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Detroit Food Media Reflects on the Hottest (and Most Annoying) Restaurant Trends of 2023

An explosion of coffee shops, bookstore wine bars, and the best bread in Michigan

A seafood tower on a white and blue ceramic dish in broth from Mezcal restaurant in Detroit, Michigan. Rosa Maria Zamarrón
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 the most exciting — or most infuriating — local restaurant trend of 2023.

Jena Brooker, reporter, BridgeDetroit: I hate to see coffee shops getting rid of all of their alternative milk options except for oat milk, the obviously inferior choice.

Carolyn Chin, contributor, Eater Detroit: Infuriating: fake Asian restaurants

Serena Maria Daniels, editor, Eater Detroit: I’ve been loving the proliferation of coffee shops opening throughout the city. Those of you who know me, know I spent many years living in an apartment above a coffee shop. Having that third space where I can enjoy an oat milk latte (sorry Jena, I’m Team Oat Milk forever) and snack, meet with sources, and commune with other Detroiters is essential. So I’m over the moon that we’re seeing a variety of coffee shop options, from the growing number of Yemeni-owned chains that have garnered national interest to Latinx-owned spots and popups, and cafes that are collaborating with other small businesses to support one another and the community.

I am also loving that Mexican food continues to make its imprint on metro Detroit, with taqueros who are branching outside of the barrios of the region and into areas that have historically not been destinations for the cuisine. What we’re seeing here in Mexican food is also just really innovative, from delightful vegan duck tacos in mole negro, norteño-style brisket, and aguachile de ribeye, to folks who are looking for ways to nixtamalize their own Michigan-grown corn. Let the GENTEfication of Detroit continue!

On the infuriating side, it’s concerning to see out-of-state hospitality groups take over the downtown restaurant scene. We’ve seen a race among regional restaurant groups who’ve been vying for years for a piece of the downtown development pie, but so too, have been groups that have no affiliation with the city of Detroit. One has to wonder what opportunities are lost when outside interests are informing our dining habits.

Lyndsay Green, restaurant and dining critic, Detroit Free Press: As a storyteller, it’s been a joy to see this unexpected intersection of the literary and culinary worlds. Seeing places like Flyleaf open and following the plans for Vesper with anticipation has been fun. I’ve seen the success of indie bookstores with cafe and bar components in other cities and overseas. I’m happy to have access to these creative spaces locally. It’s also nice to see entrepreneurs expanding the possibilities of what food-based business can look like.

Joe Guillen, Axios Local Detroit reporter: Seeing more built-in tips.

Mark Kurlyandchik, filmmaker, former Detroit Free Press restaurant critic: I loved seeing the proliferation of great bread. From Maxwell Leonard’s Secret Bakery finally getting a brick-and-mortar space in Ferndale, to the addition of head baker Jeremiah Kouhia at Detroit Institute of Bagels — which now has the best bread program in the state, as far as I’m concerned — to a place like James Beard Award winner Paul Berglund’s Myrth in Ada, the era of amazing bread is finally upon us. This could have been the year of the cafe, though, with the additions of La Ventana, Cafe Sous Terre, Craig’s Coffee, and Alba in the city, just to name a few, alongside the spread of Yemeni cafes across the northern suburbs. (The pistachio latte from Qamaria in Troy is one of the better things I’ve put in my mouth this year).

On the flip side, Detroit’s downtown dining scene seems to be regressing into a sea of corporate steakhouses and gimmicky clubstaurants as the independent operators increasingly get priced out.

Mickey Lyons, contributor, Eater Detroit; freelance writer: Exciting: I’ve loved watching bartenders bring their own heritage into their drinks. Will Lee’s cocktail program at Basan was strongly influenced by his own heritage. The trio at Black on Both Sides inform every inventive drink with their own family and Detroit histories. It brings real nuance and reminds me what a great hospitality town Detroit really is.

Infuriating: I’ll answer this one from the bar side: Please stop trying to make “Hugo Spritz” happen. An elderflower spritz is already a perfectly delicious thing.

Carlos Parisi, owner of Aunt Nee’s, host: This was totally the year of the high-end smash burger. While I have loved all the burgers that I dominated throughout the year at these elevated dining establishments, I was surprised to see restaurant after restaurant hopping on what became a wave of fancy smash burgers.