Send Foodz: LA Gems
Regional Italian cuisine in a midcentury modern setting
Chefs from around the country have set their sights on Detroit to expand their restaurant empires, including James Beard-award winning Andrew Carmellini. His NoHo Hospitality Group has restaurants in New York, Miami, and Baltimore, and has set up shop at the Shinola Hotel in Downtown Detroit. San Morello's coastal Italian menu features flavor-packed dishes like charred octopus with nduja, fancy wood-fired pizzas (an early offering including luxurious black truffles), and ravioli just like grandma would've made -- if she had a team of eight prep cooks.
West African and Caribbean food truck rolls into permanent space
After years of hustling in the pop-up and food truck game, Godwin Ihentuge has found a home for YumVillage in the New Center neighborhood. The menu features West African and Caribbean specialties such as jerk chicken, black eyed pea fritters, and maafe rice with West African peanut stew. The business is also committed to paying living wages and offering affordable food options, so you can feast on jollof knowing that you are helping a business make a positive social impact and money at the same time.
Modern takes on Latin American fare
When it opened around two years ago, Joebar in Hazel Park offered dip sandwiches and other upscale bar food like fried pickles and chicken wings. That's been replaced by chef Michael Barrera's modern and inspired take on Latin American cuisine, and it was a sound decision, as there's a dearth of fare from Central and South America but no shortage of fried pickles (which don't get us wrong, we also love). Crispy pork ribs with bright chimichurri, seafood rice, and empanadas are just a few of the things that go well with caipirinhas.
European-inspired fusion food in a restored historical building
After some delays and major renovations that transformed a historical building into an eye-popping industrial chic restaurant boasting a repurposed silo as an entrance, Cork and Gabel opened in late 2018 at a prime corner in Corktown. The neighborhood is already hopping with restaurants such as Gold Cash Gold, Ima, and Takoi, and this German-Italian-Irish fusion restaurant, boasting stick-to-your-ribs food such as a schnitzel BLT and fried Dubliner cheese adds another dimension to the neighborhood's growing culinary offerings.
White-tablecloth restaurant on the famed Avenue of Fashion
If you never got the chance to eat at the legendary Golden Mushroom, or you're missing it, the famed restaurant's legacy lives on through the chefs who honed their craft there and have gone on to open their own establishments, including Omar Mitchell. This white-tablecloth fine-dining restaurants offers a mix of classics from a bygone era such as tableside caesar and surf & turf along with more modern offerings such as the Wow Factor Eatable Table Dessert, which you gotta do for the Instagram.
Fine dining that doesn't take itself too seriously
Beef. Check. Bread. Check. Funyuns. Wait, what? Indeed, at Besa, the fried onion snack is a component of the Michigan Holstein beef tartare, along with oyster mayo and dried blueberries. It may sound like a dumb ploy for attention but at Besa, chef Kyle Schutte makes it work -- and it's so refreshing when the beef tartares around town are almost just paint by numbers. That's just one example of the risks Schutte takes with the menu at this downtown Detroit restaurant, full of welcome surprises.
Minimalist vibes and meticulously prepared dishes that celebrate the Great Lakes
Food is more than just filling your belly to shut up the growling -- it's about the story behind the plate. Chef Garrett Lipar is a master of evoking memories even if you don't share the same exact one. For example, an early menu (they change about every two months) had a dish that tasted like Grandma's chicken salad but looked like a work of art. There's only eight seats at a long bar in the extremely intimate (read: tiny) space, giving you an up close and extremely personal look at the chef and his team at work as they plate and present your meal.
Breakfast and lunch spot redefining good food
Named one of our best breakfast spots in America, this Corktown cafe quickly became a staple in the community. Sure it has top-notch avocado toast, fantastic quiche, and savory meat pies, but proprietors Rohani Foulkes and Kiki Louya have built something more than an Instagram-worthy breakfast and lunch hot spot. With their no-tipping policy and commitment to supporting local producers, Folk is building a model of what a modern restaurant should look like. They recently joined forces with the owner and chef at West Village's Marrow to create an all-women hospitality group, with a new restaurant taking over the space that currently houses Foulkes' and Louya's first business, The Farmer's Hand.
Eastern Market favorite where people line up for pies that are not square
In a city where the square Detroit-style pizza reigns, round thin-crust pizza usually plays second fiddle. But at this Eastern Market pizzeria, thin crust is the star. Owner Dave Mancini has built a loyal and large following for his creative and flavorful pies that feature local produce and combinations like sunny-side-up egg and prosciutto. Expect long waits when the market is open on Saturdays, but it's worth it.
Combination butcher shop, bar, and restaurant
Need to pick up a couple of steaks to cook for dinner? Want to let someone else do the cooking? Maybe you want to learn how to break down a whole hog -- whatever the case, Marrow’s got you covered. This West Village spot has a butcher shop offering premium cuts of meat, charcuterie, and other provisions for a good night in, as well as a restaurant with a flavor-forward menu of hearty options like dry-aged house beef with scallion pancake, romesco romanesco, and mapo mushroom.
Modern Vietnamese in a former Coney Island diner
This pop-up turned permanent restaurant has become a go-to spot for modern Vietnamese food and creative cocktails in a chill setting. The caramel chicken wings and fried seasonal fish are staples, and the menu has expanded from the early days of popping up on Sundays at Vernor Coney Island to include dishes like Cá Hấp Gừng (scottish salmon with lobster essence and makrut lime) and Thịt Nướng Bạch Tuộc (barbecue octopus). On Sundays, brunch is Coney Island style, complete with bacon, eggs, and toast, bringing everything full circle.
Classic steakhouse that doesn't put on any airs
Globally inspired accoutrements, cocktails crafted by a mixologist, scallop crudo -- you're not going to find any of this at Capers. And that's a good thing. This timeless eastside institution offers steaks by the ounce cooked just the way you like it (yes, even if that's well done, no judgment here) and a salad bar boasting iceberg lettuce, bacon bits, and ranch dressing.
Italian and Mexican fusion at a Detroit classic
Norberto Garita cooked fine Italian food in New York and suburban Detroit before opening El Barzon in Southwest Detroit in 2006, marrying his culinary experience with his roots. Indeed, El Barzon is the only place you'll be able to get chile relleno and Strozzapretti alla Norccina (twisted pasta with sausage) in the same meal. The patio's ambience is second to none during the summer.
Celebrity chef Michael Symon's steakhouse is still a Downtown destination
Detroit loves its meat and potatoes, and Roast, a restaurant from celebrity chef Michael Symon, doesn't disappoint on the carnivore front with meaty options like dry-aged steaks, beef cheek pierogies, and smoked pork chops. For those who want to enjoy the finer things in life on a more modest budget, the happy hour is one of the best deals in the city. Prices on the bar menu are half off, including the legendary Roast burger.
Next-level Italian food
One of Thrillist’s Best New Restaurants in the country, SheWolf is a love letter to Rome and modern Italian cuisine. From the delicate crudos to the zeppole doughnuts, every dish is expertly and meticulously prepared. At the heart of the menu you'll find housemade pasta (all of the flour is milled in-house), including classics like cacio e pepe, carbonara, and amatriciana, as well as more creative takes such as the orecchiette with spicy lamb ragu and chestnut-filled agnolotti. Except for the legit Champagne, all of the wines are Italian, and the servers are well versed (without a hint of pretension) in selecting the perfect vino to pair with your scallops and carpaccio.
Classic fish and chips this side of the pond
Opened since 1950, this Detroit mainstay hasn't changed much, keeping true to its roots. For its namesake dish, fresh cod is flown in daily from Nova Scotia and battered in their secret recipe of spices. There's also frog legs, burgers, and chicken, which we really can't speak of since the point of coming here is fish and chips, and you're doing it wrong if you get anything else. Cash and check -- yes, check -- only.
Award-winning fare in a transformed firehouse
Thomas Lents has worked in Ireland, San Francisco, and Chicago, where he earned two Michelin stars as executive chef at Sixteen at the Trump Tower. But the Michigan native was drawn back to his home state after a battle with cancer, a job offer to oversee food and beverage at the swanky Detroit Foundation Hotel, and the 2016 presidential election. Feast on new American dishes with a Midwestern spin such as Coney-style bolognese pasta and porchetta-style local pork belly. The Chef's Table above the Apparatus Room offers a communal multi-course dining experience that was recognized as the Detroit Free Press' Restaurant of the Year in 2018.
Old-school Italian in all of its red sauce glory
Detroit has seen a couple of high-end Italian restaurants open in the past year, but when it comes to authentic, homemade pastas, sauces, and other classics from the "old country," Giovanni's is the OG. The family-owned restaurant treats you like one of their own, making you feel like you're having Sunday dinner at Nonna's any day of the week.
Upscale, modern American cuisine from revered chef Kate Williams
Lady of the House has wowed both local diners and national voices since opening last September, taking home a 2018 Best New Restaurant in the Country nomination by the James Beard Foundation. Headed by chef Kate Williams, the former St. Cece’s place specializes in upscale, locally-sourced cuisine, with standout items like whole roasted chickens, steak tartare, and potato doughnuts. Since opening, the location has added a weekend brunch menu, including house cocktails like the Lady Gin and Tonic. National buzz, including a recent New York Times review, has only added to the intimate restaurant’s popularity, so reservations are highly recommended.
Highly celebrated seasonal fare, with a menu that changes daily
It's probably safe to call Mabel Gray the most famous restaurant in Michigan right now, thanks to the slew of national accolades and media attention it has garnered in part due to chef James Rigato's larger-than-life personality, but also because he practices what he preaches. With an all-star team supporting him in the kitchen, behind the bar, and on the dining room floor, Rigato has achieved what many thought to be the impossible: creating a world-class restaurant in the sleepy inner-ring blue-collar bedroom community of Hazel Park. (For those of you keeping score, this is the second time he has achieved such a feat; the first with The Root.) By spearheading plans for more restaurant and bar concepts along John R between 9 & 10 Mile, transforming it into a culinary corridor, you can expect to see much more from Rigato & Co. in the coming year, but Mabel Gray will remain his culinary coup d'état, a flaming middle finger to the "conventional" restaurant wisdom that had metro Detroit dining stuck in stasis for decades and proof positive that, indeed, if you build it, they will come.
Attractive Midtown addition known for its meat-centric, snout-to-tail menu
It's got "grey" in the name and honors a famous regional ghost (this one a rum-running pirate on the Detroit River rather than the ghost of a woman haunting the Indiana Dunes State Park) so it lent itself to comparisons to Mabel Gray long before its doors ever opened. The comparison is both fair and favorable, as Grey Ghost -- located in the old Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe space in Midtown, a space that has long offered incredible promise that previous concepts failed to deliver on -- is a kindred spirit in culinary ethos, from the house-made charcuterie and "we dare you to thumb your nose at this" fried bologna to the robust, boundary-pushing cocktail program overseen by local startender Will Lee.
Culinary mainstay known for small plates and craft cocktails
Selden Standard set the standard; all the rest are just following suit. There isn't a lot we can say about Selden Standard that we haven't said already, so suffice it to say that, even though the restaurant no longer has that new restaurant smell, chef Andy Hollyday's menu continues to impress as one of the best in Detroit.
Award-winning dining destination known for seasonal, locally-sourced offerings
Chef Doug Hewitt works miracles with a small kitchen and VERY open line, which is all the more reason to be impressed by the quality of food Hewitt and his team put out there. From the popular twice-cooked egg and the cap steak to the house-made burrata and grilled octopus, every item is consistently outstanding, all complemented by owner Sandy Levine's small but excellent beverage program.
Hip, communal noodle house specializing in udon and curry bowls
Noodle lovers rejoice: There’s a new place to get your udon fix in Detroit proper. Since opening in late December, Ima has already created a small cult following. Taking the place of Rubbed (RIP), the storefront serves up signature noodle soups, rice bowls, and curry in a communal setting. Unlike more traditional noodle shops, the location touts vegan and vegetarian fare, including the dangerously addictive steamed edamame, served with chilis, lemon, olive oil, and sea salt; and the forest udon, made with a porcini broth, sesame tofu, smoked trumpets, and seasoned with rosemary and garlic oil.