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Tried CAYA Smokehouse Grill in Wolverine Lake, MI (DTW area) last night...

boagman | Dec 28, 201306:04 PM

Donna and I decided to try this place for the first time (for either of us) last night, and we liked it pretty well. I won't say that it was cheap, nor will I say that it was too expensive, either. As well, it wasn't better than Slows. That being said, Donna and I were both satisfied and happy with the place on pretty much every level.

Our server, Maggie, did a great job, though both Donna and I agree that she thinks a bit too highly of the place than it perhaps deserves. She was quite aggressive in pushing us to get things, and I have to admit that to a good degree, it worked. I'm pretty sure that we might not have gotten a side dish, and possibly not dessert, if she hadn't been a bit, er, "pushy". Her pushiness was *just this side* of unwelcome. She found the edge and straddled it nicely, and was pretty good on the other fronts, too. Occasionally she'd forget to get a straw, or take a dish or something, but these are small caveats. She definitely listened to any issues we had (including taking back the one real food "miss" of the night), had several good suggestions of her own, and kept us pretty well taken care of, even though she had quite a busy section. We tipped over 20%, so you know she did a pretty admirable job.

The food was pretty darned good, some better than others. We started out with the burnt ends appetizer, and were the second-to-last to get them in the place, somewhere before 6PM. It was a special appetizer, and while I'm glad they weren't going to have any go to waste, the fact that we *barely* got them less than 1.5 hours into service means that for the rest of the night, people were going to be asking for burnt ends, only to be told that they weren't available. Perhaps not the best of planning, but we enjoyed them. If you don't like fat, burnt ends are not for you. Good accompanying sauce as well.

Moving on to the mains, Donna and I both had the sandwiches that Maggie had recommended: Donna had the portobello mushroom sandwich (with added spicy mayo per Maggie's suggestion), and I had the smoked turkey sandwich. Donna's sandwich was very, very good, a complex, multi-flavored and multi-tasking thing which, with the spicy mayo added, was really, really nice. We were both impressed with it, and I didn't miss the meat. This was a winner.

Maggie pushed us into a side item (we decided to share one) and she suggested the grilled asparagus with balsamic reduction at $6. Excellent. I was honestly surprised at how good this was, considering the fact that it's not the season for asparagus, the crunch was dead-on indicating that the preparation was correct, and the balsamic reduction was very welcome. A perfectly sharable size between two people each having a sandwich, this was well worth it. Besides: any ordered sandwich comes with *zero* side items. Well worth the investment.

My smoked turkey sandwich was the big miss for the night. The turkey itself was absolutely devoid of flavor. The sandwich, unlike the portobello mushroom sandwich, came together like a lead balloon. While the smallish amount of bacon present did taste good, it wasn't any great shakes considering that everything they serve here is made in-house, including this bacon. The whole sandwich, after one bite, was basically a loss. Maggie understood, and asked if I wanted a menu to order something else, which I did. I decided to try what should have been an easy, old standby: their pulled pork sandwich.

This was better, but nowhere near the ethereal heights of The Reason at Slows, or the pulled pork sandwich at Union Woodhouse, or anything like that. The pork was fine, the sauce that came with it was okay (I ended up asking for some more of the sauce that came with the burnt ends, which was better), and the pickled veggies that were included on the sandwich were basically a waste. They didn't add anything to the sandwich, nor was their flavor easily detected even when eaten separately. The bun was fine. As a replacement for a failure, this worked well. Compared to the portobello mushroom sandwich, though? This took second by a couple of lengths. Still: they took a sandwich with tasteless meat and replaced it with one that had good meat. Well done.

We finished by splitting a dessert by, once again, sort of being talked into it by Maggie. It was a Rum Raisin Bread Pudding (served with vanilla ice cream) which I was very apprehensive about, but it turned out to be very, very good. Donna and I both liked it quite a bit, and for me to enjoy bread pudding is, I have to admit, a pretty rare thing. That's got to count for something.

Overall, out the door, $44 with tax and tip included. No beverages except water for the both of us, and it was an impressive first impression. I'd avoid the turkey in the future, but it's entirely possible that it's more the bird's fault than theirs. Best things were the asparagus, the portobello sandwich, and the rum raisin bread pudding. Happy with the burnt ends, the pulled pork sandwich was decent, and the service, although pretty pushy, did a great job and never crossed the line of pushing too far...though we both agreed she came a bit too close. Had it been a problem, we wouldn't have tipped how we did.

Not sure when we'll go back, but it's certainly a welcome place to the area.

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