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Detroit’s Media Shares Favorite Restaurant Meals of 2023

From new and fancy, to tried and true. The experts weigh in on their faves.

Three white round dishes with food on them set on a surface with logs. DB in Detroit
Serena Maria Daniels is the editor for Eater Detroit.

Detroit’s local media dishes on their favorite moments of 2023 as part of Eater’s ongoing tradition of polling the city’s pros for their year-end takes. Here, our panel discussed their best restaurant meal of 2023.

Alina Alam, social media influencer: Cedarland Restaurant for fattoush and shawarma for my non-desi food. For a lot of us (who are of Pakistani or Indian background) including myself, Cedarland was our first taste of Middle Eastern food.

Carolyn Chin, contributor, Eater Detroit: Outside of Detroit, Cafe Cortina by far. In Detroit, Leila.

Serena Maria Daniels, editor, Eater Detroit: Best restaurant meal here had to be Sozai. The level of care that chef Hajime Sato and the rest of his team take into walking each diner through every pristinely executed dish for the spot’s tasting menus is something to behold. No matter if you’re a novice or a frequent customer, the staff take time explaining the chef’s philosophy around sustainability, which gives me a much deeper appreciation for each beautifully plated ingredient presented to me. I’m still thinking about how they took a sweet potato and transformed it into a vegan barbecue eel. Yes, I felt good knowing I was doing my part to minimize my footprint with that meal, but the best part was biting into that “eel” and thinking to myself, “that was better than the real thing.”

Lyndsay Green, restaurant and dining critic, Detroit Free Press: The most memorable meal for me was a dinner at Alpino in the fall. A plate of beef tagliata was the best steak dish I had all year. Six ounces of flank steak glazed with vincotto delivered that sweet-savory-umami flavor I often crave and the smoked salmon rosti was such a hit, my husband and I ordered seconds after fighting over the last bite.

Randiah Camille Green, staff writer, Detroit Metro Times: I’m going to cheat and give two answers because that’s who I am, but also because the best thing I ate in 2023 wasn’t technically at a restaurant. My best restaurant meal was Freya’s vegan prix fixe tasting menu. Many restaurants that aren’t specifically catered to vegans leave us feeling like we’re an unwanted stepchild who doesn’t deserve the joys of fine dining for whatever reason. At Freya, every dish was well thought out and complex including a vegan chocolate cake that was rich without being overly sweet. Bonus points for serving non-alcoholic drinks for the sober amongst us (me). My most memorable meal, however, was the egusi stew and fufu from Fork in Nigeria’s food truck on the Avenue of Fashion. It was flavorful and filling with the fufu sopping up every bit of the stew. I stop by the food truck every chance I get.

Joe Guillen, Axios Local Detroit reporter: SheWolf: carpaccio, cacio e pepe, and the whole roasted fish.

Mark Kurlyandchik, filmmaker, former Detroit Free Press restaurant critic: Locally, my best restaurant meal of the year was hands down the Chiso omakase from Hajime Sato’s Sozai in Clawson. I ate things that night I’d never eaten anywhere (barnacles!), let alone from a suburban Detroit strip mall 1,000 miles from the nearest ocean. The best part is you can feel pretty good about that fact, knowing just how thoughtfully and meticulously Chef sources each ingredient from the best and most sustainable purveyors. Further afield, I had great meals at Dixboro House in Ann Arbor, Littlebird in Grand Rapids, and Valhalla in Chicago.

Amber Ogden, contributor, Eater Detroit; freelance writer: The lamb shoulder nestled perfectly in the center of browned butter hummus from BESA. I never knew something could be so addictive.

Carlos Parisi, owner of Aunt Nee’s, host: Consistently, SheWolf and Ladder 4 have been the best meals time and time again. A huge treat was the honor of sampling most of the menu at Miss Kim in Ann Arbor.