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Our Biggest Hopes for the Detroit Restaurant Industry in 2024

Detroit food media renew calls for sustainability, equity in the city’s dining scene

Heirloom tomatoes being sold at Eastern Market 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 their biggest hope for the restaurant industry in 2024.

Alina Alam, social media influencer: I hope to see an increase in South Asian street food. My biggest hope is the restaurant industry focuses on creating a bond with food. We don’t just go out to eat; we go out to create memories and conversations. I think we will see the ambiance of restaurants begin to change to reflect that. I also hope to see an increase in South Asian street food.

Jena Brooker, reporter, BridgeDetroit: I really hope to see more restaurants source food locally from any one of the city’s more than 2,000 farms. Local food is better for the environment, our health, and the local economy.

Serena Maria Daniels, editor, Eater Detroit: I hope that 2024 provides our region’s restaurant community with opportunities to emphasize sustainability and improved conditions for workers. In the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city enjoyed a reputation for new restaurants that centered the needs of the community and its workforce. The past three or so years, we’ve seen many of these celebrated places — Rose’s Fine Food, PizzaPlex, and Cass Cafe in 2023 alone — close permanently after struggling to stay afloat. Detroit’s dining scene cannot afford to be like every other city’s, with developers — instead of the people who define the city — deciding what we eat. We need to find ways to support the folks who are working to empower their communities through food.

Lyndsay Green, restaurant and dining critic, Detroit Free Press: My hope is that the industry holds onto some of the values that seemed top of mind during and directly following the height of the pandemic — sustainability, equity, and fair wages for hospitality workers, for example. I’m concerned that the industry is unconsciously sliding into a return-to-normal, which will only perpetuate the very issues we witnessed throughout the crisis.

I’d also love to see the opening of more upscale, Black-owned restaurants. At a time when Black chefs are garnering national attention and high honors in the food world, it would be a joy to see more Black Detroiters joining the ranks.

Joe Guillen, Axios Local Detroit reporter: More moderately priced, quality sit-down options.

Mark Kurlyandchik, filmmaker, former Detroit Free Press restaurant critic: This was a weird year for restaurants. A usually sleepy January was actually very strong across the board, but the summer was tough on a lot of operators, as pent-up pandemic-induced demand for travel translated to many sparse dining rooms locally. My hope is that 2024 brings renewed stability and growth for the restaurant industry, so that the much-needed changes its workers deserve can be implemented successfully. Namely, it would be great to see some movement to narrow the pay discrepancy between front-of-house and back-of-house staff. Pooling tips across the house is one way to achieve this, but the laws currently on the books prevent most restaurants from implementing this practice. It’s difficult to dream of creative solutions when you’re focused on survival, so here’s hoping 2024 brings the kind of abundance necessary to move the needle away toward a more equitable business model.

Mickey Lyons, contributor, Eater Detroit; freelance writer: I’m really hoping we can finally shake of the city/suburb dichotomy. For a long time, the most highly regarded spots were opening solely in downtown and Midtown. The suburbs are really bringing the A game now, and I feel like there’s at last a solid mix of great dining options all over the region, from Dearborn to Downriver to the east and north ‘burbs.

Carlos Parisi, owner of Aunt Nee’s, host: We as Detroiters finally are feeling seen as we have been recognized in recent years for our culinary works across the city and metro area. I’d love to see more recognition nationally for the things that make our dining landscape more unique than any other place in the United States. Only real food heads tend to recognize the impact that the Middle Eastern population has had on our overall flavors represented across the Metro Detroit area. Additionally, our bang for your buck status is still so real and needs to be highlighted even more as we are still a blue collar driven community, with pride.