Food & Drink

The 19 Most Underrated Restaurants in Detroit

Published On 08/20/2015 Published On 08/20/2015
Motor City Brewing Works | Flickr/collectmoments
Flickr/Emiy Flores
Jeff Waraniak/Thrillist
Flickr/Ted Swedenburg
Dangerously Delicious Pies
Rock City Eatery
El Nacimiento
Flickr/Tomas Hawk
UFO Factory
Vicente's Cuban Cuisine
Goodwells Natural Foods Market
Grand Trunk Pub
Flickr/Thomas Hawk
Red Hots Coney Island
Lynn's Cafe
Flickr/Michigan Municipal League
El Asador Steakhouse
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1. PJ's Lager House 1254 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

This longstanding Corktown joint is known for raucous rock shows, Cajun fried fare, and its rowdy vibes. Case in point: back in the 2000s', PJ's played host as a hangout for the likes of rowdy DET indie rockers The White Stripes and The Von Bondies. Come for the mosh pits, and stay for the gumbo and fried pickles!

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2. Motor City Soul Food 12700 W 7 Mile Rd, Detroit, MI 48235

Sure, the building housing Motor City Soul Food may not be the prettiest thing in Detroit, but let's face it, you aren't either. Put your hypothetical differences aside and venture inside -- because once you do, you'll realize you've been missing out on some beautifully delicious comfort food, like flavorful fried chicken, mac 'n cheese, pork chops, and more varieties of cheesecake than you ever thought you needed.

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3. Motor City Brewing Works Inc 470 W Canfield St, Detroit, MI 48201

This is where Ghettoblaster was born and (arguably) where the golden age of Michigan microbrewing first started to take hold. True Detroiters will gather here to munch on brick oven pizzas and enjoy a pint on the rooftop terrace.

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4. Dangerously Delicious Pies 4626 3rd St, Detroit, MI 48201

This pie shop founded by musician Rodney "The Pie Man" Henry, whips up creations deserving of the title "Best Pie in Michigan." Every delectable batch of pies, both sweet and savory, are baked fresh and from scratch every day. This means the menu changes daily so you never know what you're getting yourself into when you walk through its doors and into its rustic, bar-like dining area. That is, except a flavor-packed punch: the best seller here is called the S.M.O.G. (that stands for steak, mushrooms, onions and gruyere).

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5. Rock City Eatery 11411 Joseph Campau St, Hamtramck, MI 48212

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.

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6. El Nacimiento 7400 W Vernor Hwy, Detroit, MI 48209

Although there are many great Mexican restaurants in Southwest Detroit, El Nacimiento stands out because it's open late (4am on Fridays and Saturdays) and the margaritas are extra boozy.

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7. Golden Fleece Restaurant 525 Monroe St, Detroit, MI 48226

Despite the influx of changes in Greektown, The Golden Fleece remains an unfussy, family style Greek eatery where the gyro meat is carved off a spit in the front and in full view of the restaurant.

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8. UFO Factory 2110 Trumbull St, Detroit, MI 48216

You may be too old to drink here, but you’re definitely not too old to grab some of this healthy and delicious pub fare served at UFO’s new kitchen, Laika Dog. Visit during weekend brunching hours for a bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys deal which also includes waffle-wrapped hot dogs. The cozy venue is primarily a DIY art and live music space, so don't leave without getting a little cultured.

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9. Vicente's Cuban Cuisine 1250 Library St, Detroit, MI 48226

Vicente’s Cuban Cuisine brings a spicy, colorful slice of Havana to Detroit. Home to both a dining area and salsa-dancing space, Vicente’s buzzes with energy every night. The menu consists of colorful paellas, empanadas, sandwiches, salads, meats, seafood, and sides, the highlights of which include seafood paella and pan con lechon, with marinated roasted pork leg, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and mayo on Cuban bread. Portions are generous, so be sure to ration out bites to leave room for dessert; the tres leches cake is heavenly, topped with sinfully sweet, fluffy vanilla meringue.

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10. Goodwell's Natural Foods Market 418 W Willis St, Detroit, MI 48201

This healthy spot is best know for its "Famous Pocket Sandwich," and it lives up to its rep: a vegetarian soy patty topped with baby spinach leaves, Romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, alfalfa sprouts, and Goodwells' super-secret sauce all stuffed into a whole wheat pita pocket for $4.25.

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11. Grand Trunk Pub 612 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

At Foran's, you're bound to get something that tastes very good for a very reasonable price. Plus, they've got a healthy beer and wine selection and a great location Downtown.

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12. Honest John's Bar & Grill 488 Selden St, Detroit, MI 48201

Honest John's is open 7am-2am every day (save 9am-2am on Sunday's) to serve you delicious omelets, burgers, and Hoovers -- a combination of cranberry, orange, pineapple juice, and vodka.

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13. Red Hots Coney Island 12 Victor St, Highland Park, MI 48203

This Coney Island spot has some damn fine coney dogs featuring a special family recipe dating back to 1921, and if you come by the first Saturday of the month you'll hear some live bluegrass.

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14. Russell Street Deli 2465 Russell St, Detroit, MI 48207

You'd expect a favorite Motor City deli to serve a tasty meaty sandwich -- and Russel Street Deli, partnered with local vendors in Eastern Market, certainly does -- but their vegetarian sandwiches and soup options truly set them apart. The weekend lines are indication enough. Look no further than the standout potato-leek soup or Avocado Sandwich, on whole wheat with Swiss cheese, organic spouts, mixed greens, and house Ranch dressing, Swiss cheese, organic sprouts, mixed greens, and house-made Ranch dressing. We suggest you grab-and-go, but you’ll likely make a new friend or two if you linger at one of the buzzy, communal tables.

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15. Trinosophes 1464 Gratiot, Detroit, MI 48207

Serving coffee and tea against a backdrop of visual art and live music, Trinosophes lets you get your fill of caffeine and culture in one place. The Eastern Market coffeeshop serves its espresso shots in eclectic ceramic cups that looks like abstract oyster shells. Trinosophes also features beans from Detroit's Anthology, Ypsilanti's Hyperion, or San Francisco's Ritual. Besides the coffee, the food is superb and made completely from scratch in-house, and the neighboring Peoples Records is a must-stop.

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16. International Mini Cafe 111 E Kirby St, Detroit, MI 48202

Chances are you've never even heard of this basement cafe under the International Center in Midtown. The Indian food is absurdly good and stands out, as it’s made from the owner’s family recipes, but the Middle Eastern food can hold its own as well.

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17. Scotty Simpson's Fish & Chips 22200 Fenkell St, Detroit, MI 48223

Scotty Simpson's fish and chips are made with cod that is flown in daily from Nova Scotia and hand-cut Idaho potatoes, so you know it's the real deal.

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18. Kresge Court 5200 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48202

Located in the Detroit Institute of Arts, Kresge Court offers gourmet lunch on a beautiful patio.

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19. El Asador Steakhouse 1312 Springwells St, Detroit, MI 48209

El Asador proves that finding authentic Mexican food is as simple as heading to southwest Detroit. El Asador serves an array of approachable Mexican dishes, like crispy quesadillas overflowing with melted cheese and shredded chicken; three-cheese enchiladas dipped in house-made sauce; and soft shell tacos filled with fried or grilled mahi mahi. However, you'd be remiss not to order one of the speciality steaks, like the immaculately char-grilled filet mignon with three-chile butter sauce or the New York steak topped with homemade ranchero sauce. Don't forget to bring along a six-pack of your favorite cerveza, as El Asador is BYOB.