Closing out a week of intensive reader voting, today we announce the winners of the ninth annual Eater Awards, celebrating the chefs and restaurants that made the largest impact on all 24 Eater cities over the past year.
Here now are the establishments — from cocktail bars and all-day brunch spots to hotel bars and food stalls — that have taken the Detroit food world by storm over the last 12 months. Thank you to everyone who voted last week, and congratulations to the winners of the readers’ choice and editors’ choice awards. Read on to learn more about this year’s best of the best and don’t miss a chance to go eat and drink at these spots. Editor’s choice winners will receive an illustrious tomato can trophy via FedEx, along with a full feature on Eater in the coming year.
Restaurant of the Year
Good things come to those who wait. That’s the case with many of Detroit’s restaurants but even more so with Marrow, whose West Village space was originally designated for a restaurant in 2015. By 2017, the Royce Detroit wine bar’s Ping Ho had stepped in to help usher in a new concept that combined a neighborhood butcher shop with a restaurant. Marrow, which arrived earlier this fall, manages to seamless blend the two halves and doesn’t take itself too seriously in the process. Customers enter through the bar and butcher shop passed a sign that unabashedly declares “We Got Hot Birds” in its advertisement for rotisserie chicken.
The shop overseen by butcher Nicholas Ponte whose selections range from rich stocks to bone-in pork chops to carry-out sandwiches. The restaurant works hand in hand with the storefront. Tables in the restaurant are used for the whole-animal butchering and offal makes its way into chef Sarah Welch’s various yakitori skewers and glutinous rice dumplings. The menu is certainly meaty, but it’s also makes vegetables the stars in options like the mapo mushrooms. It’s the type of place where one can go for a drink and a design-your-own charcuterie snack with a friend or tuck in to a coursed meal.
Restaurant of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: SheWolf
Chef of the Year
Genevieve Vang, Bangkok 96 Street Food
Genevieve Vang isn’t a newcomer to the metro Detroit dining scene. Her restaurant Bangkok 96 opened in 1996 in Dearborn has been regarded for years as one of the best spots for Thai cuisine in the area. Vang has also proved a savvy business person, having built together with her daughter Caroline Vang-Polly a successful online food brand called Thai Feast. With the opening of Bangkok 96 Street Food, a food stall within Cass Corridor’s new shipping container food hall Detroit Shipping Company, Vang has shown once again that she can evolve to find a new, extremely loyal audience. At the food stall, customers return again and again for the craveable Southeast Asian dishes at Bangkok 96 Street Food, from the morsels of semi-sweet candied beef to the snackable pork bao.
Chef of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: Genevieve Vang
Design of the Year
Few Detroit building transformations have been as gratifying to watch as the rehab of downtown’s Wurlitzer Building. Designed as a beacon for the famed instrument maker Wurlitzer Co., the skyscraper — like many Detroit properties — fell into disrepair. Fast-forward to 2018, and the Wurlitzer has undergone major renovations and is now home to the Siren Hotel. It houses an impressive collection of food and beverage projects, including a jewel box of a cocktail lounge off the lobby called Candy Bar. The bar, which was designed by ASH NYC and developed by chef Kate Williams and Matt Wang, has a classic sensibility that’s reminiscent of old Hollywood. Step through the velvet curtain into a sea of pink and white with plush couches, a ‘70s disco ball, and plumes of white faux palm trees bursting from the corners like something out of the Copacabana nightclub. Sip a Bubble Rum and snack on candy bars to a jazz soundtrack, while gazing at the stunning, tiered glass chandelier.
Design of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: Lumen
Bar of the Year
There’s something beautiful about a bar with a lot of history. Kiesling is one of those places, having over the years been home to a general store, a saloon, and a cop bar before being abandoned entirely. Under its new owners, the bar received a complete restoration that took more than two years with painstaking attention to the woodwork and a hand-painted mural, discovered under layers of paint. The result is a cocktail bar with loads of character and an outstanding team of bartenders assembled by manager Rob Wilson. The style at Kiesling is unpretentious, though the drinks are top notch. It’s the type of neighborhood spot where people not only gather after work, but also seek out for a highly original cocktail.
Bar of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: Lost River
Doing It Right Award
There’s no roadmap to building a better business, but it does start with a strong perspective. It requires a willingness to listen and reflect, but also to defend that philosophy when it’s important. It doesn’t hurt either if the food is delicious and the space is vibrant. Partners Kiki Louya and Rohani Foulkes got their start a little more than two years ago with the opening of charming market-cafe the Farmer’s Hand in Corktown. In that space they set out to build a community centered around supporting local farmers and food businesses. This spring, the pair made an even bigger splash with all-day brunch cafe Folk and once again, building on the established community that frequented the market while sticking to their principles on providing employees with fair wages and benefits. Debates continue over how to provide more equitable workplaces in the service industry, and Folk’s team is actively welcoming and adeptly navigating that conversation. Meanwhile, the restaurant continues to build on the successes of the Farmer’s Hand by hosting community events and spotlighting local purveyors.