The 32 Best, Most Quintessential 'Detroit' Dishes
Hoo lawd, where to even start here? Focusing strictly on brick-and-mortar locations in Detroit city proper, these are dishes that are among the most memorable, the most iconic, and/or the most experientially "Detroit." A lot of long-held favorites and obvious picks were left off in the interest of diversity (sorry to anything from Mudgie's or Supino or Green Dot or Slows), so go ahead and vent your listicle rage in the comments, like an adult who confuses listicles with real life.
There are many dishes worth mentioning at Selden Standard, but I will bang the drum of that lamb ragu until the day I die.
There were a lot of contenders from Batch -- the grilled Caesar salad and shrimp po-boy bolillo among them. Ultimately, though, we have to go with the chocolate bread pudding with raspberry cream, because a fine bread pudding deserves its dues.
Nikita Sanches is known far and wide for his poutine, his Brussels sprouts, and his mac and cheese. Nikita Sanches would like nothing more than for you to eat and appreciate his green beans. These are probably the best green beans you will ever eat in a restaurant that tries to fancy them up by calling them "haricot verts." They're fucking green beans; eat them.
Bone marrow fritters
Back when Roast first opened and started serving roasted bone marrow on a sawed-off bone like meat oysters on a half-shell, that was like, DETROIT MIND BLOWN, what is this craziness?! Now? Bone marrow shooters are a dime a dozen. Bone marrow fritters, however, are not.
I had venison here a couple of months ago that was one of the best things I've ever eaten in the city of Detroit ever, but blah blah blah, SEASONAL MENUS, so, fine, beef tartar it is. It's good. It's very good! It's not the venison, but it’s very good.
I instated an arbitrary rule while putting this together that I would only highlight one dish from any given place, which was fine for most places but a bit more challenging when it came to Chartreuse. Especially when the Facebook masses unanimously clamored for the twice-cooked egg while I wanted nothing more than to expound, once again, on how delicious the cap steak with chermoula sauce is. So yeah, I just cheated a little bit.
The cinnamon roll
These giant, gooey, decadent, house-made cinnamon rolls are stuffed with walnuts, covered with chevre honey icing, made fresh to order, and served hot. A cinnamon roll might not sound like much to crow about, but damn.
Al pastor torta or tacos
Whether you like your pork "al pastor" in taco or torta form, Taqueria Familia Nuestra is where to get it. Nowish.
Made famous in the Fresh Off the Boat episode when rapper and Detroit native Danny Brown takes host Eddie Huang out for one, the Big Baby is BIG -- a massive beef burger topped with corned beef and several slices of American cheese, and is only $5.50 on Wednesdays. There are a lot of burgers in Detroit, but this one is extra special.
Union Street is one of those old standbys from a different time in Detroit, and the Dragon Eggs are a citywide classic. These "eggs" are chicken breast stuffed with gorgonzola cheese, battered, fried, and tossed in rasta sauce. And when the menu warns that these things are hot, THESE THINGS ARE HOT.
General Tso's Cauliflower
Detroit's first mainstream foray into upscale vegan dining introduced us to General Tso's cauliflower, taking the popular flavor of General Tso's and translating it to something arguably a bit more healthy than deep-fried chunks of chicken. It's still one of the vegan dishes Detroiters talk the most about.
Great Lakes chowder
There is nowhere in Detroit more committed to Great Lakes fish than the Huron Room, and I gotta respect that. New England has a chowder, Manhattan has a chowder, and so, too, should the Great Lakes have a chowder -- and at the Huron Room, they do! This should become a local trend, like putting pork belly on every damn thing (and hey, there's bacon in this!).
Chicken n' Waffles
Yes, everyone always talks about New Center Eatery for chicken and waffles. Yes, chicken and waffles are not "supposed" to be boneless, and at Honest John's it's basically a heaping pile of boneless battered tenders served on a waffle. Also, it's a heaping pile of boneless battered tenders served on a waffle. For vegetarians and those who appreciate a good meatless meal, the Pocket O' Joy is aptly named.
The Relish Tray
Technically the relish tray isn’t so much something you order as it is something that you get with anything you order. Technically, the food at the Ivanhoe isn't anything more special than what you get at any other Polish restaurant in Hamtramck, but the whole package together is most definitely a singular Detroit experience.
Bis di pasta + chiles rellenos
OK, so I broke my "one restaurant, one dish" rule here BUT, to be fair, since the menu is half Italian and half Mexican, it makes sense to highlight one of each, yes? Yes. The bis di pasta (Strozzapreti alla Norccina) and chiles rellenos are the best of both worlds.
The Canadian specialty made with fries, gravy, and cheese curds is kicked up a notch with bacon (or tempeh) and a sunny-side-up egg at this Corktown from-scratch diner.
You need to get on board with the stuffed burgers at Cutter's. You just have to. The combos -- blue cheese and olives, mozzarella and pepperoni, feta and red onion, cheddar and bacon. Come on.
Chicken & fries BBQ shawarma
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Bucharest. I know. But a chicken and fries shawarma -- this is a real thing that exists. Such is the ingenuity of this college campus café.
Detroit's first (and still only) trendy ramen serves up a contemporary American/fusion twist to traditional ramen, pho, and curry dishes. The Shoyu with pork belly is a favorite, and a pro tip: add chicken fat for more flavor.
Fish and chips
This place is a Detroit institution. There might be better places to get fish and chips (though plenty of people would argue otherwise), but Scotty Simpson's is iconic.
Brussels sprouts salad
A lot of places serve some sort of Brussels sprouts dish, but instead of the fried-with-bacon varietal that has taken up residence on so many menus, Jolly Pumpkin's Midtown tasting room serves them shaved with dried cranberries, roasted pecans, bleu cheese, and cider vinaigrette.
Crispy pig's ear
If you've never tried a pig's ear before, this is your chance: it's served with fermented hot sauce to make it go down even easier (pig's ear is just chewy, no big deal). At Gold Cash Gold, it's Southern food gone high brow!
El Asador is something of a really well-known yet best-kept secret in Detroit. Whether you opt for steak, seafood, tacos, tableside guacamole, or my pick, the enchiladas verde, you won't be disappointed by anything at this popular (though still somewhat off-radar) Mexican restaurant and steakhouse.
This almost swung toward the lobster benny, but lobster bennies are somewhat more ubiquitous than bennies that swap out the hollandaise for sausage gravy. This Hillbilly Benedict is best for folks who can't decide between a sausage breakfast sandwich, biscuits and gravy, or eggs Benedict, so they took the best components of each and slopped them all together on one plate.
Red velvet pancakes
Cocoa-flavored pancakes with cream cheese icing -- how could this NOT make the cut?
Dill pickle soup
Dill pickle soup is a Polish specialty, and Hamtramck is where all the Polish food is, and Krakus makes the best soups out of all the Hamtramck Polish restaurants. This is just simple math.
Warm cucumber soup
You thought I was going to name a burger or BLT for the Bronx, didn't you? Well, HA! Occasionally, a listicle can hold a surprise! But really, get the warm cucumber soup.
Beef cheek pierogies
Once again, you thought I was going to say burger here didn't you? And again, HA! This list has enough burgers and Roast's burger has had enough press. The beef cheek pierogies have been a menu mainstay since day one and, in a city with no shortage of tasty Polish food, continues to be the only "upscale" take on this hearty, rustic dish.
Detroit means corned beef. Hygrade Deli means Reubens. There are many famous sandwiches in the city, but none more so than this "Famous Reuben."
These are classic fluffy diner pancakes in a classic diner attached to a motel that has recently seen a resurgence in popularity thanks to the endlessly confusing attention span of white people. They're good pancakes, though.
VEGAN collard greens??? Oh, yes -- Detroit Vegan Soul will make a believer out of you.
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Nicole Rupersburg does it all for the shits and the giggles and knows listicles aren’t real life. Follow her on Instagram: @eatsdrinksandleaves.