2016 was yet another exciting year for Detroit's culinary scene. The city earned national recognition as a top food city, attracted world-renowned chefs, and was even named America's next cocktail capital. Beyond the great press, metro Detroit saw impressive openings and some admittedly sad shutterings throughout the year (we bid thee a fond adieu, St. Cece's). This year, metro Detroit welcomed sushi burritos, wine bars, craft cocktail bars, a pizza laboratory, and much, much more. Amidst the rapidly developing scene, five new spots really made a splash, sharing the earned title of best new restaurants in 2016. It's been an impressive year; here's hoping 2017 follows suit.
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Anyone who's in the know knows Katoi. What was once a regular pop-up series a few years back has become a full-on Asian-fusion eatery, which has earned high regard since its March opening (including a nod from James Beard Award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson during a recent visit). Chef Brad Greenhill's take on Thai-inspired cuisine in a proto-future space is some of the most exciting food currently being served in metro Detroit, one of a handful of places truly taking Detroit to the next culinary plateau. Although the menu changes frequently, it is consistent in its quality and creativity; recent favorites have included fresh and flavorful som tum and Thai fried chicken. The delicious food is brought to life by the cool and relaxed atmosphere, highlighted by colored lights, hip music, and occasionally even a fog machine. It just doesn't get much cooler than Katoi. Not yet, anyway.
This small Eastern Market cafe wowed the palates of diners and critics alike in 2016. The bistro features Northern Italian cuisine on a small, seasonal menu with a hearty and complementary wine list. The fresh pasta made in-house steals the show meal after meal, including daily specials honed by flavors like roasted butternut squash, fresh seafood, and salty speck. While rotating specials are appealing in exclusivity, mainstays like the ricotta gnocchi are consistently outstanding. Pair that with a knowledgeable and friendly staff happy to make suggestions, and you're left with a meal that would make any Italian grandmother proud (and maybe a little jealous). Easily some of our best meals of the year were served here.
Three words: cheeseburger egg rolls. Located in the previously defunct Chinatown, The Peterboro's signature dishes are a far cry from traditional Chinese-American fare. The location is known for its almond boneless chicken, a dish with roots in Detroit but a creation straight from the mind of chef Brion Wong. In true Peterboro fashion, the dish is made with a twist, incorporating Griffin Claw IPA beer-battered chicken in a savory brown gravy, topped with almond slices. Like the cuisine, the drink menu features both regular and seasonal craft cocktails offering unique takes on beloved classics. Favorites include the Kujaku Sour, made with bourbon, lavender syrup, lemon, egg white, and Angostura bitters -- the perfect cocktail for a relaxed ringing in of 2017 (after a crazy, crazy year). The location even earned a deserved special shout-out in Zagat's recent "26 Hottest Food Cities of 2016."
As perhaps the most anticipated opening of 2016, Grey Ghost lived up to its hype when it opened in late July. Headed by Chicago chefs John Vermiglio and Josef Giacomino, each dish and drink is carefully crafted, from deceptively simple plates of fried bologna sandwiches served on waffles, to a more ambitious steak tartare and fried quail. While the chefs may be from the Windy City, Grey Ghost is all Detroit. Located in the legendary and long-shuttered Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe space in Midtown, the name pays homage to a notorious rum-running pirate on the Detroit River. Fittingly, you'll find an impressive cocktail selection at the hands of Will Lee, formerly of Selden Standard, Wright & Company, and Standby. With a powerhouse staff like this, it's easy to see why Grey Ghost stole the spotlight in 2016.
Easily one of the most interesting culinary concepts to come out of Detroit in 2016 was this Vietnamese pop-up that takes over the Vernor Coney Island in Southwest. Headed by eccentric Head Chef George Azar, the operation specializes in traditional Vietnamese cuisine like pho and vermicelli salad. Azar's pride and passion for both his neighborhood and project is obvious in his commitment to serving unique and high-quality cuisine. In one short year, this passion has created a loyal following of return customers. While the operation is still technically a pop-up, it's established regular hours every weekend and recently began taking reservations. FoV has quickly eclipsed its own concept, earning it a place on our list.
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1. Yuzu Sushi Co.32832 Woodward Ave, Royal Oak
2. Pop's for Italian280 W 9 Mile Rd Ste 2, Ferndale
3. The Morrie511 S Main St, Royal Oak
4. Standby225 Gratiot Ave, Detroit
5. Pie-Sci5163 Trumbull St, Detroit
6. Parc800 Woodward Ave, Detroit
7. Rock City Eatery11411 Joseph Campau St, Hamtramck
8. Rusted Crow Distillery and Spirits6056 N Telegraph Rd, Dearborn Heights
9. Maru Sushi & Grill160 W Fort St, Detroit
10. Katoi2520 Michigan Ave, Detroit
11. La Rondinella2453 Russell St, Detroit
12. The Peterboro420 Peterboro St, Detroit
13. Grey Ghost47 E Watson St, Detroit
14. Flowers Of Vietnam4430 W Vernor Hwy, Detroit
Yuzu is a casual, yellow-painted sushi restaurant in Royal Oak that specializes in sushi burritos -- two of our favorite things rolled into one giant fish-filled, face-sized meal. Despite their size, the burrito entrees, as well as the poke bowl options, are reasonably priced, and can be had with one of several Japanese side options like carrot ginger salad and miso soup. The Spicy is filled with raw tuna or salmon, cucumber, avocado, panko, spicy mayo, but if raw fish isn’t your scene the Thai-influenced Chicken Satay with grilled chicken, shredded cabbage, carrots, crushed peanuts, and peanut sauce is salty and sweet. It’s furnished with plenty of four-tops so you can sit down and stuff your face at your own pace.
On 9 Mile in Ferndale is Pop's for Italian, a trendy, casual Italian joint specializing in wood fired Neapolitan pizzas, handmade pastas, and, surprisingly, brunch. With a wine list as long and explanatory as Pops’, you won’t have (as much) trouble pairing them with menu options like the succulent Fried Roman Artichoke, homemade gnocchi with sausage, cream, gorgonzola, and red pepper flakes, lightly breaded Veal Picatta with garlic mashed potatoes, or thin yet doughy hand-tossed pizza ranging from classic Margherita (basil, tomato, and mozzarella) to inventive choices like white Clam pizza (clams, pancetta, onion, and mozzarella). At brunch if the breakfast pizza doesn’t tickle your fancy, try the decadent Cannoli Waffles, fried French Toast, or lobster Benedicto with poached eggs and champagne hollandaise.
The Morrie in Royal Oak is a roadhouse inspired, all-in-one restaurant, music venue, and bar whose menu is just as versatile. Divided into “Opening Acts,” “Headliners,” and “Encore,” The Morrie’s food offerings are American comfort at its finest; they range from Kung Pao cauliflower and potato skins with buttermilk ranch dressing to BBQ smoked chicken. Try any of the sandwiches; The Morrie is equipped with an imported Italian steam-injection stone oven for baking bread. While The Morrie is decidedly not a sports bar, it offers up to 14 flat screen televisions for those who aren’t keen on foregoing technology while stuffing their faces. The 8,000-square-foot joint has an open, spacious layout, so there’s plenty of room between grained wood and black steel tables. Don’t skip out on a brew here; The Morrie has16 taps that pour local craft beers.
Discreetly nestled in The Belt art alley, Standby serves inventive New American fare and creative booze-forward cocktails in a trendy, sultry space. Helmed by chefs Jesse Knott and Lindsay Salminen (of Detroit Delhi fame), the kitchen puts a modern spin on classic dishes like pierogies, served here with a whiskey-mushroom filling with tamarind, chile d'arbol, and scallion; in a similar vein, meat offerings like chicken liver mousse and country terrine illustrate the emphasis on house-made recipes. Accessible mixology continues to define the cocktail list, which is organized by spirit type and blends quirkily named signatures with timeless classics. If the place gets too crowded for your tastes, it's worth the short walk down the road to The Skip, Standby's seasonal sister bar. The libations go down just as quickly, and the open-air patio features a massive Shepard Fairey mural.
Just as the bright orange-red facade of this Trumble Street pizzeria might alert, saucy, handmade pizzas are to be had here. They're prepared on thick, soft crusts, with generous, wonky toppings like balsamic glaze, shrimp, and white sauce that justify the sit-down pizza eating experience. The space is outfitted with plenty of two-tops and a kitchen in full view, and is all washed in that same shade of orange-red that might somewhere down the line -- decades from now -- you could see becoming an iconic representation of this delightfully novel pies shop.
Nestled in the heart of bustling Campus Maritus Park is Parc, an upscale restaurant with floor to ceiling windows and a knack for dressing up Michigan comfort foods and other familiar American favorites. Parc serves up dry rubbed and honey glazed ribs (still best eaten with hands) and oysters on the half shell. The pastas, like everything else, are artistically plated and loaded with goodies, like the King Crab Tagliatelle made with baby fennel, toasted garlic, crab cream, and butter roasted King Crab that falls apart in your mouth. Whether you get the Giant Prawns or lamb chops, the sommelier curated list of international and vintage wines has you covered, but you can also order a craft cocktail like Just My Imagination (dark rum, basil, lemonade, mint, and blood orange bitters).
Food, booze, and pies are the pillars upon which Rock City Eatery rests, and the industrial-chic eatery in Hamtramck has entertained a steady flock of regulars because of it. The breadth of the globally-inspired menu attests to the culinary skill of owner Nikita Santches, who proves that it's totally possible to excel at everything from duck fat-fried poutine to Spanish octopus. here's a big emphasis on local solidarity, ranging from regional microbrews behind the bar to the ingredients used in the kitchen, so don't be surprised if certain items on this focused, market-driven menu run out towards the end of the day.
Joining the Royce Detroit Wine Shop, Rusted Crow is a sexy steampunk space in Dearborn Heights sporting craft cocktails made with house-distilled liquor and greasy bar bites. The Rosemary's Baby, prepared with Detroit Steam vodka, housemade rosemary syrup, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and ginger beer, will easily one up your favorite Moscow Mule, and the Crowstache is refreshing and complex with Ginstache Gin, blackberry, cucumber, lime juice, and simple syrup. The food menu is equally unique with options like a branded Mac and Cheese burger, a half pound chuck patty layered with bacon and a gooey block of fried macaroni and cheese, and the specialty Shootie on a Shingle, a 6 ounce flatiron steak served over a hill of Texas toast and topped with gravy-smothered Brussel sprouts and corn.
At home in Detroit’s austere Federal Building, Maru Sushi is sleek, modern, and spacious and dishes out an extensive list of sashimi, nigiri, and maki as well as shared plates, noodles, and other Japanese delicacies. If you somehow aren’t interested in freshly caught tuna, shrimp, scallops, and salmon (we could go on) lying invitingly over a little mound of sweet, sticky rice or the Sexy Bacon signature roll (made with bacon, crab stick, cucumber, asparagus, Fantasy Sauce, and nori), then you can share options like, sweet or spicy gochujang Barbecue Pork Shanks and Firecracker tempura shrimp in a sweet chili sauce. If you’re hungry, then a pile of the teriyaki chicken or miso butter ribeye hibachi (served with grilled veggies, steamed rice, and miso soup or salad) with a local craft brew is right up your alley.
The building that houses this Corktown restaurant might be a nondescript white square, but the interior reveals a dazzling light show that illuminates a full bar and communal tables. Katoi's speciality is Thai, and though the menu changes frequently, it consistently delivers creative, flavor-forward dishes that have won the praises of critics and chefs alike, including James Beard Award-winning Marcus Samuelsson. The most you can do is hope that the wonderfully crispy Thai fried chicken is on the menu when you're there.
La Rondinella offers all the bold flavors of Northern Italy, and is significantly more affordable than purchasing a plane ticket to the country itself. The bustling eatery is the second project from Dave Mancini, whose success at Supino Pizzeria led him to opening a slightly more high-end operation just next door in Eastern Market. Food offerings highlight the chef's modern interpretation of Italian cuisine, utilizing gluten-free crepes to make the delicious lasagne di crespelle; while vegans will swoon over the swiss chard bietola and braised bean fagioli, dishes like the stracotto di agnello -- wine-braised, grass-fed Michigan lamb shoulder over polenta -- are the clear standouts. The wine list is as accessible as it is robust, focused entirely on Italian wines; on the cocktail list, signature drinks highlight Italian spirits like amaro and cynar. Combined with the tastefully minimalist space, it's the perfect spot for a refined yet relaxed dinner.
Located in what was once Detroit's Chinatown, The Peterboro pays homage to the area's cultural history with a contemporary American-Chinese menu from Chef de Cuisine Brion Wong and a bar program that is nothing less than you should expect from the Detroit Optimist Society, the folks behind The Sugar House, Wright & Co., Café 78, and Honest John's. Take the "C.R.E.A.M.," a cocktail made with bourbon, rice and almond milk, cinnamon syrup, and bitters that might as well be double as your dessert as well.
Craft cocktails and house-made charcuterie reign at the sleek and industrial Grey Ghost. The menu brings stereotypically lowbrow dishes to an elevated level, like bologna, which is fried and served on a toasted waffle with sharp cheddar and jalapeño. Fries, too, get the fancy treatment -- they're paired with the not-so-subtly named Fancy Sauce -- and for dessert, peanut butter & jelly gets a makeover in a sundae with concord grapes and peanut fry bread. Cocktails are strong no matter if you have champagne or PBR taste, given that veteran bartender Will Lee is behind the shaker.