Mario Plaza and Jeff & Rose Baldwin

Their stylish menus are enticing enough to attract a loyal clientele of discriminating diners, but no matter how expert they are, restaurant people like to take a break from their own kitchens for a taste of someone else’s cooking.


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General manager Mario Plaza, of Birmingham’s Forest Grill, was born in Chile and brought up in Louisiana and Texas. “Having worked with so many great chefs, when I am on my own I like simple fare, and it starts with Latino food,” he says. A favorite breakfast spot is Evie’s Tamales in Mexicantown, where he orders menudo and tamales. Slows Bar BQ on Michigan Avenue in Detroit satisfies his taste for “Carolina pulled pork, Texas-style brisket and St. Louis ribs, plus a great beer selection and knowledgeable staff, too.” When he craves a Cuban sandwich and a mojito, his choice is Café Habana in Royal Oak, right around the corner from Vinotecca, where he goes for “simple appetizers that are great with an array of wines, when you just want conversation and grazing.”

Jeff and Rose Baldwin, proprietors of J. Baldwin’s Restaurant and To-Go in Clinton Township, love the sushi roll called Salmon on the Beach at Mon Jin Lau in Troy. It’s an inside-out roll with the salmon on the outside, glazed and flamed. Another fave is the Harbor Grille at Mac & Ray’s Marina in Harrison Township, where Jeff was once executive chef. Rose chooses grilled romaine wedge salad, New York strip, “and a glass or two of pinot noir.” Jeff orders the sautéed perch. “It always tastes better when you’re sitting on Anchor Bay,” he says. When it’s time for breakfast with their teenage sons, the Baldwins head for the Veranda in Macomb Township, where Rose has the feta-and-spinach-filled egg-white omelet. Jeff goes for cinnamon French toast, eggs, bacon, and hash browns; the boys devour Belgian waffles.

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