Andiamo Detroit Riverfront 400 Renaissance Center, Detroit; 313-567-6700: The Andiamo empire, now entering its 20th year in the business, has prospered and grown into a constellation of suburban eateries. Making its bid for downtown Detroit's dining crowd, expect the menu to have the usual tweaks Chef Aldo works into the mini-chain's individual establishments, this time integrated into Detroit's RenCen. Unlike many of the center's other dining destinations, this one is easy to find, right on the river in the sunny Winter Garden.
Angelina Italian Bistro 1565 Broadway, at Grand Circus Park; Detroit, 313-962-1355: A newcomer to the downtown dining scene, Angelina serves Italian food (and some extras) at "prices that reflect the new reality" — at least when it comes to the entrées and the wines. There are only three pasta dishes (four if you count the potato-and-flour gnocchi) and three pizzas. The sophisticated Italian menu is supplemented by some fabulous cured and smoked fish and meats as antipasti and by a few dishes that would be comfortable on any menu, such as New York strip, salmon and a pork chop.
Atlas Global Bistro 3111 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-831-2241: Voted by our readers as the best affordably expensive restaurant (under $50 per diner), Atlas has the vibe of a hip city eatery thanks to its striking interiors, knowledgeable service and international cuisine. In Atlas' quirky kitchen, ingredients don't necessarily remain with their cuisine-of-origin, and the fusion fare can be at once exotic and down-home, mixing it up with lemongrass, cactus, Gorgonzola, caviar and black-eyed peas. And Atlas simply oozes hip urban cachet, nestled in the Addison Building, with its high ceilings, polished floors and street views of Detroit's historic Brush Park.
Bookies Bar & Grille 2208 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-962-0319: A downtown fixture for more than six years, this March Bookies moved into a new spot on Cass Avenue, out among the tailgaters' lots on the west side of downtown. But don't let the remove fool you: On game days, it's right in the heart of things, sporting enough plasma screens to warm the heart of any sports fan.
Bourbon Steak 1777 Third St., (inside MGM Grand Detroit), Detroit; 1-877-888-2121: We've heard quite a buzz about this place over the last several months. Open only for dinner Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. until 11 p.m., and on Sunday thru Thursday 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. Featuring self-dubbed "modern American classics" all-beef burgers and Colorado lamb.
Cliff Bell's 2030 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-961-2543: Stepping into the newly restored art deco live jazz bar with an even more recently opened kitchen is to arrive in another era: One of candlelit tables, a stunning curved bar and massive barrel-vaulted ceilings. That and the way they mix a cocktail. Neither cheap nor fast, mixed drinks are crafted old-school, more for taste than ease of production. Their new menu has some surprisingly fortifying fare, at prices that, given the live entertainment, are a bargain.
Coach Insignia 200 Renaissance Center, Detroit; 313-567-2622: The "crown jewel" of the Matt Prentice Restaurant group, the second highest restaurant in the country offers a view that is the perennial winner of our Best View honors. And it earns it: It's head, shoulders and skyline above all other restaurants in town, perched spectacularly on the 71st and 72nd floors of the Marriott Hotel in the Renaissance Center.
Da Edoardo Foxtown Grille 2203 Woodward, Detroit; 313-471-3500: Though it was neglected in the old days, ever since Mike Ilitch gave the 1928 Fox Theatre a $12 million spit-shine in 1987 — and built a new ballpark across the avenue — it has become a premier location. Situated within the gloriously restored movie palace, it's worth it to check out the awesome gilt ceiling in the lobby. The dining room has floor-to-ceiling windows and a stark slate-gray paint job set off by white tablecloths and wrought-iron chandeliers of cascading calla lilies.
Detroit Beer Co. 1529 E. Broadway, Detroit; 313-962-1529: Along with such traditional pub grub as buffalo wings, nachos, quesadillas, burgers and pizza, the bar and grill offers a variety of dishes that transcend the genre, including generously portioned appetizers that emerge from their second-floor kitchen, such as seared, Cajun-seasoned chicken dippers, thoughtfully accompanied by a mildly sharp honey-mustard sauce ($8.50). Entrée-sized salads average around $8 and range from Michigan cherry and Santa Fe chicken to barbecued-chicken chop. All of this can be washed down by any of the Detroit Beer Co.'s splendid brews, including names like "People Mover Porter" and "Broadway Light."
Grand Trunk Pub 612 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-3043: There's been a buzz building about the newly renamed (formerly Foran's) pub on Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit — and with good reason: The food is good, the ambience is one-of-a-kind and the beer selection kills. The seasonal 14 Michigan brews on-tap are awesome. Expect gourmet sandwiches, including the Finnigan: chicken breast topped with fresh mozzarella, spinach and a homemade tomato-basil aioli on grilled Avalon Greektown olive for $8.50.
Harry's Detroit Bar & Grill 2482 Clifford St., Detroit; 313-964-1575: Clearly, there is a market for a sports bar with a fancy menu. Adorned with beer banners, farm implements and 10 TV monitors tuned to sports stations; the capacious, century-old former brothel is 30 yards long, with perhaps the longest bar in Detroit. Most patrons are satisfied with burgers, chili, sandwiches and drafts from Bud to boutique. There are also more than a dozen oversized appetizers, many Southwestern oriented, hefty a la carte salads, a singular, exceedingly thick, white-bean soup, and generous entrées.
Iridescence in the MotorCity Casino Hotel, 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-237-6732: With its snazzy, penthouse-high dining room atop one of Detroit's glittering new casinos, you might think Iridescence is more about style than substance. But, by their own words, they are "committed to serving organic, natural, wild and sustainable foods from today's world marketplace."
Opus One 565 E. Larned, Detroit; 313-961-7766: Etched glass and marble are lavished on downtown's handsomest restaurant. It's pure luxury all the way, with a completely upscale approach and a kitchen that makes virtually everything from scratch. The menu changes seasonally and is typified by such dishes as medallions of veal with Madeira sauce, rack of lamb, seafood en croute, and a pastry cart that is hard to resist. Excellent service is a hallmark of this 10-year-old restaurant.
Oslo 1456 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-962-7200: Oslo patrons can choose between sushi and a longish list of superior Thai dishes; the sushi is sliced and rolled by Korean-born John Riney. Tom kha, the soup with coconut milk and chicken, is both creamy and salty, with generous chunks of chicken. Drunken noodles are peppery yet luscious, the noodles fat and slippery, with a fold-in garnish of fresh basil leaves. Equally delicious was a "signature" dish called simply "Oslo udon noodles." Oslo is known to combine Oriental food with electronic music.
Roast 1128 Washington Ave., Detroit; 313-961-2500: After a $200 million renovation, the freshly scrubbed, historic facade of the Book-Cadillac contains this up-to-the-minute establishment. Unlike the 1920s flourishes on the hotel, Michael Symon's Roast is decked out in modern style. But it's a laid-back sort of elegance. The casual vibe extends to the service, with smartly dressed diners disarmed by the denim-and-dress-shirt servers who keep things down-to-earth. And that food? The kitchen does the meat right, aging everything at least 21 days, and lavishing just as much attention on the poultry.
SaltWater inside the MGM Grand Casino, 1777 Third St., Detroit; 1-877-888-2121: When it comes to beyond-the-pale interior decorating, this place is the catch of the day. The opulent interior, themes with the washing of waves, the rippling of water and the blue of the sea, helps set the stage for the contemporary seafood of Michael Mina's SaltWater. The quality ingredients include seasonal produce, giving a taste of autumn to the selections.
Taste Pizza Bar 1431 Times Square, Detroit; 313-962-8700: Located on the second floor of an old brick building on Times Square, Taste may not be the easiest place to find, but once you arrive there'll be no doubt you're in the right place. Seating as many as 175, Taste sprawls through two rooms, with the dining area separated from the even larger lounge. An added bonus for night owls is its 2 a.m. closing time. Although first-rate 10-inch pies are Taste's raison d'etre, chef-owner Dale Daniel offers diners a wide variety of starters, soups, salads and grilled sandwiches.
Vicente's Cuban Cuisine 1250 Library St., Detroit; 1-877-888-2121: Familiar elements from the Caribbean are here — plantains, yuca, papas rellenas, thin beefsteak and lots of black beans and rice. Bistec de palomilla is steak pounded very thin, marinated in mojo sauce (orange and lemon juice, garlic, onion, sugar), then lightly breaded and well-fried. It's served with fried onions on top and a side of plantains. Fried and breaded pork are on the menu too, as are lobster and shrimp, arroz con pollo, and several paellas.
Bastone 419 S. Main St., Royal Oak, 248-544-6250: The concept is Belgian brewpub and the atmosphere is totally unpretentious, quirky and interesting. Belgian food is heavily influenced by Germany and France, and some of Bastone's menu items are quintessentially Belgian, such as moule (mussels), and twice-fried Belgian frites served with mayonnaise.
Beirut Palace 105 S. Main St., Royal Oak, 248-399-4600: The Royal Oak location is situated just across the street from the Main Art Theatre and makes a great start to a night at the movies. And while we certainly would never suggest patrons smuggle food into the show, shawarma is definitely easier to pick out of teeth than popcorn. At Beirut, they make all their own bread — definitely a plus in an industry where prepacked, hard-to-chew pitas abound. Their sandwiches include those made with lamb tongue and chicken liver.
BlackFinn 530 S. Main St., Royal Oak, 248-582-9460: BlackFinn began its corporate life in 1994 as an Irish pub, but now bills itself as "an American saloon," and the pub theme is emphasized on the walls in vintage photographs of celebrated saloons. The substantial appetizers average around $9, including a pulled pork sandwich and three chicken and three steak skewers. Along with chili and a soup of the day, BlackFinn offers New England clam chowder chock-full of potatoes and clam bits. Some sauces overwhelm the entrées, but the honey-dill glaze on the Atlantic salmon served with rice pilaf is just about right.
Cafe Habana 419 S. Main St., Royal Oak, 248-544-6255: Café Habana offers excellent, reasonably priced Cuban cuisine in a fun, funky-chic setting, along with Latin music and a full bar, in downtown Royal Oak's ever-expanding restaurant hub. The Caribbean nation's food is simple, with Spanish and Central American influences, but substantial. Grilled meats dominate platos principales, enhanced by fresh and spicy marinades and sauces.
Cafe Muse 418 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak; 248-544-4749: You won't find "omelets" on the menu, as the kitchen has chosen to serve scrambled eggs instead. The "exotic mushroom scramble" is rich with truffle oil and a bit of Boursin cheese, topped with shredded basil, which also goes well with the sweet potato side dish. Another scramble choice incorporates ammoglio, a mortar-and-pestle pounding of garlic, basil, peppercorns and tomatoes. Bread is from Strawberry Moon Bakery, which means excellent sourdough toast.
D'Amato's 222 S. Sherman Dr., Royal Oak; 248-584-7400: Neighborhood Italian joint has eclectic and "from scratch" fare. A fresh Caesar or Caprese salad will run you $6, and a pizza with feta, grape tomatoes, roasted banana peppers, kalamata olives and more is $8. Tender, fluffy gnocchi of ricotta and spinach come surrounded with a rich sauce, and veal saltimbocca arrives on soft layers of rapini and gnocchi, resting in a silky Marsala sauce. There are many more beef, chicken and seafood entrées, and 30 glasses and 60 bottles of wine to wash them down. What's more, there's often live music (call for schedule) and legendary Royal Oak martini bar Goodnight Gracie is connected to the restaurant.
Falaffel King 32748 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak, 248-554-9881: Syrian-born owner Ziad Atasi's take on Middle Eastern standards compares favorably with those found in many of his white-tablecloth, sit-down competitors. Not that you can't sit down in his plain, tiny storefront — he can accommodate 10 diners at the narrow counters along the walls and windows. But most of his patrons are happy to bring their food home. The eatery earned the best suburban "cheap-eats" laurels in the 2004 Metro Times competition, and a restaurant does not win a cheap-eats award just because its fare is modestly priced. It's tasty too!
Inn Season Café 500 E. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-547-7916: Good news: Inn Season Café — a rare provider of vegetarian cuisine in metro Detroit — has gotten better as it has gotten older. Fine, organic ingredients have always been its hallmark, but the health food nature of the cooking has been eclipsed; now you are eating vegetarian haute cuisine.
Lily's Seafood 410 S. Washington, Royal Oak, 248-591-5459: Lily's Seafood is a hot spot that offers not only a stunning interior and friendly service, but most importantly a kitchen that believes homemade is best. In keeping with this idea, even the beverage menu includes house-made root beer, cream soda and four varieties of house-made beer. Both the entrées and desserts are special. full of mixtures of both flavor and texture. Mondays offer an "all-you-can-eat fish fry," while Saturdays and Sundays cater to a "build your own Bloody Mary bar." Kids eat free Tuesdays.
Memphis Smoke 100 S. Main St., Royal Oak, 248-543-4300: Memphis Smoke offers more than juicy ribs and pulled pork po' boys — it also plays a gracious host to many of the area's best blues acts.
Mezza Mediterranean Grille 212 Fifth Ave., Royal Oak; 248-414-7000; more locations in Orchard Lake, Southfield, Rochester Hills; see mezzagrille.com: A new entry into the Middle Eastern mini-chain category, Mezza has all the usual classics at bargain prices, and with larger than usual servings. And it looks like, no matter where you are in the metro region, you can throw a rock and hit the nearest location.
Noodles & Company 470 S. Main St., Royal Oak, 248-548-7700: Noodles & Company's fast food is made with fresh vegetables and organic tofu. The menu is internationally inspired, and includes specialties from China, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Russia (mushrooms stroganoff with egg noodles), the Mediterranean, the United States and, of course, Italy.
Oak City Grille 212 W. Sixth St., Royal Oak; 248-556-0947: The Grill is a step up from owner Mike Sophiea's last restaurant, Rumors, the now-shuttered, venerable burger-and-beer joint that arrived on Main Street in 1985, when then-sleepy Royal Oak was best known for its army-navy store. Compare those humble beginnings with a menu that spills over with filet mignon, peppercorn sirloin and pecan-encrusted trout. With a full kitchen and two capacious rooms, Oak City fills several gaps on the Royal Oak entertainment-dining scene. Live music Tuesday through Saturday and traditional American cuisine at decent prices.
Pasquale's 31555 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak; 248-549-4002: The calorie-bomb here is called "Brown's special," and it's loaded with cheese, pepperoni, bacon, ham, onions, green peppers, green and black olives, and mushrooms, $13 for a small, $16 for a medium and $21 for a large. Right on Woodward in Royal Oak, away from the bustle of Main Street. If you've been in business for 55 years, you must be doing something right.
Pizza Paesano 415 S. Washington, Royal Oak; 248-393-9222: Open late for Royal Oak hanger-outers, Pizza Paesano isn't just another pizza joint. The pesto pizza is subtly flavored; the crust is thin and crisp and excellent. The gyro is also marvelous, decorated with thin lamb strips and scallions. Besides pizza, the guys serve calzones, a spinach pie and a spicy meat pie (Italian sausage, pepperoni and bacon).
Red Coat Tavern 31542 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak, 248-549-0300: In our annual reader's poll for Best Burger, the Red Coat comes out on top year after year, with its list of 20 add-ons, from burnt onions to olives to smoked Gouda, and five types of bread, including grilled rye or pumpernickel. The thick, juicy succulent two-handers require extra napkins. This place is crowded every day at lunch and dinner — and usually in between. There is a full menu, and not just bar food.
Sangria 401 S. Lafayette Ave., Royal Oak; 248-543-1964: Spanish cuisine is underrepresented in the metro Detroit area, making Sangria most welcome. The featured dishes, tapas and paella, require a leisurely schedule. With a pitcher of sangria and a good friend, you have the ingredients for an enjoyable evening.
Town Tavern 116 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-544-7300: Bill Roberts, proprietor of the successful Beverly Hills Grill and Streetside Seafood, opened this neighborhood tavern in June 2007 on Fourth Street in Royal Oak. With mohair booths and bentwood chairs, noted restaurant designer Ron Rea has created an ersatz 1930s tavern updated to a stylish, hip 21st century bistro. Grazers can easily make a hearty meal of the "bar-plate" appetizers.
Vinotecca 417 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-544-6256: Patrons can learn from knowledgeable waiters, and they can relax as much as their party's designated-driver policy will allow. The wine list is eclectic, well balanced among vineyards around the globe. Most of the bottles are less than $40, and many are priced between $20 and $30. Vinotecca has a good list of cheeses and plenty of small plates — larger than tapas, smaller than most entrées. The restaurant opens at 4 p.m. every day.
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