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Jan 12, 2011 10:08 AM

401 west chowstops - anything between Toronto and Ambassador Bridge, Detroit

Making a round trip drive to Ann Arbor in a couple of weeks and wondered if there was anything noteworthy off the 401 between here and the border. Specifically, looking for a good bakery stop, good coffee (espresso?) and possibly a lunch stop (though we may end up in Dearborn for that). Would prefer not to detour too far off our path as we're trying to maximize our time in A2.

And if you have any insights on Ann Arbor food, please meet me over on the Great Lakes board where I will be posting shortly.


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  1. In the plaza behind the Windsor Crossing Outlet Mall (just off the 401 on the way to the Ambassador Bridge), there's a small deli and bakery called Vinnie's. The fresh baked bread and rolls are crusty and delicious. I was there on a Saturday and noticed some gorgeous pastries on the counter. I inquired and was told they were sfoglie (sp?). They were shaped like closed clam shells, with dozens of paper thin layers and dusted with powdered sugar. Inside was a divine sweet ricotta and orange peel filling. The powdered sugar made a huge mess in my car, but I haven't tasted anything so flavourful in a pastry in a long long time. This is an unassuming place, so don't expect an haute patisserie. However, you might want to stock up on imported pastas and canned Italian plum tomatoes. They're dirt cheap compared to GTA prices.

    As for meals, I'd suggest grabbing breakfast before you get on the road and holding out until at least Dearborn, if not Ann Arbor. My husband enjoys the food and fresh raw juices at Al-Ameer Restaurant, which is in Dearborn.

    Not exactly on your route, Centro Caffe on Erie Street has excellent espresso, gelato and wood oven pizzas.

    4 Replies
    1. re: 1sweetpea

      Thanks 1sweetpea!! Those pastries sound amazing and very detour-worthy!! I've seen the raves on Al Ameer and La Pita - pretty sure we'll have to hit up one of these on the drive to or from.

      Where is Centro Caffe? Windsor? Detroit? Is it far off our route? I'm not looking for a major detour but the lure of excellent espresso is always tempting...

      Thanks again.

      1. re: peppermint pate

        I've only eaten pizzas and salads at Centro, but many seem to come for just the espresso. Tables have trays with multiple sugar options. We usually have to move ours to another table in order to have enough room for food. I was quite impressed with the pizzas. They are thin crust, wood fired and damn tasty. Check out the Azzurri and the Melanzana pizzas on page 2 of the menu. Both are excellent. I love that you can add rapini as an extra topping. I took my parents there, when they visited from Toronto. My mother was very happy with her Rigatoni Bolognese and my dad loved his Spaghetti Carbonara, with guanciale.

        Centro is one of the many Italian places on Via Italia, a.k.a. Erie Street, in Windsor. I think it's the best pizza on the strip. It's east of Howard Street on Erie, but only a few minutes' detour from Dougall if you've taken Dougall Street from the 401 instead of #3/Huron Line.

        I also have to put in a good word for Pho Nguyen Hoang, which is on Wyandotte St. The pho is really good, but the #66 hu tieu dish (order it dry) is killer! I've never had another done the way they do it. There's some serious flavour in that bowl, once you add their secret soy sauce condiment that accompanies it, the lemon wedges, chiles and the side bowl of soup. Even though the liquids are salty, I can never resist slurping up every drop. Another plus for Pho Nguyen Hoang is that they're super friendly. It's a family run business and all members are charming. They do a ton of business and the food is always top notch. The bun bo hue (ask for it extra spicy if you like heat) is pretty addictive too. Most of the Viet community is dedicated to this place and Xic Lo, which I find more commercial and less friendly.

        Pho Nguyen Hoang
        510 Wyandotte St E, Windsor, ON N9A3H9, CA

        1. re: 1sweetpea

          Mmm, those Vietnamese dishes sound wonderful and perfect for this weather. Thanks for all the recs 1sweetpea - particularly those pastries, been thinking about them all day...:)

          1. re: peppermint pate

            PP, do call first and make sure they have them that day, so you aren't disappointed.
            Vinnie's Bakery & Deli
            2055 Sandwich West Pkwy, Windsor, ON N9H 2S4

    2. I go to Ann Arbor almost every weekend in the school year.. my must go spot is a grocery store right on the other side of the bridge..Honey Bee. It is in Mexicantown..2443 Bagley Street. It has a great selection of Mexican food items..they have a hot table as well. They have great homemade tamales, guacamole, salsa, fresh meat counter with great Chorizo. I go there most times I cross and do most of my grocery shopping there. Whenever I am bringing my friends to Ann Arbor from Toronto I stop there and everyone has loved looking at the products that we could never get here.

      1 Reply
      1. re: suzspot

        Thanks suzspot - sounds like there's lots to tempt on either side of the bridge. I'll be lucky if I make it to Ann Arbor at all!