Roast, Detroit – a.k.a awesomeness in The D

A recent computer conference led Andrea and I to Detroit. There was a post on the Runs With Spatula blog about Michael Symon’s Roast, reminding me that I had eaten an excellent burger there during a stint working in Detroit. The menu looked good to Andrea, and through the magic of Open Table, we had our reservation.

Roast is located at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Michigan Avenue inside the Westin Book-Cadillac. You can’t miss it, as open businesses around this area are easy to pick out among the many closed ones. Poor Detroit, did it deserve such a fate?

Michael Symon's Roast, Detroit

Michael Symon's Roast, Detroit

We arrived early and sat at the bar for an appetizer and drinks. Andrea decided on a Mojito – it was an unseasonably warm day in Michigan – and she loved it. I went with a Dirty Bastard from Founder’s Brewery in Grand Rapids – you can’t go wrong with a Founder’s beer. And we mused about the enormous amount of money it must cost to open a new restaurant – the cost of booze alone seemed staggering.

The bar at Roast, Detroit

The bar at Roast, Detroit

Appetizer #1 was the Pork Crackling, and it lived up to its name. These were pork rinds served in a shiny steel cup, and they continued to pop even as we were eating them. And they were delicious, topped with the perfect amount of chili powder and lime juice. I never thought I would see Andrea eating pork rinds, but there she was.

Pork Crackling, Roast, Detroit

Pork Crackling, Roast, Detroit

We moved into the dining room for dinner and our waiter, Bertram, was outstanding.  His wine recommendation – Grilos – was perfect. Let’s see, what adjective should I use… I would say the wine was gregarious and cheeky. (You have to use outrageous adjectives when describing wine – it’s state law.)  We were brought soft butter and two types of bread when we first arrived. Nothing spectacular there.

Time for appetizer #2: Crispy Fresh Bacon. Not what you’re thinking, and not what I was thinking, but it exceeded my expectations. The pieces of bacon were actually chunks of pork, not crispy strips like you get at Bob Evans. The bacon and haloumi cheese went perfect together. Andrea wasn’t a fan of the pickled tomatoes, but I thought they were interesting enough to devour most of them.

Bacon appetizer, Roast, Detroit

Bacon appetizer, Roast, Detroit

After being convinced that they would not be a lot of work to eat, I ordered the Braised Beef Short Ribs. Wow, what an outstanding dish. The beef fell off the bone and was delicious.

Braised Beef Ribs, Roast, Detroit

Braised Beef Ribs, Roast, Detroit

Andrea ordered the lamb ragu and said it was the best meal she has had in Michigan. It even topped Stella’s, which is high praise.

Lamb Ragu

Lamb Ragu

We split a side of Fried Brussels Sprouts and were not disappointed. We were impressed with the large portions, which applied to every other course as well. Unlike other upscale restaurants, Roast is very generous with the portions, and we both took part of our meal home for leftover. (I should have taken more, as I was painfully stuff, but live and learn.)

Fried Brussels Sprouts

Fried Brussels Sprouts

For dessert, we had a fried doughnut topped with ice cream, whipped cream, and bacon. Yes, bacon. This wasn’t the first bacon dessert I’ve had – a beer dinner at The State Room has that honor – but this was far better than my first experience. Andrea enjoyed it even though it didn’t have chocolate.

Doughnut dessert

Doughnut dessert

Roast is a restaurant to which we will definitely return. Every course of the meal was delicious, and the staff was efficient and friendly. This should be at the top of your list of places to eat in Detroit.

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Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar and Grill”

Not being a country music fan, I was still drawn to see Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar and Grill” in Auburn Hills. I don’t know why, but it just seemed like a place that I wanted to visit. Since I was going to be in Pontiac to visit the Walter P. Chrysler museum and then hike at Highlands State Recreation Area, a visit to the experience known as Great Lakes Crossing was doable.

Toby Keith's bar

Toby Keith's bar

First off, Toby Keith’s is a huge place, capable of seating hundreds. The guitar-shaped bar (notice the red, white, and blue striped guitar shape above the bar) could seat dozens by itself. Of course, there was country music coming through speakers. The waitresses were dressed in cut-off shorts, which I didn’t object to. But just my luck, I had a waiter. Luckily, he was NOT wearing cut-offs.

Keith's

Toby Keith's, Auburn Hills

Onto the food. Being a nacho fiend, I had the nachos. Atop red, white, and blue chips (nice touch) were loads of cheese and spicy pulled pork. The pork was juicy, so much so that most of the chips were soggy. The nachos had not been left in the oven long enough, so not all the cheese had melted. A handful of beans and a dusting of sliced spicy peppers rounded out the meal, and overall, they were good, ranking about average on my list. I had the half-order, and that was easily enough to fill me up.
Nachos at Toby Keith's

Nachos at Toby Keith's

Though I enjoyed the nachos, I was drawn to the fried bologna sandwich. Pair that with a Pabst Blue Ribbon and you have the making of one tasty lunch. But that is for my next visit.

T & D Coney Island, Okemos

In the shell of Restaurant Villegas (which was one of my favorite restaurants) now rests T & D Coney Island. On Grand River near Dobie, it’s easy to miss, sitting in a small strip mall next to a Quality Dairy. But I didn’t miss it, and decided to try them out after my first, Wild Wing Cafe, was way too busy for my mood.

T & D Coney Island

T & D Coney Island

Despite being called a coney island restaurant, I bypassed the hot dogs and went with the fish sandwich and fries. Both were good and worth having again. The fish wasn’t overcooked and tasted great, as were the fries. And there were lots of them. No scimping happening there.

T & D Coney Island

Fish sandwich and fries at T & D's

And my waitress’s name was Big Mama M. You know you’re going to get quality service when your waitress is named Big Mama.

T & D Coney Island

Big Mama

If you are a big fan of people yelling Opa! and don’t want to drive to Greektown, you can get flaming fried cheese at T & D. So it’s sort of a greek coney island, and we’ve got one in Okemos.

The restaurant was nicely decorated. It was not busy when I visited on a rainy Friday night, with less than half the tables being occupied. T & D’s also has bar if you happen to be in the drinking mood.

T & D Coney Island

T & D Coney Island

Altu’s Ethiopian restaurant, East Lansing

Yes, Ethiopia does have food, 80’s commercials involving Sally Struthers notwithstanding.

Altu’s is an easily missed restaurant on Michigan Avenue next to the empty lot which was once the Silver Dollar Saloon. There are no large murals or African art outside to lead you to believe that an Ethiopian restaurant awaits behind the windows covered by bamboo blinds.

Altu's East Lansing

Altu's East Lansing

They have recently expanded and the interior is significantly larger as well as being nicely decorated. It feels more like a permanent restaurant than a place where someone threw up some chairs in an old shop and decided to cook food.

Altu's East Lansing

Altu's East Lansing

I had the spicy beef stew lunch with cabbage, and both were served on injera, a spongy Ethiopian bread. Utensils are optional, as it’s very easy to roll up the meat and cabbage into the bread and eat it with your fingers.

Altu's East Lansing

Spicy beef stew at Altu's

The lunch specials, which run $6-7, are mostly vegetarian, with a beef and a chicken stew as well. There are many different dinner dishes as well, though I have not experienced any of those. The chicken stew lunch is served with the same sauce as the beef, though the chicken is served on the bone.

I’ve been to Altu’s a half-dozen times, and have been impressed by the food each time. It’s simple but unique in the Lansing area, not known as a hotbed of Ethiopian culture. And it’s definitely worth bypassing fast food for a day to try something new.