18700 Woodward (S. of 7 Mile), Detroit, MI
QISA (3.5, 3.5, 3.5, 3.5), $7-12, Vegetarian
There is so much to describe about the Psychedelic Healing Shack and Vegetarian Café that I honestly don’t know where to begin. I have facts to relay, experiences to share, opinions to opine, colors to comment on, and, and…perhaps it would be better to remove all emotion and simply document my evening.
I entered the establishment at night so unfortunately I could not experience the full effect of the colorful hippie paint job covering the entire restaurant. Please note that “hippie paint job” is not an opinion. The proprietors describe themselves as hippies, so I am not making a judgement here, good or bad. But I digress.
I entered the colorful establishment, walking past the log bench, pond, rock garden, and tree house. I stopped at the Goddess Herb Shop in the center of the building until a nice lady, who first asked if I was there to see Dr. Bob, pointed me to the restaurant to the right. The small cafe comprised a single table, a bar next to the kitchen, a piano, a set of hand drums, and a guitar. Since the lone table was occupied by a college-age couple, I sat down at the bar and selected one of the paper menus. These menus, I should note, were printed upside down on the inside, so I immediately had to turn the entire thing over after opening it. After perusing the selections, I opted for the Namaste Nachos and the Euphoric Cacao Smoothie. Again, these are not judgements. These are actual menu items.
The young slightly scruffy Caucasian chef with medium-long hair stepped to the bar to take my order. He disappeared again to make the nachos.
A shabby-looking, late middle-aged African-American man named “Freddie” (not his real name), with missing front teeth and many layers of pre-owned winter clothing, ambled across the room mumbling to himself. Freddie was greeted by name by the chef and was told that Chuck (possibly his real name, I can’t actually remember) would be here soon to take him home. Freddie wandered behind the bar, muttering loudly about the chef (who he obviously trusted), about music, about Chuck (wherever he was), about the floor, about food, about straws, about well, at a certain point I found it both impolite to listen and impossible to understand him.
Dr. Bob (Dr. Robert Pizzimenti), who owns the entire establishment, came over to say hello and shake my hand. Dr. Bob is a chiropractor who also sells medicinal herbs, serves organic food, and hosts musical events; all part of the healing process. Dr. Bob made sure I knew about their two types of bean soups and lectured me a bit about the healing power of food. He also mentioned that he was running for mayor of Detroit. Dr. Bob left to go take care of something in another part of the building.
The chef stepped out from the kitchen to go find more tortilla chips. The chef came back.
Freddie then came out from the bar and plucked out a tune on the piano. He then picked up the guitar and played something slightly bluesy and almost music.
The chef brought me out my nachos and then went back into the kitchen to start making my smoothie. I casually noticed that the chalkboard menu included “vegatable soup” and “lentel soup.”
A quartet of college kids (four attractive women and one obviously friend-zoned male) came out from a back room and took their place at the table. The friend-zoned male picked up the guitar and played a pretty melody. Freddie ambled over to greet them. One of the pretty blondes mentioned that it was her birthday. Freddie smiled a toothless grin and gave her a big hug. He then proceeded to give the other pretty blond a hug. The aforementioned Chuck came in to the restaurant and told Freddie it was time to go home. Chuck, a self-described hippie who was seemingly stamped from the same mold as David Cross and Robert Picardo, sized me up at the bar, asked why I was there, and then commented on my white Garmin Vivofit 3 which he had initially mistaken for a hospital band. I realized that he was simply trying to figure out how many people he was driving home that evening.
The chef brought out my smoothie. Crosby, Stills, and Nash were playing on the loudspeaker.
Chuck sent Freddie to the back room to wait for him and then apologized to the college kids. “Freddie has a problem with drinking. But then we all have problems, right?” Chuck then proceeded to take on the role as hippie guru, asking the kids what drugs they were into these days, dropping bits of wisdom like, “you know what the new high is these days? Sobriety!”, and comparing notes with the kids on the effects of recreational Adderall.
Freddie came back into the room, walked behind the bar, and proceeded to take things in and out of containers, all while carrying on a barely audible, but clearly intentional dialog to himself. Chuck continued to lecture the kids. I ate my nachos and drank my smoothie.
Dr. Bob came back from his chiropractic office on the other side of the building to help serve food, chat with the kids, and encourage Chuck to take Freddie home. Chuck then came over to me to have a more amiable, less suspicious conversation about where I was from, how I found the place, and what were the origins of my surname. The Millenials jumped into to help him guess. “Polish,” said one girl. “Irish,” said the birthday girl. “German,” said the brunette female. “My friend’s name is also Winicur,” the birthday girl mentioned. “And she is from…” I prompted. There were a full 3 milliseconds of silence. “Russian,” I finally handed them. “Zev,” I told them, “is a Hebrew name.” The kids went back to their food and standard Millennial banter while Chuck told me all about his Chasidic friend who could party like the best of them.
And then I blinked and Chuck, Freddie, the Millennials, and Dr. Bob disappeared. I paid the Chef and left. That was my evening.
The food and smoothie were quite decent, although not terribly exotic or creatively blended. The nachos were tasty and piled high, a mix of chips, black bean chili, cheese, lettuce, onions, and a hot sauce that tasted suspiciously like Taco Bell’s packet sauce. The smoothie, made from almond milk, banana, and cacao powder, was thick and chocolately like a Wendy’s Frosty, just without the carrageenan, fat, or bourgeois commercialism aftertaste.
Will I come back? Most definitely. How often am I personally greeted by the owner of the establishment? How often do I get to hear a hippie engineer lecture on drugs, travel, and changing the world? How often do I get a dramatic soliloquy from an inebriated transient in the safe, controlled confines of a kitchen?
However, I understand if the Psychedelic Healing Shack is just not your bag. A groovy righteous establishment like this is probably too fab for you squares. I’m sure there’s a McDonald’s down the street somewhere.