Experiencing Great Restaurants and Delicious Libations


Voyager – Ferndale MI

600 Vester Ave. Ferndale MI 48220

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Visited October 2017

Wedged between a residential neighborhood and the back of a 9 Mile Rd. strip center, Voyager serves up some well crafted cocktails and inventive seafood plates. I have not been able to post all summer long, but my visits to Voyager made me pause long enough to get my experience documented.


Mabel Gray – Hazel Park MI

23825 John R. Rd. Hazel Park, MI

Visited February 2017

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2017 Restaurant of the Year – Detroit Free Press

A month ago we made reservations at Mabel Gray for a birthday dinner. As luck would have it, the day of our dinner Mabel Gray was named Restaurant of the Year by the Detroit Free Press. There was a buzz in the air.

This surprisingly small restaurant is a redo of an old diner – or partial redo. It still looks and feels like an old diner, outfitted with thrift store mismatched china and 1970’s vacation souvenir and 4th of July water glasses. I am not sure if the design intent was to be eclectic, campy, clever, or just cool. My impression was that it has a 70’s suburban recreation room vibe. It was packed with anxious patrons, including the Mayor of Detroit, ready to find out what the buzz is all about.

The staff was impressive – engaging, friendly, attentive, and described the details of the dishes as if they had prepared each themselves.

The Food:

We started with a few shared plates. Duck Heart Yakitori, Root Vegetable Salad, Kabucha Squash, and Crispy Yukon Gold Potatoes. All were delicious, beautifully presented – with only one reserved review on the duck hearts…because they were duck hearts.

The entree courses ordered at the table included Fried Pork Belly Salad, the Lamb Chops and the House Gnocchi. The reviews of the Pork Belly and the Lamb Chops were very good, and the presentation was appealing – but I had the Gnocchi. It was the only disappointing dish of the evening.  It was soupy, and extremely garlicky -too garlicky for my taste (and I like garlic). The plating /presentation also was not appealing at all, more like a diner dish from the building’s previous incarnation.

The desserts were all big hits – and we ordered one of each of the items from the dessert menu to share. The evenings selection included Heath Chocolate Cake, Goat Cheese Cheesecake and the Bananas Foster. All looked great, and all tasted great – a perfect end to the evening.

With the exception of my entree, the food was delicious. I do plan on returning for the Chef’s Tasting Menu. You do not know what you will be getting, but based on what we experienced, it promises to be inventive and interesting – I just hope there is no Gnocchi on the menu when I return.

Sage – Las Vegas NV

Aria Resort

Visited January 2017

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Aria Resort and Casino in City Center, Las Vegas

Shawn McClain, Chef

Sage is one of the original restaurants in the Aria Resort and Casino in CityCenter Las Vegas. This trip was the first time I was able to have dinner at Sage. I have always been impressed by the restaurant design. The bar and lounge visible from the entrance and through a couple of windows open to the main lobby of Aria is a stunner. The high ceilings, the long bar with a long row of simple pendant fixtures suspended over the bar set the scene for an elegant experience. The back bar has a great selection of whiskeys and bourbons presented in a simple tryptic framed display are flanked by grand oversized european art scenes illuminated with a brilliant glow in a purple hue. The only element that I thought did not feel right was the size of the chandeliers above the dining space in the lounge. They are too small.

I had not realized that there was a separate spacious main dining room tucked away beyond. It has a similar elegant vibe, repeating the elements from the bar/lounge with the purple hued art pieces…and chandeliers that are too small.

I started with a Sazarac cocktail and sat back and enjoyed the room. I knew I was going to have a great meal in this room.

I started with the Wagyu Beef Tartare with crushed caper aioli, slow poached egg and crispy chocolate. Looked great, tasted great. (note that the photos do not show how beautiful the dishes were due to my camera picking up the purple hue from the adjacent artwork) – I try to be as unobtrusive as I can be when I take photos and never use the flash, respecting the environment and the other patrons)

For my entree, I selected the Spice Crusted Venison Loin with salsify, licorice and black trumpet mushrooms. Another perfectly prepared dish that tasted equally perfect.

For dessert I knew going in that Sage also has a good absinthe selection, with all of the appropriate accoutrement. I selected a California absinthe with a flavor profile in the anise and herbal range. A subtle nice way to end the dinner.

Il Fornaio – Las Vegas NV

Located in the New York New York Casino

Visited January 2017

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This is a special entry in my restaurant blog.

It is the first restaurant I am recommending because of the toast….. yes the toast (oh and the rest of the food is very good as well).

Years ago while I was in Vegas often for work, I would always try to make it to Il Fornaio for breakfast, just so I could get the toast. It had been 3 years since I was in Vegas, and my first morning there I made my way to New York New York to see if the restaurant – and the toast- were still there. They were, and I was happy!

As many restaurants do, their menu states that they bake their own bread, by hand from scratch with no preservatives. Well in this case I believe every word of it. The toast is worth the trip to Vegas!

Firefly* – Las Vegas NV

3824 Paradise Rd. Las Vegas NV

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Off the strip local favorite.

Nobu (Hard Rock) -Las Vegas NV

Located in the Hard Rock Casino, Las Vegas

Visited January 2017

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Revisited one of my favorite restaurants

Hakkasan – Las Vegas NV

In the MGM Casino and Resort

Visited January 2017

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Both a Restaurant and a Nightclub

Bad Luck Bar – Detroit MI

1218 Griswold – Alley Entrance

Visited December 2016

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A Detroit Optimist Society Project.

Lockbox – Lexington KY

Visited November 2016

Located in the 21c Museum Hotel Lexington

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Another great restaurant in a 21c Museum Hotel (my personal favorite hotel chain).

Spoke & Steele – Indianapolis IN

In the Le Meridien Hotel

Visited November 2016

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In the lobby of the Le Meridien Hotel, this restaurant has a very inventive craft cocktail menu. The creative libations on the menu list the proud bartender’s names that created each cocktail. The food was very good as well.

Grey Ghost Detroit – Grand Opening

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August 28, 2016

After months of anxious anticipation, many pop-up dinner events throughout the area, and teaser instagram posts of the construction – the permanent home of Grey Ghost Detroit is now open!
Just before the 4PM opening, herbs were carefully harvested from the planters around the patio seating area while a line formed at the door. At 4PM sharp the doors opened and the adventure began.
I grabbed a seat at the bar before they were all taken, and took in the atmosphere. There is a large bar with ample workspace for the bartenders, with rough sawn wood paneling and open metal shelving on the back wall. The bar countertops are recycled bowling alley lanes, refinished and stained. The dining room has large windows facing the street bringing in abundant light. I have not dined in the dining room yet so will have to update this post after I do.
As expected, the craft cocktails are delicious, balanced, and exuberant concoctions. Will Lee is an amazing bartender, with the acute skills to create the perfect drink just based on a description of favorite flavors. If you want to order off the drink menu, you will not be disappointed either. Among the highest quality cocktails around.
Off the menu I started with the Fried Bologna. Yes, Fried Bologna. It was really delicious! Served on a waffle, with cheddar and jalepeno. Highly recommended, for both the flavor and the novelty. Beef Tartare was next, followed by the Scallops Thermador with apple , cognac and green onion. perfectly prepared dusted with panko on the seared side.
On a subsequent visit, trumpet mushrooms with bacon jam were the perfect accompaniment to the Bavette Steak with avocado verde. The steak preparation was a little rare for my taste, but very choice cut.
I can say that the partners, and their families are “all in” with this endeavor. There is a friendly, but totally professional vibe here, focused on quality.
After attending The Chicken, The Pig, The Lamb, Seafood, and the Cocktail pop-up, It was well worth the wait.

Grey Ghost Detroit: Ghost Tour – Seafood

Held at the Great Lakes Culinary Center April 15, 2016

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A pop-up preview of the Grey Ghost Chef’s skills prior to their brick and mortar restaurant  opening this summer.

150 guests at this sold out event enjoyed a seafood menu featuring Sea Scallop Crudo, Octopus roll, “bacon ‘n eggs” (salmon bacon with salmon roe on a parsnip hash brown), Rock Shrimp Hush Puppy, Pacific Halibut, and for dessert a Seaweed Ice Cream Sandwich with sesame cookies.

I thought everything was a home run. The other guests at my table were about 50/50 on liking the Seaweed Ice cream. Just attempting a seafood dessert was worth a taste.

With seafood not being a focus on their upcoming meat-centric restaurant menu, it was an impressive showing. And serving 150 people all at once with a description of the courses by the Chef was impressive as well.

I can’t wait for this restaurant to open!



Katoi (Preview)- Detroit MI

2520 Michigan Avenue, Detroit MI 48216

Opens March 21, 2016

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The long awaited Katoi will open next Monday, March 21. The well liked food truck parked across the street at Two James Distillery now has a brick and mortar home.

I stopped in during the preview to take a look. I must say that I am impressed with the design. I had seen some progress photos and thought that I would not like the loft like “abandoned-building-take-over-and-leave-it-as-is-and-call-it-cool” vibe. Well I was wrong on both counts. It is actually a very sophisticated dynamic design, and I really quite like it.

I did not eat, so can only comment on the space and the bartender’s skills. My drink was very interesting, unique and delicious. I cannot wait to return and actually sit in the dining room and have dinner. I think it will be fantastic.

Katoi Website



Grey Ghost Detroit: Ghost Tour – The Lamb

Pop-up at The Meeting House, Rochester, MI

Event 03/14/16

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The Lamb  –  The 4th dinner in the “Ghost Tour” preview pop-up series for Grey Ghost Detroit, was a great success. It was held in Rochester MI to introduce the animal centric cuisine of John Vermiglio and Josef Giacomino to the suburbs before their brick and mortar restaurant opens in Detroit later this year.

The 6 courses were accompanied by available craft cocktails created by Will Lee, the Grey Ghost beverage director and partner. I was able to try a couple of the drinks and heartily approve. Will has an uncanny sense of blending different flavors to create a complex balanced unique cocktail.

David Vermiglio, the business partner was working the room making sure everyone was having a perfect experience – and we were. David and John’s mother was also there and introduced herself to me at my table. She is very proud of her sons and thanked me for coming to the dinner in a very sincere unassuming way – like only a mother can.

The courses were delicious, with cilantro jam, ale gravy, crispy olives,  and vindaloo bursts of flavor accenting the lamb in the various courses.

The evening was complete with a snicker and laugh. What dessert can be created with Lamb? Well sheep’s milk cheesecake with lamb-cracker crust, of course (it was delicious as well).

Grey Ghost Detroit Website

(Note: I am not affiliated with Grey Ghost Detroit in any way other than being a big fan. I have had drinks made by Will Lee at various restaurants in Detroit, and was introduced to Grey Ghost by attending their second pop-up at Revolver  in January. I have been to all of their pop-ups since. My review is based on their food which is fantastic, and also the people that make up Grey Ghost Detroit – they all seem fantastic as well).

The Peterboro (Preview)-Detroit MI

March 10, 2016

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I was excited to get a sneak peek of one of the most anticipated restaurant openings of the year.  I got in – not only to get a look around, but I also was able to sample some of the great dishes.  It was well worth the wait.

The bar side has a green tile wall as the backdrop. A large horseshoe bar with a black concrete countertop focuses on a metal tower backbar complete with a lucky Maneki-neco cat.

The dining room side has a mix of traditional Chinese elements – a large tiger painting  and red paper lanterns. They are artfully placed in a loft like space with a high communal table in the center of the space.

Everything I had at the dinner was delicious. I sampled the pork belly, paper chicken, hanger steak and almond boneless chicken. An interesting menu item was the Sherry selection. they were well paired with the entree items.

I cannot wait for The Peterboro to open, so I can sample the rest of the menu.



Huron Room – Detroit MI

2547 Bagley, Detroit MI 48216

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Visited December 15, 2015

National Provisions – Lexington KY

710 National Avenue, Lexington KY

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Crank and Boom – Lexington KY

1210 Manchester Street Lexington KY

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Crank and Boom Ice Cream Lounge

The Village Idiot – Lexington KY

311 West Short Street Lexington KY

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Located right downtown, within walking distance of my hotel, this proved to be the perfect place for brunch. With a friendly staff, the selection included duck & waffles which I tried. It had jalepenos which added a wake-me-up kick.

The Village Idiot Website

Table Three Ten – Lexington KY

310 West Short Street Lexington KY

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Serafini – Frankfort KY

243 West Broadway, Frankfort KY

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Serafini Restaurant Website

Harrison-Smith House – Bardstown KY

103 East Stephen Foster, Bardstown KY

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Harrison-Smith House Website

Talbott Tavern – Bardstown KY

107 West Stephen Foster, Bardstown KY

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Visited October 2015

Proof on Main – Louisville KY

Located in the 21c Museum Hotel, Louisville OH

Deborah Burke Architect/Interiors

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