Category Archives: Metro Detroit

Restaurant Review: Noodles & Company

I’ve passed Noodles & Company in Downtown Royal Oak at least weekly since I moved to Michigan three and half years ago. I just assumed it was stereotypical semi-fast food chain and shrugged it off. But I’ve always been curious. After a friend made pan-fried noodles modeled after a Noodles & Company dish, I decided I had to give it a shot.

Much to my surprise, what I got was both delicious and not horrible for me! Basically, there are five or six noodle dishes in three categories: American, Asian and Mediterranean, and a handful of soups and salads. For the noodle dishes, you can get either get a “regular” or small bowl. The small seemed like it would be plenty and it was.

I got the Japanese pan-fried noodles and added tofu to it (I snagged the photo from PETA.org). Unfortunately, they forgot the tofu, but they quickly stir-fried some up when I realized it and I tossed it in. The noodles were thick and chewy, and a little crispy on the outside. The flavor was great with just a bit of a kick. The mung bean sprouts and fresh cilantro helped cool that off a little (but really it wasn’t very spicy, and I can only handle a good medium on most stuff). I got a small side salad too, which was Romaine lettuce and a few of vegetables and the balsamic vinaigrette was fine.

I checked it out when I got home, and the noodle dish I got was only  320 calories on its own — the organic tofu adding another 100 calories. I’m not much of a calorie counter, but a dinner that’s around 400 calories and about 25 grams of protein isn’t bad. Not shocking, though, is that there’s a fair amount of sodium in the dish. Maybe that’s because there’s a bunch of soy sauce in this dish — as most of the Asian dishes there, if you look at the nutritional chart, seem to have about twice as much sodium as the rest of the menu (except for spaghetti and meatballs which tops the charts at nearly 1,500 grams).

We got our food quickly and the staff was really friendly. I also think it’s kind of cool that they apparently get paid accordingly so they aren’t allowed to accept tips. I’ll definitely keep this place in mind the next time I need a quick, inexpensive meal when I’m running around in Royal Oak.

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Sunday Brunch: Cafe Muse

I love breakfast. Eating it, making it, or — better yet — letting someone else make it for me! After 2 years of hearing about its award-winning, nationally recognized (no lie) grilled cheese, I finally made it to Cafe Muse in Royal Oak for a baby shower recently (Baby O is now 3 days overdue. Come on,  already!).

My squeeze isn’t as much into breakfast — he starts his day with a blueberry-banana protein shake, a cup of coffee and some peace and quiet. I think after a week in which we were both so busy we barely saw each other, he decided to indulge me and suggested we go out for brunch today.  D had never been to Cafe Muse, and happily took me up on the suggestion.

While it’s usually the opposite, the wait for an outside table was only about 25 minutes and inside was more than an hour. They have a great system set up though — instead of having to huddle in the entrance with a cup of coffee or linger nearby, they sent us out on downtown Royal Oak and said they would call when our table was ready. That’s smart for so many reasons: 1) Time flies. You don’t realize how hungry you are and you get to walk around window shopping. 2)  Oh, wait — you get to actually GO shopping, come to think of it. We first shot down to Starbucks to get a little coffee to tide us over, then went into a few shops. I ended up with a great bracelet from Sole Sisters and D snagged me some amazing art postcards from Lift nearby.

We had a great time walking around Royal Oak — something we used to do regularly on the weekends and don’t do enough these days. Our table was ready in no time. It was a little windy, so everyone seemed to be bundled up and wanting to sit inside. We were more than happy to indulge in some finally comfortable weather and put up with a little wind.

I ordered the vegan scramble at the baby shower and was determined to go for something a little sweeter (like the carrot cake pancakes, maybe? Or lemon-blueberry ricotta pancakes?). I couldn’t resist a different vegan scramble though! This one had tofu, basil, tomatoes, vegan chorizo and vegan parmesan cheese and came with fruit, toast and whipped sweet potatoes that are so ridiculously good. Oh — and I decided to indulge in a bloody mary. I deserve it right? That’s practically a meal in itself, but somehow I was able to clean my plate and polish off the bloody mary.

Miss C, a self-proclaimed vampire after missing her second front tooth a few days ago, already had breakfast earlier in the morning, so she just got a blueberry muffin that came gooey, warm and delicious. Next time she’s going for the Boston cream pie pancakes with chocolate though.

D went for his usual — a giant bowl of yogurt, granola and tons of fresh berries. Often when he gets this somewhere, there are just a few berries sprinkled on top it seems. This helping was so big, he couldn’t even finish it.

What a great family Sunday. I think we all walked away satisfied and feeling good. I’ll certainly go back, hopefully at some point sampling something on the sweeter side if they can stop coming up with such delicious-sounding scrambles…

They have dinner now too, but sadly only have a couple of veg options and it seems no vegan ones. Maybe once they settle in serving dinner that will change.

Today’s Breakfast: Toast

I love going out to breakfast and my squeeze…not so much. But he indulges me from time to time. Toast in Ferndale is one of those places I’ve wanted to go to since I moved here. The menu sounded good and I’ve only ever been able to make it there for lunch once with Claire.

Since we were up and out the door around 10:30 this morning, we figured there wouldn’t be too long of a wait and we were right. We grabbed a cup of coffee from their help yourself coffee stand and our table was ready.

Although I had stepped inside to pay the bill when Claire and i were there last year (we ate outside on their adorable little patio alcove), I never really looked around.  I’m not sure if the art is rotating or permanent, but there are several paintings throughout the restaurant in reds and oranges and greens. And, of course, true to its name, there are several silver toasters lining the front window along Woodward Avenue and the large red wall at the front of the restaurant.

I expected to have to wait a while for breakfast as it was definitely a packed house. But the staff was hustling and we were eating within about 10 minutes of ordering max.

The breakfast menu includes all kinds of omelets, and other egg dishes, including huevos rancheros and different kinds of eggs benedict. Sweet choices include four different kinds of French toast, including grand marnier and New Orleans (bourbon!) French toast and a few different kinds of pancakes, including granola banana hotcakes and chocolate chip.

There are lots of choices for carnivores that include bacon and sausage gravy, so this might be a good place to go with mixed groups. (But they also have veggie sausage, veggie burritos and the like).

D gets one of two things when we’re out for breakfast — oatmeal or granola (he’s one of those people who actually uses his head and doesn’t eat something that will make him feel like crap and slip into a food coma even though it tastes so good). The Irish oatmeal sounded really good, but he went with the granola, fresh fruit and vanilla yogurt. It was gorgeous, topped with sliced almonds, melon and strawberries.

I decided to go for the florentine benedict. I have a problem with always wanting to order some form of benedict, which is difficult for a vegetarian. There’s regular (ham), salmon and all kinds of variations, but they all involve some kind of meat. When they don’t — I’m in!

Lately, I have been eating less and less eggs, so this complicates matters, but this benedict sounded too good. It had some kind of spinach Hollandaise on it (it may not have been an actual Hollandaise, but I can think of no other way to describe it!), and included sliced tomatoes, fresh spinach, red peppers and kalamata olives on a sliced baguette versus the traditional English muffin base. I could have ordered it without eggs, but I decided to order it with and ended up only eating one. . Look how pretty my breakfast was:

It came with home fries that I thought were spicy (but good) and D thought were bland, which doesn’t make sense, but there you have it.

We left full but not feeling heavy, in about 45 minutes and for about $20 + tip. There are definitely some other things on the menu I’d like to try  next time I’ll have to tap into their breakfast cocktail menu — they have bloody marys with dill vodka. DILL VODKA. And we definitely have to remember it when we have Claire in tow, as she’s a chocolate chip pancake connoisseur.

Toast in Ferndale only is open for breakfast and lunch daily, with burgers, salads, sandwiches, quesadillas and roll-ups on the lunch menu. I think I got the veggie roll up last time, which has artichokes, avocado, mushrooms, zucchini, onions and more rolled in a tortilla.

Maybe some day I’ll make it over to the new(ish) Toast in on Pierce Street in Birmingham, which includes a full bar, dinner menu, patio and is open until 2 a.m.

(Note: I’d like to point out that these photos were all taken with an iPhone! Crazy, right?)

Hidden Surprise: Golden Gate Cafe

Last summer when our camping trip got rained out, the squeeze and I decided to have yet another “Staycation,” deciding this would be unlike any other: we would only eat, visit and patronize places we’d never been. This meant tapping into our list of places we kept talking about going, but never got around to, and also finding brand new places. Before we tucked away our computers for the weekend, I decided to Google “vegetarian Detroit” out of curiosity and one of the first to appear stood out to me: Golden Gate Cafe.

Maybe it’s because I work for a chiropractor on the side, but it intrigued me that Innate Chiropractic also is housed within the same building. All of this about a mile south of our house on Woodward.

Your first thought when you see the building and surrounding property is, “How did I never notice this before?!?!” It is the most colorful thing in the area by far, on the east side of Woodward south of Seven Mile Road. With reds, yellows and purples on its walls, interesting landscaping and — last but not least — a tree house in the back, how in the world did I not see this every time I drove north on Woodward?

The inside no less colorful and unique, a tall counter with stools sits off the kitchen in the back, with one table nearby for patrons. Though apparently dozens come out for Golden Gate’s weekly drum circles (I once gave directions to some guys at a gas station looking for it who had driven from more than an hour away for the Wednesday festivities), both times we went there, there were only a handful of people at best, which seemed just about right to all parties involved.

The place was only slightly different when we went last August than it was a few weeks ago. Their hydroponic wheat grass growing operation was a lot bigger then. This time, it took up a shelving unit by the east door, though there very well may have been more stuff hidden away somewhere.

The first time we came, I stuffed myself on some kind of curry and it was so delicious I tried to eat as much as I could, eventually surrendering and taking the rest home. I think on that trip D tried the millet burger they were trying out. I remember him liking it, but it wasn’t there when we returned.

Although I really, really, really wanted to get curry again, I decided to get something new. For such a small operation, you would think the menu would be limited, but there are all kinds of things to choose from, including soups, salads, all kinds of sandwiches, burgers, wraps, stir fries, smoothies, and whatever whacky special they’ve decided to create that day.

I decided to get the kale and sprouted lentil salad with Bragg’s dressing and the hummus plate, which included some vegetarian grape leaves and tabbouli along with my veggies. I don’t think I’ve ever had Bragg’s vinaigrette and I devoured this salad. If memory serves they get much of their produce from the community farming that goes on at the State Fair site not far from Golden Gate, but I can’t really remember the details.

D decided to get the lentil burger on special, which came with a small salad.

The most surprising part of our meal came with dessert. D and I usually stuff ourselves far too much to indulge in dessert, so I was kind of surprised when he asked if I wanted some and ordered the vegan banana ice cream. The waitress was new, so we were able to overhear an explanation of what it entailed: sending a frozen banana through a juicer and blocking the trap. OK, so I don’t have a juicer, and I can only sort of image what the “trap” is. If you have a juicer, try it. I couldn’t get over it and kept asking, “Wait, so this is really just a FROZEN BANANA?” I was sure she didn’t understand what I was asking. It was delicious. So simple.

OK, I won’t say what it looked like, but it really was good. Check out that cold steam coming off of it.

This is one of those rare places where you are guaranteed to have a unique experience and meet someone interesting every time you go there. I think I might need to ride my bike down there for some of this frozen banana goodness sometime soon… and by soon I mean returning before eight months goes by again!

Anita’s Kitchen: Mediterranean Heaven

So, Daniel and I have a new favorite place to eat. It’s called Anita’s Kitchen and it’s got the best falafel we’ve had in the area, not to mention being walking distance from our house — at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Saratoga Street.

Dan feeds his falafel craving there regularly (to say daily at times would not be a stretch) and the lemon lentil soup is like nothing we’ve ever had.

Tonight we went and decided to try something new. Instead of the vegetarian mezza — a plate of samples of vegetarian grape leaves, hummus, babaganoush, tabbouli, falafel, spinach pie and all kinds of other things, we made our own little veggie smorgasbord.

We went for the lemon lentil soup, because we can’t not get it; the chickpea salad, which is a little like tabbouli, , but without the tomatoes and with chickpeas; the Arabian pizza, a pita pizza with hummus, red peppers and artichokes (it’s supposed to come with lamb too, but we went sans lamb, obviously); and the falafel platter, which comes with six pieces baked or fried falafel (we prefer baked), tabbouli, hummus, tahini and wild rice.

Needless to say, it was a bit too much food, but if I hadn’t gorged myself at Chris and Jessica’s wedding earlier in the day, we probably could have made it happen.

Though I didn’t have one tonight, they have a great Lebanese beer — Alamazza, I believe it’s called. I think it’s a lager. They even have a gluten free beer, but I haven’t tried that yet. Besides that, they’ve got a big selection of beer and wine, including one of my favorites on tap, Bell’s Oberon.

If you go and happen to have room for dessert, we had the lemon tart when it was on special once and it was good. Be sure to get some of Anita’s Turkish coffee to go with it.

Here’s a link to the Anita’s Kitchen Web site. As you’ll see, they have a huge menu for vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. They also have a few items for kids — we found the other day the whole family could go out to dinner for 20 bucks. You can’t beat that.

Instead of the cheesy posters from Beirut and unused hookahs you might find in most Mediterranean joints, Anita’s is actually cool, warm and comforting. The walls are painted in warm tones of earthy green and terracotta, large roots or vines wind through the open ceiling and along the wall and any adornments or “kitsch” is actually tasteful and interesting. Used water and beer bottles hold fresh Gerber daises, which is a nice touch. And, in case someone’s worried about missing the big game, there are a couple of flat screens hoisted behind the bar.

All that being said, the restaurant has a great outdoor patio on the side of the building that probably seats 30 to 40 people, so that’s clearly a draw for the summer. Better yet, there’s always a parking spot or two nearby.

So, check it out when you get the chance. You won’t regret it.