As 2016 comes to a close, it’s time to take a look back at the moments in the Detroit food world that captured people’s attention. There were, of course, almost too many openings to count, a host of coming attractions announcements, and sadly some closures too.
Of course, maps and guides remained popular. People relied upon our weekend restaurant recommendations to find something new to try — classics and newcomers — and travelers returned again and again to the Detroit Metropolitan Airport guide to discover what was new in the McNamara Terminal (and what had stagnated in the North Terminal). Baseball fans also sought out our Comerica Park recommendations. Meanwhile, the monthly heatmap and quarterly Eater 38 kept diner’s clued in to what was new and what was excellent. Brunch and bottomless mimosas also proved to be favorites among our readers.
Below, you’ll find 10 of our biggest stories of the year, sans guides, maps, and posts that Eater Detroit updates regularly like the plywood report. One trend we noticed was that pop culture played a big role in this year’s most-read posts. Unsurprisingly, many of these stories also originated with a tip, which really shows how remarkably passionate and informed Eater readers are about restaurants. If you’re one of our reliable tipsters, thank you for sharing with us.
What was your favorite dining moment of the year? Drop us a note in the comments.
A casual social media post lead to one of the biggest pop culture phenomenons of the year. While Avalon International Breads was perhaps the first to break the news of the Netflix-orchestrated pop-up, Luke’s Diner eventually took over hundreds of coffee shops across North America including four in metro Detroit. Gilmore Girls fans lined up in droves in the pre-dawn hours of October 5 to grab a cup of Luke’s-branded coffee and snap photos in front of the temporary signage. It was a sensation wrapped in plaid button ups and backwards baseball caps.
Details of this sleeper hit were kept tightly under wraps by the ownership, leaving Woodward Avenue commuters to speculate about what mysterious restaurant might be arriving in the iconic Onion Roll Deli building. Eater was finally able to shed some light on the new eatery (and its delectable 24-hour menu) during its first day of business including calling out those phenomenal chicken wings.
This year’s contentious election cycle seemed to seep into every facet of culture and Detroit restaurants weren’t immune. Among numerous WikiLeaks revelations from Clinton campaign emails, one particular greasy spoon recommendation struck at the heart of a great Detroit debate — Lafayette vs. American. Spoiler: the Clinton aide’s allegiances were downright un-American.
After 30 years of business, Mexicantown’s El Zocalo restaurant confirmed that it would close its doors in September. What followed was an outpouring of memories from fans and regulars who considered the establishment an old-school favorite. The building is still currently listed for sale at $1.5 million.
A mistake in the kitchens at an area Wendy’s left a young girl with painful cuts in her mouth. Her mother’s shocking story struck a cord with readers across the country.
The under-advertised Times Square area of downtown Detroit gained a hotspot in February with the quiet debut of SavannahBlue. The upscale Southern-influenced fair was matched with classic Detroit ambiance.
Eight months post impromptu press junket announcement, legions of Wahlburgers fans finally received the burger ode to the Wahlberg clan’s filmography in Greektown. The soft opening featured special appearances from Mark Wahlberg, himself, who happened to be in town last summer for the shooting of yet another Transformers movie. Such a spectacle over ground beef patties has rarely been seen in these parts. Your move, Shake Shack.
Beautiful design. Stunning pictures. Photographers Michelle and Chris Gerard scored an inside look at downtown’s gorgeous new eatery Maru Sushi in the early days of its opening. In a city awash in restaurants with reclaimed wood and metal stools, architecture firm Rossetti’s look for the space stood out from the crowd. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Detroit’s been craving raw seafood all year.
We should have known that O.W.L. would later make quite a splash. Eater received many tips over the course of several months from curious passersby speculating on what might fill the former Onion Roll Deli with its iconic sign. The story took a dive into records to glean some scant details about the under-renovation restaurant with its mysterious acronym name.
This Corktown gastropub caused a stir when it joined two other neighborhood favorites in listing the property for sale last winter. Then, this fall, owner Celeste “Cece” Belanger successfully sold the space for nearly twice the amount it was purchased for five years ago. Nevertheless, the shutter was sad news for those who loved the casual bar with its weekly chef pop-ups and stained glass windows. Silver lining? Belanger is hopeful that she might someday bring the pub back in a new location and Kate Williams’ much-anticipated Lady of the House is slated to fill the space in 2017.
• All Year in Eater Coverage [ED]