Best Of 2010

Nutritional Value - Staff Picks

Best New Restaurant — Upscale
Café Via
310 E. Maple Rd., Birmingham; 248-644-8800

The menu at Café Via is eclectic, and all details are well attended to, from the excellent sharp yellow olive oil that starts the meal to the look of each dish on the plate. The menu ranges from the hearty, such as lamb chops or tenderloin with green peppercorn cognac sauce, through lighter seafood and pasta dishes. Goat cheese ravioli, for example, remind the diner playfully of a fried egg while expertly combining the tart cheese with sweet squash and pine nuts. Shrimp and mussels are paired with house-made sausage and brought together with a simple sauce. Tiny rooms give an intimate feel, or there's a fine patio.


Best Discount Splurge
Atlas Global Bistro
3111 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-831-2241

This should come as no surprise to our readers: They once voted it the best affordable (but expensive) restaurant (meaning you can get out for less than $50 per diner). Why? Because Atlas has the vibe of a hip city eatery, thanks to its striking interiors, knowledgeable service and international cuisine. What's more, 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 — a 1905 beaux arts structure that once flirted with the wrecking ball — where it sports high ceilings, polished floors and street views of Detroit's historic Brush Park.


Best Fine-Dining Value
Bistro 222
22266 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-792-7500

Veteran chef Michael Chamas (LA Express, La Dolce Vita), who trained with Wolfgang Puck and Keith Famie, has put together a near-perfect bistro. Such a romantic setting and colorful and creative dishes usually come at a price. But not here where you can feast on risotto with diver scallops and shrimp or sautéed lake perch in a creamy caper sauce among entrées that hover around the $16 mark. The bistro became even more attractive after Chamas finally obtained a liquor license and filled his list with affordable interesting bottles.


Best Pre-Theater — Moderate
The Majestic Cafe
4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700

The Majestic recently changed its menu, shifting to mostly small plates, expanding to a global perspective, and lowering the cost of a pre-theater outing. The Zaineas, good citizens long committed to the development of the Woodward corridor, have retained only a few of their Middle Eastern dishes, such as tabbouleh. But you now can enjoy Greek pizza loaded with feta, Korean short ribs and a handful of mains that average around $13. With the big windows looking out on Woodward, changing art on the walls and a diversified urban clientele, the Majestic is an ideal perch to while away the time before a play, symphony or concert.


Best Service
Due Venti
220 S. Main St., Clawson; 248-288-0220

Complementing the inventive fare and reasonable prices at this cozy trattoria are a splendid group of intelligent and graceful servers. Knowledgeable about the nature of such dishes as the pistachio-encrusted sea bass, Tuscan spare ribs, and complex and unique appetizers, they offer recommendations to suit each diner's tastes — if asked. Moreover, they are quite attentive to empty wine and water glasses, and are sensitive to individual patrons' approach to that tricky problem of plate clearing. It helps that the venue is so small that no one is ever a few feet away from the nearest server.


Best Return to Roots
Cinco Lagos
424 N. Main St., Milford; 248-684-7455

Acclaimed chef Brian Polcyn needs no introduction around these parts. He's cooked at many of Detroit's most notable restaurants including the Golden Mushroom, the Lark and Pike Street to name a few. His Five Lakes Grill drew folks from all over to Milford, becoming a catalyst for many of the other dining venues in town. His latest venture, Cinco Lagos — Five Lakes — has taken him back to his Mexican heritage, thus honoring his Mexican mother. Most of the dishes will be familiar, but the fresh, quality ingredients are taken to a level well above much of our gringo-ized Mexican fare.


Best Recession Makeover
Big Beaver Tavern
645 E. Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-680-0066

When the Larcos decided they could no longer sustain their venerable white-tablecloth ristorante, they briefly closed and then reopened last summer as the Big Beaver Tavern. Their extensive menu now offers what one would expect in a sports bar, but they retained Peter, their CIA-trained chef and son, in the kitchen, where he continues to turn out several old favorites such as baked penne palmina, calamari in a peppery sauce, and a chopped Italian salad, all of which transcend, by far, the genre. Among the new items is the huge burger whose $12.99 price tag comes with a T-shirt proclaiming that "I Ate the Big Beaver."


Best New Spinoff
Shangri-La 
4710-12 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-974-7669

After Chinatown in the Cass Corridor finally faded away more than a decade ago, there were few places there or anywhere in the city that featured decent Chinese food. Last year, however, Shangri-La opened a branch of its Farmington Hills restaurant in the old Twingo's near Wayne State with a less expensive and less extensive menu to meet the needs of its student clientele — including around 300 from China. Fortunately, it offers the dim sum that made the original famous, and it is served not just at lunch but during dinner hours, as well as Chinese tapas. An added attraction is legendary restaurateur Raymond Wong out front.


Best New Dining Destination
Grosse Pointe

It was only a matter of time that the Pointes, once a legendary culinary wasteland, would become a destination suburb for foodies. As their demographic and class structures became increasingly diversified, so too did the restaurants. Thus, one now can eat well at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café, Jumps, The Hill, Dylan's Raw Bar, City Kitchen and Café Nini, not to mention branches of solid local chains, Salvatore Scallopini, Da Eduoardo and Andiamo. If they only opened a multiplex theatre or two, the Pointes could become a more complete entertainment center.



Best Reason to Dine in Tecumseh

Evans St. Station

110 S. Evans St., Tecumseh; 517-424-5555
Sixty-three miles from downtown Detroit, small-town Tecumseh can hold its own, culinarily. Chef and co-owner Alan Merhar, a veteran of Tribute and Forté and a slow food devotee, works with local farmers to create a sophisticated and seasonally changing menu that includes such gems as butternut squash bisque with parsnips, duck breast with risotto and Brussels sprouts, and miso- and sesame-crusted pork tenderloin. Both the service and Evans Street’s big-windowed space are calm and relaxed, and there’s a patio. Bottles of wine are half off on Wednesdays — so it could be a destination even midweek.



Best Al Fresco in the Vicinity of Downtown Detroit
Le Petit Zinc Creperie & Café
1055 Trumbull St., Corktown; 313-963-2805

An oasis of calm just a block from the main P.O., Le Petit Zinc is already serving outside, among raised beds of herbs, hanging plants, and a few fanciful items that include a tin rooster and a child-sized picnic table. You can almost imagine the sun is Mediterranean as you slurp latte from a great big bowl and eat salade Niçoise or ratatouille. When it's reliably warm, hours will be 10 to 10. All that's lacking now is the beer and wine license owner Charles Sorel is seeking.


Best Ann Arbor Restaurant
Eve: The Restaurant
415 N. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-222-0711

When Eve Aronoff opened her namesake restaurant in Ann Arbor, it immediately joined the ranks of establishments that are known for truly fine dining. Eve's cuisine reflects her classic French training, using the finest ingredients from sustainable sources, cooking everything from scratch, bringing out the natural flavors of the food, hallmarks of the Slow Food movement. Wines by the glass are 20 percent off and there are seasonal appetizers and cocktail specials during happy hour on Tuesday through Friday. On Thursdays from 9:30 to 11 p.m., complimentary appetizers are served along with live music.


Best Seafood
SaltWater
Inside MGM Detroit Grand, 1777 Third St., Detroit; 313-465-1646

The menu was designed by San Francisco chef Michael Mina, and Frisco favorite cioppino — a shellfish stew in tomato broth — is one of the standouts on a menu that runs from fish and chips to an over-the-top lobster pot pie. High-quality fish are simply grilled; raw shellfish are as fresh as we can get them here. Preparation styles range from Maine to Baja to Vietnam and the U.S. South. The setting is elegant too — once you get past the slots. Management claims half the diners aren't gamblers, making a beeline directly to Saltwater.


Best Barbecue
Union Woodshop
18 S. Main St., Clarkston; 248-625-5660

Located on Main Street in downtown Clarkston, the upscale Union Woodshop has a look that is the antithesis of barbecue joints found on the dirt roads hidden from rural highways in the Carolinas and in Texas. The joint's food, however, shares the flavors that can usually only be derived from low-and-slow wood-smoking, which creates the pink smoke ring that is a sign of authentic country 'cue. From tender brisket and pulled pork to ribs and chicken, there are no disappointments here. The pizzas, cooked in a wood-burning oven, are as good as the barbecued meats. Do not miss the mac and cheese!


Best Sandwich Shop
Famous Izzy's Restaurant and Bakery
20733 13 Mile Rd., Roseville; 586-294-6750

This east side sandwich shop has earned a loyal following based on the size of its portions. It's the home of the 25-inch, half-pound hot dog, the 7-pound steak burger (which the menu describes as "not for wimps"), and sandwiches that aren't just double-deckers or triple-deckers — but four-deckers so tall they have to be served on skewers. In such an environment, you might expect the focus to be on quantity while the quality slides. Thankfully, Izzy's pays attention to the details. Their policy prohibits sharing sandwiches, but that's no problem, as we can confirm that the doggie bag from one of their $10 "Ex-Wife Specials" can last you three lunches at work. See also their "Mile High" cakes — cakes so big they are decorated with little cakes of their own. Truly, Izzy's is a land of the giants.


Best Sandwich Shop — Downtown  Detroit
Lunchtime Global
660 Woodward, First National Building, Detroit; 313-963-4871

The house rules — everything from scratch and made in-house — have created loyal customers for this spot's six soups a day plus salads, quiche, panini and regular sandwiches. The in-house baking operation produces focaccia, whole wheat and regular baguettes, rye and sourdough, plus scones, cookies and pain au chocolat. The breads enfold such inventive sandwiches as roasted sweet potato with pesto cream cheese and roasted red peppers, or "wild Reuben," with whole grain mustard and horseradish, or more pedestrian choices such as "Mom's Tuna." Nearly as quick as fast food but, as the owner says, you don't hate yourself afterward.


Best Sushi Lounge
Inyo
22871 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-543-9500

Only in this era of globalization can the sushi lounge thrive in the Midwest. Iron your most stylish black outfit and head to Inyo for a night of downbeat and nu-disco tunes while sipping such cocktails as the Bonsai — an invigorating combination of gin, lemongrass syrup and cucumber. The raw fish is fresh and the plates look as good as they taste. Try a specialty makimono such as the Inyo roll, a marriage of king crab, strawberry, Japanese cucumber and mango sauce all topped with caviar.


Best Small Plates
Cliff Bell's
2030 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-961-2543

Frankly, any food served at the recently restored Art Deco live jazz bar Cliff Bell's will taste a little finer in that atmosphere. But the fact is, they do small plates better than most restaurants that claim the title. With everything from simple oysters on-the-half-shell to coq au vin, the French-inspired, seasonally adjusted, utterly eclectic food menu is perfect for selecting a variety of dishes and sharing among a group of friends sipping on well-made classic cocktails.


Best Thin-Crust Pizza
Supino Pizzeria
2457 Russell St., Detroit; 313-567-7879

Ask Dave Mancini if his pizza is New Haven or New York or Napoletana style. He'll tell that he calls it "thin crust," adding that the designations are subjective. Whatever the style, it's good. Damn good. Calling it "destination dining" might be gilding the lily, but people are heading to Eastern Market just for the 'za long after the daily market bustle has ended. And that's a good sign. All of the components are the result of research and trial and error. Dave even went to Phoenix to talk to Chris Bianco, who is considered the pizza guru. Experiment. Try two or three different slices, served only at lunch.


Best New Haven Pizza
Tomatoes Apizza
29275 14 Mile Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-855-5355
24369 Halsted Rd., Farmington; 248-888-4888

Tomatoes Apizza — Sopranos-style pronunciation is ah-BEETZ — had one of the first wood-fired pizza ovens in the metroplex, and became a pioneer with the first charcoal-fired oven at the Farmlington Hills location. The pizzaiolo pazzo, that is, "crazy pizza maker," Mike Weinstein, is so fanatical about pizza pie that after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, he went to New Haven, Conn., to learn art of pizza Napoletana — the ultra-thin, light on the toppings and cheese version — that is served at the legendary Sally's, Pepe's and Lou Abate's. The guy is obsessed and the resultant pie is the best.


Best Pizza and Wine
Crust
2595 Rochester Rd., Rochester Hills; 248-844-8899
8622 Telegraph Rd., Bloomfield Twp.; 248-855-5855

Crust's Neopolitan-style, thin, crisp and chewy individual pies with their fresh and creative fillings (try the obviously inauthentic but well-conceived barbecued chicken or the peanut-enhanced Thai) are the main attraction here. But the owners also care about providing wine at reasonable prices with a changing list of sometimes-obscure varietals, including a crisp vino verde from Portugal at only $22. The Telegraph Road location, catering to patrons who frequent the nearby Maple Theatre, has a slightly more expensive list than its Rochester Road cousin.

Best Soups

Modern Food & Spirits

1535 Cass Lake Rd., Keego Harbor; 248-681-4231

Co-owners and creative co-chefs Kim and Francis Stanton have created a neighborhood spot that puts out creative, reasonably priced food, in a comfortable, friendly environment. The menu reflects the years of experience that the Stantons have garnered in a number of diverse kitchens. Kim, who concocts them, should be known as the Soup Lady. Try the sampler: all three soups for only $3 bucks with an entrée, $5 without. Choices on any given day might include tom yum broth with Asian vegetable, Cuban black bean, sweet potato corn chowder with collards, and the real customer favorite: red lentil with apricots. Modern is an upscale neighborhood restaurant with affordable prices, and a nice, again reasonable wine selection.


Best Upscale Burger

Motor Burger

888 Erie St. E., Windsor, Ontario; 519-252-8004

Formerly the well-heeled Noi, newcomer Motor Burger is now serving "the masses" — but it’s still aspirational in its reach. Burgers range from the classic, which can be gussied up with bacon, Gruyère or caramelized onions, to a $27 Kobe brisket double, adorned with a grilled portobello and truffle oil. The term "burger" is used loosely: there’s ground turkey with a hoisin glaze; ground shrimp with coconut milk, avocado and mango salsa; and an ahi tuna burger, spiced up with chile and chipotle and topped with sesame oil and arugula. Hand-cut fries and sweet onion rings are done just right. Though family-friendly in the early hours, with a kids’ menu, the place attracts a more sophisticated clientele later on for the "Lubricants": mixed drinks, mostly Canadian beers, and milkshakes spiked with liqueurs.


Best Falafel

Yossi’s

7325 Orchard Lake Rd., West Bloomfield; 248-626-0160

As far as we can tell, Yossi’s is the only Israeli restaurant in the area. Israelis are said to make the best falafel anywhere (although, perhaps by Israelis). Yossi’s falafel stands above the rest. It’s fried to perfection — crisp on the outside, warm and soft on the inside. The seasonings include abundant fresh herbs that make the difference. The Pita Pocket is filled with falafel, tahina, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and, by request, hummus and shug, a hot sauce they make in-house. Try it with the works: make sure that you have plenty of napkins.


Best Pommes Frites

Bastone

419 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-544-6250

In one of the more competitive categories, Bastone continues to score well, even considering the growing number of kitchens turning out sweet-potato fries. Twice-fried, the Bastone’s thin treats, which are accompanied by mayonnaise-based sauces enlivened with garlic, basil, horseradish or other flavors, transport one virtually to Brussels’ magnificent Grand Place. Needless to say, no such trip would be complete without onion soup, mussels, and brewed-in-house Belgian-style beer, all of which are handled well by the folks at Bastone.



Best Pho
Thang Long 
27641 John R Rd., Madison Heights; 248-547-6763

What's not to like about a huge bowl of rich, slowly developed meat broth flavored with spices and filled with rice vermicelli noodles and beef? Add the garnishes of basil leaf, cilantro, bean sprouts, fresh hot peppers and lime and what you have is a restorative beyond measure. Thang Long's menu has all the variations: beef slices, beef tendon, beef meatballs, beef tripe, combinations of all the previous varieties of beef and finally chicken. And if you ever tire of soup, the menu is filled with fresh and tasty Vietnamese dishes.


Best Duck
Sabidee
1449 W. 14 Mile Rd., Madison Heights; 248-597-0800

With so many restaurants that previously served whole and half roasted duck retrogressing to duck breast and confit only, it is comforting to find a few that stick to the older tradition. And here we are talking about a really old Asian tradition with the bronzed crispy-skinned yet moist and tender duck, marinated in tamarind sauce, presented at Sabidee, a tiny family-run dining spot that specializes in Laotian home cooking. There are other items of interest on the menu, including larb, Laotian stew, papaya salad and basil steak, but the duck is one of the best reasons to trek to Madison Heights, which has become a center for modest Asian fare.


Best Place to Order a Calamari Appetizer and Bottle of Wine
El Barzón 
3710 Junction St., Detroit; 313-894-2070

Just about every restaurant with a deep fryer offers a calamari appetizer. Most of them are good, though some are merely edible. What sets fritto misto El Barzón apart, besides its delicate tenderness, large size and the generous addition of hot peppers, is the accompanying wine list. Though there are several wines capable of pairing with it, we particularly enjoy a bottle of rustic, natural Gavi, which tastes something like plump cider and flowers and almost turns sweet in contrast.


Best Corned Beef Hash
Farmer's Restaurant
2542 Market St., Detroit; 313-259-8230

When Eastern Market is full of local bounty it's a good idea that you fill your belly before shopping or chances are you're going to buy more than you can eat. A massive plate of Farmer's Restaurant corned beef hash should more than suffice. Hash browns, grilled onions and thinly sliced corned beef are piled high beneath two eggs cooked to order. It's fuel for the day. Not a fan of corned beef? Try their fat, juicy and finely ground breakfast sausage, reminiscent of a good German weisswurst.


Best Tacos al Pastor
Los Altos
7056 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit; 313-841-3109

A cousin to gyros, pork cooked al pastor is marinated in an adobo mixture, then slowly cooked on a vertical spit, then thinly shaved. Owner Adan Lopez won't reveal any of the secrets that make his meat so succulent, so porky, so intense, other than guajillo chilies, but he does brag that Los Altos' founder is from the town in Jalisco where tacos al pastor were invented. They're topped, as tradition demands, with heaps of chopped onion and cilantro, and stuffed very, very full — don't plan on carrying out and eating while you drive. Cost? One thin dollar.


Best Sweet Potato Fries
Seva
314 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor; 734-662-1111

Proof that frozen can be fabulous! Seva buys its gluten-free "yam fries" frozen — which, according to owner Maren Jackson, makes for consistent quality — then dunks them in hot canola oil. The result is a crowd-pleasing combination of the crunch and fat of French fries with the rich sweetness (but not too much) of sweet potatoes. What's not to like? The sweet-plus-hot dipping sauce, mayo mixed with Clancy's Fancy hot sauce, is surprisingly popular too. "If only we had trademarked it," Jackson says.


Best Crêpes
What Crêpe?
317 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak; 248-629-9391

The cute 22-seat crêperie is all angles and nooks, mismatched china and chairs. It serves substantial, well-stuffed crêpes, though not paper-thin; two are more than enough for a meal. The innards are fancy — real whipped cream, truffle oil — but well-thought-out: shiitakes with Gruyère; prosciutto, arugula and Parmesan; smoked salmon with red onion, avocado and crème fraiche. You can build your own from the long ingredients list. The best sweet crêpe is the simplest: just butter, sugar and lemon, so you can taste the delicate crêpe itself. Try anything with "truffle zip sauce."


Best Hot & Sour Soup
Dong Sing
40816 Ryan Rd., Sterling Heights; 586-939-6323

Hot & sour soup is the new wonton, now included on every Chinese menu and considered a measure of a restaurant's kitchen by those who love it. Dong Sing leads the pack with a spicy, viscous broth laden with strips of chicken, chunks of tofu, tiger lily buds, wood ears and bamboo shoots. The heat comes from chili oil. The sweet comes from vinegar. A spoonful of sesame oil weaves through it all, leaving a subtle aftertaste, making you wish you'd either picked up more or lived closer to this inconspicuous little storefront carryout. Medium is hot. Hot is really hot. Buyer beware!


Best Soul Food Restaurant
Beans & Cornbread: A Soulful Bistro
29508 Northwestern Hwy., Southfield; 248-208-1680

The vibe at Beans & Cornbread hits you when you walk in the door, which is frequently held open by a host or a waitress who notices your approach, a hint of the friendly service that awaits. Think of it as gentrified soul food served in a setting that celebrates African-American history. The dining room exudes cosmopolitan comfort: Jazz wafts through a room highlighted by photos of such historic luminaries as Billie Holiday, Paul Robeson and our own Aretha Franklin. The food is comforting, including fried chicken, "Baby Sister's Backyard Ribs," killer salmon croquettes, pork chops, chicken (smothered or fried), catfish and the expected multitude of sides: greens, black-eyed peas, red beans and rice, mac and cheese, hoppin' john, candied sweet potatoes and many more of the usual suspects.


Best Italian Restaurant — Non-Chain
Bacco
29410 Northwestern Hwy., Southfield; 248-356-6600

Chef Luciano Del Signore has established an extraordinary restaurant: make that a dining experience. The professional, gracious waiters are attentive without becoming intrusive, knowledgeable enough to describe every detail about the menu and to discuss the specials without referring to a note card. The outdoor patio is perfect for summertime dining. The prices are surprisingly reasonable. The insalata di rucola e finocchi — arugula and fennel with toasted walnuts and orange sections coated with lemon oil — is a perfect prelude to Strozzapreti Norcina: hand-rolled pasta, Italian sausage, black truffles, tomatoes and cream.


Best Greek Restaurant
Cyprus Taverna 
579 Monroe St., Detroit; 313-961-1550

Over the years, Greektown has become a little .... less Greek? It may have suffered due to the ceaseless casino construction, which removed some parking and built a tubeway over the street, changing the flow of pedestrians. But all through it, the Avgoustis family held on, remaining the consummate hosts, greeting you warmly and suggesting dishes that will bring you back. Let them put together a mezza platter with perhaps a dozen or more preludes to a great meal. Don't miss the salmon stuffed with shrimp, feta and herbs all awash in a lemon sauce.


Best Middle Eastern Restaurant
Anita's Kitchen
22651 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-548-0680

Jennifer, Anita's daughter, and Joe Wegrzyn are the consummate hosts, the warmest, friendliest folks you'll find anywhere. One or both of them are always present, assuring an experience that must be similar to eating in their home. Start with an appetizer combo of hummous, tabbouleh, baba ghanoush and fattoush and a glass of Lebanese wine. Try a braised lamb shank or a piece of char-grilled swordfish. If you can't decide, go for the mixed mezza; for $30 you'll sample the shawarma — meat and chicken — tawook, grape leaves, salads, falafel. There's so much more that even four of you will leave with your next meal in a bag.


Best Authentic Mediterranean Restaurant
Lebanese Grill
1600 Rochester Rd., Troy; 248-526-1444

OK, the kitsch-laden walls and the desert murals are not especially authentic, but the kitchen is, as well as the Lebanese (only) wine list and the tabloid-style menu, which, along with the lengthy roster of selections, provides an accurate history and geography lesson about that tiny country. Go for the earthy traditional dishes that need to be italicized in a review such as ghallaba, borghul and mjadara. The gracious Charaf family also operates a Lebanese Grill in Shelby Township.


Best Local Innovation in Middle Eastern Cuisine
La Saj Lebanese Grill
13776 Southcove Drive, Sterling Heights; 586-566-6600

La Saj takes its name from the inverted wok oven in the kitchen on which dishes are prepared without an open flame. Rare in these parts, this ancient Syrian technique results in especially moist versions of the classic Middle Eastern kitchen. Somewhat more upscale than many of its competitors in terms of decorations, linens and tableware, the restaurant on the outer edge of Lakeside Mall does a bang-up job with its appetizer or mezze sampler, served in separate small plates rather than a large unwieldy platter. The garlic sauce that comes with the warm pita is also special.


Best Cheap Middle Eastern Restaurant
Beirut Kabob
5827 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit; 313-841-2100

The Ahmad brothers serve fine versions of familiar favorites at prices well below Dearborn's, in a Mexicantown location that's been spruced up with care. The highest-priced entrée is $12, for three skewers of meat plus rice, pickles and salad. Most entrées are $6 or $7 — say kafta kabob, shish kabob or shish tawook, served with a perfect, sharp and creamy garlic sauce. Best bets are kibbi, mujadarah covered with fried onions, chicken lime rice soup and smoky, garlicky baba ghanoush, topped with pine nuts.


Best Ethnic Restaurant on a Budget
Aladdin Sweets & Café 
11945 Conant St., Hamtramck; 313-891-8050

If one measure of good ethnic cuisine is the percentage of fellow diners that speak with an accent, Aladdin easily passes that test. A steady stream of eat-in, carry-out and catering customers flow through this tiny Bangladeshi joint that serves slow-braised goat and other authentic-tasting meats and sweets. With the food being served on paper plates and the utensils plastic, the ambience isn't the best, but apparently this is enough to keep the prices on this quality fare low enough to compete with fast food franchises.


Best Ethiopian Restaurant
Taste of Ethiopia
29702F Southfield Rd., Southfield; 248-905-5560
2453 Russell St., Eastern Market, Detroit; 313-567-6000 (lunch only)

The all-you-can-eat, some-of-everything tradition is the way to go, because each serving of collards, lentils, peas, carrots, cabbage, lamb, beef and chicken is so intensely delicious that you wouldn't want to be limited. It's also worth considering the three-course dinner, though, to try the lentil-carrot-scallion soup, plantains or fresh fruit for dessert, and justly famous Ethiopian coffee. Omnivores and vegetarians are all happy here, where legumes and vegetables are far from an afterthought.


Best Indian Restaurant
Rangoli Indian Cuisine
3055 E. Walton Blvd., Auburn Hills; 248-377-3800

Numerous Indian friends have confirmed this year's choice of Rangoli. The space is attractive, not distracting. The service is efficient, performed by a knowledgeable, pleasant staff. But we're here to eat. Indian food is gaining in popularity all over the Detroit metropolitan area. Rangoli's extensive menu, though intimidating to anyone not familiar with the food, is a great place to start. Let your server be your guide. Just do not miss the tadka dal: split lentils, turmeric, ginger and tomatoes "tempered with mustard seed, garlic and onions, etc."


Best Indian Buffet
Royal Indian Cuisine
3877 Rochester Rd., Troy; 248-743-0223

We chose Royal Indian Cuisine in part due to the spice level of many of the dishes, frequently geared to timid Americanized tastes. But it takes more than heat to sway us. The array of appetizers, lamb, chicken, rice, dals, chutneys, salads ands dessert includes a daily changing selection of numerous fragrant, delicious vegetable choices, a delight for noncarnivores. Naan, a puffy flatbread, is served at each table, hot, just out of the tandoor, a wood-burning clay oven. A tariff of $7.95 launches an exploration into this complex cuisine.


Best Indian Street Food
Neehee's Indian Vegetarian Street Food
45490 Ford Rd., Canton; 734-737-9777
35203 Grand River Ave., Farmington; 248-471-0604

Not familiar with Indian street food? Most of the customers are, and they're packing the place. The choices are from all over India, and if the immigrants miss the fun of buying from a street vendor, at least they're conveniently brought together under one (small) roof. The uninitiated can read the big posters that explain what's what: besides the familiar samosas and pakoras, there are stuffed and plain dosas, Indo-Chinese selections, stuffed pancakes, sandwiches that put potatoes in a garlic bun, 25 different chaats — snacks that mix potatoes, onions, peas, chickpeas, yogurt, chilies and a host of spices and chutneys in a myriad of combinations — and house-made ice cream.


Best Vietnamese Restaurant
Da Nang
1 S. Main St., Clawson; 248-577-5130

Replacing last year's winner in this category, the admirable Thang Long, Da Nang offers a more elegant setting and some new culinary twists, albeit from a significantly smaller repertoire. For example, a curried chicken stew with a baguette reflects Vietnam's tragic colonial heritage. Translucent bahn beo rice cakes with shrimp bits are another interesting treat, as are the shredded cabbage with chicken and spongy pork meatballs with lemongrass, while Da Nang's take on increasingly ubiquitous pho is first-rate.


Best Thai Restaurant
Sawasdee
6175 Haggerty Rd., West Bloomfield; 248-926-1012

Sawasdee, which means hello in Thai, does a fine job with the standard fare and has some dishes that veer from the pack. Pad thai curry adds a sauce that transforms this popular dish. The never-changing daily specials are listed under the glass tabletop. An extensive lunch menu offers diners a choice of vegetarian, pork, seafood or chicken in each dish, most at a reasonable $7.95. Spice levels range from no spice to XX HOT, which is two levels above hot. Sounds dangerous!


Best Chinese Take-Out
Gim Ling
31402 Harper Ave., St. Clair Shores; 586-296-0070

St. Clair Shores' Chinese restaurant Gim Ling has as robust a carry-out business as we've witnessed. On any given Saturday night you might find a half dozen hungry east siders waiting on their orders, mainly because this is not the typical, starchy Chinese. The fantastic hot and sour soup is made to order and tastes like it. The gravies pack plenty of flavor without getting too heavy. And there is hardly any difference in price compared to lesser joints. Peruse their beautiful collection of Asian art while you wait.


Best Retro Experience
Mr. Paul's Chop House
29850 Groesbeck Hwy, Roseville; 586-777-7770

More than 40 years old, Mr. Paul's is stuck in time somewhere back in the early postwar era, when small towns like Roseville boasted one special roadhouse or supper club to which celebrants came on their birthdays or anniversaries. Here you can have one of the area's best Caesar salads, prepared with a theatrical flare at tableside, often by the owner himself. The chateaubriand steak for two and the cherries jubilee for dessert also involve a tableside show. The skilled, liveried waitstaff and the impressive French red-dominated wine list complete the picture of where adults went to play during the legendary Happy Days.


Best Irish Pub Food
Dick O'Dow's
160 W. Maple Rd., Birmingham; 248-642-1135

With its artifacts from the Ould Sod including faded reproductions from the Book of Kells on the walls, Dick O'Dow's looks authentic. The dishes in the small Irish section of the menu are as well. The arterty-clogging, generally potatoey (what else?) fare includes bangers and mash, fish and chips and Irish stew, buttressed by soda bread, and all washed down with a Guinness is a close as one can get here to a local in Kilkenny. It seems even more atmospheric in the dimly lit rear room away from the boisterous crowds and TVs, with its huge fireplace and rustic wooden tables.


Best Friendly Neighborhood Bar and Grill
Motor City Brewing Works
470 W. Canfield St., Detroit; 313-832-2700

Tucked away deep in the parking lot of the Traffic Jam, the Motor City Brewery's cozy taproom is a neighborhood hangout where everyone seems to know everyone's name. Along with its famous Ghettoblaster beer, they have expanded their limited food options a bit to now include a top-notch crusty and creamy pot of mac 'n' cheese and several thick and zesty Southwestern soups that could just as well be called variations on chili — if standard chili weren't offered in its traditional guise. Along with crisp individual pizzas and the company of Cass Corridor characters and Wayne State students and employees, it is a perfect place to toss back a few most any time of the day.


Best Diner
Northside Grill
1015 Broadway, Ann Arbor; 734-995-0965

Long revered as the top contender for best diner, especially for breakfast, the Northside diner is a simple room, filled every morning with patrons who seem to enjoy the bustle nearly as much as the food. Egg dishes come in every possible style: from "Make It Your Way" omelets to specialty breakfast sandwiches and on to corned beef hash, biscuits and gravy and huevos rancheros. The real draw is the skillets, which are one-plate "eggstravaganzas" served in a skillet over hash browns. "The Big Easy" is a mix of vegetables and andouille and Cajun spice topped with cheese and eggs served with toast or biscuit. Top that!


Best Slow Food
Mind Body & Spirits
301 S. Main St., Rochester; 248-651-3663

Mind Body & Spirits proves that you can run an environmentally conscious restaurant without sacrificing quality. All the food is organic and local if possible. MBS has built relationships with local farmers to ensure a steady supply of seasonal produce — and they even help out, providing seedlings for the luxuriant greenhouse that faces Third Street. As the days grow warmer, follow the crowd to the rooftop patio above the greenhouse and dine among the potted tomatoes, herbs and hot peppers while the sweet perfume of smoldering hardwood from the flatbread oven fills the air.


Best 'Blunch'
The Fly Trap
22950 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-399-5150

Ask anyone waiting in line for a table on a Saturday afternoon why the Fly Trap consistently makes the Best Of issue. For a couple more bucks per plate, they give you diner food taken to glorious heights — macaroni and cheese goes gourmet with cheddar, smoked Gouda and blue cheeses; an over-the-top patty melt includes North African spiced chicken breast and garlic, lemon aioli; even mere hash gets the treatment with hot spiced beef brisket, beets and smashed-garlic fried potatoes.


Best Street Food Destination
Eastern Market 

Detroit is hardly the best city to find street food, but you wouldn't know it walking around Eastern Market on a Saturday. Follow the enticing aroma of Bert's outdoor grills, which send wafts of mouthwatering smoke into the market. Inside the market you can find baked goods, soups, sandwiches, sometimes even crêpes being made. Explore the shops around the market for quick eats. Gabriel Import Co. always has a table full of spinach-and-cheese pastries. Order a pita sandwich stuffed with your choice of sausages at Eastern Market Seafood Co.


Best Restaurant for Cocktail Hour
Roast 
1128 Washington Blvd., Detroit; 313-961-2500

Weekdays between 4:30 and 6:30, for a mere $3 you can purchase one of a half-dozen plates. And these aren't little portions. Try a regular-sized grilled hamburger on an English muffin and topped with cheese, bacon, pickled onions and a fried egg. If that doesn't fill you up, fried chicken livers with mushrooms and polenta or spicy hot peppers stuffed with sausage might. Pair this with a few bargain drink specials and an eclectic downtown crowd for a couple truly happy hours.


Best Takeout
Lazybones Smokehouse
27475 Groesbeck Hwy., Roseville; 586-775-7427 (RIBS)

From his family's diner to an education in culinary arts and stints at the likes of the Golden Mushroom, chef Deni Smiljanovski has plenty of kitchen chops. Thankfully, somehow barbecue came into the mix. He traveled through the South, researching the best of Southern barbecue. Deni traveled throughout the nation's barbecue-rich regions, picking up pointers from the unheralded pit masters from the Carolinas to Texas, studying the art of smoked pork butt, tender brisket, spare ribs and chicken. This joint is a find for 'cue lovers, who can take a barbecue tour without leaving town. Save your bones by hitting Wednesday's all-you-can-carry-out lunch buffet, a bargain at less than $8.


Best Restaurant to Spot Anthony Bourdain
Polonia
2934 Yemans St., Hamtramck; 313-873-8432

When food celebrity Anthony Bourdain of Food Network's No Reservations did his Rust Belt tour a while back, the Detroit stop was Hamtramck's Polonia, where he dined on "the heavy but wonderful, vodka-soaked charms of Detroit Polish food." He and the program's producers understood that these Eastern European, meat-and-potatoes dishes will fill the hungriest of diners for little cash. They serve the classics from duck blood soup to city chicken. It doesn't hurt that they stock a full bar either.

Best Restaurant to Mourn

Annam Restaurant Vietnamien

A victim of the Great Recession, Annam was a perennial winner in both Vietnamese and design categories. By far the most elegant (but affordable) of Vietnamese restaurants in the area, its owner, Phuong Nguyen, served sophisticated and delicate dishes with Far Eastern grace, in both the presentation and the surroundings. The serenity relaxed the loyal fans, but their numbers dwindled. Where will they now find lime dipping sauce, lotus stem salad topped with fresh mint, or soups made with tamarind or quail eggs — ingredients that made the diner feel virtuous as well as delighted?


Best Hospital Food

Hummous, Oakwood Hospital, Dearborn

Gone are the days of identical trays featuring Jell-O delivered off carts wheeled throughout the hospital at pre-determined times. Now, nourishment for the bed-ridden — assuming it’s not just intravenous — is more like hotel room service: Pick up the menu and then the phone and it comes fresh and hot throughout the day. At Oakwood, it’s actually good. Especially the hummous, served with fresh pita. Finish with the chocolate cheesecake and some coffee. Just don’t order too much for your guests.


Best Rationale for Naming a Restaurant

Parrot Cove Yacht Club

33475 Dequindre Ave., Troy; 248-585-6080

The Craigs, owners of this raffish Key West-themed bar and grill far away from the water in a deindustrialized section of Troy, planned to name their establishment Parrot Head. Their sign painter had finished the word "parrot" when they were informed that the term Parrot Head is exclusively owned by Jimmy Buffet. With space for four letters on the sign, Head was transformed into Cove. They have encountered no problem serving exemplary burgers and ribs without the Buffet connotation.



Best Mexican Sit-Down Lunch Counter
La Mexicana #4
2524 Dixie Hwy., Waterford; 248-673-9723

Don't be confused when you walk into a small market full of shelves stocked with bottled salsas, dried chiles, fresh tortillas and fresh produce. All the way at the end sits a lunch counter and a handful of booths, mostly filled with Latinos. The kitchen is a griddle behind the counter providing a cook with just enough space to prepare some serious grub — on the cheap. Tacos are filled generously with beef, pork, tongue, chicken or house-made chorizo sprinkled with onions and cilantro for just shy of $1.50. There: It's not a secret anymore.


Best Urban Poolside Dining
Lefty's Lounge
5440 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-831-5338

The Belcrest, that handsome art deco apartment building on Wayne State University's campus, boasts a lovely pool fronting on Cass. Denizens of Lefty's Lounge, which was founded by two southpaws who made it to the high minors, can enjoy their fine burgers and pizza on the patio outside the watering hole overlooking the pool. Alas, you'll need more than a pitcher to use the gated pool itself, which is off-limits except to residents and those who make arrangements for special parties. But on a warm day, the Lounge's poolside dining is still is a surprising oasis of calm amid the bustle of Midtown.


Best Restaurant Where You Can't Find a Seat
Slows
2138 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-962-9828

When Yogi Berra quipped "Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded," he could have been talking about Slows. But when most folks dig into a plate of perfectly slow-smoked barbecue accompanied by one of several house-made sauces, they realize it's worth the wait. Though all the delicious meat and side dishes are reminiscent of Southern food culture, Slows has one of the best wine and beer selections around. Barbecue lovers may soon have less of a wait, as Slows Express & Catering is slated to offer carry-out service in Midtown.


Best Food Recommendation from an Olympic Gold Medalist
Buffalo Empañada at the Prickly Pear
328 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-930-0047

In his autobiography, the 14-time gold medalist Michael Phelps reported that he was fond of the buffalo empañadas at Ann Arbor's Prickly Pear. Phelps, who trained in the city, enjoyed that hearty and marginally healthy dish as part of his 12,000-calories-a-day training diet when he wasn't on his bong. This is not a bad recommendation. The Prickly Pear, which bills itself as a Southwestern bistro, is really Tex-Mex plus. The sweet and tender buffalo meat empañada, the sweet-potato enchiladas and the jicama cole slaw are among the reasons the restaurant has been thriving in a tough market since 1991.


Best Ice Cream
Guernsey Farms Dairy
21300 Novi Rd., Northville; 248-349-1466

Owned and operated since 1940 by the McGuire family, Guernsey Farms Dairy is a fixture in the area. The family is proud of their use high-quality ingredients, none of which have added hormones. They love to let you sample the ice cream, knowing that a taste will make you want more. A tour of the dairy reveals a pristine, sanitary environment, reassuring in an era of concern over food contamination. An on-site restaurant and an ice cream parlor sell the 48 flavors, something to please every palate. Visit guernseyfarmsdairy.com to find numerous locations throughout the area where Guernsey products are sold.


Best Unusual Dairy
Erma's Original Frozen Custard
6451 Auburn Rd., Shelby Twp.; 586-254-7280

Travel back in time with a visit to Erma's, a roadside stand (established 1942), where they sell premium soft-serve ice cream that differs from plain old ice cream in its high butterfat content and plenty of egg yolks. A dirt-covered parking lot surrounds the flat-roofed shack and the patio, where you can slurp the frozen custard concoctions – sundaes, floats, malts and shakes and custard puffs. One suggestion is the "Coconut Cream Pie Cone" dipped in dark chocolate and pecans. Erma's list of weekly flavors is online to help you plan your summer visits: ermacustard.com/specials.html.


Best Neighborhood Bakery
Mexicantown Bakery 
4330 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit; 313-554-0001

You only need a small amount of cash to walk away with a big bag full of Mexicantown Bakery's sweet breads, pastries and cookies. You really can buy dessert for the whole family for the price of one plate of flan from most nearby restaurants. They also offer more refined cakes and tarts, tamales, freshly baked buns and loaves of bread sometimes still steaming from the oven. A small, well-stocked grocery with Central and South American, Mexican and Caribbean specialties packs the other half of the store.


Best Desserts
Rattlesnake Club
300 River Place Dr., Detroit; 313-567-4400

When you think of the Rattlesnake Club, you often think of the rich interior, the padded tables, the water views, the fine-dining kitchen that turns out delectable entrées. But what about Rattlesnake's decadent house-made desserts? Perhaps our favorite is their artisan sorbet, three small scoops of flavor-packed sorbet, with flavors that rotate on a seasonal basis between passion fruit-cilantro, grapefruit-vanilla, wildberry and Amazonian rainforest-sourced cherry that's high in antioxidants. The scoops are perched atop a maple-leaf shaped tuille cookie, crisp and buttery, spiced with sesame seeds, poppy seeds and paprika and laid down atop a wildberry syrup. The whole thing gets sweetened with a dose of clear anise syrup. Then it's garnished with a mint leaf and adorned with a latticework of colorful spun sugar. Chef Jeffrey Lanctot says the $10 dessert has been on the menu since owner Jimmy Schmidt opened the club. It's that popular.

Nutritional Value - Readers' Picks

Best New Restaurant
Best Steakhouse — Wayne County
Roast
1128 Washington Blvd., Detroit; 313-961-2500

The "beast masters" at this hip new downtown restaurant — inside the renovated showpiece that is the Book-Cadillac Hotel — have earned their honors. First, it's no ordinary steakhouse. Yes, they offer several cuts, all naturally raised and dry-aged a minimum of 21 days. But they pay the same gastronomic attention to poultry and seafood dishes. From the biggest roast to the most modest sandwich, everything is done with care. Add an attractive setting (restrained lighting, white linens and floor-to-ceiling windows), competent but casual waitstaff and high-toned classic cocktail service, and you have the makings of a winner.


Best Restaurant to Take Out-of-Towners
Best Barbecue — Wayne
Best Beer Selection in a Restaurant
Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $50 — Wayne
Slows Bar-B-Q
2138 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-962-9828

Four different awards for Slows? It really earned them. First, what visitor to Detroit wouldn't be impressed by this meticulously revamped 1880s building within sight of our majestically rotting train station? Then there's the best-in-county barbecue, including a mac and cheese that's a satisfying combination of sharp and creamy, and a gut-tickling pulled-pork sandwich fittingly dubbed "The Reason." Then there are suds, more than 20 beers on tap, usually featuring at least a dozen brewed in Michigan (including Bell's, Arcadia, Founder's and Dragonmead), and the pages-long beer menu, between 60 and 80 bottles depending on the season, all at reasonable prices, ranging from $2 specials on cans of Pabst to high-end big bottles, such as the 25-ounce La Chouffe for $13. And, finally, you generally won't blow more than a U.S. Grant on a meal with all the trimmings. Four wins, handily won.


Best Romantic Restaurant — Wayne
The Whitney
4421 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-832-5700

The 1894 mansion-turned-restaurant offers a peerless setting for romance. Your date will be impressed with the 350-label wine cellar, including local favorites from Traverse City. While the restaurant retains the elegant and refined decor, the establishment appeals to a more casual crowd. Their 26-year-old chef has enlivened and updated the menu, and the third-floor Ghost Bar adds quirk appeal, all helping the establishment make its bid for the younger crowd of nearby Wayne State.


Best Romantic Restaurant — Oakland county
Melting Pot
888 W. Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-362-2221

A new way of dining mixed with an old favorite, the Melting Pot brings back the fun of fondue. Dipping an assortment of breads, vegetables, meats and apples in your choice of cheese, oil and chocolate allows you to dictate your desired taste. The dining experience can get a bit pricey, but the dessert makes it worth it. Fruit dipped in chocolate is a favorite.


Best Wine Selection in a Restaurant
Best Romantic Restaurant — Macomb county
Andiamo's
7096 E. 14 Mile Rd., Warren; 586-268-3200
14425 Lakeside Circle, Sterling Heights; 586-532-8800
24026 Jefferson Ave., St. Clair Shores; 586-773-7770

The Andiamo name was a shoo-in, as the Italian sensibility (candles, cannolis and crooners) lends itself singularly to all things romantic. Given the mini-chain's three Macomb County locations, it had an admitted edge in numbers, but we think perhaps the win can be attributed to the quality of the St. Clair Shores location, a swanky, multilevel spot right on the Nautical Mile with water views, cool breezes and its own marina! (See their other wins in Best Italian Cuisine.)


Best Romantic Restaurant — Washtenaw County
The Earle
121 W. Washington, Ann Arbor; 734-994-0211

No doubt the Earle gets points for rich atmosphere and attentive staff, but it has more than looks going for it. The food is great, the wine list is head and shoulders above any other restaurant in Ann Arbor, and their duck, lamb, and beef dishes are superb. Their attention to detail means they even make their own desserts, and their tiramisu has won more than one person's unbridled devotion. But you needn't be on a date to enjoy its pleasures. Happy hour offers 15 percent off beer and wine and appetizers, and $5 martinis on Mondays and Tuesdays.


Best Restaurant View
Coach Insignia
200 Renaissance Center, Detroit; 313-567-2622

Literally, Coach Insignia is head, shoulders and skyline above other restaurant views in town, perched atop the tallest structure for hundreds of miles around. And the elegant flagship of the Matt Prentice empire does not disappoint, with a far better kitchen than the space's predecessors — only without the 360-degree rotating view. Sure, it's expensive, as any restaurant with that vista overlooking Canada and the river should be. But order frugally and you have the makings of a romantic date or a night with out-of-towners, basking in night views of our international metropolis.


Best After-Hours Restaurant — Wayne
Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $15 — Wayne
Best Coney Island — Wayne
Lafayette Coney Island
114 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit; 586-219-0995

Near and dear to our hearts, the Best Coney Island to our readers remains Lafayette Coney Island. Oh, sure, the food is your typical sturdy coney fare, and the service is quick in the old-fashioned way, with plenty of shouting and the clanking of dishes. But at 2:30 a.m., when nightclubbers, barhoppers and music fans rub shoulders for an hour or two, it feels as a city eatery should, with people from all walks of life joined as one in celebration of the perfect coney dog.


Best After-Hours Restaurant — Oakland
Best Coney Island — Oakland & Washtenaw
Leo's Coney Island 
40 locations; 15 locations in Oakland County; see leosconeyisland.com for info

Chances are that if you're walking out of a bar in metro Detroit, there's a Leo's location within striking distance. Though they're all classics, the location on Main Street in downtown Royal Oak is the archetypal suburban coney: bright, clean and filled with a fleet of cushy booths. Expect the usual tasty lineup of coney dog classics, Greek specialties, melt sandwiches and breakfast plates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Cooks crank out orders with military precision while the dinnerware clatters amid amicable chatter. A colleague tells us it's good for a greasy breakfast, "and you can still keep your flirting on because everyone's still drunk."


Best Coney Island — Macomb
Best After-Hours Restaurant — Macomb
Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $15 — Macomb
Best Late-Night Eatery
National Coney Island 
21 locations; 12 locations in Macomb County; see nationalconeyisland.com for info

This Detroit-style hot dog shop has grown from a single Macomb Mall store to near ubiquity over 40 years. In addition to the regular coney fare, National serves up hand-dipped shakes and Sanders hot fudge sundaes. About half the locations offer beer and wine; a few even have liquor. Things can really get jumping around 2 a.m. when the bar crowd comes in looking for pre-sleep breakfast.


Best After-Hours Restaurant — Washtenaw
Fleetwood Diner
300 S. Ashley St., Ann Arbor; 734-995-5502

Just because the Fleetwood seems to be the only 24-hour diner in downtown Ann Arbor doesn't mean it hasn't earned its honors. Sure, it's genuine greasy spoon eating, with a dozen stools and a handful of tables in a trailer-style diner. But the fact that their reliable, stick-to-your-ribs food packs them in at breakfast too lets you know their food is good anytime.


Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $15 — Oakland
Fly Trap
22950 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-399-5150

You can get a burger and fries or just plain eggs at this "finer diner," but don't expect the menu to be cliché side-of-the-highway fare. When clever, talented people make your meal, the tastes will be great but the names will be creative. For its daylong "blunch" menu, the Fly Trap serves up dishes like "green eggs and ham" or "the boot," a Mussolini-themed "rumble" of eggs, mozzarella, basil, tomatoes and olives. Omelets have such names as the "BLAT+C," the "slacker especial" and the "forager." Vegetarians can find plenty to nosh on.


Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $15 — Washtenaw
Jerusalem Garden
307 S. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-995-5060

Tree Town abounds with options for penny-pinching students, but Jerusalem Garden beat them all out for cheap, quality honors. The brick garden patio is the perfect environment to enjoy a meal from what's billed as Ann Arbor's oldest Middle Eastern restaurant. It covers the basics for less than $5 or $6: falafel with baba ghanoush and hummous options, shawarma, kebabs.


Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $50 — Wayne
Tie: Mario's 
4222 Second Ave., Detroit; 313-832-1616
Slows
2138 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-962-9828

It's been 52 years since Mario Lelli opened this inviting spot where generations of theatergoers, taking in shows at the nearby Hilberry Theatre, have enjoyed multi-course meals. This is the kind of place people think of when they think Italian restaurant. Favorites from veal Tosca and spaghetti Bolognese to shrimp scampi and chicken cacciatore are served by a formal waitstaff in a series of rooms. (And you've already heard about Slows.)


Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $50 — Oakland
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 (which won kudos from our food staff) served with mayonnaise.


Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $50 — Macomb
Best Steakhouse — Macomb
Mr. Paul's Chop House 
29850 Groesbeck Hwy., Roseville; 586-777-7770

Want to enjoy a meal that harks back to an age of red meat, classic Caesar salads and pretentious desserts? The dimly lit, low-ceilinged, brick-walled structure can seat 200, and what usually draws them are beef dishes that average a reasonable $25. Most popular is Chateaubriand for two, a tableside extravaganza that arrives flambéed from the kitchen. Great service, a thick wine list and character lacquered on thick.


Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $50 — Washtenaw
Zingerman's
Zingerman's Deli: 422 Detroit St., Ann Arbor; 734-663-3354
Zingerman's Roadhouse 2501 Jackson Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-663-3663

We weren't sure whether our readers meant the deli, which cranks out hundreds of excellent sandwiches each day, or the roadhouse, more a full-service restaurant of the hunting lodge manner — but both could easily be enjoyed for less than $50 per diner. Either way, Zingerman's wound up on top, where it belongs.


Best Italian Cuisine — Wayne, Oakland  & Macomb
Andiamo's
andiamoitalia.com

You'd think that breaking up the Italian category into counties would endanger Andiamo's standing in our polls. No worries: They still aced it. With locations in the counties of Wayne (Detroit, Livonia, Grosse Pointe Woods, Dearborn), Oakland (Bloomfield Township, Rochester, Royal Oak, Novi) and Macomb (Warren, Saint Clair Shores, Sterling Heights), nobody even approached their status as the best.


Best Italian Cuisine — Washtenaw
Palio 
347 S. Main St.; Ann Arbor; 888-456-3463

The disappearance of Bella Ciao could have left a void in Ann Arbor. Luckily, there's Palio, serving Italian fare with high culinary standards at decent prices in a convivial setting. Expect the usual chicken, veal and fish options, but the pastas and lasagnas are highlights, and the breads aren't just phoned in. In fair weather, when the rooftop patio is open, you'll find a peerless place to throw back a few and order from a smaller menu. The location on fashionable Main Street doesn't hurt either.


Best French Cuisine
Le Petit Zinc
1055 Trumbull St., Detroit; 313-963-2805

Charles Sorel, raised in France but with the Caribbean personality of his native Martinique, is providing a splash of sunlight at his breakfast-and-lunch spot in Corktown. His small space has bright yellow walls and bright yellow napkins. It's accented in green and turquoise and is adorned with paintings in primary and other cheerful colors. Outdoors is a patio with raised beds for perennials. Patrons may order crêpes, salads, sandwiches, cheese, ratatouille and coffee. Surprisingly, nothing costs more than $7.25, and every creation, from crêpes to salads to classic French small plates, is a work of art, meant to be savored.


Best Greek Cuisine
Pegasus Taverna
558 Monroe St., Detroit; 313-964-6800

Serving authentic Greek recipes prepared with the freshest ingredients, the dishes have a unique flavor and — dare we say it? — "romance." Classic Greek country cooking blends simple ingredients like vegetables, grains and cheeses with fragrant herbs and spices to create wholesome, delectable meals that are as healthy as they are tasty. And Pegasus is rightfully proud of its fine Greek cuisine.


Best Eastern European Cuisine
Polish Village Cafe
2990 Yemans St., Hamtramck; 313-874-5726

Digging into a big plate at Hamtramck's Polish Village Café might have you suppose you're eating food prepared by somebody's Polish mother. That's because, essentially, you are. During peak dining hours there's a steady flow of waiting customers first lining up at the bar and sometimes winding up the stairs and out the door. Most entrées run around $8 — a trifle when you consider the asking price for a dreary meal at the corner strip mall chain. In a space with old-style character and a full bar, this Hamtramck staple serves a few pages of meat-and-potatoes Polish dishes and accompanying sides. Impressive soups, Polish standards, "city chicken," Hungarian pancakes, mushroom crêpes, boiled ribs, sausage in beer sauce, pan-fried chicken livers — plus another menu page of such daily specials as stuffed green peppers and sauerkraut in crusty dough. Don't forget to order Poland's famous Zywiec beer with your meal to truly enhance your experience. Smoking permitted for about another week. Cash only.


Best Mexican Cuisine — Wayne
Xochimilco Restaurant
3409 Bagley St., Detroit; 313-843-0179

On a normal evening, this popular Mexicantown eatery often has a crowd filling three rooms downstairs, spilling onto the second floor, drawn by its large portions and inexpensive menu. Because it closes at 2 a.m., it doesn't draw those who wander from the bar late, but it can be quite busy after midnight, depending on what's happening downtown. And thanks to Xochi's liquor license, your friends can keep on tippling while you enjoy a restorative burrito, enchilada or the "super nachos" with ground beef and diced veggies smothered in melted cheese and jalapeños.


Best Mexican Cuisine — Oakland
Zumba Mexican Grille
121 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-542-1400

Zumba, located across the street from the Main Art Theatre, serves the film crowd and anyone seeking a fresh, quality meal. While the menu boasts just a handful of items, including the elusive "Baja-style" fish taco, all choices are made to order and can be customized multiple ways. No-nonsense service and lunch-counter ethos mean you won't necessarily linger, but the quality is what you're after anyway.


Best Mexican Cuisine — Macomb
El Charro
Locations in St. Clair Shores, Fraser and Macomb; see elcharrousa.com for info

This crowd-pleasing collection of Mexican restaurants has been catering to Macomb County's Mexican jones for more than 36 years. In a charming, comfortable, "village-style" atmosphere, you can enjoy soft-shelled tacos, fresh salsas, margaritas, sangrias and "Frozen Swirls."


Best Mexican Cuisine — Washtenaw
Tie: Tio's 
409 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 734-761-6650
La Fiesta Mexicana 
529 W. Cross Ave., Ypsilanti; 734-483-1666

It's a toss-up between Tio's, a popular, family-owned Mexican eatery with an American-friendly menu, and La Fiesta Mexicana, a mom-and-pop Mexican restaurant whose horchata alone puts corporate and overpriced Ann Arbor establishments to shame.


Best Caribbean Cuisine
Bahama Breeze
539 E. Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-528-1674
19600 Haggerty Rd., Livonia; 734-542-0891

From the people who brought you Red Lobster and Olive Garden comes this trade winds-themed, alcohol-oriented crowd-pleaser. Maybe coconut shrimp, island onion rings and chicken and vegetable quesadillas aren't the most thumpingly authentic Caribbean dishes, but anything to chase away winter blues on a February night is authentic enough for us!


Best African Cuisine
Blue Nile 
545 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-547-6699
221 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-998-4746

There are so many reasons to get behind Ethiopian food. You get to trade flatware for injera, the spongy, crêpe-like bread used to scoop up what's on your plate. If your party is a mix of carnivores, vegetarians, even flexitarians, the kitchen pays just as much attention to the meatless choices as the proteins. Then there's the deft seasoning, which awakens even the humble lentil. What's more, in a concession to the West, a full bar awaits your order.


Best Chinese Cuisine — Wayne
Shangri-La
4710 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-974-7669

Midtown's Shangri-La has a quirky interior, attentive servers, and excellent dim sum, those small plates that are something like Chinese tapas. Most dim-sum are $2.95 to $3.50, and most offer a bite or so for at least three diners. Teeny pancakes with garlic and chives, crisp dumplings, lilliputian ribs in a sweet black-bean sauce, stuffed eggplant, and the sweet bun full of barbecued pork are all winners. Although the regular menu is dominated by traditional Chinese cuisine, curries ($9), Singapore noodles ($8) and cilantro-less pho-like noodle soups ($7-8) suggest a pan-Asian influence. For more exciting creations, you will have to choose among the chef specials, which are more expensive ($13.95-$16.95), and can include a whole or half roast duck, eggplant with shrimp paste in black-bean sauce, a mélange of succulent fried squid, scallops and shrimp with (not that) spicy salt or more mellow walnut shrimp.


Best Chinese Cuisine — Oakland
P.F. Chang's
Inside the Somerset Collection, 2801 W. Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-816-8000

P.F. Chang's is part of chain, located in a posh mall and the menu strays from authentic. But it is a very good restaurant nonetheless. Entrees are excellent, and drinks include a variety of wine, beer and specialty drinks traversing many cultures.


Best Chinese Cuisine — Macomb
Tie: Golden Harvest
6880 E. 12 Mile Rd., Warren; 586-751-5288
P.F. Chang's 
Inside the Partridge Creek Fashion Center, 17390 Hall Rd., Clinton Twp.; 586-263-0860

In Macomb, the upbeat chain shared honors with the more authentic Golden Harvest, recommended for its seafood and its daily dim sum, served 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Golden Harvest also keeps live fish and lobsters. Soft-shell crabs and "assorted seafood with spicy salt (hot)" are excellent; also very popular is walnut shrimp.


Best Chinese Cuisine — Washtenaw
Great Lakes Chinese Seafood 
2910 Carpenter Rd., Ann Arbor; 734-973-6666

Everything goes a little upscale in Ann Arbor, doesn't it? Chinese fare is no exception, as the Washtenaw winner not only isn't your run-of-the-mill takeout joint, it's a seafood restaurant! Of course, they do much more than fruit of the sea at this unassuming spot, and their extensive choices include poultry, noodles and a great noontime dim sum.


Best Thai Cuisine — Wayne County
Bangkok 96
2450 S. Telegraph Rd., Dearborn; 313-730-8161

Open since 1996, this bright, warm space decorated with wall hangings and elephant imagery enjoys a steady stream of loyal dine-in and take-out customers. The menu boasts traditional Thai favorites such as gang gai, pad prik khing, pad almond, pad kra tiem and pla lad prik.


Best Thai Cuisine — Oakland
Siam Spicy
29838 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak; 248-545-4305
43436 West Oaks Dr., Novi; 248-348-9441

Siam Spicy seems to specialize in providing a friendly, comfortable atmosphere where entrées are stir-fried or prepared in coconut milk with plenty of pepper. Curries are red or green and very flavorful. It has won Best Thai honors on and off since 1996.


Best Thai Cuisine — Macomb
Sy Thai Shore Restaurant
23519 Nine Mack Dr., St. Clair Shores; 586-776-8424

This is one restaurant where you ought to take the hot pepper rating seriously; even the mild spice level will prickle your taste buds. The little storefront eatery is a busy, noisy, friendly place, also doing a brisk take-out business. Each traditional entrées is offered with chicken, beef, pork, tofu, vegetables, shrimp, squid or imitation crab — noodles, curries, fried rice and other dishes load up the menu. The tom kha soup is a sure winner, a coconut milk broth enlivened with lime, little straw mushrooms, scallions and fresh basil.


Best Thai Cuisine — Washtenaw
Tup Tim Thai 
4896 W. Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-528-5588

Since 2002 Tup Tim has built a reputation for using fresh ingredients to create authentic Thai food, including hard-to-find dishes for advanced diners. The kitchen is happy to dial down the hotness, and every other facet of the experience — atmosphere, service, prices — is designed to leave you hungry for more.


Best Indian Cuisine — Wayne
Ashoka 
2100 N. Haggerty Rd., Canton; 734-844-3100

Bright colors, rich flavors, exotic aromas. With more than 150 items on its menu, Ashoka serves more than legume-based recipes and fiery spice blends. The bill of fare wanders the subcontinent, north to the south, including southern specialties, such as Mysore dosa, plain dosa, vada and bhaji poories. There are even sections of the menu devoted to Indian-Chinese food, a style with a following in India, with such selections as chicken spring rolls, chicken Manchurian with gravy and Singapore noodles. Of course, you can still get more typical fare, including vegetable korma, chicken masala and lamb dopiaza. Full-service bar.


Best Indian Cuisine — Oakland
Priya
36600 Grand River Ave., Farmington Hills; 248-615-7700

Why does Priya win our readers' poll for Best Indian year after year? It has plenty of dishes from southern India, such as rice-lentil crêpes, that are hard to find in Michigan. But it doesn't stint on more familiar dishes from other parts of India. Another plus: Herbivores and carnivores feel equally at home. But it's hard to pinpoint just why it's a winner. Whether you're walking into the Farmington Hills or Troy locations, the Indian-style decoration and art make guests feel as though they actually are in India. Chef Sukhdev Singh specializes in various Indian dishes, but is especially talented with northern Indian dishes. His special palak daneer and chicken tikka masala are both popular. Vegetarian dishes, such as vegetable masala and navratan koorma, are also good choices. A daily lunch buffet is served between 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.


Best Indian Cuisine — Macomb
Four-way tie; Indo Pak
27707 Dequindre Rd., Madison Heights; 248-541-3562
New Delhi
37222 Dequindre Rd., Sterling Heights; 586-264-3333
Rangoli Indian Grill
44631 Mound Rd., Sterling Heights; 586-726-8811
The Chettinad
2079 15 Mile Rd., Sterling Heights; 586-446-9430

This ungainly four-way tie breaks down exactly what Macomb County diners are looking for. In Indo Pak, you have experience, as it's among the oldest family-owned Indian restaurants in metro Detroit; with New Delhi, you have the unassuming strip mall exterior; in Rangoli, you get the surprisingly extensive appetizer list and liquor license; and with the Chettinad you get those fabulous southern Indian dosas. Put it all together —FTW.


Best Indian Cuisine — Washtenaw
Tie:
Raja Rani
400 S. Division St., Ann Arbor; 734-995-1545
Shalimar 
307 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-663-1500

An interesting tie. With Raja Rani, you get a reliable stop for Monday buffets, Tandoori delicacies, great naan, an extensive selection of chutneys and chai tea, all housed in a lovely old Victorian house. With Shalimar, you get the fare of northern India, which includes Mughlai creations, vegetarian choices, meat-based fare, and grand "mixed grill" plates, all with a full bar to wash it down.


Best Middle Eastern Cuisine — Wayne
Al-Ameer 
12710 W. Warren Ave., Dearborn; 313-582-8185
27346 Ford Rd., Dearborn Heights; 313-565-9600

Owner Khalil Ameer says with pride that his Lebanese fare isn't Americanized factory food. He has labored to stay true to the Lebanese table, offering fresh bread, serving no pork or liquor, and preparing food that's not overwhelmed by spices and herbs. Instead of simply ordering a vegetarian platter, diners may choose among vegetarian grape leaves, tomato kibbee, green bean stew, eggplant stew, a "veggie galaba" of rice, mushrooms, carrots, green peppers — and, if you must have it, they'll add more spice.


Best Middle Eastern Cuisine — Oakland
Anita's Kitchen
22651 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-548-0680

Though it started in Troy as a lunch spot for cubicle workers, this friendly café has branched out into a more serious dining crowd with a second location in Ferndale. In warm weather, a large, covered outdoor dining area allows outside dining. The bar serves beer, wine, juice and smoothies. For the harder stuff, examine the small but diverse wine selection and three Michigan craft brews. Salads and veggie-intensive appetizers fill a good bit of the menu. There are even a few unique pita pizzas.


Best Middle Eastern Cuisine — Macomb
Cedar Garden 
23417 Greater Mack, St. Clair Shores; 586-778-5999

This Middle Eastern spot takes great pride in serving the best, with everything made fresh daily, and with no additives or preservatives. That means fresh, high-quality juices, soups, sandwiches, and more, including some pretty serious entrées that can approach $20, though they average around $14.


Best Middle Eastern Cuisine — Washtenaw
Jerusalem Garden 
307 S. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-995-5060

The only place falafel is more popular than this tiny Ann Arbor spot would be in Jerusalem itself. Falafel — fried patties of ground chick peas, onions, garlic, parsley and other seasonings, served wrapped in pita with baba ghanoush, hommous or refreshing tabbouleh — are as cheap ($4.75) as they are delicious. Cheap eats at their best. It's fast, but not fast food as we know it. Splurge and have a cup of lentil soup.


Best Korean Cuisine
Wasabi Korean and Japanese
15 E. Kirby St., Detroit; 313-638-1272

Wasabi's bibimbab is best served in a dolsot, a heated stone bowl. Chef Seonghun Kim tops a big pile of white rice with little piles of julienned beef and vegetables, mostly cold, and a fried egg. Squeeze on the gochujang, a chili-based hot sauce, and mix it all together. It's huge and infinitely satisfying on a cold night. The other famous-to-Americans Korean dish is bulgogi, which here is marinated rib eye. The marinade includes not only sake, ginger and various fruits, but Sprite! Salmon teriyaki overdoes the sweet sauce, but beef, pork or chicken katsu are great, breaded and fried and served with a mixture of ketchup, butter, sugar, chicken broth, tempura mix and bottled tonkatsu sauce. Sushi in all the usual varieties is offered, artfully done and of excellent quality. Some entrées are served with a heap of fresh fruit, and all come with a small carrot or cucumber salad and a heartier-than-average miso soup, with seaweed. For dessert, Japanese ice cream is the best bet, especially green tea flavor.


Best Japanese Cuisine
Tie: Benihana
Locations in Dearborn, Troy and Farmington Hills; see benihana.com for info
Noble Fish 
45 E. 14 Mile Rd., Clawson; 248-585-2314

On the one hand, you have Benihana, with the famous theatrical dining experience that has chefs turning cooking into a performance on special grill tables. At Noble, you don't have the entertaining teppanyaki (nor simple teriyaki, nor really much in the way of cooking even), but simply a menu of excellent sushi turned out by their unassuming experts; at Noble, it's the sushi that's the star of the show.


Best Cheap Breakfast — Wayne
Honest John's 
488 Selden St., Detroit; 313-832-5646

Five reasons (not the only ones) to go to Honest John's: 1) Owner John Thompson is likely to be there, and, as he puts it, "Everybody wants to watch a fool." 2) You'll be contributing indirectly — and directly, if Thompson ropes you in — to charity programs that could use your cash. 3) Cheap eats and drinks, including local microbrews. 4) Breakfast till noon on weekdays, 3 on weekends. 5) An outdoor patio, though small, that can accommodate as many as 30 people in fair weather. Great jukebox, loyal regulars and an owner who has raised more than $750,000 for charity in 12 years.


Best Cheap Breakfast — Oakland
Club Bart
22728 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-548-8746

Anybody who's spent an evening here seeing live music (especially Honky-Tonk Tuesdays) might not realize that this is a full-service bar and grille with nifty breakfast fixin's. But the kitchen is still open late enough for something to build a good foundation, and the free-flowing bar and excellent wait service pour it on. On the stage behind the bar, expect the Motown, funk and soul of Even Exchange.


Best Cheap Breakfast — Macomb
Phoenix Coney
40100 Van Dyke Rd., Sterling Heights; 586-977-8977
43095 Hayes Rd., Sterling Heights; 586-566-1006

Far from pretentious, this Macomb County gem has logged more than 20 years in the coney game, and it serves a heaping variety of city-named coneys. There's the "Detroit," of course, with chili, mustard and chopped white onions, but then there's also the "Boston," with chili, cheese sauce and mustard. Tour the world, coney-style! Open 7 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.


Best Cheap Breakfast — Washtenaw
Tie: Beezy's
20 N. Washington St., Ypsilanti; 734-485-9625
Northside Grill
1015 Broadway, Ann Arbor; 734-995-0965

A good mix here: Beezy's nails down the fundamentals, serving familiar and nourishing, timeless breakfast fare to everybody from trendy millennials to floppy-fringed Cro-Magnons; and Northside Grill has the homey atmosphere and vegetarian-friendly options.


Best Breakfast or Brunch — Wayne
Russell Street Deli 
2465 Russell St., Detroit; 313-567-2900

Serving great food for loyal customers in Eastern Market, the busy deli is always filled with happy, hungry, people. If nothing on the menu catches your eye, don't fret, because you're even able to build your own sandwich the way you want it. Soups are definitely a standout that change daily, with a wide range of vegan, meatless and homemade that add a twist on what your mom used to make. With affordable prices and huge portion sizes, you'll have enough for lunch and dinner.


Best Breakfast or Brunch — Oakland
Toast
23144 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-398-0444
203 Pierce St., Birmingham; 248-258-6278

Thom and Regan Bloom's successful breakfast and lunch spot in Ferndale has long been a favorite, drawing Sunday morning crowds for years now. Their specials change all the time, but such perennial favorites as French toast and omelets are always there. They offer their own spin on old classics and are sure not to disappoint. The new offshoot in Birmingham is a magnet for devotees of such pricey breakfasts as Grand Marnier French toast. The new Toast serves breakfast and lunch seven days a week, with a menu almost like Ferndale's served till 4 p.m. when their own menu goes into effect.


Best Breakfast or Brunch — Macomb
The Pantry
34220 Van Dyke Ave., Sterling Heights; 586-939-1370
44945 Morley Dr., Clinton Twp.; 586-465-5514
58884 Van Dyke Rd., Washington; 586-677-4135

This successful mini-chain has been catering to locals with the usual eggs, waffles and pancakes, but there are also surprises, including crêpes, "pantry-style" fried chicken and even a prime-rib steak Caesar salad. What's more, they help many local charities and causes.


Best Breakfast or Brunch — Washtenaw
Café Zola 
112 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-769-2020

With tasteful art for sale on the brick walls, large picture windows fronting the colorful pedestrian traffic on Washington, and, in season, a sizable outdoor patio, Café Zola is one of the more comfortable restaurants in Ann Arbor. Mains have included spaghetti and meatballs marinara, lamb chops a la Turque, flat-iron steak with garlicky chimichurri sauce, and ahi tuna in a sesame-seed crust with wasabi butter, sugar snap peas, and crunchy coconut rice. The wine list, thoughtful if somewhat pricey, contains a handful of relatively obscure bottles in the high $20s to the middle $30s before it enters the stratosphere.


Best All-Around Buffet
Palette Dining Studio
Inside MGM Grand Detroit Casino, 1777 Third St., Detroit; 877-888-2121

Though they shy away from the "B"-word, the all-you-can-eat Palette Dining Studio offers a vast selection of upscale treats, with stations that feature meat cooked over charcoal fires; Chinese, Japanese, sushi and a Mongolian grill; such seafood as Blue Point oysters and peel-and-eat shrimp; Southern foods; and over-the-top desserts. This casino classic handily beat such solid contenders as Golden Corral and Old Country Buffet.


Best Soul Food — Detroit
Steve's Soul Food Restaurant 
1440 E. Franklin St., Detroit; 313-393-0018
8447 Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-894-3464

It's been a frequent winner for Best Soul Food since 1987. But have you seen its new digs near downtown on Franklin Street? Have you stopped in for their peerless $5 lunch deal, which gives you a choice of main, two sides, a hunk of fresh cornbread and more? It's one of the best deals going in downtown lunches.


Best Soul Food — Suburbs
Beans and Cornbread
29508 Northwestern Hwy., Southfield; 248-208-1680

A busy, colorful dining spot which features bright artwork and a bustling open kitchen, and another frequent winner in this category. This is the place for upscale soul food with a fresh twist, including excellent meat loaf, barbecue-style chicken and a dreamy sweet potato cheesecake. Arrive early and plan to stand in line for this perpetually full house. Don't miss their in-house wine and martini stop, the Sidebar.


Best Sushi
Noble Fish 
45 E. 14 Mile Rd., Clawson; 248-585-2314

The insular Japanese keep things intensely focused, whether it be decor or food customs or table manners, which is what makes Noble Fish an experience. Out front are isles of packaged foodstuffs. But in back is a magnificently serene sushi bar, staffed by iron chefs of the first order: a no-nonsense, inexpensive, delicious alternative to Western sushi madness.


Best Barbecue — Oakland
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 and rock acts every night but Monday. If you're not feeling the live music, grab a stool or picnic table on the roof and enjoy the view and the breeze. Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m.; if that's not enough, come on Sundays for all-you-can-eat crab legs!


Best Barbecue — Macomb
Lazybones Smokehouse
27475 Groesbeck Hwy., Roseville; 586-775-7427

This east side joint has sandwiches starting around $7, and $17.99 for a slab of ribs. But the prices get nicer at lunch every Wednesday; for $7.99, you get to stuff a three-compartment polystyrene container with choices that can range from smoked chicken to chopped pork. Lazybones boasts Black Angus beef, Grade-A fresh pork, and Amish country chickens, done broasted, pit-smoked or grill-ready for pick-up. And for those who want to throw a home party without running the grill, Lazybones caters with party pans for 100 ribs.


Best Barbecue — Washtenaw
Blue Tractor 
205 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-222-4095

The menu aims for a down-home feel, but the beers are pure contemporary craft. This place, which has a quirky interior and inventive specials year-round, has earned its good word of mouth.


Best Vegan or Vegetarian
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. Caters to special dietary restrictions.


Best Seafood Restaurant — Wayne
Detroit Fish Market
1435 Randolph St., Detroit; 313-963-3003

The newest addition to the Frank Taylor empire fills a gap left by Joe Muer's departure from the downtown scene, an eatery specializing in fruit of the sea. And it's a doozy of a location, set in old Harmonie Park, one of the last remaining oases of Augustus Woodward's 1806 city plan. Retooled as an urban upscale eatery trading off the fame of Paradise Valley, the wood-paneled interior is decorated with murals depicting the creatures of the sea.


Best Seafood Restaurant — Oakland
Lily's Seafood
410 S. Washington Ave., 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. Even the beverage menu includes house-made root beer, cream soda and four varieties of house-made beer. Both the entrees 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.


Best Seafood Restaurant — Macomb
Red Lobster
25901 Hoover Rd., Warren; 586-759-0010

Ah, yes. Red Lobster. It's a supreme irony that the county that sports the Nautical Mile found Red Lobster climbing over Fishbone's and Waves for the win.


Best Seafood Restaurant — Washtenaw
Real Seafood Company
341 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 888-456-3463

Located in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor, Real Seafood Co. provides locals with the freshest selections of seafood from the East Coast and a raw oyster bar, all in an atmosphere that's comfortable, open and lively.


Best Steakhouse — Oakland
Ruth's Chris Steak House
755 W. Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-269-8424

What's it going to take to outdo a Ruth's Chris steak? With more than 100 locations worldwide, this isn't the first time they've topped a readers' steakhouse poll. Well done!


Best Steakhouse — Washtenaw
The Chop House 
322 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 888-456-3463

This isn't your run-of-the-mill neighborhood steakhouse. Expect luxurious comfort, plush trimmings, billed as "an elite American dining experience." You'll find prime beef, grain-fed meats and a substantial wine list. Right next door are the gourmet pastries of La Dolce Vita.


Best Wings
Buffalo Wild Wings
Fifteen locations in metro Detroit; see buffalowildwings.com for info

Ah, B-dubs. When you're surrounded by beers the size of your forearm, an army of high-def TVs, and buckets upon buckets of chicken wings (and a host of other deep-fired thingies) you're probably sitting in a Buffalo Wild Wings. The bar's mid-day and late-night happy hours show that it's recession friendly, and it flies flags of local pro and college sports teams so that when you're too broke for game tickets, the next best place to be is inside one of these joints.


Best Burger — Wayne
Miller's Bar
23700 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-565-2577

Do people come for the burgers, or the novelty of eating them from baskets and wax paper? None other than GQ rated Miller's No. 8 among the top 20 burgers in America. Metro Times readers consistently rate it the best burger in Dearborn. Don't let the spartan setting and limited menu options fool you, the choices are few, but they're finely tuned classics. Table service has been paperless for years — all on the honor system. Unless you want to be known as an outsider, don't ask for a menu or a tab. Just order the burger and a beer. When you're done, tell the bartender what you got. The system works, in part, because the prices are so reasonable, there's no reason to lie.


Best Burger — Oakland
Red Coat Tavern
31542 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak; 248-549-0300
6745 Orchard Lake Rd., West Bloomfield; 248-865-0500

In our annual reader's poll for Best Burger, the Red Coat comes out on top year after year, with 20 add-ons, from burnt onions to olives to smoked Gouda, and five breads, including grilled rye or pumpernickel. The thick, juicy succulent two-handers require extra napkins. This place is crowded every day at lunch, dinner and usually in between.


Best Burger — Macomb
Five Guys Burger and Fries
Seven locations in metro Detroit; two in Macomb county; see fiveguys.com for info

The Five Guys empire has grown from one shop in Arlington, Va., to more than 500 locations in 35 states. Their appealing gimmick allows customers to custom-order a burger, and they say there are more than a quarter-million possible combinations.


Best Burger — Washtenaw
Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger 
551 S. Division St., Ann Arbor; 734-663-4590

Where Packard meets South Division lies arguably one of the best burger houses in the country, where they're made on the grill right in front of you. And it's an Ann Arbor institution spanning six decades, right down to its R. Crumb-influenced menu. It's $4.30 for Jim's ultimate cheese sandwich, and just $5.62 for the veggie burger. A half-pound burger costs just $5.10, or $5.70 with cheese. (Then there are the unique fried goods, like cauliflower.) The slogan? "Cheaper than food." Cafeteria-style setting means no tipping; read the "instructions" before ordering.


Best Neighborhood Pizza — Wayne
Supino Pizzeria
2457 Russell St., Detroit; 313-567-7879

Serving brilliant thin-crust pizza with imaginative fresh ingredients — even an egg — with a delectable thin crust that's not too chewy. They serve five red pizzas and six white, meaning no tomato sauce; almost all are made with traditional ingredients, no pineapple, no taco fixings. The red sauce is supremely simple, nothing much besides some fresh-tasting though canned crushed tomatoes. The Primavera, a white, is topped with fresh tomatoes, artichokes, eggplant, red onion, mozzarella and spinach — lots of flavors. Also excellent is the housemade manicotti, a huge portion of ultra-thin pasta stuffed with ricotta and a bit of Parmigiano and topped with red sauce and mozzarella. Supino has finally won its bid for gourmet pizza supremacy.


Best Neighborhood Pizza — Oakland
Best Pizza in a Bar — Macomb
Buddy's
8100 Old 13 Mile Rd., Warren; 586-574-9200; eights more locations in metro Detroit, including four in Oakland County; see buddyspizza.com for info

Before we broke up our pizza by county, Buddy's was the clear, perennial winner of our best neighborhood pizza category. After a full life as a neighborhood speakeasy, Buddy's original location on Conant only started pumping out pizza in 1946. And though it has expanded to nine locations all over southeastern Michigan, it has clearly retained the neighborhood cred.


Best Neighborhood Pizza — Macomb
Jet's Pizza
Dozens of locations in metro Detroit; more than 20 locations in Macomb County; see jetspizza.com for info

Jets' deep-dish, square, Detroit-style pizza is a regular crowd-pleaser. But it's not just a Macomb County thing; with locations all over the metroplex — as well as Michigan, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee — that mustachioed man with the jetpack really gets around!


Best Neighborhood Pizza — Washtenaw
Pizza House 
618 Church St., Ann Arbor; 734-995-5095

Whether you're hungering for round, square or deep-dish, Pizza House has what you crave, as well as a pretty formidable menu of apps, sweets, pastas, salads, subs, burgers and more.


Best Brewpub or Microbrewery — Wayne
Best Pizza in a Bar — Wayne
Motor City Brewing Works
470 W. Canfield St., Detroit; 313-832-2700

This brewpub has a quirky tiled interior, with its concrete bar, its Wednesday-night art shows, and its sturdy menu of pizzas and small plates. For less than $10, you can get a pizza made with ingredients from as local as possible. The beers are excellent. Watch out for the high alcohol content of that Summer Brew, if there's any left. Meads like Blue Sunshine have a sharp, almost astringent crispness to them. And those Wednesday night art shows are a tightwad's dream, offering work from experimental, established and ex nihil artists, often hanging work that goes for as little as $15. Have a pizza, drain a craft brew or two, and invest in a work of art for a little more.


Best Pizza in a Bar — Oakland
Green Lantern
4326 Rochester Rd., Royal Oak; 248-298-3005
28960 John R Rd., Madison Heights; 248-541-5439

As in most older pizza palaces, the kitchen first made thin-crusted round pies and only added the deep-dish variety around seven years ago. Both come in four sizes from 10 inches ($5.35-$5.95) to 16 inches ($10.50-$11.95) with the 10-inch mini suitable for two. The price structure here and throughout the menu is quite reasonable, another explanation for the Green Lantern's popularity. Best of all, they use the pepperoni that curl up into little "grease cups." Ah, the Midwest.


Best Pizza in a Bar — Washtenaw
Aubree's 
39 E. Cross St., Ypsilanti; 734-483-1870
2122 Whitaker Rd., Ypsilanti; 734-483-1525

Founded in 1972 in Ypsilanti's Depot Town, Aubree's aims for "warmth, hospitality, tasty food and great drinks." Their gourmet specialty pizzas are sensational.


Best Gourmet Pizza
Amici's Pizza
3249 W. 12 Mile Rd., Berkley; 248-544-4100

Pizza crust made with bran, biodegradable dishes and soy candles, no smoking, no TV, even a couple of organic vodkas — Amici's manages both to be virtuous and to pull it off without a hint of self-righteousness. It is a bar, after all, and it's hard to say whether patrons are more interested in the vegan pizzas or the 64 cocktails, 35 beers and 5 premium tequilas on offer. They can combine the two impulses by ordering Red Bridge beer, gluten-free. What's more, they have a back patio that hits the summertime spot.


Best Deli — Wayne
Mudgie's 
1300 Porter St., Detroit; 313-961-2000

This Corktown spot used to be the old Eph's, and they carry on the sandwich tradition with a slew of options including the award-winning "Madill." Composed of turkey, apple-wood-smoked bacon, avocado, tomato, romaine lettuce and melted pepper jack cheese layered on an 8-inch-sub spread with Mudgie-made garlic mayo, you'll understand the award-winning part when you chomp on this open-faced sub.


Best Deli — Oakland
Al's Famous Deli
32906 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak; 248-549-3663

The deli with a difference, Al's is spearheading an effort to buy and sell only Michigan-based products. That means they cook their own corned beef (from United Meat in Detroit), buy pickles from Topor's Pickle Company in Detroit, and use breads and rolls from Superior Bread Company and the Bake Station. You can get your deli fix and support local businesses. Don't miss his chicken and ribs menu.


Best Deli — Macomb
Tie: Bread Basket Deli
2201 E. Eight Mile Rd., Warren; 586-754-0055
New York Deli 
2715 E. 14 Mile Rd., Sterling Heights; 586-826-9330; three more locations in Macomb County

At New York, you get your deli classics, all served in a family-style environment with friendly service. At Bread Basket, it gets kicked up a notch, with big sandwiches: single-deckers, triple-deckers, quadruple-deckers, combos, dinner "baskets" and even meat-laden salads.


Best Deli — Washtenaw
Zingerman's Deli
422 Detroit St., Ann Arbor; 734-663-3354

Zingerman's is more than a deli, with its huge selection of olive oils, vinegars, cheeses and sausages, many from the far corners of the world. Crusty European breads come from the Zingerman's Bakehouse. This place is truly a gourmand's delight. Lest we forget the deli staples, you will not find better corned beef and pastrami anywhere. The sandwiches, in numerous combinations, are expensive and worth it. They are available in "nosher size" for the "small eater," and "fresser" for the "big eater," sharable for all but a young, growing college student. Do not go on game day if you mind a line.


Best Brewpub or Microbrewery — Oakland
Woodward Avenue Brewers
22646 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-546-3696

Dubbed, "a neighborhood bar with lots of style," the top floor has huge windows overlooking Woodward. Downstairs has a sidewalk café and lounge with a view of the brewhouse. WAB serves a selection of its own award-winning microbrewed beer and root beer. You won't find your typical bar food here, gourmet sandwiches, quesadillas, bruschetta, huge salads and more.


Best Brewpub or Microbrewery — Macomb
Dragonmead Microbrewery
14600 E. 11 Mile Rd., Warren; 586-776-9428

This is the brainchild of three former Big Three employees — Larry Channell, Bill Wrobel and Earl Scherbarth — who spent years trying to think of a business idea that would lead them to independence. Then Channell, an active home brewer, suggested a microbrewery. Channell credits their success the abilities they developed and used in auto. Channell had a chemical engineering background; Scherbarth had the metal skills to make the necessary tools; and Wrobel's experience in marketing aided in the design of their ads and products. The result coming off the line in Warren is a new Detroit classic.


Best Brewpub or Microbrewery — Washtenaw
Arbor Brewing Co.
114 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-213-1393

Arbor Brewing Company Pub and Eatery and the Corner Brewery have been slinging pints of pilsners for almost 20 years. More than just brewpub proprietors, ABC owners Matt and Rene Greff help beer novices become beer aficionados, teaching classes through Washtenaw Community College in Ypsilanti. Each month ABC throws a beer tasting featuring brews from around the world, not to mention some of their own famous brews like the Red Snapper Amber Ale and the Sacred Cow IPA.


Best Wine Bar
Vinotecca
417 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-544-6256

The delish wine list, the stainless-steel-and-slate decor, that it's in Royal Oak ... no wonder Vinotecca's a prime yuppie nesting ground. Keep eyes peeled for nasal tittering and discussions on tannins, and you'll be privy to mating habits of the prematurely wealthy.


Best Crêpes
Good Girls Go to Paris
15 E. Kirby St., Detroit; 877-727-4727

The traditional French pancake gets an American treatment at this miniature downtown eatery. Each crêpe takes almost four minutes, from first careful pouring to when it is handed through the window on a paper plate. Among the "savories," one big seller has been the 7, or "Sarah." "Vera" combines bacon and spinach with Boursin, and two other savories pile on Black Forest ham. For sweet crêpes, which are the majority, customers like the "Fay," similar to a nonalcoholic Bananas Foster, plus pecans. You can also design your own for 50 cents an ingredient. Don't call ahead.


Best Appetizers in a Restaurant
Applebee's
Dozens of locations in metro Detroit; see applebees.com for info

Applebee's? For real? Alright, Detroit; you voted, we ... um ... will print it.


Best Bakery — Wayne
Avalon International Breads
422 W. Willis St., Detroit; 313-832-0008

The biggest seller at this Cultural Center mainstay is the farm bread, a traditional French white sourdough. But if you like your sandwiches made for you, show up at lunchtime as the focaccia comes out of the oven. It might be topped with organic roasted zucchini, tomatoes, basil and Parmesan. Avalon has branched out from the baguettes and crusty peasant loafs like Leelanau Cherry Walnut and Dexter Davison Rye that brought bread-starved customers flocking years ago. Now brioche, scones and cinnamon rolls expand the meaning of "bread."


Best Bakery — Oakland
Pinwheel Bakery
220 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-398-8018

This tiny little Ferndale bakery turns out some big-tasting treats. Their scones are among the best we've had, crisp on the outside, moist and soft on the inside, coming in a variety of flavors. Our favorite is cinnamon cherry, but the ginger toffee and cranberry orange come a close second. We love to pick up a variety of tiny little cookies by the pound boxed up with a ribbon. The vanilla bean buttons are garnished with a sparkly pink sugar rim and the cardamom walnut rounds are just plain delicious.


Best Bakery — Macomb
Tie: Mannino's Bakery
4062 E. 17 Mile Rd., Sterling Heights; 586-978-8166
Sweetheart
19200 Kelly Rd., Harper Woods; 313-839-6330
31920 Van Dyke Rd., Warren; 586-795-1660

These two family-owned businesses have served Macomb County for at least a generation, and they don't just specialize in special-event cakes (though they do serve them), but are full-service bakeries with breads, donuts, pies and more.


Best Bakery — Washtenaw
Zingerman's Bakehouse
3711 Plaza Dr., Ann Arbor; 734-761-2095

Zingerman's Bakehouse offer hard-crust loaves, some of which have developed — risen — for as long as 18 hours. Longer rising time means richer flavor. Of special interest is their Parmesan pepper bread and the 3-pound crusty, chewy country bread.


Best Desserts in a Restaurant
Traffic Jam
511 W. Canfield St., Detroit; 313-831-9470

Traffic Jam's reputation for making things in-house ensures that their beer, bread and cheese are as fresh as possible. But this also crosses over into desserts, including their house-made ice creams, which come in inventive flavors that have included "Michigan sweet corn" and "Pebbles and Rocks" — a blend of Fruity Pebbles-type flavors and Faygo Rock & Rye soda.


Best Sweets Shop
Astoria Pastry Shop
541 Monroe St., Detroit; 313-963-9603
320 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-582-9220

Next year, Astoria will have logged 40 years in its Greektown location. This pastry shop serves the kinds of desserts that make you want to snap a photo before they go down the hatch. And it's quite a sight: a glistening array of mouthwatering cakes and pies and cookies and puddings. Then there's the chocolate-peanut butter frozen yogurt, a rich delight made from low-fat frozen yogurt, but chock-full of thick peanut butter, a necessity for low-carbers. They'll happily box them up for a gift or to go.


Best Sit-Down Ice Cream Shop
Coldstone Creamery
More than a dozen locations in metro Detroit; see coldstonecreamery.com for info

With more than a dozen stores in the metro area, and even a presence even in Greektown, Cold Stone knocked the competition out cold.


Best Indie Coffee House — Wayne
Café 1923
2287 Holbrook, Hamtramck; 313-319-8766

Built in 1923, this former corner store has been lovingly restored with the period details that now make it such an appealing coffeehouse. However, the way Café 1923 differs from most coffeehouses is the price. Coffees and other specialties are affordably priced; nothing on the menu is more than $5. Art exhibits are showcased along the walls featuring local artists. In fair weather, their back yard is a sun-splashed delight. In foul weather, enjoy the street views in the front or retreat to the book-filled lounge in the rear. It's a great place to get some work done peacefully, since Café 1923 offers free wireless Internet.


Best Indie Coffee House — Oakland
AJ's Cafe
240 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-399-3946

The space that had a long run as Xhedos' Coffeehouse was reincarnated a few years ago as AJ's by A.J. O'Neil, who has brought such quirky events to the java stop as a 50-hour "Danny Boy" marathon. Classic coffee, open-mic nights and fun stunts helped AJ's edge out Java Hutt and Bean & Leaf for top OC coffee honors.


Best Indie Coffee House — Macomb
Che Cosa
90 Macomb Pl., Mount Clemens; 586-954-2677

A comfortable atmosphere, quality coffees and snacks and a downtown Mount Clemens location helped to make Che Cosa our readers' favorite in Macomb County.


Best Indie Coffee House — Washtenaw
Ugly Mug Café & Roastery
317 W. Cross Ave., Ypsilanti; 734-484-4684

This attractive, quality little shop isn't ugly, it just has a little bit of 'tude in the names. Drop in for a "paralyzer" espresso or a "killer" bagel sandwich. (We presume you will emerge mobile and alive from the experience!)


The Untouchables
The 14 restaurants that stubbornly remain at the top of their category

Best View: Coach Insignia
At least until somebody else builds a restaurant 700 feet in the air.

Best River View: Rattlesnake Club
You may not have the most commanding view of the river, but the fine-dining razzle-dazzle says you found the right spot.

Best Splurge: The Lark
With a menu whose prices might send somebody's eyebrows jumping off their head, this is the place to spend freely — that $90 serving of caviar and crème fraîche, for instance.

Best Vegetarian-Vegan: Inn Season Café
Inn Season was there first, and keeps up its game, building relationships with farmers, shopping day-to-day for freshness, and doing it all with a high level of creativity.

Best Bakery: Avalon International Breads
Avalon was among the first quality stores to take root in Detroit's Cass Corridor; today, they continue to grow.

Best Italian Chain: Andiamo's
No contest. When you have a miniature empire of some of the finest Italian restaurants in metro Detroit, you're going to win again and again. Capisce?

Best Mexican Restaurant: Señor Lopez Taqueria
Southwest Detroit brims over with Mexican cuisine, but it's this unpretentious little spot on Michigan Avenue that wins our critics' hearts year in and year out.

Best Polish Restaurant: Polish Village Café
With low prices, high quality, a full bar, and a basement where a portrait of FDR has probably been up since 1931, you can't beat PVC's authentic vibe.

Best Square Deep-Dish Pizza: Loui's
Not only is their pizza unbeatable, also winning are the waitresses who call you "Hon'" and an interior adorned with empty Chianti bottles.

Best Burger: Redcoat Tavern
Not only is this the metroplex's top burger as long as we can remember, the menu has lots of winners, and the bartender has a bent elbow.

Best Dim Sum: Shangri-La
In the West Bloomfield location, you'll find metro Detroit's most dazzling array of authentic Chinese treats.

Best Sushi: Noble Fish
Fake Shinto shrines, faux tatami surfaces and a dozen "lucky cats" at the cash register don't necessarily mean good sushi. But this unassuming little shop has a no-frills café in the rear that serves sushi of outstanding quality.

Best Al Fresco: La Dolce Vita
Not the grandest outdoor dining area in metro Detroit, but perhaps it's the contrast between the walled-in, vine-covered oasis and the gritty urban streetwall it hides behind. Either way, it's like a bit of Tuscany just off McNichols.

Best Coney Island: Lafayette
Is there any better place to rub shoulders at 2:30 a.m.? If there is, we haven't seen it yet.