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Apr 5, 2008 06:57 AM

Detroit restaurant scene

Based on buzz from the metrotimes, Detroit News, and the Free Press, I drove 50 miles to try Town Tavern in Royal Oak. Once again, recieved average mediocre food. The local dining scene has been really disappointing. Love Royal Oak and the vibe of the town, but, this food might have deserved all the hype it's getting if it was 1992. Overpriced, overdone ideas from the kitchen. I tried Bastone a few months ago, and liked it alot. Cafe Habana was good too. Both offered more interesting menus at the right price point. My favorite restaurants in the area are Zingermans Roadhouse and The Common Grill in Chelsea, so don't get the perception that it's all about cost with me. I live in Canton, so you do need to travel if you want to have a meal somewhere other than a chain or Coney Island. I've relocated from the east coast and have really been missing good solid food since I got here.Any recommendations?

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  1. Since you're on the west side, might I suggest Five Lakes Grill in Milford? Brian Polcyn's place gets consistently good word of mouth, *especially* if you enjoy charcuterie, which is a specialty of his.

    I'm in Waterford now, and just recently discovered Modern Food and Spirits in Keego Harbor, thanks to a couple of articles in the paper which mentioned it, and have been very, very impressed with it. That's saying quite a bit from me, actually. I realize that it would be quite a drive for you, but if you're willing to make the trip, I doubt you'll be disappointed, especially in the specials they offer, if they appeal.

    Also: are there any specific types of food you're looking for?

    7 Replies
    1. re: boagman

      you sound like your exactly on my page. Checked out websites for both your recs, and they look exactly like the kind of stuff I like.Where is Matsuchan, and what kinda cuisine?

      1. re: jerseyshore

        It's Japanese. A Japanese noodle shop, to be more specific. This place is *not* where you'd go for romantic ambience, but if you want authentic Japanese food, at very reasonable prices, served by gracious people, this place will be very enjoyable for you. Here's their website:

        All the pertinent info is there (address, location info, hours, etc.) but no menu. This is the kind of place that's filled with Japanese folks, and there's lots of stuff that you won't be able to read if you can't understand Japanese. Don't worry about that...they'll be happy to help you, especially if you know what you want/like.

        Again: this is not a place that's going to be a destination for "the beautiful people". It *is*, however, great for the food.

      2. re: boagman

        don't forget gravity in milford - - i have found it to be much more consistent than 5-lakes. they have a fun deal on tuesday nights - 3 courses for $25.

        not a big fan of gaucho's (mentioned below)

        bi bim bap in novi has great korean food

        1. re: 46137

          I've always liked New Seoul Garded in Southfield for Korean. In a bake off is Bi Bim Bap better? Never went there. The drive would be farther but is it worth it.

        2. re: boagman

          I definitely second Five Lakes Grill. I've only been twice--but it is FABULOUS.

          1. re: IndyGirl

            I'm sorry to report that Five Lakes Grill has gone downhill. We'd been loyal fans for many years, but have had enough bad meals here in the past few months to put us off of Five Lakes for a while. Not only is the food disappointing, the service ranges from inconsistent to downright rude these days. I hope that Polcyn can turn things around, for this place was once a real gem.

            1. re: greengodess

              I agree completly. Highly over rated IMO.

        3. Also, since you're in Canton anyway, have you tried Matsuchan? Not much for atmosphere, but for food, good stuff. At least, when I tried it, it was.

          1 Reply
          1. re: boagman

            Just thought of another good suggestion for you on the west side: American Harvest at Schoolcraft College. Yes, it's an offshoot of the culinary program, so the students are the ones who do everything, but they're well-supervised by some of the best chefs in the area. I've really enjoyed the food.

            One area where you might find problems is with the service. These students are like deer in headlights when you ask questions about the food, make a request, or anything of that ilk. I think that they're just so scared to screw up that it petrifies them, and it shows. It can be...awkward. Still, they're trying hard, and as long as the food quality is there (at *very* attractive prices, usually), I can live with some odd service, as long as it's not a problem with their attitudes.

          2. I don't know Canton restaurants very well, but you mentioned something other than chains or coneys. A college friend of mine recommends his cousin's Mexican restaurant, about a year old. The owner and chef are, in fact, from Mexico and the place specializes in dishes from his region (I want to say Oaxaca...could be wrong). I can't find their web site.

            Also, have you tried Evans Street Station in Tecumseh?

            If heading back to the Royal Oak area, try Fiddleheads for a meal; we've never been disappointed.

            6 Replies
            1. re: amandaqtpie

              Q. T. π, is this it?

              Mariachi Mexican Restaurant.

              Menu looks more authentic than other Mexican places in Canton.

              Another place to try is Thai Bistro on Ford just west of Canton Center. Indian food can be good in Canton, too--look around. There are a lot of Indians in that town. The Canton Public Library about 7:30 on a weeknight is like Dilbert's Indian Institute of Technology.

              Matsuchan is great, and it's hard to spend more than $10 a head there--no booze, though.

              1. re: Jim M

                Jim, that would be the one. I haven't tried it yet, but I hear wonderful things. Thanks for finding the site.

                1. re: amandaqtpie

                  I'll report back. I'm looking for a really good Mexican restaurant out this way. There are a couple in Washtenaw that have good food, but their attitude offends even me.

                  Another ethnic place in Canton that has good buzz but that I have not yet tried:


                  Jamaican in Canton, mon!

                  1. re: Jim M

                    Had a roti for lunch on Fri., Pretty authentic stuff. Will go for dinner soon.

              2. re: amandaqtpie

                I second the rec for Fiddleheads. We had dinner there a few weeks ago and it was fantastic.

                1. re: amandaqtpie

                  Just checked out the link- evans st. looks amazing, will try it soon

                2. Diamond Jim Brady's in Novi by the theatres in the Novi Town Center. LaBisteca on Plymouth Road is very nice but a tad pricy. Great steaks.

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: SonyBob

                    Oh, I cannot *believe* that I didn't mention DJB. Good call, SonyBob...good call. I can't recommend them highly enough.

                    1. re: boagman

                      DJB was awesome, had a great meal there last night. Got to admit, I saw the place a while back, and because it was in an unassuming spot in a strip mall, blew it off. I couldn't have been more wrong.

                      1. re: jerseyshore

                        I would suggest that you get on their e-mail list for weekly specials. That way, you won't miss the soft shell's when they come in. Sadly, the last time I talked to Tom and Mary, the future isn't bright. They may have to move and they wern't sure to where. There was talk of just hanging up the resturant and concentrating on catering. Let's all keep our fingers crossed!

                        1. re: SonyBob

                          "Last time you talked"? When was that?

                          From what I've been reading and seeing, they're continuing to do well, if not better than before. After making their establishment completely non-smoking, it seems that their business has increased a decent bit. When I've been there to eat, especially on the weekends, there's *always* a big honking wait for a table.

                          I certainly hope that your conversation with them wasn't too recent, since they've been saying that things are better.

                          1. re: boagman

                            Hi Boagman
                            I should have clarified a little more. It was a while back when I spoke to them. At that time, there was an issue with wether or not the Town Center was going to tear down the building. It wasn't a matter of lack of business. They're going stronger that ever and, I think, is the most consistantly excellent place to eat on the far West side. I promise out of respect for Tom and Mary, I will get out there as soon as possible and get an update.

                            1. re: SonyBob

                              Has DJB always been there? For some reason I thought they used to be located by or even in the hotel on the other side of Novi Road from the Town Center. That was some time ago and just may have been a false impression.

                              1. re: Fibber McGee

                                To my knowledge, they've been where they are ever since the move from Detroit lo those many years ago. I'll be honest, though: I've only ever known them since they've been at their current spot, and not before. Still, they've been where they are at least 12 years, considering that they were there when I started working in that area in 1996, and they're still there now.

                                I seriously doubt that they were once in that location, but I've been wrong before. Are you thinking of the now-defunct version of the Oxford Inn that used to be across the street?

                                1. re: boagman

                                  DJB used to be (in some form) in southfield.. inside the town center

                                  1. re: rtv

                                    Yes, yes, you're right! Man, that's going a few years back.

                                  2. re: boagman

                                    That could very well be. Since the impression had come from a combination of a knowledge it is in that area and simply driving by, I might just have made that assumption before noticing it was in the town center while going to the movies there a few years back. I'm glad I never actually told anyone where it was when I wasn't sure.

                                    1. re: boagman

                                      RTV is correct about DJB beinging in Southfield before the current location. I'm sure you're thinking of The Oxford Inn (another one of my old haunts). Bobby Higgins was (is) also one of those really great hosts and a very generous guy. He had a really great respect for his employees. On New Years day, he would host a party for his employees. Everyone would dress to the nines and Bobby had everything catered with entertainment. He spared no expense and expected nothing but honesty and a good day's work in return.

                            2. re: jerseyshore

                              Yeah, the actual physical location can be eyebrow-raising, but once you understand the nature of the ambience inside there (which I find quite nice, if a bit busy), and *especially* how good the food is, you'll kick yourself for letting yourself pass it by.

                        2. Have you tried Noble fish for sushi in clawson or Slows BBQ detroit? How about Mon jin lau in Troy-2008 restaurant of the year for Hour magazine.
                          I agree with you completly about Town Tavern. I'm often suprised by the praise it gets here.

                          1 Reply