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From Chef Shuffles to Hot Chicken: Detroit’s Biggest Dining Surprises of 2016

Food writers recall the events and experiences that they didn’t see coming

The fried bologna waffle at Grey Ghost.
Michelle and Chris Gerard/Facebook
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

As is tradition at Eater, we close out the year by surveying local food writers and our own staff on various restaurant-related topics, and we'll be publishing their responses throughout the week. Readers, feel free to share your thoughts below. Next question: What was the biggest dining surprise of 2016?

Aaron Foley, Editor, BLAC Magazine:

Grey Ghost has a fried bologna that gave me sticker shock at first. (Because let’s be real, fried bologna should never cost as much if it’s a staple in your household growing up.) But after tasting it, I now get it. It’s delicious. Union Street has a Sunday brunch now with a DJ that I only went to once, but I need to make it out to, again. I think Sriracha on things is overrated, but the folks there have a Sriracha bacon that I was pleasantly surprised by.

Serena Maria Daniels, Dining Editor, Metro Times:

The pizza at El Club.

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

Dearborn Meat Market — this small but mighty spot has some of the best baba ghannouj and grilled meat I’ve ever had. Even just the tomatoes and onions they give you with the kabobs are delicious.

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

That so many — so many! — readers would be that excited about the opening of Wahlburgers. (I was also surprised that the best lobster bisque I’ve ever tasted would be found 20 miles north of Midland, MI at this roadside neighborhood joint called Sanford Lake Bar & Grill.)

John Reyes, Ann Arbor Contributor, Eater Detroit:

Dirty Bird Fried Chicken is a pop-up in Ann Arbor that will soon open as Mama Lou’s in Ypsilanti. The Nashville-style chicken is outrageously good.

Lexi Trimpe, Food Writer, Freelance/Hour Detroit:

It’s was no surprise that the newest Rusted Crow location had incredible cocktails, but the quality of the food blindsided me. Gastropubs are a dime a dozen in Detroit, but Rusted Crow kicks it up a notch. Plus, I can’t help but love a place that serves french fries by the bucket.

Kat Rembacki, Editor, Core Detroit:

Josh Stockton’s departure from Gold Cash Gold, and Brendon Edwards taking the helm.

Mark Kurlyandchik, Restaurant Critic, Detroit Free Press:

Chef Brendon Edwards' ouster from Standby. I did not see that one coming. We named Standby No. 3 on our Best New Restaurants list last year on the strength of Edwards' menu (in addition to the incredible cocktails, of course), so his departure just six weeks later came as quite a shock. I'm happy to see both Standby and Edwards doing well after what seemed like a stinging breakup.

The other big surprise is just how good Gus' World Famous Fried Chicken is. Did not expect that from a franchise, but damn.

Seoung Lee, Social Media Influencer, Chow Down Detroit:

Discovering that the best breakfast spot in Detroit is Clique Restaurant. This underrated place has the best omelets in Detroit and you can get mini pancakes instead of toast.

Nick Britsky, Cocktail Expert, Freelance:

Grey Ghost’s pop-up at Revolver was incredible but what blew me away was the vegetarian dishes they made for my wife. I totally get this is a headache for most chefs but they took it in stride with zero complaints. Then they went on to make THE BEST vegetarian meal ever. Each course was delicious, was within the theme of the meat dish and wasn’t your typical squash or pasta option. I was so impressed at this.

Brenna Houck, Editor, Eater Detroit:

The chef shakeup at Standby was a big one for me. The restaurant was definitely in the early running for me for Restaurant of the Year, and Brendon Edwards’ departure felt a little out of nowhere. Of course, then I was equally surprised when by Edwards turning around and taking over for Josh Stockton at Gold Cash Gold.

The Shake Shack announcement, even though it was a longtime coming, was a pleasant surprise. I’d also rank O.W.L. up there. I had no idea what the restaurant would be like, and there was so much public interest in it. Then when it finally opened I was blown away by how well done the food was.

All Year in Eater Coverage [ED]