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Family tradition


Its location in the West Village, just beyond Detroit's Indian Village, is reason enough to visit Misha's, a soul-food storefront that opened eight months ago. Parking is scarce, and you can consider that another blessing if it gets you to walk through this historic neighborhood. The architecture is awesome, and the gardens are lovely. (I spotted an incredible rhubarb plant growing in someone's front yard, bigger than many 6-year-olds.)

Inside Misha's the atmosphere is warm. Chef-owner Lillie Howard is behind the pass-through, but she's keeping an eye on her customers, often coming around from the kitchen to check on your appetite and your satisfaction. She will exclaim in delight if you've cleaned your plate. Son Pierre Dorsey, who was in dance and theater, and worked many years at the Detroit Athletic Club, is the tiny eatery's manager.

The key to soul food is the sides and there are all the standards at Misha's, and then some. Cornbread, cheesy macaroni, tart greens, black-eyed peas, stuffing, mashed potatoes, (very) sweet potatoes, green beans, pinto beans, beans and rice. The selection can vary. A whole-slab rib dinner is $17.50 and if you've never seen up close what "falling-off-the-bones tender" looks like, you'll see it here. The barbecue sauce is nice and spicy.

A welcome departure from the norm is that chef Howard serves most of the entrées fried, grilled or sautéed — your choice. I had a grilled salmon ($12.50) that was prepared with a dry spice rub. The servings are generous, double what one person could eat — there are two salmon fillets on the plate, for example, or two pork chops ($8.50) as I discovered on another evening.

Appetizers, on the other hand, are all of the deep-fried variety — onion rings, wing dings, mozzarella sticks, catfish nuggets ($4.95 each). We skipped over these entirely, which left enough room to try the peach cobbler ($3.75). Howard's cobbler is made with a pie-type crust, but the emphasis is on the fruit, which is warm and abundant but too sugary for my taste.

Misha's is open beginning at 7 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday, so you can stop in for breakfast on your way to work, and if you work nearby, you can come back for lunch (or have it delivered if three buddies join in) — there are 22 varieties of sandwiches on the menu, from catfish to fajitas to pastrami on rye.

A Sunday buffet is served from 11 a.m.-6 p.m., which includes all of the aforementioned side dishes as well as roast beef, turkey, ham or whatever else strikes the chef's fancy. During the week, two sides come with your entrée, but on Sunday you can have as much of whatever you'd like.

Lillie Howard has been in the restaurant business her whole life. Her parents owned a restaurant on Warren where she helped out when she was growing up. She went to cooking school in Chicago and raised seven children on her own. Misha's fulfills a dream for her family. Howard says she was just beginning to contemplate retirement when Pierre came home and announced he had found the perfect location for the restaurant of her dreams. The fact that the restaurant is named in memory of one of her four sons makes it especially meaningful to her. "We're building a name," she says. "It's the name of someone whom we love very much, so we have to keep it alive."

Elissa Karg dines for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].

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