Making some of my usual food stops the other day, it occurred to me that some of them, and others, may not be very well known to you, if at all. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. Trusting that you will, check these out:
This is a new discovery, and a very happy one. What is essentially a soup-and-sandwich joint, one whose whole menu I have yet to work through, Hambone’s turns out very fine examples of two personal favorites: the pulled pork sandwich, and Louisiana red beans and rice. Sticklers for Deep South authenticity in their smoked butts may find a few things to quibble about, but then, we’re not in the Deep South, so if that’s what you’re looking for, get in your car, point it toward the Mason-Dixon Line, and keep going. Hambone’s version is a little smoky, the pork tender but with the occasional crisp edge that just adds to the flavor, and well-doused with sweet-tart Detroit-style barbecue sauce. The red beans are creamy and also a little smoky, and could be proudly served on a Monday night in any Lous’ana dining room or kitchenette. You’ll find this little carry-out counter tucked into one end of Gratiot Central Market on the (fittingly) southern edge of Eastern Market. 1429 Gratiot Ave., Detroit; 313-396-5380.
China Chung’s B.B.Q.
If you’re cruising the Asian strip along John R in Madison Heights, you’re unlikely to spot this place by name, though it’s posted in the front window. The word “Duck” dominates the facade in big red letters, and below that, “Oriental Bar-B-Q.” A row of cherrywood-hued ducks, heads intact, hang from their necks on hooks in easy view of the strip-mall parking lot outside, and there are always customers — mostly Asian — lined up to take home a whole bird at $14.30, or half for $7.50. You’re lucky to find a frozen duckling of indeterminate age in your grocer’s freezer for that price. China Chung’s also sells roast-to-order suckling pigs and whole mature porkers. It’s worth a drive to get there. 31692 John R Rd., Madison Heights; 248-588-7007.
Fairway Packing Co.
Owner Gene Baratta, family and crew have a big name in the local restaurant business for providing top quality meats at fair prices. (Baratta was the first in metro Detroit to offer low-fat, high-flavor Piedmontese beef, now a standard menu item around town.) Though a wholesaler, Fairway will sell small retail orders at wholesale prices, but be sure to call ahead and ask if what you need is on hand. Pride in a well-deserved reputation shows throughout this Eastern Market operation, and I haven’t been disappointed yet in even the most unusual orders (including a cache of beef brains for a special-request gourmet dinner I prepared for my parents). 1313 Erskine, Detroit; 313-832-2710.
Quietly going about its longtime business across the street from the heavily marketed and much better known Nino Salvaggio’s in St. Clair Shores, Giglio’s wonderfully satisfies the craving for simpler, smaller neighborhood markets that cater to a customer base of regulars, know their products top to bottom, and often make some of them in-house. Italian regional variations on olives are found in open tubs, premium name-brand imported pastas share shelves with the more common labels, salted hog casings are always in the cooler for home sausage-makers, but an endless supply of several sausage styles are cranked out behind the butcher case, manned by knowledgeable, wise-cracking lugs who’ll also cut meat to order and offer their own favorite tips for preparation. On nearly every visit, I’ve found plenty of Italian old-timers who know what they want, brook no nonsense when they ask for it, and leave happy to return again and again. 27919 Harper Ave., St. Clair Shores; 586-744-3956.
Honeybee La Colmena
I’ve told you about this place before, but can’t stress enough what a sterling example it is of a market that serves its ethnic neighborhood (in this case, Mexicantown) with high-quality, very low-priced foods and cookware at very low prices. You may not have a need every week for fresh cactus paddles, tomatillos and dried chipotles, but when you want them, Honeybee has them. Also fresh tortillas made in the neighborhood, chorizo made on-site, traditional ollas (clay bean or stew pots), molcajetes (heavy stone mortars), Mexican white cheeses and creams, and bags upon bags of fresh spices at prices unmatched anywhere that I’ve yet found. 2443 Bagley St., Detroit; 313-237-0295.
Kai Sun Discount Oriental Market
This is the kind of treasured find that you hesitate to share too widely because you want neither its charms nor its small, well-trained staff to be overrun by madding crowds. Because fresh seafood is a given on the Asian table, those who hope to get return business have to assure the best quality at fair (or better) prices. You can’t get fresher than live, and Kai Sun is the only place in Metro Detroit that I rely on for live and lively Dungeness crab (it’s hard enough to find even frozen cooked crabs in our area), cherrystone or Manila clams (haven’t found even one dead one in many bags I’ve bought there), oysters and lobsters. It’s also a full-service market for hard-to-find Asian foods, teas, cookware, sauces and much more fascinating stuff. 1059 E. Long Lake Rd., Troy: 248-524-1250.
Food Lover’s Companion (online)
This highly respected dictionary of food terms and definitions was hung online several years ago by the folks at Epicurious.com, with an easy search function and authoritative answers to even obscure questions about eats, ingredients, techniques and all things food. www.epicurious.com/cooking/how_to/food_dictionary.Ric Bohy is editor of Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]