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  • Issue Archive for
  • Sep 18-24, 2002
  • Vol. 22, No. 49

News & Views

Arts & Culture



  • Two Sisters Polish Family Restaurant

    Hamtramck hipsters old enough to remember the Workmen's Co-op #1 restaurant on Yemans will feel right at home in Rochester at the Two Sisters, which offers down-home Polish cooking and the no-nonsense ambiance of grandma's kitchen. Specialties include pierogi, kielbasa, stuffed cabbage, and naleshniki (blintzes or crepes, depending on your ethnicity), as well as Polish-American hybrids like city chicken. The sisters (yes, they are real) cook up several rich, thick soups every day; a bowl can make a meal. Comfort food, and comfortable prices in a comfortable setting.
  • Give Thanks Bakery & Café

    An oasis of Old World taste and ambience in downtown Rochester, the pastries are made with European butter and the breads are all cold-risen via a traditional process that takes several days. You can’t rush such pure goodness. Check out the exquisite tortes and be sure to take home a loaf or two of the seeded levain. You can munch a delectable almond croissant (be careful! — they’re addictive) and enjoy a cup of fine coffee tableside, surrounded by heavenly smells and classical music. Let us give thanks, indeed.
  • The Last Kiss

    The Last Kiss takes a breathless tour around the world of relationships — intimate, agonizing and wonderful — in less than two hours, putting an alternate spin on melodrama and intimacy where every kiss, for so many reasons, may be the last.

  • Lafayette Coney Island
  • Lafayette Coney Island

    Head downtown to Lafayette Coney Island when you're looking for a Coney Island hot dog. Though not as thick as a porkaphile might hope, they’re the real deal — not from the "they’ll never know the difference" school of cereal-and-filler production At many coneys, chili cheese fries come with iridescent liquid cheese. Lafayette heaps on real shredded cheese, which melts from the heat of the freshly fried fries. The waitstaff shouts your order from the front of the restaurant to the kitchen; it's a nice touch — that way you can never get away with ordering a salad and a Diet Coke.
  • Athens Souvlaki

    Who knew that a little Greek-coney spot, long loved by Southfield lunchers, was the home of the most consistently satisfying gyros in Michigan? You can't be blamed for missing it, it’s so cozily hidden in the corner pocket of a strip mall. Although the longtime brains behind the operation, ace gyro-master Vacili, has moved on to other things, the new management knows not to mess with a classic. It's jammed at lunch but that lovely lamb sandwich is so very worth it. The pita is grilled to order.
  • The Ham Shoppe

    If your life depended on your ability to obtain a ham and cheese omelet the size of a hubcap, the Ham Shop in Greektown would be your salvation. The chef slices the ham off the bone as you look on, salivating. The succulent meat is wed with fluffy eggs — apparently very big eggs — and somehow crowded onto a plate alongside a truckload of home fries and toast. Even the help is impressed, serving us one with the declaration, "Now that's an omelet!" We couldn't agree more.
  • Margarita's Mexican Restaurant
  • Margarita's Mexican Restaurant

    Located right smack in the middle of the Woodward corridor suburbs is a Mexican restaurant that would never even dream of pandering to the Chi-Chi's crowd. This is authentic Mexican cuisine that is heavy on the veggies and true to its roots. This place is right under your nose — don't miss it a second time.
  • Shatila

    On Friday nights during Ramadan, this bakery is take-a-number packed with ravenous break-fasters. Other nights you can comfortably linger over coffee and pastry at one of six tables. One long series of cases carries a dozen types of baklava, burma, bassma and fingers with walnuts or pistachios. They are sold by the piece, half-tray or tray. Along another wall are highly decorated cakes with thick, sugary icing. Shatila also makes its own ice cream in 11 flavors. Decent American-style coffee is served.
  • Sex with Strangers

    Half psychological study, half soft-core porn, Joe and Harry Gantz’s documentary follows the sticky, complex lives of three couples who are swingers. The film offers lots of graphic sex, but also many moments of poignant, raw emotion — definitely not easy to watch, but compelling and engrossing.
  • Milk Coffee Bar

    Once in a while it’s nice to escape the rigors of city life by grabbing a friend and heading to Windsor. Despite the crackdown since Sept. 11, getting across the river isn’t all that bad as long as you have proper ID and leave your box of weapons at home. Even when crossing is a hassle, the cozy delights offered at Chanoso’s restaurant and Milk Coffee Bar will make it a worthy trip. Chanoso’s serves stir-fries and Asian-fusion entrées for $6 to $9 in a romantic artsy café; while Milk offers European-style coffee drinks, sodas and sweets as well as choice beers, wines and liquors in a trippy, chill atmosphere perfect for conversation and reading. Call Milk to find out if they’re hosting live music.
  • Sydney Bogg Chocolate

    Sydney Bogg's is one of Detroit's oldest chocolatiers. Mr. Bogg began his career as a streetcar driver and made candy as a hobby. He sold it to his passengers. Bogg apprenticed to a Highland Park candy maker, Harold Vair, who made his fortune with a patent on poppycock. In 1936, when Bogg began his business there were hundreds of candy stores in the city, each making its own chocolate. Jim McGuire bought the business in 1995, and he also has a day job. "We all have our passions," he says. "And mine is to help this company survive." The store has maintained its old-time feel and taste. The candies are a chocoholic’s wet dream and a dieter’s nightmare. The simple secret is a refusal to use anything but the best ingredients. One bite into a chunk of their dark chocolate tells another story. A taste this rich and delicious can’t be mass-produced. The taste comes from experience gained through perseverance and a sincere desire to make something bordering on an opiate.
  • McCarthy's Pub & Grill

    For postal employees and newspaper workers, McCarthy's is a home away from work. It's your basic working-class Detroit bar, but there is a catch: the french fries. Crispness without greasiness is tricky. But McCarthy's strikes the perfect balance: these light, snappy little fries are just what you were looking for. Fresh from the deep fryer, flavorful as anything, they leave your fingers lube-free. It almost defies science.
  • New Hellas Cafe
  • New Hellas Cafe

    The New Hellas is Greektown’s oldest — founded in 1901 and still in the family. It’s one of the few that serves rich, tangy, house-made Greek yogurt — with a pitcher of warm honey on the side. The bean and vegetable soups are superior, as is the omelet with feta. Most ordered: lamb chops and the "Hellas trio" — moussaka, pastitsio and spinach cheese pie. Be careful to ask for Greek coffee, not Turkish.
  • Don Luciano's Place

    Just a 20-minute drive from the bridge, Don Luciano’s patio is on the river, a stone’s throw from Bob-Lo Island. No canned music, no umbrella drinks, just serenity and local wines. Don or Luciano (the partners) may emerge and share a tumbler with you. Nothing here feels mass-produced. You can sense the touch of an individual human being — that’s Luciano — in the kitchen. After complimentary bruschetta, try succulent grilled quail, juicy trout, or house-made sausage. Finish with dense, tart orange cheesecake with chocolate sauce. A perfect summer evening out.
  • Stealing Harvard

    Director Bruce McCulloch (of "Kids in the Hall" fame) cooks up a weird "funny" that works, not because of what his characters are saying but how they say it, transmogrifying the film into a charming, moronic foray worth your time — with Jason Lee and Tom Green.
  • Plaka

    Who knew that a tiny 24-hour diner in Greektown would have not only the best French toast in the city, but in the entire universe? All the food at Plaka is good, and moderately priced, but the French toast is truly inspired. A consistency that is not too eggy but not too dry. The perfect dusting of cinnamon and sugar will make you say, in the immortal words of the French, "Sacré bleu."
  • Dot & Etta's Shrimp Hut

    The spot on Mack is Dot & Etta’s original location, and it has been there since before the ’67 riots. One regular patron had this to say: "The chicken? Oh my God. They’ll make Col. Sanders pack up their bags and go, baby." And the Colonel — now KFC — doesn’t do shrimp. Batter-fried shrimp. Great big batter-fried shrimp. And fish too.
  • City by the Sea

    Robert De Niro, one of the industry's most veracious actors, is a veritable source of sincere passion that this Hollywood contrivance orbits around. He doesn't let the tired subject matter, plot and characters affect his performance; the man is just so good at what he does, it's like watching one of the family.
  • Cedarland Restaurant

    When the three brothers who own Cedarland converted the large bank building on the corner of Warren and Hartwell into a restaurant, they retained the drive-through window for quick orders. Whether eating in or taking out, the baba is creamy in consistency, with a roasted, earthy aroma and just the right bite. You can order it as an appetizer or a side dish. The walls are painted with scenes of Lebanon including skiers among the cedars, and these days, the restaurant flies several American flags.
  • J. Alexander's

    J. Alexander's is the kind of place where chicken fingers and coleslaw get all the attention that [insert fancy food of your choice] or [another fancy food] might get at some gourmet joint. The lime chicken with garlic smashed potatoes looks like a meal that can't be finished. But you eat all of it and leave feeling uncommonly satisfied. The blue cheese coleslaw is simply wonderful. It may look like a swank establishment, but the food is hearty and unpretentious.
  • Barbershop

    Though writer Mark Brown’s characters verge on the stereotypical, he mostly manages to twist his clichés, intelligently parody them or play them off of each other in an interesting, but flawed comic portrayal of one of black America’s cultural institutions.
  • Avalon International Breads

    The biggest seller at this Cultural Center mainstay is the farm bread, a traditional French white sourdough. But if you like your sandwiches made for you, show up at lunchtime as the focaccia comes out of the oven. It might be topped with organic roasted zucchini, tomatoes, basil and parmesan. Avalon has branched out from the baguettes and crusty peasant loafs like Leelanau Cherry Walnut and Dexter Davison Rye that have brought bread-starved customers flocking five years ago. Now brioche, scones and cinnamon rolls expand the meaning of "bread." But it’s still the best. Look for "Italian month" in October.
  • Josef's French Pastry Shop

    Josef Bogosian began working in pastry shops just out of high school. He opened his own little storefront bakery in 1971, turning out fine pies, cookies, cakes, mousse torts, roll cakes, fruit flans, almond tea rings, and other goodies. He sells only what he likes, "though I don't really eat pastries" (just enough to check out the competition). Cakes can be prepared any way you'd like them — he's sculpted cakes into birds, cars, pickles, flowers and mayonnaise jars. Josef's favorite is his chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. The secret? Extra cocoa.
  • El Cafetal

    El Cafetal, an unde-recognized spot, focuses on making the second half of your day better than the first. The chips are perfection and the salsa is mild with a cool fresh tomato base. The Mexican sandwich is a construction-worker's dream: three soft echelons of flour tortillas with layers of rice, homemade beans, veggies and cheese. You simply can’t be hungry after that. The chimichanga, best with chicken, is a luncheon special worthy of consideration if you’re up for something very filling.
  • Son of the Bride

    Son was an Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Film and, as is too often the case with such movies, there's an enervating strain of sentimentality that runs through it, guaranteeing that any rough questions bought up will be smoothed over — for people whose feel-good buttons are easily pushed.

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