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.



Toast - Ferndale, MI


Two young men are fighting to the death. One is from one place and the other is from another place. These two young men have decided its OK to kill each other because that’s the whole point of why they’re where they are. Currently, they’re both doing their best not to be the one who gets killed.


About these two men locked in mortal struggle: one man is named Paul Johnson and the other is named Feda Noorzai. Paul, oddly enough, is thinking about how all he really wants is the banana coffee at Toast, a diner in his hometown of Ferndale, Michigan. Sure it’s a weird thing to think about when trying to kill another man, but it popped into his mind and that’s that. He’s thinking about how a sip of that coffee, maybe with a mountainous plate of chocolate chip pancakes, would be just about his version of heaven. He’s thinking how much he’s going to miss that if he dies (among many other things) and so he’s trying to kill Feda. Feda, though, is pretty much trying to do the opposite. In a more typical turn, Feda is thinking about his son and wife. Feda is trying to kill Paul because he wants to protect his family from things like military occupation and drone strikes. Above all, though, he hopes that if he dies his wife and son will actually get the stipend they were promised by the militia and won’t have to wait too long for it as other militiamen’s widows have had to.


Image ℅ Metro Alive


So, when you zoom into the scenario, with the two dudes thinking about stuff as they try to kill the other, it all gets pretty specific and sad. So let’s zoom out.


The reason why these two guys are even allowed to kill each other – without having to worry about getting charged for murder and all – are the people in charge back home that want things to stay the same. And while everyone (big “E” Everyone) back home may be kinda split on whether anyone should be getting out there and killing other people, ultimately it’s the decision of the people who decided, long before, that they want to convince everyone that they’re the right people to make decisions like that.


That’s all a bit confusing though. So, let’s boil it down.


It’s really about Toast Diner.

Image ℅ Google Street view or something creepy


See, Paul thinks that more people should be able to live the way he’s lived, including stuff like being able to get a group of guys and girls together, maybe smoke a joint, and go to a diner like Toast. Feda, however, has a different view and thinks that people should live the way he’s lived. And, in Feda’s way of doing things, Paul might be able to go to Toast but he def couldn’t go there with girls or eat certain things or smoke weed because Feda’s God says that’s a no-no. Paul believes in God too but it’s a different one with different rules that are a little more lenient on the whole girls and eating scenarios (the rules are kinda fuzzy on drugs). So both these men believe that their particular way of doing things is, ultimately, better. Enough so that they’re willing to kill each other for it.


In reality though, the people who’re really responsible for Paul and Feda being where they are, are the people who make the rules on what’s the right way to do stuff. So, those people who can currently tell people what to do want to keep things going the same way they’ve been going, so they’re sending a bunch of people to kill other people in the hopes that they win and get more people to do stuff the way they want them to do it.


Image ℅ Metro Alive


The tricky part though is that those higher-up people on both sides figured out that sending other people to go kill and die is easier than going out and killing and dying  themselves. It would probably have changed their decision-making process if, when they wanted to go out and kill some other people, they actually had to go out and do it too. It would certainly help to show that they wanted things to stay the same for everyone back home and not just for them.


So the honchos back home on both sides said to their respective home-people, “These other people want us to do things their way so let’s kill them until they agree that our way of doing things is better,” but what they meant was “we need a lot of young people to go out and do the mind-changing/killing. They’re the ones who need to prove that our way of doing stuff is better.”


And the great part is that what you want to do depends on where you are. Feda, because he grew up around people who wore what he wears and worshipped who he worships, naturally wants to keep doing those things. The same way that Paul grew up eating at Toast and wearing jeans and so knows that the way he dresses and does things is better. Though of course if you had switched the two guys at birth, Feda would probably be in Paul‘s same shoes and Paul in Feda’s.


Image ℅ Metro Alive


These two young men believe what they believe because other people they grew up around believed it too – people like their parents and family. Except that means, from Paul’s perspective, Feda is wrong and vice versa. Luckily, they’re both right! Since both their (kinda) different Gods say they’re right. They just have to kill the other person to make them agree.


But here’s the difficulty of the situation: one way of doing things may be better. In fact, I can hear you saying now, “we know our way is better.” But that’s where you ask yourself, “Hey, me. If some other group of people right now with an actually better way of doing things tried to force their better way of doing things on me, would I be OK with changing?”


And even if that way of doing things you were trying to convert people to was simply, say, freedom. Wouldn’t forcing your version of freedom onto other people essentially be a violation of those other people’s freedom?


But back to Toast.


Paul likes eating pancakes at Toast just as much as Feda likes his mother’s homemade Korma Pulao. So now they have to try to kill each other, rather than enjoying their respective meals, because both heard from other people that the other guy wanted to stop him from enjoying what he’d become accustomed to enjoying. Whether that's the exact situation is kinda fuzzy and harder to parse.


See, the point isn’t who ends up ending the other person’s life. The point isn’t even that it’s not so good that two guys have ended up in this situation. The point is something amorphous and gray and difficult to entirely pin down. It’s somewhere between Paul’s love of Toast’s delicious cuisine and Feda’s love of comforting, home cooked Afghani meals.


Only when you draw your own conclusion can you really be certain what it is.




3.8 Stars

Don’t get me wrong. Toast is damn delicious. However, there are quite a few leaps they make in their fare that don’t hit the mark squarely. Order what you think sounds good. If something sounds a little “out there” it probably is.


A leetle more

More expensive than other, equal-if-not-better breakfast establishments in the area. But not by any significant amount.



Newly renovated, always cozy. Toast (Ferndale) doesn’t have a bad seat in the house. However, the house is often packed. Luckily you can chill in the back with a coffee.


Workin’ women

At least when I dined it was all women. Sure, they may act a little beleaguered at times, but that’s what people do. Treat ‘em right, they’ll treat you right.



It’s not my top spot in Ferndale (which, I concede, is obscenely rich in diner fare). But it can hang with the best anywhere.

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.