Monday, February 28, 2011

Let "Uncle" Leo Cook For You!

Once upon a time, I would have some eats at a place called Moe's Southwest Grill. Located at 4151 Miller Road in Flint Township  between the freeway and the mall, it was a great stopping off place after the gym, with wifi (one of the earliest to offer it locally and free!). They did something really dumb. They decided to upscale themselves with beer and margaritas altho they really were only slightly more than fast food. The good thing was I could get anything vegetarian and the spicy tofu salad called the Close Talker was my fav. Sadly the lights went out and they closed in 2007 .

Then I saw construction and had the normal contest between family members trying to guess what it was going to be. With a burger joint next door, another southwest menu next to that and a stir fry on the other side, I was resigned to a coney island and not much more. I was right on the coney island but it turned out to be Leo's! I had eaten at a couple in the Detroit area when either dropping off or picking up hubby at the airport but not enough times to really give them a try out. Until they came to Flint.

And yes, they are very veg friendly! On recent trips to the Flint location I have been able to select a variety of  vegetarian items and usually have something left over to take home without breaking the bank.  Many of the sides or appetizers are suitable for vegetarians and with tweaks, also vegan diets.  Everyone loves baked potatoes, right? I just leave off the sour cream and request margarine or go bare. They really bake the potatoes here! There is nothing worse than a microwaved jacketed spud.

On an occasion where I was really hungry, I ordered spinach pie (Spanakopitawhich included  Greek rice flavored with golden saffron and a chunky tomato sauce that is similar to the heavenly topping  called Domatorizo. There are discernible chunks of tomatoes, onion, green peppers and spices with  a hint of cinnamon. I had this red sauce served on the side. Also a small side of tzatziki sauce (cooling Greek yogurt with cucumbers and onions, quite similar in construction to an Indian  dip called Raita) accompanied the spinach pie, which was hot, very spinachy with feta cheese and a crispy crust of phyllo dough browned to yumminess. The serving was very large and I took at least half home for another day.

The egg salad sammy would actually be a good choice for protein sans all the added fat gobs of mayo that other places use to prepare it with. At Leo's the boiled eggs are prepared fresh daily and sometimes the eggs are still warm on the bread. There is so little dressing on this, I often believe none is added. Just chopped up/mashed hard boiled egg. Tomato slices and fresh lettuce complete the dish, and you have your choice of breads. I love this on toasted rye because it doesn't get soggy. The only thing I would personally do to this sammy is add some onion or green pepper for crunch.

I am not a fan of french fries. I would love that more places offer something besides them, as I think they are pretty boring. Maybe sweet potato fries would work. Until that happens, I have become devoted to American fries or home fries. Most breakfast places offer hash browns, which are often undercooked, soggy or a combination of both. The waitress  at Leo's one night offered me American fries but with a twist. She had the cook cut up a baked potato  and deep fry it! Now wait before you think unhealthy. It is the same as the regular fries but with the skin (very healthy) and they are not greasy!  Since the potato is already cooked, it only takes a few seconds to get this golden look and is a good "share" side. I don't order them often but they are a "cut" above soggy hash browns.

For dieters and health nuts and all in between, if you want a truly fresh salad, look no farther than Leo's. There are up to 4 sizes available for each style from mini to extra large. The Michigan salad with dark dried cherries, fresh mixed field greens, walnuts and mandarin oranges is unique to what most coney islands offer. A vegan could omit the cheese and buy a larger serving as this salad is quite filling and all salads usually come with toasted-on-the-grill pita. I sometimes get a mini Greek or a Village salad (which has no lettuce) both of which shore up with just about any sandwich. Veggie pitas are another offering.

Another savory selection  is the Gardenburger. You will get this grilled (not microwaved as a burger chain in the area is notorious for doing), served with tomato and lettuce on a toasted bun. I always have onion added and sometimes it is a 10 cent charge for a huge slab and ofttimes, not so. I guess it depends on who  the waiter is. I imagine you could get cheese added to this but as it's served, it is vegan and kosher. With a small or mini Michigan salad, what a great lunch or light dinner!

Other veg friendly dishes I have not tried but have had other family order are the vegetable stir fry served over rice, cheese ravioli with marinara, and Mac and Cheese (hubby loves this!). Leo's has the typical coney island fare from dogs, to burgers to all-you-can-eat fish fry on Friday's which will help all you Lenten observers coming up.  You can get breakfast all open hours.

Tuesday evenings is "kid's night" at Leo's. Bring in the little ones for balloon animals, face painting (you will LOVE this!!) and Disney TV on the two large screens on opposite corners of the dining area. Even the adults get in on the act often leaving with glittery painted faces and silly balloon constructions. There is a decent kid's menu along with soups, specials on the board up front and what to me is really wonderful  wait staff. I knew many of the waiters from other local restaurants and I think they have found a place to settle in for a while.

Leo's is open 7 days a week, has a well lit parking lot and outdoor dining in nicer months. All dinners are under $10 and include rice or fries with a minimal cost to add a salad. Leo's menu  is online at their website and if you sign up for their newsletter, you will get  occasional coupons for some dollars off. 

Edited 3/1/11 Free wifi and free refills. Stop by and maybe we can IM!

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I really enjoy my blogging and hope you enjoy reading. Remember, these are only my opinions relating to my daily experiences. If you are anonymous, let me know what city and state you are from in your comment. Thanks.