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The Top Restaurant Standbys of 2016

From favorite pizza haunts to tableside guacamole mainstays, Detroit’s restaurant writers and critics discuss their regular spots around town

Hands pick up a plate of tacos in the kitchen at El Rey.
Taqueria El Rey
Michelle and Chris Gerard

It is a tradition at Eater to survey friends, industry types, and bloggers at the end of each year. Welcome to the first of these posts, where we ask them (and ourselves) about restaurant standbys, those places where we found ourselves again and again in 2016. Please sound off with your go-to spots in the comments.

Aaron Foley, Editor, BLAC Magazine:

Being that our office is in Ferndale, I took a lot of lunches and meetings at Public House, which never got old. I loved their rotating chef’s specials — including a rabbit and egg-noodle soup right when the temperatures started turning colder. Although their menu did shrink a little, I’m glad the brisket slider with the fried egg is still there. Giovanni’s Ristorante will always, always be on the top of my list; we had a family gathering there this summer, and the service was delightful as always. Oh, and pre-Midtown Rock City Eatery — I’m pretty sure I had everything on the menu this year.

Serena Maria Daniels, Dining Editor, Metro Times:

Rock City Eatery, Rose’s Fine Foods, Desi Pizza in Hamtramck, GreenSpace Cafe

Dorothy Hernandez, Managing Editor, Hour Detroit (Co-owner of Sarap Detroit):

Katoi, Trizest, Taqueria Nuestra Familia, and Taqueria El Rey (I also moved to southwest Detroit in 2016 in case you couldn’t tell), and for brunch it’s either Gold Cash Gold or Brooklyn Street Local.

Melody Baetens, Features Reporter and Bar/Restaurant Columnist, Detroit News:

Mabel Gray was probably the most exciting with its high level of hospitality, the always-changing menu and guest chefs. Other standbys and staples for me this year were Tienda Mexicana (Super Taco) and Grand Azteca in Madison Heights, Jim Brady’s in Royal Oak, and in Detroit: Punch Bowl Social, 7Greens, Townhouse and Calexico (conquering the entire salad menu at each). I also frequented Pop’s For Italian for dinner followed by drinks at Zeke’s Rock N Roll BBQ. I ate way too much pizza this year courtesy of Pie-Sci in Woodbridge, Green Lantern in Madison Heights, Stop Spot in Ferndale and Amar in Hamtramck.

John Reyes, Ann Arbor Contributor, Eater Detroit:

Ricewood, the food truck serving Guam-style barbecue rice bowls. Perhaps the best beef brisket in Michigan.

Lexi Trimpe, Food Writer, Freelance/Hour Detroit:

I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of Grand Trunk Pub. From bar snacks to brunch, I’m always satisfied no matter what time of day I stop in.

Ernie’s Market
Michelle and Chris Gerard

Kat Rembacki, Editor, Core Detroit:

Mudgie’s — their food is consistently good, and they always have something seasonal and yummy on special. I am never bored with their menu. Batch Brewing Co. is a great weekend hangout; it’s surprisingly family-friendly and affordable. And I love a place that puts chicharrones on the menu.

Mark Kurlyandchik, Restaurant Critic, Detroit Free Press:

I had a number of great meals at Chartreuse, Selden Standard and Mabel Gray this year. To me, those three restaurants represent a holy trinity of contemporary Detroit dining. A predictable list, perhaps, but each one is consistently great every time. I like Forest in Birmingham quite a bit, too, but didn't make it out there as much as I wanted to this year. Same for Bacco. I'm looking forward to going back in 2017 and seeing what kind of influence Anthony Lombardo is having on the menu. (There were also some interesting newcomers that I would add to this list, but I can't reveal those publicly just yet.)

Most of my standbys are less formal, though. Anytime we're out in the Canton area on an Ikea trip, my wife and I like to grab a post-shopping bowl of ramen from Matsuchan. For pho and banh mi I hit up Que Huong in Madison Heights and love picking the quail bones clean at Thang Long. For breakfast, I like Parks & Rec. I've taken a few out-of-town guests to Sweetwater Tavern for their wings. Miller's Bar for burgers. For Lebanese, it's Al Ameer and Phoenicia. Smoked chicken at Taqueria El Rey; tableside guacamole and lobster tacos at El Asador. Every once in a while, I need "The Big One" from Ernie's Market in Oak Park and to check in on Ernie. I can't tell you how many sandwiches I had from Dime Store this year (it helps that it's in an adjacent building to my office). Many years ago I was in a band with Jeremy Damaske, the wizard behind Pie-Sci, so I'm biased here — but I love his crazy pies. If I'm in the mood for a more traditional Neopolitan-style pizza, Bigalora is tops; Supino for NY-style; and Cloverleaf for Detroit-style (although I prefer Loui's in Hazel Park for its atmosphere). I could go on and on...

Seoung Lee, Social Media Influencer, Chow Down Detroit:

I went to Mudgie’s Deli four or five times this year and I loved each visit. Addition of their new patio and bar as well. Is Selden Standard considered a standby now? It’s on top of my list.

Nick Britsky, Cocktail Expert, Freelance:

Chartreuse, Selden Standard, and La Dulce. Each were consistently solid, have a friendly staff and provide seasonal dishes.

Brenna Houck, Editor, Eater Detroit:

Pizza was a big part of my diet this year. I went to Pie-Sci and Pepe Z’s at El Club quite a few times. Public House became a favorite dinner spot for me. I love the menu takeovers but I’m also obsessed with the regular dishes like the country fried chicken and the beer list is great. For takeout or dine-in, lunch or dinner, Taqueria El Rey was my all-around, main go-to. I usually mix and match a few tacos. Hamido (the falafel is amazing) in Dearborn and Ali-Baba Shish Kabob in Hamtramck were some of my favorites if I was eating with a group of hoping to bring home a ton a leftovers.

All Year in Eater Coverage [ED]

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