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Michigan Food Writers Recall Their Best Meals of 2020

From takeout to dine-in, these were the most memorable meals local dining experts ate this year

A halibut steak with seven tiny red peppers on top and mushrooms encircling the halibut on a plate. A hand pours sauce from a jar onto the plate.
Oak and Reel opened briefly for indoor service in 2020.
Karmen Wettlin/Oak and Reel
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

As is tradition at Eater, we closed out 2020 by surveying local food writers and our own staff on various restaurant-related topics, and publishing their responses throughout the week. Next up: What was your best restaurant meal of 2020, either takeout or dine-in?

Serena Maria Daniels, Founder and Editor, Tostada Magazine:

I can count on one hand the number of times I ate out this year. What stands out the most was during a trip to northern Michigan with my partner. I had just finished a Zoom community journalism event from a tiny motel room in Onekama, Mich. and celebrated by dining at the Glenwood, one of those classic white-tablecloth restaurants that’s popular in the area. There was no space available to eat inside, which was just fine with me. Instead, we were seated at a picnic table on the front lawn, in a wooded, garden-like setting, where I had the almond-crusted lobster tails. It was a surreal highlight of the summer.

Mark Kurlyandchik, Restaurant Critic, Detroit Free Press:

My family and I limited our summer travel to the Michigan borders this year, and so we were able to hit some outstate places long on my list. I had one of the best service experiences of recent memory — one of those life-affirming, brings a tear to your eyes kind of moments of shared humanity — at the Southerner in Saugatuck, along with some of the best damn fried chicken anywhere. That’s a meal I feel like I’ll never forget. I cannot forget Folk’s bodega brekky bun. (I just had another one yesterday.)

Melody Baetens, Restaurant Critic, The Detroit News:

Right now it all seems like a blur of clamshell and cardboard containers, but I will say the short rib burger at Olin stood out and the fries somehow stayed crispy even in the to-go box. I had only a few dine-in experiences, but the four-course menu at Oak & Reel opening weekend was excellent.

Zahir Janmohamed, Co-Founder, Racist Sandwich:

Selden Standard the weekend before the March shutdown. It was my first time there and I had a feeling it would be the last time I would eat at a restaurant this year.

Brenna Houck, Editor, Eater Detroit:

I had a really good meal at Al Tayeb Dearborn on March 1. I went with a group of friends for breakfast and it was so good, I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Once the pandemic hit I was honestly impressed by all the great meals I was able to take home. I order a bunch of seafood one evening from Voyager and ate on my home patio with a bottle of wine and it was magical. The other day I ordered in from Lady of the House and it felt like the perfect at-home feast. Takeout can be great, folks. I just wish there wasn’t so much plastic waste involved.

Mickey Lyons, Freelance Writer, Eater:

Hot green salad and voodoo shrimp, plus a nice bottle of wine, from Howe’s Bayou. If I can’t make my annual pilgrimage to New Orleans, I could at least experience some warmth this winter.

Stacey Brugeman, culinary columnist and freelance writer, Traverse Magazine and Eater:

Date night in the refurbished dining room at Wren in Suttons Bay. The whitefish ceviche was spot-on, and a preparation of freshwater fish we don’t see often enough in this region.

All Year in Eater Coverage [ED]


25 E. Grand River Ave. , Detroit, Michigan 48226 Visit Website

Al Tayeb Dearborn

15010 W Warren Ave., Dearborn, MI

Oak & Reel

2921 East Grand Boulevard, , MI 48202 (313) 270-9600 Visit Website

Lady of the House

1426 Bagley Street, , MI 48216 (313) 818-0218 Visit Website

Selden Standard

3921 2nd Avenue, , MI 48201 (313) 438-5055 Visit Website


600 Vester Street, , MI 48220 (248) 658-4999 Visit Website