Tim and Sally’s Awesome Eats, Canton, MI

Yes, you read the name of this restaurant correctly, it really is Tim and Sally’s Awesome Eats. When reading Yelp reviews over the last few months I’d seen it come up a few times and even read the reviews, partly, I’ll admit, because the name is a bit odd so it stood out. I thought about trying it because the reviews of this place were surprisingly positive, but until recently I couldn’t find a website for them. I prefer to check out a menu online when possible before venturing into most new restaurant experiences, especially if I’m not entirely sure it’s food is going to be up my alley. As a website and graphic designer, I cringed a bit when I did finally arrive at their website as it has a homemade feel, but I did my best to ignore the aesthetics and took a look a their lunch and dinner menu. I saw a number of options, all very reasonably priced, that sounded tasty so my husband and I decided to give it a shot last Friday night.

Depending on your sensibilities you may find the very brightly colored interior to be quaint and charming, or you may choose to ignore the surroundings and focus on the great customer service and food. It felt like a blend of a coffee shop and diner with a number of tables and a counter with cookies and baked goods featured under glass domes. The colors when we walked in reminded me of the Rainbow Bright doll I had as a child. I’m still trying to decide if this was good or bad, but it was easy to ignore when we were warmly greeted by the wait staff when we walked in and were immediately seated.

The menu isn’t fancy, I didn’t expect it to be, but it does give customers quite a bit of choices from burgers, to sandwiches, even some homey entrees. They have daily specials and smoke their own meat in house for the barbecue options. They have a barbecue ribs from their smoker as a Saturday special, that I’ll have to come in and try. I think one of the things that shocked me the most is that they even have a selection of bottled beer and wine.

I ordered the Wrapped Sally sandwich, which is a spinach wrap with slices of barbecued chicken (these are not house-smoked), cheddar cheese, tortilla strips, tomatoes, lettuce and ranch dressing. I was pleasantly surprised. Though the meat is not one of their in-house smoked barbecued meats, it was moist and the barbecue sauce pleasantly smokey, rather than sickly sweet. The tortilla strips added a great crunch and texture while the other ingredients were fresh and good quality. You really get the sense that the owner’s care about giving their customers good quality food and service.

My husband ordered their Smokey Tim, their house smoked brisket with barbecue sauce on a bun. I stole a bite, it was very good. The time they take to smoke their meats in house makes a big difference. I’m excited to come back on a Saturday night to try the ribs special. It’s not amazing barbecue, but it good barbecue and surprising that you can get this quality in a little diner type place like Tim and Sally’s.

We were enjoying ourselves and our food so we decided to try dessert. I was thrilled to see that they had something called Sally’s Secret on the menu, a daily changing selection of mousse. I’ve been craving mousse lately and notice it’s hard to find in may restaurants these days. I was brokenhearted when the waitress told me that they had stopped making it for now, because it hadn’t been selling well. She said that she would have to tell Sally that she’s had a number of requests, of course, now that its’ off the menu and she should bring it back. The waitress said it is “so good, too”.

My disappointment was short lived because we decided to split a dessert that consisted of deep fried banana cheesecake squares topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and hot fudge. It was fantastic! I felt like a kid and really enjoyed it. The banana in the cheesecake gave it a more interesting flavor than plain cheesecake and gave it an extra spark it wouldn’t have had otherwise.

When we stepped up to the counter to pay our bill, I believe we were greeted by the great Sally herself. She asked how we enjoyed our meal. I told her that everything was great, but despite the delicious dessert we had this evening that we’d love to see the flavored mouse dessert brought back. Sally asked if we had eaten it before. When I told her that this was our first time in, she warmly welcomed us to her restaurant. We told her we’d definitely be back in.

Prices are really reasonable, even if the eats are not quite “awesome”, the food is solidly good and the welcoming mom and pop service certainly is awesome! So, if you check out Tim and Sally’s Awesome Eats ignore the aesthetics of the website and the decor and listen to the reviews. This is a place you’ll return to again and again and be pleasantly surprised.

The Quarter Bistro and Tavern,
Ann Arbor, MI

Lunch at The Quarter Bistro mostly draws a business crowd. It has a lovely and elegant interior with a mix of dark woods and fabric treatments. It’s not often I think about coming here because if feels a little out of the way on the west side of Ann Arbor next to the Maple Rd. Kroger’s.

Our waitress was very pleasant, though a touch on the slow side. It took about 5 minutes to take our drink orders at the beginning and to get our check at the end. She was helpful when I had trouble determining whether to get the sun-dried tomato soup or the Carlyle salad as a substitute for the fries that came with my lamb pita. She said the soup special was very good so I took her recommendation.

The soup was heavily cream based and very rich, but tasty. The lamb pita was described as “Sliced roast leg of lamb with spring mix, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes wrapped in pita bread and topped with a creamy Greek vinaigrette and a side of cucumber dill sauce”. The pita for the lamb was soft and yummy, though a little challenging to handle given the amount of filling stuffed into the sandwich. The lamb itself was lacking seasoning and benefited from a little salt and pepper, which I added at the table. It didn’t need the mozzarella, which was really too mild anyway for the lamb. The Greek vinaigrette was subtle, but added nice flavor, though I neglected to notice that I had never received the side of cucumber dill sauce which might have perked the lamb up a bit.

I might not go out of  my way to come back to The Quarter Bistro, but it’s a nice lunch spot with a lovely atmosphere and serviceable food.

Whole Grain Maple Oatmeal Bread

I love getting new recipe books from our local library. It gives me a chance to try out a book before I buy it and it’s an inexpensive way to try out recipes (excluding websites and blogs, of course). My latest temporary acquisition is Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg M.D. and Zoe Francois. It’s full of delicious and healthy recipes that are easy to fit into a busy schedule and don’t require a bread machine.

I love that their recipes are more hands on than using a bread machine, but still very easy and don’t require kneading. All I had to do was head to Whole Foods to add a new ingredient to my pantry called vital wheat gluten. Bob’s Red Mill makes it, but I found it very inexpensive in the bulk section and I wanted to start with a small amount before buying a bag of it.

Most of the recipes in this book have minimal mess because if you have a large lidded plastic bucket, or food storage container you can just mix all the ingredients for the dough right in there with a spoon and then finish it by mixing it with your hands. Let it rest in the container and then slip it into the fridge for up to 10 days (depending on the recipe) and pull the dough out when you’re ready to bake. Preheat the oven and/or baking stone and put the bread into bake. It’s so easy!

A couple of weeks ago I made a free-form loaf from their master recipe and it turned out well. The bread had a nice nutty flavor and went great with jam. I had leftover dough from that batch and made some whole wheat caramel rolls that were also delicious.

This third recipe I tried was 100% Whole Grain Maple Oatmeal Bread. How can you go wrong with a bread made with maple syrup, oatmeal and cinnamon? Of course there’s a bit more to it than that, but it is delicious. It has a light egg wash on top and a sprinkling of raw sugar that creates a lovely crust. A slice lightly toasted with peanut butter makes a great breakfast. You can also turn leftover dough into muffins. I usually halve the recipes in the book because my storage container is not quite big enough to hold most of the full recipes they provide.

Whole Grain Maple Oatmeal Bread

Adapted from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day

  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. granulated yeast, or 1 packet
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1/8 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3/8 cup maple syrup
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil
  • Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water) for brushing the top crust
  • Raw sugar for sprinkling on top

Mixing and storing the dough:

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a 2 1/2 quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container. Add the liquid ingredients and mix with a spoon, without kneading. You might want to finish mixing with your hands to incorporate all of the flour.

Cover (not airtight) at room temperature for about 2 hours, until the dough rises and collapses (flattens on top). The dough can be used immediately after it rises, but it’s easier to handle when refrigerated. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use within 7 days.

On the day of baking:

Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch nonstick loaf pan. Dust the refrigerated dough with flour and pull it out of the container. Dust with more flour and quickly shape into a ball by stretching the dough around the bottom on each side, rotating as you go.

Pull the dough into an oval shape and put it into the loaf pan, it should fill about 3/4 of the pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise for 1 hour 45 minutes (or 60 minutes if it was not refrigerated).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint on the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Put the loaf pan on the middle rack and bake for 45-50 minutes, until deep brown and firm. Remove the bread from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Bagger Dave’s Breakfast, Novi, MI

I’ve been a fan of Bagger Dave’s and their burgers since they first opened a location in Ann Arbor a couple of years ago. When I found out that one of the newer Bagger Dave’s, located in Novi, was a testing ground for serving breakfast I felt the need to drive out there to determine if it measured up to the rest of the food I’ve come to enjoy.

If you’re familiar with their build-your-own burger concept then you’ll feel right at home with ordering breakfast here. They have a similar idea of build-your-own breakfast sandwich or bowl scramble, along with some al a carte items such as oatmeal, flavored pancakes, muffins and toast. For the build-your-own you mark on a printed sheet what goodies you want to add to your breakfast creation: meat, type of bread (or scramble bowl), cheese, sauce, premium toppings (if you so choose) and there are a variety of free toppings as well. All create-your-own sandwiches come with a fried egg on top, or an egg white if you prefer.

I ordered my own breakfast sandwich creation on a wheat bagel with an egg white, turkey sausage, cheddar and sauteed mushrooms. I skipped the sauce option, partly for calories and partly because I wasn’t quite sure which might work best for a breakfast sandwich. I really appreciate that they give you the option of an egg white instead of a fried egg without an extra charge. It’s healthier and I’m not really a fan of gooey egg yolk on my morning sandwiches. The bagel was fresh and soft, the sausage was flavorful and filling. I enjoyed my sandwich, though I’ll admit that I prefer their burgers a bit more. Maybe because I feel like I can get away with adding more creative items to a burger and not regret it later. I’ll admit that I was a bit timid when creating my first breakfast at Bagger Dave’s.

My husband and I shared a bag of Dave’s Diced Potatoes which come with a dipping sauce that includes a mix of sour cream, bacon, onions and spices. Our waitress was nice enough to point out ahead of time that we could easily share one portion of potatoes rather than ordering two separately. These are little nuggets of potato goodness best eaten with fork and dipped lightly in the sauce. A word of warning, the accompanying sauce is HEAVY on the onion. That aside, the combination was a nice change from your typical hash browns.

They had a fairly light breakfast crowd the Saturday we stopped in. It may not be well advertised, we just happened to notice a sign outside the building when we passed by a few weeks ago. Finding the breakfast menu on the website is a little challenging, it’s lumped in with the regular menu a few pages in.

Only one waitress was seating people and taking orders, but she did a remarkable job. Timing on everything from drink orders, to ordering to the arrival of food was very smooth. We went away full and happy. I’ll be emailing Bagger Dave’s to ask if they would consider adding breakfast to the Ann Arbor location soon. I think it would do well there, though the breakfast menu is geared more toward meat eaters than vegetarians.

Breakfast at Cafe Luwak, Ypsilanti MI

[UPDATE: Cafe Luwak is CLOSED]

Cafe Luwak in Depot Town has always been a mix of one part deli, one part ice-cream store and one part coffee shop. Now they can add one part diner since they recently expanded their menu to include traditional grill options such as burgers and chicken sandwiches; they also changed to sit down ordering. Before the switch dine-in customers put their order in at the counter then grabbed a table and the food was brought out. The core of their previous menu was deli style sandwiches and there are still plenty to choose from, with a couple of new additions.

Until this last weekend we hadn’t been to Cafe Luwak in several months. The last couple of times we were in they still only had the counter service. We found it often slow to get food; it sometimes took as much as half an hour to get two sandwiches for carryout. With the new change to dine-in service I was interested to see if things had improved.

We decided to give Cafe Luwak another try for breakfast this last weekend. They have expanded their breakfast menu offerings and even offer a breakfast buffet on the weekends. We skipped the buffet this time and opted to order individual breakfast items off the menu. They now offer a number of egg dishes and griddle items including buttermilk pancakes, Belgian waffles and French toast. Nothing fancy, but all your expected morning plates.

When we walked in at 9:30 on a Saturday morning the sign said ‘Seat Yourself’ so we chose a table in the back. After waiting about 5 minutes for a waitress to come by were were starting to wonder if we should have ignored the sign and asked to be seated instead. Another minute passed and a waitress did finally greet us in a friendly manner apologizing for the delay, but they were short handed.

She took my order for a caramel latte and gave us a few minutes to decide on the menu. I ordered French toast with a side hash browns and locally made Detroit sausage.

The caramel latte was delicious and it’s a nice change to have it served in a ceramic mug instead of a typical paper to-go cup. Their is something especially comforting about putting your hands around a real coffee cup and sipping from its lip which you don’t get with carryout coffee.

The highlight of my food order was definitely the locally made sausage. The freshness and quality were evident and the taste was a nice balance of light sweetness and a slight complexity from the seasonings and herbs. The hash browns were a bit soft, only crispy on the top and were a bit bland. The French toast portion was huge with three full slices of challah bread sliced in half. The syrup pitcher on our table was broken and we had to ask for another along with powdered sugar. It was good French toast overall, not anything special, but it wasn’t greasy and the challah bread was the right blend of thick and soft.

When we finished our meals we had to wait a while again for our check. It seemed that only one waitress was serving that morning. Apparently, if one person calls in at Cafe Luwak they run into trouble, but she was doing the best she could. At least she was friendly despite her tired appearance.
I like the new menu choices, traditional additions, but they broaden the customer options beyond the deli sandwiches when they’re looking for a change. It also brings another breakfast spot to the Ypsilanti area. The service doesn’t seem to have improved much, but if you’re not in a huge hurry it might be a nice change from your usual place. Make sure to get a side of the local sausage. They also serve locally made bacon, which I’ll have to try on another visit.