Because of this week's Blowout, we're presenting this handy shortlist of Hamtramck's humble culinary destinations. They're uncommonly cheap, sometimes open late, and are often off the beaten path, but, at any given hour of the day, these joints are tehre to lay the foundation for a night's drinking, quell late-night hunger pangs, or nourish away that morning hangover.
Aladdin Sweets 11945 Conant; 313-891-8050; $: Of the several Bangladeshi eateries serving Indian food, this one is the least expensive. If you're cool with the cafeteria sensibility (which can mean polystyrene dishes and plastic utensils), you can get a bargain curry in a hurry. Open until midnight, and until 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Bengal Masala Cafe 9335 Conant; 313-871-2711; $: Several years ago, Bengal Masala transformed what was once an old greasy spoon just north of Holbrook, redecorating the drab interior and offering heaping portions of moderately priced Indian fare that doesn't stint on meat. Open until 10 p.m. daily.
Bosnian Specialties 3028 Caniff; 313-875-2722; $: Bosnian Specialties is unpretentious in the extreme, with seven round, well-spaced tables up a flight of steps, trying for a homey effect. The food brings to mind Greek and Romanian dishes; gyros are on the menu, as are Greek salad and various shishes. The national food of Bosnia, though, and the most popular dish at Bosnian Specialties, is chevapi, beef ground with "secret ingredients" and made into sausage. It can be served on its own or between slices of lepina, a round, filling bread, sort of like a huge grilled English muffin, but spongier. Portion sizes are impressive. They close at 7 p.m. daily, so you'll have to drop in early for a taste of these rarities.
Campau Tower 10337 Joseph Campau; 313-873-7330; $: One of the last old "White Tower" brand of restaurants, this little nine-seats diner serves sliders and coneys, even packing fries into wax paper bags to go. Unless a local yokel is chatting you up, it's pretty quiet. (Hey, not everyplace can be the Clock.)
Clock Restaurant 11444 Joseph Campau St.; 313-305-2713; $: As a diner, the Clock occupies a solitary niche in Hamtramck's late-night dining scene. After 1 a.m., when the mini-city's eateries close for the night, the Clock keeps running all night long. With no competition, they don't have to turn out culinary wonders to get people in the door. And on post-Blowout nights, it's often jammed and smoky, with the post-bar crowd snarfing down deep-fried-to-perfection diner fare that sops up the booze. So imagine our surprise when we heard they have a — sushi bar? Ummm.
Gandhi 11917 Conant; 313-366-7795; $$: The food is above average at this cloth doily Indian-Bangladeshi restaurant. The chicken Kashmir (cooked in a creamy banana sauce) and the fish masala (salmon with spicy tomatoes and chilies) are both interesting, flavorful dishes. Also good are chicken tikka, chicken dansak, and begam bharta, a very rich, mashed eggplant. For a less formal and more interesting experience, try the attached restaurant, where the local Bangladeshis eat.
Maine Street 11650 Joseph Campau; 313-368-0500; $$: Serving stick-to-the-ribs diner fare (daytime only; closed Sundays), Maine Street may not be a late-night hangout, but it's a likely spot to see the people you partied with the night before, probably in the smoking section. Breakfasts $1 extra after 11 a.m., but worth it.
Maria's Comida 11411 Joseph Campau; 313-733-8406; $: Maria's traditional Mexican menu includes a few good old-fashioned classics, such as tamales or enchiladas verdes. If this isn't your style you could also delve into a chicken strip or shrimp basket. Weekly specials include Tex Mex Thursday and Fish Fry Friday, as well as 99-cent tacos on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Polish Village Café 2990 Yemans St.; 313-874-5726; $$: Digging into a big plate at Hamtramck's Polish Village Café might have you suppose you're eating food prepared by somebody's Polish mother. That's because, essentially, you are. During peak dining hours there's a steady flow of waiting customers first lining up at the bar and sometimes winding up the stairs and out the door. Most entrées run around $8 — a trifle when you consider the asking price for a dreary meal at the corner suburban strip mall chain. In a space with old-style character, with a full bar, this Hamtramck staple serves a few pages of meat-and-potatoes Polish dishes and their accompanying sides. Impressive soups, Polish standards, "city chicken," Hungarian pancakes, mushroom crêpes, boiled ribs, fresh sausage in beer sauce, pan-fried chicken livers — plus a whole other menu page of such daily specials as stuffed green peppers and sauerkraut in crusty dough. Smoking permitted; cash only.
Polonia 2934 Yemans St.; 313-873-8432; $: Back in the 1930s, the second floor used to be a place where labor organizers would meet. Today, Polonia still serves authentic Polish fare, taking special pride in its freshness. Their kielbasa, for instance, is made at the restaurant from their own special recipe. The almost-100-year-old restaurant was bought and remodeled in 1986 by Polish immigrant Janusz Zurowki. Feel at home amid the cozy booths, the colorful Polish knickknacks on display and the aromas of Polish home cooking.
Royal Kabob 3236 Caniff, Hamtramck; 872-9454; $$; Although the promise of a falafel sandwich draws many in the door, Royal Kabob offers a full and varied menu of mostly Middle Eastern cuisine, with menu items from 21 different countries on offer. From the bitter freshness of traditional tabbouleh to the chill sweetness of the Italian gelato bar, there's something for all your taste buds. Open daily 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
Thai Bangkok 9737 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck; 313-875-5770; $: Friendly but unassuming environment, good food, low prices and immense portions. Although quality varies from dish to dish, such soups as Tom Kha and Tom Yum are delicious, and more excellent soups are hidden in the "noodles" section of the menu. It's closed on Sundays and does not serve alcohol, but come for lunch and you'll find that entrées are a buck cheaper.
Three-Star Bar B Que and Lounge 11941 Joseph Campau; 313-365-9494; $: Good old-fashioned comfort food in an environment your parents might approve of. But that's hardly a strike against it. Three-Star offers dine-in, carry out, delivery and a full-service bar that adds a "lounge" feel into the evening. Hearty breakfasts start at 7 a.m. and drinking hours extend until 11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and until midnight on Friday and Saturday. Hint: The ribs lay an excellent base for an ambitious pub crawl.
Under the Eagle 9000 Joseph Campau; 313-875-5905; $: Solid Polish fare is served by a staff in native dress in a room filled with colorful folk art. Amenities are extremely modest, from plastic tablecloths to paper napkins, but the value is outstanding for plates brimming with kielbasa and sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, stuffed cabbage, pierogi and blintzes.
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