Thursday, November 29, 2012

[HOT LIST] College food (Midtown edition)

Honest?John's. Photo from Flickr.
Editor's note: Your HBIC has been very busy lately and needs some help around the house. Please meet Stefanie Cobb, EID's new Co-Conspirator! She sent me a lovely email asking for my guidance and because flattery will get you everywhere I decided to adopt her. She is in college at WSU and thus an expert on this particular HL topic. Please do not call her an "intern;" she is getting paid and is not doing my dishes or laundry. Speaking of which, I still need someone to not get paid to do my dishes and laundry. Who isn't me. --XO, NR

Midtown is crawling with students and artsy types (who may or may not actually be students; it can be hard to tell). University life in Detroit might not offer the same kind of … ah, amenities as those your buddies have while dorming it up at Central or MSU, but one thing remains consistent across all college campuses: college students eat a lot of crap. With a diet primarily comprised of all things non-perishable, microwavable, and – most importantly – cheap, our aspiring academics long for something other than that which can be ordered from the Dollar Menu. (But thank you Wayne State for being so sensitive to students’ dietary needs by putting a McDonald’s right there in the student center.)

Thankfully Midtown offers a ton of grub on the cheap, and it’s actually pretty good stuff. There’s a little something for everyone – jocks and hipsters, vegans and meatatarians – that will please the needs of a more demanding palate while also keeping within a college budget. (Meaning: you’ll still have plenty of beer money leftover.) WSU and CCS students and all you post-grad twenty-somethings still clinging to your college glory days by hanging around in campus bars and discussing linguistics while doing shots because you’re just not ready to face the real world yet, rejoice! Here is your Hot List.

#1 The Bronx Bar (4476 2nd Ave.)
Although they may hold the unofficial title as Midtown’s hipster headquarters, this majestic little dive bar, found in the heart of the university district, is just as much a haven for the scholarly set. It’s a prime location for posting-up, not only because their sandwiches are cheap and massive, but they also have WiFi, (for studying Facebook homework) AND a Bloody Mary bar on the weekends! For those who prefer not to risk mixing homework with booze, great news, you’ll be able to give their cheap beer and Jamo shots all the attention they deserve. The recent addition of a “patio” (which is really just an outdoor smoking lounge) now allows daylight to seep in … still not sure if that’s an improvement (so much bright light makes day drinking hard), but as fun as the Bronx is around midnight, shooting the shit with Charlene during the day is a Detroit rite of passage. Big-ass burgers, cheap booze, student-friendly atmosphere, friendly serv… well, you get served anyway (eventually); this is what makes the Bronx the shit.

Chili cheese fries at Honest?John's. Photo from Flickr.
#2 Honest?Johns (488 Selden)
Located on Seldon between Second and Cass, this ugly duckling has great breakfast, great burgers and great beer. The laid-back wait staff, dark atmosphere, and total locals vibe (along with America’s Number 1 Jukebox) all set the tone for an ideal chill spot. Along with the menu’s healthy and not-so-healthy (*cough* Mac + Cheese Wedges *cough*) options, you’ll find the board of weekly food and drink specials mounted among their collection of witty neon signs proclaiming such sage insight as “Sobriety Sucks” and “Men Lie.” Whether you’re strolling through for a quick lunch, a drunken post-bar gorge session (that’s right, their kitchen is open until 2am), or a much-needed omelet to remedy Sunday morning’s hangover, expect to leave with a full belly and plenty of change to spare.

#3 Lefty’s Lounge (5440 Cass Ave.)
While this joint is pretty much the polar opposite of what was formerly noted as being a “hipster headquarters,” Lefty’s Lounge is the epitome of classic college sports bars. Their menu includes all the deep-fried finger-foods one would hope to scoff down at a sports bar, but their pizza is the real homerun. It’s cheesy, appropriately greasy, and the sauce to crust ratio is on point. Aside from the delight that this piping hot pie may bestow upon your taste buds, its low price makes it all the more happy. As part of their happy hour, which runs Monday through Friday from 11am to 7pm, personal two-topping pizzas are only $5.99, along with cheap pints, pitchers, well drinks, and Long Islands. This promised land of cheap eats is conveniently located at the base of the Belcrest Apartments, almost exactly between Wayne State and CCS. They also have trivia on Wednesdays, karaoke on Fridays, and a ballpark count of ten big-screen TVs, making it virtually impossible to miss a game no matter where you are in the room. Lefty’s might not have dining precedence with many of Midtown’s student body (considering that hipsters and sports bars don’t exactly go hand in hand), but anyone who would sincerely dispute the awesomeness of cheap pizza and booze … what, are you new here or something?

#4 Cass Cafe (4620 Cass Ave.)
You’re in college. You want to show people how smart and cultured and refined and learned you are. Cass CafĂ©, just a brisk walk over from the WSU campus at Cass and Prentis, is the place to do that, and on the cheap. On the walls are works from local artists, a restaurant/bar-cum-gallery that has been doing it since before it was cool, and on the menu is a wide variety of items from their honey sriracha wings to a host of vegetarian and vegan options. While a place of this seeming caliber might seem to be too expensive, rest assured it is situated well within the ranks of Midtown’s affordable chow-houses. If you want to be all smart-seeming without hanging out in the library (and, let’s face it, no one is going to see you being all smart there), this is the place to be. AND they have WiFi. For, you know, reading the Economist.

#5 Harmonie Garden Cafe (4704 Anthony Wayne Dr.)
Stop everything. Go here. Their falafels are the bomb-diddy-bomb-diggity. They don’t serve booze, but they do serve massive plates of Mediterranean deliciousness and these crisp little heaven-balls are the way to go. Or anything else for that matter. And also, ridiculously cheap. It’s frumpy and a tad dumpy, but if you’ve made it this far in your schooling you know you should never judge a book by its cover or a restaurant by its awning.

Bubbling under Jet’s Pizza, Motor City Brewing Works, Sgt. Pepperoni’s, The Potato Place, Circa 1890 Saloon, Seva, Woodbridge Pub