The Banquet Hall Experience

I’m beginning to learn that there is a certain image that represents a “restaurant” in greater Michigan. Driving down the highways, outside of the “downtown”, which has been remodeled (or just maintained) to look like the Americana of storybooks, there are these square buildings, often painted in “genteel” colors that boast large parking lots and large signs that never fail to advertise banquet halls.

My Los Angeles snobbery alert was running high when I first saw the sign for “banquet hall.” In California, one does not mention this–either the restaurant has a room to facilitate a large group of people or you rent out the entire restaurant for your event. Or if it does advertise it, it’s more like the Franciscan on Sepulveda Blvd. in Torrance. See below:


But on a late night, tired from driving in circles, trying to navigate a new suburbia, we stopped at Habib’s, a Middle Eastern restaurant that matches said building above. The one difference: Habib’s advertises half roasted chickens w. hummus, salad, and potatoes (we think–the abbreviations were not standardized) for $14.99 on their sign readable from the highway.

We stepped in, finding a restaurant that bought all it’s furnishings and building supplies from a model home development from the late 1990s. An overwrought elegance that was never in style, white tablecloths and blue glasses, and a bevy of Middle Eastern families, this was something else.

But the food was great–a bit more upscale than the strip mall venue, the portions were gigantic, the hummus and appetizers enough of a meal alone, and the entrees even better, whether it was kebabs, salads, or house specialities. Apparently, the chef, Habib, was formerly the chef at the Arab-American Institute in Dearborn and a loved figure. A go to restaurant, complete with a juice bar, the only thing lacking was alcohol. But that’s why places like Miller’s exist.

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