Metro's menus 

Our staff suggests what they think's best

Every so often, we'll ask our Metro Times staff to sound off on their favorite restaurants. The result is a decidedly unscientific mélange of restaurants that seem to span every gamut known to modern dining. We love Middle Eastern and Midwestern, fine-dining and finer diners, flapjacks and pho, even tender chicken and chicken tenders. Feel there's someplace you'd like to recommend? No angry letters necessary: Feel free to post it at the end of the online version of this story. And then it could well end up on our list of personal faves too.

Athenian Shish-Ka-Bob 23010 Harper Ave., St. Clair Shores; 586-777-1430: "Fuck the overpriced restaurants on the Nautical Mile," one staff member says, "the Athenian has the best Greek food. Their Greek dressing (which much of their meat is marinated in) blows others out of the water. It's also available for sale by the bottle. The Pasta Athena (pasta tossed with grilled chicken, feta and olive oil) is mighty tasty. They also have kick-ass chili and a rice pudding."

Anita's Kitchen 22561 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-548-0680: Though their Troy location closed in the spring of 2010, this Ferndale-based restaurant is working in full swing. If meat is your thing, you can easily fill up with kebabs or shawarma. Lamb is prominent in the form of chops, shanks and kibbeh, a mixture of ground lamb and cracked wheat that can be ordered baked or raw. The bar serves beer, wine, juice and smoothies. For the harder stuff, examine the small but diverse wine selection and three Michigan craft brews.

Auburn Café 3520 W. Jefferson Ave., Ecorse; 313-381-8133: Great Greek cuisine in a casual, bar-type atmosphere is available Downriver at Auburn Café. Featuring such Greek classics as Greek salad, tzatziki, calamari, gyro sandwiches, shish kebab, lamb and pork chops, as well as the old favorite, stuffed grape leaves. Make sure to try the fun, appetizing saganaki, a quarter-inch-thick piece of cheese hand-fried and flamed at your table. Happy hour is 3-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, and means half off all drinks and select appetizers. There's heavy traffic at lunchtime and on the weekends, but Auburn Cafe is big enough to make room for everybody. Daily soups and specials announced on the Facebook page.

Café Muse 418 S Washington St., Royal Oak, 248-544-4749: This breakfast-and-lunch place offers hearty (and odd) dishes like pea-meal bacon, alongside classics like grilled cheese and tomato soup (their grilled cheese is the talk of the town). Their morning menu has some experimental dishes, like a Humboldt Fog scramble, with a big slab of the creamy, tangy California goat cheese atop a generous mound of firmed-up scrambled eggs, mixed with pine nuts. Breakfast sweets are also prominent. While their whole-wheat pancakes and braised apples are tasty, what's even more delectable are their crumpets, orange rum raisin pancakes, stuffed french toast with mascarpone and pears, and waffles with fresh fruit and whipped cream.

CK Diggs 2010 Auburn Rd., Rochester Hills; 248-853-6600: The selection of 102 different beers is definitely a draw for this restaurant, especially since they host a decent supply of Michigan microbrews. For a sports bar, the food is several notches better than what you'd expect. It's not too smart to order pasta or anything bordering on exotic. Stick with what the cook knows best, which means fried. The traditional bar food — Buffalo wings, chicken tenders, ribs and potato skins — is ready and in supply.

Clarkston Union 52 S. Main St., Clarkston, 248-620-6100: Clarkston Union has fine-tuned big food and beers served in a communal, beer hall setting in a former church. They serve hearty, rustic, provincial fare with thirty-five beers on tap, a full bar, and a martini and single-malt scotch menu. Hunker down at their communal seating and dig into a family-size tray of mac 'n' cheese. Gift cards are available and are good up and down the block at the Clarkston Union, the Union General Store, the Clarkston Cafe and Pizza Coco.

Frittata 236 Main St., Clawson; 248-280-2552: The name of the restaurant suggests it: the frittatas are one of a kind. Take the $7 house frittata for instance: a blend of three eggs, caramelized shallots and white wine topped with Asiago cheese and roasted potatoes — simply delicious. But it's not all gourmet frittatas. For instance, char-grilled beef fillet with scrambled eggs and herb-roasted potatoes is a nice meat-and-potatoes contrast.

Fuego Grill 37040 Schaefer Rd., Dearborn 313-581-9800: The only halal Mexican restaurant in the state, Fuego attracts both Muslims and others to their porkless menu. A classic yet distinct dish, their tortilla chips are dusted with house-made spice mix, starring chipotle and ancho chili powders, but it's not too spicy for the palate. They also have a "California-style" Baja burrito that has some excellent steak. But if you're not interested in what they offer, you can design your own taco, burrito, tostada or enchilada by choosing the filling and two toppings.

Good Girls Go to Paris Crepes 15 E. Kirby St., Detroit, 313-964-2023: With 50 kinds of crepes to choose from, there is not one overlooked. Each takes about two minutes or less, from first careful pouring to the moment it's handed to the customer. Biggest seller so far among the savories is the "Sarah." Another favorite is the "Rose" which combines fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and balsamic vinaigrette. Their sweet crepes make up the majority, ranging from the heart-healthy "Snyder" with all fruit (bananas, strawberries, pineapple, blueberries) to the sugar-infused "Fay" mixing brown sugar, caramel, pecans, salted butter and banana.

Gramma's House of Pancakes 17275 E. Nine Mile Rd., Eastpointe; 586-445-6100: One staff member says "Yummy omelets, awesome crepes and blintzes! Killer French toast! Gourmet breakfast, at diner prices." If you happen to be there after the morning hours, their menu offers a section dubbed "melted delights." Their San Francisco melt combines roast beef, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, sautéed peppers on sourdough bread. Another reason to be there after 3 p.m.: You'll get a free cup of ice cream after your meal.

Hill Seafood and Chop House 123 Kercheval Ave., Grosse Pointe; 313-886-8101: Here the seafood is a strong point: The grilled swordfish is tall and terrific and the calamari appetizer is out of the ordinary. Prices range from the "Pure Michigan" spinach salad ($10) to the sautéed dover sole ($43). The steaks are the usual cuts: filet mignon, New York strip, porterhouse and rib-eye and all are certified Angus beef, char-grilled and prepared to spec, and finished with a burgundy demi-glace. They have section of the menu dedicated to "Something Different," including vegetable lasagna that's "pasta-free."

Honest John's Bar and No Grill 488 Selden St., Detroit; 313-832-5646: What's best about Honest John's: They serve breakfast till noon on weekdays and till 3 on weekends. What's not to like: The menu is short — burgers, chicken sandwich, fries, soup, chili. The burgers are veggie, turkey or beef, at $4-$4.50. The price stays the same whether or not you add cheese, tomato, lettuce or onion. The soups are nice if you're looking for something that's thick enough to stand your spoon in.

Jamaican Jerk Pit 314 S. Thayer St., Ann Arbor; 734-585-5278: This Caribbean featured restaurant carries the traditional tropical foods: jerk chicken and pork, curry goat (which is halal), escovitch tilapia and coconut shrimp, with prices ranging from $9.50 to $12.50 — all in all, prices not bad. Though island food is been known to be spicy, they still cater to the milder palate. Run by trade-winds restaurateur Robert Campbell, formerly of the successful Irie in Canton.

Janet's Lunch 15033 Kercheval St., Grosse Pointe, 313-331-5776: This Grosse Pointe restaurant, founded in 1938, still serves such diner mainstays as hot beef, hot pork, hot turkey, mashed potatoes, soups made from scratch and home-made pies, including banana cream, apple, cherry and blueberry. As one of our staff members says, "Nothing beats a greasy breakfast." If the waterfront air whets your appetite, there's fish after five everyday, all day on Fridays. Great for eating alone, with 27 stools to choose from.

Mario's 4222 Second Ave., Detroit; 313-832-1616: Mario's is the quintessential Italian restaurant. Since it first opened over 60 years ago, they've been serving favorites from veal Tosca and spaghetti Bolognese to shrimp scampi and chicken cacciatore. Prices range from the humble minestrone ($4) to the juicy filet mignon tenderloin ($34).

Mind Body and Spirits 301 S. Main St., Rochester; 248-651-3663: This hip eco-conscious eatery, located in downtown Rochester, seems serious about saving the earth all the while dishing up a satisfying meal. All of their food is organic, and if possible, locally purchased. One of the vegan entrée options, a mushroom risotto served with sautéed greens, is as creamy, hearty and rich as it can be without any animal fats involved. In the evenings, you can head upstairs to their laid-back lounge and sip on couple organic happy hour cocktails.

Motor City Brewing Works 470 W. Canfield St., Detroit; 313-832-2700: The state's second oldest microbrewery, Motor City Brewing Works (MCBW) is known so well for its beer that it once was the question to an answer on Jeopardy! While the drawing attraction is the beer, their menu has a nice selection of appetizers, salads and soups, but the brewery's real strength is their 10-inch brick-oven pizza, which is a steal at $8-$9. Among the house-made pies are the simple classic margherita, and the cutesy "Mary did have ..." with ground lamb roasted with garlic, tomatoes, pine nuts, feta and labneh.

Mr. Paul's Chop House 29850 Groesbeck Hwy., Roseville; 586-777-7770: Founded in 1968 by Paul and Peter Gogo, Mr. Paul's is now run by three of Paul's children, and delivers some of the best steaks and freshest seafood in metro Detroit. The interior is spacious and casual, but the food is upscale. The Caesar salad is made at your table by the attentive staff. And the chateaubriand, thick-cut tenderloin served for two, comes in a flaming tray with grilled tomatoes and buttered vegetables. Leave room for dessert; the cherries jubilee is a tasty treat.

New York City Pizza 2885 W. Maple Rd., Troy; 248-280-9800: NYC Pizza looks like a regular pizzeria, but the famous wood-fired oven makes it different. Toppings range from the common pepperoni and mushroom to the unusual buffalo chicken and spicy taco. The pies are not baked by a timer; they get individual attention from the chef to meet the diner's specific satisfaction. You like your pizza extra crispy or chewy? All you have to do is ask. Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.

Red Coat Tavern 31542 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak, 248-549-0300: While the Redcoat might be given two stars for the "experience," because of its unpleasant red lights and faded red plaid carpet, the variety of food, on the other hand, is most optimal. They offer their famous hearty half-pound hamburger, with sides like chicken tenders and onion rings, alongside their signature salad featuring Port-poached pear and a Stilton-hazelnut terrine. The Redcoat has been around for over 40 years and it's the place where the upscale chefs of Royal Oak and Birmingham go after work to get a burger.

Russell Street Deli 2465 Russell St., Detroit; 313-567-2900: Located in Eastern Market area, Russell's serves up great food for loyal customers. The busy deli is always filled with happy, and hungry, people. If nothing on the menu catches your eye, don't worry, because you're even able to build your own sandwich the way you want it. The soups are definitely a standout that change daily, which include a wide range of vegan, meatless and homemade that add a twist on the traditional soups your mom used to make. With affordable prices and huge portion sizes, you'll have enough for lunch and dinner.

Steve's Back Room 19872 Kelly Rd., Harper Woods; 313-527-5047: Since owner Steven Kalil moved his restaurant to the booming "Nautical Mile" of St. Clair Shores, his restaurant has remained in full swing. The Middle Eastern food is heart of the menu: the sprightly flavors of lemon, garlic, parsley and olive oil, vegetables used in inventive ways, meat as a minor player. Desserts are standouts.

Supino's Pizzeria 2457 Russell St., Detroit; 313-567-7879: Although the pizzeria service is friendly in a slacker way, it gets the job done just fine. All the work has gone into the food; Supino's saving grace is brilliant thin-crust pizza with imaginative fresh ingredients. They have five red pizzas and six white, meaning no tomato sauce; almost all are made with traditional ingredients, no pineapple, no taco fixings.

Sukhothai 25226 Greenfield Rd., Oak Park, 248-968-9495: This seedy strip mall-located restaurant offers a nice blend of traditional Thai cuisine. Their Thai soup is a pleasure, and Tom Kha combines at least four of the five Thai flavors — salty, spicy, sweet, sour, hot — with harmony. The Gang Dang curry — another staple of Thai cuisine — is a red curry made with coconut milk, bamboo shoots and green and red peppers. The staff member who recommended this spot says, "the Thai food is a foodgasm."

Thang Long Thai & Vietnamese 27641 John R. Rd., Madison Heights; 248-547-6763: "Simply the best Vietnamese I've ever had," one staff member says. "I love the fresh rolls with Vietnamese sausage and the Hanoi soup that's chock-full of pork, shrimp, squid, crab." Being the staple of Vietnamese diet, it would be a shame to not order soup. Pho is essentially a large bowl of clear beef broth, beef and rice noodles, with scallions and herbs added as the chef and the diner decide. Charred onion and ginger add to the broth's complexity and it's an enormously satisfying meal.

Union Street 4145 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-831-3965: This standby Detroit restaurant (which has been around since the early 1900s) combines an interior of classic aged hardwood with a splash of art deco. The food is packed with home-cooked lovin' and tends to be on the hearty side, including "The Three Story Club," smoked turkey, Bavarian ham, hickory smoked bacon, lettuce and tomatoes. One of their more noteworthy appetizers, "Dragon Eggs" (which can be eaten like a meal) combines chicken breast stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese, battered and tossed in "rasta sauce" be forewarned, the menu says the sauce is hot.

Wasabi Sushi 115 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-222-5219: Fresh sushi selections are the focal point of Wasabi Sushi, which features a nice variety of both roll and nigiri styles. Sweet shrimp or egg nigiri pieces are mild and tasty; flavors of abalone, squid, eel, and other seafood are distinct and fresh. And of course, their California and tempura rolls are crisp and satisfying. For the all vegans out there, they have a plentiful supply of vegetarian options you can begin with their briny, onion agedashi tofu or their mint leaf roll for dessert.

Woodbridge Pub 5169 Trumbull St., Detroit; 313-833-2701: The most popular items on the menu are the burgers. They're a tender half-pound of certified Angus, topped with with white cheddar or goat cheese or caramelized bacon or portobellos. Other sandwiches are equally wonderful, such as a pile of sweet caramelized bacon combined with Brie on a baguette. For appetizers, the Pub serves a fresh and generous cumin-enhanced guacamole for just $6 and an excellent queso fundido, melted cheese laced with spicy chorizo.

Special thanks to editorial intern Michelle Styczynski for compiling these listings.

If you see any incorrect information, please let us know. Call 313-202-8043 or e-mail mjackman@metrotimes.com.

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