clock menu more-arrow no yes

The 38 Essential Detroit Restaurants, April 2014

View as Map

Spring has arrived at long last, which means it's time for a new edition of the Detroit Eater 38 . This regular feature seeks to list the city's key dining establishments (with a few representatives from the suburbs), on both the high and low end of the scale and with a special emphasis on the defining meals that make the city and region move.

This is our answer to that age-old question, "Can you recommend a restaurant..." These are not the best restaurants in the city, or the most buzzy (check the monthly Heat Map for that). These are the restaurants that represent a taste of the city. These are the places that make Detroit, (and Metro Detroit) in no particular order, other than somewhat geographic.

This time around we said "goodbye" for now to 3rd Street Bar/Dangerously Delicous Pies, Local Kitchen & Bar, and Taqueria Mi Pueblo. Nemo's Bar & Grill, Motor City Soul Food, and Cass Cafe were welcomed to the family, and will hopefully hang around for awhile.

The list is updated every quarter, with any restaurant left out or just starting up getting a fair shake in the interim. Did we leave out your classic Detroit eatery? Tell us about it and maybe we'll join you there soon.


Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. The Lark

Copy Link
6430 Farmington Rd
West Bloomfield, MI 48322
(248) 661-4466
Visit Website
It's a local classic, with old-fashioned decor and service, but it's widely regarded as the once-in-a-lifetime place to go for that very special occasion. As for what to order, is anything other than the famous rack of lamb really even an option? [Photo]

2. Noble Fish

Copy Link
45 E 14 Mile Rd
Clawson, MI 48017
(248) 585-2314
Visit Website
It's small, but the excellent sushi, which many argue is the best in all of Metro Detroit, keeps guests coming back year after year. This isn't the cheapest sushi, but it's fresh, expertly prepared, and according to sushi lovers well worth the price. [Photo]

3. Torino

Copy Link
201 E 9 Mile Rd
Ferndale, MI 48220
(248) 247-1370
Visit Website
Torino, the coffeeshop turned fashionable food icon, continues to pull in good word-of-mouth and eager potential diners. A four-star Detroit News review and a constantly changing tasting menu makes executive chef Garrett Lipar's Ferndale restaurant one the most consistently creative places to eat in the city, period. [Photo]

4. Baker's Keyboard Lounge

Copy Link
20510 Livernois Avenue
Detroit, MI 48221
(313) 345-6300
Visit Website
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. [Photo]

5. Motor City Soul Food

Copy Link
12700 W 7 Mile Rd
Detroit, MI 48235
(313) 863-7685
It's cafeteria style, the line is always huge, and they usually run out of something, but for good reason. Diners swear by the smothered pork chops, fried chicken, mac & cheese, and the peach cobbler for dessert. It's pure Detroit, and worth the tricky parking situation and the wait. [Photo]

6. La Dolce Vita

Copy Link
17546 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, MI 48203
(313) 865-0331
Visit Website
This Palmer Park hideaway does a mean brunch, but they're proudest of their classic Italian lunch and dinner menu. The shrimp are huge, the service is great, and many diners claim that the Caesar salad, made table-side, is the best they've ever had. [Photo]

7. Buddy's Pizza

Copy Link
17125 Conant Street
Hamtramck, MI 48212
(313) 892-9001
Visit Website
Buddy's Pizza is still where right you left it on Conant Street. This Motor City institution still serves its iconic square pizza, but their recent adventures in thin crust territory warrant a second look. [Photo]

8. Polish Village Cafe

Copy Link
2990 Yemans Street
Hamtramck, MI 48212
(313) 874-5726
Visit Website
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. [Photo]

9. Cadieux Cafe

Copy Link
4300 Cadieux Road
Detroit, MI 48224
(313) 882-8560
Visit Website
Though Detroit may have been founded by the French, this other Francophile institution has become a city landmark in its own right. 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. Photo

10. Cuisine

Copy Link
670 Lothrop Rd
Detroit, MI 48202
(313) 872-5110
Visit Website
Set in an historic house, chef Paul Grosz's restaurant serves "impeccable" food in a fine dining atmosphere. A favorite of the theater crowd, it's pricey, but worth it for a special occasion. [Photo]

11. Bert's Marketplace

Copy Link
Russell Street
Detroit, MI 48207
(313) 567-2030
Visit Website
Among the Eastern Market restaurants is Bert's Marketplace, where the smell of the outdoor barbeques and smokers on a Saturday morning tempts passers by and the live blues promises not just a meal, but an experience. Whether it's during the day or late at night, it's always the same; no gimmicks, just the real deal. Photo

12. Cass Cafe

Copy Link
4620 Cass Ave
Detroit, MI 48201
(313) 831-1400
Visit Website
It's a restaurant, a bar, and an art gallery in one, and people love it. Students and out of town visitors alike adore the changing decor and consistently great food, particularly the grilled cheese and lentil burgers. [Photo]

13. Motor City Brewing Works Inc

Copy Link
470 West Canfield Street
Detroit, MI 48201
(313) 832-2700
Visit Website
One of many downtown beer stations getting attention the national craft brew scene, Motor City Brewing also attracted the eye of the Detroit News' Molly Abraham, who praised the creative pizza and chili options in June. [Photo]

14. Roma Cafe

Copy Link
3401 Riopelle Street
Detroit, MI 48207
(313) 831-5940
Visit Website
Another legend, Roma Cafe is the city's oldest Italian restaurant, and its Italian-American food is only part of the reason to go. The rest is the history, and the old school ambiance. Love or hate the food, it's definitely an integral part of the city's fabric.Photo

15. Louisiana Creole Gumbo

Copy Link
2051 Gratiot Ave
Detroit, MI 48207
(313) 446-9639
Visit Website
It's right in the name, Gumbo is the dish here, served with lots of shrimp, sausage, vegetables and the like. Looking for something sweet? It's all about the peach cobbler. [Photo]

16. Russell Street Deli

Copy Link
2465 Russell Street
Detroit, MI 48207
(313) 567-2900
Visit Website
Sure, there's plenty of delicious food to be had in nearby Eastern Market. But odds are no matter what kind of food you buy, you won't be able to make sandwiches like Russell Street Deli sandwiches. Even Garrison Keillor is a fan. Why aren't you? [Photo]

17. Supino Pizzeria

Copy Link
2457 Russell St
Detroit, MI 48207
(313) 567-7879
Visit Website
It's totally acceptable to get overly excited about this Eastern Market pizzeria, especially because the crowd-pleaser is about to expand. Though there's no firm date as to when the taste gets bigger, the new space promises more seats and even more of the Supino that Detroiters love. [Photo]

18. The Rattlesnake Club

Copy Link
300 River Place Dr
Detroit, MI 48207
(313) 567-4400
Visit Website
Celebrating 25 years on the Detroit River, the Rattlesnake Club aims for a local and seasonable touch on its menus. Ringing in the summer with its so-called "power lunch," the Riverfront restaurant needs no gimmicks to win our hearts. [Photo]

19. Pegasus Tavernas

Copy Link
558 Monroe St
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 964-6800
Visit Website
The place where dreams of flaming Saganaki come roaring to life, Pegasus Tavernas has been a Greektown staple for almost 25 years. For hearty Hellenic food outside of a Coney Island, Pegasus is your best bet in metro Detroit. [Photo]

20. Cliff Bell's

Copy Link
2030 Park Ave
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 961-2543
Visit Website
Home to some of the finest jazz and impromptu storytelling in the city, Cliff Bell's also features a serious meal menu. Mac & cheese and any of an assortment of meaty appetizers are a must to start or end an evening out. [Photo]

21. Fountain Bistro

Copy Link
800 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 237-7778
Visit Website
With one of the city's most beautiful views, this romantic spot serves great food with a view of Campus Martius. It's on the pricy end, but it's a choice location for an upscale night out on the town, especially for two. Photo

22. Roast

Copy Link
1128 Washington Boulevard
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 961-2500
Visit Website
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. [Photo]

23. Lafayette Coney Island

Copy Link
118 W Lafayette Blvd
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 964-8198
There are two possible locations of the world's first coney dog. Rather than pass our judgement on that controversial debate, we will just say that we really like Lafayette's spinach pie. Their chili is also a marvel. [Photo

24. American Coney Island

Copy Link
114 West Lafayette Boulevard
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 961-7758
Visit Website
It's the other half of Detroit's infamous coney challenge, and for that reason American deserves a spot on the list. Serving up their own version of the Detroit coney dog, this diner has its own loyal following of die hard fans, and it is definitely 100% Detroit. Photo

25. Sweetwater Tavern

Copy Link
400 East Congress Street
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 962-2210
Visit Website
This place is no frills, but it has a reputation for solid food and beer in the bottle. Why do diners really love it though? Four words: Best Wings In Detroit. Photo

26. Joe Muer Seafood

Copy Link
400 Renaissance Ctr
Detroit, MI 48243
(313) 567-6837
Visit Website
The fish on the menu might not come from the adjacent Detroit River, but that doesn't mean they don't have an eye for the fresh fare. The Hour Detroit Best Restaurant of 2012 still stands on its own in 2013. [Photo]

27. London Chop House

Copy Link
155 W Congress St
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 962-0277
Visit Website
It's a classic with a storied history that has once again opened its doors. They once hosted all the elite in Detroit, and while this chop house is technically new (reopening in 2012) it's the same location, and many of the same traditions (like a rain check drink, purchased beforehand and paid for by a token). [Photo]

28. Mudgie's Deli

Copy Link
1300 Porter Street
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 961-2000
Visit Website
Mudgie's serves sandwiches. But that's not all. The deli also serves up some hearty and award-winning neighborhood goodness in the middle of Corktown. The kind of a place that people tell you to visit, and that later remind you again, in case you forgot. [Photo]

29. St. CeCe's Pub

Copy Link
1426 Bagley St
Detroit, MI 48216
(313) 962-2121
Visit Website
The kitchen at St. CeCe's gets a new chef every Tuesday. The gastropub hopes to give local chefs a chance to try out a full menu on a full night's crowd. But their normal menu gives back enough, with walnut squash cakes and noodle bowls galore. [Photo]

30. Nemo's Bar

Copy Link
1384 Michigan Ave
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 965-3180
Visit Website
They're home to Babe Ruth's Birthday Party, a St. Patrick's Day celebration like no other, opening day festivities, and many other beloved Detroit events. As for the food, they do one thing, a cheeseburger, and they do it absolutely right. [Photo]

31. Slows Bar-B-Q

Copy Link
2138 Michigan Ave
Detroit, MI 48216
(313) 962-9828
Visit Website
Okay, we get it — Slow's is written about a lot. But the food and atmosphere in the modern Corktown barbecue icon combine to make one distinctly Detroit meal. Good food, good people and a great city: Slow's has it all, and then some. [Photo]

32. Green Dot Stables

Copy Link
2200 West Lafayette Boulevard
Detroit, MI 48216
(313) 965-1523
Visit Website
A wide array of sliders and fries make a stop in Green Dot a joyful one. As a bartender recently explained, "There's no Happy Hour, because as you can see, everything is so cheap." Indeed. [Photo]

33. Hygrade Deli

Copy Link
3640 Michigan Avenue
Detroit, MI 48216
(313) 894-6620
With a long history and a loyal following, Hygrade already has all the reputation they need. It won't surprise Hygrade fans that celebrity chef Chuck Hughes said their Reuben was the best thing he ate during his week in the city, but why stop there? Everything else gets rave reviews too. [Photo]

34. El Barzon Restaurante

Copy Link
3710 Junction Street
Detroit, MI 48210
(313) 894-2070
Visit Website
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. [Photo]

35. Taqueria El Rey

Copy Link
4730 W Vernor Hwy
Detroit, MI 48209
(313) 357-3094
It's a tiny little restaurant on Vernor, but it's much beloved and yet still underrated according to Eater readers. The chicken is what sets it apart from all the other local taquerias, and what amazing chicken it is. [Photo]

36. Duly's Place

Copy Link
5458 West Vernor Highway
Detroit, MI 48209
(313) 554-3076
Move over Lafayette and American, Duly's has the best coney's hands down. That's what the 24hour joints fans say anyways, and with Anothony Bourdain among them, maybe they have a point. [Photo]

37. New Yasmeen Bakery

Copy Link
13900 West Warren Avenue
Dearborn, MI 48126
(313) 582-6035
Visit Website
Don't let the name bakery fool you, New Yasmeen is much more than that. For Middle Eastern staples like Kibbeh and spinach or meat pies, and of course the desserts and baked goods are in a class of their own. [Photo]

38. Giovanni's Ristorante

Copy Link
330 Oakwood Boulevard
Detroit, MI 48217
(313) 841-0122
Visit Website
Amazing Italian food and a star studded history (think Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett), and decades of consistently great everything has earned Giovanni's quite a reputation. [Photo]

Loading comments...

1. The Lark

6430 Farmington Rd, West Bloomfield, MI 48322
It's a local classic, with old-fashioned decor and service, but it's widely regarded as the once-in-a-lifetime place to go for that very special occasion. As for what to order, is anything other than the famous rack of lamb really even an option? [Photo]
6430 Farmington Rd
West Bloomfield, MI 48322

2. Noble Fish

45 E 14 Mile Rd, Clawson, MI 48017
It's small, but the excellent sushi, which many argue is the best in all of Metro Detroit, keeps guests coming back year after year. This isn't the cheapest sushi, but it's fresh, expertly prepared, and according to sushi lovers well worth the price. [Photo]
45 E 14 Mile Rd
Clawson, MI 48017

3. Torino

201 E 9 Mile Rd, Ferndale, MI 48220
Torino, the coffeeshop turned fashionable food icon, continues to pull in good word-of-mouth and eager potential diners. A four-star Detroit News review and a constantly changing tasting menu makes executive chef Garrett Lipar's Ferndale restaurant one the most consistently creative places to eat in the city, period. [Photo]
201 E 9 Mile Rd
Ferndale, MI 48220

4. Baker's Keyboard Lounge

20510 Livernois Avenue, Detroit, MI 48221
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. [Photo]
20510 Livernois Avenue
Detroit, MI 48221

5. Motor City Soul Food

12700 W 7 Mile Rd, Detroit, MI 48235
It's cafeteria style, the line is always huge, and they usually run out of something, but for good reason. Diners swear by the smothered pork chops, fried chicken, mac & cheese, and the peach cobbler for dessert. It's pure Detroit, and worth the tricky parking situation and the wait. [Photo]
12700 W 7 Mile Rd
Detroit, MI 48235

6. La Dolce Vita

17546 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48203
This Palmer Park hideaway does a mean brunch, but they're proudest of their classic Italian lunch and dinner menu. The shrimp are huge, the service is great, and many diners claim that the Caesar salad, made table-side, is the best they've ever had. [Photo]
17546 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, MI 48203

7. Buddy's Pizza

17125 Conant Street, Hamtramck, MI 48212
Buddy's Pizza is still where right you left it on Conant Street. This Motor City institution still serves its iconic square pizza, but their recent adventures in thin crust territory warrant a second look. [Photo]
17125 Conant Street
Hamtramck, MI 48212

8. Polish Village Cafe

2990 Yemans Street, Hamtramck, MI 48212