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Evans Street Station - Freep 5: Michigan dining destinations worth the drive

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Summer’s the best time of year to jump in the car and discover restaurants and small towns outside your usual haunts. Just beyond Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties lie dozens of interesting places to dine, whether you’re seeking a special place for dinner, a casual lunch or a total escape from suburbia. Here are some of our favorite dining getaways — five places we think are worth a drive.

Evans Street Station

Now in its 12th year, this serene, airy, white-tablecloth restaurant in downtown Tecumseh, about 60 miles southwest of Detroit in Lenawee County, attracts guests from throughout southeastern Michigan and northern Ohio. Its excellent modern American cuisine is the creation of executive chef Alan Merhar, who cooked for three years under chef Takashi Yagihashi at Tribute in Farmington Hills and then became executive chef at Forte in Birmingham. Merhar’s seasonally inspired dishes showcase farm-to-table ingredients, and his beautifully composed plates shine with clean, clear, balanced flavors. His style is sophisticated but approachable, with deft garnishes and sauces that lift dishes beyond the expected. The bacon-wrapped chicken may sound prosaic, but its lemon-thyme natural reduction, perfect spaetzle and crispy parsnip garnish make it a house favorite. And I adored the seared Scottish salmon served with red-pepper organic quinoa, slices of deeply caramelized cauliflower and a memorable Meyer lemon-and-caper relish. Most dinner entrees are in the mid-$20s; slightly smaller lunch portions and sandwiches are $14 and under. Nearby are many small shops and stores, including the gourmet Boulevard Market with fine cheeses, artisan chocolate and more. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday. Reservations recommended. (110 S. Evans;

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