There’s no doubt that the ever-changing food scene is feeding Detroit’s reputation as an exciting, must-visit destination. In a vast multicultural city with African American, Afro-Caribbean, Middle Eastern, Latin American, Vietnamese, Polish, Italian, and Bangladeshi communities, there’s something to accommodate for all tastes and budgets. The sheer number of options can feel overwhelming for travelers with limited time in the city. From hip hop doughnut shops to all-day coney island diners to funky noodle bars, use this food-packed itinerary to plan perfect, whirlwind 24-hours in the Motor City.
8 a.m. — Breakfast with pastries and coffee
Option 1: Start the day downtown with something sweet from Dilla’s Delights. Owned by the late producer’s uncle Herman Hayes — also known as Uncle Herm – the doughnut shop pays homage to legendary hip hop music producer and rapper J Dilla. Here, the doughnuts are made with organic ingredients and vegan options are available, too. Grab a coffee and a couple (or a dozen) doughnuts to-go. Try the Brewster’s banana pudding cake, the Black Bottom blueberry cake, and the Silvercup sweet potato.
Option 2: Make your way over to Sister Pie on the east side in the West Village neighborhood for some nationally-renowned baked goods and coffee. Each day, owner Lisa Ludwinski and her team offer four rotating pies (one mainstay is the year-round salted maple pie), up to 10 different cookies, hand pies, and other sweets and pastries. Don’t forget to take some buckwheat chocolate chip cookies for the road.
Take a walk after breakfast
While on the east side, head over to the Dequindre Cut greenway to burn off some of that early morning sugar. Visitors and locals can walk, jog, or cycle the nearly two miles, below street-level recreational path while admiring the artwork and graffiti along the pathway. The north end of pathway leads to the commercial neighborhood Eastern Market. If in town on a Saturday, visitors will find a bustling outdoor and indoor market selling fresh produce, meats, plants, other products from local vendors. (The market opens in a more limited capacity throughout the week. Find the schedule here.) Outside of the Saturday market, visitors can still explore the city’s hotspot for public murals and great restaurants such as Supino Pizzeria and Russell Street Deli.
11 a.m. — Lunch at Kuzzo’s Chicken and Waffles
Refuel at Kuzzo’s Chicken & Waffles in Northwest Detroit on Livernois Avenue. The menu includes 10 chicken and waffle combinations, and other brunch-like offerings such as omelets, shrimp and grits, fish and grits, and biscuits and gravy. Try the Big Red — a red velvet waffle served with three pieces of chicken wings or tenders, a choice of side, and bourbon maple syrup. Long lines are common on the weekends and the restaurant also stays busy during the week. Once finished at Kuzzo’s (or to avoid the lines), go next door to Good Cakes and Bakes. Owner April Anderson’s bakery specializes in desserts like layered cakes, cookies, pound cakes, brownies, cupcakes, and the popular gooey butter cake. Savory soups are also available.
Tour a local museum
After lunch, head to Midtown and spend the rest of the afternoon soaking up art and history at the the Detroit Historical Museum, the Charles H. Wright African American Museum, and the renowned Detroit Institute of Arts. Visitors at the DIA can grab a cup of coffee at Kresge Court on the lower level of the museum.
2 p.m. — Afternoon coffee and a snack
Take a car over to Corktown, the city’s oldest existing neighborhood. There are plenty of must-eat options here. Consider grabbing an afternoon flat white and a pastry at neighborhood favorite Astro Coffee. For a light meal, try neighborhood all-day brunch cafe Folk. The restaurant serves a variety of fresh salads, hearty meat pies, and fancy toast with toppings like ricotta and apricot jam. The shop also has ice cream and an espresso machine for an afternoon coffee, plus flavored milk infusions.
Detour through downtown
Take a stroll through downtown to check out some must-see attractions. Step inside the Guardian Building, sometimes referred to as the “Cathedral of Finance,” and marvel at the dazzling ceiling. While in the neighborhood, consider stopping by chocolate shop, Bon Bon Bon, for a decadent bite-sized treat. Drop by the Spirit of Detroit statues and “The Fist,” a monument to boxer Joe Louis, before crossing over Jefferson Avenue towards the labor monuments and Underground Railroad. The area is bounded by the Detroit River Walk and looks out across the water towards Windsor, Canada.
4 p.m. — An afternoon meal and a drink
Head back to Corktown for a bite at at Ima. The casual restaurant specializes in Japanese-style udon noodle soups and rice bowls. The menu includes vegetarian and vegan options. Sip sake here or consider heading to one of the nearby watering holes for an early evening drink. Two James Distillery is a destination for cocktails and whiskey, while beer lovers will enjoy Batch Brewing Company. For a glass of wine, there’s not better spot than Ima’s neighbor, Motor City Wine.
7 p.m. — Dinner in Dearborn or a slice of Detroit square
Option 1: It wouldn’t be wise to leave metro Detroit without experiencing the region’s rich Lebanese food scene, so head west on I-94 to Dearborn. A number of Lebanese options are found here, such as James Beard Award honoree Al-Ameer Restaurant and Hamido. If you’re eating with a group or are especially hungry, these restaurants often serve family-style combo platters with options like fattoush salad, hummus, shawarma, pickled veggies, and warm pitas. Portions are large enough that customers often require several to-go boxes. For even more details on Detroit’s Middle Eastern communities, check out No Passport Required with Marcus Samuelsson.
Option 2: Detroit has its own style of pizza and Buddy’s Pizza on the east side is credited with its invention. The restaurant serves up where Sicilian-style pies with crispy, caramelized brick cheese and sauce drizzled on top. For square pizza with a Bangladeshi twist, try Amar Pizza in Hamtramck. This carryout spot offers Detroit-style pizza in varieties like the naga (chicken, red onion, and cilantro) or spice (marinated spicy, ground beef, green chilis, onions and cilantro).
10 p.m. — After-dinner drinks and entertainment
Detroit has a lively nightlife, so be sure to head back downtown to the Belt Alley. Mural displays and several bars can be found here including casual indoor-outdoor cocktail bar the Skip. Choose from frozen or regular cocktails, shots, or beer at the bar. After grabbing a drink, head underground to Deluxx Fluxx, a music venue and lounge that’s jam-packed with street art and custom arcade games.
2 a.m. — Late-night snack
Option 1: After a long day of exploration, close out the night with another Detroit legend — the coney dog. This affordable hot dog topped with chili, mustard, and onions is late-night classic that’s served at diners across the city. There is a rivalry among locals about which of the downtown coney islands — American and Lafayette — are the best. Try one of each and decide for yourself.
Option 2: For those who want to end the night on a sweet note, it’s only right to do it with a doughnut. Uber over to another Detroit staple, Dutch Girl Donuts, on Woodward Avenue. The 71-year-old doughnut shop is open 24/7 to satisfy cravings. Doughnut selections include glazed, old fashioned, cake, and jelly filled.