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Royal Oak Brewery (Royal Oak, MI)

Well, after several weeks of relaxing at home, the traveling is starting up again in earnest. Last week, we went to Michigan for Carol’s sister’s wedding. While the wedding itself was in Howell, MI, we arrived a day early to go visit some of her family up in St Clair, MI (and after the wedding, we spend several extra days in Detroit due to Hurricane Irene, but that’s another story). Along the way, we stopped in Royal Oak, MI, to meet up with Carol’s sister and her fiance and hand off the wedding veil Carol made. And get some beers and sandwiches…

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Greenwich Time (Detroit, MI)

I’ll go ahead and open up with what’s not a commonly-voiced opinion: I love Detroit. I actually do. While it has done quite a few things in its history to earn its stereotype of a post-industrial pit of squalor, with drug dealers, bad neighborhoods, crumbling buildings, and a lousy NFL. However, I’ve always found that when I’ve taken the time to actually know Detroit, it’s actually a city with a lot of heart. It has some stunningly great architecture. Great museums. Beautiful parks. And while many people have left, a lot of the ones still there are fiercely loyal to their city and not yet ready to give up. It’s really a city that has a lot to offer, and is much, much better than it’s general reputation (although the Lions do indeed suck). It also has quite a few good places to eat and drink…

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Miller’s Bar revisited (Dearborn, MI)

Almost five years ago, one of the very first reviews on this site was a review of one of my favorite burger joints, Miller’s Bar in Dearborn, MI. Since then, I’ve reviewed a total of 25 additional burger joints, and have plenty more scheduled for the near future. However, since I try (and usually succeed) at visiting Miller’s every time I’m in or near the Dearborn area, and recently had a trip to Detroit, I figured it was worth writing up Miller’s again…

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Matsu Chan (Canton, MI)

What does the word “ramen” mean to you? Unfortunately, for 95% of American diners, “ramen” means those 5-for-a-dollar cheap noodle packages at the grocery store. That’s really, really unfortunate, since true, fresh ramen noodles are a classic example of good Japanese food, and they are serve as a wonderful foundation for ramen soup. Unfortunately, outside of California, there aren’t many good ramen shops out there. One notable exception to this I’ve found is Matsu Chan in Canton, MI. Having been in existence well over 15 years, Matsu Chan is nestled into a small storefront in one of those mostly-vacant strip malls you see all over the Detroit area, and has a very humble storefront. However, once you pass through the doors, Matsu Chan is pure ramen shop.

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Bode’s Corned Beef House (Plymouth, MI)

When it comes to breakfast, one thing I really like is a good Corned Beef Hash (CBH). It’s one of those breakfast items that really tells you how good a kitchen a breakfast joint really has. Some places just serve pre-made canned CBH right out of the can (which can actually be quite good if cooked well with a nice sear, actually). And many places make their own. Sometimes the result is ambrosial (Al’s Breakfast in Minneapolis). Sometimes the result is mediocre (I’m talkin’ to you, Denny’s!). And, sometimes, inexplicably, a restaurant will go to all the trouble of dicing potatoes, grinding meat, and making spices, going through all the right motions, but somehow end up with something that’s nearly indistinguishable from the canned stuff. It truly baffles me, since I’ve been to all sorts of places that people have highly recommended for their homemade hash, and gotten something that easily could be mistaken for Hormel.

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Cafe Habana (Royal Oak, MI)

While visiting Carol’s relatives in Michigan, we decided to meet up with my college friend Ben up in Royal Oak. He recommended Cafe Habana, which is one of the older Cuban places in Royal Oak (with other locations in Ann Arbor and Traverse City). Cafe Habana has quite the nice Cuban-decorated interior, with a heavy emphasis on the chandeliers and Cuban-themed travel posted. However, the menu is less Cuban than “Latin American”, with Tacos Pastors and Beef Chimichurri alongside the Ropa Vieja and Cuban Sandwiches. Don’t get me wrong, I like Argentinian food and Mexican food, but they are both very, very different in their ingredients, flavors, and cooking techniques. Indeed, a major strike against Cafe Habana is that they’ve gone and reinforced the “Cuban food must be like Mexican food since they both speak Spanish” stereotype that I’m all too familiar with. Sorry, that’s been a long-standing gripe of mine. I’ll get off my soapbox…

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Miller’s Bar (Dearborn, MI)

Miller’s Bar is the sort of place you have to hear about before going there, since from the outside (below right), it doesn’t really look much different from any of the other bars on Michigan Ave. It’s your basic neighborhood bar from the 1940s, with a fairly non-descript facade. Inside, it’s more of a post-WWII 40’s time capsule, with formica, copper, and a giant dominating bar…

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Cheeburger Cheeburger (Livonia, MI)

(Closed) Detroit Burgers, Part Deux. As mentioned previously, the front desk clerk at my hotel in Michigan had some unusually strong opinions about the best burgers to be had in the area. Previously, he had recommended Bates Burgers (see review below), which was actually quite decent, but they were sliders, not the big, wrap your hands around them burgers I was craving. So I asked him the next best place to get a burger in Livonia. His second recommendation was Cheeburger Cheeburger, located just down the road from the hotel.

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La Shish (Livonia, MI)

(Closed) here are several cuisines that are difficult for me to enjoy in rural NH, two of the most notable being Middle Eastern food and Vietnamese food. So whenever I’m travelling, I try to find good places to fill these gaps. Luckily, my September work travel ended up taking me to the western Detroit metro area, which is loaded with good Middle Eastern places. One of the more notable chains is La Shish (which I’ve been to before, although in a different location), which happened to have a location just down 6 Mile Road from my hotel.

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Bates Hamburgers (Livonia, MI)

Let’s start this out by getting something cleared up: there is no one sandwich known as a “hamburger.” Hamburgers have types; the hamburgers you get at different places aren’t really even the same. They range from your basic fast food burger (McDonalds, Burger King, …), to big two-handed thick burgers (Cheeburger Cheeburger, Fuddruckers, and, for you Arizonans, The Chuck Box), to specialty burgers (like the cheese-filled Jucy Lucy of Matt’s Bar in Minneapolis). And there’s little comparing burgers from one category to another. Indeed, one of these categories is the “slider”, the diminutive little burger fried on a bed of onions served on a little poofy roll. Midwestern folks can get them at White Castle, while Southerners get these at Krystal. And, for some odd reason, there are a lot of places in the Detroit Metro area that really took the White Castle concept to heart, opening similar burger joints in similar-looking buildings, with similar sliders.

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