The 38 Essential Detroit Restaurants, Summer 2017
Restaurant recommendations for any occasion
It's time for the summer 2017 edition of the Detroit Eater 38. The 38 is Eater's answer to that age-old question, "Can you recommend a restaurant...?" This quarterly list seeks to identify city's key dining establishments (with a few representatives from the suburbs). Eligible restaurants have been overlooked in the past, have stepped up their game, and have been open for at least six months.
Longtime members Pupusería y Restaurante Salvadoreño, Cloverleaf, and Bacco Ristorante are leaving the map this month to make way for Buddy's Rendezvous, The Farmer's Hand, and Phoenicia. Former establishments featured on the Eater 38 are preserved for posterity in the forums. Here, now, are essential restaurants that represent the city's flavor, history, and style.
Restaurants are listed geographically. Not satisfied with the list we've assembled? Make your case in the comments, Twitter, or Facebook.
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It claims to be "the world's oldest jazz bar" and whether or not that's true doesn't really matter. Baker's is a Detroit icon, with an incredible history and soul food menu to match. The fried chicken is everyone's favorite, so don't miss it, and of course the entertainment is legendary.
With love from Anthony Bourdain from back in his Travel Channel days and a beer menu that's hard to beat, Cadieux Cafe proves that it really is beautiful to be Belgian.
Detroit has plenty of highly recommended square pies, but for a slice of New York-style pizza Supino’s reigns supreme. More recently the restaurant expanded into the neighboring restaurant space. There's now more dine-in seating plus beer, wine and a few new dishes to try.
Chef Michael Symon keeps winning prizes and making friends with his Westin Book Cadillac restaurant, and it isn't hard to see why. With some of the best happy hour specials in town, plus a meaty main menu that would make any carnivore drool, this is anything but your average hotel dining room.
This horse racing-themed bar and restaurant is known far and wide for its sliders. The mini burgers come in flavors like Kentucky hot browns, fried bologna, and a rotating "mystery meat." Mix and match a few with a paper boat of fries and an affordable $3 cocktail.
How many Mexican Italian restaurants are there? Probably not that many, and maybe for good reason, but El Barzon is different, with top-notch Mexican food and incredible homemade pasta in the same meal, this restaurant creates a memorable experience that you can't find anywhere else.
A fixture in downtown Detroit since the 80s, this old-fashioned speakeasy offers a no-frills experience with loads of culture. Favorited by Hollywood types looking for a relaxed atmosphere, visitors to this weekends-only night spot are treated more like family than customers. Better yet? The bar now offers a rotating grilled cheese to soak up those libations.
Although it boasts an impeccable menu of modern French cuisine and craft cocktails, Antietam’s standout trait is its carefully honed atmosphere. The dim lighting emanating from knit-chain draped lamps, jewel-toned bar chairs, and other antique details bring out the best in this revitalized Art Deco building near Eastern Market.
Mudgie's serves sandwiches. But that's not all. The deli also offers up some hearty and award-winning neighborhood goodness in the middle of Corktown. It's the kind of a place that people tell you to visit, and that later remind you again, in case you forgot.
Detroit has more than its fair share of fish 'n chips joints, but Scotty Simpson’s in Brightmoor stands out for its fresh ingredients, simple menu, and vintage — circa 1950 — charm.
Wright & Co. tows the line between casual and fine dining, and manages to strike the perfect balance for downtown Detroit. Chef Marc Djozlija shows off his expert knowledge in the kitchen, honed at Wolfgang Puck’s MGM Grand restaurants, while bar side, partner Dave Kwiatkowski’s influence shines through with a daring craft cocktail list.
Hamtramck still has its Polish gems, and Polish Village Cafe is certainly the crown jewel. The little basement restaurant serves a mean pierogi, and some lesser-known classics like dill pickle soup are also sure to please the more adventurous. It's not fancy, but it's an icon in its own way, and it has been around forever.
Chef Andy Hollyday's New American style menu features a rotating array of seasonal small plates in a refined, modern atmosphere. Look out for dishes like lamb ribs, rabbit ragu, and grilled whole trout alongside a diverse selection of cocktails, beers, wines, and ciders. As a policy, the Cass Corridor restaurant always keeps the majority of its seats available for walk-ins.
This West Vernor restaurant has a brief menu suited towards both takeout and dine-in. The barbecued chicken coated in a mild, smokey rub is what sets it apart from a pack of other local taquerias, but the tacos, burritos, and tortas are all equally fresh and satisfying.
Outside of Madison Heights, it’s a challenge to find pho in Detroit. Thankfully Detroit's Pho Lucky offers traditional bowls of Vietnamese pho in large and extra large sizes. Get adventurous with the house special made with rare eye round steak, cooked beef, meatballs, tripe, and tendon.
While the phrase "fresh, local ingredients" are tired buzzwords, here it's far from cliche. The simple menu brings out the best in its quality ingredients. Don't leave without trying one of the scratch-made baked goods and a cup of coffee served in a charming antique teacup.
For a taste of Detroit's brewing renaissance a visit to Batch is a sure bet. Communal tables and micro-batch beers encourage conversation. The food is also surprisingly good and puts many other brew pub ventures to shame.
With a fresh rotation of seasonal pies, cookies, and other sweet and savory treats Sister Pie has already turned into a Detroit destination. Lisa Ludwinski's bakes even received the high praise of Eater's roving restaurant editor who summed up his Sister Pie experience this way: "Holy happiness."
It's more about the experience than the food at Ernie's Market. Step inside on a typical weekday and expect a wait and a show as the owner greets chats with every guest, slipping them Hershey's kisses over the counter while preparing fresh sandwiches made to order on fresh onion rolls. Cash only.
Helmed by chef/owner Luis Garza, this sophisticated steak and seafood restaurant in the Springwells neighborhood of Southwest broadens the horizons Mexican cuisine in Detroit. Guacamole here is prepared tableside so the flavors are at their freshest. Visit during lunch for a slimmed-down menu with lobster and scallop tacos or venture in during the dinner hour for steaks drizzled in poblano pepper sauce and Cazuela de Mariscos, a seafood stew swimming in smoked chili broth.
Just across the street from the Detroit Institute of Arts, Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails is the latest venture by the owners of lauded Ferndale cocktail bar The Oakland and boasts a well-honed beverage program. But the real story at this Midtown eatery is its lunch and outstanding dinner menu of small plates. Chef Doug Hewitt's seasonal dishes are beautifully composed to let the flavors of his fresh ingredients shine their brightest.
Detroit's only National 38 member is also a James Beard American Classic honoree. Of course, metro Detroiters already knew Al-Ameer was great long before the awards began flooding in. This Dearborn culinary gem with clean, understated decor offers an outstanding Lebanese dining experience with knowledgeable service. For a full-scale tasting try the maza — plates of fresh pita, hummus, spiced kibbeh nayeh, and more served family-style.
Located in a quiet corner building in Corktown, Le Petit Zinc is known for its freshly made crepes (both sweet and savory) and espresso. In the summer, it's particularly pleasant to sit outside on the garden patio and enjoy a casual brunch or lunch with a friend.
Hit this Greektown staple for late-night gyro fix. The restaurant isn't fancy, but the reasonable prices and hours make it an essential part of the Detroit diet.
Nearly always packed, this trendy Ferndale establishment boasts an outstanding beer list and excellent food. The fried chicken is good for sharing, the sliders will curb hunger pangs, and the chef's monthly menu takeovers are consistently filled with interesting and exciting plates. Sit at the bar in front of the open kitchen and watch the carefully timed dance of kitchen staff working the fryer and preparing plates. Don't forget to stick around for dessert — a rotating soft serve ice cream option that's always creative and tasty.
Hamtramck is home to a vibrant Bangladeshi community and Amar Pizza fuses those traditions with American and Italian flavors. Fan favorites include the dry fish pizza with, shrimp, garlic, onions, cilantro, and fish paste sauce, as well as the famed (and very spicy) ghost pizza which terrorized the tastebuds of chef Andrew Zimmern on the show "Bizarre Foods."
James Rigato, of "Top Chef," fame is turning heads across the country with his Michigan-influenced, improvisational tasting menus at Mabel Gray. The Hazel Park restaurant, named one of Eater National's Best New Restaurants in America, is small, intimate, and unpretentious — happily serving cheffy burgers a la carte alongside low brow beers or sparkling wines. While drop-ins can sometimes secure a seat at the bar, making a reservation in advance is highly recommended.
Part of the revival of Detroit's Avenue of Fashion strip, this Southern-influenced restaurant serves chicken and waffles in a variety of iterations. Most come with a thin, slightly spiced waffle though you can find a Belgian red velvet version on offer. Order a plate with classic sides like collard greens and salty, buttery grits, alongside sweet tea or kool aid (in a jar, of course).
For a late-night Coney dog with a satisfying snap or a hulking-yet-wallet-friendly breakfast of bacon, eggs, and pancakes, this Vernor Highway diner is the place to be. With more than 90 years under its belt this Anthony Bourdain-approved spot continues to dole out Coney Island classics with consistency and the ambiance worthy of an essential greasy spoon. Cash-only.
Serving the Cass Corridor neighborhood, Avalon trades in exceptional pastries and bread made primarily with organic, local ingredients while fostering a community-minded business that gives others in the area a leg up. Whether you're looking for a vegan oatmeal raisin cookie or a flavorful loaf of Motown Multigrain this spot is ready to fill order.
A haven for vegetarians, West Village's casual Detroit Vegan Soul offers healthy alternatives to traditional soul food dishes like "catfish" tofu, macaroni and cheese, and smothered tempeh. The menu caters to customers with challenging dietary restrictions with plenty of gluten-free options. That doesn't mean the restaurant skimps on flavor, though. Even carnivores will find something to love here.
Brunch is any time of day meal at this downtown eatery. Located inside the Chrysler House (aka the Dime Building), diners flock daily to Dime Store for its consistently attentive service and delicious menu that includes items like duck bop hash, spicy pork belly eggs benedict, and a duck reuben sandwich.
This downtown bar manages to bridge the gap between classy and casual while churning out phenomenal, original cocktails. While beverages like the vibrant green Snake in the Grass steal the show, the menu is full of delicious dishes like classic cheeseburgers, curry braised lamb, and green chile stew.
A landmark in old Redford, Sweet Potato Sensations has been infusing sweet and savory treats with the flavor of that eponymous tuber for more than 20 years. From pies to cobblers and ice cream, this neighborhood favorite does it all, but the weekly chicken and sweet potato waffle special is worth the visit.