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Todd Abrams

  • Great expectations
  • Great expectations

    Miguel's Cantina fires up food worth celebrating - in a Rochester Hills strip mall
  • Fire and spice
  • Fire and spice

    Tender meats, flavorful sauces and solid side dishes are Greektown's new barbecue trifecta
  • Tiny but tasty
  • Tiny but tasty

    An unassuming Royal Oak spot overflows with Thai treasures
  • Cold gin
  • Cold gin

    A 'tini piece of advice from a cocktail purist
  • Why rye?
  • Why rye?

    In defense of an American whiskey's comeback
  • Mix Master
  • Mix Master

    A love affair with the classic cocktail culminates in a stylish new joint for tipplers
  • Eastern elegance

    Novi's Ajishin serves delightfully authentic sushi and noodle dishes
      You can choose among about 20 different nigiri, priced between $1.50 and $3 apiece, and about 20 rolls at $2.50 to $6. Missing are the fantastic and pricey specialty rolls you find at so many of the hip sushi lounges catering more to a Western palate. The nigiri are well-constructed, with mildly sweet rice, excellent seafood and wasabi paste already incorporated into the bite. But soup lovers have reason to rejoice! Ajishin’s udon soup is extraordinary. There are also a few cold noodle dishes where the flavor of soba is better illustrated. Arashi, for instance, combines soba, grated yam, seaweed and green onion in a tangy dressing for a deep, almost smoky noodle salad. Open 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Wednesday through Monday; closed Tuesdays.
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  • Retro area

    Classic style gets a delicious update in Pleasant Ridge
      With knee-to-ceiling windows on the north and west walls, a wealth of natural light washes across the white counter and the vibrant aqua vinyl stools and chairs. Mae’s is quite clean and decent and suggestive of a fairy-tale era where young love is measured in baseball euphemisms and cigarettes aren’t yet bad for your health. Open until four p.m. every day except Mondays, Mae’s menu is naturally focused toward breakfast and sandwiches. The butter burger is a good bet for lunch: two well-seasoned, hand-formed patties come various ways on a generously buttered bun. While the buildup towards Mae’s opening might have initially brought a few people in, it’s the quality food, mood and reasonable prices that are going to bring them back.
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  • Sweet dreams

    Ferndale's Pinwheel Bakery serves gourmet baked goods with a side of whimsy
      In contrast to the bakeries with long display cases of cakes, tarts and pastries that are sometimes just shallow concoctions of sugar more pleasing to the eye than the palate, Pinwheel focuses on mostly simple, made-from-scratch delights. There are a variety of bite-sized cookies sold by the pound and boxed with a ribbon. These are fun, sweet and savory combinations much bigger in taste than size. Choose from cardamom-walnut rounds, cappuccino coins and vanilla-bean buttons edged with sparkly pink sugar. Shortbread comes in orange-cranberry, lavender and rosemary, or try the powdered sugar coated Chai-almond and Mexican tea cakes among the many options. If you’re in the mood for something more substantial, panini sandwiches on ciabatta bread are made fresh daily and grilled to order. Wash everything down with an espresso or their unique, crowd-favorite New Mexican piñon coffee. Milk, juices and quality fruit juice sodas, including Izze and San Pelligrino, are available from the cooler. Open 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; closed Sundays and Mondays.
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  • Out of the park

    How Bucharest Grill complements Park Bar in downtown Detroit
      The minimal and inexpensive menu is a loose blend of Eastern European and Middle Eastern, with an emphasis on ground pork dishes. In fact, more than half of the menu items contain ground pork in some form or another. But for a little more than $4, order chicken, beef or vegetarian shawarma wrapped in a pita. A few cents more buy you the enormous Bucharest shawarma, swollen with chicken, cabbage, pickles, tomato and fries, dripping with a delicious garlic sauce. It’s a triple-napkin wrap. Bring a pocketful of breath mints if you’re club-hopping afterward. An extra $2 gets you that mound of fries. One section of the menu is dedicated to “gourmet dogs.” Then there is the ground pork patty sandwich served open-faced over a fried egg and Muenster cheese! Open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday. Carry-out, limited delivery.
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  • The real deal

    Aladdin brings authentic and affordable Bangladeshi fare to Hamtramck
      On the corner of Commor and Conant streets, in the extraordinarily diverse city of Hamtramck, there is not one dish on Aladdin’s menu that surpasses $8.99. In fact, a large mixed fruit shake costs more than any of the appetizers and even a few of the vegetarian entrées that include rice or naan. On the whole, prices hardly surpass what you’ll pay for a meal at a national drive-through chain. Vegetarians have all sorts of choices, from curries to fried homemade cheese with spinach or green peas. There are some dishes where lentils are the base and others with chick peas. Try some mushroom vegetable fritters with onions and hot spices, or sautéed okra. The variety is amazing and the most expensive dish is $5.99. There are three times as many meat and seafood dishes. The goat korma, braised in a yogurt base is creamy, subtle, deep and rich, with a touch of spice heat. The gravy was so delicious we wiped the last little bit out of the bowl with crispy and chewy naan. Open 10:30 a.m.-midnight Sunday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Credit cards accepted; free delivery.
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  • Hidden thrills

    Off the beaten path, Mexicantown's Los Corrales is worth finding
      Most everyone knows the strip of Bagley Street where the majority of Mexicantown establishments are concentrated. But real neighborhoods are not defined by a sole commercial district with freeway signs guiding the way. There are dozens of Mexican shops and restaurants scattered about southwest Detroit. Finding a satisfying meal at these places off the beaten path is a thrill. Los Corrales is one of them. The atmosphere is warm and laid-back. Los Corrales offers fare from all over Mexico. You’ll find chiles rellenos as well as chimichangas, but an emphasis on seafood dishes such as ceviche. Finish it all off with a horchata.
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  • Modern Chinese secret

    St. Clair Shores' Gim Ling takes classic Chinese-American to the next level
      Gim Ling has served dine-in and carryout at the same St. Clair Shores strip mall location for decades. Only relatively recently has it been transformed into a “Modern Asian restaurant.” In this case, the term “modern” mostly serves as a stand-in for “better.” New diners, as well as those with memories of a Gim Ling past, are in for quite a revelation when they dig into a dish. The locals have been spreading the word. On a typical Saturday night, you’ll find a substantial line of folks waiting on carryout. Gim Ling has as robust a takeout business as we’ve witnessed at a Chinese restaurant. The dining room is usually at least half-capacity, and we can’t help wonder how big a crowd might be drawn if they served adult libations along with the quality fare. Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-10 p.m. Sundays and holidays.
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  • Cajun hideaway
  • Cajun hideaway

    Howe's Bayou is a taste of New Orleans right in Ferndale
      With New Orleans-flavored prints on the wall and a plea to “let the good times roll” in Cajun French above the bar, the atmosphere is laid-back, with dark wood panels, tables and a long, graceful bar, the slender space is cozy under low-hung ceiling fans. All but the most fainthearted of eaters should try the crawfish boil. If you’re not so bold, order the crunchy and mild deep-fried popcorn crawdad tails or the more refined crawfish cakes. Out of the 10 “po’ boy” sandwiches served on a French loaf with fresh Southern slaw, the one packed with sweet and tender pan-fried Andouille sausage-encrusted oysters is always a pleaser. The dark roux-based crawfish étouffée is a good choice off the entrée menu, though there have been times it hasn’t had the deep, roasted-nut essence you expect from that preparation. Though small, the drink lists are carefully considered. There are no bottles of wine costing more than $30 and the selection is surprisingly diverse.
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