By Jean Strauber, Travel Editor
On a several visits to Michigan, I have had the pleasure of dining at several restaurants in the Greater Detroit Metropolitan area. For those of you who are contemplating a visit to the Detroit area you might want to consider visiting any one of these. A new popular fast food restaurant opened in the Great Lakes Crossing Outlets mall food court. It’s called MAC N’ CHEEZ KITCHEN Would you believe that you can purchase 12 Kinds of Mac N’ Cheez- The Classic, bacon & Cheddar, Buffalo Chicken, Cajun Shrimp, Cheeseburger, Cuban Mac, Extreme Veggie, Four-Cheese, Ham & Swiss, Pepperoni Pizza or a Philly Cheesesteak? You can also order a variety of toppings to doctor up The Classic Mac for $.50 or $.90 for premium toppings. For a finishing touch, your order is placed under a broiler for a minute.
For only $5.99 I had a half-a-Caesar Salad, a soft drink and a mini-Classic Mac. My cousin who introduced me to the restaurant ordered their Macho Nacho which is hamburger, onions, black olives, bell peppers, tomatoes, pepper jack and jalapenos. A “mini” was only $4.29 Very very filling. More than enough. The owner, Lorraine Platman, is also the chef-proprietor of “Sweet Lorraine” restaurant in Southfield. Their plans include opening a branch in Ann Arbor (MI) and then to franchise throughout the nation. I can hardly wait for them to open up here. Chinese- The Hong Hua Fine Chinese Dining. A free-standing building at 27925 Orchard Lake Road, the pagoda-style building has several dining rooms, including a private banquet room for private parties. Service is outstanding.
Food is highly rated by Detroit area newspapers and the Zagat guide recognizes Hong Hua to be among America’s Top Restaurants. When I’ve dined there I order the Premium Wonton or the Egg Drop soup with Mushrooms. The Wonton Soup contains small bits of pork, chicken and even shrimp. You’ll also find two or more wontons as well as Chinese vegetables. The broth is hearty. A bowl is $3.25 and can serve two people easily, for four is $9.95. There are several other soups on the menu including Egg Drop with Mushrooms, Fesh Crab Meat and Fish Mvegeay, Chop Suey and Wonton or a Hot and Sour Szechuan-to list a few. I’ve ordered their Sauteed Shrimp in Lobster Sauce and the Steamed Prawn (served over thin needles). Over the years I have enjoyed the Wok-Prepared Chicken with Black Mushrooms and Snow Peas, Chicken with Mixed Vegetables and Sweet and Sour Chicken.
Another delicious dish was their Wok-Fried Strong Beans that was served with a tomato-based Spicy Sauce. Hong Hau also serves several noodles, Chow Mein and Lo Mein as well as Rice dishes. Your meal is served with hot tea as well as fried broad noodles with plum sauce as well as hot mustard. Want something different for breakfast? Try the Carrot Cake Pancakes that are served at Gest Omelette’s located in Commerce Township. So light and fluffy and served with a Cream Cheese glaze, they were awesome! Other pancakes that are served at Gest’s are Multigrain, Pecan or Chocolate Chip, Blueberry or Banana, Pumpkin or regular. The pancakes will cover an 8 inch plate. Three is considered a full order and two a half-order. You can order Cinnamon French Toast or Sunshine (made with lemon and orange juices) French Toast. Gest is know for its omelettes. Eighteen are on the menu or you can create your own from 35 different toppings. Yes, there are cereals and you can order a one-two-or three egg dishes. Prices for a full order of pancakes (3) is $4.25.
There is a lunch menu and I’m sure the quality is as good. The owner, Cindy Lagas, even sweetens your bill as she provides each dining guest with chocolate dipped strawberries when the check is presented. A restaurant I’ve been to several times when I’ve visited family in Michigan is Steve n Rocky’s in Novi. Their menus are printed daily with five items that change daily. This summer they celebrated “Made in Michigan Summer.” Their menu included specialty dishes that included Lake Perch Saute, Cracker Crusted Whitefish, Black Walnut encrusted Walleye, Pan Roasted Pork Tenderloin and Grilled Beef Tenderloin. For example on the day that I was there they offered a choice of a Buffalo Chicken Salad, Carbonara Pasta, Grilled Rainbow Trout, Sirloin of Beef Skillet Steak or Grilled Atlantic Salmon.
In addition you can make a selection from the fixed menu which features five salads, nine main courses and six sandwiches and “other things.” Service here is outstanding and portions are more than adequate. Steve and Rocky’s publish a monthly newsletter which features their special monthly dinner, the recipe of the month, a message from Chef Steve Allen and even free coupons. I had been very impressed with Sposita’s, an Italian restaurant in West Bloomfield. Sposita’s serves every customer a complimentary antipasto tray, which includes pepperocini, carrot and celery sticks, provolone cheese and salami, that is placed on your table while waiting for your dinner to be served. Your dinner is also served with Minestrone Soup, a garden salad, a side of spaghetti and choice of house or baked potato and vegetable. A diner can order a half or full portion of pasta dinners. Looking at some servings of diners seated near us I can safely state that the half-portion will more than satisfy even the hungriest of diners. They are that big!! Yet a half-order can cost as little as $15. They also have daily specials one of which I enjoyed, a veal and eggplant layered parmigiana. My cousin dined on Veal Marsala. There was more than enough left over.
A popular spot in West Bloomfield is the Stage Delicatessen. Recently remodeled in stark black and white with giant size portraits of screen and stage stars, the Stage Deli offers fine quality sandwiches, burgers, wraps and entrees that has made it a staple of the community for these many years. The visitor will also find that breakfast is served 24/7. Like our Brent’s or Uncle Bernie’s the portions that the Stage serves can “feed an army.” The Stage offers a variety of Melts, “Broadway” or “Hollywood Hits” sandwiches. In the past I’ve enjoyed their “Nathan’s Kraut” which consist of three grilled Nathan’s (hot dogs), rye bread and, hot sauerkraut plus my request for chopped onions. Only $11.95. And, yes, there’s enough for the next day. The Stage does not stint. Their manager, Chris Feasel came over to check to see if we had any wants or needs. She’s a hands-on manager (Production Coordinator). I’ve enjoyed their well-known Sweet & Sour Cabbage soup. They offer several daily dinner specials priced from $15 and includes a soup or salad and a choice of two sides.
They also serve beer, wine & specialty cocktails. Once a month I get together with a group of women-all of us being from Detroit. When I shared with them that I was going to write a column about the Greater Detroit restaurants, one of the ladies, Diane, was insistent that I include the Boneyard. I had to agree for the Boneyard serves some of the Best Bar-B-Que you’ll ever have. When I had visited there it was a Monday night and the restaurant was filled with diners, most of whom were savoring the BBQ Ribs. Yes, you can buy Broasted chicken, a variety of Seafood or Shellfish entrees, BBQ Chicken, Burgers and Sandwiches or more but, it’s the ribs that the people prefer.
The Boneyard special offers 5-6 slab basted in their famous Bar B Q sauce for only $11.30. Sides are extra. Cottage Fries ($2.15), Cole Slaw ($1.65), Baked Potato ($2.15), Tossed Salad ($2.50), Mixed Vegetables ($2.15) and Garlic Bread ($.85). Portions are not stingy. And, reasonably priced too. A great family restaurant is Max & Erma’s. Their Trademark- Burgers- What an variety. The most popular being the “Garbage” Burger. It’s everything but the kitchen sink-bacon, cheddar, swiss, American & mozzarella cheeses; grilled onions, sauteed mushrooms, guacamole and marinara. The Erma size is only $8.99; Max size is $9.99. My dinner was selected from “The Perfect Pair” where I could select from a choice of three salads, three soups, or a loaded baked potato. Price only $7.99. Or you can order a half-sandwich with Soup or Salad for only $7.99.
They are also known for their Specialties-Crispy Chicken Tender Dinner, Fall-off-the-Bone BBQ Ribs, Classic Sirloin steak, Cajun Shrimp & Pasta. Fajitas or more. Max & Erma’s is also located on Orchard Road in Farmington. A kids menu offers six items-from Mac & Cheese to a Corn Dog. And, with dinner you do receive one of Erma’s Fresh-baked cookies. You will find that the waitress does not use a table, electronic or paper, but memorizes the orders to give to the chefs. That was really awesome! It’s a really great place to take children. These are just a few of the restaurants that I have visited over the years. But, the quality of food at these restaurants is high, service is outstanding, and prices are extremely reasonable. It’s a pleasure to recommend them. Only the fact that space is limited prevents me from mentioning some of the others.
For those of you visiting the Greater Detroit area I recommend you obtain a copy of the Southfield-Farming Hills edition of Restaurant Connection.” It’s a throw-a-way that you can find in racks throughout the community. It lists the menus (and prices) of many of the neighborhood restaurants You can also obtain information about the many attractions in this area by going to the Greater Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau. And, if your visit will take place around September 15, 2011, you are welcome to participate in the 7th Annual West Bloomfield Grub Crawl from 5 p.m.-11 p.m. 20 restaurants along Orchard Lake Road are participating. Tickets are $40 per person and proceeds will benefit the West Bloomfield Rotary Charities and the Greater west Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce Business Advocacy and Growth Programs. For more information or to purchase tickets call (248) 626-3636 or go to westbloomfieldchamber.com.