The Sardine Room, Plymouth, Michigan

The Sardine Room, Plymouth, Michigan

I celebrated another birthday yesterday. I won’t tell you which one… which means I’m definitely getting older. Over the weekend my husband, Josh took me to The Whitney, a gorgeous restored mansion-turned-restaurant, in Detroit and The Common Grill in Chelsea for two delicious dinners. To keep the ‘The… [Restaurant Name]” theme going, for my actually birthday dinner yesterday I thought it would be fun to try The Sardine Room in Plymouth, which I hadn’t been to yet.

They don’t normally take reservations for small parties early in the evenings, but when Josh called on Saturday they were kind enough to accommodate us with a 6:15 Monday reservation. It was lively when we walked in, but not completely full. It’s long and narrow with sleek high-top tables backlit by a contemporary lighted wall. We were lucky enough to be seated in a booth in the back that had a view of the kitchen.

The Sardine room focuses mainly on small plate style dishes with a few snack items and larger entrees and also some soups and salads on the menu. We went with the intention of sharing several dishes so we narrowed down our choices and decided on this selection: fried green tomatoes, a cheese board, pan seared sea scallops (for Josh), and fish tacos (for me). We also chose a larger fried chicken dinner to split that was on special. It came with a choice of two sides so we went with the mac and cheese with button mushrooms and grilled corn on the cob.

Cheese Board at The Sardine Room, Plymouth, MI

The cheese board came out first and included a cheddar with Cajun spices (my favorite), a double cream cheese and a humbolt fog goat cheese with a layer of ash, all accompanied by truffle honey a few baguettes slices and something called pear mostarda. The honey was fabulous drizzled on all the cheeses. I had never considered doing that before, but definitely will going forward! The pear mostrada was a sweet fruity condiment with a hint of mustard seed; also very good. I would have loved a few more slices of bread, but I was happy enough eating the remaining cheese straight from the board with my fork and a little honey on top.

Fried Green Tomatoes - The Sardine Room, Plymouth, MI

Next came the fried green tomatoes dusted in cornmeal and topped with a smoked corn relish, chile remoulade, and scallions. They were tasty, but we vacationed in Charleston, SC a few weeks ago, so we were a bit spoiled by the amazing Southern version we had down there and this didn’t quite stack up for me.

Josh loved the pan seared scallops  with pork belly confit, house bbq, hollandaise, pickled onion.  I’ll have to take him at his word since I’m very allergic. It’s one of his favorite foods so he has high standards, which these apparently met.

Grilled Fish Tacos - The Sardine Room, Plymouth, MI

My fish tacos were made with grilled red snapper with thyme scented cabbage, corn salsa, jalapeno slaw, tequila lime crème and served in soft corn tortillas. The tacos were tied with the cheese board as my favorite dish of the night. It was my first time eating snapper, which I thought was deliciously moist and tender. The slaw and lime crème gave a nice bright note of freshness.

Fried Chicken Dinner - The Sardine Room, Plymouth, MI

Our last savory item of the night was the fried chicken dinner special. This was probably my least favorite part of the meal, although Josh really enjoyed it. I thought the skin was crisped nicely, but lacked seasoning. The mac and cheese was on the liquid side, almost like processed cheese, and I prefer a firmer style, although the breadcrumbs were good. The grilled corn on the cob was nicely seasoned, simple, but tasty.

Strawberry Rhubarb Shortcake - The Sardine Room, Plymouth, MI

Even with all that food I couldn’t pass up dessert on my birthday so I had the strawberry rhubarb shortcake. It took a little while to come out, but was worth the wait in my opinion. I loved that they used a pâte à choux style dough instead of the traditional biscuit or pound cake. It was light and airy with a nice buttery flavor that complimented the perfectly sweetened pieces of fruit.

They also have extensive cocktail, beer and wine lists. I was considering something called the hemingway – el dorado 3 year white rum, lime juice, grapefruit juice, luxardo maraschino – but decided to keep it simple and stick with non-alcoholic iced tea instead.

Our server was great too. Very friendly, he made a point to ask if we had been there before and if we enjoyed our visit enough to return again, which we told him we definitely did.

Dessert at Nico and Vali, Plymouth, MI

Dessert at Nico and Vali, Plymouth, MI

I can’t really tell you why it took my husband, Josh, and I so long to try dessert at one of our favorite restaurants, Nico and Vali. Maybe we were trying to save ourselves from eating even more delicious food at Nico and Vali in Plymouth, Michigan. We tend to make a trip there once a week already, for breakfast or lunch mostly. Well, regardless, we did finally succumb to the sweet endings recently, and I have to say we were not at all disappointed. Even served on adorable little flowered plates!

Josh opted for their Chocolate Tuxedo Cheesecake, with layers of various white and milk chocolate goodness which he devoured. I, being a non-traditional, non-chocolate fanatic female, decided on one of the lighter fruit based cakes, Boscaiola. Mmm… so good!

The buttery Boscaiola crust is imported directly from Italy and it topped with a light vanilla mousse layer, vanilla cake and a glazed deliciously tart mix of cranberries and currants. It’s not too heavy or rich, just the right balance to end one of the lovely Italian meals at Nico and Vali (I love their grilled zucchini sandwich for lunch!).

I suppose it’s a good thing that we go there most often for breakfast, which I admit would be a bit odd to end with dessert. But, if the need strikes us early in the day, we still have the option of taking a pre-cut slice from the deli case for later…

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.

5ive Restaurant, Plymouth, MI

It’s not often I look to a hotel restaurant for a good lunch, but that’s just what you’ll get at 5ive Restaurant inside the luxury hotel and golf course at The Inn at St. John’s. My husband and I first tried 5ive last year for my birthday dinner and really enjoyed the food and friendly service. I though it would be fun to give their lunch a try last weekend.

They were not particularly busy on the Saturday afternoon we stopped in, but I’m not sure they’re normally very full. They were also pretty quiet last year when we had dinner here, so it may just be the nature of an out-of-the-way hotel restaurant.

Their summer lunch menu has a variety of flatbread pizzas, salads, sandwiches and lighter entrees. I ordered the steak panini on the recommendation of the waitress. The panini had slices of grilled steak, boursin cheese, chipotle mayo and normally caramelized onions, which I chose to omit. It came with house french fries and sweet and sour pickles on the side. As a warning, the prices for their lunch menu that are currently online are a couple of dollars less than what we saw on the menu when we arrived at the restaurant.

My grilled steak panini was really good. I was a little concerned that the combination of boursin cheese with the chipotle mayo might be a bit to heavy, but it wasn’t. The chipotle mayo gave the sandwich just enough of a kick in flavor. The portion size was pretty substantial, too. The fries were decent, but traditional in style and flavor. The sweet and sour pickles were tasty and I couldn’t stop eating them!

Service at 5ive is very friendly and attentive. The food is really good, but maybe a bit overpriced; however, not too surprising at a boutique hotel restaurant. I thought the cost for the dinner entrees (about $18-$33) were more reasonable overall than the lunch entree prices (about $15-$24). Though both the lunch and dinner entrees include a choice of soup or salad. It’s a nice slightly lower priced and quieter alternative to a number of high end downtown Ann Arbor restaurants that are usually crowded and difficult to have a conversation in.

Innovation Cafe, Plymouth, MI

It’s unlikely that you would know that Innovation Cafe exists, even if you live in Plymouth. It’s hidden inside the Michigan Life Science and Innovation Center building in an industrial park off of Beck and M-14. I have to thank a Yelp reviewer for the tip on this one. I was looking for new places to eat in Plymouth and came across a single review of Innovation Cafe from someone who works nearby. The review by BD Traveler R. was intriguing enough for me to make the trip out there. I also scoped out their website menu ahead of time and it sounded interesting for a weekday lunch. The cafe is run by chefs who own a catering business. The cafe appears to be side business as the hours of Innovation Cafe are a little short, only 11am-1pm Monday through Friday.

I grabbed an adventurous friend and headed up last week on a Tuesday. The setup is cafeteria style, but the sandwich and entree choices offer more than you might expect from a corporate cafeteria, including sushi, a salad bar and several interesting sandwich options. Tuesday is also ‘Stir-fry Day’, it was beef and broccoli the day we went. It smelled tasty, but not being a broccoli fan I went with the Innovation Club sandwich which had grilled marinated chicken, black pepper bacon, romaine lettuce, tomato, Swiss cheese and aioli on freshly made bread. I also added their fresh caprese salad as a side. They surprised me by grilling the chicken and frying the bacon for the sandwich while I waited.

I love pepper and there was plenty of it on my sandwich, though it might be a bit too much for some. All the ingredients were very fresh and flavorful. The caprese salad left a little bit to be desired. The tomatoes weren’t as flavorful as I would have hoped and the simple dressing was missing some pizazz too. My lunch also included a simple, but tasty pickle on the side.

Overall I think it was a nice simple lunch and would be a great change of pace for local office workers looking for something that’s healthy and uses local ingredients. It’s a good alternative to fast food or chain restaurants in the area for a quick bite to eat. I don’t know that I’ll necessarily make a special trip out, but if I were nearby and wanted an easy cheap lunch I’d keep Innovation Cafe in mind. The prices are really reasonable and the chefs make a point of using local vendors and products which I make a point of trying to support.

Pizza at Ironwood Grill, Plymouth MI

This was our second visit to the Ironwood Grill in Plymouth, Michigan. We enjoyed the food on the first visit and decided to try out their pizza on this visit. We had stopped by the day before this visit, but the wait was an hour so we decided to try our luck elsewhere. We came back the next day and the wait this time was only about 5-10 minutes on a Saturday night, not bad.

The waitress brought our Cokes to the table, but after tasting them we found them to be a bit low on syrup. The server brought back a “test” glass from a different spigot, but it still wasn’t right so she offered that we try something else. I was a bit disappointed at first that they wouldn’t just switch the mix to adjust the amount of syrup coming out, but I gave in and ordered a bottled root beer for the sake of being easy. The root beer was Goose Island brand and was really good. It was almost on par with some of the best homemade root beer I’ve had.

We ordered their BBQ Chicken Pizza and an order of garlic cheese bread. Both were fantastic. The bread came out first with a nice mix of cheeses: cheddar jack, mozzarella, parmesan and muenster. The marinara sauce on the side had good tomato flavor and a nice sweetness which was great with the salt and garlic flavors in the bread. The pizza was served directly on the wooden peel which was a fun touch. The pizza we ordered had the same tasty mix of cheeses that were on the garlic bread, but also had applewood smoked bacon, chicken and a house-made barbecue sauce. It was so good I couldn’t wait to have leftovers for lunch the next day. It was a little on the high-side as far as price ($18.95 for a large pizza), but we had enough leftover between the two of us for two more meals. They refer to their crusts as Neapolitan (which is similar to a thin crust) and Deep Dish. One word of warning, their deep dish the not a traditional deep dish that you may think of, it’s closer to a standard hand-tossed crust available at most pizzerias.

The service was adequate just like the first time we came, but that isn’t what is bringing us back here. The food is really comforting and surprisingly good. If the servers could put in a little more effort to show a smile or that they might actually enjoy working at Ironwood, then this would be more than just a good place to go, it would be a great place to go for dinner.

Ironwood Grill, Plymouth, MI

We’ve been going to Plymouth more and more lately for a quick bite to eat. It’s really not that far from Ypsilanti and if you take the back roads, it’s also a nice scenic 20-25 minute drive. Last weekend we went to try out a new restaurant called Ironwood Grill.

The decor is a mix of sports bar and modern. It’s a bit dark inside, with multiple plasma televisions lining the walls. I found it a little odd that rather than use the ‘closed captioning’ option for the sports being shown, they actually had the volume turned up one one of the select games they were showing. It might not have been an issue, but they were also playing rock music in the background so it became a bit much.

The menu is a mix of mostly barbecue, pizza and burgers. I opted for a teriyaki chicken sandwich with their sweet potato fries and coleslaw (you get a choice between standard fries and sweet potato; and coleslaw and potato salad with each sandwich). I loved that they didn’t tack on an extra fee for the sweet potato fries as so many places do these days.

The sandwich was good. The chicken was a touch on the dry side, but I’ve had much worse. The sauce was sweet and tangy and the pineapple slice was fresh. The sweet potato fries were some of the best I’ve had. They were cut into wedges and were still filled with soft sweet potato goodness. Too bad they weren’t served with a horseradish sauce, they had ridges that would have held onto a sauce perfectly and ketchup just isn’t right with these. Still, they held their own when most are begging to be dipped. The coleslaw was so-so, nothing special. For dessert we shared the mixed berry mousse. It was nice and light after a filling meal. The berry flavor was really pronounced and delicious.
Service was fine overall. It took a while to get our drinks refilled, but our waitress was pleasant and otherwise efficient. I’ll have to give their barbecue a shot next time.