I was eating at Red Smoke the other day and realized I had never done a write up on the restaurant. I have eaten at Red Smoke many times and absolutely love the food, I just hope this writeup can adequately convey what a great establishment this is.
Located right across the street from Greektown CasinoRed Smoke makes a very convenient, and delicious, fun day out meal destination.
The first thing you notice when walking into Red Smoke is the rather large bar. Near the back of the restaurant is a small dining area. Due to the fact that Red Smoke also has a second-floor the first-floor dining area is set up to be quite spacious despite its overall small size.
Whenever I go to Red Smoke I have to get an order of their fried pickle chips for an appetizer. I love fried pickle chips but more often than not they are either too greasy or lack any pickle flavor at all due to the copious amount of breading. However, Red Smoke’s are miles above any other fried pickle chip. Red Smoke coats their pickles very lightly and masterfully fries them as to never let them get bogged down with grease. The pickles are great, they are hot, crispy, and full of actual pickle flavor. The dipping sauce is pretty stellar too, it’s got a nice mild spiciness that pairs very well with the chips.
Being a barbecue place Red Smoke has a wide variety of meat dishes on the menu but my favorite has to be the Texas beef brisket. The brisket is well seasoned and cooked to perfection, it is the most tender brisket I’ve ever had by far. Likewise, Red Smoke’s red beans and rice is my favorite side to get when I eat there. I’ve never gotten red beans and rice anywhere else so I can’t make any direct comparisons but just know these are really good.
Another thing unique to Red Smoke is their five house-made barbeque sauces. I’m a creature of habit and really only ever eat one of the five sauces, I have tried them all though and they all are pretty good but the Michigan Cherry Molasses just blows everything out of the water. The Michigan Cherry Molasses mixes tart Michigan cherry flavor and a big old vinegary tang with a decent sweetness. I’m not really big on heat but am a huge fan of vinegar-based barbeque sauces so this sauce was right up my alley. However, if you are looking for something with a kick I would look to one of their other sauces.
A few months ago I read about, El Topo, a small Mexican restaurant, located in Fenton Michigan, with a big secret.
El Topo has a pretty nifty mural painted on its outer wall, other than that the restaurant looks pretty unassuming and typical of a small Mexican restaurant. I was unable to get a photo of the inside but El Topo is small, like really small, and for good reason.
Before exploring El Topo’s secret my family and I decided to have dinner.
We decided to start things off with an order of chips and salsa. The chips were pretty typical of house-made tortilla chips. The salsa was a fresh salsa which I did not particularly care for, I’m not a huge fan of fresh salsas in general. As far as fresh salsas go this one was pretty good, the only thing that struck me as odd is that it had absolutely no heat.
For dinner I had the Torta Cubana, a sandwich consisting of Carnitas, ham, chorizo, Jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickled jalapenos and cilantro-lime mayo on a bolillo roll. The sandwich was definitely the highlight of this culinary adventure. The cilantro-lime mayo and slightly sweet mild heat of the pickled jalapenos complimented the mix of well-seasoned meats very well. The bolillo roll was also pretty great, I’m a big fan of baguettes and for those of you who may not know bolillo rolls are simply a variation of the baguette. It might be hard to tell, with nothing in the picture for reference, but this sandwich was very large. All in all, I think this excellent sandwich is well worth it’s $10 price tag and I would definitely order it again if I ever go back to El Topo.
To finish up dinner we ordered churros. The churros were too soft and doughy for my liking, they were also a bit bland. I was also not a fan of the chocolate sauce that came with the churros. If you were to eat here I’d pass on the churros.
The pringles machine that lies along El Topo’s back wall is actually a hidden doorway to, The Relief & Resource Co., a cozy neighborhood speakeasy.
The speakeasy had a cozy little vibe, it was pretty small but didn’t feel cramped at all. I was actually surprised at just how spacious it was, looking at the building from the outside you would never guess that the building could house two full restaurants. Another thing that surprised me was that The Relief & Resource Co. is a full-blown restaurant that serves food. Wanting to try the food but also having just eaten I decided to simply get an order of their house-made potato chips to go along with my sober cocktail.
I feel a bit like a jerk going to a decently upscale restaurant and complaining about their potato chips, but here we are. I really didn’t like the chips at all, they had this weird almost burnt caramel taste to them. The aioli was pretty bland and trying it only once on a single chip was enough for me.
I don’t drink so I had the wicked stepmother sober cocktail, it is green apple, ginger, honey, nutmeg, and Topo Chico. The flavor itself was pretty good, not too sweet or overpowering, but I think the price of $7 for a cocktail with no alcohol is pretty steep.
Up until now, I’ve been trying to keep this blog strictly review based, going forward I will, however, be adding posts covering my personal vacations. I feel the need to give a little backstory on this vacation before I begin my recapping because I find the events leading up to this trip hilarious. Every year during the summer I like to take a trip with my parents. My parents babysit my niece and nephew during the school year. As it turns out we had planned nothing and the summer was quickly ending. Short on time, we figured we’d just do a quick weekend trip to Mackinac Island. The plan fell through because, due to waiting until the last minute to book, all the halfway reasonably priced rooms on the island were sold out.
Sticking with the northern Michigan plan we thought of maybe going to Traverse City, but due to the short notice, there were no reasonable accommodations there either. Canada has always been fun, maybe Montreal? Nope, too far. How about Toronto? Nope, we just went there last year.
Always liking Canada and with no clue where to go, I began searching Google maps for halfway close Canadian destinations. While searching I saw Mississauga in a big bold font, I had never heard of Mississauga before but I thought to myself “If it’s in a big and bold font on Google maps it has to be good.” After a quick google search, it was settled, we were going to Mississauga. I have to say, despite its haphazard origins, this was easily one of my favorite trips.
To maximize the weekend we embarked on the three and a half-hour drive shortly after noon. When we got to our hotel we asked for, and were provided with, a nifty map of Mississauga and its attractions.
Being late afternoon the first thing my parents and I did was look for somewhere cool to grab dinner. We decided to eat at El Mariachi Tacos and Churros since it was on Streetsville which I also really wanted to check out.
I don’t have any pictures of Streetsville, I was not too impressed by it. From reading about it I thought Streetsville was going to be really tight-knit and have a really cool small-town feel, but in reality, it’s only about one halfway cool street.
El Mariachi Tacos and Churro was pretty good, I had a chorizo burrito with an order of their chipotle lime fries. One thing to note is that the portions of the chipotle lime fries are huge so I would not recommend ordering a side with every meal if you are in a group. I had also taken this opportunity to try Mezgo S.A de C.’s sangria señorial, not a fan.
The food at El Mariachi Tacos and Churro was decent, but nothing special. I did think the fries were pretty unique but they were just a touch too salty and over seasoned for my taste, that’s not too say I didn’t eat more than I really should have.
The first game I played was crazy tower, the game was pretty fun. Crazy tower is basically a hand-eye coordination timing game, and it’s also bullshit. In the game you are trying to build a fifty-floor tower, each floor flies across the screen and you have to hit the button to drop the current floor onto the previous floor before the current floor flies past the floor under it. Overshooting the previous floor is alright, but it sheers off any part of the floor not supported by anything under it, so if you’re not careful each floor can quickly get smaller and smaller making the game harder and harder.
Crazy tower was actually a really fun and addicting game, my only complaint comes from the prize structure. The game would award you one thousand tickets if you managed to build a fifty-floor tower, however, anything under fifty, even into the forties, would award you like ten tickets.
After I pulled myself away from crazy tower I went and spent my remaining credit playing flappy bird, which I should have down from the start. I suck at the flappy bird (I know it’s just flappy bird but I’m using Grammarly and it told me I needed an article there, and I’m really digging calling it the flappy bird.), but it would give you like thirty tickets for just making it through two pipes!
Long story short I spent twenty-five dollars and wasted about two hours earning myself a bag of jelly beans from the ticket exchange store. Hashtag worth it!
The next morning saw us traveling to the Mississauga Chinese Centre. The Centre covers over 100,000 Sq Feet and is home to a variety of specialty stores, restaurants, and a supermarket.
One of the first things you notice as you enter the centre is the nine dragon wall.
The first shop I wandered into was a brilliant fish and aquarium supply store, there was a staggering variety of fish.
The aquarium supply store was pretty much the only store I had gone into before grabbing lunch. However, I did manage to get a photo in front of the Pavillion of Friendship.
As far a lunch, I spotted a restaurant called “Blue Lagoon Seafood Master.” I just knew I had to eat there with an awesome name like that!
Walking through the doors of Blue Lagoon Seafood Master immediately places you into a really cool area where you wait to be seated.
The coolest thing about the waiting area was all of the live seafood in tanks behind the seats!
I wasn’t able to get a picture of the main dining area, but it too was really neat. With a wide-open area and a vast number of large round tables the dining area really reminded me of a banquet hall. Something I found really nice was that they had a projector in the dining room showing Chinese language programming. Overall the whole place had a social hall feel, which I found very unique and inviting. The food was excellent too.
I got the squid, shrimp, scallops stir fry at Blue Lagoon Seafood Master. I can’t say enough about how good everything was, I mean except for the squid. Fun fact, I learned I do not really like squid. But seriously, the pea pods were fresh, the shrimp was good, and the scallops were cooked absolutely perfectly. Probably the best scallops I’ve ever had.
After lunch, we went to the sino mall grocery store.
Sino mall grocery store had so much cool stuff. Sadly I do not have any pictures of the “weird” food because I was too intimidated to stand around taking pictures of stuff and expose myself as the uncultured swine that I am. I did buy myself a snack though, and I took a picture of it later when I was safely in my hotel room.
The next stop after the Mississauga Chinese Centre was the Square One Shopping Centre, which is actually the largest mall in eastern Canada. When we arrived we saw that on the grounds directly next to the mall they were setting up for an Italian heritage festival taking place later that night.
The Italian festival even had a bocce ball court and tournament!
Sadly we were unable to attend the festival later that night.
I only took a couple of pictures inside the centre because I was too busy soaking up all of that good old mall atmosphere. One thing I was sure to take a picture of however was the Walmart in the mall, and the McDonalds in the Walmart in the mall. I was just so amused by the whole store within a store within a store thing. I guess just like ogres, malls have layers.
Another thing that struck me as hilarious about this is how McDonald’s is too low class for an actual spot in the mall, it was relegated to Walmart.
Like I said above, I didn’t get a chance to take too many pictures in the mall but I did manage to get one of The Rec Room.
First with Playdium and now with The Rec Room, all I can say is Mississaugans must really love their games.
On the way back to the hotel we felt the need to make our trip extra Canadian and stop at Tim Hortons.
Before the journey back home we decided to stop at Fo Guang Shan Temple of Toronto. Due to it being a day of triple prayer there was, unfortunately, no tour on the day of our visits. However, the Buddhists being the exceptionally nice people that they are, were just like “Yeah, the tea room is closed but you can go ahead upstairs and check out our mini-museum.” The temple was fantastic and I took way too many pictures to post all of them here individually so I’ll leave a slideshow gallery below.
Speaking of Buddhists being exceptionally nice, as we were leaving a temple staff member invited us to a luncheon in the basement that started in a half an hour. Wanting to get going on our long drive we politely declined the offer, looking back at it that is my one regret from the whole trip.
In the car I started searching for cool stuff to do on the way home, and it was quite serendipitous that that Saturday was International Homeless Animals’ Day and as such Pawlooza was happening in London.
For those of you who don’t know what Pawlooza is, allow me to provide a quote below.
What is Pawlooza?
Pawlooza is the ultimate dog party! It’s a festival for dogs and animal lovers! Join an estimated 25,000 people and 6,000 dogs for Canada’s most unique and dog-friendly festival experience.
Pawlooza was a really fun time, there were tents all around, an inflatable dog-shaped balloon, and even dock diving!
After Pawlooza we were finally on our way home for real this time, maybe. Instead of taking our usual way back to the states we decided to cross at the Blue Water Bridge and drive through Port Huron. By the time we reached Sarnia, where the bridge connects, everyone was pretty hungry. We decided to conclude our trip with an early dinner in Sarnia.
Originally we were going to eat at Sideways, mainly because they had the great sign pictured below out front.
However, Sideways turned out to not be handicap accessible, which is kind of shitty especially in this day and age, but it’s ok because sometimes when life gives you lemons you stumble upon lemonade.
As we rounded the corner to look for somewhere else to eat, we again quite serendipitously stumbled upon an outdoor craft market.
To be honest the craft market was pretty lame, it was only half a street long and didn’t really have crafts, it only had a few little knick-knacks. Still, it was a cool little thing that we’d have never found if we had eaten at Sideways.
Eventually settling on a brewpub called The Tin Fiddler we went to eat the last meal of the trip.
The inside of the restaurant was pretty small but it didn’t feel overly tight.
One thing I have to say is the drink selection at this brewpub was very very strange.
I don’t usually drink but I had to try one of these weird flavors. I had the Pina Colada Sour, it was decent. Below you can see me giving it a big old thumbs up!
The food was good but didn’t really wow me. I think with that thick-cut bacon the burger, pictured below, looked a lot better than it was. The fries were very plain, and while that might seem like a complaint it very much isn’t. It was quite refreshing to have fries that didn’t rely on gimmicks, they had no seasoning other than a tiny bit of salt. The fries had a real potato flavor and tasted nearly identical to homemade steak fries.
Finishing that meal all but marked the end of our, hastily thrown together trip. I have to say that despite not planning this trip until a few days before this was easily one of my favorite trips.
The Raven Cafe is an Edgar Allen Poe inspired cafe in the heart of Port Huron. Nestled between two more modern buildings it is impossible to not notice The Raven Cafe’s uniqueness even from the street.
While downtown Port Huron is home to many old buildings The Raven Cafe is one of the oldest structures in the area. The building’s face is beautifully detailed hardwood with doors on either side of a large window.
Looking closer at the exterior I noticed two reliefs on either side of both doors. The reliefs were of hooded men with ribbons below them reading anger, sloth, pride, and envy. I found the reliefs a nice little atmospheric note with the whole seven deadly sins thing, although I never did find the other three.
As you make your way inside you move through a little corridor where you’ll find a wall-mounted latter and small hatch door leading upstairs. The hatch door leads upstairs to the musician’s area which seems to be inaccessible from the rest of the upper floor, meaning that all those who play this venue have to make their way through this doorway.
I can’t help but think about how interesting it must be to see a musician on their own little platform with no readily visible entrance.
After walking through the short, narrow corridor you enter the cafe proper. Stepping into the cafe you immediately feel the theme hit you. The abundance of unearthly decorations, local art, and rustic old-timey features really blend together to create a warm, cozy, offbeat atmosphere.
From the doorway of the cafe, you can see a small dining area stationed at the front of the house to your right, to your left is the fairly large coffee bar and hallway leading to the back of the cafe where there is more seating.
Walking to the back of the cafe you’ll notice a few tables tucked against the wall. The walls are covered with works of art, photographs, and other clippings as well as a few mirrors. About six feet off the ground all along the walls are bookshelves, these shelves house old obscure or literarily significant works.
At the end of the hallway is a small gift shop area. The gift shop mainly consists of mugs, shirts, and coffee.
Next to the gift shop area, there is a staircase leading to the second floor.
On the second floor, The Raven Cafe hosts live music on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I will not be writing about the second floor, as I was personally unable to get up there. Which brings me to my one and only complaint about The Raven cafe, there is a lack of accessibility. Given the fact that The Raven Cafe is a civil war era building and space is already incredibly tight, I don’t feel like I can be too hard on them for not having an elevator.
However, lacking an elevator is the only real accessibility hurdle as there is a large family-style accessible bathroom on the first floor. Across from the gift shop are a few more tables in the back, which are seated almost right up to the kitchen. Despite its big personality The Raven Cafe is quite small inside, and while tight it never feels cramped inside.
The Edgar Allen Poe themed coffeehouse & cafe has a vast selection of coffee drinks, pita pizzas, sandwiches, soups, salads, desserts, and cocktails. Nearly all of the sandwiches and salads have a themed name which is a fun little homage.
I had the ‘Mother’s Sinful’ Sicilian which is ham and pepperoni with melted provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, chopped banana peppers, kalamata olives, balsamic vinaigrette and mayonnaise on a french baguette.
Along with my ‘Mother’s Sinful’ Sicilian I had a Café Crème Caramel to drink.
Even though I had high expectations coming in I was still pleasantly surprised with my meal. The acidity from the vinaigrette and savory saltiness of the olives was cut perfectly by the little bit of mayonnaise on the sandwich. With the moderate sharpness of the melted provolone and the distinct bold flavor of the pepperoni, this sandwich was extremely savory and seriously delicious. The Café Crème Caramel was touted as a “coffee shake” and I found that to be a really good description. The coffee shake was very smooth and had no gritty ice texture that you would find in something like a Starbucks frappuccino. I bring up Starbucks because a caramel frappuccino from there is what I would most compare the Café Crème Caramel’s flavor to. However, the Café Crème Caramel had a less overpowering caramel flavor and a much richer coffee taste than a caramel frappuccino. For dessert, I had the Deluxe Jumbo Lemon Layered Shortcake.
The Deluxe Jumbo Lemon Layered Shortcake is a three-layered shortcake with lemon filling between each layer. While very good the shortcake was pretty typical.
Overall The Raven Cafe has a great atmosphere and great food, the only negative is the lack of second-floor accessibility.
Last night was my first time at Antihero and I have to say I was very impressed. I was immediately struck by the building’s exterior, I loved the sleek white tile and wood finished cubby hole entrance.
To enter the restaurant you have to make your way through a small entrance way with doors one either end. Each entry way door being solid really adds to the ambiance by making it so no harsh daylight cascades through the restaurant’s front door each time a patron enters.
As you walk through the wooden door and enter Antihero you are greeted by a host or hostess and taken to a table. Luckily we had gone near open so there were no waiting but there does look to be a nice area to sit and wait or have drinks if need be.
The inside of Antihero is all wood paneling except for a mural at the top of the wall opposite the entrance. There are several inlaid booths and free standing tables. The inlaid booths are also encompassed in wood paneling and have a nice lighting fixture directly overhead, they are very cozy looking. The free standing tables are wood and very sleek looking.
Going back to lighting and ambiance. The inside of Antihero is dim with the only natural light natural light coming from the large bay window at the front of the restaurant. The soft lighting was very easy on the eyes and relaxing without being overly dark. We were fortunate enough to dine at Antihero during their Tanabata star festival and got to see the ceiling decorated with hanging stars among other decorations.
To celebrate Tanabata Antihero had food and drink specials benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation as well as selling strips of paper to write a wish on for one dollar each.
Seeing all the hanging wishes by the bay window was nice. The sleek modern furniture, soft lighting and decor really created a wonderful hip modern atmosphere.
The only slight hiccup in
my experience came as soon as we were seated and given menus. Right away
we were told that two of the menu items were unavailable, which I find a
big enough faux pas to dock a star for especially because we came in
very close to open.
As for the food I had the spicy shrimp ramen. The ramen had a good flavor and was spicy but not too spicy. Would highly recommend. The only caveat being that anyone who gets the spicy shrimp ramen better make sure they really do like cilantro, a lot. Cilantro was listed as an ingredient of the spicy shrimp ramen but I was still surprised at just how much cilantro it came with, while not over powering the taste was noticeable at all times. I also had the Sho Chiku Bai – Mio Sparkling sake which was excellent.
In conclusion, I think Antihero is a wonderful establishment with a great atmosphere and great food. While the food menu might be a little small they have a very generous selection of drinks on the drink menu. If you are dead set on a certain food item just know you might not get it. Overall I give Antihero a solid 4/5, I would definitely go back!
The first thing to know is that the plum market located in the Ally center is not a full service location, rather it is what plum market is calling a condensed collection. Being a condensed location you will not find any fresh produce, however you will still find a sizeable assortment of prepackaged “healthy” snacks on shelves.
Upon entering plum market after a three stair step down you are immediately cast in to a seating area, which you will have to traverse to enter the shopping area.
To the left of the eating area is a relatively large floral area with nice and fresh looking flowers.
To the right is a sleek looking bar.
One thing to note however is that I was told that alcohol bought in the store can not be consumed on the premises, only drinks bought through the bar can be. Although I’m fairly certain I saw other people getting their store bought bottle of wine uncorked at the bar. So if you are going for a meal and want to also have an alcoholic drink be mindful that it may not work out for you how you would expect. Something that really made me laugh was the chilled champagne vending machine next to the bar.
Ignoring both the floral area and the bar, continuing straight will lead you in to the market proper. Like I said above, there really isn’t too much in terms of groceries in this store. There are two small aisles by the centrally placed cafe / cash register and then a few more aisles shooting off from either side. A good 1/4 of the shelving space was dedicated to wine and beer. The other 3/4 of the shelves seemed to be dedicated to chocolates, “healthy” snacks and hygiene products such as high end soaps.
There are also many, many juice drinks lining one side of the building along a refrigerated interior wall, opposite this wall is another smaller refrigerated section housing mostly organic milk and the like.
Nearing the back of the store brings you to a fabulous looking deli there are two long food bars, filled with everything from rice, chicken and salad to meatballs, mixed vegetables, and beans.
After you get done perusing the food bars you are greeted by four deli stations, one for hot foods, one for salads, one for sandwiches and one for sushi.
That’s pretty much it for the content and layout of the store, below is a food review, my personal thoughts and overall review.
I found it really nice how everything how everything in the deli was labeled for caloric content but the sticker shock at checkout made me think back and realize how, suspiciously, absolutely nothing was labeled for price. Initially I had no opinion either way about the cafeteria style of picking up food and paying for it in another location but after realizing everything was missing a price I almost felt duped by the system. You get food and take it out of the deli area making it impossible to return only to be told it is some exorbitant price. I had a pot pie which was a decent size but no exceptionally large and that by itself was $12.99 which I find crazy.
I can’t speak to the quality of all the food but I definitely found the pot pie lacking. Right off the bat the crust of the pot pie was not flaky and actually felt a little doughy. Also the gravy was very nontraditional, it tasted slightly creamy with a hint of sweetness and left a bit of a spicy tingle on my lips even though it didn’t taste spicy. One the plus side the chicken was very tender and the flavors seemed to mesh alright.
I wouldn’t consider this a bad pot pie but at the same time I wouldn’t consider it good, it was very middle of the road and for $12.99 I would expect much better.
For all those who don’t want to read a wall of text let me summarize my opinions on the downtown condensed collection plum market:
Big beer and wine selection.
Very expensive in my opinion, see above.
Food is not great in my very limited experience, see above.
Questionable about what you can and can’t drink.
Very limited selection on groceries.
I ultimately gave this store a 3/5 while it does have it’s weaknesses it also has a lot of strengths and I would rate my experiences here overall positively. Just don’t expect anything more than a deli / bar / convenience store.