More than 50 years go, Mike Ilitch was poised for major-league glory. An up-and-coming shortstop for the Detroit Tigers, his baseball finesse was blossoming when an injury derailed his sports career. But although the wound stunted his athletic aspirations, it steered him toward a new path, and on May 8, 1959, he and his wife opened the first Little Caesars location, a then-unheard-of carry-out-only joint. The career shift and novel technique eventually proved triumphant. Today, the pizzeria's iconic, toga-clad mascot adorns storefronts on five continents. In each shop, staffers forge the signature Hot-N-Ready pizza, a freshly baked pizza designed for instant pickup, and warm, garlicky Crazy bread. With a storied half century under their belt, Mike Ilitch and his family strive to give back, supporting local organizations and creating their own charitable programs.
A.J. Java is an independent coffee house that roasts, brews, and sells farm-direct coffee beans from around the world. Because of the growing popularity of home roasting, A.J. Java offers a roasting class on Saturdays and Sundays to teach coffee-minded denizens the ins and outs of raw beanery. The class—ranging from 90 minutes to two hours in length (depending on class size)—begins with a brief history and overview of java. Eager students will hear the legend of Kaldi and his break-dancing goats and explore the difference between Robusta and Arabica beans. Caffeine enthusiasts can try their hand on a commercial roaster before learning how to roast beans using common household items, which may or may not include Easy-Bake Ovens, dishwashers, and heirloom lava lamps. Class sizes are capped at six students for a truly interactive experience. Each attendee also receives either one pound of roasted coffee or two pounds of unroasted green beans to roast at home.
The giant circular grill can be seen from almost anywhere inside the restaurant. Yummy Mongolian BBQ's chefs stand around it waiting to stir-fry the custom creations their diners assemble from a long buffet brimming with colorful veggies, noodles, and meats. Guests pile their selected ingredients into a nearly endless number of combinations before ladling on freshly made sauces and waving goodbye as their plates are carted off for cooking. Additionally, a full appetizer bar warms midsections like an electric fanny pack with bubbling soups, chicken fried rice, and honey chicken wings.
The scent of freshly brewed Stumptown coffee wafts through the air in the two-story house that hosts North Star Coffeehouse as visitors challenge one another to chess tournaments, read a novel by the warm fire, or translate Faulkner into pig Latin. Once equipped with a brewed beverage and a tasty, sugary pastry from La Provence Bakery, patrons can explore the North Star confines, decorated in a postmodern-meets-vintage theme by Vizwerks, before settling into a cozy plush chair to browse the free WiFi.
Breakside is the devout brewchild of passionate draft masters Scott Lawrence and Tony Petraglia. The in-house microbrew list includes the Breakside Wit, a 5.2% ABV Belgian-style wheat beer; the Belgian chocolate stout, a 5.8% ABV beer with dark flavors infused with Belgian yeast; and a hearty helping of other local beers. The food menu pays homage to the plentiful Northwest by using as many locally sourced ingredients as possible—cheeses are crafted by Tillamook and Rogue Creamery; beef is antibiotic- and hormone-free Country Natural Beef, pork is raised in the Willamette Valley by Carlton Farms; and bread is baked by Grand Central Baking Company. Sip homemade soups, play tug-of-war with eclectic appetizers, chomp into sandwiches, burgers, and wraps, or tear apart saucy ribs and chicken. While you sip or sup, let your imagination wander around the simple, yet refined, details of the massive, open dining room, or let it narrow down reasons the dinosaurs went extinct.