Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Eating BIG in Detroit (Part 2)

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

-More Classic's and local favorites from the Motor City

Guess who's back-back? Back again-gain. Detroit is the shiznit. Ya I said it, I cant get enough of it and it's gritty yet mostly friendly atmosphere and to go with that, it's old school culinary gems. Of which there seems to be an extraordinary never ending amount. I like to eat like I was born and raised in Detroit when stopping thru and encourage folks out there to do the same. Go take in a Tigers game and enjoy some time at the casino if thats your thing or check out the good old school food scene they got going on. First up, not in Detroit but en route from Chicago is Gabriel's Hoagies.

Longtime locals favorite in Ypsilanti, MI

I came away very pleased with this place. They first brought "hoagies" here in 1959 and not much has changed. They offer two kinds and most everyone is there for the cheesesteak. The other option offered is a "lunchmeat" special consisting of the usual shady cold cut suspects. The cheesesteak was legit for those who are a fan of them. The locals sure are since they've been around a while and have a "this or that" menu. They offer the steaks with peppers if you want, which are San Del brand 'tangy diced hot cherry peppers' which I thought work great. I've been back since my first visit.

Cheese Steak Hoagie in Michigan

Riding along we stop in at a newer old school slider spot. I'm working on a report with 10+ places featured that have been around forever in the white panel buildings they sit in today but since this place is new I'll share it here. Judging by the building I'd say it was a different hamburger place in it's past. There's lots more to explore as far as the towns outside of Detroit go.

Vinnie's Hamburger Stand (Canton, MI)

Detroit is a burger town, no doubt about it. They have a slider culture. White Castle isn't from Detroit but if I recall rightly, it's Chicago and Detroit where they have the most outlets of them. I'm shocked WC survives amongst the endless amount of old school spots who do their own style of "sliders". They arent steamed and lean more towards the size of a McDonald's hamburger but they do start out as balls of beef at each place which are then smashed with the onions on top. Vinnie's is a little more upscale than the old time spots and they use a potato bun and cost a little more though not much. I liked my double cheese for what I paid.

Double cheeseburger from Vinnie's Hamburger Stand

The suburb of Dearborn is the home to General Motors and a great place to go if you like Middle Eastern food and culture. Arab Americans make up for 40% of the close to 100,000 residents and many of them own business' which cater to the community. Food wise there's too much to cover in one trip. On top of all this there's other great spots in the area that have been around awhile. Miller's Bar is often mentioned as serving the states best burger. Eating around Dearborn is another reason that keeps me coming back.

New Yasmeen Bakery (Dearborn, MI)

This place wasn't as huge but it felt like a mall. Inside it was clean and packed with a younger crowd of people, very lively on what I now recall was 'Black Friday'. Back in the 80's the New Yasmeen was a tiny Lebanese bakery that put out many people from this areas favorite bread. Today they've moved into this much wider space and offer everything from their original baked breads to sandwiches and sweets. I'm not going to claim to be an expert on this type of food but everything we had we really enjoyed. The sweets seen in the two picture sets below were pretty crazy. I bit into one of those little light brown balls not realizing they were filled with some sort of sweet gooey concoction. Weird stuff. I wish I could of further explored the menu but we had other places to hit up.

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Lebanese eats in Dearborn just outside Detroit

Dearborn literally has handful upon handful of eating options. Over at LTH there were two places that came with big time praise from big time eaters. One place (Cederland) had been praised for stuffed grape leaves and another for its falafel (Al Ameer) which I feel I've been deprived of the good stuff. Decisions! Decisions? Well those that know me fknow if there's two I don't choose. Neither does whomever I'm with, "we're trying both of them". I love Middle Eastern food and that lust becomes greater with each visit. So no choosing, we tried both and it was the right call. Add to that a shish kebab and mixed shawarma (lamb and chicken) sandwich and we were good to go on this quick stop thru.

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Middle Eastern East in Dearborn, MI

One last time, I'm no expert but will go ahead and say both the grape leaves and falafel were the best of each that I have had in a while. The sandwiches were fantastic with the fresh bread and flavorfull fillings. For more info and pictures on these two great LTH found rec's click HERE. On into Detroit City limits we roll.

You could spend days exploring the abandoned buildings in some parts

Cadieux Cafe was featured on 'No Reservations: Detroit'. I'ts one of my favorite places to visit whenever I'm in town. I cant get enough. To the point where I might have to buy an abandoned house right next door. Sitting in a neighborhood that looks more like the Detroit the outsiders have seen all it takes is a trip inside to realize this all American city built on the American dream hasn't died. Every city in America was built on immigration and when the auto industry was at its peak Detroit became a melting pot.

The Parking Lot at Cadieux Cafe

Cadieux Cafe is a reminder that Belgian communities were once prevalent in the Motor City. The Belgian-American settlement stateside began in Detroit around the early 1900's when they were wanted for their skilled craft work. They helped fuel Detroit's early growth. Of course man needs beer and Belgian people take theirs seriously so at one time Belgian bars were prevalent. Cadieux Cafe remains. I've been here both day and late into the night and have not a problem to speak of so dont let the outside scare you away from one of the best bars in America.

a different type of high life...

Everything about this place is classic Detroit and the type of spot you need to seek out around the Midwest while they're still around. I can imagine when the neighborhood and the abandoned houses around it were filled with people and the Cafe was rocking. In fact it was rocking most times I've been in. We weren't able to get a into a slot for feather bowling since it's still is a very popular place to drink, eat, and play the game that is Belgian's original pastime. This is the only place to to feather bowl in the United States that I know of. I look forward to going back and learning to play the game.


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People getting at it

The menu has appetizers (Liver Pate to Hot Wings), entrees (Fish n' Chips) and sandwiches (Holland grilled cheese to burgers) and some Belgian specialties too (beer stew, beer braised chicken) but it's all about the mussels. They come a few different ways which includes original style steamed in white wine with veggies and also steamed in beer and a few other ways. The garlic and white wine combo is a real winner. The orders come loaded with plump really tasty mussels. I gotta Belgian mussel fix that I've needed to kill by going here for sometime now.

'Detroit Mussel'

I have better pics when it wasn't night and the bar this dark but love this one because you can see the steam rising from them and also take note of the bar where we were sitting at. You gotta love it as it's filled with old school beer caps by the 100's. Nothing has changed here except the neighborhood it's in which I'll stress one more time IS NOT DANGEROUS. It's just not Bloomfield Hills. You'll be a-ok if you visit and mind your business. Man would it be cool to have the Cadieux Cafe just a few doors down...

...but theres lots of touch up work to be done

I'm working my way thru Old School Detroit eating establishments and was brought to the Dakota Inn by my good buddies sister and her friend while we were visiting one trip. "The Dakota Inn Rathskeller was opened on August 1, 1933 by Karl Kurz, the Grandfather of Karl E. Kurz, the present owner. Seventy years later (now nearing 80), Detroit's only authentic German bar is still going strong" via their website. I don't know that the Dakota Inn is Detroit's only authentic German bar, I went to another one in Greektown that was old and authentic (the drinking part anyway) but this place was what I imagine "authentic" German to be.

The Dakota Inn Rathskeller: Since 1933

The original owner worked at the Ford Highland Park Auto Factory and saved up enough to start his dream of building an old German style Rathskeller in Detroit. It started out as a three stool bar and he built it out from there. Here we are today and you can still see the job he put into his place. I didn't get too many great pics since its dark inside but it was a great place to be. We sat in one of the many old wooden booths and enjoyed walking around the large space that's its become today seating up to 150 people. So I was told by the local who brought us here they throw a big old bash in Oktober. I'd like to go.

One word to describe the holiday season at a German Drinking Hall? Festive

They serve lunch Wednesday through Friday and dinner is served Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 5p until 11. It's a very popular place to eat and drink on Fri. & Sat. nights. We got a variety of things and everything was pretty good. About what you'd expect. Honestly I don't think the good German restaurants differ all that greatly but maybe I'm missing out. The potato pancakes, potato salad, Spaetzle, knackwurst, Bavarian brats and pork schnitzel all pleased as did the beer and atmosphere inside this Detroit gem. A good old place indeed.

German Loungin'

Detroit also has quite the Coney culture as discussed in Part One of this tour. There's 100's of Coney shops around town including 'George's Famous' which the sign outside said was established in 1917. Located in Southwest Detroit on Michigan avenue theres not much on George's Famous Coney Island on the internet as I searched after our visit.

Lets check it out...

I tried one to compare it to the Big Daddy's in town (Lafayette and American). I ate half and threw the other away. I know coneys can be a mess but this one was beyond that as far as staying clean. On top of that they used some skinless lifeless wiener like tube of meat, as opposed to the golden standard Koegel's brand the two more well known spots use. Stick with whichever one of them you like.

Coney from George's Famous Coney Island

Detroit and some other places around the Midwest have some great spots for corned beef. I enjoyed my stop at Al's Famous Deli in Royal Oak. It was a random drive by and I decided to stop in and was glad I did. Their most popular selling sandwich consists of one of their famous onion rolls which  pressed and toasted with their corned beef Swiss cheese and cole slaw inside. Some might consider the slaw sacrilegious but it was tasty and the corned beef was good. Next door was an old school custard ice cream stand called 'Custard & Co'. I'll always be a fan of a cherry dipped cone on a nice day.

Al's Bread Basket Deli (Royal Oak, MI Deli)

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Ice Cream Shop next door

Rolling back into the Motor City one cant go thru here and not try Mike's Famous aka the holy grail of ham sandwiches but fate was not on my side one time around as they were closed for the holiday weekend. Hygrade Deli is within feet of Mike's Place and was open so why not? Another old school Detroit gem this place has been around almost 60 years from when it first started at the cities old market, the Western Market, which stretched across a piece of land where I-75 now sits. It was named after the anchor food operation there, Hygrade Food Products Corp.

♫♪High Grade I'm curin'♫♪

It moved to where it sits today in the 60's and they used to get plenty of traffic from downtown. Nowadays it along with Mike's are about all that remains. The staff you could tell was like one big family with one of the waitress' adorable daughters running around. The food was homey and what we expected, better than the mid grades aka "Middies" from early high school you were used to. Corned beef is their biggest seller and I really enjoyed my Reuben which was cooked crisp. I thought their pancakes were as terrific a batch as I've had in a while, granted I'm not a big breakfast guy.

Stack of Pancakes, who's got the ganja butter? It's legal with a card in these parts...

Reuben Sandwich

The Eastern Market is a great place to do some meat shopping and also get some breakfast eats for those of you that are big on it. It was Sunday morning so the market itself and most everything there was closed with the exception of Louie's Ham and Corned Beef which is a popular breakfast stop around the market. Louie's was pretty packed this Sunday morning which was a good sign and the fact they mention both ham and corned beef in their name is another. Like I said, I'm not a big breakfast guy but love some good ham off the bone and real deal homemade corned beef hash.

Located in the Eastern Market

The menu has quite a few options with both the ham and the corned beef in them. From omelets to sandwiches and so on there were alot of options but I stayed true to the game and went with the ham hash with eggs and a side of their corned beef hash. My buddy got a corned beef sandwich, a favorite food of his, he said it was pretty good but not great. The ham and corned beef hashes were different with the potatoes being larger sliced hunks in the ham hash. I liked both but enjoyed the CBH a little more because of the overall texture with smaller cut potatoes.

Louie's Ham Hash and Eggs

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Corned Beef Sandwich and Corned Beef Hash

It was on the way here I experienced my most "Detroit from an outsiders view" moment since I've first been. We were riding around a neighborhood with vacant homefronts wand nothing else there anymore. The few homes that remain are scattered throughout weeds and concrete bulges in the cement. After a weird sequence of interactions we passed an abandoned house blazing on fire. We reported it to 911 since there was another house not far from this that was still being lived in with pit bulls barking from its yard. It was pretty crazy/weird and I remember hearing an old Eminem song from the '8 Mile' soundtrack playing in my head. It fit well for this moment.

♫♪You gotta live it to feel it, if you didn't you wouldn't get it
"I dont see what the big deal is, what? he thinks that he's skilled?
just cause he walks walkin borderlines of Detroit city limits?"
But it's different, it's a certain significance, a certificate
of authenticity, you've probably never even been
But it's everything to me, it's my credibility...♫♪

I know Detroit is taking small steps up as more younger grungier people aka hipsters are moving there and taking advantages of cheap land to do what they love be it music, art, food, gardening and so on. Hell I'm doing the same in some ways. I hope the city can recover but I don't want to see it turn into Phoenix or Orlando with strip malls galore or a "new Detroit" that no longer has what Detroit once did with all of its beautiful old buildings, landscapes, Made in America jobs and plenty of culture to go with it. It's not Los Angeles nor Miami, not much glitz nor glamor, and isn't the first place that pops into mind when thinking about a place to take the family for a weekend getaway but that's why it can be such an interesting place to visit. Detroit, BIG fan man. See y'all next time.

I don't go around fire expecting not to sweat...

Gabriel's Hoagies
2585 East Michigan Avenue
Ypsilanti, MI 48198
(734) 483-5846

Vinnie's Hamburger Stand
47417 Michigan Avenue
Canton, MI 48188
(734) 961-9000

New Yasmeen Bakery
13900 West Warren Avenue
Dearborn, MI 48126
(313) 582-6035

Al-Ameer Restaurant
12710 West Warren Avenue
Dearborn, MI 48126
(313) 582-8185

Cedarland Restaurant
13007 West Warren Avenue
Dearborn, MI 48126
(313) 582-4849

Cadieux Cafe
4300 Cadieux Road
Detroit, MI 48224
(313) 882-8560

Dakota Inn
17324 John R Street
Detroit, MI 48203
(313) 867-9722

George's Famous Coney Island
6362 Michigan Avenue
Detroit, MI 48210
(313) 894-0245

Al's Famous Deli
32906 Woodward Avenue
Royal Oak, MI 48073
(248) 549-3663

Custard & Co Inc
32922 Woodward Avenue
Royal Oak, MI 48073
(248) 549-2777

Hygrade Deli
3640 Michigan Avenue
Detroit, MI 48216
(313) 894-6620

Louie's Ham and Corned Beef
3570 Riopelle Street
Detroit, MI 48207
(313) 831-1800

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