11 decadent Detroit comfort foods 

A city abounds with dishes that fill you with warmth

Chicken and Waffles

New Center Eatery

3100 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit

313-875-0088

In all the years New Center Eatery has been open in Detroit's New Center, it has counted the political elite and local celebs among its clientele. But despite the always gracious hospitality, there's one thing you're never going to get from the staff, and that's the secret to their chicken and waffles, the restaurant's staple menu item. "We've never given it to anyone," the restaurant's manager says during a busy afternoon. But there are tips to trying it at home. Make sure your waffle is as crisp on the outside as the skin on your chicken; soggy waffles or undercooked chicken make for imbalance.

Gnocchi con Chorizo

El Barzón

3710 Junction St., Detroit

313-894-2070

El Barzón quickly became known in Southwest Detroit for its skillful balance of Italian and Mexican cuisine, no doubt an homage to the immigrant communities that have populated the area for decades. So when customers began asking for special requests that blended the two cuisines, the staff was more than accommodating. One of the dishes born from that blend was gnocchi con chorizo, which mixes the Italian potato pasta with the spicy Mexican sausage. "We were thinking of what would be a good idea, and instead of Italian sausage we did chorizo," chef Norberto Garita says. Cream sauce is the key that ties the two together. "You can try anything at home," Garita says with a laugh. "It will be good, but it won't be as good as you have it here."

BBQ Pulled Pork Pie

Dangerously Delicious Pies

Inside Third Street Bar

4626 Third St, Detroit

313-833-0603

Dangerously Delicious Pies has found a nice, if hidden, niche, dishing out sweet and savory slices of baked pie in a corner of Third Street Bar in Detroit's rapidly expanding Midtown neighborhood. On one side are your typical fruit pies — apple, peach, and the like. But those don't always pair well with Third Street's beer selection, which is why their savory options — the ham and cheese, the ratatouille, and the favorite, barbecue pulled pork — often go fast. The key to the pulled pork is to slow-roast the pork for 12 hours, mixing in sweet and spicy peppers halfway through the cooking process.

Cajun Chicken and Waffles

Faustina's

16155 Wyoming St., Detroit

313-397-8010

There's reason to celebrate at Faustina's, the longtime New Orleans-style restaurant in Detroit's Marygrove neighborhood, since Latanya Garrett, wife of one of the eatery's proprietors, was just elected to serve District 7 in the State House of Representatives this month. On the campaign trail, she was behind the counter ringing up customers lining up for Anthony Faustina's Cajun chicken and waffles, the restaurant's best-seller. "The recipe is five generations old, and I was asked to never give it out," Faustina says. But he says the chicken is marinated 72 hours in a special Cajun spice blend before it's served up, each and every day. "No one else has it in Michigan," she says. "I'm the only one in Detroit that has it."

Funghi Pizza

Ottava Via

1400 Michigan Ave., Detroit

313-962-5500

Like any restaurant that opens in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood, Ottava Via got a lot of buzz in before it opened, which can set a high standard for hip and hungry Detroiters when opening day arrives. True, the upscale Italian bistro is new to the scene, but it's finding its groove with modern versions of homemade favorites. Lately, the staff has been steering patrons to its funghi pizza, a shareable dish baked with white cheese and truffle oil. "One of my boss's daughters really liked truffle butter pasta, so it only seemed fit to use it on the pizza — without the pasta, of course," says Chef Ariel Millan. Anyone can try it on their own, so long as they have "quality, local, organic mushrooms — it's all quality ingredients," Millan says.

Mascarpone-Stuffed French Toast

La Dolce Vita

17546 Woodward Ave., Detroit

313-865-0331

While IHOP stuffs its French toast with cream cheese, La Dolce Vita, the Italian favorite tucked way on the edge of Detroit's Palmer Park neighborhood, gives patrons a more upscale version by taking two slices of thick, fresh-baked bread and inserting a layer of fresh mascarpone in between. It's a brunch favorite, according to the staff, but takes precision to pull off at home. Fresh ingredients, particularly the cheese,

are a must.

Sliders With Everything

Telway Hamburgers

6820 Michigan Ave., Detroit

313-843-2146

There are two rules at Telway Hamburgers: Bring cash, and you can't sit down with a takeout order. There are two locations, one in Madison Heights and one in Detroit, and both have stayed true to the old-school white-diner-on-the-corner aesthetic from days gone by. But they're busy. Crazy busy. Order up a batch of four sliders with everything — mustard, ketchup, pickles, onions — for $3. There's no secret sauce here, just make sure the onions are grilled and hot upon serving and the buns are steamed, line cooks say at the Detroit location.

Jollof Rice

Lagos

fromlagos.com

It didn't take long for Tunde Wey to make his mark on the local restaurant scene, opening two spots — Revolver in Hamtramck and the controversial Goldfinch American in Detroit's Hubbard Farms neighborhood — in less than two years. Fears of gentrification have seemed to quiet after Goldfinch was renamed Lagos. But Wey, a Nigerian immigrant, is now taking his show on the road on a nationwide pop-up restaurant tour. Wey's Jollof Rice has been a hit here and on the road. "It's sort of a versatile staple because while it's a frequently prepared dish, it has a more laborious preparation process and hence it's a much more vaunted sibling of plain boiled rice," Wey says. "The dish just smacks of celebration — in fact there's a variation of the dish, when it's cooked over an open fire benefiting from the rich aroma of firewood, sometimes colloquially called 'party jollof.'"

Risotto

Giovanni's

330 Oakwood Blvd., Detroit

313-841-0122

Though it's often a side dish with some of the bigger pasta, chicken, or fish dinners, the always versatile risotto at Giovanni's, the venerable Italian restaurant bordering Detroit and the Downriver suburbs, has earned a reputation among diners in its own right as a standalone. Rotating based on the season — seafood sometimes, parmesan others — it's only been on the menu for about a decade. Risotto itself is difficult to pull off at home, but Chef Randy Truant has a few suggestions: Always use Arborio rice, cook rice until it's translucent, and ladle in (don't pour in) hot chicken stock.

Ham sandwich

Mike's Famous Ham Place

3700 Michigan Ave., Detroit

313-894-6922

There's a reason that, despite being in business for almost 50 years and weathering nearly every storm that's hit Detroit — including emerging from bankruptcy — that Mike's Famous Ham Place closes at 3 p.m. sharp every day. It's because Mike and his dedicated staff spend three hours each and every morning preparing fresh, whole hams to be sliced in thick chunks and layered on poppyseed buns. "Sometimes you get what you pay for," Mike says — and indeed you do. Sandwiches are the only thing on the menu, save for a few ham-based breakfasts, and they come in the $6 size and the $8.50 size. The slow-cooking is what keeps them tender, as overcooking can dry out the pork.

Tortilla Soup

El Asador

1312 Springwells St., Detroit

313-297-2360

At El Asador in Detroit's Springwells neighborhood, diners are immediately asked which soup they want to warm up with. The favorite is often the tortilla soup, a brilliant, spicy orange dish garnished with tomatoes, cilantro, avocado, chihuahua cheese, and broken tortilla chips. Chef Luis Garza prepares the soup by first roasting tomatoes and olive oil in an oven, and toasting guajillo chiles and pasilla chiles, which give the soup its fire. All of them are combined in a soup pot and cooked with onion, garlic, and more chiles before being puréed in a food processor with tortilla chips.

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