Blue Wolf Grill, Ypsilanti, Michigan

Blue Wolf Grill, Ypsilanti, Michigan

I promised my husband that I would publicly credit him with find of this new restaurant in Ypsilanti, the Blue Wolf Grill, so here it is Josh (if you’re reading this). Granted, I had not heard that it was coming and I’m usually the first to know when a restaurant will be opening within a 20 mile radius of where we live, let alone right in our own town. However, I haven’t driven down that area of Washtenaw in a while and he was picking up dinner the other night and happened to drive by this new find. Lucky for me (and him) he mentioned his sighting of this new restaurant that had opened just this past Friday near the corner of Hewitt and Washtenaw in what was the old Cosmic Garden years ago (oh, how I miss their sweet potato fries to this day!) and more recently was a Middle Eastern spot. I was thrilled to hear that it was no longer empty and even happier when I looked up their website and found an interesting, well-priced, local ingredient based menu.

We stopped in for lunch today and were not disappointed. They had a soft opening for friends and family earlier last week, but just opened to the public as of Friday. We were the only diners around 3 p.m. on a Sunday, but our waitress was friendly and quick and the food was delicious.

The tables are dressed with real cloth tablecloths and cute little mission style candle holders. My husband hopes they upgrade the black plastic chairs at some point, but I didn’t mind because they were still comfortable which was what was important to me (and my behind).

The menu has a nice mix of soups, salads sandwiches, pastas and entrees with a nice little twist to each. The prices range from $6-$10 for salads and sandwiches to $12-$18 for the nicer dinners, which include a side, a salad and a roll. It would be easy to find something to please a wide range of palates and pocketbooks at the Blue Wolf.

I have been eating a lot more meatless meals lately and was happy to find several vegetarian options that appeared to be well thought out, not just your typical black bean burger or pasta with sauce here. I considered one of the interesting salads, butternut squash ravioli with roasted apples and curry cream sauce, but decided on the Grilled Veggie Panini.

Blue Wolf Grill, Ypsilanti

The sandwich came on fresh herb focaccia with mozzarella and had a nice assortment of vegetables, including portobellos, yellow squash, roasted red pepper, red onion, fresh spinach as well as a hummus spread. This was not your standard veggie sandwich that is slapped on the menu to appeal to a few vegetarians. The vegetables were nicely grilled and well seasoned, the bread was herby and fresh. The flavors of this sandwich came together nicely. It also came with a pickle some tasty ruffled chips, although you can upgrade to the house fries for another dollar.

Pulled Pork and Chuck Burger Sliders, Blue Wolf Grill, Ypsilanti, Michigan

Josh opted for the Wolf Sliders, four sliders with your choice of pulled pork or chuck burgers, or a mix of both. He went for two of each. The sauce on the pulled pork is on the sweeter side which is right up his alley. I had a bite and thought it was pretty good too. He really enjoyed the burger sliders which had a slight char to the outside of the meat, but not too much. The fries came with his

Croissant Bread Pudding, Blue Wolf Grill, Ypsilanti, Michigan

We saved room to try one of their three desserts. We had a choice between the whipped chocolate ganache with berries, a croissant bread pudding with creme anglaise or a chocolate Michigan apple cake with vanilla sauce. Our waitress sold us on the bread pudding saying she had it earlier that day and it was her absolute favorite.

The bread pudding was fantastic as promised. The croissant pudding was studded with dried fruits throughout, a touch of chocolate chips on top and served with a delectable vanilla sauce that wasn’t overly sweet. Fresh berries that surrounded the dish were a perfect accompaniment for their acidity. I cannot believe all their desserts are less than five bucks. If I hadn’t been so full I think we would have  tried more than one!

I love that another restaurant that has put some thought into their menu, considers local ingredients and something other than just the ordinary has given Ypsilanti a chance for their success. They follow in the footsteps of Beezy’s Cafe, Red RockWurst Bar and Bona Sera. It’s so nice to see something aside from fast food chains becoming a part of the Ypsilanti community. I believe the that the Ypsi folk are welcoming to these types of establishments and they will see strong support. We’ll be back here for sure!

The Songbird Cafe, Ann Arbor, Michigan

The Songbird Cafe, Ann Arbor, Michigan

I have fallen in love with a little cafe in Ann Arbor, Michigan called, The Songbird Cafe. I find reason to stop in at least once a week or so. The staff is very pleasant and efficient and the coffee and food are simple, but delicious.

Their caramel latte is just the way I like it. They don’t skimp on the foam, which tastes like a coffee marshmallow to me! So many places these days only fill the latte with milk and leave off the froth, which is my favorite part when done right (and Songbird does it right!).

Caramel Latte at The Songbird Cafe - Ann Arbor, Michigan | Everydayfoodieblog.com

I know I’m enjoying a great latte when it tastes rich and luxurious even when I order it with skim milk, and that’s exactly what I’ve gotten every time I’ve ordered one at this sweet little cafe. Beezy’s, and now The Songbird Cafe, are my two favorite places in the Ypsi/Ann Arbor area to order an espresso drink.

I’ve also had some tasty food at Songbird, including:  oatmeal cookies, a divine apple hand pie, a simple, but delicious caprese sandwich and breakfast.

For breakfast I always order the green tea muffin with candied ginger and topped with walnuts, their cherry granola yogurt parfait,  a side of fresh fruit and a caramel latte, of course!

The muffin is lightly sweet and heavenly. I love that the walnuts are sprinkled on top so they don’t interfere with the soft texture of the muffin too much. The candied ginger wakes up the taste with a subtle and sweet zing. The granola parfait is made to order in a cute little mason jar. The yogurt is plain Greek yogurt so I usually grab just a touch of honey from the coffee bar to take the edge off. The fruit Songbird serves has always been well picked and absolutely fresh.

Songbird Cafe - Ann Arbor, Michigan | Everydayfoodieblog.com

I also enjoy seeing the love that went into the decor of this little place. I never went into this building when it was the beloved Flim Flam diner, but I imagine it’s quite a bit different inside now than it was then.

You walk in to be greeted by the friendly staff at the coffee counter and the chalkboard with specials of the day (their daily soups are fabulous as well!). The counter has lovely slats of wood and a granite top. The side walls have a touch of exposed brick for a rustic feel.

To the right is the dining area, the open entryway to the seating area is accented on side with a lovely leaded glass door. The tables are plenty with a mix of cushioned benches and simple wooden chairs. Library shelves line the back wall. Light pours in from the front window making for a very comfortable and cozy atmosphere to enjoy some simple, but lovely food.

Austin Food Adventures

Austin Food Adventures

My husband, Josh and I took a vacation to Austin, Texas at the end of March. In addition to hearing what a great town for music and art Austin is I was, as usual, most excited about the food possibilities! We had lots of good eats while we were down South, from the ever-talked-about food truck experience (we have a few in Ann Arbor now, too!), to tasty BBQ and some higher-end cuisine.

We had a few hit-and-miss experiences so I’ll highlight my favorites, in no particular order:

Gourdough’s

A raved about doughnut trailer just west of hip and artsy South Congress (SoCo) area. I read about this place when doing some pre-vacation foodie research and it was also recommended by boss’s Austin-local cousin.

The folks in this trailer make doughnuts with crazy, nostalgic, childhood-dream toppings. It’s basically a doughnut sundae topped with anything you can come up with, although they already have 23 pre-determined concoctions for the indecisive folks.

These confections are easily split between two people, and thankfully Josh and I chose wisely and did just that. We picked the Funky Money which is a freshly fried doughnut topped with grilled bananas, gobs of cream cheese icing and brown sugar. It was one of the best doughnuts I’ve ever had, but be warned that it’s extremely rich and not for the faint of heart!

Frank

Whether you’re a traditionalist or a sophisticated connoisseur when it comes to hot dogs and brats you’ll find an amazing selection of top-quality items to please at Frank in Austin.

We hit this place three times while we were in town for the week, it was that good! Plus, the atmosphere is cool and the staff are friendly. It felt like a neighborhood place for both townies and out-of-towners.

The first visit I had a brat on special that had a blackberry gastrique, goat cheese and crispy sage. I had them switch out the venison brat for their Jackalope which is a blend of antelope, rabbit and pork sausage. It was served on a fresh artisan bun and was amazing. The flavors really popped and the bright flavors of the berries, creaminess of the cheese and crisp herby bite of the sage made for great textural contrast and a rich taste.

My husband went the more traditional hot dog route and loved his too. We also split an order of their waffle fries with special house-bbq sauce on the side – delish! The only small disappointment that day was the chocolate chip and bacon cookie which turned out to be a mediocre cookie topped with crumbled bacon (rather than part of the cookie).

We went back the next day for a late lunch and I tried one of the regular menu choices, the Texilina. It’s a pork and beef brat with grilled coleslaw, mustard bbq sauce and white cheddar cheese. Another winner!  A nice middle-ground between traditionalist and a more adventurous palette.

Bonus points! We came back in the evening for to hear a local band play and actually saw Zooey Deschanel hanging out there! I was too busy admiring her adorable dress and shoes to notice who it was until Josh poked me! New Girl is one of our favorite TV shows.

Second Bar & Kitchen

We had dinner here the first night we were in town. Very friendly, but sophisticated vibe with knowledgeable staff. It’s attached to the posh The Austonian hotel.

I bet this place is packed on Friday and Saturday nights. I’m glad we came in on a Sunday when it was almost full, but we didn’t have to wait for a table. There were enough people in the restaurant to know we had found a good place, but quiet enough to be able to enjoy the experience.

I found a new favorite beverage here, Crispin Natural Hard Apple Cider. It wasn’t too sweet, but was crisp and refreshing. This reminds me that I need to find a local store that carries it!

For dinner I had the roasted chicken breast with grilled corn “panzanella” consisting of citrus jus and sourdough. The chicken was succulent and cooked perfectly. It was seasoned well and every element of the dish came together. This was one of the best meals we ate Austin.

Malanga Tapas & Bar

There’s a fabulous tapas place in Chicago that we love so we’re always hoping to find the next great small-plate restaurant on our visits out of town. Malanga’s was a pretty good find.

The prices here were more than our favorite in Chicago, Cafe Iberico which is surprising, but the food was still very tasty. We split lamb chops, an antipasto platter and dessert.

The lamb chops were fabulous! The baby chops came medium-rare and were marinated in aged balsamic vinegar, honey, and olive oil. The side of basil-mint pesto and balsamic reduction was my favorite part!

The meat and cheese were a selection of 15 month old Spanish Serrano Ham, Pamplona Chorizo, Garrotxa with rosemary, and 6 month old Manchego cheeses, also very good.

For dessert we had the Mantecadas. It came out with a beautiful presentation, but the dish itself was underwhelming in flavor. It was described as ‘pastries stuffed with cream cheese and lightly topped with fresh strawberries and a strawberry reduction’, but we didn’t find much in the way of pastry and the strawberries weren’t very sweet.

Overall, we ate well in Austin and really enjoyed the trip overall. If you’re looking for some details on non-food places to go I can share those too, just give me a shout!

Lochart’s BBQ, Royal Oak, Michigan

Lochart’s BBQ, Royal Oak, Michigan

The Detroit-area barbecue scene has gotten more competitive recently. My favorite barbecue place, Slows Bar BQ, in downtown Detroit (near the old Tiger’s Stadium) has been given a run for its money by Lochart’s BBQ .

Josh and I recently made a visit to this relative newcomer that opened last year in the hip, artsy town of Royal Oak, Michigan. It’s about a 45 minute trip from our home in Ypsilanti, but they did not disappoint. I would classify the interior of this restaurant as casual, modern industrial. With thick wood tables with natural splits to the exposed brick walls and stainless steel counters, open kitchen and large windows allowing light to pour inside.

The server was well versed on the menu and ready to help with any questions. He also brought out a nice complimentary jar of sweet and fiery pickle chips in a glass jar to start off our meals.

I ordered the Carolina Pulled Pork sandwich which came on a Kaiser roll with the signature Lochart’s signature  barbecue sauce which was smokey sweet with a hint of spicy and topped with coleslaw. The meat was very tender and juicy and I loved the creaminess of the coleslaw as a compliment to the pork. I had my choice of a side and went for their classic mac and cheese which was creamy and had a nice cheesy quality, but still fell a bit short of Slows fantastically gooey, rich version. Josh also loved his go-to choice of a beef brisket sandwich as well.

We had really wanted to try dessert but couldn’t get past the fact that we were filled to the brim with barbecue goodness on this particular day. Sweet endings will have to wait until our next visit. The trick will be to decide on one amongst a lot of great choices, including: Pecan Pie, Berry Cobbler and Chocolate Dr. Pepper Cake.

 

Cafe Ollie, Ypsilanti, MI

Cafe Ollie, Ypsilanti, MI

I was sad to see Cafe Luwak in Depot Town leave, but I was thrilled to see another eatery take its place quickly. Like Cafe Luwak, Cafe Ollie serves a number of sandwiches, comfort foods, baked goods and coffee drinks. Cafe Ollie has split their menu into thrids to appeal to carnivores, vegetarians and vegans.

I’ve ordered take-out twice in the last couple of weeks. The first time I stopped in I found the counter staff helpful and ready to chat. I also found it to be a bit darker in the revamped deli area. On that visit I tried something from the carnivore’s menu – the T-Hill – a turkey sandwich with thick smoked meat, cucumber slices, Monterrey Jack, and ranch dressing on sourdough bread. The turkey tasted like it was carved right off a Thanksgiving bird and the cucumbers gave the sandwich a nice crunch. Overall, I thought it was tasty, but lacking something I can’t quite put my finger on, maybe some tomato or lettuce for color?

My husband was kind enough to pick up The Crazy Caprese vegetarian sandwich for me the other night. He made the same comment to me that the lighting seemed a bit dim when he stopped in. My version had fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and a balsamic drizzle on a fresh ciabatta roll. On the menu, the bread is said to be flavored with sun-dried tomatoes, I was a little disappointed that on that day it was just simple white ciabatta for me, but the roll was fresh and still flavorful. I thought the rest of the ingredients were good quality and delicious too.

All sandwiches are served with potato chips and the ones at Cafe Ollie are addictive. I’m not a big potato chip fan, but these aren’t greasy or too salty and they were cut to a perfect thickness. I’ll have to ask if they’re made in-house next time I go.

Given that Ypsilanti has a limited selection of independently owned restaurants that offer a refreshing menu, Cafe Ollie seems to be a nice addition to Depot Town.

Kruse and Muer on Wilshire, Troy, MI

Kruse and Muer on Wilshire, Troy, MI

From the moment we stepped into the Kruse and Muer on Wilshire restaurant in Troy the staff made us feel at home. They had a couple of parties celebrating special events when we came in for lunch. The thoughtful manager at the host stand offered us an option between a booth, which would be next to one of the parties, or a table a little bit further away that would at least be a little quieter. My husband and I appreciated the choice and opted for the less noisy table over the comfort of a booth.

On this afternoon, they must have been a touch short handed on waitstaff as another manager greeted us at the table to let us know he’d be taking care of us that day. He asked us to bear with him as it had been a while since he’d been a server. You never would have known the difference as he was friendly and on top of everything throughout our whole meal. It says a lot about a place when you see the management helping out to the extent that they did when we visited. You could really tell that the staff in general really enjoyed their jobs at Kruse and Muer and they shined.

I was surprised to find out how good the prices were here. I had expected a Chuck Muer restaurant in Troy to be on the expensive side, but most lunch items were very reasonable, with a number of them under $10. I also loved the selection of pastas, sandwiches and lunch entrees. It was a tough decision, but I chose the combination option of the half Baltimore Crabmelt and a bowl of Fire Roasted Tomato Bisque (I think it was only $8.95). Our meals also came with a loaf of freshly baked bread covered in poppy seeds.

Baltimore Crabmelt at Kruse and Muer\

I initially felt guilty about my choice to go with the crabmelt having assumed that the combination of crab and shrimp would be deep fried like a crab cake. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was mistaken, the seafood cake was baked, not fried, and was very light and delicious. It was tasty with a tomato slice and melted cheddar on top and a piece of the poppy seed bread for its base. A nice mix of refreshing fruit covered in honey yogurt sauce was a nice light side. The tomato bisque was a full bowl which had rich tomato and herb flavors and a smooth texture. The little puff pastry crouton was a fun little touch.

I was happy my meal was filling, but lighter than expected so I could still make enough room for dessert. After such a good meal and great service, I couldn’t leave without seeing what sweet endings they had to offer!

Chocolate Mousse at Kruse and Muer

We had originally asked what the “flavor of the day” creme brulee was, since that’s one of my favorite desserts. We were very grateful for the honesty of our server that day. He said the the flavors are usually fantastic, but that day it was Oreo, which sounds great, but he said that when they do the brulee-ing it burns the Oreos and makes for a somewhat unpleasant charcoal taste. So, we opted for our second choice, the chocolate mousse.

Being an oddball and not crazy about plain chocolate, I usually need a second flavor paired with it like raspberry or caramel, but chocolate mousse is an exception. Kruse and Muer’s version had more of a pudding texture, thicker and not as airy as some mousse I’ve had, but delicious none-the-less.

The only thing that makes me sad about Kruse and Muer is that they have six variations of restaurants in southeast Michigan, but they’re all at least an hour away from where I live. I may have to head out to Somerset Collection more than once every 5 years just for the excuse to come to this restaurant!

Frita Batidos, Ann Arbor, MI

Eve Aronoff, who made a brief appearance on the TV show Top Chef, opened a second restaurant in Ann Arbor last month. Frita Batidos is Cuban inspired and geared toward a more casual crowd than her restaurant in Kerrytown, Eve. Customers order at at the counter and then choose to sit at a bar style counter or share one of the picnic tables with other guests while they wait for staff to call out their name and run the food over.

My husband and I stopped in for lunch. I ordered the Beef Frita, a beef patty on a brioche bun with sweet chili mayo and topped with fries; I added a slice of Muenster cheese as well.  I  also chose a strawberry flavored tropical soda. The burger was on the small side, but very juicy and flavorful. The shoestring fries on top of the burger was a change for me, but I enjoyed them. They were still soft and full of potato flavor. The sweet chili mayo was delicious, but not especially spicy. Despite the high quality of the ingredients I did find the overall value a little low at $9 for an small elevated cheeseburger that didn’t include anything else. The soda was made with seltzer water and syrup. The drink was a bit heavy on the sweetness for my taste and a little lacking on the bubbles. It might appeal more to the kids in the crowd.

My husband ordered the Cuban Sloppy Joe which he found to be tasty, but more of a loose meat sandwich than a sloppy joe as the limited amount of sauce, also the sweet chili mayo, kept it from being especially messy. The spices gave the sandwich a nice depth that you don’t get from your traditional Manwich.

After enjoying our sandwiches we decided to give dessert a try. We settled on the fried plantains coated in cinnamon sugar. I am a big plantain fan, but found these to be a little short on plantain flavor and overwhelmed by the cinnamon sugar. The starchiness of the thick cut plantains also got to be a bit much after a few bites and it would have benefited from another texture to cut through it, like ice cream.

Presentation of our food was fun, everything came served on a banana leaf! Both our sandwiches and dessert came out quickly. Staff for the most part were very friendly and enthusiastic with the exception of one gentleman at the counter who seemed to wish he was somewhere else.

I wonder if the community tables will work in the long run. The day we were in was not especially busy, but it can be a little uncomfortable to share your meal at at picnic table next to a stranger. For more a more outgoing crowd it could be fun to chat up new people on each visit though!

The other observation I had was the Frita Batidos breakfast menu. They have a lot of interesting options from Cuban omelets, mango French toast and even potato nachos, but the prices for breakfast are even steeper than the lunch choices. Shouldn’t prices generally go up throughout the day rather than down? I’m not sure I can stomach $4 for bread and jam or $12 for French toast.

I also saw a lot of interesting Cuban coffees and shakes that I didn’t get a chance to try on this visit. I’m especially interested in the ones that use cajeta, or goat’s milk caramel. We may have to see if the early morning prices change, but we’ll certainly be back for lunch!