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Detroit Opera House

February 13, 2023
  • 1526 Broadway Street
  • Detroit, MI 48226
  • (313) 237-7464
  • Website

Can I just say how much I love that my kids love theater?  

I grew up in a small, rural town in the 90’s.  I played basketball and baseball, therefore, I was a jock.  I wasn’t allowed to like theater.  You could get away with it if you were super popular but I wasn’t.  I was an athlete so that was that.  I used to always go to my high school’s play productions but I would sit in the back and not let a lot of people know I was there.  I usually had an excuse that I was there to watch a girl but secretly, I always kind of wished I had gotten involved.  

J hates this, but the first theater production I saw and what started my enjoyment of musicals was a touring production of Cats at the Chicago Theater when I was a freshman in high school.  We had to take a music appreciation class for one quarter and we studied the musical because the teacher knew it was coming to Chicago and she wanted to take a group. 

Until I started dating J, the only other time I actually went to the theater was a group outing in college to see Ragtime at what was then the Oriental Theater in Chicago.  

L has been a musical theater fan for many years now.  The first thing she saw was The Lion King at Miller Auditorium. Since then, she’s seen Hamilton twice and Six.  Our goal this year is to start checking off the shows she wants to see.  

One of the musical’s I’ve been wanting to see is Beetlejuice.  Growing up in the 90’s I was obviously a huge fan of the movie.  I started seeing clips on Tik Tok then dove more in to the music.  I figured L would like it so I told her to check it out and she instantly took to three or four songs.  

Beetlejuice closed on Broadway at the end of last year so I knew a US Tour was imminent.  I found two Michigan stops.  One in Detroit and one in East Lansing.  The Detroit dates were better for us so I asked J if she wanted to go.  She was in so we got tickets for the show at the Detroit Opera House.  

The Detroit Opera House is a 101 year old theater on the corner of Broadway and Witherell Streets overlooking Grand Circus Park in downtown Detroit.  The building was designed by C. Howard Crane who also designed The Fillmore Detroit and Fox Theater as well as the Detroit Symphony Hall.  The building was originally built as the Capital Theater.  The original use was for both films and live performances.  

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Brass Rail Pizza Bar

February 13, 2023
  • 18 W. Adams Street 
  • Detroit, MI 48226
  • (313) 964-0782
  • Website
  • Menu

Our kids definitely get the theater/performing thing from their mom.  I was a jock in high school so I couldn’t really tell anyone that I liked musical theater (hey, it was the 90’s).  Mom, on the other hand, was in every play her high school did.  

Last month, we too the kids to see Six: The Musical at DeVos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids.  That was L’s birthday present.  

Around the same time we bought those tickets, I had seen that Beetlejuice: The Musical was closing on Broadway and going out on their first tour.  There were two Michigan stops.  One in Detroit and on in East Lansing.  

The Detroit date worked better for our schedule so we decided to surprise L with tickets to that as well.  

The show was this past Saturday at 2 PM and since we were driving to Detroit, you knew we were going to make a day out of it.  

First stop, lunch.  

We left Kalamazoo around 9:00 AM so we could get to Detroit, get parked, and walk to lunch without having to rush.  I was eyeing Detroit Beer Company right across the street from the Detroit Opera House but I didn’t see much on the menu for J or the kids.  If you know me, you know I always have a back up.  

We ended up walking to Brass Rail Pizza Bar on Adams Street.  The restaurant is just to the west of the intersection with Woodward Avenue across from Grand Circus Park.  Brass Rail has been around since about 2017. Before that, the space was Rub BBQ Pub which was owned by the same people who turned the space in to Brass Rail

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ThunderBird River Ranch

February 6, 2023
  • 701 E. Michigan Avenue
  • Kalamazoo, MI 49048
  • (269) 888-7788
  • Website
  • Menu

We used to spend almost every Saturday morning/afternoon at Arcadia Ales in downtown Kalamazoo. The BBQ was fantastic and the laid back atmosphere and cafeteria style ordering made it really easy to handle with kids. J and I could get some BBQ and a beer or two and we didn’t really have to worry about bothering other people because the place is so big.

Four years or so after opening, they changed to a full service restaurant. We kind of stopped going. It took longer to get meals and the laid backness of the place kind of went away. We’d still meet people for drinks on the patio but we stopped going as often as we used to.

Not long after that, Arcadia Ales went in to bankruptcy. The brewery closed and the building sat empty for quite a while.

The building is back now. It’s not the same as it’s glory days. It’s still a full service restaurant but the charm and character of the place is still there. We decided to head down on a Saturday afternoon for lunch.

ThunderBird River Ranch opened earlier this year on Michigan Avenue just to the east of Kings Highway. The outside of the place hasn’t really changed much. They’ve covered up the Arcadia logos which were prominent features of the building but that’s really the only thing.

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San Francisco Neveria & Paleteria

February 6, 2023
  • 2838 Portage Street
  • Kalamazoo, MI 49001
  • (269) 216-3272
  • Website
  • Menu

It’s been a while since I’ve had tacos and I was really hungry for tacos.

I had kind of an odd day on Friday. My co-worker didn’t really need to leave the office but I did. I started to head towards Battle Creek but then realized I didn’t actually need to do that so I turned around.

I did have something I needed to do kind of in the Southside Neighborhood. That put me pretty close to Portage Road and there’s a taco place on Portage road I haven’t been to yet.

San Francisco Neveria & Paleteria is on Portage Road just before Portage Road splits in to Lovers Lane. The business has been a few Mexican restaurants in the past. It was Huarache Kzoo when we moved here in 2009 then a much more popular El Gallo Blanco. El Gallo Blanco closed a few years ago and a sign for a new Mexican place has been there almost since.

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Factory Coffee (Downtown)

February 3, 2023
  • 205 W. Lovell Street
  • Kalamazoo, MI 49007
  • (269) 567-1000
  • Website
  • Menu

It’s cold out, ya’ll. Like, really cold.

I came in to work earlier this week hungry and cold. I really contemplated stopping at Sweetwaters for a donut but I wasn’t in a donut mood. A bagel and a hot chocolate really sounded much better.

I work downtown near the courthouse and once I parked and started walking towards the building, the wanting of a hot chocolate really kicked in. I can see a coffee shop just down the street so I took a hard left to get what I was craving.

Factory Coffee’s downtown location is on the corner of Lovell and Rose Street in the fairly new 400 Rose apartment building. This is Factory’s second stand alone location in town. The original is in the Northside Neighborhood on Fulford Street. The downtown location opened up last summer and takes up the bottom floor of a mixed use development in the Vine Neighborhood.

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Bullseye Marketplace

February 1, 2023
  • 350 Johnny Cake Lane
  • Three Rivers, MI 49093
  • (269) 858-3225
  • Website
  • Menu Changes Daily

Monday was one of them days.  My appointment cancelled on me then I ended up driving all over Southwest Michigan to pick up a few little tasks that were unassigned.  

My day started in Kalamazoo.  I had a 1 PM appointment but the person was sick so we had to reschedule.  Once that happened, I was free to make a few runs.  

I had to drive down to Three Rivers, then to Saugatuck, then back to Kalamazoo.  It was a long day of driving but I got some stuff done that needed to be done and someone else didn’t have to squeeze it in to their busy schedule.  

The question became “Where do I get lunch from?”  Do I grab something in Three Rivers or wait until I get to Saugatuck?

I chose Three Rivers.  

I really only spent about five minutes at the job location.  Just had to do something real quick then move on to the next task.  I was actually outside of Three Rivers in Fabius Township but I wasn’t too far from US-131.

I headed back towards town and went straight for Bullseye Marketplace.  I have driven by this place so many times and I have heard so many things about it from family who have a house on nearby Pleasant Lake but I’ve never actually been there for lunch.  

Bullseye Marketplace is right off US-131 near Three Rivers in a weird little strip of land that is somehow actually in Fabius Township.  You can see it from the road but the address is actually Johnny Cake Lane.  You can access the store from either the northbound US-131 lanes or around the corner from Millard Road.  

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Mezzo Coffee House

January 31, 2023
  • 100 W. Allegan Street
  • Otsego, MI 49078
  • (269) 694-1545
  • Website
  • Menu

I’m not much of a coffee guy. I get my morning caffeine by drinking way more Pepsi than anyone should. There are no “Pepsi Houses” like there are coffee houses though…so that’s kind of disappointing.

I do like coffee houses for the quick grab and go type meals many of them have. And when it’s cold, a hot chocolate is always a delicious option.

A colleague and I were in Otsego late last week for a job assignment. We got done right around 11:00 and were set to head back to Kalamazoo. I had been outside for about twenty minutes and everything was cold. I asked if it’d be alright if I stopped at a nearby coffee house to grab a bite real quick and a hot chocolate to warm me up.

Mezzo Coffee House is in downtown Allegan right on the corner of Allegan Street (M-89) and Farmer Street. The building has been on this corner for over a hundred years and has seen many business comes and go. Before it was a coffee house, it was a natural health store. It has been Mezzo for almost a decade now.

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Dino’s Restaurant and Pancake House

January 30, 2023
  • 2080 Niles Road #400
  • St. Joseph, MI 49085
  • (269) 982-0229
  • Website
  • Menu

Our firstborn turned 11 this month. Her birthday fell on a Sunday so we were able to do whatever she wanted to do for her birthday.

Guess what she picked.

Go ahead…guess…you’ll never get it.

Yeah…she wanted to go skating.

She started doing Learn to Skate through Greater Kalamazoo Skating Association in January of 2019. We kind of took our time working through the levels then the pandemic hit in March of 2020. There was one class left but that ended up getting cancelled and they didn’t pass the kids out of the level they were in.

We started back with Learn to Skate in the winter of 2020. Masks were still mandatory indoors and a lot of rinks weren’t opening up for open skate…including Wings West.

The kid was determined to pass Learn to Skate Level 4 but she needed to practice. We went to a couple of outdoor rinks and even Griff’s Icehouse West in Holland once but it was a rink in St. Joseph we spent most of our weekends practicing at.

The John and Dede Howard Ice Arena was open most weekends for open skate. They are run by the park district so they had a reservation system the could easily put in place and it’s partially outdoors so it was a place you felt safe at. Several times, we were the only ones there.

We asked L what she wanted to do on her birthday. She said skating. She can’t do the afternoon open skate at Wings West because there’s also Club Ice at the same time so they make her go there. She wanted to screw around a little bit and asked if we could go to St. Joseph. We haven’t done that since those days during the pandemic and it was always a place I liked skating too.

Before skating, food. The kids love breakfast so we headed to St. Joseph early with the hopes of getting breakfast in before ice skating. We were going to have to rush back to Kalamazoo for B’s Learn to Skate class and L still had Synchro practice so late breakfast might have been the only meal we were going to get until late that evening.

I don’t know much about the breakfast scene in St. Joseph so I Google searched places near the rink. I found a one that looked simple and had great reviews…so that’s where we went.

Dino’s Restaurant and Pancake House is on Niles Road just south of Hilltop Road in St. Joseph Township just south of the St. Joseph City Limits. The restaurant is in a small shopping center anchored by a Walgreens to the north. The parking lot was pretty full but we didn’t see anyone waiting inside. We found a parking spot then headed inside.

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El Taco Loco Mexican Taqueria (Sturgis)

January 30, 2023
  • 105 S. Maple Steet
  • Sturgis, MI 49091
  • (269) 689-8136
  • Website
  • Menu

One of the weird things I miss about the pandemic is driving to job assignments by myself. I would usually take advantage of being alone and stop to grab food at out of the ordinary restaurants, gas stations, convenience stores, etc. I still usually stop for a Pepsi when I have a colleague with me but I don’t always feel like justifying why I want this crappy pizza or just ok chicken for lunch.

I had to make a trip to Sturgis by myself a couple of weeks ago. I love going to Sturgis because there are so many delicious taco places in Sturgis. I probably would have stopped even if I had someone with me, but being able to go in, ask for 5 tacos without looking at a menu, and getting back on the road is the way I like to do lunch.

As I said, there are so many taco places in Sturgis to choose from. I was kind of scrolling through Google looking for one with counter service. A restaurant popped up that I had never seen before even though it looked like was just off of US-12 near downtown. I couldn’t tell if it was counter service or not from the pictures but I decided to press my luck anyway.

El Taco Loco Mexican Taqueria is on South Maple just south of East Chicago Road/US-12 in downtown Sturgis. The building was not a restaurant in it’s former life. It was very clearly a law office. The name of the office, Robertson Law Office is still on the front of the building.

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Portillo’s (Skokie, IL)

January 28, 2023
  • 9400 Skokie Boulevard
  • Skokie, IL 60077
  • (847) 933-0700
  • Website
  • Menu

Two Italian beefs in one week?! I don’t think my week could get any better.

I was back in the Chicago area a couple of weeks ago for a synchronized skating competition. This came just one week after a work trip to Green Bay. On that trip, we took a detour to grab an Italian beef from an Al’s Beef downtown. This trip, we could have done a different Al’s, but Portillo’s always seems like a safer bet for the rest of my family.

We were up bright and early on a Saturday morning to get L on a bus for the team’s trip to Evanston, IL for Synchro Illinois. Everyone was awake by the time J got back from dropping her off so we just decided to get in the car and take our time driving to Illinois. The bus got about a 30-40 minutes head start on us but we pulled up to the Robert Crown Center as the girls were heading in to the venue.

Ice skating is weird to me and kind of a little frustrating. Don’t get me wrong. I love watching my daughter skate. I love watching how happy it makes her to skate. I don’t love that we spend an entire Saturday on the road and drop hundreds of dollars for her to skate for 2 minutes. It’d be like traveling to Chicago for a baseball game only to play one inning. I will do it every single time we need to for her (and eventually my son who’s just as enamored with the sport as she is) though because of how happy it makes her.

My parents live about an hour south of Chicago. They don’t get to see the kids skate very much. They figured since this one was in Illinois, they were going to get over their fear of Chicago driving and come watch her skate.

L skated around 12:30 and when she was done, her team had Portillo’s lunches waiting for them. There were still two other teams from our club that had to skate that day so they were going to be sticking around the rink for a while.

I took my parents up to the area where the team was eating so they could talk to L before getting on the road to go home. We hung out for another half hour or so then I asked if they wanted to grab lunch first. J wasn’t going to leave the arena because she had volunteered to go on a little side trip to the mall as a chaperone for the team so they weren’t just hanging around the rink.

The parking at the Robert Crown Community Center sucks. There’s not nearly enough parking and we had to park on the street. Luckily, we got there early enough that we found street parking right next to the center. My parents offered to just take their car and they would drop us off after lunch so we didn’t lose our parking spot.

The team eating Portillo’s made me hungry. It was about 15 minutes away but I asked my parents if that would work for them.

I chose the Portillo’s on Skokie Road near Emerson Street in the Village of Skokie in Chicago’s northern suburbs. The restaurant is part of a highly commercialized stretch of US-41 running through the village. There’s really not any good signage on the building so I was going by my GPS. The business all run right up the road in this area so there was a large parking lot serving a couple of different buildings behind the restaurant.

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