Historic Lunch

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Bologna Sandwich

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.

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Cinnamon Roll

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.

The Local Sandwich

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House-made Pastrami Sandwich

My first attempt at home curing was with Monty’s Beef Company Brisket. Cured for 7 days then slow cooked in the oven, this pastrami sandwich could challenge some of Michigan’s finest deli sandwiches.

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Thinly sliced and slightly warmed pastrami was placed on Russo Bakery marble rye and topped with McClure’s Sweet and Spicy Pickles and Backwoods Mustard—all Michigan products for the perfect local sandwich. Delicious and worth the wait!

Pilar’s Tamales East

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Chicken tamales

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.