1 03 2009
  • 1128 Washington Boulevard
  • Detroit, MI 48226
  • (313) 961-2500
  • Website
  • Menu
Michael Symons Roast in downtown Detroit.

Michael Symon's Roast in downtown Detroit.

Finally!  The present I’ve been looking forward to.  When I told J I bought her tickets to a concert in Windsor, she suggested going to Roast for dinner.  Her treat.  I was so excited when I read an article that Iron Chef Michael Symon was opening a Detroit restaurant and when I saw the menu for it, I knew I had to go.

Roast is in downtown Detroit on the corner of Washington Boulevard and Michigan Avenue in the recently restored Westin Book-Cadillac hotel.  The restaurant is on the bottom floor of the Washington Boulevard side.  There is an entrance from the hotel, but there’s also a set of doors next to the hotel’s main entrance that lead directly into the restaurant.

We surprisingly found parking at a meter about a block away.  Had we not, the choices looked to be very limited.  I think I saw a self park on Michigan Avenue next to the hotel.  There’s also a valet service if that’s more your thing. 

We arrived at about 5:45 for a 6:15 reservation.  We checked in with the matre’d figuring we were going to have to wait, but they actually seated us right away.  Roast has a couple huge dining rooms.  They are street level with huge windows looking out into downtown Detroit.  The space is covered with dark, subdued colors with pops of light.  From the dining room, you can see into the kitchen and you can watch the “Roast Beast of the Day” being slow roasted on a spit.  We didn’t sit in the dining room.  Instead, we were seated in the bar area which actually worked out really well.  Read the rest of this entry »


Mindy’s Hot Chocolate – Chicago, IL

13 02 2009
  • 1747 N. Damen Avenue
  • Chicago, IL 60647
  • (773) 489-1747
  • Website
  • Menu
Mindys Hot Chocolate on Chicagos north side.

Mindy's Hot Chocolate on Chicago's north side.

Valentine’s Day came a day early for J and I.  We have other commitments tomorrow, so we decided to get reservations for a restaurant in Chicago we had heard good things about.  When I called at ten this morning to see if we could get a table, the response I got was, “Ooooh…I don’t know.  Hang on a sec.”  Turns out, the only opening they had was at 5:30 which is when they open.  I told them we’d take it.

Mindy’s Hot Chocolate is locate on Damen Avenue in the north side’s Bucktown Neighborhood.  Coming from the south suburbs during rush hour was a little bit of a challenge.  It’s only twenty miles, but with rush hour traffic, it took a little over an hour.  Once we got to the neighborhood, we then had to find a spot to park.  The only options are valet or finding a spot at a meter on the street.  We actually got pretty lucky and found a spot on the corner just about a block away.

We walked in to Hot Chocolate and were met by a hostess who showed us to our table.  The restaurant is fairly small with a bench along the back wall that acts as a seat for about ten tables.  There are also a handful of four tops, a bar, a small waiting/lounge area and one table near the kitchen for larger groups.  We were seated along the wall and the tables were really crammed in there.  It was alright at first because there was no one sitting on either side of us, but once the tables around us were filled, it was like we were all eating together.  There was just a matter of inches between the tables.  Read the rest of this entry »

One Sixty Four North – Kankakee, IL

5 02 2009
  • 164 N. Schuyler Avenue
  • Kankakee, IL 60901
  • (815) 936-0164
  • Website
  • Menu
One Sixty Four North in downtown Kankakee, IL

One Sixty Four North in downtown Kankakee, IL

Whenever I go to my parents house, I run into the problem of “where do we eat today?”    There’s not a lot of options in a town of 750 people.  The closest “big town” is Kankakee a half hour to the north.  J and I tossed around a couple options, but then I decided I was going to make dinner for my brother and dad tonight since my mom and sister-in-law were working.  In order to do that, I had to find a grocery store…again, a half hour to the north.  Since we were going anyway, I told J we’d just eat in Kankakee. 

One Sixty Four North is on North Schuyler Street near the Paramount Theater in downtown Kankakee.  Growing up, there wasn’t much in this area.  The only thing we went downtown for was a movie.  Most of the people I know are not adventurous eaters.  They prefer their Applebees and Arby’s, so asking about a local establishment is sort of like talking in Greek.  I had asked a few people about One Sixty Four North and the answer I always got was “heard it was good, but too expensive for us to try.”  I checked out the menu on-line and it looked pretty reasonably priced to me. Read the rest of this entry »

The State Room

7 08 2008
  • 55 S. Harrison Rd.
  • East Lansing, MI 48824
  • (517) 432-4000
  • Website
  • Menu
The State Room located inside the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center near MSU

The State Room located inside the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center near MSU

This week marks the one year of anniversary of the date I finally grew a pair and asked my girlfriend out.  The anniversary is actually Saturday, but we’re going to be in Chicago for a wedding, so there won’t be a chance to have a anniversary dinner out somewhere.  Instead, I decided to ask her out to dinner tonight.  Our first date was also on a Thursday night (last year, the 9th was on Thursday).  That first date was pretty casual at a new spot along the Peoria riverfront.  I wanted to do things a little different tonight, so I chose The State Room.

The State Room is located inside the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center on the campus of Michigan State University.  There’s no surface parking around the hotel, but there is a parking deck just off the side of the building.  The restaurant validates, so there is no charge to park as long as you eat dinner.  The parking structure is connected to the hotel by a skywalk which brings you into the conference area.  Down the long hallway and past the reception area, the State Room sits on the left side which would be closest to the corner of Michigan and Harrison. 

We were met at the door by a Maitre’d who asked if we had reservations.  I started sweating a little bit when he asked that.  I didn’t figure we’d need a reservation on a Thursday night.  I said no and he fiddled around a little bit looking at his table list.  He finally showed us to a table near the back of the room sort of near the kitchen and right on the wheelchair ramp that leads to the lower dining room. Read the rest of this entry »

Clara’s Lansing Station

14 04 2008
  • 637 E. Michigan Ave. Clara's Lansing Station
  • Lansing, MI 48912
  • (517) 372-7120
  • Website
  • Menu

Wow!  That was my first thought once walking inside Clara’s Lansing Station in downtown Lansing.  We knew just from looking at the outside that the restaurant was an old train depot, but had no idea the care that was taken to preserve that charm inside the building as well.  The first thing you see when you walk in is a waiting room.  There are are old benches and a lot of railroad artifacts just in this room alone.

Next, you walk up a ramp into the main dining room.  You’re greeted at the door by the hostess then shown this massive three level dining space.   My girlfriend and I stopped in for an early dinner on Sunday night.  We were shown to a booth on the first level of the dining room near the rear of the restaurant.  Just behind from us was the steps that lead to an upstairs level.  To the right were the stairs that lead to an balcony level.  If that isn’t enough for you, there’s also an old dining car connected to the building that was being used for a party.  The decorations are gorgeaus.  The windows are stained glass.  The wood is distressed dark woods.  There are chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and paitings adorn the walls.  You get the feel that Clara’s is a find dining establishment, but the atmosphere is cozy and casual.  Waiters walk around in shorts and ball caps and the menu is full of sandwiches and dining car favorites.  A real interesting feature is the soundtrack.  Yes, the restaurant has a sound track.  I have to admit, both my girlfriend and I were competely fooled.  There are tain noises piped into the building.  Some of them sound like you’re in the car, but others make it sound like there is a freight train or Amtrack running by the building. 

Clara's Lansing StationThe place was gorgeaus, but how would the food stack up?  Our waiter came over for drinks.  My girlfriend went with one of their many cocktails.  I had a Pepsi.  The drink menu is just about the same size as the dinner menu.  I’m not sure I’ve ever been handed a menu so thick.  Meals range from burgers to steaks and everything in between.  I went with my new favorite, the Black and Bleu burger.  The half pound burger with Cajun seasoning comes on a Ciabatta roll with blue cheese crumbles and hardwood smoked sugar cured bacon strips.  The waiter said it was a good choice as Clara’s is known for that burger.  The sandwich came with the standard out-of-the bag fries which were crispy and salty, so no complaint there.  The sandwich was delicious…except I didn’t realize it was going to have mayo on it.  The menu doesn’t say anything about mayo and I was really surprised when I took a bite to find that there.  The first few bites it was overpowering and took away from the taste of the cheese, but the more I ate, the more the bleu cheese flavor came out.

My girlfriend got the Califronia Chicken Sandwich.  The chicken is marinated in a fajita sauce then served on  sourdough bread topped with roasted red bell peppers, shredded lettuce, sauted mushrooms, ranch dressing, two avocado slices and melted pepper jack cheese.  She went with the homemade cole slaw as a side instead of the fries.  She could barely put the sandwich down to tell me how good it was.  The neat thing about both dinners, and this goes back to the elegant yet casual theme, is the plates.  I would call them faux china, but they could have easily passed for real china.  It was an interesting choice to serve sandwiches on and added to the aura of the place.

We were both very happy with Clara’s.  It was a nice casual night out, but it felt like more.  The building is beautiful and the huge menu has something for everyone.  If it wasn’t for that surprise on my burger, I wouldn’t have anything bad to say.  Our bill with drinks was $30 and on a Sunday night, we were to get in and eat dinner and still make it home in time to catch The Simpsons.