Imperial (ferndale, DTW)
New Taco place opened next to Como's on 9 and woodward. Soft opening last Wednesday. Real opening was this weekend. I visited this establishment Sunday night.
Decor: Super cool. Love it. sleek hardwood everywhere. Angular everything. They're participating in the new cafeteria/bench seating fad. It fits the casual feeling of it. Great art-work. and the patio in the back is gonna be one of the best hang-out spots in Se-MI, albeit a touch small.
Service: Growing pains, but A+ for effort and heart.
Drinks: They had again limited service. Tried a bunch of lesser known Mexican beers.. all with the same reaction: Meh. However, their mixed drinks/cocktails were excellent. Not as artisanal as Oakland/Sugar House, but very ,very good. The steeped Vodka wasn't ready for action yet, something that my liver has a soft spot for.
Food: BIG thumbs up. We talked to the owner and he said his inspiration were the taco trucks of LA. Carnitas, Al Pastor, Tinga De pollo, Adobada, Carne Asada, Papas con rojas, and Vegetarian. I tried them all except carnitas and vegetarian. Double soft flavorful tortillas with heaps of stuffing. Comes with those little slices of limes, but alas no radishes (which i'm not a fan of anyway). Al Pastor, excellent. marinated pork with griled pineapple. A touch of heat, sweetness, and saltiness. moist, flavorful. deelish. tinga: stewed chicken. Also excellent. Adobada: one of their weaker ones, especially since I was looking forward to it. chili lime grilled chicken. Dry, not as flavorful as I imagined. Use Thigh meat guys!! Carne Asada: Again, another sub-par. They use braised stringy meat, instead of nice chucks of steak. Creates a textural problem for me. Papas con rojas: probably my fav. Dry Salty chorizo with bits of potatoe.
The Piece de resistance: Sonoran hot dog. bacon wrapped hotdog, stewed beans, poblamo lime cream and salsa verde for $4. Yes. Please. Moar. Please.
churro: Also Excellent, but its hard for me to stomach a 2.50 churro especially considering how small it was.
Guac/chips - Meh. Good, but not standout. SAve your stomach for another hot dog.
Overall: Yes Please!! Arguably the best addition to Se-MI cuisine in a long time.
I second Don’s write up (well done, if I may say). I have some slightly alternate takes, but am on board, overall. Love the quintessential Ferndale groovy atmosphere, even if it won't be everyone’s cup of tea.
Service was friendly (personal introductions and handshakes, etc.), but subject to hiccups such as never coming with one of the ordered items (and not being overly concerned about it when I brought that to their attention).
Drinks—beer selection okay but no One Eyed Betty’s, that’s for sure. Cocktails featured lots of squeezed-to-order citrus, as well as infused vodkas and tequilas. I didn’t try them, but it doesn’t surprise me that Don says they need further development.
The employees are nice and good looking and cool, but they seem a bit befuddled. I’ll check back in a few weeks.
Don—After reading your hot-cold food feedback, I’m surprised you gave it a “BIG thumbs up.” In any event, I liked it, too. There were no flavor homeruns, but there were freshness (chopped to order cilantro) and quality (pickled onions, well trimmed meats) aspects which stood out for me, even though I’m sure any Tia or Abuela would giggle at the White hipster attempt.
I tried the Carnitas, Al Pastor, Tinga De pollo, Carne Asada, Papas con rojas, and Vegetarian. The Carnitas (same meat served on the Torta) was pretty boring, but there was nothing bad about it. The Vegetarian was a forgettable order-only-if-vegetarian item. For me, the Al Pastor, Tinga De pollo, Carne Asada and Papas con rojas were good, with the latter being the more memorable.
None had the character of those from Taqueria Alameda, but Imperial has the liquor, atmosphere and location, so I see a sooner return to Imperial than to Alameda.
I really could have used some free salsa/relish sides to kick up my tacos, and some cheap beans for interlude filler, but those items only come bundled with a chips platter ($$). Indeed, beyond the nicely priced tacos (generous meat quantity), the other menu offerings seemed to aim for a kill ($$), behind the loss-leader tacos.
Love your idea for chicken thigh meat. Boneless/skinless breast meat? No.
The gentleman running the kitchen is referred to by the staff as the “Executive Chef.” Once settled in, I hope Mr. Executive Chef continues to stretch the kitchen for even better offerings. I’ll be there either way, off and on, because it’s decent how it is.
I tried it too, earlier in the week, but haven't had access to a desktop until now.
I really enjoyed myself. I only tried three of the seven given varieties of tacos, and would give a great thumbs-up to the Al Pastor, decent marks to the Tinga De Pollo, and a "meh" to the Carne Asada. And no, I'm not being harsh to the Carne Asada...it just wasn't anything of consequence, and with the Al Pastor being a good two or three steps better than the Carne Asada, I wouldn't get it again. I actually ended up ordering an additional Al Pastor after I was done with the first round of three, and it was just as good as the first one. They're not huge by any means, but they're certainly bigger than Jacques' Tacos by a couple bites, and they come with all of the amenities: chairs, climate control, full service, bathroom facilities, etc. How original. Bottom line: the tacos I had were worth the $2.50 per, even the Carne Asada and Tinga De Pollo. Next time, I'll surely try the chorizo, but I wasn't in a Mexican sausage mood that day.
I genuinely enjoyed the atmosphere, though. Even though my server was more than just a little tattooed (which normally might put me off a bit), she was just fine, eager to serve, and had no problem admitting that she was brand new and was still getting used to, well, everything. No problem! She still took my order well, filled my water glass often, and was friendly. She was tipped well.
The community atmosphere of the place really shines, though. It's *very much* a "strike up a conversation with any/everyone" place, and that's right up my alley. From the owner (who, thankfully, is *very* sensitive about using the flat screens *only* to show local sports, such as Tigers games) who introduces himself and is happy to talk food and California, to the staff, to the patrons...the whole place is designed to stir up actual conversation and friendliness. It might be a bit hipster-y, but it's *nice* hipster-y...not hipster-y in the "we're too good for you to be here" way that such places might exude further north on Woodward.
If you're socially inept/bashful, you *need* to be in this place. It's...easy. There's nothing intimidating about the place, and if nothing else, I promise you that the Al Pastor tacos will make you happy as a foodie. In fact, the worst thing about the place may be finding local places to park, but that's just Ferndale. You might have to drive around the block a couple of times or pay for a spot in an adjacent lot around the corner. Either way, it's certainly worth a trip.
I'm only too happy to know that this place has replaced the awfulness that was The Post Bar. The *only* thing I miss about that place is the fact that it had pinball. In every other conceivable way, Imperial is better than the Post was, and it's very welcome.