The Townhouse Bistro is a relatively new restaurant in downtown Birmingham. I’ve tried it out for brunch a couple times and the food is good, but a bit on the pricey side for what you get. I had chicken and waffles on my fist visit and it was a somewhat unique take on the concept. It was served in a sandwich like stack with a fresh slaw. I had the quiche of the day on a subsequent visit and it was creamy and delicious. But, like I said, it is a bit on the expensive end of the spectrum for brunch. The restaurant itself is well decorated but very cramped inside, with uncomfortable chairs. Luckily, they do have a large outdoor seating area during the warm weather months. An odd quirk of the location is that the actual kitchen is a door down the street and the server walk the food down the sidewalk and around the corner to the restaurant in large red boxes. In all, I’m not in any hurry to go back, but it is an alternative if the wait is long at Toast across the street.
Black Lotus is a little brewpub at the corner of 14 Mile and Main Street in downtown Clawson. I’ve been going to this place since it opened about six years ago and it’s been interesting to watch evolve. When it opened, they had no food, just beer. They eventually added some little panini grills behind the bar and started making sandwiches. Over time, the pub entered a golden age of tasty thin crust pizza, and they even had a Chicago style hot dog! However, the changes kept coming. A remodel resulted in a real kitchen (good) and the menu has been updated repeatedly (bad). The sandwiches are still very good, but the pizza and hotdogs are long gone.
The beer has been the one constant throughout all of the other changes. They usually have six different styles on tap and rotate through seasonal and special brews, as well as their standard fare. My perennial favorite is the Detroit Hip Hops, an American Pale Ale that is consistently tasty, reasonably hoppy, and is usually on tap. The other styles can be hit or miss. I’ve liked their occasionally brewed ESB and Black IPA styles, but some of their lighter beers strike me as notably bland. On a recent visit, I had a White Wheat Session Ale that could be described as crisp and refreshing, but so could a cold glass of water. The last couple of years, they have been making a Birthday Beer around the anniversary of their opening, and I liked it previously, but this year it has a distinctly “off” bitter flavor. I usually like bitter, I am a huge IPA fan, but this is not a good bitter and the flavor just doesn’t work.
I was going to order a BLT (have been very good on previous visits) for lunch on this trip, but was tempted by their special of Lobster Mac & Cheese. I was a bit surprised by the large bowl I was served. It was pretty good, but did not wow me. There were a good number of langoustine chunks, but I would have liked it to be a bit richer in the cheese department. I think they try to get fancy with their food offerings, but can’t quite pull it off. My wife ordered their soup of the day, which was some sort of roast pepper tomato something or other. It was way to thick, and she said it was like eating tomato paste.
So, in summary, the place is not perfect but I will continue to visit on occasion. I will however stick to the old standbys I know they do well. So, it will be Pale Ale and sandwiches for me.
Ferndale is really popping with restaurants lately, and one of my favorite newer places is Imperial. It’s on the northbound side of Woodward just north of 9 Mile. It’s an exceedingly simple bar with self seating and a patio area in the back. They have no beer taps, but have a good selection of beer in bottles and cans, including an array of Mexican brews (Tecate, Modelo, Dos XX, etc.). They have a small list of signature margaritas and tequila drinks as well. My favorite is the “Ring of Fire”, which is habanero infused tequila and grapefruit. It is delicious and may also be the spiciest thing on the menu. The food menu is simple as well, a selection of “street” style tacos and other sundry Mexican type fare. They also have a torta and a hot dog on the menu that sound good but I have yet to try them. The tacos are great. I especially like the Al Pastor, which is a mildly spicy BBQesque pork topped with pineapple chunks and thinly sliced jalapeno. They are all good though, and cost a reasonable $2.50 each. A notable side is the “elote especial”, which is grilled corn on the cob dipped in some kind of lime sauce and rolled in a Parmesan like Mexican cheese and spices. The chips, salsa and guacamole are very good as well. The only two drawbacks of the place is that it gets loud inside and the tacos are not served super warm. I can deal with loud voices and the flavors make up for the lukewarm tacos though. Imperial really shines in comparison to Barrio in Birmingham, which isn’t even as good and is outrageously overpriced. This is my go-to place for tacos now.
My friends and I went to Arts, Beats & Eats on Saturday night and had a swell time. Admission is a steal at five bucks (three if you enter before 5pm) since some of the music offerings are fantastic. One of the first bands we stumbled upon were The Marvins who were performing a delightfully funky acoustic set. We watched them until they wrapped up and then sampled the “wine slushee” at a nearby tent. Food and beverages were very expensive for the most part, but there were some tasty options.
The highlight of the night came at the end. The Dirty Americans were playing on the stage near the exit and they ROCK. Seriously, these guys were playing the metal as Jack Black would say. Very hard hitting guitar and drums. I liked it. They were making fun of REO Speedwagon (who were playing the main stage down the street) a bit between songs, which was good for a laugh out of this guy. I was a bit disappointed with the crowd though. The people were much too sedate, there was no danger of a mosh pit forming that night. The worlds worst video of the band is embedded below.
I stopped in at Bell’s Eccentric Cafe last weekend for a quick bite. For those who don’t know, this is the little bar/restaurant at the Bell’s Brewery site in downtown Kalamazoo. I haven’t been there for something like ten years, and I was surprised by how much it had changed, yet stayed the same. They now have a nice entry way and an outdoor patio. The decor is nice as well. The main space is still the same single larger room with an upper balcony on one end. The cafe is still hyper casual, much the same as I remembered. There is no table service, all drink and food orders are made at the bar. Patrons are on their own to find seating. If you do order food, they give you a pager that will summon you to a small window at the back when your food is ready. Although there were many patrons cycling through on a Saturday afternoon, ordering and finding a table was not difficult. I recalled a lack of seating on my previous visit, so this was a relief. I ordered a quesadilla appetizer and a bowl of soup. All was quite good. The quesadilla contained sweet potato and was served with Sriracha sour cream, which was an interesting and tasty twist.
Bell’s beer has a pretty wide distribution in the region, but I think it tastes even better at the source. They have about a dozen beer styles on tap, and were serving a Mead as well. They were pouring a French Farmhouse Blonde Ale that was quite refreshing the day I visited. The beer pictured is The Oracle, a double IPA.