Detroit’s restaurant writers dish on their biggest surprises of 2022 as part of Eater’s ongoing tradition of polling the city’s experts for their year-end takes.
Melody Baetens, restaurant critic/reporter, The Detroit News: I ate a lot of pizza, a lot of birria and a ton of salads in 2022, from all over the place. The newcomers that I was most excited about I outlined in my Best New Restaurants list last week, and a few of them were Rosita’s Treats in Shelby Township, Sesame House in Dearborn, Bar Pigalle in Detroit and Petty Cash in Detroit.
Courtney Burk, contributor, Eater Detroit: My regular go-to destinations in 2022 included Baobab Fare, Original Gonella’s, Saffron De Twah, Cøllect, Folk, and Louie’s Pizza. And I was very excited (and still am) for the incredible rotating food menu at Ladder 4.
Serena Maria Daniels, Detroit City Editor, Eater: One relative newcomer that flew under my radar because, pandemic, is Barda. It’s become one of my go-to fine dining destinations when I’m feeling fancy. My most recent visit was with photographer Rosa Maria Zamarrón, who is usually a vegetarian. When we were served Barda’s towering pepper-coriander encrusted short rib and the carne y hueso — chef Javier Bardauil’s take on bone marrow and beef tartare — she was willing to break from the norm. After all, the Argentines are world-famous for their skills with meats.
As for go-tos, one of my favorite neighborhood spots is La Jalisciense Supermercado Y Taqueria in southwest Detroit. Specifically, the chicharrones — not too crispy, not too soggy — the chicharrones are made fresh, on-site, and are served with this incredible spicy peanut sauce. The only other time I’d had a peanut sauce in Mexican cooking was during a visit to East Los Angeles last year when I stopped by the Don Pollon food truck, which made these gigantic ribs slathered in the stuff. That experience set my mouth on fire, but the nuttiness from Jalisciense’s rendition cuts right through the heat of the chilis used in the salsa, making for a balanced, yet fiery bite. That the eatery is also a full-scale grocery store makes all the difference.
Lyndsay Green, restaurant and dining critic, Detroit Free Press: Ima Izakaya was one of my go-tos this year. It’s one of the few spots open every day for an early lunch and late dinner, and I haven’t met a dish or cocktail I didn’t like.
You can also find me bouncing between coffee shops – James Oliver Coffee Co., Lucky Detroit, Trinosophes, Coffee Down Under, The Congregation, Cairo Coffee’s outpost in Spot Lite, and Paradise Valley Coffee Co.’s walk-up at Savvy Chic were my usual haunts. The newer Black Coffee Cafe in the North End and Le Rouge Boulangerie in Grosse Pointe Park are two additions I’ve been happy to add to my rotation.
Mark Kurlyandchik, editorial director, Frame: This is going to sound so self-promotional, but it’s just the truth: Part of what I love about working for Frame is that we get to bring some of the most exciting culinary talent to a single location. I used to have to drive all over to eat my favorite food, and now I’m incredibly lucky to be able to have most of my favorites come to one central location. As such, I haven’t had to leave work very often to eat some incredible food. The diversity of cuisines and styles of service that I experienced in our spaces this year would be too long to list here, but the month-long Frame Bar residencies have been especially rewarding and dynamic. We’ve had everything from Khana’s irreverent Pakistani food, to Val’s Pizza’s incredible wood-fired pies, to Eddie Vargas’ regional Mexican cooking, to chef Ederique Goudia’s Creole cuisine, just to name a few. Then in the ticketed Frame space we’ve hosted everything from northern Michigan wine dinners to traditional Ethiopian feasts. Between it all, there’s been little reason to leave our four walls. (And when I do, it doesn’t hurt to have Mabel Gray — another perennial personal favorite — right next door.)
Looking a little more outwardly though, my favorite newcomer to the scene is probably Ladder 4 Wine Bar. Chef John Yelinek kinda broke through the noise during the height of the pandemic and to see what he’s done with both that incredible space as well as his Park Ranger pop-up has been really exciting.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Al Tayeb’s newish Dearborn location on Warren. It’s the place I take anyone visiting from out of town who cares about food.
Mickey Lyons, contributor, Eater Detroit: This year for me was all about comfort, with the occasional sprinkle of fancy. A Belgian beer and dill pickle pizza at HenriettaHaus in Hamtramck while I pick up that week’s coffee beans became a soothing Sunday ritual for me.
I love the spate of new market/bar/restaurants we have seen lately. Seasons Market, Metropolitan, even places like Stadt Garden where you can grab a snack, sample a new beer or wine, and take some home with you to enjoy in your pajamas: this for me was a sign that the industry is adapting well to our changes in dining habits.
My go-to and newcomer were both the same for a nice meal and some drinks. That was Ladder 4. The wine selection has added new life to our rich bar community, while the food has had me crying tears of joy.
John Reyes, contributor, Eater Detroit: Bellflower has been my go-to for dining and for local recommendations — constantly evolving, flavorful, great wine and bar menu in a non-fussy environment that embodies the town of Ypsilanti. As for newcomers, I’m in love with Sozai Restaurant’s commitment to sustainability as much as their food.