It’s been a huge year for restaurants big and small in Detroit. It was definitely a year when the city’s dining scene grew in unexpected ways. One of the most pleasant surprises was the growth in Detroit’s casual dining scene. Smaller, fast-casual and carryout restaurants flourished and bakeries stood out as some of the biggest players. Today, we’re honoring those destinations that shaped the way we thought about, talked about, and ultimately experienced eating out in 2019 by announcing the winners of the 10th annual Eater Awards.
Here now are the establishments — from Moroccan-influenced restaurants to international patisseries — that have taken the Detroit food world by storm. These winners were selected from a crop of 15 finalists in three categories. Thank you to everyone who submitted nominations. 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 in the coming year.
Restaurant of the Year
There’s something truly special about eating at Saffron De Twah, Eater Detroit’s Restaurant of the Year for 2019. Chef Omar Anani has worked in restaurants in some form or another for nearly his entire life. At a time when Detroit’s resurgent restaurant scene was still in its infancy, he knew he wanted to be a part of it, but didn’t necessarily have the financial backing to do it in a sustainable way. Anani became an owner first of food trucks and eventually invested his savings in a former barbecue and shrimp shop on Gratiot Avenue in the McDougall Hunt neighborhood. The building would ultimately transform into Saffron De Twah, a American halal restaurant with Moroccan-influenced cuisine.
Anani aims to offer high-quality, affordable food to the surrounding community and he’s made significant strides towards his goal. The modest restaurant features a walk-up counter where customers can choose from a variety of dishes from succulent lamb tagine to vegan cauliflower shawarma batbout served in light, flavorful pockets of pita bread. Since opening in April, Anani and his team have continued to improve and innovate, adding a small dining room and a dry bar with recipes from consulting bartender Jaz’min Weaver. But it’s the service here that really makes Saffron De Twah shine. Stepping into this restaurant, customers feel warm and welcome from the moment they enter the door. This spot is one to watch.
Design of the Year
Where reclaimed wood, Edison lights, and exposed brick have often driven the conversation at the bulk of Detroit’s food establishments, architect Ishtiaq Rafiuddin’s firm Undecorated has broken the mold with thoughtful designs that embraced industrial architecture in creative ways. At Magnet, a boxy former garage gets a modular layout with a vibey, neon-lit interior that’s covered in blue tile. At the center of the space is a sunken bar where customers can sit at eye-level with their bartenders as they eat their meal. In the back of the space, chef Brad Greenhill’s kitchen staff are the actors in an open kitchen that stage serves as a stage. The props are, of course, smoking chickens and a hulking wood-fired oven producing fresh flatbreads.
Bakery of the Year
In a year that was filled with great breads, gorgeous pastries, and cakes, pastry chef Warda Bouguettaya’s immaculate bakes were always a treat. At Warda Patisserie, Bougettaya brings her experiences from growing up and traveling abroad into the kitchen to create the sweet and savory pastries that are as much a feast for the eyes as they are exquisite to eat. Her Algerian torta is crisp, flaky, and golden brown with lovely designs decorating the pastry. The Mexican conchas are made with a soft brioche and a not-too-sweet crackling on top. Every weekend that it’s available customers flock to her counter inside Trinosophes for a slice of the Russian honey cake. The city has yet another great bakery worth celebrating.
• All Eater Awards Coverage [ED]