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Detroit’s Biggest Dining Surprises of 2017

“La Rondinella, we hardly knew ye.” — Mark Kurlyandchik, Detroit Free Press restaurant critic

La Rondinella Gallery
La Rondinella shuttered in January.
Michelle and Chris Gerard
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 closed out the year by surveying local food writers and our own staff on various restaurant-related topics, and publishing their responses throughout the week. Readers, feel free to share your thoughts below.

Melody Baetens, Features Reporter, Detroit News:

That the restaurant space at the top of the tallest building in downtown Detroit has been empty for most of the year since Coach Insignia’s closing in February.

Lexi Trimpe, Web Editor, Hour Detroit:

The sudden emergence of gaming bars! I’m not complaining, but the sudden wave was definitely surprising.

Mark Kurlyandchik, Restaurant Critic, Detroit Free Press:

I’ll never forget the surprise phone call I received on a gray winter morning from Dave Mancini, who was calling to tell me La Rondinella would be closing barely a year after it opened. I was in the midst of putting together last year’s Best New Restaurants list for the Free Press and Rondinella was slated for a top slot (though Dave had no idea, ‘cuz that’s how we roll). So you can understand why the call was such a shock. I was sad to hear the news, but also thankful for the heads up — it wouldn’t have been a good look to anoint a closed restaurant. In hindsight, I don’t think I ever properly mourned its loss. R.I.P. La Rondinella, we hardly knew ye.

Brenna Houck, Editor, Eater Detroit:

It was tough to pick. For me the biggest surprise of 2017 was probably waking up to see that Katoi Takoi had burned down. The damage and eventual condemning of UFO Factory was also unexpected. La Rondinella’s sudden closure after waiting such a long time for that opening was a pretty big surprise along with the closure of another Eastern Market Italian eatery Roma Cafe.

Serena Maria Daniels, Editor, Tostada Magazine:

I wouldn’t want to call it a surprise, but I am excited to see what’s taking shape on the city’s northwest side in Grandmont Rosedale. Chef to the Stars Maxcel Hardy knew what was up when he opened River Bistro there this summer. And Detroit Vegan Soul was smart to open a second location there. The neighborhood already has many assets, including gorgeous housing and community pride. What was missing, was the same level of dining experiences that people find in greater downtown. These two bright spots are creating a foundation for a dynamic food scene in the neighborhood.

Nick Britsky, Beverage Director, Thrillist:

La Rondinella: Dude!! WTF. I wish this one was still around. I still cry thinking about the food and aperitif selection.

John Reyes, Ann Arbor Contributor, Eater Detroit:

Melange’s new collaboration with Eve Aronoff Fernandez is a much-needed fine dining option in Ann Arbor as well as an early holiday gift for those those waiting for the return of her eponymous restaurant.

Dorothy Hernandez, Contributor, Eater Detroit:

Community staples such as Park Bar and Roma Café shuttering their doors. Also Craig Lieckfelt coming back to Detroit.

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