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a coney dog, a plastic cup of brown cola, and a plate of french fries
A coney dog and french fries at American Coney Island.
Michelle and Chris Gerard

27 Iconic Detroit Dishes

A bucket list of the Motor City’s most important classic and contemporary meals from coneys to salted maple pie

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A coney dog and french fries at American Coney Island.
| Michelle and Chris Gerard

No matter how long a person has lived in Detroit, there's always something else to try: another rib shack, a new style of pizza, or a Lebanese mainstay. That’s because the Motor City, in short, is packed with flavor.

Detroit encompasses so many square miles and diverse cultures, so it's tough to pare its goodness into a short list of iconic local dishes, but it’s worth a try. Below is a primer on the most delicious, most iconic, and most utterly Detroit items the city has to offer right now, from coneys to square pizza to a plate of botana.

Undoubtedly, there will be some disagreement and perhaps some dishes missed. Give us your feedback at the tipline.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Al-Ameer Restaurant: Stuffed Lamb

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The stuffed lamb at this nationally-recognized restaurant should not be overlooked. Each plate is filled with tender, slow-cooked pieces of lamb topped with slivered almonds or pine nuts over rice. The “stuffed” part is somewhat of a misnomer, but a phenomenal eating experience all the same.

Telway Hamburgers: Slider

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For bonafide sliders and cheap coffee head to Telway, southwest Detroit's 24/7 burger spot. The burgers at this greasy spoon taste best late at night. Order by the bag for just a few bucks. Cards are reluctantly excepted here, but cash is preferred.

Pollo Chapin: Fried Chicken

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This longtime favorite on Junction Avenue serves some of the best fried chicken in the city. Pollo Chapin pays homage to its Guatemalan heritage by pairing the fried bird with plenty of pickled cabbage and beets, a dinner roll, and creamy macaroni and cheese. Ad a little bite to the drum sticks with a glug of Valentina.

A plate of fried chicken with a roll on the side, pickled beets and cabbage, and a tamal wrapped in tin foil.
Fried chicken from Pollo Chapin.
Brenna Houc/Eater

Armando's Mexican Restaurant: Botana

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While “botana” is just a general word for “snack” in Spanish, in Detroit the word refers to a very specific nacho-like dish. Armando’s botana features corn chips loaded with beans, chorizo, Muenster cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato, avocado, bell pepper, onions, and jalapeños. For a classic Detroit flaming cheese-meets-Mexicantown moment add an order of queso flameado.

Mike's Famous Ham Place: Ham Sandwich

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Many of Detroit’s old diners serve sliced ham sandwiches, but Mike's Famous has one of the best. The ham is sliced thick and served on a poppy seed roll with pickles, mustard, and maybe a little ham garnish on top.

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

Hygrade Deli: Corned Beef Sandwich

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Head to Michigan Avenue near Hubbard Street for Hygrade Deli’s iconic Reuben sandwich. A mountain of freshly sliced corned beef is layered between slices of grilled rye with kraut, Thousand Island dressing, and melty swiss cheese. It even comes with a pickle on the side.

A reuben sandwich from hygrade deli sliced in half with about an inch and a half of corned beef between two slices of toasted bread Brenna Houck

Mercury Burger & Bar: Hummer Milkshake or Boston Cooler

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Two of Detroit’s invented drinks are served at Mercury. The Hummer milkshake is a boozy concoction of rum, coffee liquor, vanilla ice cream, and a swirl of fresh whipped cream, while the Boston Cooler features a Detroit original — Vernor’s ginger ale — in a non-alcoholic ice cream float.

Slows Bar B-Q: Yardbird Sandwich

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An essential stop for barbecue, this Michigan Avenue restaurant’s Yardbird Sandwich is one of the most popular items on the menu, and it’s not hard to see why. Pulled, smoked chicken is coated in sauce and piled onto Zingerman’s bread along with sauteed mushrooms, cheddar, and applewood bacon.

A sandwich overflowing with saucy chicken and two slices of bacon across the top. Slows

American Coney Island: Coney Dog

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In the never-ending debate over which coney island is better, American often gets props for its coney dog recipe, which naturally features loose chili sauce, chopped white onions, and mustard with a hot dog on a steamed bun.

Lafayette Coney Island: Chili Fries

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If a single coney at Lafayette doesn't fill a person up, order a plate of fries topped with the house chili. It's not fancy, but it's a staple in the Detroit diner diet.

Karl's: Pancakes

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Chef Kate Williams originally debut her stack of perfectly fluffy pancakes at Corktown’s Lady of the House. However, when the pandemic stole that restaurant away from the city, the recipe found its way to her delightful dinette in the Siren Hotel. Head up to the second floor for brunch and order a plate for the table topped with a slab of butter and a snowy layer of powdered sugar.

Supino Pizzeria: A Slice

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This beloved Eastern Market pizzeria now has two locations and is still a good bet for a big, thin slice and a soda. Slices come in cheese, pepperoni, and a rotating special. Take your pick and they’ll box it up for you piping hot from the oven for just a few bucks.

A slice of cheese pizza in a to-go box. Brenna Houck

Bert's Market Place: Ribs

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Long a staple at Eastern Market, Bert’s Market Place is the quintessential outdoor experience. Ribs are cooked outside with the smoke wafting enticingly off the grill to one’s nose. Go for the ribs, stay for the live jazz.

Louisiana Creole Gumbo: Gumbo Supreme

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Get the full New Orleans-style treatment at this local favorite. Established by Louisianans in the ‘70s, the restaurant uses a collection of family recipes to make its po’ boys, red beans and rice, and jambalaya. The gumbo is a particular treat, which comes in several versions including Supreme filled with Andouille sausage, chicken, and shrimp. Order carryout online from the Eastern Market (expected to close sometime in 2022) and Seven Mile locations, or head to Farmington Hills where the restaurant offers a little more seating.

Bucharest Grill: Chicken Shawarma

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There's shawarma, and then there's the Bucharest chicken shawarma. The chicken is marinated and grilled on a flat top. Then the whole thing is wrapped in a pita with house garlic sauce, pickle, accompanying veggies, and, of course, French fries.

A box of Bucharest shawarma wrapped in tin foil to-go. Bucharest Grill

Food Exchange Restaurant: The Big Baby

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Located on Harper Avenue in Detroit, this hole-in-the-wall restaurant is home to the Big Baby: a 12-ounce patty topped with corned beef, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, American and Swiss cheese, ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise. It’s big enough to split it with a friend and is available for carryout or delivery. Place orders by phone or online.

An employee holds the Big Baby sliced in half at Food Exchange.
The Big Baby at Food Exchange.
Michelle and Chris Gerard

Sister Pie: Salted Maple Pie

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Beloved bakery Sister Pie in West Village serves up great pastries using Michigan ingredients. While the flavors rotate monthly and seasonally, the salted maple pie is a standard-bearer that tastes great any time of year — especially with a dab of whipped cream on top.

Cadieux Cafe: Mussels

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This Flemish bar and feather bowling destination serves up Belgian beers with bowls of steaming hot mussels. Select from a choice of white wine and garlic, Cajun-style, or garlic-lemon butter and dill.

New Palace Bakery: Pączki

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There’s no shortage of places in Hamtramck and metro Detroit to find paczki on Fat Tuesday, but New Palace Bakery offers the greatest variety of the Polish pastry with new flavors introduced every year. The doughnuts — sometimes frosted or dusted with powdered sugar — are filled with a variety of creams and jellies.

Polonia Restaurant: Dill Pickle Soup

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This quaint but lively Polish restaurant in Hamtramck is filled with character and makes a mean dill pickle soup to boot. The sharp dill flavor is complemented by notes of lemon. Order a cup before digging into plates of city chicken and pierogi.

Amar Pizza: Ghost Pizza

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Hamtramck offers a variety of options for Bangladeshi cuisine including the Bangladeshi-influenced takeout pizza shop Amar. Among the tandoori chicken pizzas and dried fish, the extra -spicy Ghost pizza topped with chicken, red onion, cilantro, and ghost pepper sauce has a serious fan base.

Buddy's: Detroit-Style Pizza

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Iconic Buddy's Pizza is credited with creating the original Detroit-style square pie. Similar to a Sicilian tomato pizza, the square features a thicker, spongier crust with caramelized cheese edges, toppings, and sauce on top. The Detroiter with brick cheese, parmesan, pepperoni, sauce, and a spice blend is particularly gooey and delicious.

Phoenicia: Dry-Rubbed Ribs

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It’s known for its high-end Lebanese cuisine, but Phoenicia’s most unexpected and beloved dish is the dry-rubbed pork ribs. The ribs are cooked, marinated, and cooked again under a broiler with a slightly spicy, secret dry-rub mix. While the meat doesn’t fall off the bone, it’s tender and exceptionally flavorful. Sauce is optional. Diners-in-the-know order them "Samy-style" — extra crispy with more dry rub. Dine in or pick up a meal curbside.

Chef Greg's Soul-N-The Wall: Boogaloo Wonderland

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When it comes to Detroit sandwiches, few have achieved the legendary status of the Boogaloo Wonderland at Chef Greg’s Soul-N-the Wall: a hoagie topped with beef, tangy red sauce, American cheese, and caramelized onions. This hole-in-the-wall’s signature dish is a nod to an original recipe at the now-shuttered Brothers Bar-B-Q and to the late “Boogie Wonderland” songwriter Allee Willis.

Sweet Potato Sensations: Sweet Potato Pie

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Sweet potato ice cream, chicken and sweet potato waffles, sweet potato cookies and cornbread — Sweet Potato Sensations does it all, working hard to preserve the legacy of George Washington Carver. Headed to the Old Redford neighborhood eatery? Try the pie first.

Scotty Simpson’s: Fish and Chips

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For more than 70 years, Scotty Simpson's Fish & Chips has faithfully served big, beautiful plates of fish and chips in Brightmoor. The house specialty is the fresh Nova Scotian cod fish and chips platter served with fries, coleslaw, tartar sauce, and a roll. Frog legs are also available for the curious diner. Cash and checks accepted.

Asian Corned Beef: Corned Beef Egg Roll

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Founded in the 1970s, this unassuming Detroit carryout deli chain has gone on to inspire numerous imitations of its signature dish: the corned beef egg roll. The fried wonton envelopes come filled with everything from corned beef and melty swiss cheese to steak. They’re big, hot, and less than $5. An order comes with packets of orange duck sauce.

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Al-Ameer Restaurant: Stuffed Lamb

The stuffed lamb at this nationally-recognized restaurant should not be overlooked. Each plate is filled with tender, slow-cooked pieces of lamb topped with slivered almonds or pine nuts over rice. The “stuffed” part is somewhat of a misnomer, but a phenomenal eating experience all the same.

Telway Hamburgers: Slider

For bonafide sliders and cheap coffee head to Telway, southwest Detroit's 24/7 burger spot. The burgers at this greasy spoon taste best late at night. Order by the bag for just a few bucks. Cards are reluctantly excepted here, but cash is preferred.

Pollo Chapin: Fried Chicken

A plate of fried chicken with a roll on the side, pickled beets and cabbage, and a tamal wrapped in tin foil.
Fried chicken from Pollo Chapin.
Brenna Houc/Eater

This longtime favorite on Junction Avenue serves some of the best fried chicken in the city. Pollo Chapin pays homage to its Guatemalan heritage by pairing the fried bird with plenty of pickled cabbage and beets, a dinner roll, and creamy macaroni and cheese. Ad a little bite to the drum sticks with a glug of Valentina.

A plate of fried chicken with a roll on the side, pickled beets and cabbage, and a tamal wrapped in tin foil.
Fried chicken from Pollo Chapin.
Brenna Houc/Eater

Armando's Mexican Restaurant: Botana

While “botana” is just a general word for “snack” in Spanish, in Detroit the word refers to a very specific nacho-like dish. Armando’s botana features corn chips loaded with beans, chorizo, Muenster cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato, avocado, bell pepper, onions, and jalapeños. For a classic Detroit flaming cheese-meets-Mexicantown moment add an order of queso flameado.

Mike's Famous Ham Place: Ham Sandwich

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

Many of Detroit’s old diners serve sliced ham sandwiches, but Mike's Famous has one of the best. The ham is sliced thick and served on a poppy seed roll with pickles, mustard, and maybe a little ham garnish on top.

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

Hygrade Deli: Corned Beef Sandwich

A reuben sandwich from hygrade deli sliced in half with about an inch and a half of corned beef between two slices of toasted bread Brenna Houck

Head to Michigan Avenue near Hubbard Street for Hygrade Deli’s iconic Reuben sandwich. A mountain of freshly sliced corned beef is layered between slices of grilled rye with kraut, Thousand Island dressing, and melty swiss cheese. It even comes with a pickle on the side.

A reuben sandwich from hygrade deli sliced in half with about an inch and a half of corned beef between two slices of toasted bread Brenna Houck

Mercury Burger & Bar: Hummer Milkshake or Boston Cooler