There is new show on the Food Network called $24 in 24 hours. Food Network Star winner Jeff Mauro travels the nation to find the best food he can find for $24 dollars a day. That’s breakfast, lunch and dinner with a snack in between. I thought it was an interesting concept so here is my version, “A day in Detroit with $25 dollars”. Unoriginal you say? Well, maybe you’re right, but Jeff’s show is a spinoff of another Food Network show, $40 a day with Rachael Ray, so I don’t feel too bad about it!
(Remember folks to tip when appropriate, this is just for informational purposes)
A Day in Detroit with $25 Dollars
Finding a Asian restaurant open for breakfast service in Michigan is next to impossible. All the Asian restaurants that I know open at 11, except for Shangri-La on Saturdays, they open at 10am.. and yes, going Shangri-la in West Bloomfield for weekend dim-sum was the first thought that came to mind. But come on, going to a dim-sum joint on a budget is like eating just one Lay’s potato chip! This challenge would be over before it even started. So I went with the next best choice which happens to be my favorite Chinese restaurant in all of Detroit Metro-land. To Hong Hua in Farmington Hills I head!
With 15 variations of congee and dozen more noodle soup varieties it was a difficult choice but I went with the classic Shrimp wonton noodle soup. Homemade broth, thin egg noodles, chives, plump shrimp wontons. It was a breakfast that left me very satisfied. The damage? $8.44 including tax. Not a bad start to my day.
27925 Orchard Lake Road Farmington Hills, MI 48334
Shrimp wonton noodle soup $7.95 ($8.44)
With such a late start on breakfast, I stroll in to Ajishin around 2pm, which is a little dangerous as their restaurant shuts down at 2:30pm in preparation for their dinner service starting at 5pm. Luckily, their lunch crowd has died down a bit and I quickly found a seat at the bar. There is usually a line out the door if you miss your timing. Also, they are closed on Tuesdays- I don’t know how many times I have forgotten which day it was and found their parking lot to be empty. Their lunch menu offers an assortment of udon, sushi lunch combos and other delicacies but I went with their ever-so awesome lunch special. It comes with a bowl of their plain udon, and sushi dish of the day. It is usually sushi rolls or chirashi (sashimi over rice).
As I wait for my food, I look around and the place is still very busy. The restaurant is very small and intimate, and familiar faces of the servers, many of them whom have been with Ajishin for many years and years, run up and down the aisles tending to customers. Then the sun shines down on me and I am presented with my meal. Udon and tuna chirashi. Don’t be misled when you hear ‘plain udon’ because there is nothing plain about the taste. Even with simple ingredients- seaweed, green onion and imitation crab, it is still one of best bowls of udon you can get outside of Japan. Even some out-of-towners from LA say it is the best udon they have tasted in America. The chirashi was gone by the time I looked to see what was in it. What a meal. The damage was $7.95 including tax, which I thought was a bargain for what I was offered.
42270 Grand River Avenue Novi, MI 48375
Lunch special: $7.50 ($7.95)
I never thought I’d be hungry again but dinner time came around. I reached in to my pocket and I knew I was in trouble. With such a good breakfast and lunch, I only had $8.61 remaining. Dinner for eight dollars and change? Am I in a pickle or what?! It’s not like I can just get a value meal at McDonalds either. This challenge was to spend a whole day eating delicious Asian food on a budget.
With only $8 dollars in my pocket and my stomach grumbling, I knew what I wanted to eat Korean but I wouldn’t be able to afford it. There is definitely a lot of options when it comes to Korean restaurants, but where can I get a Korean dinner meal for $8.61 or less? No Korean restaurant that I could think of had dinner entrees below $8. I suddenly got hungrier and I felt lost roaming the dark streets of metro Detroit.
Why, oh why- did I set out to survive the streets of Detroit with only a few dollars in my pocket? Why didn’t I plan this a little better earlier this morning? I shouldn’t have started this challenge after all.
As I head back to my old home town in Clinton Township, I can’t help but reminisce about my youth growing up here. Childhood friends, countless hours playing neighborhood basketball, cruising Gratiot Avenue at night. That’s when it hit me. Gratiot Avenue is the best street to spot muscle car drag racing, but it also has one Korean store. It’s a grocery store, but also has a small sit down restaurant in the back, and from what I remember, the grandma makes some mean Korean food. I was only a mile away and was in their parking lot in no time. Will I be able to meet my budget? At this point, I didn’t care and I wasn’t too interested to find out. I was starving by then and I just wanted to satisfy my hunger for Korean food.
I take a seat in the half empty dining area. Most people’s eyes are pointing towards the tv screen that is playing a Korean tv drama. I order one of my favorite food, Yooke-jang. It’s hot, it’s spicy and it got me sweating. It’s full of vegetables with slices of beef and red broth that you eat with rice. It was a great meal and I had a check on the table that I didn’t notice.
Hankuk Oriental Market & Restaurant 33717 South Gratiot Avenue, Clinton Township, MI 48035
Mission success! I spent a whole day in Detroit with just $25 and I was able to three Asian meals under budget, with $0.66 to spare! Not just any meals, but three delicious meals that represent some of the best options that Detroit has to offer.