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!

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.

Smokehouse Blues, Ypsilanti, MI

Smokehouse Blues, Ypsilanti, MI

Admittedly, I sometimes forget that there’s a pretty tasty barbecue restaurant in my own neck of the woods here in Ypsilanti. Smokehouse Blues has been able to avoid the curse of previous restaurants that have occupied its current space on Washtenaw just east of Carpenter and US-23. I’ve found consistently good service and good barbecue dishes here. They also have beautiful and fun murals of blues musicians on the wall.

We stopped in for dinner on a whim on a recent Friday night. Although they’re typically busier on Friday and Saturday nights there’s usually not a wait for a table, which is nice. We were seated right away on this visit and greeted by a very personable waiter who took our order.

As long as I can remember, they’ve always served a basket of hot buttered rolls with meals at Smokehouse Blues. On this last visit the bread had changed to more of an herb pull-apart loaf, but it was still hot and fresh. I think I prefer the old version though which was more like a yeast roll.

I ordered the barbecue chicken for my main dish which came with a choice of two sides. Even with the rolls, I love my starches so I ordered the jalapeno corn bread and mac and cheese. The chicken was fall-off-the-bone tender with a nice smokey-sweet flavor. The cornbread wasn’t too special, a little on the dry side, but had a nice bit of heat to balance out the sweetness. I was surprised at how much I liked the mac and cheese. It didn’t look all that exciting when it arrived on the pale side. I also usually prefer shredded cheese as opposed to a liquid cheese sauce, but it turned out to be really flavorful and delicous. Looks can be deceiving!

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.

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.

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.