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Clean Plate Club (July 14, 2010) 

Mae's

A "Pleasant" Detroit Diner

Mae's is the type of place we all wish we could open. Sean and Jessica McCarthy took over the old Anna's Coffeehouse spot in Pleasant Ridge to open a neighborhood diner where they could make the food they like for everyone else to like, too. After a long and draining (both physically and financially) remodeling period, Mae's (named after Jessica's grandmother) opened for business roughly three months ago. The focus of Mae's is simple: make great food at affordable prices using local ingredients and products whenever possible. For example, Faygo Pop, Better Made Chips, Great Lakes Coffee, Avalon bread and Smith Meat Packing are all Michigan companies who play a prominent role in Mae's day-to-day business. That means what shows up on your plate is homemade or produced in the Mitten. Mae's has a menu that is heavily influenced by Sean and Jessica's memories; from biscuits and pancakes to Cap'n Crunch breaded chicken tenders to Jessica's famous æbleskivers (adding to the mystique, Jessica is incredibly tight-lipped about her æbleskiver recipe). The motif also skews retro; evidenced by the classic soda paraphernalia, animal salt & pepper shakers and a counter that's straight out of a Norman Rockwell print.

The æbleskivers are truly a special treat. A recipe from Jessica's childhood, these orbs of fluffy deliciousness are a labor of love. Made in a special pan, each order must be watched over very carefully so proper doneness is achieved throughout the puff. At $7 for a plate of five, which also includes raspberry jam and whipped cream, these are a steal whether you're ordering breakfast or dessert after lunch. Another dish that could double as breakfast or dessert is the poor man's crepe ($7.25) — two buttermilk pancakes spread with Nutella and served with sliced strawberries and powdered sugar. The pancakes are excellent — dense, fluffy and perfectly cooked. The Nutella just puts it over the top.

Comforting decadence is the rule more than the exception at Mae's. Eggs Benedict, homemade biscuits & gravy, deep-fried Oreos ... but maybe the most decadent of all is the Bacon Deluxe Butter Burger ($7.25) with hand-cut French fries. A recipe Jessica developed from memories of a UP diner, her butter burger is two hand-formed patties with chunks of butter mixed throughout. It's topped with cheddar cheese, thick cut bacon, an onion ring, pickles, mustard, mayonnaise and ketchup. One bite and buttery goodness drips from the burger causing a mess of delicious proportions. Using a fork and knife would circumvent this problem, but what fun is that?

One more fun thing: each guest has a chance at notoriety — anyone can submit a menu item and have it show up on the Mae's menu named after the creator. It's small things like this that add to Mae's appeal. On top of the homemade food and fervent support of our state's businesses, Mae's hunger for community feeds something inside all of us. And there's no better recipe for success than a loyal following. | RDW

Check out the full-flavored adventures of the Two Hungry Dudes at twohungrydudes.com.

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