By GABRIELLE LAWRENCE
Believe it or not, I have had some delicious and memorable meals in strip malls. When Mr. She Ate and I visited his father in Florida several years ago, they took me to an absolute dive that served some of the best shrimp po’ boys I’ve ever had. The Root, before it closed, was nestled close to a Verizon store in a strip mall in White Lake, and if it was good enough to be started by a wildly talented former contestant on “Top Chef,” it was good enough for me. Henry’s Place is similarly situated, in Okemos close to a discount bridal boutique, a discount toy store and a discount clothing store. There is, however, nothing low-rent about Henry’s.
Last week, I found myself nearly swooning over the shrimp tacos — in particular the avocado aioli, which had the perfect amount of smoothness and spice. While the tacos were delicious eaten over our dining room table, I’m sure that they would have been even better served hot and fresh in the restaurant, where I could also beg for my beloved corn tortillas instead of flour. Having just returned from a trip to New York City, the peace of mind gained from in-restaurant diners being required to show proof of vaccination is something I sorely miss here at home.
The Brussels sprouts with bacon were delicious, incredibly savory and not overcooked. While that may seem like a given, it has become truly rare to find a restaurant that is able to blast brussels with a high enough heat to get them crispy, the preparation that they need to reach peak deliciousness. The fish fry platter with French fries brought the heat just as much as everything else I ordered that night. The cod was thick and meaty, the batter light and crispy. Like everyone else in the Midwest, I love a good fish fry during Lent, and this one just shot to the top of the list.
On a previous visit, I was disappointed to learn that that the parmesan garlic fries didn’t travel well, because the aroma was intoxicating. I’m eager to try them when I have an opportunity to dine-in. Mr. She Ate and I shared an order of steak tips and one of chicken alfredo, which I found in our bag, although I had ordered the mac and cheese. Truth be told, chicken alfredo is the single dish that my husband knocks into the stratosphere every time he prepares it and I’ve never had a version that compares. This version was good, but largely unremarkable.
The steak tips were one of the more unique items on the menu, which mercifully is relatively small and doesn’t swerve into wet burrito and pizza territory as it seems that so many restaurants do. As an amateur diner, I can’t imagine that restaurant owners make it easy on themselves by constructing these monstrous menus that attempt to scratch the culinary surface of every country in the G-20. If I want Chinese food, I know how to find an appropriate eatery — right next to Henry’s Place, as a matter of fact, and it’s fantastic. If I want a pizza, I don’t expect to find sushi on the same menu. That is not something that people should complain about.
There are several more menu items that I’m dying to try. I love few things more than devouring a large bowl of mussels, but oysters take a close second place. Henry’s Place has both; it is one of the few local restaurants that offers oysters, and one of even fewer that I would trust to prepare them properly. Henry’s has created an attractive, intimate atmosphere and they frequently post specials to their Facebook page. In an area of town filled with so many chain restaurants, Henry’s is a welcome reprieve with a lot more personality.
By BRYAN BEVERLY
There is a good deal of attention paid to neighborhood grill and bars these days. Thanks in no small part to Walker Haye’s “Fancy Like” song that gives more than a wink and nod to a national chain, as the chorus lauds the courting opportunities that accompany some of the usual fare in establishments across the country. The notion of a place where you can both take a date, meet up with friends, or take the family for a meal has been the recipe for the casual restaurant scene for several decades now. However, the formulaic vibe with memorabilia covering nearly every corner can also become rather cliché and not endearing of true neighborhood places. One could be so lucky to have Henry’s Place in their neighborhood.
Located in the heart of Meridian Township’s shopping district, Henry’s Place is a pub away from home. It features 24 beers on tap and no fewer than 200 whiskey and bourbon selections to tickle even the pickiest fancy. The ambience is cozy, pro-Spartan vibe. As it should be.
Salads, burgers and fries, oh my!
My first visit to Henry’s Place included several highs and a low or two. The Michigan salad was a grilled chicken winner, with Traverse City cherries, crunchy pecans and a sharp blue cheese with a wonderful balsamic dressing. The lemon pepper dry-rubbed wings were a perfect marriage of crunchy and juicy with a suggestive tang. The olive burger was solid, but I prefer mine nearly drowning in olive sauce and this one was bit stingy. The two most disappointing bites this month? Those would be the parmesan garlic fries, which were bland and lacking any real desire to be great, and the Brussel sprouts with pork belly, which were far too charred to make any other flavor judgments.
Round two with a punch
A second trip to Henry’s Place was far better than the first. We decided to give the disappointing options a chance to redeem themselves, while also trying some new items. This time around we swapped the parmesan garlic fries for the los pollos bacon poutine. Poutine is a Canadian favorite, featuring French fries bathed in cheese and gravy. Henry’s version featured cheddar cheese, sliced chicken, bacon, ranch and a lovely gravy that was rich and earthy — perfect for an early December evening. These are not to be eaten in conjunction with any true dieting effort as they are delicious, and you will want more. Next on the redemption tour were the Brussels sprouts. This time they weren’t treated like victims of the Spanish Inquisition, but instead costarred with a light, but sweet balsamic and smokey, meaty bites of perfectly cooked pork belly. What a great way to bounce back.
In addition, we enjoyed the double Cubano sandwich — a double-fisted handheld packed with copious slices of chorizo, more pork belly, pickles, Swiss and mustard. Yum, yum and more yum. Lastly, the four-cheese “mac” and cheese was a peculiar choice of fettuccini instead of macaroni noodles, with a perplexing alfredo sauce. What a surprising consolation, however, when this odd remix was paired with bacon and grilled shrimp — talk about a flavor knockout.
One thing is for sure: Henry’s Place is a lovely spot for gathering. On my visits, I saw families, couples and business-attired folks all connecting over good food and libations. At the end of the day — and even more so during a pandemic — we all want to be able to gather in our community and enjoy one another’s company. This warm and inviting pub is a charming place to do just that, with lots of choices to offer — fancy, odd or otherwise.
I’ve had my fair share of fish and chips over the years. I enjoy making them at home and have eaten them in several European countries, including the UK, where they originated. I place Henry’s Place right in the mix with some of the best I’ve had. Its fish fry, with in-house coleslaw and tartar sauce is simply outstanding. The crisp coat on the outside of the cod, coupled with the flaky and flavorful white fish, makes me want more just writing about it now.
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