“It'll be a long seven days,” sighed the hostess. Good Times's alcohol license had been suspended by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, for some bureaucratic reason, and so proclaimed a not-missable notice on the front door. I had dinner anyway, and by the time I came back 17 days later, all had been forgiven. See below for my alcohol experience.
Good Times, opened on the thriving Avenue of Fashion in 2019 by LaDonna and Derrick Reynolds, offers “traditional American comfort food with a modern twist,” meaning burgers, wings, mac and cheese, salads, steaks, nostalgic desserts (modernized), and a good number of seafood dishes, including three boil bags. LaDonna says their biggest sellers are lamb chops and garlic-Parmesan wings.
The dishes I sampled varied between fine and quite delicious. I liked best a grilled cheese sandwich with lobster and shrimp, dusted in Parmesan, where the crusty Texas toast seemed drenched in butter and the overall effect was richness unto Midas levels. The seafood flavors didn't get lost despite the abundance of smoked Gouda, mozzarella, and cheddar, and it came with a big heap of flat, parsley-dusted fries.
Mac and cheese is also a delight, with fat pasta and the same three cheeses as the sandwich.
Portion sizes are generous. Good-sized crabcakes had the requisite crisp exterior and soft insides, with a tart remoulade. Shrimp and grits meant an enormous portion of garlicky cheese grits topped with six big shrimp, mildly spicy and served with red, yellow, and green peppers. They were a bit soft for my taste, but grits are soft; they put the “c” in comfort food.
For chicken and waffles, the chicken came off best: super-size breaded, well-done, juicy wings. The tall waffle was slightly sweet and vanilla-y, but it was served with a plastic ramekin labeled “Breakfast Syrup” — it didn't even pretend to be maple, and was just generic sugar-taste.
Both of these are also on the brunch menu, served noon-5 p.m. on Sundays, along with shrimp cake Benedict, salmon croquettes, seafood omelet, Bloody Marys, mimosas, and Bellinis.
I found the $18 half-pound Sherwood Burger fine, but not to rave about. It's tall and embellished with caramelized onions. An enhanced house salad came with a whole lot of shrimp and a good house vinaigrette. Don't be shy about asking for substitutions; the menu says ranch dressing goes on that salad, but our server offered options, and grilled shrimp instead of fried. Fries can be switched for garlic mashed potatoes; both are good, but there's more volume to the fries.
Desserts were where the menu nodded hardest at traditional African American cuisine: 7-Up cake, lemon pound cake. Banana pudding was turned into very sweet ice cream, with strong banana flavor and chunks of vanilla wafer. The unlikely sounding “peach cobbler egg roll” was just what it sounds like, a warm filling of soft peaches inside a crunchy, barely sweet wrap. I preferred it to the peach cobbler restaurants often serve, where the crust is as soft as the fruit.
Decor is not a strong suit at Good Times. Astroturf and plastic vines adorn the patio, and pretend trees lining the sidewalk dining area look like something out of Dr. Seuss. Some of the tables seem to have been around for a while. Still, I was glad of an outdoor spot, even when, later, it was enclosed in plastic walls and heated.
The two cocktails we tried were also not a strong suit, though strong. My mule tasted bitter and chemical, not like ginger beer, and my friend, who always orders martinis, said hers was the worst she'd ever tasted; my sip said lemon juice and chemicals. Perhaps better to stick to neat shots rather than mixed drinks. There's a nice long happy hour, 5-8 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday, when Hennessy is $8 a shot and a Green Tea Shooter (Jameson, peach schnapps, Sprite, and sour mix) is $6. Good Times sells hundreds of those a week, according to chef Lamar Rodgers.
The menu says that a 15% tip will be added for parties of one to three and 20% for four or more, but that happened on only one of my visits. Rodgers says it's more likely to be enforced on weekends.