Thai Thai, Ypsilanti, MI

I was happy to finally get a chance to try out the Thai Thai restaurant in Ypsilanti this week. I had heard several people comment on the good quality of their food and had seen a lot of positive reviews online as well. In past attempts to call in a carryout order they were closed, but the other night I was finally successful!

I chose the #17 – Gai Pad Prig Haeng, or cashew chicken. My dinner included white rice, grilled chicken breast, chili peppers, green and white onion in a sweet and salty brown sauce. I am sort of a connoisseur of cashew chicken at Thai restaurants, it’s my favorite dish. This one stacked up quite well. My favorite is still Lotus Thai in Ann Arbor, but this one was pretty similar. The flavors in the sauce were like the one at Lotus, but the dish was missing mushrooms, which I really like and may request next time I order it at Thai Thai. Although the single asterisk on the menu next to the dish number indicates it to be “mild” I’d argue that it may be a medium spice level for the non-experienced. Personally, I enjoyed the spiciness.

I found it a little odd that they don’t give potential customers easy access to their carryout menu. The links in this blog post will take you to their menu on Facebook but I found even that hard to find initially and they don’t have a website. When I picked up my order I asked for a take-out menu, but they don’t have one available and just mentioned that its available online. So, if you’re interested in trying them out, click one of the links in this post to find Thai Thai’s online menu and don’t give up if the first few times you call they are closed despite the early hour. My first taste says it’s worth the effort.

Squares Restaurant, Ann Arbor, MI

I met some friends for lunch at the newly opened Squares Restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor last week. The restaurant specializes in “Signature Squares” which are housemade white or wheat flatbread with vegetables and/or meat toppings. They also serve salads, a number of housemade side dishes and even breakfast.

They have an order-at-the-counter setup, but it’s slightly unusual. I ordered from a friendly staff member at one end of the counter and when I pulled out my wallet to pay was told that customers pay at the end of the counter. They had us find a table first and wait for our names to be called when our order was ready before they rang us up. While everyone was helpful, I like to order and pay at the same time at a non-table service restaurant. Maybe they’re still figuring that one out.

I had the veggie square with a side of their butternut squash. Although the website features images that showcase most of their squares as open faced sandwiches, mine arrived as a wrap with a side of fresh grapes and an orange slice. The whole wheat flatbread, sun-dried tomato sauce and grilled vegetables, including zucchini, onion, peppers, and mozzarella were really delicious! I did have to peal the foil down from around the sandwich and it was a bit messy to eat. It might work a little better if the flatbreads were served open face as shown in the website photos as I found myself using a knife and fork by the end of my meal. The butternut squash was roasted with cranberries, brown sugar and orange juice added. The flavors were good, but the texture of the squash was on the fibrous side, I prefer my pureed squash smoother. I did snatch some of the broasted potatoes from a friend at the table. They had excellent seasoning and potato taste and were nicely crisped slices. I’ll make those my side dish next time!

Overall, our visit to Squares Restaurant was a very good experience. The staff was very friendly and both the chef and manager checked with our table to see how we were enjoying ourselves during our lunch. Prices are reasonable; my flatbread, side and drink came to a little over $8 with tax.

Fattoush Grill, Ypsilanti, MI

The new Middle Eastern restaurant at Washtenaw and Hewitt in Ypsilanti, Fattoush Grill, opened in the former Tio’s building back in October. They don’t have a website yet and I couldn’t find a menu online so I picked up a carryout menu a couple of weeks ago.
Yesterday I ordered the meat shawarma (slow-roasted shaved marinated lamb pieces) lunch combo for take-out. It came with hummous and pita bread, a choice of soup or salad and rice or fries for $6.99. I had the traditional Middle Eastern salad which was very refreshing. The lettuce was impeccably clean and the white onions were crisp and mild. The simple lemon juice and olive oil dressing with herb seasonings was light and delicious. The rice had a few slivers of toasted almonds for a nice crunch. I must say that I absolutely loved Fatthoush Grill’s version of hommous and I am usually not a hummous fan at all. There version is a little different from most Middle Eastern restaurants because they blend the chickpeas with fava beans and tahini sauce for a much smoother texture and it had a great citrusy flavor. The meat was seasoned well and tasted good despite the fact that it was pretty dry.

Overall, I really enjoyed the food. I’m hoping that the dry meat was just a fluke this time and I can look forward to more tender meat in the future.

Karl’s Cabin, Plymouth, MI

My brother introduced me to Karl’s Cabin near Plymouth a number of years ago. It’s a bit off the beaten path on Gotfredson Road near M-14, but worth a stop if your passing by.

The exterior is a log cabin feel and the inside is a bit dark and cave-like. The menu is more extensive than you might think for an out-of-the-way restaurant and bar. They have some down-home favorites like meatloaf, liver and onions and lasagna, but they also have steaks, seafood and a number of pasta entrees.

When I was recently in for lunch I had their Forest Walnut & Cherry salad. It has a sophisticated mix of spring greens, grilled chicken breast, dried cherries, roasted walnuts, blue cheese and a house-made raspberry vinaigrette. The chicken was tender and perfectly cooked with a slightly smokey flavor from the grill. The blue cheese was mild enough that it didn’t overwhelm the other ingredients. The dressing was also very tasty. I would definitely order this salad again.

Service tends to be a little on the slow side here, but our waitress was pleasant enough. Whether you enjoy comfort food or a slightly more elevated entree Karl’s Cabin is worth keeping in mind if you’re in the area.

Hayden’s Grill and Bar, Canton, MI

I wrote a review about a restaurant in Bay City, Michigan called Harvey’s Grill and Bar back in January of this year. The same small Michigan chain opened up an almost identical version, Hayden’s Grill and Bar, in Canton, Michigan in October.

The decor of this restaurant is also upscale, though it’s missing the outdoor fireplace and patio with an acoustic guitar player on Wednesday nights it’s Bay City cousin features. Very modern and sleek materials create a posh feel. The menu is almost identical to their up-north locations, featuring salads, sandwiches, pasta and fish entrees. They also have their delicious deep fried Oreo and deep fried Twinkie desserts.

Hayden’s has a policy for the wait staff to leave a business card with their name at the customer’s table. I’m not entirely sure what that’s about, maybe if you really enjoy the service you know who to request next time, or at least you can remember their name if you need to flag them down during your current visit (though that hasn’t been an issue so far). Our waitress, Tonya, was very attentive and pleasant.

We had filled out an online survey on our last visit that entitled us to a free appetizer. We settled on the traditional bone-in wings with barbecue sauce and a side of ranch dressing in place of blue cheese. The wings were nice and meaty and well sauced. The barbecue sauce was smoky and sweet with just the right amount of spicy kick for my taste buds. They were so good that for a minute I almost didn’t miss Wings Wings, a phenomenal wings place on Cross St. in Ypsilanti that went out of business last year, much to my dismay.

I have to admit that I’m a sucker for pretzel bun, so it was an easy choice for me to go with one of Hayden’s signature sandwiches, the Chicken Bruschetta. The sandwich consists of a grilled chicken breast, pesto, provolone cheese and a seasoned tomato mixture on a grilled pretzel bun. I also chose their coleslaw in place of the seasoned French fries. I really enjoyed the flavors of this sandwich. The pesto wasn’t overwhelming and worked nicely with the provolone and tomato flavors. The grilled bun had a nice signature pretzel taste and soft texture and the chicken breast was fairly moist. The coleslaw was a nice and creamy, but a little heavy on the dressing.

We were too full for dessert on this visit, but remembering how good the deep fried Oreo dessert was up in Bay City it’s a definite must on our next visit to Hayden’s!

Passport Restaurant, Ann Arbor, MI

Passport Restaurant and Lounge recently replaced what was previously the Cherry Blossom on State St. just south of Briarwood Mall. It’s a bit tricky to pull into the parking lot because there isn’t a direct driveway off State Street, the entrance is actually off of Airport Blvd.

When we drove up around 1pm for lunch on a Saturday the parking lot was nearly empty. I began to second guess whether the hours online were correct, but they were indeed open, just quiet. I’m assuming because of their location and newness they do more business during the week with the industrial area nearby.

My husband and I were greeted by the hostess right away who also gave us the option of a booth or table. Our waiter came to take our drink orders while we looked over the menu. I appreciated his tip that the iced tea was Nestea and not fresh brewed. When I ordered water instead he noted that  customers have said they couldn’t tell the difference in taste between fresh iced tea and the Nestea from the fountain; it didn’t sway me. I was disappointed that such a nice restaurant wouldn’t take the time to brew their own iced tea, especially when charging $2.50 for it.

The Passport menu has a variety of dishes with influences from around the world including Asian (lots of sushi!), Italian and contemporary American. The menu doesn’t indicate that the lunch entrees include sides, but they do indeed come with your choice of white rice, butter-balsamic rice or fries and vegetables. I ordered the Hawaiian Chicken BBQ with the butter-balsamic rice (an odd combination, I know) which included julienned squash, carrots and onions for the vegetable. The grilled chicken had a slightly charred exterior that was little bit tough, but the inside remained fairly moist and juicy. The tamarind gave the spicy barbecue sauce a more complex flavor that I really enjoyed. The grilled pineapple on the side was phenomenal and the julienned vegetables were perfectly seasoned and delicious. The butter-balsamic rice was an interesting change, but probably would have paired better with a different dish (I knew that full well going in!). I also appreciated the reasonable portion sizes for lunch. I wasn’t stuffed to the gills afterward, but pleasantly full.

The desserts were a bit on the expensive side, around $10 each, but the presentation was stunning. We tried the Passport chocolate tower. The dessert consisted of frozen chocolate mousse in a tower of white and dark chocolate ribbons and raspberry coulis and a white chocolate sauce. I wasn’t expecting the mousse to be frozen (think gelato in texture) rather than light and fluffy, but it was good. The dessert construction, while visually beautiful, made it challenging to eat. The taste was worth the struggle in the end.

The decor of the restaurant is mostly Asian in feel, but the music from the audio system is a mix from around the world. The room we were in played something in Italian and a bit of jazz. Another room, which may have had an event at the time we were there, was playing contemporary rock/dance music that could be heard where we were sitting as well. They may want to reconsider piping in different music in each room until they resolve the acoustics issues.
I’m looking forward to coming back another time to try some of the other items on the menu. Hopefully, the business they have during the work week and in the evenings makes up for the light business they had the day we were in for lunch. Based on their first visit, I’d like to see them stick around a while.

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.