Posts tagged restaurants

Five favorite food joints in Detroit

Last weekend, Mr. Squid and I surprised the kids with a weekend away in Detroit to see the musical Wicked and to visit some of our favorite southeast Michigan foodie haunts. While Detroit’s reputation might be more tied to auto-making, or ‘the Big three,’ Michiganders would say, this town knows how to eat.

Here are my favorite foodie spots in and around Detroit.

1) New Yasmeen Bakery

We drove straight from Cleveland to New Yasmeen. There you’ll find meat kibbee, tabouli, fattoush, madardara, and a dozen other dishes I can’t even pronounce, but love sampling. That’s what you’ll find at this Middle Eastern restaurant in the heart of Dearborn. The city also happens to have one of the largest Middle Eastern populations of any town in the U.S. In other words, if you’re looking for authentic flavors, stock up on pitas and hummus here.

Chicken shawarma

My suggestion: Chicken shawarma–grilled chicken pieces spiced with cardamon, allspice and slathered with a garlic/yogurt/tahini sauce, peppered with pickles and wrapped in a homemade pita.

What the kids liked best: Uh, the pastry counter. Seriously, they have chocolate cups filled with whipped vanilla and chocolate cream. On the savory side, my two youngest daughters downed cheese pies while my oldest polished off a meat shawarma.

2)Best China

There’s no website for Best China and if you blink, you’ll miss this dive that’s tucked in a mini-mall behind a gas station in Canton. The owners, who are from Shanghai, have two menus, one for English speakers, and another full of regional favorites, all listed in Chinese.

My suggestion: Sesame chicken. I know, I know, it’s not authentic Chinese cuisine, but I could seriously drink the sauce that doesn’t suffer from the sticky-sweet flavor, or worse, ketchup-based blandness you normally encounter when you order sesame chicken elsewhere. Order the pork potstickers (fried or steamed) as soon as you get in if you want them before your meal, otherwise you’re likely to get them as dessert, which is just fine with me.

What the kids liked best: Everything. But dipping their potstickers in sauce with their chopsticks is always fun.

3)Lupitas Tacqueria

Real Mexican tacos--no cheese, no crisped shells, lots of flavor!

Regular readers know I love Mexican food, especially tacquerias, or taco shops. In the Mexicantown area of Detroit there are several good places for authentic fare, but Lupitas stands apart for their tacos and endless chips and plentiful salsas that are served as appetizers. *Lupitas is only open for lunch and I must admit, I think it’s better during the week versus the weekend.

My suggestion: Tacos al pastor, which are made with pork that’s marinated, then roasted on vertical skewer and before it’s slivered off in pieces. If you’re feeling more adventurous ask for the torta ahogada, which isn’t on the menu, but is a specialty of Mexico’s Jalisco. The sandwich is usually filled with pork, beans, and cheese then it’s dipped into a chile-infused sauce. Warning: it’s hot!

What the kids liked best: Tacos lengua. My middle child who shuns peanut butter loves tacos lengua, or beef tongue tacos. Go figure.

4)Mudgie’s Deli

Located in Detroit’s Corktown district, Mudgie’s inventive dishes–on one visit the soup of the day was cheeseburger–use fresh, local ingredients. For a taste a Mudgie’s check out their recipe here for brownie waffles.

My suggestion: We weren’t able to visit Mudgie’s on this visit, but I’ll admit I follow their Twitter feed just to get meal ideas. Whatever the special is, that’s my order.

Mudgie's Deli decadent brownie

What the kids liked best: Brownie waffles, of course.

5)Leo’s Coney Island

Coney Island restaurants are a Michigan novelty. You just don’t get these anywhere else. Even though the restaurants are named after the chili-doused New York dog, the food here tends to veer more toward Greek flavors–along with your typical diner fare. Note: there are several different Coney Island chains, Kerby’s (spell coney with a K), but Leo’s are the best IMHO.

My suggestion: The Greek salad. And make sure to get the small (the large feeds 4+). Mr. Squid likes the Greek salad with peperoncinis, feta, olives, beets, and chickpeas so much he bought a bottle of dressing to bring home.

What the kids liked best: The coney dog

I just had to pass along more pictures from New Yasmeen. Enjoy!

It took us three days to finish off this chocolate-filled, chocolate cup

My youngest sampling kibbee

Mmmmm, the deli counter

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Getting Kids to Try New Foods at Restaurants

Lemon grass chicken. That’s what my oldest ordered the last week at Peppermint, a Thai restaurant we went to as a family. When her dish came everyone, my husband included, couldn’t wait to try her dish–it was stunning. Thin slices of charbroiled chicken topped with veggies, a light brown sauce that was wafting citrusy scents in all directions and on top a batch of fried, crispy spinach. I didn’t even know you could fry spinach!

Beef Satay--from the Kids' Menu

So how did my daughter end up with the enviable entree? She asked. There’s several strategies we’ve tried to get our kids to try new foods (and shun the ever-present chicken fingers offered on the kids menu). Here’s what’s worked for us.

Talk to the server. Your server knows the menu better than anyone else. Ask away to find out what she recommends. Try specific questions, “I like noodles and spicy dishes, but not something with a lot of meat, what do you suggest?” We’ve found that general questions, “What do you suggest?” yield general answers and aren’t nearly as helpful. My daughter was the only one from our table who talked to the server about her meal–the rest of us had already picked our favorites. And wouldn’t you know it, she tried something new and we were all vying for the last nibbles of her food.

Split a dish. Forget the kids’ menu, encourage your kids to share an adult meal or split one with her. My younger two love shrimp so often they just get whatever shrimp entree is available and we ask for two plates.

Eat family style. We won’t win any awards for best etiquette–when we eat at a restaurant we always try each other’s dishes, or one of my daughter’s decides she doesn’t like part of her meal so we put it on her sister’s plate. The other day we tried a new Polish restaurant, Babushka’s Kitchen after a hike in the woods. Everyone ordered a different flavor of pierogie or entree. Once the food arrived we were swapping bites of all sorts of things. My oldest downed her dad’s kraut with noodles, while I swiped bites of his swiss cheese and mushroom pierogie (heavenly!). It was so much fun to try all the new flavors. My middle child took a bit of her chicken paprikash and said, “Oh, mom, this is soooo good. You gotta try this.”

Try an appetizer. When I was a kid we never ordered appetizers. Ditto on desserts. But we’ve found that appetizers are perfect for sampling something new. First, your kids are already hungry. Second, they’re small bites–kid-sized–if she doesn’t like it, she doesn’t have to eat more. At the Thai restaurant we ordered spinach potstickers. I was sure that the spinach-infused rice dumplings stuffed with tofu wouldn’t appeal to my crew (I was sorta counting on it because I really like them). But in the end I only got one pot sticker and then I had to split the last one with my youngest.

Come hungry. Kids with empty tummies seem much more willing to try something new–and eat it–then kids who’ve been snacking all afternoon.

Pierogie time!

Pick an interesting restaurant. You can’t really expect your kid to go beyond chicken fingers if you’re at a burger place (unless of course they serve a creative assortment!) But the child’s plate at the Polish restaurant either had pierogies or chickcen paprikash. At the Thai place, the kid’s menu included chicken or beef satay. You don’t have to go for a restaurant steeped in culture, but we’ve found family-owned, non-chain restaurants are more likely to have options that intrigue the kids.

Order dessert. Okay, this one is optional. But coconut ice cream or apricot-filled handmade kolcachky–yum! Dessert can be part of the fun of trying new flavors. (We came up with this recipe for banana mini-eggrolls after visiting the Thai restaurant.)

Now your turn, how do you get your kids to sample something new at a restaurant?

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