In Defense of Westland

Over the past six months I have said many terrible things about the city of Westland.  I have done everything from calling out the poor nutrition of its residents to making up fake awards calling it the worst food city in the entire country.  During my report about Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, I made a claim about Westland’s obesity levels that may have taken it a little far.

But before I get into the rest of this post, I have to admit that I made the title of this post “In Defense of Westland” as click bait.  There is no defending Westland.  It’s the worst food city in America.  There is no real award making that an official statement, only the truth. The only cities that prevail over Westland as having a worse food situation would be those that have no restaurants at all.  My goal with this post is to understand why the food is so terrible and to call attention the few places that are getting it right.  This is sort of a quasi-internet deep dive, part review, part rant style post and I hope we get to the bottom of why Westland’s food scene is such an absolute shithole.

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My first step when looking at food in a certain region is to examine the residents. As most American cities were, Westland was inhabited by the Potawatomis, a Native American tribe, in the 18th century.  The Potawatomi people hunted deer, elk, and wild birds and caught fish. The Potawatomis were also among the first to tap trees for maple syrup in Michigan.  Some even refer to the Potawatomi era as the golden era of food in Westland.  In 1827, white people saw this happening and decided to fuck everything up. They saw the maple syrup being extracted from the trees, the women and children gathering berries and then men cooking freshly butchered meat over open fires.  They decided that this was unacceptable and they would work tirelessly to ensure that this settlement became home to the worst food in what later became known as America. They also erased any mention of this from prevalent history books so one hundred or so years of history detailing the destruction of culinary practice remains hidden deep in libraries, which no one in Westland knows of.

After World War II an area of Westland known as the Norwayne Historic District was built for defense workers.  They were given subsidies for their rent and a small town began to form.  They constructed a fire station, two schools and a church.  It became home to over 1200 families.  After the war was over, the families were given the option to purchase the homes and preference for the leftover homes was given to veterans.  In the late 40s, it was a popular place for soldiers returning home to call home.  No information was given to these defense workers and veterans about the strict policies still leftover from the early 1800s on food practices in the area.  As you can imagine, these was a shock to those who risked their lives for this country.  When they returned home expecting a home cooked meal on the table, they were met with well done steaks dressed with ketchup.  They fought these policies and argued that the laws were archaic but the town leaders argued that these policies had gotten them to where they were today and must be kept alive.  Any deviation in food quality would cause the town to turn to Anarchy.

Over the next thirty years there were many attempts to reverse the laws of the 1800s requiring Westland to remain the worst food city in America.  In 1959, Westland appointed Ray Croc as a lead consultant for city restaurant development.  Under his rule, restaurants in Westland were required to either be a franchise itself and/or have a minimum of twenty other locations.  His belief was that these requirements would cause chefs and restauranteurs to look elsewhere in their search of homes for their fancy restaurants.  To take it a step further, a large shopping mall was built in the middle of the city with a large food court specializing in bland food and mass produced meals.

By 2008, Westland became a hotbed for people that wanted to be surrounded by terrible chain restaurants.  Unfortunately, these were not the most desirable class of people and only added to the motivation of the longstanding residents of Westland to relocate. Longtime citizens had endured decades of terrible food but once these people, who were often crass and lacked basic hygiene, began to enter it was too much to endure.  The area that ones housed defense workers and soldiers returning from World War II became know as Shacktown, due to the deteriorating and mostly abandoned homes.

Despite the fleeing of the majority of its quality residents, Westland continued to become a popular destination for the worst chain restaurants in the country.  Applebee’s decided to build a restaurant across from Westland Mall.  Red Robin, not to be outdone, struck ground directly across the street from Applebee’s.  Mike Illitch read about the growing shitty restaurant development in the area and decided it would be a perfect location to serve the second worst pizza in the country.  Not to be outdone, Pizza Hut moved quickly to position themselves to serve the worst pizza in the country to the residents of Westland.  Fifteen coney islands were built between 2005 and 2010, with a brand new Rams Horn being built in 2010 to top off Westland as the shittiest food city in the country. The people who adopted Westland as their home during this time were thrilled that they could have a consistent, recognizable meal whenever they pleased.  Ray Croc’s policies were still intact so there was no chance they would have a bad meal at a place they had never heard of.

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In 2010 two families realized an opportunity in this terrible, terrible city.  They read through Ray Croc’s policies and realized that there was nothing that said they couldn’t open a small grocery in Westland.  There was also nothing saying they couldn’t serve food out of a grocery store.  This developed into Dos Hermanos Market and La Taqueria Alameda being constructed as what some called “Guerilla Restaurants” — Establishments that looked like a grocery store but was really a restaurant.  Word began to spread and a small group of people that had once traveled to other regions to sample quality cuisine began to research the policies that now dated back 140 years.  They eventually hired legal representation and sued the city over their rights to quality food.

There was a long court battle, which took place at the local Buffalo Wild Wings, with the final ruling being that establishments serving quality food would be allowed in Westland. There were several qualifications the establishment must meet though.  The first was that it had to be built around carry out.  The second was that there was to be absolutely no fine dining.  The third was that if you had a capacity of over thirty seats you had to pay a small percentage that went into supporting the existing terrible restaurants in the city.  The fourth was that a good restaurant could only be constructed every five years.  After these policies went into place, Gabrielle’s Cheese Steak Hoagies was constructed on Wayne Rd.  With the obesity levels in the area and the new requirements it seemed like a natural marriage.  Five years later, Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken was constructed with the demographics of the area being a perfect customer base.

This all sounds well and good to the majority of people.  Most people just want to be able to take their family out for a good meal.  Unfortunately, the “less desirables” that moved into the area seeking familiarity with their food still cling on to policies created by 1800s settlers and Ray Croc in the 1950s.  Thankfully, because of the internet, these people have a voice and thanks to screenshots I can share them with you. Thanks Yelp!

Here is Icie F. on her visit to Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, which advertises on their website as having some of the best hot and spicy chicken around:

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Here is Rick W., who had his life ruined by Taqueria Alameda, because they had to close early and didn’t actually try their food.  Apparently this is a valid reason to boycott a family’s business and tell everyone you know about it:

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Did you know that reviewing a McDonalds is a thing?  Well Rob.S, an Elite Yelp Reviewer does, and he’s REALLY UPSET!!!!

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And finally, it’s very important to Jake G. that everyone knows that Burger King fucked up his lemonade.

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So in summary, the people of Westland are responsible for having no more than three somewhat quality places to eat.  They are to blame.  As you can tell from their history, they have standards and by standards I mean they must have their meals served to them by a familiar name in terrible mass produced fashion.  Even then if you don’t give them what they are used to it will be blasted all over the internet which is enabled by a wonderful website called Yelp.  Newer, more high end restaurants or even restaurants taking chances have no shot at making it in Westland because the people know what they want and they want it the same every single time.  Why would any quality restaurant move in when cities like Dearborn, Plymouth, Ann Arbor and Detroit are a drive away and are home to people who will support good food?

So last thing, there is no defending Westland.  It is the worst food city in the entire country.

Korean Shortrib Tacos

I’m going to begin this post with a question because it makes things feel more interactive even though there’s no way for me to find out what your response is to the question.  I guess that makes it a rhetorical question?

Have you ever walked into a restaurant you’ve been to several times and find a new menu item that completely puts that restaurant over the top?  Like, you’ve been there and had a few good meals but it was never a place you would go out of your way to return to?

That happened to me yesterday.  I was getting work done on the Miracle Whip (my white 2013 Ford Focus) and I needed to kill a couple of hours.  Rather than sit in the lobby and watch Harry Potter on their 24″ TV, I walked over to Ashley’s Beer & Grill, which has always been a good option in Westland but never a place I would go out of my way to visit for whatever reason.  Don’t get me wrong, I always have a good meal here and they have an amazing beer selection — But for whatever reason, I only eat here about once per year.

I looked over the menu for several moments until my eyes stopped on one of my favorite things.  Korean Tacos.

Korean Short Rib Tacos: Grilled bulgogi short rib, roja sauce, cilantro-green onion-lime relish and kimchi slaw.

I yelled across the restaurant at the waitress to immediately bring me these tacos.  Just kidding, I didn’t do that.  When the waitress returned I asked very nicely if she could bring me a plate of these delicious sounding Korean tacos and wondered…. Could Ashley’s do it?  Could they create one of my favorite dishes and offer it a mere two miles away from my house?

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The answer is YES.  Absolutely yes.  These Korean tacos are as legit as they come — And that’s not one of those things where I just make a blanket statement about how great something is with zero credibility behind it.  If I am eating ANYWHERE and Korean tacos are available, I pull the trigger.  I’ve had Korean tacos in five different states.  I KNOW Korean tacos.

Everything about these things work.  The bulgogi is plentiful and salty, the cilantro-lime slaw is fresh and doesn’t give you any kind of overpowering fruit flavor, the kimchi adds a vinegary tang and the roja sauce..  Holy shit, the roja sauce.  The roja sauce is SPICY.  So spicy I finished two large drinks while eating these tacos.  The best part is the spice level is not indicated ANYWHERE on the menu.  That means whoever is running this place is expecting people to assume that if you’re ordering Korean tacos you know they’re going to be spicy.  That’s exactly how it should be.

So if you’ve had Korean tacos before and have high expectations, go and get these.  If you’ve never had Korean tacos, go and get these.  If you’re a big fan of ground beef tacos with lettuce and not a lot of spice, please return to this site when you’ve improved your food game.

I see you Ashley’s.  You’ve stepped it up with these.  I will be back.

Ashley’s Beer and Grill is at 7525 N Wayne in Westland, MI

Grindstone Smokehouse Burned Down

I woke up up this morning to a message from the Filipino Pounder saying that Grindstone Smokehouse caught fire last night an hour after they closed. Either this was the worst pun ever, or we had ourselves a fire in Westland last night.

A little background first — Grindstone Smokehouse was opened in late 2015 and replaced Beaver Creek Saloon. It quickly became one of the most inconsistent dining experiences in the area. One day you would go and everything would be fantastic, the next you would be served what tasted like cold steak bites pretending they were burnt ends. It was almost depressing that I had a smokehouse down the street that I couldn’t depend on.

I immediately ran out the door to collect evidence (actually I needed catfood) and get the people some kind of update, as no one else seems to know what’s going on.  Since there were police on the scene, I didn’t feel like it would be a good look for me to get out of the car so I literally just drove by about four times and kept hitting the camera button.  IT’S SOMETHING, OK?

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It looks like they’re boarding the place up but the structure of the building is still intact.  I haven’t seen anyone else report anything on what’s going on so it’s hard to say how bad the damage internally is.  There are police in the parking lot which can only mean that they’re still investigating the cause. I’ll keep updating you as I hear things.

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Update: Got a video posted on Facebook by a Vic Barra last night of them trying to put it out:

Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken

A new fried chicken joint opened up right down the street from me which makes me upset because obesity is now within walking distance.  Westland has always been a good place for me, suprisingly, because the restaurant scene is absolutely terrible.  If you’re looking for a chain restaurant, look no further.  Westland has all of them.  Normally I have to travel to Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Detroit or Ypsilanti to get a good meal.  Now I can stroll down the block and pick up battered chicken cooked in hot oil. Thanks a lot Gus.

Apparently Gus’s was started about 60 years ago by a guy named Napoleon who made such good fried chicken that the people of Mason, Tennessee built him a restaurant.  Their son, Gus, inherited the recipe and re-branded the business into “Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken”.  Kind of messed up that he took full credit for the recipe, if you ask me.  He then began expanding, with a business plan that I’m guessing had to do with finding locations with the fattest populations and adding a restaurant there.  Locations include Little Rock, Detroit, Atlanta, Memphis and Kansas City. Why Gus decided Westland was a prime location for his chicken is beyond me.  I couldn’t find any statistics for obesity levels in Westland but I’m sure the numbers are staggering.

The first thing you will notice about Gus’s is there no sign out front.  Apparently when they open new locations the public swarms the restaurant like fat zombies and overwhelms the restauraunt while they’re trying to find their groove. There is also a note saying they are in the middle of a soft open, but the waitress said that’s only there to slow people down.  The restauraunt is fully open and has a full menu. You are now free to complain about their service.

For the first complaint I would like to bring in Toi Whitfield from Facebook, who clearly researched Gus’s before she visited.  Take it away, Toi!

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I have to stop here and say a few words about Toi’s review.  First of all, the full name of the resturaunt is “Gus’s World Famous Hot & Spicy Fried Chicken”.  If you and your kids don’t like spicy food, why were you at a hot and spicy fried chicken restauraunt?  Second, what kind of greens were you looking for? Greens are only delicious because they’re cooked in the same pot as a large chunk of pork. Without that large chunk of pork, you basically have boiled kale.  Was that what you were looking for?  Lastly, baked beans without pork should be outlawed in all fifty states. Lentil soup was invented for people who want to eat beans without the addition of meat.  Stick to that.  Anyways, moving on..

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Gus serves 40oz High Lifes.  They’re $8, but still. They serve 40s.  In a brown paper bag.  Where else can you drink a 40 with some fried chicken in a restauraunt setting?  It’s magical.  I know I could probably could have just said this and not included that picture, but look how beautiful and artistic it is.  Look at the guy in the blue shirt going to town on his chicken.  Look at the Filipino Pounder in the right side of the frame.  I couldn’t not include that.

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The food itself is damn good.  Not the best fried chicken I’ve had, but definitely well cooked and well seasoned.  The spice level isn’t very high and I wouldn’t mind the option to go a little spicier in honor of Toi, but there is hot sauce on the table if you need it. I’m not going into detail on the menu because you can find that on their website, but you’re looking at the three piece dark plate up top and the dark plate above these words.  I think I was actually more impressed with the sides than I was the chicken. Over the last few years, I have developed an obsession for collared greens and these are up on there on my list.  The mac and cheese isn’t award winning but it has some flavor other than butter and cream, but the baked beans are the real start of this. The beans come with every plate, and I almost subbed them for a different side.  At the last minute, I decided to keep them on my meal and thank goodess I did.  They are smoky, hearty, delicious — pretty much add any descriptive word that makes baked beans — and these have it.  Do not sub the beans.  They are fantastic.

I ordered pie at the end of my meal but forgot to take a picture because my brain was probably upset that I was abusing my heart .  The chess pie is really good.  I don’t know what it is, how it’s made or where it came from but it’s really good.  Get it.

Overall, Gus’s is really good and worth making a trip for.  Grab a 40 and order a three piece plate.  Get pie at the end.  Then don’t plan on doing anything for the next few hours.

Gus’s is at 35505 Ford Rd in Westland.

Dos Hermanos Market

As you approach Dos Hermanos Market for the first time your thought process is probably something like “I don’t know where the entrance to this place is and it doesn’t look like I should be here”.  Yes, Dos Hermanos Market is a bit tricky to enter because the door is actually in the back of the building next to a few parking spaces. Yes, you have to walk through a Mexican grocery store, through a butcher shop that features pig legs and other pork delicacies.  Once you get through the grocery and the butcher, there is a small opening to a room with a few tables.  Wait, I need to stop.  I’m trying to paint a visual for you so you truly understand the experience but I’m just not that good of a writer.

Thankfully, I have Michael H., who is an ELITE Yelp reviewer with 93 reviews, to assist me with this.

When we came here, we saw lots of work trucks in the lot; so, this place had that going for it. And he said that, if you were looking for an ethnic cuisine which was authentic, you look for a place which has lots of customers from that ethnicity eating there. When we went in, we saw that the Mexican American customers outnumbered the non-Latino customers. So, this place had the the vote of the local Mexican American population as a good place to eat it seemed.

Thanks for the assist, Michael H.  Keep up the good work.

You might be curious that both Mexican restaurants I have written about double as grocery stores.  You might also be curious that both places do not feature large sombreros, chimichangas, some mention of a Cantina or Mexican Cafe, waiters wearing Mariachi costumes or giant margaritas.  That’s because the best Mexican restaurants typically feature at least two shelves with various Mexican grocery items and don’t have time to hang up items that most white people associate with Mexican culture.  What they DO have are menus thar feature the classics – tacos, tortas, menudo and mole.  If you go into a Mexican joint and the majority of those items aren’t listed on the menu, flip the table over and run out.  The other indicator that you’re in a Mexican joint catering to white people is you have to pay for chips and salsa.  Not cool, gringo joints.

Anyways, Dos Herman is is legit as they come. The taco menu features the classics – carnitas, Al Pastor, chorizo and barbacoa – but also offers beef head and beef tongue.  If you’ve never had tongue(Lengua) on a taco before, give it a shot.  They actually have a pretty large menu for a joint this small, with a full breakfast and dinner menu.  Taco Tuesdays are special here, with $1 Al Pastor tacos.  I don’t even know how that’s possible.

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So for real, take a journey and search for the door.  Navigate through the grocery store, pass the pig legs on the butcher shop and get yourself a simple, cheap, delicious meal.  If you want to go all out, order the Lengua tacos and thank me for recommending it.

Dos Hermanos is at 34707 Ford Rd in Westland.

Taqueria Alameda

This isn’t so much of a post, but rather a small collection of words I’m trying to fill up space with when really all I want to do is get you to go to my favorite Mexican spot in the Westland area — Taqueria Alameda.

It’s what every Mexican joint should be, a small authentic family owned taqueria next to a laundry mat that serves the simple staples of Mexican cuisine: tacos, burritos quesadillas and tamales. Nothing flashy, just some damn good food at a damn good price.  I can have four tacos and a cup of horchata for ten bucks.  Perfect.

I will say that some of the “expert, professional food reviewers” on Yelp are tearing into this place saying that the flavor is inadequate and the service is poor.  I’m here to say stop using Yelp as a source for your food choices. The food is great and you’re going to have to wait a few minutes for your food because one person is cooking all of the food that goes out and that person is the guy that owns the place. If you walk into a Mexican joint that doubles as a grocery store and sits next to a laundry mat, please don’t expect five star service.

I feel like the point of this post was to tell you how good this place is, but I’m getting off topic and ranting about my hatred for Yelp so I’ll finish this here with a statement and a picture.

This place serves tacos, the kind topped with onion and cilantro, wrapped in a corn tortilla.  You can get them gringo style, but why would you do that?  Go here.  It’s authentic and how often do you get to eat tacos in the middle of a little grocery store?   Try the al pastor and carnitas.

This place is at 906 S Wayne in Westland. Check it out.

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