A new job relocated my family to the suburbs of Detroit. Even though this was a great opportunity, moving 700 miles away from friends and family required some convincing on my husband’s part. So, when we landed in Detroit for my first trip to Michigan, he took me right out to eat. Smart man.
We drove right from the airport to a place called the Clarkston Union Bar and Kitchen. Not kidding—right off the plane to lunch in Clarkston. I enjoyed eating and drinking there from the very first visit. They have a creative menu of well-made food and a slew of beers on tap. And now, almost 15 years later, I have had the pleasure of seeing the opening of four additional Union Joints.
The latest delicious eatery is called Honcho. And, lucky for me, it is also right here in the Village of Clarkston. Honcho is a mashup of coffee house and Latin Street food. They are open in the wee morning hours for house roasted coffee and freshly baked pastries. Then a full spread begins at 11 a.m. with yet another clever menu highlighting the flavors of many cultures. I enjoyed their take on a rice bowl that had Asian inspirations with jasmine rice, nori and kimchi which I topped with Honcho’s battered smoky tilapia and a fried egg. My lunch mate had an arepa—a cornmeal patty—stuffed with shaved caramelized Brussel sprouts.
We have since made Clarkston our home enjoying the balance of country living and urban access. I believe Honcho’s eclectic menu will fit right in to this Detroit suburb.
Even though I’ve lived in Michigan over 14 years, I still consider myself a transplant. I can expertly navigate our southeast Michigan roads and give my opinion about where to eat the best Coney. Though, one of my favorite foods still resides back on the east coast—pizza.
When I first moved here, my pizza choices were limited to chain locations serving conveyor belt cooked cardboard pizza or this unusual deep square pizza. Neither choices were a familiar pizza option or fit a craving for my traditional pizza. What I’m talking about is the New York style pizza which can also be called Neapolitan or brick oven pizza.
Fast forward a few years and my pizza craving arrived in Detroit. You know who I’m referring to—Supino Pizzeria next to The Eastern Market in Detroit. This is what I’ve been waiting for. Supino’s traditional New York thin crust foldable pizza is the taste and smell of pizzeria memories. Determined to find similar pizza shops, I keep on looking. Come to find out, there are others. One has been cooking brick oven pizza for years but, would rather be known for their beer.
Motor City Brewing Works is the 2nd oldest brewery in Michigan creating some of the best hand crafted beers around. No surprise to this beer aficionado but, not everyone is a fan of local, craft beers (I know, hard to imagine). They also have a lovely little menu of brick oven pizza. You can build your own shareable 10-inch pie or choose from some of their cool concoctions. I shared the Roasted Pear and Fig topped with very generous quantity of gorgonzola crumbles. And, yes, I had a beer because how can you not?
One of the newest locations for pizza is Pie-Sci in the Woodbridge neighborhood in Detroit. Really not new, I come to find out; they have been a Sunday pizza pop-up at Woodbridge Pub for over five years. Pie-Sci’s claim to fame is creative pizza topping combinations with catchy, creative titles. We tried the Mosta-Spicoli and the Fungus Amongus. The Mosta-Spicoli was like eating an Italian Sunday supper on pizza dough. Pretty terrific and might be my new favorite. The Fungus Amongus was full of mushrooms and cherry tomatoes that just popped with seasonal freshness.
I will forever be a thin crust, New York style pizza girl. Though, I know, everyone has their own personal favorite. Where is your favorite pizza joint in Detroit?
Local and seasonal eating has finally hit the mainstream public interest and is taking a hold of the food industry. The expectation for wholesome, fresher fare is being embraced even by national chains like Chipotle and Panera. These fresh casual chains are serving customized, nutritious, high quality ingredients in more of an upscale environment. Being in charge of creating your own meals has spread to our local restaurants as well. Two fresh casual chains in southeast Michigan are Estia Greek Street Food in Troy and Chickpea Kitchen in Sterling Heights.
Estia Greek Street Food is a Greek inspired build-your-own pita, bowl or salad. I chose to build a bowl with a base of Estia’s Greek quinoa then added char-grilled chicken, oregano broth, hummus, spinach, cucumbers, Kalamata olives, feta cheese and a house made purple cabbage salad. Being able to pile on the veggies makes this super healthy as well as delicious. Estia also makes all their pita and rolls in house so they are warm and fresh. As with many locally inspired food joints, the décor is made from repurposed and reclaimed brick and wood from the southeast Michigan region. If you are in downtown Detroit, check out their new midtown location in the food court at the DMC.
Chickpea Kitchen in Sterling Heights is a fast and fresh Middle Eastern spot where you can create your own bowl or shawarma with your favorite toppings. Again, I made a bowl with a base of cracked wheat topped with marinated chicken, spinach, chickpeas, pickles, torshi (pickled turnips and cabbage) and garlic sauce. I love that they offer a whole grain choice along with the white rice pilaf. They also serve a house made unsweetened mint tea next to the fountain sodas.
I’m so pleased that there are local businesses serving high quality food with fewer processed ingredients. Share with me your favorite local, healthy eatery.
Locally inspired, made from scratch cooking with a little bit of Detroit history sums up the menu at Parks & Rec Diner. An oasis on Grand River Avenue, Parks & Rec Diner is one of two restaurants in the restored G.A.R. building. Originally built for Civil War veterans in 1899, the G.A.R. building was also used as the city’s park and recreation center for over 40 years.
Parks & Rec Diner is a small but mighty breakfast and lunch spot. You can build your own hash with Detroit grown spinach and onions all topped with house cured bacon and Leelanau Cheese. Or, eat a childhood bologna sandwich staple all grown up with pub cheese and house brined pickle. Our shared appetizer of figgy goat cheese served with an arugula salad and toasts could have easily been lunch all on its own.
Detroit is at the heart of Park & Rec’s décor and food. During the buildings restoration, preservation of structure and repurposed period items was core. The owner, David, was proud to share how the original glass park and recreation door panel was saved and is now framed and hung on the wall. Supporting Detroit’s emerging food scene, the best local growers and vendors are procured for menu items. Rising Pheasant Farms, Keep Growing Detroit and Recovery Park Farms are just a few growers providing fresh food.
Save room for dessert and be prepared to share. A giant cinnamon roll baked to order in a cast iron skillet smothered with chevre honey icing—decadent and delicious.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the great staff at Parks & Rec Diner. Super knowledgeable about the menu and the history of the building, our new friend Paul spent a great deal of time sharing his passion for the food.
Locally inspired food celebrating the city’s history is more than just a trend. Parks & Rec Diner is the new Detroit eating experience. —Pam Aughe, R.D.
Brunch is the best leisurely event that happens on a Sunday. Yes, football fans, it’s even better than the all American tradition of Sunday football. What could be better than being able to enjoy a decadent, midday meal that also comes with an adult beverage? Ok, that sort of describes watching football, but being immersed in brunch doesn’t involve cooking for anyone.
I enjoyed brunch this week at The Laundry in Fenton. Opened in August of 1997 as a small deli and bakery, The Laundry focused on great breads, desserts and specialty sandwiches. The Laundry of today looks quite different with an expanded dining space, a liquor license and a microbrewery facility. Though, the atmosphere and quality of excellence has always stayed the same.
The Laundry is now considered one of the best breakfast spots in America according to Thrillist. I totally agree with them, the food is so delicious. We started with a beverage and went super traditional with a mimosa—conventional but a fun beverage to have with a good friend. I’ve heard all about their infamous Bacon ‘n Brie Hotcakes but, again, I went a little old school with the Croque Madame. Salty applewood smoked ham, sweet house-made raspberry preserves in between thick slices of French toast all topped with an over-easy egg—just dreamy.
Room in our bellies for nothing else but stellar company and delightful conversation, our brunch came to an end. The good news is my good friend and I will meet again in four weeks, as we always do, to eat, drink and catch up on our lives. Should we try another brunch venue or meet up for dinner or a glass of wine? So many options for good food here in Michigan, any suggestions? —Pam Aughe, R.D.
TAMALES, CURTIDO AND PUPUSA all represent the fresh, whole foods of Salvadoran cuisine. Mostly plant based with corn and beans eaten at almost every meal, El Salvador fare represents a variety of indigenous and Spanish cultures. Here in Metro Detroit, we have a wonderful Salvadorian restaurant called Pilar’s Tamales. I had the opportunity to visit their newer location in Warren.
Pilar’s Tamales of Ann Arbor opened a sister restaurant in early 2014. The location in Warren is known as Pilar’s Tamales East and has a homemade, local menu, just like the original, with stocks, salsas, sauces and salads all made from scratch. Pilar’s supports Michigan products when possible from places like Hampshire Farms, Tantre Farm and Van Houtte Farms.
On a very chilly January afternoon, Pilar’s East was jumping during the lunch hour. I acquired one of the few seats available and sat down to sample some of their traditional Salvadorian foods. The chicken pupusa—a thick, handmade corn flour stuffed tortilla—filled with chicken, cheese and house made refried beans was warm and filling.
I also choose chicken tamale that, specific to Salvador, is seasoned with chicken, olives, potatoes and capers and mainly filled with masa. Covering the tamales is their house made mild red chili sauce. In lieu of typical fried tortilla chips, Pilar’s prepares a side of curtido which is a vinegar based cabbage slaw. Fried plantains and yucca root are also a popular side comparable to American french fries.
Both locations have vegan and vegetarian options though only the east location is totally gluten-free. For a fresh and healthy Latin American food experience, check out Pilar’s Tamales in Ann Arbor, Warren and at Eastern Market on Saturdays. —Pam Aughe, R.D.