Today we announce the seventh annual Eater Awards, celebrating the chefs and restaurants that truly made an impact in 2016. We recognize Detroit best new restaurants, bars, and the chefs and designers that have taken the food world by storm. In contrast with previous years, this fall Eater editors were asked to select their own top picks in each category with a separate winner based on Readers Choice polls. Read on to learn more about this year's best of the best.
Restaurant of the Year
Ask which restaurant is truly blazing its own trail in Detroit’s restaurant scene and Katoi would definitely land at the top of that list. This Corktown spot with its almost science fiction-esque interior is as distinctive in design as it is in quality and taste. Chef Brad Greenhill’s shared plates are unflinching in their use of spice and incorporate Thai ingredients that add a breadth and depth of flavor that’s not offered elsewhere in the city right now. For all of its clear Asian influences though, the restaurant isn’t devoted to any specific cuisine and Greenhill adeptly rotates his menu to incorporate seasonal ingredients and Mediterranean techniques. All this is matched with a worthy bar program that keeps diners coming back again and again.
Chef of the Year
It’s been a really good year for chef James Rigato. Last fall, he launched his small, unpretentious eatery Mabel Gray in the city of Hazel Park. Since then, the restaurant has been earning accolades from local and national media including nominations from the Beard Foundation, a spot on Bill Addison’s Best New Restaurants list, and a feature in The New York Times, just to name a few. Rigato is clearly agile in the kitchen, reinventing his menu often with a variety of contrasting and seasonal Michigan flavors, but he’s also cultivated an exceptional team of some of metro Detroit’s finest front- and back-of-house staff. The chef’s influence on the block and beyond is only expected to grow. Mabel Gray’s team is expected to launch a seasonal dessert shop across the street within the next year and the chef recently joined forces with Detroit Lion DeAndre Levy for a civically-minded dining series called Regenerate Detroit.
Design of the Year
Part of Detroit’s wave of new American restaurants, Grey Ghost offers a striking setting for a great meal. The renovations of the Watson Street restaurant space contrast exposed brick with polished dark wood tables and dark upholstered banquette seating. The bar area with its reclaimed bowling alley counters and black and white patterned tile was given equal importance by the designers with careful thought put to how bartenders would function in the space.
Bar of the Year
With a carefully honed menu of original drinks and classic recipes, Standby makes craft cocktail movement accessible to novice enthusiasts as well as more experienced drinkers. At this downtown alley bar there’s no need to guess how each individual liqueur or spirit will taste — there are tasting notes for that — only that your drink is going to be really good. In creating Standby, bartender and co-owner Joe Robinson assembled an exceptional team of drink makers from some of Detroit’s best craft cocktail bars. Together the staff are pushing the envelop by experimenting with modern techniques, whether they’re nitro muddling mustard greens or preparing the newest flavor of frozen drink for The Skip.
So Hot Right Now
With a name that pays homage to a Detroit music legend, Dilla’s Delights attracted national attention this year when it finally set down roots in downtown Detroit’s Ashley Building. But for all the hype surrounding J. Dilla, the specialty organic fried dough creations made by dedicated founder Herman Hayes’ stand on their own. Sweet and accessible treats like the Brewsters Brewsters banana pudding and Black Bottom Beatstreet blueberry doughnuts have become a simple and essential pleasure for Detroiters living, working, and playing downtown.