breads
No. No no no no no, I have to put my foot down here. Rock-hard bone-dry $3.50 scones made with green-safe organic hippy-dippy flour does not the best bakery make. Seriously, guys, I've held my tongue with this long enough and I cannot do it any longer. Everything in this place is overpriced which I wouldn't even mind but for the fact that it just simply isn't that stupendous. You want bread, pastries, sandwiches--have you even BEEN to any of the Mexican bakeries in SW Detroit, or the Asian bakeries in Madison Heights, or the Arab bakeries on Warren in Dearborn? These places are producing FAR better breads and pastries at a fraction--A FRACTION!--of the price. Now granted, they lack that trendy-Detroit-scenester factor you all seem to love so much, but SERIOUSLY. $3.50 for a dry-ass scone AND I have to wait an hour for a table? Time to branch out, people. I know that all the places I just named are ethnic, but I promise you'll be okay. I do like the sea salt chocolate chip cookies though.

Best Bakery — Oakland
Pinwheel Bakery

Best Bakery — Macomb
Tie: Mannino's Bakery

Best Bakery — Washtenaw
Zingerman's Bakehouse

Best Desserts in a Restaurant
Traffic Jam

You know, dessert is not something I pay a lot of attention to. Unless it's a cheese plate. Which they have here. So I'll keep an open mind.

Best Sweets Shop
Astoria Pastry Shop


Best Sit-Down Ice Cream Shop
Coldstone Creamery


Best Indie Coffee House — Wayne
Café 1923


Best Indie Coffee House — Oakland
AJ's Cafe

Sure. I do like Bean & Leaf though.

Best Indie Coffee House — Macomb
Che Cosa
Damn, that place is still around? I used to chain smoke in there while all the Italians watched soccer. Oh, to be young again.
UPDATE: I think I confused this place with a different place. This place is in the dowtown Clem; been there once or twice during the fireworks in between rawk music sets, seem to remember something fruity in a blender. Wasn't that impressed.

Best Indie Coffee House — Washtenaw
Ugly Mug Café & Roastery

I just like the name. But Comet Coffee wins here, and even *I* know that.

The Untouchables
The 14 restaurants that stubbornly remain at the top of their category

Best View: Coach Insignia
At least until somebody else builds a restaurant 700 feet in the air.
Forty-Two Degrees North.

Best River View: Rattlesnake Club
You may not have the most commanding view of the river, but the fine-dining razzle-dazzle says you found the right spot.

Technically it's not even *on* the river. Forty-Two Degrees North!

Best Splurge: The Lark
With a menu whose prices might send somebody's eyebrows jumping off their head, this is the place to spend freely — that $90 serving of caviar and crème fraîche, for instance.

Splurge, yes. Best, no. I want to splurge at Bourbon Steak, THAT would be a fun night.

Best Vegetarian-Vegan: Inn Season Café
Inn Season was there first, and keeps up its game, building relationships with farmers, shopping day-to-day for freshness, and doing it all with a high level of creativity.

I like the sustainable thing, but I also like meat.

Best Bakery: Avalon International Breads
Avalon was among the first quality stores to take root in Detroit's Cass Corridor; today, they continue to grow.

I've said my piece.

Best Italian Chain: Andiamo's
No contest. When you have a miniature empire of some of the finest Italian restaurants in metro Detroit, you're going to win again and again. Capisce?

Bacco, what? Oh right, not a chain. Still: Bacco. Or Cafe Cortina, which I have yet to try but would venture a guess that it's better than Andiamo.

Best Mexican Restaurant: Señor Lopez Taqueria
Southwest Detroit brims over with Mexican cuisine, but it's this unpretentious little spot on Michigan Avenue that wins our critics' hearts year in and year out.

Taqueria Lupita.

Best Polish Restaurant: Polish Village Café
With low prices, high quality, a full bar, and a basement where a portrait of FDR has probably been up since 1931, you can't beat PVC's authentic vibe.

Duck blood soup!

Best Square Deep-Dish Pizza: Loui's
Not only is their pizza unbeatable, also winning are the waitresses who call you "Hon'" and an interior adorned with empty Chianti bottles.
Who? Louie's? Luigi's? What is this supposed to be?

Best Burger: Redcoat Tavern
Not only is this the metroplex's top burger as long as we can remember, the menu has lots of winners, and the bartender has a bent elbow.

Mmmmmm, beef. Bourbon Steak and Roast both threaten to take this title, but this is still a damn good burger.

Best Dim Sum: Shangri-La
In the West Bloomfield location, you'll find metro Detroit's most dazzling array of authentic Chinese treats.

Pork buns!

Best Sushi: Noble Fish
Fake Shinto shrines, faux tatami surfaces and a dozen "lucky cats" at the cash register don't necessarily mean good sushi. But this unassuming little shop has a no-frills café in the rear that serves sushi of outstanding quality.


Best Al Fresco: La Dolce Vita
Not the grandest outdoor dining area in metro Detroit, but perhaps it's the contrast between the walled-in, vine-covered oasis and the gritty urban streetwall it hides behind. Either way, it's like a bit of Tuscany just off McNichols.

I like how this was put. Jackman, we should work together.

Best Coney Island: Lafayette
Is there any better place to rub shoulders at 2:30 a.m.? If there is, we haven't seen it yet.

Except for that it's gross, but lucky for you you're too drunk to know that.

BravoBravo 2010 Reflections (It's About Food)

All things evolve over time. For 11 years, BravoBravo! has been the premiere social event of the summer, attracting thousands of the metro area’s young, sexy professionals and arts supporters, raising nearly a million dollars since its inception for the Detroit Opera House and Michigan Opera Theatre.

In that time, the buzz caught on. Now it seems that every private group and public organization tries to follow the same successful formula BravoBravo! put into place so many years ago: let’s get a bunch of restaurants and some bands and voila!, instant hot party. True, for a time, but the formula has gotten a bit stale with so many others copying it, and BravoBravo! has a reputation to uphold, after all.

This year ushered in a whole new era for BravoBravo! The event has indeed evolved, and the 2010 fête was certainly a departure from previous bashes. The loose “fashion” theme was a bit incohesive in concept—after all, isn’t this event always about being fashionable?—but seeing some of Detroit’s top designers standing with their models in the red carpet entryway was a nice introduction to the theme.

From there the theme became less about “fashion” and more about vibe: new this year, individual rooms within the Opera House were all done up in their own themes and sponsored by different metro Detroit entities. The food, drink and music within each room was carefully paired with the room’s theme, and providing the artistic work in each room were our local designers (from such recognizable names as Wound Menswear, Femilia Couture, and Joe Faris) as well as work from local artists such as Camilo Pardo and Shawn Lee.

The “Miami Room,” sponsored by Ambassador Magazine, had Bacardi mojitos, food from Vicente’s Cuban Cuisine, a DJ spinning salsa and timba music, paper palm trees and bongos. The “New York Room,” sponsored by Motor City Casino, featured Technicolor cupcakes and a wild Studio 54 theme complete with fuzzy white couches and disco balls. The “Tokyo Room,” a crowd favorite, was sponsored by the Metro Times and featured auto-tune karaoke in between sets from Detroit’s own prog-fuzz-indie rockers Silverghost. Beverages were from TY KU and food from Birmingham’s ultra-trendy new Asian-fusion spot 7 Restaurant & Ultra Lounge. These room themes for BravoBravo 2010: Destination Fashion were destinations unto themselves, and signify a whole new direction for this event. The “London Room” (sponsored by 944 Magazine) even featured charity gaming tables, a first for BravoBravo (paired well with Gentleman Jack and Woodford Reserve and roasted tenderloin from the Capital Grille—how perfectly proper!).

Another new element to this year that we haven’t really seen before is the emphasis on local musicians and artists. As an event designed to promote and support the arts, there has previously been a noticeable lack of local artists (particularly in the musicians). This year it was ALL about Detroit: from the designers to the photography on display to the bands who played. Detroit’s hottest band of the moment Will Sessions Funk Big Band with Monica Blaire headlined the main stage with a prime 9:30-11:00pm spot. Other noteworthy local acts included Detroit techno godfather Kevin Saunderson and Paxahau residents John Johr and Chuck Flask playing outside in the extended “Detroit Room,” sponsored by Metromix and Real Detroit Weekly and featuring food from Detroit favorites Slows Bar-BQ, Detroit Beer Company, Jacoby’s German Biergarten, Majestic Café, and Sanders with Hard Luck Liquor serving drinks (pun intended?).

With all of this new focus on different themes and promoting local artists, the one thing that made BravoBravo! in the past became almost entirely deemphasized: the food. Where before it was the main focus of the event, it kind of took a backseat this year—nowhere on the website or in promotional print was there an easily accessible list of participating restaurants, there seemed to be far fewer than in previous years (somewhere around 40 compared to 65+ in previous years, if memory serves), and in turn it seemed a lot of places sort of phoned it in, so to speak. While it is certainly a difficult task to balance all of these different (and many new) elements, I’d like to see the food once again become part of the focus and not get so downplayed in favor of the fashion—we’re not ALL starving models here, after all. Plus, McDonald’s? Really??? Surely Detroit can do better than that.

But that aside, BravoBravo! has finally become a true celebration of Detroit, and after over a decade still continues to be the hottest destination of the year.

For pictures from this year’s event, check out Metromix’s gallery and Picture This City’s gallery.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Real Detroit: Como's

"Como's has been a Ferndale institution since 1961. They're just as popular on today's scene as they were back when your parents hung out, with great pizza and late weekend hours, during which they serve their great pizza until long after the bars have closed (seriously: if you think it's busy at 10 p.m., you should see it at 3 a.m.). You don't really need much else — but add a huge outdoor patio and daily drink specials ($3 wells, $1 PBR drafts and $3.25 24oz. Bud Light — all day every day), and you've got yourself a whole lot of win over here on this corner of 9 Mile and Woodward.

'Como's is a traditional Italian-American restaurant serving classic dishes like Veal Marsala, Chicken Siciliano, Shrimp Scampi and a variety of pastas served with meat, red, palomino and butter sauces. The appetizer selection is a long list of deep-fried favorites (basically, if you can bread it and drop it in a fryer, they've got it). But when people say 'Como's,' people mean pizza..."
Read the rest of the article here.