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Archive for the ‘dining’ Category

The new multi-business building being built downtown, at the corner of Main Street and Ann Arbor Trail, seems to be taking shape.  I am not afraid to say that this looks like it is going to be an ugly building and doesn’t fit with the character of the city.  But, it’s coming, like it or not.  Here are some shots of the construction as of November 10, 2011.

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I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this before, probably in the context of watching college football games.  I have slightly different feelings about my favorite places to watch a game in the city, so I figured I’d tackle this topic again.

Admittedly, I’ve not watched a sporting event in every single bar in town.  They all have TV’s so pretty much any bar is a “sports bar” of sorts.  But, I’ve been checking out new (to me) places during this playoff run the Wings are in (which, sadly, is probably going to be cut short.)

Right in the city, my thoughts about some of the more well-known bars are:

The Box Bar — The Box is a great bar as far as drink variety and menu are concerned.  There are two huge projection TV’s and some smaller TV’s around the bar.  But, I think it’s actually kind of hard to watch a 3 hour game there considering the way the TV’s and seating are laid out.  Projection TV’s also have lousy pictures.  The Box is also just a smidge pricey.  On a 1 to 5 star scale, I give sports viewing at the Box 2.5 stars.

Doyle’s Tavern — Doyle’s is intimate and there is plenty of good seating in front of or around the few screens they have.  It also has the covered patio with a TV if you want to sit “outside” to catch the game.  Doyle’s isn’t necessarily the most comfortable place to park for hours, but the drink prices are really good.  I think Doyle’s is the best value in the city in terms of drinks and isn’t that what you want if you’re going to watch a game at a bar?  4 stars.

Hermann’s Olde Town Grille — Hermann’s has good food and plenty of seating around TV’s.  It’s a cool place as well.  I would like it better if the drinks were better priced.  Admittedly, I’m a bit of snob as far as alcohol goes, so specials on cheap domestic beer don’t get factored into to my feelings about a pub.  I don’t drink Bud Light so it matters not to me if a place runs specials on it.  Having said that, I was a tad disappointed that I paid for a double glass of whiskey only to see that it wasn’t, to my eyes, a double pour.  If it was a double pour, the single pour is awfully small.  The price would’ve been great had there actually been 2x the amount of booze in the glass.  Doyle’s has Hermann’s beat for pours.  For that reason, I rate Hermann’s 3.5 stars.

1999 Tavern — Unless you catch the game out in the “garage,” on a nice summer or fall day, the tavern’s really not the best place to catch a game.  It’s a nice pub and restaurant.  I love their chicken.  But to watch a game at a place, I want to like more than the food.  2.5 stars.

Ironwood Grill — In my humble opinion, the Ironwood doesn’t know what it wants to be.  The decor suggests that the place is a slightly upscale bar.  But there are TV’s all over the place and it’s a noisy place to eat.  To watch a game there is fine, but there’s something about it that doesn’t draw me in for that reason.  It just seems like an odd fit.  2.0 stars.

Sean O’Callaghan’s  — Sean’s is the best place to be for a sport popular across the water, like soccer or rugby.  I’ve seen some Wings games there and I didn’t necessarily like the vibe.  It was the place to be, though, for last year’s World Cup matches.  I was lucky enough to get in there to see USA-England, which was quite a match.  For that experience, alone, I give Sean’s 3.5 stars.

Just because a place has a bunch of TV’s does not mean I want to try to watch a game at it, especially not start-to-finish.  It seems like all restaurants these days have TV’s all over the place.  That’s something, actually, that I find disappointing.  Sometimes it’s nice to eat in a quiet setting where there is little outside stimulation.  I guess we no longer just eat these days.  We have to be entertained constantly.

When you want to catch a game, though, all those TV’s can come in quite handy.  If you like getting out for a game and a drink or two, and you want to keep your money in town, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the place I mentioned.  Some are just better than others.

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The Coffee Beanery, Sheldon and Ann Arbor Road, Plymouth

There is no shortage of coffee vendors in Plymouth.  Between the City and the Township, there are two Starbucks, at least two independent coffee houses, a few chains that sell lots of coffee as a sideline (e.g. Panera), and another franchise coffee store.  Of course, every gas station and restaurant sells coffee.  You can get it anywhere.

If I’m going to spend money on coffee, I look for three things, not always in this order:

  1. Convenience — Is the place close to home or work?  Can I get my coffee and get out of there quickly when I’m in a hurry?
  2. Coffee quality — Does the coffee taste good?  How is the variety?  If it’s not better than the lousy Maxwell House we have at the office, there’s no point in paying $2 for a cup.
  3. Service — Are the people cool?  I don’t need to be best buddies with the barista, but I’d like to think I’m a people person and when I have the time, I like to talk to the people with whom I am interacting.

Atmosphere is not a big thing for me these days.  I don’t tend to hang out much at coffee shops, so I don’t care whether or not there’s jazz wafting through the background or cool people sitting around reading heady books.   I’m certainly not against that (almost stereotypical) coffee shop atmosphere, I just don’t seek it out most of the time.

Given what I like and don’t about coffee vendors, The Coffee Beanery in Plymouth Township is one of my favorite places to get coffee in town.   It’s close to where I work; I can walk there in about 90 seconds.  That’s probably not true for most people, but getting in and out of there while you’re out and about town is just as easy if you’re driving.  The Beanery is the store closest to Ann Arbor Road, on the northwest corner of the Sheldon/AA Road intersection.  Pull in the lot, park, get your coffee, go!  Easy!

The coffee’s pretty dang good, too.  Full disclosure: I’m not a big fan of Starbucks.  That said, I feel like I can objectively the Beanery’s house blend, Beanery Blend, beats Starbucks’ house blend hands down.  Their coffees are flavorful but less acidic than some of Starbucks’ stuff I’ve had.  And you certainly won’t get better coffee or desserts at the gas station!

Each day, you’ll have three blends to choose from, typically.  For me, that’s plenty of variety.  I’ve sorted settled in with my favorites, so I don’t worry too much about choices.

Lastly, the service is great.  Everyone that works there that I’ve dealt with is genuinely warm, friendly and know how to treat customers.  The owners, the Changs, are great people and I really enjoy getting to know them.

Don’t forget the Coffee Beanery if you’re looking for a good coffee shop to hang out in or run in and grab a nice brew.  I think it works both as a sit down place — they have wi-fi *thumbs up* — and a grab-and-go place.

 

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http://www.hometownlife.com/article/20110213/NEWS15/102130485/Green-fair-s-timing-causes-flap?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|Plymouth|s

According to the Plymouth Observer, there’s a bit of a controversy over the timing of this year’s Green Street Fair: it falls on Mother’s Day weekend.  Some businesses downtown are fearful that the massive crowds and the lack of parking space will keep away Mother’s Day diners and shoppers.  The argument is that people that want to take their moms out to lunch or to run into town to buy flowers will not brave the crowds.  The counter argument is that crowds downtown are good for downtown businesses.

If my experience has any broader applicability, the Fair will both help and hurt business.  I  live in the city and when things are going on downtown of the size of the Fair (things like Art in the Park and Fall Festival), I do not even attempt to eat downtown, at least not in any of the sit-down restaurants.  They’re always packed to the rafters and I’m not big on waiting  for a table.  I might grab something quick at Jimmy John’s for my daughter or get some coffee from Panera.  To eat out down there, though, I just won’t do it.

However, I live in town.  One of the big reasons why I won’t wait in line to eat during a fair or festival is that I can eat at our restaurants anytime I like.  Most of our visitors do not live here in town.  They get hungry or want to do some shopping.  There are only so many exhibits you can look at.  Not everyone wants to choke down an elephant ear or pizza that’s made in a trailer.  Those folks fill up the restaurants.   If they didn’t, there would be places to sit.

I can’t speak too much to whether jewelry stores and florist shops and the like suffer.  My guess is that fairgoers need to buy stuff for Mother’s Day and some, who wouldn’t otherwise be in town, will buy their gifts in town.

Besides, there’s always Old Village.  It has jewelry stores, restaurants, clothing boutiques, salons, bars, etc.  Old Village, in my view, never gets enough promotion by the City.  If some of the traffic moves over there for a few days, I’m sure the folks in the redheaded stepchild part of town would be thankful.

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Finally Plymouth’s beloved Burger Spot has re-opened.  It was closed for months for “remodeling” but there was actually a change in ownership.  The remodeling did occur and the place looks quite nice, but the temporary closure was more than about just aesthetics.

A few of the things that made the Burger Spot great remain unchanged.  The hamburgers taste about the same and the french fries are delicious as always.

But, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, more has changed than remained the same.  First, there is only one (1) type of true hamburger.  You get a choice of standard toppings (lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions.)  Gone are the dozen or so varieties of (beef) hamburgers the classic Burger Spot used to carry.

Second, salads and similar menu items have disappeared entirely.  There are a number of different sandwiches but I didn’t pay much attention to that side of the menu.  I went to the Burger Spot for a burger, not a sandwich.

Third, while there is only one hamburger, there are three other types of “burgers,” e.g. vegetarian and turkey.  I accidentally ordered the Greek Burger, thinking it was a beef hamburger with feta and tzatziki sauce.  I bit into it to discover that it was a vegetarian burger — clearly marked on the menu as such; my fault, not the restaurant’s.  While I wanted beef, I must admit that it was the best vegetarian burger I’ve ever had! By miles!

The limited menu is disappointing.  I think the new ownership, in my opinion, has changed one of the key things that made the Burger Spot the best.  But the menu that they do offer, though limited, is very good!

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Many of my friends are up in arms about the smoking ban which took effect statewide on May 1.  They do not object so much about the elimination of smoking from bars and restaurants but are bothered by the perceived governmental intrusion.  I’m a believer in less being m0re when it comes to government, but I have to say that the smoking ban is long overdue.

More to the point, the smoking ban is a godsend for many of us non-smokers.  In the last week I’ve been to three (3) bars in the City of Plymouth that I avoided in the past because of the heavy smoke: Hermann’s Olde Town Grille, Doyle’s Tavern and Ironwood Grill.  I, for the first time, was able to enjoy a drink or two in these places without stinging eyes and burning lungs.

I have no data to back this up, but it appears that the smoking ban has had little or no negative impact on these businesses.  All three places were bustling when I was there.   Hermann’s, in particular, was packed Saturday night.  A few smokers drifted in and out on occasion to smoke out on the sidewalk, but I heard no grumbling or complaints.

For my wife and me, the ban has brought us back to the pubs.  I expect we’ll continue to hang out more in town now that we can do so in relative fresh air.

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On Thursday May 20th, from 7 to 9 pm, Sean O’Callaghan’s is holding a shephard’s pie eating contest.
The biggest glutton will receive an official shepherd’s pie trophy, $100 in cash, and a sheperd’s pie champion t-shirt

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