Tag Archives: breakfast

A&L Ham Palace (Detroit, MI)

A good discussion of Detroit’s culinary history has to include not only the Coney Island and the unique square pizza, but it’s also got to talk about ham. You see, back in the mid-20th century, much of Detroit’s burgeoning workforce needed quick, cheap, and nourishing meals to sustain them through their work day. The many “Coney Island” restaurants that are still common throughout the metro area were one answer to that, but in the middle of the 20th century, the many factories of Detroit and Dearborn lead to another style of diner appealing to the blue collar worker: the Ham Palace, and instead of the typical Greek owners of a Coney, a ham palace is generally owned by Eastern Europeans such as Albanians or Poles. The concept is simple: your basic diner, but instead of focusing on Coney dogs, the star of the menu at a ham palace is ham: one of more large ham roasts sitting in the kitchen, with thick slabs cut off the bone to order. It makes for a great centerpiece to both breakfast and lunch menus: a ham platter for breakfast, a ham sandwich for lunch, or a nice pea soup made from the trimmings. Starting in the middle of the 20th century, a good number of factories around the area had ham palaces, ham sandwich stands, or even places that sold entire roasted hams to go (indeed, the famous “Honey Roasted Ham” company started in a modest building, existing but vacant, on Fenkel Road in northern Detroit). At one time Dearborn even had over a dozen such establishments, but as the auto industry and the area’s fortunes waned, these businesses started to wane as well. That said, there’s still a good number of them in existence, like Lile’s Sandwiches in Dearborn on Michigan Ave (in a true nod to multiculturism, it’s actually a ham sandwich shop nestled in among several halal Middle-eastern places now), or Mike’s Famous Ham Place about a mile to the East in Michigan. Or, for this visit, I was looking for one of the places still named as a “Ham Palace”, A&L Ham Palace on Fort Street.

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The Apparatus Room (Detroit, MI)

While I rather love Detroit architecture, Detroit has a bit of a mixed history with historic preservation, with it seeming that historic buildings that fell onto hard times having roughly equal chances of getting refurbished, left to rot, or getting turned into yet more surplus parking lots (with the exception of game days, the city has one of the largest parking surpluses I’ve ever seen). One of the more impressive buildings that was always a bit of a concern has been the old Detroit Fire Headquarters, across the street from Cobo Hall. Actively used as a fire station until the early 2000s, by 2011, the building was only used for administrative purposes, and by the end of 2011 the administrators moved out as well. In 2013, the building was one of many across Detroit that the city was attempting to sell during its bankruptcy, and it sold to a group of investors in 2013. After several years of planning and renovation, it opened in 2017 as the Detroit Foundation Hotel, and the old garage bays that, way back in the day used to hold the fire fighting apparati, re-opened as The Apparatus Room.

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Dime Store (Detroit, MI)

If there’s ever a sign that an area is on the upswing, it’s when it starts to pick up some good, delicious breakfast joints. It wasn’t all that long ago that almost all of the options for a decent breakfast in downtown Detroit had the words “Coney Island” associated with them, or you had to nervously wonder if the in-house breakfast at your hotel was halfway decent. But in relatively recent history, more than a few decent breakfast options have become available: the Hudson Cafe, the Parks and Rec Diner, and Dime Store all being locations that were on my radar, and since my walk to Cobo Hall took me right by the Chrysler Building (formerly the “Dime Bank Building”), I figured it would be a good opportunity to stop in and check out Dime Store.

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Pressed Cafe (Nashua, NH)

During my recent stay in Nashua, one morning I found myself with a breakfast craving: I was specifically craving a breakfast burrito. While in many areas of the country this isn’t much of a problem, up here in Northern New England, what few burrito places we have mostly don’t serve breakfast, or serve up some sort of bland imitation of a breakfast burrito with some tired scrambled eggs and maple breakfast sausage. But luckily, a few online searches later, and I discovered that I was right down the street from a small, local chain that among its many breakfast offerings were several decent-sounding burritos: Pressed Cafe.

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The Inn at Round Barn Farm (Waitsfield, VT)

During our recent mostly snow-less Vermont visit, we did rather enjoy our accomodations at The Inn at Round Barn Farm (where our stay was half off since we had gotten a gift certificate for one night from a silent auction from Prevent Child Abuse Vermont at A Single Pebble). I usually don’t review Bed and Breakfasts since it’s usually a bit difficult for non-guests to dine there, but I was pleased enough with the meals that I figured it was still worth a writeup.

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The Copperline (Chicopee, MA)

You know, I’ve found Western Massachusetts really has a lot to offer, especially on the food and drink scene. The “Pioneer Valley” between roughly Greenfield on the North and Springfield in the south is a wonderful combination of small college towns, rural villages, and post-industrial mills towns (much like my own Upper Valley of VT/NH). Amongst these towns, a plethora of small breweries, bars, restaurants, and food provisioners have popped up, and there are even a few nice ethnic regions like Chicopee (Polish) and Springfield (German). So I always love heading down there. So, when a recent event had us heading down to Chicopee, it was also a chance to explore more of the town. Sure, being a weekend day, several of my Chicopee favorites like Millie’s Pierogi (handmade pierogi sold out of a building behind a car dealer) and Chicopee Provisions (horseradish kielbasa) were closed, but being around at breakfast time gave me a good chance to check out a place that’s been on my hit list a while: The Copperline.

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Health Check: The Regency Cafe (Pimlico, London, UK)

Every once in a while it’s nice for me to do a followup on old favorites, revisiting them and make sure that they are staying in form. One of my oldest reviews on this site is almost 12 years old: a visit to the famous Regency Cafe, which is pretty much the canonical British “Greasy Spoon” for the London area, attracting a wide cross-section of London society all looking for the classic, stick-to-your-ribs old-fashioned Full English Breakfast, aka a “Fry up”. Actually, this is probably my dozenth visit to the Regency “Caff” since first coming in 2006, I usually make it a point to visit at least once every trip (although holiday closings and my odd travel schedules have prevented that a few times). So, while they neighborhood has changed a bit (like much of London, sprouting newer, taller buildings), the Regency is still going strong.

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Breakfast at Dishoom (Kings Cross, London, UK)

Sometimes I really enjoy when cuisine takes some interesting voyages to get from its origins to its current state. A good example of this is the concept of the Irani Bombay café. The Irani café concept dates back to the 19th century, when a large wave of Zoroastrian immigration into India resulted in a large number of cafés opening that were welcoming to a good cross-section of society; Sikh dining next to a Hindus and Zoroastrians, with an interesting Indo-Iranian cuisine focusing on chai, fragrant Biryanis (a dish that actually traces back to Iran), omelets, curries, and naans. It’s also, unfortunately, a culinary heritage that’s dying out, with fewer than 30 classic Irani cafés still remaining in Mumbai, and similar number in Hyderabad. Into this scene comes another migration, with British restaurateurs Shamil and Kavi Thakrar who decided to bring the concept to London. The result was Dishoom, a small chain of “Bombay-Style Cafes” (although the Thakrar cousins sold the chain in mid-2017).

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Cafe Berlin (Columbia, MO)

Despite the many changes in Columbia, most of my favorite spots to visit are still alive and well (Flat Branch for on of my favorite brownie sundaes anywhere and Shakespeare’s Pizza, to name two), some parts of town have seen a lot of nice development. The North Village part of town has seen a lot of recent development, such as the very excellent Logboat Brewing. Indeed, on the way to Logboat, we found a relatively new place in town (from my perspective), Cafe Berlin, and decided on our last morning in town that we’d try them for breakfast.

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Ernie’s Cafe and Steakhouse (Columbia, MO)

Our next culinary stop in Columbia was another reminder that my last major visit to Columbia was back when this was a relatively new blog, and thus some of my standard Columbia places hadn’t gotten a proper writeup. In this case, I’m talking about Ernie’s (or, to use the full name “Ernie’s Cafe and Steakhouse”), to which my first visit was well over 20 years ago. Ernie’s is a Columbia tradition, indeed, the sign proudly proclaims “Since 1934”, so even on my first visit the place was over 60 years old. In any case, it’s still a great place to get a breakfast in Columbia.

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