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Trip review: Metro Detroit

Three trips to Michigan in as many months!

It is always nice to be “home,” and that is what Michigan will always be to me. It’s where I return to my childhood home, where I reunite with family and the friends I’ve known so long they’ve become my second family. This past weekend I was joined by my cousins April, Jeni and her son, Jack.

Over the weekend, I ate like an Italian and watched Tigers baseball. To me, that is the Detroit experience.

Detroit-style square pizza at Buddy’s

A slice of the Margherita pie at Buddy's Pizza. A solid choice.

A slice of the Margherita pie at Buddy’s Pizza. A solid choice.

Buddy’s Pizza has nine locations spanning metro Detroit from Auburn Hills south to Dearborn and from Livonia east to Grosse Pointe Farms. I grew up eating at the Dearborn location on Michigan Avenue, in the heart of West Dearborn’s restaurant row. The chain boasts Detroit’s “No. 1 square pizza since 1946,” but its menu has expanded to offer so much more. In addition to the original square pizza, I recommend the Buddy’s Bread, chicken tenders, minestrone soup and antipasto salad.

I highly recommend the thick Minnestrone soup at Buddy's Pizza.

I highly recommend the thick minestrone soup at Buddy’s Pizza.

The pizza is unlike any other. It’s deep dish, but it’s not Chicago deep dish. The crust creates a crispy edge, and the sauce is spread in thick red strips atop the cheesy, rectangular pie.  As for toppings, I prefer the classic veggies, but I sometimes swap out black olives for green. The Margherita is a safe and solid bet. This latest meal, my family opted to try something new — the Mediterranean, which has a thinner crust than the restaurant’s original pizzas. The Mediterranean is topped with spinach, feta cheese, red onion, roasted red peppers and beets. I now believe more pizzas should have beets on them.

The Mediterranean Pizza at Buddy's Pizza. Who knew beets on pizza would be such a genius idea?

The Mediterranean Pizza at Buddy’s Pizza. Who knew beets on pizza would be such a genius idea?

I’m not the only one who makes a point to visit Buddy’s Pizza when I’m in town. Zagat listed Buddy’s Pizza on its list of Destination Pizzas: 10 Pies Worth a Trip.

Ladies’ night full of laughs at Joey’s Comedy Club

Oh yes, it’s ladies night and the feeling’s right.

My girlfriends — Ashley, Katie and Tiffany — and I planned a girls’ night. We wanted to go somewhere and do something outside our norm. After kicking around ideas of dancing or going to downtown Detroit, we decided on a night of comedy.

From playing Polly Pockets to drinking cocktails with my BFF Ashley.

From playing Polly Pockets to drinking cocktails with my BFF Ashley.

Joey’s Comedy Club is located in the Kickers Entertainment Complex on Plymouth Road in Livonia. Girls’ night was made easy! A round of drinks downstairs at the bar, lots of laughs upstairs at the comedy club and then dancing to the songs of our college years afterwards. I danced to a Michael Jackson song, and that pretty much made my night. And no, that was not one of the songs from my college years. I just have an affinity for music from the 1980s.

Girls night!

Girls’ night!

Vodka Tonic all day. I mean, night.

Vodka Tonic all day. I mean, night.

The drinks were stiff but well mixed and served as doubles. And all for a reasonable price. Though my idea of a reasonably priced drink is severely skewed after Washington, D.C., and New York City. I think my tab for a vodka tonic and a “side” of fries (aka a whole plate that I ate ALL of) was under $8. That’s the price of one drink on the East Coast. But back to the taste … Katie ordered the chocolate pretzel drink, which I think would be a bit much as a cocktail. But after Ashley ordered it as a shot and we all took a sip, we came to the consensus that it does indeed taste like a chocolate-covered pretzel. And I think we were all a little surprised when the drink was delivered — and it was clear! Whether I ordered well vodka or Ketel One (for my half-off top shelf drink following the comedy show), I couldn’t taste the vodka. That is the sign of a well mixed drink, my friends. Or a weak one, but trust me … these weren’t weak.

The jokes weren’t weak either. The headliner, JR Brow, was hilarious, especially when he pulled out his guitar to show us the similarities of popular songs. And when he did this funny bit about comedians covering other comedians’ jokes. Of the four comedians we saw that night, my favorite was D.K. Hamilton, of Grand Rapids, Mich. I like comedians who find comedy in everyday life, the things many of us can relate back to our own lives. His jokes about sex after marriage, seen in this YouTube video from the Detroit Comedy Festival, were so funny. For $16, the 90-minute show featuring four comics was well worth its price.

Also, there’s a fish tank above the bar.

Fish tank at a bar. There are stranger things.

Fish tank at the bar. There are stranger things.

Oh, what a night.

Breakfast at the new Tim Hortons

You’ll remember from my post about eating my way around New York City that my lovely little sister had passed along her summer cold to me. Well, it manifested into a sore throat/chest congestion combo that I couldn’t kick with my usual routine of over-the-counter meds and drinking green tea all day. So, I begrudgingly went to the doctor. But, on my way home I got Tim Hortons for breakfast and that made everything seem OK.

The new Tim Hortons on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn

The new Tim Hortons on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn

Dinner at Antonio’s Cucina Italiana

Family dinner with my grandma and cousins, Jeni and April, at Antonio's in Dearborn Heights, Mich.

Family dinner with my grandma and cousins, Jeni and April, at Antonio’s in Dearborn Heights, Mich.

Like Buddy’s Pizza, I’ve been eating at Antonio’s in Dearborn Heights for years. My order has not changed in 14 years: gnocchi in marinara sauce with chicken pastina soup. Antonio’s gnocchi is a bit on the dense side, but the chicken pastina soup is delicious. It’s like chicken noodle but with tinier noodles. You have a choice of soup or salad with your entree and the restaurant also has a minestrone and pasta e fagioli soup. But the best part of any dinner at Antonio’s: the bread. Dip the bread into the chicken pastina soup. Thank me later.

Antonio's Cucina Italiana. Pictured is the gnocchi marinara, chicken pastina soup, Kris Pinot Noir, gnocchi in pesto sauce and pasta fagioli soup.

Antonio’s Cucina Italiana. Pictured is the gnocchi marinara, chicken pastina soup, Kris Pinot Noir, gnocchi in pesto sauce and pasta fagioli soup.

If I had been a first-time diner at Antonio’s on this night, I would not have been impressed. My cousins ordered salads with balsamic vinaigrette on the side. Balsamic vinegar was delivered to our table. Would it really have been so difficult to mix some of that vinegar with some olive oil in the kitchen to make a vinaigrette? Then my grandma’s baked spaghetti wasn’t delivered with the rest of our entrees. Something happened to the oven. The waitress did send the manager over to apologize, which I appreciated. But then I bit into my gnocchi, and it wasn’t hot. It wasn’t ice cold, but it wasn’t hot. Clearly there were some timing issues in the kitchen. And lastly, both Buddy’s Pizza and Antonio’s served red wine too warm. Yes, you can store red wine at room temperature, but it should be stored around 55 degrees Fahrenheit — cooler than most rooms.

Despite the warm temperature, we all discovered a Pinot Noir worth tracking down at our local grocery stores and wine shops — Kris, an Italian vintner that produces “modern” takes on classic varietals. It also happens to share my sister’s name, which we of course shared with her via Facebook.

Lucky for Antonio’s, I wasn’t a first-time customer. In fact, I’ll remain a loyal customer if only for that heavenly bread and chicken pastina soup just like your Nona would have made it.

Detroit Tigers game at Comerica Park

Comerica Park in Detroit, Mich.

Comerica Park in Detroit, Mich.

My 94-year-old grandmother is a huge Detroit Tigers fan. With three out of four of her living-out-of-state grandkids in town, we took Grams to the ballpark.

My family at Comerica Park!

My family at Comerica Park!

We're a family of Tigers fans even though most of us don't live near Detroit anymore.

We’re a family of Tigers fans even though most of us don’t live near Detroit anymore.

We started our day in the Beer Hall, which is the closest entrance from Lot 5 — something to keep in mind if you are attending a game with someone you are concerned about walking long distances. You can purchase a parking pass for Lot 5 when you buy your game tickets. The lot is kitty-corner from Comerica Park and adjacent to Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions.

At the Beer Hall, there is a great list of beers. Leinenkugel had already switched from Summer Shandy to Oktoberfest, so I stuck with Labatt Blue Light. Canadian beer is so easy to find in the Detroit area, and it’s usually the same price as a domestic. Gotta love that.

The Beer Hall also has a full menu including wrap sandwiches, wings, chicken tenders and even a fruit plate, which I ordered.

Don't you eat fruit with your beer?

Don’t you eat fruit with your beer?

The Tigers played the Kansas City Royals and won 3-2 thanks to two home runs from Alex Avila. Unfortunately, pitcher Max Scherzer didn’t capture his 20th win, but he put up an impressive showing on the mound. It all came down to a poor call that the crowd booed, especially the guy sitting next to me.

Alex Avila! Way to hit that second homer to win the game! Go Tigers!

Alex Avila! Way to hit that second homer to win the game! Go Tigers!

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Wish you were here,

Erin

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