Lockhart's BBQ - Royal Oak, MI



Hey, Barbecue! It’s me. I was just calling to say… last weekend was great. So great, Barbecue.  OK so full disclosure, I’ve been drinking a little and I just wanted to tell you that it was so good to see you and it was great. Wow, I’m totally messing this up already. I’m sorry. I mean, OK, that’s all. OK I’m going to shut up now...

I’m... Umm... OK.






But seriously, Barbecue? Why don’t... You should come up to Portland! I mean, you’d love it here. All my friends would be like... Pffff… You don’t even know, people would think you were, just, awesome. 

I mean we had such great times in Michigan, when I was there. So many lazy Saturdays and two-beer lunches and like... all the time we’d hang out and it would be so easy... so natural.

Yeah, I know! I decided to move I’m an idiot. Why would I expect you! Barbecue! To follow me?! So stupid! I just... I’m… I want to be WITH you and...

OK that’s it, that’s all I was—




Hey there you! I want you to know—




— it Barbecueeeeee!





OK so I know you prolly think I'm crazy but... Barbecue I just wanted to say one last thing... 


I just wanted to say… I wish that we were—


That we were together!

See because the other Barbecue here, they’re not like you. They’re just not the same. I mean, they’re trying and you know… You know! You’re just so…

Barbecue I love you. I just have to say it and you can take it or leave it but I love you and now that you know that…  You’re just so perfect. I mean, you’re spicy and you’re savory and you’re so tender but then the sauce: tart, sweet, tangy. I’m sorry Barbecue, you’re… I dream about you!

I don’t know, could you call me back if you’re awake? Or… I’m sorry… You know what? I’m sorry just forget it. Just… yeah.






— maaaaaazinggggg graaaaaaace! How sweeeet th —.




Ow… ah… what…






Bush has prickers…








Ummmm… I’m…




I’m on the beach right now.  I… You probably hate me… 




I can’t live without you… Why can’t you just come here?! It’s so easy! Everyone… Everything would be so awesome…

It’s not about you and me it’s about everything, Barbecue! We would be so great together up here! If you just came here for real and I just… Thinking about you on that plate back there I… Barbecue I need you!

We need to be together and now I’m standing in the ocean Barbecue! Here I am. I walked down here and I think I’m just going to walk in and keep swimming out. I don’t know. If you just call me in the next ten minutes I won’t walk out. But if you stay silent! If you don’t call me back then… Then…

Barbecue! Just…










Hey, Barbecue, it’s Brett. I don’t know if I called you or something last night…  I had a couple drinks. But I was just thinking we should totally hang out again soon. OK, cool. Just call me back when you get a chance. Bye!





4.5 Stars

Outside of Austin, TX, this is some of the best barbecue I’ve had. The burnt ends are super smoky and flavorful. You could cut the beef brisket with a fork. Not to mention that the sides are just obscenely tasty: pickles, collard greens and the Corn Bowl (which is a bowl of fresh, smoked corn that seriously tastes like pop corn).



A solid lunch with a beer will cost you ~$20. But, for the quality of the barbecue, this is not too much at all.


Pit Boss Chic

Sturdy, wooden tables, exposed brick and a huge smoker, open to the hungry eyes of the dining masses. It’s a cool, expansive space dedicated to barbecue (with a couple TVs for checking in on the important sports happenings of the day).


Midwest nice

Great service every time I’ve gone. This past foray was no exception.



Absolutely. Sure, when it comes to Michigan, barbecue isn’t the first delicacy to come to mind. But time and again, Lockhart’s satiated my need for properly prepared barbecue. Sure, Slows Bar-B-Q might have the more looming reputation, but for my money, I’d pick Lockhart’s every time.



Leo's Coney Island - Royal Oak, MI


ENTRY 38 – Late Night at Leo’s


Fifteen minutes and he still isn’t here. Is this the right Coney? I guess it’s a good thing I keep this diary in my purse. He seems like a really nice guy too. Who knows, maybe he’s the one?


He said Leo’s right? We were on the dance floor and I’d had like… a lot of drinks and I could feel he was… excited to be dancing with me. And I said, maybe you want to get out of here? And he’d said Leo’s. And I’d said fifteen minutes. And now here I am.


At least I can look out the window. It feels weird to be sitting in this booth by myself when every other booth is packed with high teenagers. And these tacky Grecian murals on the walls that were probably painted by some friend of somebody who owns the place... the vibe is a little… put on. And I’m here in my black leather skirt and high boots and it’s probably three degrees outside.


I’m definitely alone. I feel like such a skeeve.


Forty five minutes now.  He’s not here yet. Not even a text. I’ve already nursed down two coffees. Maybe he got held up. It is snowing outside. And maybe his phone is out of battery. Or maybe he turned it off? I think I’ll order a gyro.


Food photography is difficult.

C/O Urban Spoon


I pretty much have to keep shifting around because the plastic booth-cushion is sticking my leathered ass to the seat. The gyro was tasty, but in a regretful way. I know the garlic-filled Greek dressing is stinking up my breath. And the soft, vaguely-sweet pita it was wrapped in probably is, as we speak, settling into my waist.


Why do I even think about things like this? Why can’t I just enjoy anything without overthinking it? Is it just me?


It’s been an hour. I have a “Famous” Greek Salad in front of me. It’s probably 2/3 feta. Most of the teens have left. So, I guess this guy might not be coming. No big deal. It’s not like this is the first time. Who knows, though. I feel stupid. Maybe he just got held up? Maybe… 

I ordered a plate of fries.

Why is it so hard to be alone? I like myself, most of the time. I think I look good and my friends think I look great. And they don’t know how I can eat so much and still be so skinny. I tried to call his phone and it went right to that stupid answering-machine woman’s voice. So I don’t even know if it’s his number. Maybe his phone did run out of battery. But it’s been like an hour and a half.


I do feel lonely almost all the time now. When you work with people all day, like I do at the coffee shop, it makes it harder to be alone. I just want to touch somebody, to have them hold me back. It’s weird that we need that. That people need actual physical touch.


"You aren't a Michigan teen until you've snorted Sierra Mist in Leo's."

C/O Flickr user Aaron Gillespie

It’s still snowing so hard outside and every time a couple walks by I can’t help but inspect if the guy is my guy. I can’t even really remember what he looked like. Short brown hair with that little ski-jump spiky-swoosh in the front. He had on a polo that was either light green or blue. I think it had stripes. And that was pretty much it. But that’s all I need at this point: a person. A human. I keep sinking deeper down into my side of the bed while the other side has lost any hint of an imprint.


Two and a half hours and I now have a milkshake in front of me. I’m not even a bit tipsy any more. Except for me, two middle-aged women talking in hushed tones and this crusty guy two booths over who keeps leveling his eyes just below my chin, the place is empty. I should have left two hours ago. More. But the alternative is a cold, silent apartment. The alternative is work in six hours.


I don’t know if this is making me stronger. Everybody talks about how hardship makes you a stronger, more independent person. But when your problem is not wanting to be independent – not wanting to be alone – does it still work that way? Like, am I building up a giant wound in some part of me that will develop into massive psychic scar tissue that’ll cover the aching need for company that I’m feeling? Can a person ever learn to be fully alone, forever? I don’t think so. Just by the simple fact that a person’s first impulse after doing something they’re proud of is to want to tell somebody about it. You want other people to know about what you’ve done. It’s why a lot of successful criminals eventually get caught. Who wants to be great at something if nobody else knows about it? If you’re completely alone? It’s really hard to do something purely for yourself.


Only four and a half hours to work now. I got another coffee. The waitress is past concern. She just keeps looking at me with a mixture of “what’s next” and “give it up.” I could tell her all this stuff that I’m writing but I don’t want to. I don’t want to spread around my alone-ness. I just want to hold it close. Maybe I can smother it, like a flame without air. Or maybe it’ll smother me?


The snow stopped. I’ve become one with this bench. Maybe this is it? Maybe I’ll just go home and lock the doors and drink myself to death. It’s funny (maybe not funny, but more interesting) that that’s always an option. That it’s easy for me to just go home and drink all the alcohol I’ve legally bought and die. And it’s weird that I’m thinking about that now. No, I don’t really think I want to do that. But I could. Is it weird to think stuff like this? Is it weirder to write it down? To share it in some private way? I think it’s weird that we don’t share it more often.


A crash course in capitalism.

C/O Urban Spoon

But we don’t share much with anyone, do we? We don’t share thoughts like, when I’m driving, the thought that I could just flick the wheel to the left and kill at least a couple people. Or how, in the mall, I could just hurl myself from the escalator and scar, at least, 40 people for life.


And if I did tell someone those things they’d cringe and tell me how weird it was and how unnatural. But unnatural? Weird? They’re such a small step away from normal. They’re not difficult in practice or in imagination. They’re sitting there in plain sight every single day. But I guess they are weird, if weird, by definition, means something that’s uncomfortable to think about. But I don’t think I’m alone in thinking them. It’s just not OK to talk about.


Maybe that’s why I’m still in this booth. I need to do something weird. Do anything for long enough and you become an oddity. That’s how easy it really is to go outside the bounds of our culture. It’s as simple as too much, too long, too little, too anything. So I’m just going to keep sitting here. I’m going to find power in something that’s not my own loneliness.


And is this so weird? I’m just sitting here, enjoying some food. But the waitress probably thinks I’m crazy. And all the people who have come and gone have probably looked at the dressed up girl alone in her booth, scribbling away in some book and thought that she was either super depressing or probably screwed up. But I don’t feel screwed up. I feel good, actually. I feel in control.


I could kill myself at any moment. Any of us could. But we don’t. It’s the truth. The morbid truth. The unsettling truth. But it’s the truth nonetheless. The truth is the reality we live in, rather than the reality we choose to acknowledge.


And I think the fact that I’m thinking about it now makes me appreciate it a little bit more. Makes me appreciate life a little bit more. Like, I’ve had all these escape routes all this time from my sorrows and loneliness but I’ve never taken them. Like I’m stronger than I thought I was without even knowing it.


Within these walls, anything is possible.

C/O Yelp


Well it’s an hour from work. I guess I’d never have written any of this down if that guy had come. I guess I’d never have thought about any of this stuff if I’d had company. I probably would have just gone into the comfortable mode of “where do you work?” and “do you watch Game of Thrones” and everything else that we can ask anybody without fear. Maybe that’s the point of being alone? To think past everything you think of otherwise. To find something you originally thought was bad – or at least unsettling – and look into why it was bad. Why you thought it was the way it was. What is it that makes you uncomfortable? What is it that drives you away from that thing? Maybe being alone is about finding that the instinctual aversions to "weird" things are thinner than you previously thought.


 And find yourself expanding. Find yourself growing from the inside. Find yourself able to encompass and comprehend and appreciate ideas for what they are rather than what you’re societally-programmed to think they are.


Maybe being alone isn’t about armoring yourself against the world, but becoming more accepting to it? Maybe being alone is about finding peace with more and more ideas and thoughts and realities until you can never be uncomfortable. You can never feel weird. You simply feel that what you think and feel is fine because you know -- truly know -- everybody else thinks and feels the same exact things. That we’re really all alike and thus never truly alone. That we’re all just people trying to find some way to get through this day and the one after that, all the while struggling to find our own versions of success, learning and re-learning to let the petty injustices of reality slide off of us and holding onto the small joys that life affords us every single day if we only take the time to find them.


Then again, I really do want a boyfriend.




3.0 Stars

It’s a chain Coney Island and not even the best chain (that would be National Coney Island). But it’s tasty as all heck if you’re hankering for some AM munching. A late (boozy) night in Royal Oak is always boosted by a trip to Leo’s.


End of the month

You can find a heck of a lot for under $10.



Imagine a diner: pleather seats, linoleum tabletops, menu-at-the-table, now add an afterthought of ancient Greece. Odd? Yes. Endearing? Meh.


Working for the weekend (or whatever days they have off)

Nearly always solid and friendly, but it’ll depend on what type of day your waiter/waitress had.



The reasons to enter Leo’s Coney Island are few: late nights, laziness, quick bites and meeting a cheap friend. Not an essential part of the Michigan experience, but certainly one that doesn’t hurt it.


Monty's Grill - Royal Oak, MI

Welcome to Monty’s Grill in Royal Oak, Michigan! BOY do we have a show for you today. Folks, you’re about to see something special here. Today, you’ll have a chance to witness, all in one place, the very best that Monty’s has to offer.

Hailing from Metro-Detroit and beyond, these are the… MONTY’S GRILL ALL STARS!



NAME: Woman Who Sits Alone

POSITION: Corner of the bar by the free newspapers

GO-TO MEAL: Half an egg and a black coffee

BIO: Hailing from what is most likely a literal cathouse, this queen of quiet speaks to nobody. Is she a librarian? Is she mute like that lady from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire? Mum’s the word! Often staring out the window or scowling at your conversation, she lives by her creed: Don’t ask. Don’t tell!




OR IS IT: Joe? Jimpy?

GO-TO MEAL: Meatloaf, Fries (w/ extra salt) and a Vernor’s


BIO:  Need an opinion? Jammer’s got plenty! Johnboy here’s a conversational chimera; try to kill one and three more grow in its place. With the help of his super-hearing, he’ll jump in on any topic. War? The more the better. The Economy? Socialism is destroying it faster than he can say “Who is Karl Marx?” Entertainment? Everything after Styx is irrelevant except that puppet guy… Dunham! You should watch his HBO! Such is Jombor’s mighty prowess. With one lash of his tongue, Jobe can transform any discussion into a disquisition.


The Arena

Picture c/o Yelp


NAME: Flirty Waitress Who is Way Younger Than You Thought

POSITION: Bending over for something

AGE: I dunno… 24? 25? (She’s sixteen)

BIO: She’s young. You’re male. And it’s time. To. ORDER! Flaunting a newfound feminine body, no untoward gaze could shrivel this colt. Weathering the mostly good-hearted – sometimes awkward – insinuations of the male clientele with only the protectant naiveté of youth, this PYT is actually an honor student with a deep interest in literature. Who saw that coming?



NAME: Guy in Wheelchair with Unknown Ailment

POSITION: Below the counter

GO-TO MEAL: So much corned beef hash

HOW DOES HE GET HERE: Seriously, there aren’t any wheelchair vans in the lot and it’s cold outside

HE MUST BE: A wizard

BIO: Is it some form of degenerative disease? Was it a horrific car accident? He certainly doesn’t care! He’s the happiest man on two wheels. Bursting with conversations about the weather, the weather or the weather, this sagamore of seated smiles can hold court with any crowd. In a space that’s hardly wheelchair-friendly, this friendly wheelchairer brings a ray of sunshine to any brunchtime.



NAME: High Teenagers

POSITION: Paranoid


GO-TO MEAL: Ummmmm... Uhhhhhhhh… Ummmmm…

BIO: They’ll have the pancakes! Known to local parents as “The Instigator” and “The Tagalong” this doped-up duo has a Learner’s Permit between them and are taking their newfound freedom for a joyride. The only thing poorer than this pair’s diet are their decision-making skills. Hey Bros, can we snake a toke? Of course not! Their older brother’s stash is cached!


The gatekeeper.

Picture C/O Localstew, Michigan



NAME: Parent Who No Longer Cares

POSITION: Hunched and broken

GO-TO MEAL: An overflowing plate of regret

HEY WHAT ARE YOU DOING: Your kid is swallowing a knife

BIO: Better call Ch-Ch-Ch-Child Services because this parent has ch-ch-ch-checked out! This nabob of neglect is so adept at aversion that it wouldn’t make a difference if their child was eating with their hands or eating your hand. Hear that screaming? They don’t! Look deep into the ill-rested prison of their eyes and you’ll find the unvarnished framework of true pain!



NAME: That Guy You’ve Already Met Like Three Times

NAME: Shit…

POSITION: This place is too small to avoid eye contact forever

GO-TO MEAL: Oh God he’s coming over

BIO: Heeyyyyyyyyy man! How’s it going? The rest of my night? Which night was that? Yeah it was great. Yeahhhh there were so many people there that night. How’s work going? Good? Yeah? Same here. Going well. Yeah, status quo with what I do. Ok cool, man. Catch you later.

NAME: God dammit




NAME: Old Man Who Never Leaves

POSITION: Unchanging

GO-TO MEAL: Time itself

GEOLOGICAL ERA: Paleoproterozoic

BIO: The length of his meal can only be charted in the half-lives of Carbon. With speed akin to the shift of heavenly constellations, he erodes his way through a plate of deadly-cold hash browns. Is he even awake? Or is he slumbering the sleep of a trillion dreams? Tectonically he moves through his seat-bound sub-life, our existence the humming of flies to a stone. None may be so bold as to disrupt his endless vigil. Sit on, old soul. Sit on.


The Grill.

Picture c/o Flickr user b_weinstein



#10 (possibly soon-to-be #10 and #11)

NAME:  Couple that Got Into a Fight on the Way Over

POSITION: Same table/Miles apart

GO-TO MEAL: I’m not hungry


BIO: Whether she did it again when she said she wouldn’t or the toilet seat just won’t stay down, this prickly pair’s seating arrangement puts the “table” in “unstable.” On the crackling cusp of a breakup, this meal could either be the slow train to Splitsville or the mid-day express to Make-Up Sex-opolis. No matter which way it goes you can bet this beefy bro is fretting himself to a higher hairline.


The Owners.

Picture c/o Yelp


(The Real) #1s

NAME: Alex and Angie (as pictured above)

POSITION: Dominating the Diner

GO-TO MEAL: Breakfast Special #2 (my go-to at least): 2 eggs, 2 sausages, 2 pancakes, hash browns -- $5.95

BIO: This griddleman is no middleman. An overseer from overseas, Alex, the cook, hails from a former-Soviet country (which I cannot remember). From the crack of dawn to mid-afternoon he’s slinging brunch and lunch from a hole-in-the-wall he’s proud to call his own. Not to mention that his wife, and co-owner, Angie, also waitresses from time to time. And may I say she is a delightful lady who’s always up for a conversation. This couple has created something delicious and heartfelt and great and they deserve all the success in the world.  Don’t just visit Monty’s Grille, convert to it.



3.8 Stars

Simple. Home made. Satisfying. Plus you get to see it made, which always makes food taste better.



Did you see the price of their breakfast special? That’s in 2013 dollars. You will be very happy with the bill.


Don’t judge a book etc. etc.

It’s attached to a motel that looks like it probably offers hourly rates. Inside Monty’s, however, it’s cozy (not cramped) with an atmosphere of friendship, not exclusivity.


More than service

If you put the least effort in, your server will become your friend.



Monty’s Grill may not have the Very Best Food of all the diners in the Royal Oak/Ferndale area. But I still went there probably twice as often as any other. It’s a special place run by fantastic people. Eat at Monty’s Grill.