Best Of 2011

Nutritional Value - Staff Picks: From style to fare to special dishes, our staff picks what's best

Best Fine Dining Value

Inside the MGM Detroit Grand, 1777 Third St., Detroit; 313-465-1646

This up-market seafood spot offers plenty of opportunities for big winners at the casino to show off, such as caviar, Australian A-5 beef at $26 per ounce and Champagne at $1,996 by the magnum. But it offers luscious treats for the less-lucky as well, with some entrées in the low 20s and oysters on the half shell for $2 apiece during happy hour. Whatever the order, it will be prepared sublimely, whether a $16 appetizer of ahi tartare, prepared tableside by your server for a fine show, or a $23 cioppino, the San Francisco shellfish stew in tomato broth. Mid-week partiers can take advantage of the Wednesday wine special: half off bottles costing more than $100.


Best Happy Hour

1128 Washington Blvd., Detroit; 313-961-2500;

Hit the bar at Roast during happy hour and you can fill up on a few excellent small plates for next to nothing. Try the 5-ounce grilled hamburger on an English muffin topped with cheese, bacon, pickled onions and a fried egg. Our favorite is fried chicken livers with mushrooms and polenta. Spicy hot peppers stuffed with sausage and the rosemary fries are good too. Since all the items on the happy hour menu are only $3, you'll have a couple extra bucks to splurge on something from their excellent drinks program.


Best Restaurant in Macomb County

The Metropolitan Café
52969 Van Dyke Ave., Shelby Twp.; 586-991-6104;

Creativity is the watchword at the east side's newest treasure: The menu at Metropolitan Café defies categorization — except to say that it's universally delicious. Chef Alexis Henslee seems to have a knack for turning common ingredients into something entirely uncommon. Be it local perch transformed into a clever Mediterranean dish or a nuanced braised lamb served atop pappardelle, nothing here is expected or obvious. Henslee has established relationships with local farmers and features their ingredients regularly on the menu, which changes seasonally. One might think that such an interesting approach to the cuisine would be accompanied by pretentiousness, but the Metropolitan Café aims for friendliness over fanciness — an exceptional neighborhood restaurant, nothing more and nothing less.


Best Restaurant to Mourn

Eve: The Restaurant

Many metro area food lovers may only know Eve Aronoff because of her unceremonious exit from TV's Top Chef, but Ann Arborites had been packing her restaurant, Eve, long before that. With a thoughtful menu full of local ingredients, a wide selection of wines, and well-made cocktails it was, to many, Ann Arbor's best restaurant. Though the approach was decidedly French, the menu always featured bright flavors, often via delicious Asian or African spicing. While Aronoff politely notes that she needed a break anyhow, an unforeseen rent hike is ultimately what saw the Kerrytown favorite close its doors after about five years. All good things must come to an end; but no one expected Eve's end to come so soon.


Best New Spinoff

Frita Batidos
117 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-761-2882;

With various upscale restaurants making the transformation from extravagant to easygoing (think Milford's Five Lakes Grill becoming Cinco Lagos, or Troy's Larco's becoming Big Beaver Tavern), savvy restaurateurs are taking note. Leave it to Eve Aronoff of the now-shuttered restaurant Eve to find a niche that caters to the comfort food crowd. Frita Batidos serves fritas (Cuban burgers made from spicy chorizo), and batidos (tropical milkshakes), opening early for the breakfast crowd. The interior is elegant but not austere, with communal seating at large picnic tables, as if to bring street food indoors. With excellent presentation, a short, affordable (it tops out at $12), burger-heavy menu, boutique ingredients, and plenty of pulled pork, grilled cheese and sloppy joes, Aronoff's gamble that her Latin vision of American comfort food would pay off would seem a winning bet.


Best Bargain Prix Fixe

Kitchen Sync at Wine Sync
122 W. Main St., Northville; 248-374-9463;

Experienced wine hand Alan Verstraete says he always starts building his Saturday night prix fixe menus by choosing the wines; the menu evolves from there. Makes sense, since the restaurant is inside a retail wine store. A first-course salad is perfectly matched with its tipple — say a watercress and pink grapefruit salad with a zippy sauvignon blanc that has a grapefruit tang. Cheese and charcuterie will be complemented with a red, of course, or the second course might be pasta. Entrées (two choices) could be smoked pork riblets or duck breast or pork shank mole — actually, whatever will go with the wine of the day. You can read what's coming up at, and it's only $30 for a four-course meal. Reservations required.


Best Rising Food Trend in Metro Detroit


Let's be clear: There has always been good barbecue in Detroit, whether it's the ribs at Vicki's or the barbecue served at such places as Milt's, Uptown Bar-B-Q, Parks, Aunt Bessie's and many other old-style joints. But in 2005, Slows took low-and-slow barbecue and added stylish sit-down dining and the biggest beer menu in town. Six years on and the formula has been re-created throughout metro Detroit, in places such as Lockhart's, Bad Brad's, Penny Black, Hoggers, Rub, Red Smoke and Union Woodshop. Driven by demand for casual dining, renewed interest in craft beer, and a fresh look at low-and-slow 'cue, it's also a reaction against anything that smacks of hoity-toityness. The verdict is clear: Barbecue is the best way to combine the decadent and the down-home in one package.


Best Ribs

Vicki's Bar-B-Q
3845 W. Warren Ave., Detroit; 313-894-9906

Vicki's is a small storefront shrimp and ribs joint. The sides are perfunctory, but the ribs are spectacular. They serve their slabs hot or mild, cleaving each rib, leaving a fringe of meat to hold it all together. Then they dunk them in their special sauce — hot slabs get a dusting of spices on the top and bottom, as well as one more generous pour of hot sauce for good measure. The sauce and ribs create a nearly perfect package. The meat is perfectly cooked, not too fatty, not too crispy; the sauce imparts a sweetness, but doesn't overwhelm the meat's smoky flavors. They're a bit pricey, costing $19.62 a slab, but with quality like this, who'd argue over pennies?


Best New Barbecue Restaurant

Lockhart's BBQ
202 E. Third St., Royal Oak; 248-584-4227;

Giving a nod to Lockhart, Texas, considered by some to be the barbecue capital of the Lone Star State, this Royal Oak joint is drawing crowds for top-notch 'cue. Start with a plate of the burnt ends, double-rubbed and double-smoked chunks of brisket, then move on to the usual suspects: ribs, chicken, pulled pork and house-made sausage, hot or mild. Go for the hot. The full bar has a selection of cold beer, perfect with barbecue. A side of collards, unlike the usual smothered style, is crisp and tender. A slice of chocolate Dr. Pepper cake is a fitting finish.


Best Raw Food

Red Pepper Deli
116 W. Main St., Northville; 248-773-7672;

She has more competitors than in the past, but Carolyn Simon is still serving the best raw-vegan-organic around; she can convince even omnivorous skeptics that it's possible for a restaurant to eschew cooking. So for a Greenwich sandwich, she'll food-process seeds into "cheese," add spinach, cucumber, avocado and sprouts, and put it on thin crunchy "bread" also made of seeds. It's funny that she keeps the titles — pizza, meatloaf, spaghetti and meatballs — for dishes that don't resemble their namesakes — they're delicious in ways that are surprising and inventive. They have to be.


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 as they send wafts of mouthwatering smoke into the market. Inside the market you can find baked goods, soups, sandwiches, and other hot eats from Russell Street Deli, People's Pierogi Collective, Good Girls go to Paris Crêpes and J & M Farms. You can also explore the shops around the market for quick eats. Eastern Market is a living, evolving thing. Even regular patrons are surprised on a weekly basis.


Best Hot Dog Stand

Gourmet Hot Dogs
2 E. John R, Detroit; 313-646-8055

This downtown hot dog stand is self-dubbed as the "Home of the Cleveland-Style Polish Boy" — that's a pre-grilled Polish sausage that's dunked into a deep-fryer for crisping, then topped with a heaping layer of cole slaw and fries, and finished with a barbecue-based sauce ($4). They also serve Italian sausage with grilled green peppers and onions, the "Detroit Dog of Champions" with cole slaw, cheese and chili, a turkey Polish dog, a "Hot and Spicy Dog," a slaw dog, a New York dog, a veggie dog, and an "All-American Hot Dog" with onions, relish, mustard and ketchup. One of their biggest sellers is the "Big Lew," an all-beef, quarter-pound hot dog with add-ons to order. All dogs come in an easy-to carry plastic case, wrapped inside tin foil. Be sure to ask for extra napkins. You'll need them.


Best Throwback Diner

24060 Woodward Ave., Pleasant Ridge; 248-548-5288;

Mae's is clean and decent and suggestive of a fairy-tale land where young love is measured in baseball euphemisms and cigarettes aren't yet bad for your health. Natural light washes across the white counter and the vibrant aqua vinyl stools and chairs. Vintage wooden soda crates and a milkshake mixer lie among the shelves of kitchen tools and foodstuffs. Though the menu is more eclectic than what you might have eaten in a real 1950s diner, the vibe is all old-fashioned neighborhood wholesomeness with plenty of good food.


Best New Lebanese Restaurant

Le Chef Restaurant
32621 Northwestern Hwy., Farmington Hills; 248-932-1300;

Hidden from view in a small strip center lies a culinary oasis. The contemporary decor, the white tablecloths, and the welcoming staff all give you a sense of the food that follows. The flavors exhibit a refinement, subtly seasoned, with emphasis on the quality and freshness of the ingredients. Begin with the ubiquitous mixed appetizer. The tabbouleh is pristinely fresh and crisp; the hummus creamy and the baba ghanoush smoky, both with just the right proportions of lemon, garlic and tahini. There's also lamb shank stewed with okra, eggplant stuffed with meat and rice, and a variety of seafood dishes in addition to the shawarmas and kebabs, as well as numerous vegetarian dishes.


Best New Indian Restaurant in the Suburbs

Mazza Indian Cuisine
3354 W. 12 Mile Rd., Berkley; 248-543-6299;

There's no dearth of Indian food in these parts anymore. Located in the former digs of Passage to India, Mazza Indian Cuisine is a recent addition to the pack. The front is now glass, eliminating the cave-like atmosphere. The food, too, has been transformed. The meat and poultry dishes are assertively seasoned, although some are not spicy enough unless you request them so. The chicken tikka masala is first cooked in a tandoor, adding an extra layer of flavor to the sauce that it is finished in. Several of the vegetarian entrées are available as sides. Do not pass on the mulligatawny soup.


Best New Indian Restaurant in the City

11917 Conant St., Hamtramck; 313-893-9902

While it's more widely known throughout the metro region for its Polish heritage, Hamtramck is blessed with a dizzying array of cultures and cuisines. Among the culinary newcomers is ZamZam, located on Conant and serving up Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian food from lunch until late in the evenings. Just about everything on the menu is worth a try — we're particularly fond of the heaping portions of aloo gobi, the Indian-Pakistani cauliflower and potato dish, and the spicy, tender lamb karahi — but it's the exceedingly low prices that have many of their diners salivating.


Best Indian Buffet

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

A pass or two at the lunch buffet at Royal Indian Cuisine yields an abundant array of north and south Indian dishes, all for less than $10, about the cost of a burger. And it's not just tandoori chicken: daily changing choices of indigenous meat and poultry dishes that will satisfy critter-eaters, as well as many vegetarian-friendly choices. Fresh naan is delivered to the table. The spice levels are geared toward the Indian palate — spicy, but not searing. Cool the burn with soothing raita before a sweet for dessert. It's a feast.


Best Place to Order Toast with Your Breakfast

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 our Best of Detroit issue. Much of their success is in attention to the details. While just about every diner offers pre-packaged, fruit-flavored corn syrup jelly, the Fly Trap serves a fresh, house-made jam that makes munching on a crunchy piece of light rye as enjoyable as the rest of the meal. We've had strawberry, blueberry and raspberry, and the fruit is usually paired with some complementary herb. Whatever the flavor, we always seem to be able to finish it all.


Best Chicken Wings in the Most Unlikely Place

Anita's Kitchen
22651 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-548-0680;

The popular Anita's Kitchen in Ferndale has been serving up quality Lebanese dishes for a few years now. Healthy salads and vegetable-intense appetizers fill a good portion of the menu, but if your taste buds are itching for something a bit meatier, try Joe's not-so-Buffalo chicken wings. Doused in a house made zip sauce with just the right amount of heat, and served with a side of crisp vegetables and a creamy feta dressing for dipping, these wings rival any in town for sheer appeal. And they pair splendidly with the Michigan craft beers served on draft.


Best Sushi and Udon Soups

Ajishin Sushi & Noodles
42270 Grand River Ave., Novi; 248-380-9850

Ajishin's udon soup is extraordinary. The base broth is developed from seaweed and fish and has so much umami flavor going on it's like a black hole for hangovers or the common cold. The namesake of the soup, the udon noodle, is a thick, wheat-based noodle; along with a bit of briny seaweed, imitation crab and green onion, it makes up the basic, or plain $5 soup. You can add all sorts of other tasty stuff for a heartier bowl. If that doesn't fill you up, the sushi is just as good. The nigiri is well constructed with mildly sweet rice, prime-quality seafood and the wasabi paste already incorporated into a bite.


Best Bun Cha Gio Tom Cua

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

Thang Long makes a great pho. And what's not to like about a massive bowl of rich, slow-developed meat broth flavored with spices and filled with rice vermicelli noodles and beef? But we are truly into their combo vermicelli. It's a bowl of those same rice noodles with the addition of cucumber, fresh cabbage, daikon, pickle, carrot, fried garlic and mint. Instead of broth, you'll get a small bowl of garlic fish sauce dressing to pour over the works. There are several toppings to choose from. Our favorite is the shrimp crabmeat crispy roll. An uncomplicated dish is seldom so deeply satisfying.


Best Eastern Market Hangover Cure

Farmer's Restaurant
2542 Market St., Detroit; 313-259-8230

When you wake Saturday morning with a head full of screaming kittens, a massive plate of Farmer's Restaurant's corned beef hash and eight cups of coffee should get you right. Hash browns, grilled onions and thinly sliced corned beef are piled high beneath two eggs. Or try their fat, juicy and finely ground breakfast sausage that's cooked so a crisp and caramelized outer shell is the first thing to meet your teeth. Of course, they serve all the other omelets and sandwiches that any decent diner has on the menu. Get there early in the peak of the market season to avoid the line.


Honorary Ambassador for the New Food Synergy in Detroit

Dave Mancini

As proprietor of Supino Pizzeria, Dave Mancini crafts a scandalously tasty thin-crust pizza. Not only does he source local products, such as Porktown sausage for the San Gennaro, or filled-to-order Katie's Cannoli for dessert, he opens his kitchen for all sorts of neighborhood food projects. One Monday night a month, Neighborhood Noodle is operating there. We have even heard of folks coming in to make gelato or using a burner to warm mulled wine for a nearby charity event. Mancini is unassuming about his role in the food community. He just likes good food and drink and does what he can to support his neighbors.


Tastiest Way to Raise Your Cholesterol

Duck Confit Poutine at the Grange
118 W. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 734-995-2107;

There's a lot to love at Ann Arbor's Grange Kitchen & Bar — creative cocktails, a focus on local ingredients, delicious homemade pickles — but one of the standouts is their poutine. When the heaping portion of duck fat fries, duck confit, duck and sage gravy, and local cheese curds is set down, you may wonder how any human has ever actually consumed that many fries (let alone that much duck fat). Ten minutes later, when you're licking the plate, worry not about the resulting minor myocardial infarction: Your taste buds will be thanking you for days.


Best Spot to Drop in for a Glass of Wine

Cork Wine Pub
23810 Woodward Ave., Pleasant Ridge; 248-544-2675;

It took a couple of years for Cork to acquire Pleasant Ridge's first-ever liquor license, but that seems like a distant memory today. Even mid-week, the restaurant is abuzz and the wine is flowing. Despite opening only about six months ago, Cork's beverage director, Jeffrey Mar, has already rotated wines on and off the extensive lists a few times, keeping the selection interesting for customers. The focus on affordable wines (and cocktails) encourages having fun and taking chances; and Jeffrey is seemingly omnipresent, ready to answer the questions of connoisseurs and neophytes alike.


Best Alternative (Non-Beef) Burger

Chorizo Frita at Frita Batidos

Cuban burgers, or fritas, are traditionally made with chorizo instead of beef. At chef Eve Aronoff's Cuban-inspired joint (discussed above), your chorizo is sandwiched between two halves of a delicious, spongy brioche bun and topped with fries and a spicy mayonnaise. An all-American, all-beef patty is a wonderful thing, but one bite of a chorizo burger at Frita Batidos ought to be enough to get any U.S. president to seriously reconsider our stance on relations with Cuba.


Best Charcuterie Platter

Forest Grill
735 Forest Ave., Birmingham; 248-258-9400;

Executive chef David Gilbert, a 2011 semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation's Best Chef in the Great Lakes Region, has become known for his upscale bistro fare — veal cheeks, root vegetable agnolotti, heritage pork, and so on. But owner-chef Brian Polcyn literally has written the book on charcuterie, and the rotating assortment of meats that Polcyn, Gilbert, and their staff put together is superb. Always a part of the selection is the "Prosciutto Birmingham," which is house-made. And the other items, ranging from cured lomo to various salumi, never disappoint. The platter is accompanied by a choice of tiny salads, olives, cornichons and house-made mustard. Grab a glass of wine from their lengthy list and savor every paper-thin slice.


Best Place to Get Wickedly Offensive Garlic Breath

Bucharest Grill
Inside Park Bar, 2040 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-965-3111;

It's 11 p.m. You're starving. And possibly drunk. Wisely deciding to grab a bite before bellying up to the Park Bar for a pint, you stride up to the counter at Bucharest Grill with laser-like focus: You need a shawarma. A few minutes later, it arrives, dripping not with grease (well, maybe a little) but with garlic sauce. Lots and lots of garlic sauce. And though you're eying that special someone across the room, you care not a lick that your breath is about to reek to high heaven. It's Bucharest Grill, and it's shawarma. They'll understand.


Best Hot Tea

Goldfish Tea
117 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-541-5252;

Tea, like any other food or drink, is an expression of a culture and a place. No retail outlet or restaurant understands that better than Royal Oak's Goldfish Tea. With a menu emphasizing hand-selected, high quality teas directly imported to Michigan from China, Goldfish offers the most authentic, delicious teas both in the cup and to brew at home. With selections that range from delicate, grassy greens like Buddha's Eyebrow to earthy, robust aged Pu-erh, you'll be drinking well no matter your tastes. Not sure what new tea to try? Ask the well-trained staff for their opinions. And if you want our opinion, head straight for Scarlet Robe, a complex, malty, full-flavored oolong. You'll become a tea snob before you finish the first cup.


Best Local Single - Origin Coffee

Great Lakes Coffee's Kenya Peaberry Kariru

Labeling any one coffee as "the best" is a bit like calling a particular wine "the best." There are endless flavors, hundreds of styles, and infinite personal preferences to consider. That said, any coffee lover would be hard-pressed to find anything to dislike with this locally roasted brew. While it certainly has a big earthy flavor, it's the finish that's so memorable — bright with a potent, delicious citric punch. Some say that peaberries — the small percentage of coffee beans that form as a small, single pod instead of two half ovals — have a more concentrated flavor. Others say they're the runts of the proverbial litter. Anyone who's taken a sip of this would have a hard time accepting the latter.


Best Deal on Wine

Half-Off Bottles on Thursdays at Wolfgang Puck Grille
Inside the MGM Grand Casino, 1777 Third St., Detroit; 313-465-1648

Chef Marc Djozlija's consistently excellent fare is reason enough to visit the Wolfgang Puck Grille in downtown's MGM Grand Casino. The prix fixe menu available three nights a week is too. But visit the restaurant on a Thursday, and you'll experience possibly the best dining deal in town: half off all bottles of wine. The extensive wine list covers all the expected New World regions, grape varieties and big names, but aficionados will be pleased to discover some cult favorites, Old World bottles with a few years on them, and some true values. Oh, and did we mention they're half-off?


Best Small Plates

Toasted Oak Grill and Market
27790 Novi Rd., Novi; 248-277-6000;

What sets Toasted Oak apart is chef Steven Grostick's charcuterie, including terrines, pâtés and rillettes. He'll offer a plate of nearly transparent speck, chorizo and salami slices with grainy mustard and ultra-fresh pickles, a pâté of chicken livers and foie gras, smoked trout steamed in Riesling, and a terrine of the day with ginger marmalade. There's also a market cheese board, favoring American products, and a house-made kielbasa. Put them together with a flight of three red wines from Spain.


Best Handmade Tortillas

Pupusería y Restaurante Salvadoreño
3149 Livernois Ave., Detroit; 313-899-4020

A thick, handmade corn tortilla is night-and-day different from the thin floppy kind from the factory: The dough is slapped from hand to hand to pat it into shape before frying. With black beans and crema, you've got a meal, but here they're stuffed with queso (the simplest and best), beans, ground pork, squash or loroco (a flower) to make pupusas, the Salvadoran national dish. If we had a Best Horchata category, the pupusería would win that one too, using morro seeds from El Salvador to produce a mild-chocolate, nutty effect.


Best Authentic Chinese

Golden Harvest
6880 E. 12 Mile Rd., Warren; 586-751-5288;

A 16-year favorite of those seeking the real deal, Golden Harvest specializes in seafood. The Hong Kong-born chef keeps live crabs, lobsters and tilapia — and, depending on the season, eel, sea bass, clams, oysters and scallops. "Assorted seafood with spicy salt (hot)" and soft-shell crabs both sport thin, pepper-flecked crusts and a satisfying crunch. Clams can be cooked in XO sauce (made from dried seafood, garlic and chilies), invented in Hong Kong. A hot pot, kept warm at your table, is a good way to enjoy an assortment of sea critters. If you can stand to order a fish that's frozen, the incomparable sole is on the menu too.


Best Makaneck and Sojouk

13823 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-584-1890;

Amani's cooks these little sausages in an oily and delicious sauce of tomatoes, parsley, garlic and a few slices of pickle, which add a marvelous piquancy. The halal meat — lamb and beef — is already delicious from its plethora of spices, which might be anything from mustard and cumin to coriander and cloves, plus pine nuts. Sojouk is the hotter and redder version; makaneck is pronounced "mechanic." It's called an appetizer, but add a salad and pita and you have a meal.


Best Halal Mexican

Fuego Grill
7040 Schaefer Rd., Dearborn; 313-581-9800

No chorizo, no lomo, no menudo, no Dos Equis — it's neither truly traditional down-home Mexican nor an Americanized cheese-fest. Fuego Grill attracts both Muslims and others with a menu that's all made in-house, using a chicken-based chorizo in cheese-stuffed mushrooms, drizzled with balsamic; outstanding tortilla chips dusted with chipotle and ancho chili powders; braised beef tips; fish tacos dressed with long shreds of cabbage and plenty of lime. Skip the lard-less beans and enjoy the slightly upscale and contemporary feel — no sombreros, but some welcome surprises.


Best Layered Cocktails

Luxe Bar & Grill
525 N. Old Woodward Ave., Birmingham; 248-792-6051

These stratified inventions are not mixed, shaken or stirred. The gorgeous bands of jewel-like colors rest gently atop one another, allowing the sipper to taste different flavors consecutively. A Pousse Café, for example, contains five liqueurs — clear Curaçao, Blue Curaçao, clear Maraschino, green crème de menthe and caramel-colored crème de cacao — plus cognac and reddish grenadine. It's lovely to look at as well as tasty, and a decent amount of booze. Death at Dusk puts blue violette on the bottom, followed by absinthe — which turns into a dramatic cloud of white when touched by the top layer of cold Prosecco. Not on the menu but popular for birthday shots is the three-color Shooting Star, which includes pineapple Midori and Cointreau.


Best Ethiopian Carry-out

Addis Ababa
273 N. Main St., Plymouth; 734-414-9935;

Doro wat and zilzil alecha in 12-ounce polystyrene containers, instead of beautifully laid out on a huge round of injera? For those uninterested in the rituals of Ethiopian dining, seeking only the intense traditional flavors that owner Bekele Lessanework creates so well — collards squared and split peas to the nth — Addis Ababa offers a way to enjoy the vibrancy of Ethiopian dishes behind your own closed doors. At only $3.75 for mild or spicy beef and chicken dishes and $2.95 for vegetables, with free injera, Addis Ababa is a lot more fun than stopping by KFC on your way home.


Best Place to Eat House-made Bar Food while Listening to Local Bands

PJ's Lager House
1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-961-4668;

The music side of the Lager House is well known, but does everyone appreciate that you can eat a remarkably house-made version of bar food there too? Burgers, onion rings, fries — the names are familiar but the results are not. Corned beef is corned in-house for a fine Reuben made with fresh cole slaw and house-made Thousand Island. A burger is grilled with blackening spices on one side and blue cheese on the other. There's a portobello sandwich, and soup, and onion rings vie with sweet potato fries for best side. At this music joint, food is not just the B side.


Best Neapolitan Pizza in the Suburbs

Fresco Wood Oven Pizzeria
1218 Walton Blvd., Rochester Hills; 248-841-1606;

If a glance at the pie pictured on Fresco's home page doesn't lure you to their strip center digs, you've been eating too much mass-produced cheesy, sweetly sauced, commissary-fed pizza. The Neapolitan-style variety that you'll find here bears little resemblance to that. The dough comes out with a crunchy exterior, chewy within. The toppings are fresh, the sauce homemade, the cheese sparse, not gooey and greasy. The fennel salad, served warm, is roasted in the wood-fired oven, lightly dressed and topped with walnuts. Don't miss the meatball sandwich, which is finished in the same oven on a roll made from the pizza dough.


Best Macaroons

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

Ann St. Peter believes the French macaroon, a sandwich of baked almond meringue around a butter cream filling, is the new cupcake. Not to be confused with the dense, North American coconut version, her macaroons are simultaneously crunchy and chewy and flavored with things like pistachios, apricots and blackberries. We were particularly enamored with a rose-flavored version made for Valentine's Day. One of these tasty morsels is just enough to satisfy a gourmet sweet tooth while admiring Pinwheel's creative seasonal window display.


Best Ice Cream Ingenuity

Treat Dreams
22965 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-544-3440;

Metro Detroit's Willy Wonka of ice cream, Scott Moloney, is dreaming up ice cream flavors that will curl your tongue. Selections like lemon-basil, spicy jalapeño, dark chocolate peanut butter curry, salty caramel, avocado-lime, bananas Foster, pistachio-wasabi, and a mixture of maple ice cream with bacon and waffles called Sunday Breakfast have folks lining up to taste something wild and new. For the most daring eaters he infuses ice cream with savory flavors such as chicken and waffles or garlic. Treat Dreams isn't just a gimmick. The plain chocolate is as good as any in the area.

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