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Correction: Previous versions of this story misidentified kapusta, a type of sauerkraut.  

There’s no nicer surprise than walking into a modest little restaurant and finding that it delivers much more than meets the eye at first glance. Christine’s Cuisine is a prime example.

Tucked into an obscure strip mall on Nine Mile at Hilton, it doesn’t appear to be anything more than routine. But forge ahead.

Chrystyna Hryhorczyk-Adams and her crew outshine many more imposing places with well-prepared food from an imaginative menu served with care.

Christine’s opened on her birthday, Jan. 5, 1999, on a shoestring, she says. Newly divorced, she needed to find a way to support her two children, and what she calls a “natural gift,” that of simply being an instinctive cook and taster who can identify herbs and replicate dishes she has tried, led her to open the restaurant. It’s been updated a couple of times since then.

Just 16 butcher block style tables are available in the slender quarters for a menu that starts with the proprietor’s Eastern European specialties, tender cheese- and potato-filled pierogies dappled with caramelized onions and sour cream, served with or without grilled smoked sausage and house-made sauerkraut (kapusta).

Christine’s serves 100 dozen of the pierogies each week.

There’s a multi-ethnic approach, from cioppino (fish stew) with house-made garlic bread to beef stroganoff, dishes that show up mainly on the hand-written list of daily specials that augment the printed menu.

While the kitchen staff mans the saute pans and the grill, the proprietor makes all of the sauces and the soups — usually a choice of four every day — as well as the specials. Soups might include anything from lemon rice to cream of Brussels sprouts, one she devised and is especially proud of.

Christine’s also offers an array of burgers, including the schnitzel burger, made with pork tenderloin that is house-ground, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut on an onion roll, one of the most flavorful burgers I’ve had lately.

One of the few things not made in-house are the desserts. Chrystyna doesn’t like sweets, and the kitchen is small, so the pastries are brought in.

This 45-seat spot is well worth a try.

Christine’s Cuisine

729 East Nine Mile, Ferndale

(248) 584-3354

Rating:★★ 1/2

Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.Fri., dinner 5-9 p.m. Mon-Sat., brunch 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.-Sun.

Prices: Lunch sandwiches and burger $5.50-$11.95, soups and salads $3.50-$9.50, entrees $7.95-13.95, including soup; dinner entrees $10.95-$21.95, desserts $3.95-$5.95.

Credit cards: All major

Liquor: No

Noise level: Moderate

Wheelchair access: No barriers.

Parking: Strip mall lot

What the ratings mean

★ — routine ★★ — good

★★ 1/2 — very good

★★★ — excellent

★★★★ — outstanding

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