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Several traditional Lebanese dishes served at Al-Ameer in Dearborn set on a stone countertop Bill Addison

13 Detroit Classic Restaurants for the Bucket List

For a taste of the city’s history, visit these Detroit restaurant stalwarts

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When it comes to restaurants and food, it’s trendy to chase what’s new and what’s next. But in a city like Detroit, where much has come and gone over the years, the old familiars offer a rich culinary experience and often feel best. The institutions listed on this map continue to stand the test of time, whether for special occasions, a quick meal at a casual lunch counter, or an old-school only-in-Detroit experience.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Sindbad's Restaurant and Marina

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Around since 1949, Sindbad’s is a year-round destination with panoramic views of the Detroit River and Belle Isle. The menu at this family-owned marina still reflects longtime customer favorites: Angus steaks, perch, pickerel, shrimp, scallops, and house-made clam chowder. Arrive by boat or car.

The Whitney

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Housed in an 1890s mansion, this palatial residence turned restaurant is arguably the city’s most celebrated. The four-course dinner menu is filled with classic American standards. Dine in the garden, or make a reservation for weekend high tea.

Views inside the Whitney, a mansion turned restaurant The Whitney

Parks Old Style Bar-B-Q

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In business since 1964, Parks Old Style BBQ is a destination spot in the North End. It specializes in pit-style barbecue basted with a vinegar-based sauce. Go for meat and bread only — choosing from slabs, rib sandwich, chicken, rib tips, and wing dings — or splurge on the full dinner, which comes with two sides such as coleslaw, potato salad, and green beans.

Buddy's Pizza

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Founded in 1946, Buddy’s Pizza is credited with creating the Detroit-style square pie. Similar to a Sicilian tomato pizza, the square features a thick, spongy crust with caramelized cheese edges, toppings, and sauce on top. Go for the Detroiter with brick cheese, parmesan, pepperoni, sauce, and a nice spice blend.

A large square pepperoni pie Buddy’s Pizza [Official photo]

Dakota Inn Rathskeller

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For a taste of Bavaria, stop at Dakota Inn, where wait staff dressed in traditional garb serve old standards like bratwurst, schnitzel, and warm German potato salad. The restaurant, which has been in the same family since 1933, has an old-school feel, with dark-wood furniture and paneled walls. Kick back with an imported beer at the festive live piano sing-alongs Thursday through Saturday. A quick note, it appears that Dakota Inn shuts down for vacation during the summer, but plans to reopen Aug. 3 to celebrate its 89th anniversary and sell beers at 1933 prices (5 cents for a glass and 10 cents for a stein

Dakota Inn Rathskeller

Baker's Keyboard Lounge

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Baker’s opened as a sandwich joint in 1933 and began booking jazz artists the following year. Once a haunt for the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Nat “King” Cole, Sarah Vaughn, and Miles Davis, the art deco lounge still hosts nightly shows. Fans go for the soul food, too: barbecue wings and ribs, blackened catfish, and fried pork chops, for starters.

Mexican Village Restaurant

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Some of the earliest Latinos settled in Detroit around Bagley Street in the Hubbard Richard neighborhood, including one of the oldest Mexican restaurants in Michigan, Mexican Village Restaurant. Established in 1958, the menu here leans in on Mexican American favorites, including, burritos, crunchy flour flautas, a variety of enchilada platters, fajitas, and margaritas — all set inside a Mission-revival style white stucco building. Suburbanites can also enjoy a taste of Mexican Village at its Shelby Township location at 47350 Van Dyke Ave.

Hygrade Deli

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Detroit means business when it comes to corned beef, a popular choice year-round. For one of the best sandwiches, head to Michigan Avenue for Hygrade Deli’s iconic Reuben. A mountain of freshly sliced corned beef is layered between slices of grilled rye with kraut, Thousand Island dressing, and melty swiss cheese. Restaurateur Chuck Nolen recently took over allowing for longtime proprietor Stuart Litt to retire.

Brenna Houck

Mike's Famous Ham Place

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This no-frills lunch counter has been here since the 1950s, and not much has changed over the years. Thick, juicy ham slices are the focal point here: with eggs and toast; on a poppy-seed bun; or in a split-pet soup. Grab a whole one for the road. Cash only.

A large ham sandwich on a bun with poppy seeds. It has a slice of ham on top of the bune and a pile of pickles on the side Brenna Houck

Duly's Place Coney Island

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An oldie but goodie, this classic Coney Island in southwest Detroit is open 24 hours to satisfy those late-night cravings for a Detroit classic eat, whether for a coney, a loose burger, a hearty breakfast, or even a slice of pie and coffee. Cash only.

Giovanni's Ristorante

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For years Giovanni’s has prided itself on authentic recipes from the old country, with freshly-made pastas and sauces tracing its roots from the San Marino region of Italy. The daily specials and seasonal desserts reflect a more modern culinary approach. Step inside and be transported to old-school restaurant vibes with white tablecloths.

Al Ameer

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For more than a quarter century, Al-Ameer has been a beloved favorite among locals for top-notch Lebanese cuisine. This family-owned restaurant — with sister locations in Canton and Dearborn Heights — achieved national acclaim with a James Beard America’s Classics Award and a spot on Eater’s National 38 list. With dishes like stuffed lamb and kibbeh neyeh (raw beef mixed with bulgar, onion, and spices), it’s an essential destination for any culinary tour of metro Detroit.

Several traditional Lebanese dishes served at Al-Ameer in Dearborn set on a stone countertop
Several traditional Lebanese dishes served at Al-Ameer in Dearborn.
Bill Addison

Sweet Potato Sensations

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Sweet potatoes are on the menu here, including in the pies, waffles, cookies, and even the grits. Sweets put the restaurant on the map, but its savory menu (think fried turkey chops, salmon croquette, and black-eyed pea and collard green soup) is what makes it a daily haunt.

Sindbad's Restaurant and Marina

Around since 1949, Sindbad’s is a year-round destination with panoramic views of the Detroit River and Belle Isle. The menu at this family-owned marina still reflects longtime customer favorites: Angus steaks, perch, pickerel, shrimp, scallops, and house-made clam chowder. Arrive by boat or car.

The Whitney

Views inside the Whitney, a mansion turned restaurant The Whitney

Housed in an 1890s mansion, this palatial residence turned restaurant is arguably the city’s most celebrated. The four-course dinner menu is filled with classic American standards. Dine in the garden, or make a reservation for weekend high tea.

Views inside the Whitney, a mansion turned restaurant The Whitney

Parks Old Style Bar-B-Q

In business since 1964, Parks Old Style BBQ is a destination spot in the North End. It specializes in pit-style barbecue basted with a vinegar-based sauce. Go for meat and bread only — choosing from slabs, rib sandwich, chicken, rib tips, and wing dings — or splurge on the full dinner, which comes with two sides such as coleslaw, potato salad, and green beans.

Buddy's Pizza

A large square pepperoni pie Buddy’s Pizza [Official photo]

Founded in 1946, Buddy’s Pizza is credited with creating the Detroit-style square pie. Similar to a Sicilian tomato pizza, the square features a thick, spongy crust with caramelized cheese edges, toppings, and sauce on top. Go for the Detroiter with brick cheese, parmesan, pepperoni, sauce, and a nice spice blend.

A large square pepperoni pie Buddy’s Pizza [Official photo]

Dakota Inn Rathskeller

Dakota Inn Rathskeller

For a taste of Bavaria, stop at Dakota Inn, where wait staff dressed in traditional garb serve old standards like bratwurst, schnitzel, and warm German potato salad. The restaurant, which has been in the same family since 1933, has an old-school feel, with dark-wood furniture and paneled walls. Kick back with an imported beer at the festive live piano sing-alongs Thursday through Saturday. A quick note, it appears that Dakota Inn shuts down for vacation during the summer, but plans to reopen Aug. 3 to celebrate its 89th anniversary and sell beers at 1933 prices (5 cents for a glass and 10 cents for a stein

Dakota Inn Rathskeller

Baker's Keyboard Lounge

Baker’s opened as a sandwich joint in 1933 and began booking jazz artists the following year. Once a haunt for the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Nat “King” Cole, Sarah Vaughn, and Miles Davis, the art deco lounge still hosts nightly shows. Fans go for the soul food, too: barbecue wings and ribs, blackened catfish, and fried pork chops, for starters.

Mexican Village Restaurant

Some of the earliest Latinos settled in Detroit around Bagley Street in the Hubbard Richard neighborhood, including one of the oldest Mexican restaurants in Michigan, Mexican Village Restaurant. Established in 1958, the menu here leans in on Mexican American favorites, including, burritos, crunchy flour flautas, a variety of enchilada platters, fajitas, and margaritas — all set inside a Mission-revival style white stucco building. Suburbanites can also enjoy a taste of Mexican Village at its Shelby Township location at 47350 Van Dyke Ave.

Hygrade Deli

Brenna Houck

Detroit means business when it comes to corned beef, a popular choice year-round. For one of the best sandwiches, head to Michigan Avenue for Hygrade Deli’s iconic Reuben. A mountain of freshly sliced corned beef is layered between slices of grilled rye with kraut, Thousand Island dressing, and melty swiss cheese. Restaurateur Chuck Nolen recently took over allowing for longtime proprietor Stuart Litt to retire.

Brenna Houck

Mike's Famous Ham Place

A large ham sandwich on a bun with poppy seeds. It has a slice of ham on top of the bune and a pile of pickles on the side Brenna Houck

This no-frills lunch counter has been here since the 1950s, and not much has changed over the years. Thick, juicy ham slices are the focal point here: with eggs and toast; on a poppy-seed bun; or in a split-pet soup. Grab a whole one for the road. Cash only.

A large ham sandwich on a bun with poppy seeds. It has a slice of ham on top of the bune and a pile of pickles on the side Brenna Houck

Duly's Place Coney Island

An oldie but goodie, this classic Coney Island in southwest Detroit is open 24 hours to satisfy those late-night cravings for a Detroit classic eat, whether for a coney, a loose burger, a hearty breakfast, or even a slice of pie and coffee. Cash only.

Giovanni's Ristorante

For years Giovanni’s has prided itself on authentic recipes from the old country, with freshly-made pastas and sauces tracing its roots from the San Marino region of Italy. The daily specials and seasonal desserts reflect a more modern culinary approach. Step inside and be transported to old-school restaurant vibes with white tablecloths.

Al Ameer

Several traditional Lebanese dishes served at Al-Ameer in Dearborn set on a stone countertop
Several traditional Lebanese dishes served at Al-Ameer in Dearborn.
Bill Addison

For more than a quarter century, Al-Ameer has been a beloved favorite among locals for top-notch Lebanese cuisine. This family-owned restaurant — with sister locations in Canton and Dearborn Heights — achieved national acclaim with a James Beard America’s Classics Award and a spot on Eater’s National 38 list. With dishes like stuffed lamb and kibbeh neyeh (raw beef mixed with bulgar, onion, and spices), it’s an essential destination for any culinary tour of metro Detroit.

Several traditional Lebanese dishes served at Al-Ameer in Dearborn set on a stone countertop
Several traditional Lebanese dishes served at Al-Ameer in Dearborn.
Bill Addison

Sweet Potato Sensations

Sweet potatoes are on the menu here, including in the pies, waffles, cookies, and even the grits. Sweets put the restaurant on the map, but its savory menu (think fried turkey chops, salmon croquette, and black-eyed pea and collard green soup) is what makes it a daily haunt.

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