Cravings: Kruse & Muer and Eddie Merlot’s

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.

Chef Chris Hessler coordinates the kitchens at the Kruse & Muer restaurants from Troy to Lake Orion, but he still finds time for an evening out. “I live in Lapeer,” he says, “so I’m usually traveling if I’m going out to eat. I love the traditional roast duck at Steve & Rocky’s in Novi. I also like a little getaway to Fenton with my girlfriend.” They loved the porchetta at The Laundry, where there is “very creative food. Their porchetta is herb-roasted pork loin and pork belly with wilted greens and pumpkin gnocchi, and it’s to die for.” The couple usually takes home some bread from the bakery Crust, also part of The Laundry. Another fave: the barbecued brisket at Union Woodshop in Clarkston.

Matt Strabbing recently moved from the kitchen at Ocean Prime to become the executive chef at Eddie Merlot’s in Bloomfield Hills. He admits “Most of my free time is spent at home with my wife and kids. And typically on Sunday we have big family dinners.” But that doesn’t mean he has no favorites. “I think Churchill’s in Birmingham is a great place to grab a fine cigar and bourbon. The best experience I’ve had this summer was up at the Grand Traverse Distillery, in Traverse City. I’m told there is one in Frankenmuth as well. This place only serves spirits, but some of the best I’ve ever had. I’ve moved away from Royal Oak; however, I still feel that Town Tavern is a place that never disappoints. In fact, any of the Roberts Restaurant Group properties is a great choice.”