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Detroit Food Media Share The Most Innovative Ideas to Have Emerged in 2022

Booze-free cocktails, an influx of popups, and more innovations made headlines this year

A plate of fried chicken covered in caviar, eggs, sweet potato mash, roasted potatoes, a sandwich, and a coney dog at Dragonfly in Detroit, Michigan.
The Fried Chicken and Caviar popup brunch at Dragonfly. Chefs Chi Walker and Nik Cole made the Milwaukee Junction home once a month in 2022.
Serena Maria Daniels

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: Low alcohol and nonalcoholic cocktails and drinks that are crafty, thoughtful and interesting.

Courtney Burk, contributor, Eater Detroit: Collaboration. With local farmers, makers, artists, and people in general. The city has so much to offer, and through intentional collaborations, a restaurant can create a unique experience while also supporting the local community and economy.

Serena Maria Daniels, Detroit City Editor, Eater: I’ve been excited to see how the city’s popup scene has begun to reach maturity. Just a few years ago, I wrote that popups were increasingly becoming a model for folks who want to open physical restaurants someday but lack the capital to do so. Flash forward, that’s still the case for many, but for a growing number of popup operators, the goal is no longer so narrow. Chefs like Chi Walker and Nik Cole of Fried Chicken and Caviar, the Alvarez sisters behind Cafecito Alvarez, and Maryam Khan’s Pakistani popup Khana are all examples of operators that are bypassing the “traditional” route and doing things on their terms.

Lyndsay Green, restaurant and dining critic, Detroit Free Press: I’ve loved seeing the boom of pop-ups over the past year. I’m interested in seeing how the medium evolves as we get farther away from the height of the pandemic. Will independent chefs continue to collaborate with existing restaurateurs and businesses, or will they default to the traditional trajectory of opening a brick-and-mortar? Whatever happens, I hope the collaborative energy that we’ve seen over the past year continues in 2023 and beyond.

Mark Kurlyandchik, editorial director, Frame: As someone who has been consciously trying to drink less, seeing the proliferation of creative N/A cocktails take root in the region has been really nice. I did “sober October” this year and while it was a real eye-opening challenge — you’re telling me we can’t just grab a beer at the bar while we wait for our table? — the sheer number of options made it a lot easier than even just a few years ago. On a work trip to Maine, I fell in love with a brewery there that makes non-alcoholic beers exclusively, and I’m hoping that trend lands a little closer to home soon. This may be controversial to say and there are plenty of restaurant operators out there who are fearful of a future without revenue from booze, but I think it’s only a matter of time before society starts treating alcohol like it now treats tobacco. The “mocktail” trend is just the beginning of that larger transition and I think smart operators are embracing it with gusto, fully understanding that it will soon be totally mainstream.

Mickey Lyons, contributor, Eater Detroit: I’m happy to see that bars and restaurants are finally devoting headspace and bar space to low-ABV and non-alcoholic cocktails. A full sober menu, like that at Castalia, or even sober nights like The Emory’s recent parties, indicate that you don’t have to get smashed to have a good time. There’s more to NA cocktails than a virgin Mule or blueberry lemonade, and Detroit’s bartenders have stepped up their game to meet public demand.

Carlos Parisi, founder, host, Aunt Nee’s, Sandwich Talk podcast: I love the continuation of local friendly food competitions like Steve Caladiao’s chili contest at 8 Degrees Plato. It’s so much fun to have local home cooks put their best recipes forward and allow people to sample and judge in a friendly way. I’d love to see more!

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