Detroit, Food

So Fresh and So Clean

On the modest Corktown corner of Howard and Trumbull, next to the Alpha Kappa Alpha Foundations building (don’t try to Google it, nothing comes up)…down the road from construction on some building or another, next to a bright, optimistic detour sign (JEFFERSON CLOSED AT YZERMAN DR. FOLLOW DETOUR), lies Le Petit Zinc. French slang for “local bar” (according to their website, French bars used to coat their bar tops with zinc metal), Le Petit Zinc is a one-room creperie and cafe with an adjacent patio and garden that would make Miss Honey jealous. And much like Matilda, I’ve found a safe, happy place.

Two shades of yellow cover the walls, framing a vibrant mural of some French garden, butting up to the pea green window trim; the windows are guarded by small ceramic roosters and little vases of quietly dying flowers. I’ve been gone for a minute, dealing with an acute neurological condition that threatened my vision and balance. This is my first at-bat since being taken off the DL. And I’m psyched.

 A clean sandwich–that’s all I wanted for my return. And guess what I got? The cleanest sandwich.

I ordered the Oeuf du Crudites, which should be French for flawless egg sandwich: hard boiled eggs with tomato, carrots, and a dream of a mayonnaise, all on a crunchy, delicious split baguette, alongside mixed greens dressed in a lovely vinaigrette.  That, and several mugs of Great Lakes coffee. Rosamaria ordered the tomato, mozzarella, prosciutto, basil sandwich (without prosciutto). She let me have a bite; perfectly balanced and aromatic. All Petit Zinc’s ingredients are local and organic. That good, down-home Detroit produce…I’m convinced there is little that competes.

Tiny spoons, espresso and coffee, water in fresh glasses and an order of a Nutella/banana crepe with a side of fresh blueberries to share…we sat and talked about my condition (I, periodically, needed to wink from time to time; kills the double vision) and how Rosamaria only orders that sandwich every time (it’s that good). Sarah–also of Too Full, Detroit fame–joined us for a minute; I, in awe of her gorgeous skin and rad hair. My vision would momentarily go bunk and I’d lose my train of thought. They were patient as I gathered my confidence every time and finish my sentences. Rosa had me show Sarah a dramatic, collared, wool sweater I thought was cool; she offered to construct a similar one–and use her new batch of vintage buttons–custom. She’s a magnificent and humble designer.

That sandwich was remarkable–delicious, clean, and fresh. And when bookended by friendship and kindness…go to Le Petit Zinc for it’s wonderful food. Be jealous of me for my friends.

TO KNOW:
Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10:00 A.M.-4:00 P.M.
Sunday: 9:00 A.M.-3:00 P.M.
313-963-2805/http://www.lepetitzincdetroit.com/
Neighborhood: Corktown
Price Range: $$ (out of $$$$)
Parking: Street
Credit/debit card accepted
Family-friendly
Casual

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Detroit, Food

Short ‘n’ Sweet ‘n’ Sassy

Nine things to know about Brooklyn Street Local:

  1. BEST POUTINE I’VE HAD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. HONESTLY.
  2. The owner’s Canadian, so believe the #1.
  3. Go there.
  4. Friendly.
  5. Affordable.
  6. Next to the Lager House, which is great.
  7. I procrastinated on this post.
  8. Friendship!
  9. I love Rosamaria.

Special thanks to Victoria and Travis for eating with us that day! 

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Detroit, Food

The Crepes

Didn’t like ‘em.

To be fair, I really don’t think crepes are my thing. I’ve never been to Europe or west of Tennessee. I don’t even have a passport. If you stop reading right now, I understand.

Walking in, I had no reason to dislike Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes. Enormous, gorgeous canvas paintings of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin cover the walls like palatial tapestries, huge things at five feet by three, covering black chalkboard and cherry red paint. I don’t even really care for Serge Gainsbourg or Jane Birkin, but I know a good thing when I see it.

We ordered a total of four crepes:

  • The Kristy: chocolate and strawberries
  • The Amanda: spinach, parmesan, herb de provence and pine nuts
  • The Good Girl: Nutella and banana
  • The Kisha: bacon, turkey, spring mix, tomato and cream cheese

Each is named after one of owner Torya Schoeniger’s friends; looking at the menu, she has a lot of them. Over 50 in total, there’s the Dana (chicken, brie, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, herb de provence), Mary (cinnamon sugar and butter), then there’s Helen Joy, Mildred, Libby, Rachel, Sharon, Cora, Snyder, Kenyatta, Celeste…Torya’s popular.

I had the Kristy and the Kisha, a sweet and a savory. Not sure what she’s like in real life but Kristy was kind of a mess, haphazard. Maybe crepes are like that, just the crepe with strawberries smothered in chocolate sauce?  It wasn’t amazing. Kisha was better, she had bacon. I was still bummed.

The whole experience was like an anticipated and and then terribly disappointing first date, honestly. The crepes. Didn’t like ‘em. But that doesn’t mean there’s no reason to go.

Rosamaria’s favorite crepe is The Good Girl. She returns for it often, reminds her of a summer long ago.

I used to get a crepe exactly like this in Rome every night. Every night. In Campo de’ Fiori, the crepe was just a few blocks from my apartment. I had two Russian roommates plus this girl from Utah. It was one of those places with the…wooden shutters. And we’d swing them open every day, and when the sun came through…it was beautiful.

I’d head over there and get a bottle of moscato and this particular crepe with the Nutella and the banana.

There was an old grandpa-like guy that would make these crepes for me. He’d always try and teach me Italian–every time I went over there–and he’d quiz me. He would! Holding up a white, he’d ask, “What color is this wine?” And if I answered it wrong, like, “Uh…rosa?” he’d scream at me, “No! No!”

He was the one who taught me how to say, “I would like a bottle of wine, please.” This crepe, it brings me back for real.

So, maybe I don’t like crepes. But I’ve never been to Rome.

TO KNOW:
Hours:
Mon-Wed: 9:00 A.M.-4:00 P.M.
Thurs: 9:00 A.M.-8:00 P.M.
Friday, Saturday: 9:00 A.M.-10:00 P.M.
Sunday: 9:00 P.M.-5:00 P.M.
313-664-0490/http://www.goodgirlsgotopariscrepes.com/
Neighborhood: Midtown
Price Range: $$ (out of $$$$)
Full bar
Parking: nearby structure (get your ticket validated!)
Credit/debit card accepted
Family-friendly
Casual

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Detroit, Food

This One’s Full of Dumb Exclamations (Green Dot Stables)

My slider game is, at best, nouveau. Jokes I’ve heard over time about White Castle + toilets left me petrified of the things, reticent to engage in such a diarrhea-related food item. “They slide in, they slide out,” they’d say! And I’d slide away.

Then, there came Green Dot Stables and her popular tiny burgers. Coworkers, friends, friends of friends had all mentioned these sliders as this blog’s caught attention.

There’s some interesting lore behind the location; I’ve read that it was a local cop hangout where they’d get served booze until well past five o’clock in the morning. It’s equestrian theme is unknown to most; Eat It Detroit‘s 2012 interview with current owner Jacques Driscoll proved that even he has a difficult time finding solid fact on the Stable’s history, having purchased it after it went on the market in 2011. But if there’s one thing me and Rosa love, it’s tasty food and mystery/lore/myth. “Off to the races!” we exclaimed.

We got seats at what is now my favorite physical bar. To the left of the single-room restaurant, upon entering, is this raised, wide, mezzanine fashioned to appear as inside a stable, beams of wood glazed and stained as if coated in honey. The seats at the bar are low and comfortable; you get a front row seat to the bartenders as they scurry in the pit underneath like general admission. You feel a liiiiitle bit like Caesar, surveying his gladiators fight for tips and build superb drinks for the rest of the Caesars around you. “Thumbs up!” we exclaimed. (Or is it “thumbs down” for them to live?)

But we came for the sliders, and sliders is what we got. I ordered all the steak-burgery-meat ones: the corned beef, the cheeseburger, and the BBQ bacon, plus a side of fries. Rosamaria got the tempeh, the quinoa, and the black bean options, plus some mac and cheese.

In short: I loved them. There was something very special about these baby sandwiches. I got the sense that they had been tested and perfected. Myself, a meat glutton, I wished for more! You can eat these things in probably two bites; their flavors were great, honestly. Thinking about them now exposes a need to nom nom nom on ‘em for, like, hours. But Rosamaria emphasized patience and portions. She’s been to Europe, I haven’t. I imagine the continent as full of tiny sandwiches that would never satisfy my hunger.

To note, I tried one of Rosamaria’s and alls I can say is if you like vegetarian-type food, you’ll probably like her options. I don’t have the taste for it, but she was dancing in her chair biting into the bright, kelly green seaweed topping on the tempeh piece. The Ron Swanson in me looks at it and states a curt, “No.”

SLEEPER AWARD: The fries. Flip over one of their thin, rectangular menus, look up at the top: blah blah blah truffle oil blah blah blah fries. I read, and I ordered. Holey crap, they were absolutely delicious. Thin sliced, they arrived in (you guessed it) a small basket and were full of flavor. After the incredible Fungi at Ottava Via and now these fries, I’m starting to think I could bake Converse in truffle oil and it’d be delicious.

We finished our Sunday luncheon with shots of [crazy delicious] Old Smokey lemon drop moonshine and conversation with the folks sitting to our right, Kate and Sam, feeling significantly less shy after a bit o’moonshine (I think that’s why they make it). The four of us discussed writing, Quicken Loans and the Seattle Seahawks. We also found out that Kate’s involved in a neat reading series held at Salt and Cedar in Eastern Market that we are in no way trying to not-so-sneakily promote.

Green Dot’s cool. They serve excellent, well-priced food. They draw an awesome crowd and are located in, well, a random part of town (not a positive but had to be said). Go there. Eat. Drink moonshine like it’s 1890 and watch the Lions. Life’s short.

TO KNOW:
Hours:
Mon-Wed: 11:00 A.M.-12:00 A.M.
Thurs-Sat: 11:00 A.M.-1:00 A.M.
Sunday: 12:00 P.M.-10:00 P.M.
313-962-5588/http://greendotstables.com
Neighborhood: Corktown
Price Range: $$ (out of $$$$)
Full bar
Parking: lot
Credit/debit card accepted
Family-friendly
Casual

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Detroit, Food

An Unknown Saint; A Gastropub

Here’s what’s happening:

Every time I go down to Detroit, I have the best culinary experiences.

Said it. It’s starting to become one of the more reliable aspects of my life.

My brother and I have always talked about being a “regular” at a place; not necessarily Cheers-esque, not necessarily a bar, specifically, but a reliable secondary. We romanticize the same walkthrough: wearing basic casual clothes (a zip-up hoodie/relaxed fit jeans/sneakers, respectively), swinging through the front door and up-nodding to our bros behind the bar (Slim, Kim, and Dirty Jim, respectively), taking our seats at our favorite booth; our standard meal prepared as soon as we sit down. St. CeCe’s Pub in Corktown–if we lived closer–feels like it could be that place.

Located on the northeast corner of Bagley and Trumbull, it used to be Baile Corcaigh–translating to “home” or “town of Cork”–a traditional Irish pub that closed in 2009. Current owner Celeste Belanger was their former bartender and bought the location in 2011 with her sister and brother; they turned it into St. CeCe’s Pub. They say it’s named after “St. Cece, the patron saint of whiskey”. I’ll play along for the sake of brunch and bottomless mimosas, but I have my doubts about a “whiskey saint”. I’d like to see the Vatican records.

Swathed in heavy deep cherry wood-paneling and stained glass partitions, St. CeCe’s kept a majority of the previous establishment’s visage. It’s beautiful. Tiffany-style (or legit Tiffany?) sconces adorn the panels above each table in the foyer parallel from the bar. We sat down and immediately filled each other in on the last two weeks of our lives. Concurrently, we ordered.

For me, I chose the latke dish accompanied by two eggs, over medium, with housemade sausage. Rosamaria ordered a delicious parmesan polenta with beautifully plated vegetables atop.

The latke was superb. A little burnt (as y’all know, I like a little burnt), and tasted authentically Middle Eastern; Tigris and Euphrates and deep into Jerusalem. Having been born first-generation Chaldean and weaned on curry and potatoes and parsley as everything, I fancy myself a bit of a “knower” of Middle Eastern tastes. And, on my other side, being a little bit Mississippi hillbilly, I resisted putting ketchup on it. Could this particular latke have Russian or Polish roots, though? Honestly, maybe. I really liked it. Rye toast was delicious, as was the sausage, which was unlike any breakfast sausage I’ve had (read: it was the best).

A fair amount of my brunch experiences have been heavy; any fan of Wolfgang’s in Grand Rapids can hear me loud and clear. And then there are other brunches that are light and fine but altogether forgetful. This meal, while light, was delicious and unique. I can still taste the spice of the latke, the crunch against my teeth; the flavor of the sausage, or layering it on the rye with the egg and the potato. I can still smell it. And I like it.

Not only was it good, it was fresh. St. CeCe’s sources their ingredients from no less than 10 Michigan farms and rotates their menu on a seasonal basis. The servings are small, but the ingredients are top notch. I’m not complaining. I’m still fantasizing about the latke.

Note on mimosas: when they’re bottomless, make sure they’re not super strong. St. CeCe’s were perfect. We could enjoy our afternoon without feeling like, “We shouldn’t drive home just yet.”

We found out that a lot had happened in the two weeks we hadn’t seen each other. In between plans for promotions and purchase of plane tickets, other people’s breakups and decisions that we were “getting over things”, we needed a drink. The bartender made us French Horn shots; a simple and enjoyable mix of Chambord, lemon juice and raspberry vodka, and was easily the most delicious shot I’ve ever had (to be fair, shots are terrible, not a real competition). Have you ever drank grape and pink lemonade Kool-Aid for adults? That isn’t jungle juice? Basically, that.

I’ve got a hunch that this could become a place “where everybody knows your name”. There’s terrific food in a beautiful building with it’s own parking lot in Corktown; I’ve already told my brother.

TO KNOW:
Hours:
Mon-Wed: 11:00 A.M.-12:00 A.M. (kitchen open until 9:00 P.M.)
Thurs-Sat: 11:00 A.M.-2:00 A.M. (kitchen open until 10:00 P.M.)
Sunday Brunch: 11:00 A.M.-4:00 P.M.
313-962-2121/http://www.stceces.com
Neighborhood: Corktown
Price Range: $$ (out of $$$$)
Full bar
Parking: lot
Credit/debit card accepted
Family-friendly
Casual

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Detroit, Food

A Short Post on Ottava Via and Such Perfect Pizza

How do you say, “Best pizza ever,” without saying, “Best pizza ever”? I have been trying for the past two weeks, unsuccessfully so, to figure out how to show you, the readership, just how good, and I mean so good, the pizza at Ottava Via is. The Corktown location is next door to legendary Nemo’s and down the road from PJ’s Lager House (where I once lost hearing in my left ear due to a nearby double amp; I have yet to get it back).

The place is young, opened just this past August. Rosamaria has watched this location go from an ordinary, abandoned building to the one room pizza heaven it is today. ACCCKK I CAN’T FOCUS. BLAH BLAH BLAH THE BUILDING IS NICE AND HISTORIC BUT THE PIZZA. THE PIZZA. GET TO THE PIZZA.

We ordered a Fungi and a Quattro Formaggi; the Fungi is created with portabella cremini and shiitake mushrooms baked in truffle oil; the Quattro a four-cheese dream that, as our server mentioned, was also served with pear marmalade on an experiment by a cook. We jumped at the idea and ordered as such.

The pizzas arrived. Each pie provided about eight five-inch slices and smelled and looked incredible. Our mouths agape, we gingerly shook our heads, “No, they can’t be this…they are so…how did we…”

I’m going to express how we feel about the pizzas’ presentation, taste and friendship in a series of direct quotes from the afternoon:

“Is it bad that I want to cry right now?”

“I’m sad because I’m already full.”
“No, you’re just overwhelmed; keep eating.”

“How do I make this restaurant a part of my immediate family?”

“It’s like Jesus himself came down and made this pizza.”
“You can’t say that; it’s Sunday.”

“I don’t want to say this is my favorite pizza, because there’s a lot of Italy I haven’t been to…”
“I’ve never been…”
“…but I think this is my favorite.”

Basically,

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH
HHHHHHHHOOMMMGGGGGGG

It was a meal that demanded wine. “A round of Riesling!” I shouted, whirling my finger into the air. We sat and we ate that pizza. We talked about Big Sean. We laughed and drank and hung out at Ottava Via for FOUR HOURS, moving from our table to the bar, reminiscing on Ratatat and dating and our faith. I can’t do this pizza justice with words, y’all. Just look at these photos, go with your family, and have yerself a good time.

TO KNOW:
Hours:
Mon-Thu: 11:00 A.M.-10:00 P.M., Fri-Sat: 11:00 A.M.-11:00 P.M., Sun: 11:00 A.M.-9:00 P.M.
313-962-5500/on Facebook: Ottava Via
Neighborhood: Corktown
Price Range: $$ (out of $$$$)
Full bar
Parking: street
Credit/debit card accepted
Family-friendly
Casual

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Detroit, Food

Mudgie’s: Bummer, Man.

“Yeah, yeah…shorty got down low and said, ‘Come and get me.’”

Not exactly the first phrase you’d expect when entering a restaurant. Once again, we were stood up by Italian food (Roman Village in Dearborn is closed before 4:00) that Saturday afternoon; the next logical step? History repeats itself: get to a deli.

Rosa was the first one to suggest Mudgie’s. I’d heard a bit of hype around the place; tweets here and there, mostly, but tried to disregard them immediately. You’ve just got to give a sandwich a fair, clean shot; it’s a justice we can all strive for. We also had my friend Kim from Work with us on this trip. Both of us green to this deli, we shrugged our shoulders and said, “Hype tweets be damned—Mudgie’s, we’re coming,” and were greeted by Usher and his merry men, Little Jon and Ludacris.

Mudgie’s is a cute Corktown location on the corner of Porter and Brooklyn: a single room that could seat about 50 people, tops, coated in terra cotta paint covering multiple spackling jobs. Not unlike many Detroit hangs, it’s an older, well-loved, beautiful building. The ceiling panels were lovely, true to the original architecture, I’m sure; details in finesse and history.  On the exterior were sprawls of leaf-less vines (it’s January, y’all). It must be gorgeous in the summertime.

While they do serve hard alcohol and host a strong beer and wine menu, we got waters and fancy root beer. I ordered the Madill on a quick recommendation from the server; a roasted turkey sandwich on hoagie bread, decorated with strips of Neuske’s nitrate-free cherrywood smoked bacon, avocado, tomato, romaine, melted pepper jack cheese and house-made garlic mayo. Oh, and a pickle. Apparently, it’s won a bunch of awards. Sold.

Kim ordered the Mudgie (can’t go wrong if it’s named after the place), a grass-fed, Michigan raised beef brisket + turkey sandwich with house-made vegetable cream cheese, Brownwood Farm mustard on an onion roll. Rosa got her favorite, the Ivey: an open-faced sandwich on multi-grain bread with Havarti cheese, avocado, sunflower sprouts, lettuce, tomato red onion and house-made spinach spread. We also got two waffle-pressed brownies, topped with ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate sauce.

And here it is—a bummer—my first not-so-glowing review. It wasn’t the service! Our gal was lovely and knowledgeable and kind.

It wasn’t the atmosphere. We kicked back in chairs reminiscent of upper-EL school stock, laughed and recalled memories from college, convicted each other of silly ills that we both could not accurately remember. Central heating fought and pumped and spat out warmth that ultimately condensed and coated the interior of the windows; a smooth fog perfect for tracing simple shapes in beads of water.

And it most certainly wasn’t the quality of the ingredients. With every bite of the Madill, “fresh” came to mind; I was reassured that they were using the best not by the menu, but by the creation.

It was the sandwich’s overall apathy. The bread was not strong, just your basic hoagie sampler. The combination of ingredients was just…fine. It was all just fine, which is not a reason to boycott a place. I’ll certainly go back at some point (if Russell Street is out of the question). The consensus at our table, however, was, “This is fine.” But this kid ain’t looking for fine. I’m looking for through-the-moon. I’m looking for the sandwich equivalent of Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood or Meg Ryan’s apartment in You’ve Got Mail.

In fairness, there are eight million options on the menu, so I’m sure I’ll go back and eat something that throws my initial opinion in the dumpster out back. Sandwich was boring, but the pop was good. Kim had a good time. It was above-freezing and I have friends. It didn’t ruin my day.

TO KNOW:
Hours: Mon-Sat 11 A.M.-9 P.M., Sun 11 A.M.-4 P.M.
313-961-2000/mudgiesdeli.com
Neighborhood: Corktown-ish
Price Range: $$ (out of $$$$)
Free Wi-Fi
Full bar
Parking: street/private lot
Credit/debit card accepted
Kid-friendly
Casual

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