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The Best Thing I Ever Ate (Michigan Edition)

March 17, 2010

I love The Best Thing I Ever Ate on the Food Network, but there’s a couple problem.  Most of the restaurants are out of reach of the common person.  Not every one, but anything picked by High Society’s Alexandra Guarnaschelli or Aaron Sanchez.  I’d like to take one of them to a dive bar somewhere and watch them squirm.   The other annoying thing is most of the restaurants are in New York which makes sense because Food Network HQ is in NYC.  I always thought the show would be a little more interesting if they added some food bloggers from around the country….and there’s enough to choose from.

So, just in the interest of sparking discussions, here’s my list of The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Michigan Edition.

Totally Fried –  French Fries at Dagwood’s Tavern and Grill in Lansing.  I’m totally a fry snob and only happy when I get fresh cut fries.  Dagwood’s does that.  The fries are easily the best fries in Lansing and until we found Penn Station in Kalamazoo, no one had even come close.  The fries are fresh cut, skin on, and actually fried right.  Instead of being soggy from a single fry, they’re golden brown and crispy as if they took a second dip.

Bar-B-Que – Pulled Pork at Slow’s Bar-B-Q in Detroit. Since moving to Michigan, I have complained frequently about the lack of BBQ places.  I’ve found a couple and they’ve been ok, but there’s just not many that knocks my socks off.  There is one, however, and that’s place sits in the shadow of old Tiger Stadium.  The pulled pork at Slow’s Bar-B-Q is southern style BBQ at it’s best.  J and I stopped in after a day at the auto show and at 3:00, had to wait twenty minutes.  The pulled pork is served Carolina style with a vinegar sauce, but they have all their sauces on the table.  I added the spicy sauce to the Carolina sauce which made for an interesting combination.  The meat is really tender and has great burnt ends.  This is the BBQ we were looking for in Michigan.  It makes me wish we lived closer to Detroit.

With Bacon BLT at Tony’s I-75 Restaurant in Birch Run.  A pound of bacon.  Literally a pound of bacon on a BLT.  I didn’t think it was possible.  I had been told about it.  I saw it on the Travel Channel, but never assumed it could really happen.  The BLT Tony’s isn’t so much a BLT.  It’s all B.  True, there is a slice of lettuce, a couple slices of tomatoes, and a little mayo on the delicious Italian bread, but you can’t even find it.  The bacon was crispy and cooked perfectly.  I ended up breaking down the sandwich and eating the pieces.  I couldn’t even get all the way through the bacon and J put me on a “Bacon Detox” after this little trip.  It was worth it.

Sugar RushDoughnuts at Sweetwater’s Donut Mill in Kalamazoo. I never thought I could crave a doughnut.  A friend of a relative was telling us about his family stopping at a doughnut shop in Battle Creek on their way to U of M football games.  A few weeks later, I picked up a box of doughnuts at the Kalamazoo Township location just to see what all the fuss was about.  These doughnuts are amazing.  They do more than they typical jelly filled or glazed.  The flavor combinations and toppings are what make these doughnuts unique.

PizzaSquare Pizza at Buddy’s Pizza in Detroit. Being from Chicago, I’m kind of a pizza snob.  We’ve found good pizza, but only one great one.  Buddy’s Pizza in Detroit is in a pretty scary area, but it’s totally worth the trip.  I took my family there before a baseball game at Comerica Park and even though they were very nervous when we got there, everyone agreed the pizza was fantastic.  Buddy’s sort of does a Chicago-style pizza.  The crust is very buttery and the toppings are put on upside down, but they have their own twist with a square pizza instead of a round one.  Buddy’s is the only pizza we’ve had in Michigan that I can say I crave and now we live so far away, I don’t know when I’ll get to have it again.

ObsessionsQuad Burger at Krazy Jim’s Blimpie Burger in Ann Arbor. Hamburgers are an obsession of mine and I get so angry that so few people take the time to do them right.  You’d never treat a T-Bone the way most people treat burgers.  One of my first weekends in Michigan, I was working in Ann Arbor and I found Krazy Jim’s Blimpie Burger.  They do burgers right.  Sure, there’s the show you get from the cook yelling at you, but the burgers are fresh ground and flattened out on the griddle.  I never wanted to admit it, but i ordered two burgers that day.  They were greasy and delicious.  If there weren’t so many great restaurants in A2, I would have eaten every meal there.

Wake Up Call – Steak & Eggs at Golden Harvest in Lansing.  I was never much of a breakfast person, but recently, I’ve been giving it more of a chance.  One weekend when J’s parents were in town, we decided to try Golden Harvest for breakfast.  We had no idea that it’s as popular as it is, but once we got inside, it’s pretty obvious why.  I probably got the most boring thing that day when I ordered Steak & Eggs, but it was an amazing breakfast.  The steak was cooked perfectly and like I’d expect if I went to a steak house. The eggs were delicious, and to my surprise, the home fries were fantastic.  I almost never eat potatoes, but these were different. They had a great crust and were seasoned just right.  We always said we needed to eat at Golden Harvest more, but we moved before we could.

Between Bread – #40 at Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor. This one is a no-brainer.  Anyone from Michigan knows Zingerman’s makes the best bread.  It doesn’t really matter what you put between that bread.  You know it’s going to be delicious.  On our trip to Zingerman’s, I ordered the #40 which is Siegel’s Smokey Number.  The sandwich consists of smoked turkey breast, Arkansas peppered ham, Switzerland Swiss cheese, lettuce and sweet hot honeycup mustard on rye bread.  What I remember most is the mustard.  It has horseradish in it, so there was a real tangy flavor.  The sandwich was piled real high so even though you may get sticker shock, you’re getting a sandwich that’s more than worth it.

With My HandsHard shell Tacos at Andy’s Mexican & American Deli in Holt. Oh, how I miss Andy’s.  J loved the place for their guacamole, but to me, no one made better tacos.  I really craved Andy’s and was sad when the place shut down for several months while Andy dealt with some private issues.  Andy is a one man show and makes everything from scratch to-order.  Whenever I asked for hard shell tacos, he would take his corn tortillas ans stick them in the deep fryer.  I loved that I could get warm, fresh hard shell tacos.  Everything we got from this little deli inside a hardware store was incredibly fresh.

Filled with Envy – Triple D Burger at Joe’s Gizzard City in Potterville. I love deep-fried anything, but I was really curious about seeing what Guy Fieri cooked up at Joe’s Gizzard City in Potterville.  We took a short road trip for lunch out to Joe’s after I saw the place on Diner’s, Drive-In’s, and Dive’s.  To my surprise, J actually ordered the Triple D Burger.  Joe’s has always done a deep-fried burger, but in this instance, they deep fried the whole sandwich.  The burger is cooked and prepared like a regular burger then it’s battered an deep fried….bun and all.  The beer batter at Joe’s is delicious and it’s really interesting eating a burger that has seen that treatment.  It’s a little greasy, but worth the adventure at least once.

HolidayPaczki’s at Quality Dairy in Lansing – I couldn’t figure out why so many people said one thing they would miss about Lansing was Quality Dairy.  I eventually figured it out.  I stopped at QD quite a bit and when Paczki Day rolled around, it was the first place we went.  The Paczki’s at QD are more cake like than a “real” paczki, but that’s ok with me.  I’ve had the real things from a bakery in Chicago and while they’re delicious, the packzi’s at QD seem to be what most of us associate with the Polish holiday

Hometown FavoritesHoughton Hancock Burger at Leo’s Lodge in Lansing. This one’s a little tough for me since my real hometown is in Illinois, but for this purpose, I’ll call Lansing my hometown since it was the first place I lived in Michigan.  There was only one place in Mid-Michigan that I went to more than once for a burger and that was Leo’s Lodge.  The burger was a delicious 1/2 lb fresh patty.  The Houghton Hancock Burger also came with smoked ham and cheddar cheese on a fresh bun.  A perfect cheesey, salty, beefy combination.

Cheesy – Classic Mac & Cheese at Food Dance in Kalamazoo.  J and I wouldn’t agree on this one, but as far as Mac & Cheese goes, easily the best one I have had is at Food Dance in downtown Kalamazoo.  The imported noodles and aged cheddar just make a perfect, creamy concoction.  J thought it was too cheesy, but is there such a thing?  I loved the fact that I had extra cheese to dip her french fries in.

Salty GoodnessPulled Pork Sandwich at The Cooks’ House in Traverse City. You don’t really think of pork as being salty, but I was surprised by this sandwich.  When we walked in to The Cooks’ House, I never thought I’d be getting a pulled pork sandwich I’d still be talking about.  This thing is amazing.  The slow cooked pork is smothered in a sweet BBQ sauce, topped with cheese and served on an artisan roll.  At the time, I called it “gourmet pulled pork.”  It wasn’t the sloppy, roadhouse sandwich you expect.  The cheese gave it kind of a salty taste to counter the sweetness of the BBQ sauce.  It’s something I never would have expected and like nothing I’ve eaten since.

Meat Fest – Roast Burger at Roast in Detroit. Does it really surprise anyone that I’m talking about burgers again?  The Roast Burger is one of my all time favorites.  I felt kind of silly ordering a burger in a fancy restaurant, but I’ve learned that if it’s on the menu at a fancy place, it’s probably going to be a fancy burger.  The Roast Burger came with bacon, cheddar cheese, and a fried egg.  In another interesting twist, it was served on an English muffin, so you get the whole “is this breakfast or is it dinner?” thing.  The burger was deliciously juicy and the fried egg adds an interesting touch.

Snack Attack – Home made chips at Craftsman Chop Company in Portage.  At the time, these chips were just an after thought, but the more I think about it, the more I want to go back just to get some.  I didn’t really write anything about them in my original review, but the chips are fresh cut and fried nice and crispy.  They’re served with a bleu cheese and we tore through them like it was the only thing we had to eat in weeks.

ChocolateMackinac Island Fudge at Ryba’s Fudge Shop on Mackinac Island.  Have you ever taken a trip just for fudge?  We did.  Well, we wanted to see the Island too, but the main purpose of the trip was authentic Mackinac Island fudge.  It’s just so much creamier than the stuff you make at home with marshmallow fluff.  The fudge at Ryba’s is another one of those things that I’m really glad I don’t live closer to.  We intentionallly made the fudge shop the last stop of the day so we’d be full and not tempted to buy the whole store.  It sort of worked, but as soon as we got on the ferry, the box was open and I was thinking about diving off the boat and swimming back for more.

Crunchy – Make  Your Own Pizza at Rose’s on Reed’s Lake in East Grand Rapids.  When it comes to crunchy, the first thing I think of is pizza crust.  It’s a requirement for good pizza.  Not many places in Michigan do it right, but Rose’s on Reed’s Lake uses a wood fired oven to get that crunchy crust.  I went with the build your own option and got proscuitto on my pizza.  I had never done that before and it was crispy, crunchy, salty goodness.

The Classics – Lasagna Bolognese at Zazio’s in Kalamazoo.  I know I’m kind of going against my rant from the beginning by picking a really fancy place like Zazio’s, but it is seriously the best lasagna I have ever had.  The noodles were so fresh and so soft and bolognese had a rich, meaty taste.  Lasagna is one of my favorite ways to eat pasta and even though the portion size is a little small at Zazio’s, it’s still one of the best Lasagna’s I’ve ever eaten.

Guilty Pleasures – Ice Cream at the MSU Dairy Store in East Lansing. I’m convinced there is no ice cream better than the ice cream from the MSU Dairy Store.  It’s similar to a Baskin Robbins with all their flavors, but the ice cream is made on site from milk from the MSU farms.  The MSU Dairy Store was a huge guilty pleasure and one we would drive across town for.

Hot & SpicyJalapeno Burger with Cheese at the Dam Site Inn in Hell.  We had other motives for “going to Hell” when we did, but we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of food at the unincorporated town’s only restaurant.  I had eaten Jalapeno burgers in the past, but this one was topped with a mound of Jalapeno’s.  I’m not sure I ever tasted the burger.  It was like eating straight peppers.  My mouth was on fire when we were done, but that was ok.  There’s an ice cream store next door. 🙂

Totally Unexpected – Chicken Strips from Olympic Broil in Lansing.  Chicken strips aren’t usually unexpected, but the strips from Olympic Broil were not what we were expecting at all.  Olympic Broil looks like a fast food place, but the strips are actually home made and hand battered.  No GFS box here.  Easily one of the best Chicken Strips I’ve had and by far, the best from a fast food restaurant ever.

Served Cold – Chocolate Peanut Butter Chunk Ice Cream from Moomer’s Home Made Ice Cream in Traverse City. Before we left Traverse City, we had to find Moomer’s.  It’s a little out of the way, but totally worth the detour.  I like chocolate and peanut butter in anything and Moomer’s did not disappoint.

So, there you have it.  The Best Thing I Ever Eat Michigan-style.  I’m sure there will be disagreements…heck, there are a couple other restaurants I wanted to get in there…some of the choices were tough.  Some of the choices were easy.  Feel free to add your opinions in the comments section.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Corky permalink
    March 17, 2010 3:02 pm

    I forgot all about the chicken strips from Olympic Broil…Tomorrow…Lunch…Thanks for the reminder!

    BTW…If you get back to Lansing, Geno (of Izzo’s Pizza fame) opened his own pizza shop today at the site of the old Menna’s Joint in downtown Lansing…

    • SW Michigan Dining permalink*
      March 17, 2010 3:08 pm

      awesome…I kept driving by that place whenever I was in town to see if it was open. I don’t have anything in Lansing in the near future, but I’ll keep that in mind.

  2. Bernie B permalink
    March 19, 2010 9:19 am

    If you’re over in Farmington Hills, stop in at Dagwood’s Deli. They could almost give Zingerman’s a run for the money for making a great sandwich.
    http://www.dagwoodsdeli.biz/home.nxg

    Buddy’s Pizza is what defines Detroit style Pizza. Totally crave it every time I’m driving through Detroit.

    Best French Bistro is Amical in Traverse City
    http://www.amical.com/index.php

  3. Lewis permalink
    June 20, 2010 4:16 pm

    im a huge fan of slows but there is a place in roseville at I-696 and groesbeck hwy that has taken over as best BBQ. Its called lazy bones smokehouse. Its amazing, its just a tiny little place pretty much carry out only. I think they are opening another location soon though.

    you must try it next time you are in the area!

  4. July 12, 2010 2:44 pm

    The best mac and cheese in all of Michigan is at the Union in Clarkston just a 5 minute drive off I-75. If you die before you have had this dish you haven’t lived.

  5. John permalink
    October 20, 2010 9:50 am

    Redcoat tavern on Woodward in Royal Oak MI has the best burger I’ve ever eaten.
    Try it when you get back into town, but I warn you, you will miss it.

  6. Jess permalink
    January 21, 2011 11:08 pm

    Marshalls fudge is the best fudge in all of mackinaw. My family has been going up for 50 years and marshalls is number one! You have to try it!!!

  7. chris permalink
    February 16, 2011 2:06 am

    nothing on the eastern part of the state, i.e. troy, rochester, auburn hills, birmingham

    • SW Michigan Dining permalink*
      February 16, 2011 2:14 am

      not entirely true. Slow’s, Zingerman’s, Blimpie Burger, Buddy’s, Roast…they’re in the Eastern part of the state.

      But you’re right, there’s a whole area from Detroit north into the thumb that I haven’t been too….there’s nothing from the U.P either nor anything north of Grand Rapids up to the Leelanu Peninsula.

  8. Stephanie permalink
    November 29, 2012 9:43 am

    I got a cake made from Moomer’s with that flavor ice cream! It was delish. Of course, it’s hard to resist when the shop is a five minute drive away…

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