Best New Restaurant
167 Townsend St., Birmingham; 248-494-7110; bellapiattirestaurant.com
Far too many restaurants lose sight of the complete dining experience. Not Bella Piatti, this year's clear standout among newcomers. The shareable plates and upbeat space are fun, the food is consistently delicious, the wine, beer and cocktails are thoughtfully selected, and the servers are knowledgeable. It's pricey, but it's superb. And though it would be easy to write an entire paragraph just on the handmade pasta, if we had one piece of advice for first-timers, it would be to take advantage of the offerings that are otherwise uncommon to southeast Michigan: The grilled fresh sardine, the Kobe rib cap, and the perfectly executed honey and pine nut tart among them.
Best Ground Floor City View
800 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-237-7778; fountainbistro.com
Everyone oohs and aahs over the views from such restaurants as Iridescence or Coach Insignia, where, at an altitude of several stories, diners are afforded the luxury of gazing out over the city, the river and the loveliness that is our neighbor Windsor. Dining at ground level, however, is usually a different story; restaurants often look out onto vistas of concrete, parked cars or the liquor store across the street. But acrophobics, fear not: Fountain Bistro offers the most charming street-level view in town. Situated adjacent to the fountain in Campus Martius, the restaurant's floor-to-ceiling windows and seasonal outdoor seating offer an ambience that is delightfully European, bringing to mind the sidewalk cafés of Paris or Rome. One of the most generous happy hours in the city makes this a natural choice for a post-work nosh and a glass of wine; come after dark and the fountain is illuminated for a romantic atmosphere.
22039 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-582-8400
The name, the look and the menu under new ownership are exactly the same. Portion control is still nonexistent. We don't know whether new co-owner Marwan Haidar has retained the same cooks that made the original La Shish the gold standard, but they're certainly using the same recipes. The chain that closed in disgrace in 2008 is now down to the Michigan Avenue flagship, but it's packing in customers just as before — for the warm puffed pita with creamy garlic sauce, the crushed lentil soup and tomato-based chicken noodle, mjadra generous with caramelized onions and yogurt, fattoush as the default salad, and lots of lamb (sadly not a given in every Middle Eastern restaurant anymore).
Best Menu Overhaul
155 S. Bates St., Birmingham; 248-731-7066; tallulahwine.com
Overhaul might be a strong word, but there's no doubting that Tallulah Wine Bar in Birmingham has changed over the past year. With a new chef and a new sommelier has come a superior overall approach. At the bar, the drinks have improved mightily, embracing the movement (back) toward thoughtfully crafted cocktails. The wine list still has plenty of big California wines but seems to be branching out in different directions as well. And the food is superb and wine-friendly, from the charcuterie plate — featuring products from Edwards of Surry and La Quercia — to the somewhat more rustic, earthy main dishes.
Best Sea Change
Joe Muer Seafood
400 Renaissance Center, #1404, Detroit; 313-567-6837; joemuerseafood.com
While there are certainly references to the past — shrimp in an almond casino butter and Dover sole a la Meuniere, servers in white tuxedo jackets and tiered dessert carts rolling through the dining room — Joe Muer hasn't just been reborn, it's been reinvented. With an eclectic decor that blends old and new, sweeping views of the Detroit River, a menu that includes several Asian influences, and several chef's tables among its hundreds of seats, it's unquestionably a new restaurant despite the venerable brand name.
Best Pop-Up Restaurant
Metro Detroit saw its fair share of pop-ups in 2011, but perhaps none was as focused, as successful or as delicious as Komodo Kitchen. Offering Indonesian fusion cuisine using a range of local and organic ingredients, Komodo serves up spicy but subtle dishes that generally showcase flavors common in (and unique to) Indonesian cuisine. Each dish at each of their initial events has been beautiful — elegantly plated, intoxicatingly aromatic and thoroughly delicious. For the time being, the team behind Komodo Kitchen is remaining cautious, planning one dinner at a time, but the fact that their March event at MOCAD sold out in 15 minutes would seem to indicate there's demand for more.
Best Urban Oasis
Le Petit Zinc
1055 Trumbull Ave, Detroit; 313-963-2805; lepetitzincdetroit.com
Corktown has its share of great dining options, expanding exponentially of late. Some of these even have secluded outdoor seating (Slows, Mercury Burger Bar, the Lager House) that allows you to overlook the fact that you're facing a large abandoned structure or a busy five-lane thoroughfare. But our favorite spot to grab a light meal or a café au lait and "get away from it all" is Le Petit Zinc. Walk through the wrought-iron gates and you find yourself in a pretty walled garden dotted with flowers and a small fountain. Tables have adjustable umbrellas in case the sun is too strong. The vibe is laid-back, and it's not typically too hard to snag an outdoor table despite the small size of the courtyard. Best of all, the menu offerings (crêpes, salads, sandwiches) are all less than $10, offering a respite for your wallet as well as your senses.
Best Small Plates
300 Town Center Drive, inside the Henry hotel, Dearborn; 313-253-4475; triadearbornrestaurant.com
Tria encourages experimentation with its combo of small sizes and smallish prices. Dinner guests can try nibbling plates of five spreads and snacks for $12 (such as olive tapenade, marinated olives and nuts). Or get one Black Angus slider with red onion jam and one braised lamb taco, $4 apiece. Share flatbreads spread with smoked salmon or with mushrooms, chèvre, arugula and caramelized onions. Some dishes are available in half-sizes (such as the impossibly rich lamb ragout), and the "small is possible" ethos extends to wines and desserts. You can order 2-ounce, 5-ounce or 8-ounce servings of wine, allowing you to create your own flights, and get a miniature dessert for $3 or five for $7.
Best American Restaurant
340 Town Center Blvd., White Lake; 248-698-2400; therootrestaurant.com
The Root is not only aggressively American in its menu choices (pork shoulder, New York strip, meatloaf, pumpkin pot pie, cheese grits, corn on the cob) but insistently Michigan: pork pasties are on the menu. In truth, it's not sticking to nearby suppliers, but to chef James Rigato's outsized cooking skills, which have produced such excellent takes on old favorites. He tosses linguine with house-made bacon and shrimp from Okemos (!), roasts quince to mix with arugula and pumpkin seeds, braises pork in cider and then adds cheddar grits. The result is taste sensations that draw diners from all over metro Detroit.
Best Locavore Cuisine
2501 Jackson Rd., Ann Arbor; 734-663-3663 (FOOD); zingermansroadhouse.com
You can't get much more local than sourcing from eight miles away on your own farm. Chef Alex Young's Cornman Farms grows 27 vegetables for the Roadhouse in scores of varieties, including many heirlooms, and raises old breeds of hogs and cattle for diners' barbecue glee. He says varieties are chosen for their suitability to the Michigan climate, bragging that, in the summer, vegetables are served just hours after they're picked. The rest of the harvest is put up for the winter — no need to import from afar. And what goes around comes around: Your leftovers go back to the farm as compost.
Best Raw Food
204 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-336-9043; www.cacaotreecafe.com
We are continually being warned about foods that are harmful to our well-being, those containing too much fat, too much lactose, too many hormones and preservatives. When shelf stability is more important than healthfulness, making the right choices becomes difficult. Amber Puopore, owner of the Cacao Tree and longtime advocate of a vegetarian diet, has taken her diet to another level, serving raw foods that retain many of the nutrients lost in the cooking process. She uses mostly organic ingredients, sourcing as much she can locally. Almost everything is vegan. What's more, the purity of the flavors is compelling, even to a meat-eater.
Best Middle Eastern Restaurant with Alcohol
32621 Northwestern Hwy., Farmington Hills; 248-932-1300; lechefmi.com
Despite the abundance of fine Middle Eastern restaurants in metro Detroit, it can be difficult to find one that serves cocktails and wine, a must for some folks. Tucked away in an obscure strip mall, Le Chef has it all. Owned by a Lebanese family — both husband and wife are chefs — you'll find generous portions of their take on the usual dishes, reflecting their pride and the expertise, all served up in a contemporary room with white tablecloths. Save room for the crème caramel and French pastries.
8731 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck; 313-871-4349
Forget hummus — it's not traditional in Yemen — and seek dishes far afield from the well-known Lebanese. The 8 a.m.-to-midnight, seven-days café is no-frills — no raw juices, no dessert — and oriented toward men from the neighborhood. A giant piece of flatbread (malooga) is the utensil of choice. Basically, lamb is spiced and cooked in a variety of ways, in large servings: on the backbone with vegetables, in a dark broth, ground with egg and vegetables, in stews called soups, and served in heavy cast-iron pots. Prices are nonstandard too: $5-$10 for entrées.
Best Old-School Italian
3401 Riopelle St., Detroit; 313-831-5940; romacafe.com
For the last couple decades, the majority of new Italian restaurants have anxiously tried to distinguish themselves from their "inauthentic" older cousins, aka red-sauce joints. You know, the places where most of the dishes have a thick blanket of mozzarella, and where you'll unfailingly find familiar standbys such as chicken Marsala and eggplant Parmesan. We say there's nothing wrong with these old-school restaurants — in fact, they should be celebrated for the hearty hybrid cuisine they offer. Detroit's oldest and best is Roma Café in the Eastern Market. Not only does the place have history and ambience up the ying-yang, their food is rock-solid. In addition to covering the usual classics — pastas, steaks, several preparations of chicken and veal — Roma also offers such items as frog legs, sautéed sweetbreads and escargot for more adventurous diners.
Best Italian without Tomatoes
22023 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-277-2426;
Entrées with tomato sauce are rare at Ciao, even on the pizzas; mushrooms are more frequent. If you get tomatoes, they're either sun-dried or combined with something high in butterfat, as in "Gorgonzola tomato cream." Instead, the long and luscious list is made up of Italian fare that often feels more sophisticated than the red stuff, such as calamari with vino bianco, mushroom soup with Asiago, linguine with vodka and salmon. And then there's surf-and-turf. Chef Hassan Aoun eschews Italian wines too, preferring California's.
Best New Pizzeria
Antica Pizzeria Fellini
415 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak; 248-547-2751
Antica Pizzeria Fellini pays homage to pizza's Neopolitan origins, which evolved from ancient flatbreads, using the dough and the wood-fired oven and the techniques that must conform to rigid standards. The result is soft yet chewy bread, topped with fresh toppings. The best test of a pizzaiolo's proficiency and the freshness of the ingredients is a Margherita pie. Fellini's gets high marks, covered with San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte, basil, and, in this case, grated Parmesan. This is a pizzeria: no pasta, no veal. Salads and desserts — including a notable tiramisu — are worthy complements to the pie.
Best Authentic Chinese
116 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-995-1786; kaigarden.com
Ask for the "Hong Kong and Taiwan" menu, which caters to the many Chinese students and faculty in town, and prepare for the real deal: spicy pig's ear, double-cooked pork belly, steamed ginger chicken, pomfret or steamed sole cooked whole and deconstructed on your plate (the best). Sauces with garlic and scallions are prominent. Those who dare can go with cold shredded pig stomach or sou chou pig cake, but there are plenty of dishes along the lines of Hunan spicy fish or braised pork with salted vegetable to keep others happy. The staff is only too delighted to help you choose.
Best Thai Cuisine
323 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-548-5373
Some things never change. In the case of Ferndale's Bangkok Cafe, that's a good thing. For as long as memory serves, everything about the place remains the same. The only noticeable modifications to the interior are a couple of Best of Detroit awards. Even one of the waitresses has been there for more than 10 years. Ditto the main event, the food. It must be fresh: There's no room to store anything more than the constant flow of customers consumes. What makes it so popular? Well-seasoned meats and crisp, fresh vegetables mixed into an array of time-tested recipes that need no tweaking.
Krishna Catering & Restaurant
28636 Ford Rd., Garden City; 734-513-3663 (FOOD); krishnacatering.com
The menu in this bare-bones vegetarian operation (plasticware, serve-yourself water from a cooler) tops out at $9, but many dishes are less than $6. Most of the business is carry-out, but sit down and get acquainted with such street food as chats and other dishes from north and south India, Gujarat and Punjab, plus "Indian-Chinese Fusion" if you dare. Masala dosa is a standout, dipped in golden sambal. Idli chat seems to be on a perpetual $3.50 special, a mix of idli, yogurt, tamarind sauce, chutneys and deep-fried chickpea batter. Or get your chickpea batter steamed as khaman dhokala ($3.25), with sprinkles of shredded coconut and cilantro on top. A fine mango lassi is $2.25.
Best Kosher Indian
29210 Orchard Lake Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-626-6021; udipirestaurantonline.com
There are a half-dozen Indian restaurants on Orchard Lake Road between 12 Mile and 13 Mile roads, but only one that serves kosher foods, conforming to Jewish dietary laws. Udipi is a find for vegetarian Indian food lovers, even those who don't keep kosher, with a menu that spans the cuisine of southern India. The worn-out decor needs some updating, and the dishes on the daily buffet should be labeled, but it's all about the food. Appetizers, entrées, rice specialties, curries and breads are all priced under $10. Namaste. And shalom.
Best Dim Sum in Detroit
4710 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-974-7669;
Dim Sum translates to "little piece of the heart," referring to the bite-size portions of steamed or fried dumplings, noodles, braised meats, seafood and vegetables. And at Shangri-La's Detroit location, every day there are about 40 items, perfect for sharing, passed on rolling carts at lunchtime and available for ordering from the menu all day. Chinese broccoli is a must, a crunchy foil for the stuffed eggplant, the curried squid, shrimp wrapped in bean curd, and garlic chive pancakes. Mango pudding offers a sweet contrast. Cantonese fare and sushi, as well as a few Thai curries, round out the menu with choices for every taste.
Best Wood-Oven Pizza
341 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 734-769-6700;
At the far end of Mani Osteria's dining room, the open kitchen is in full view of the entire restaurant. And from its center erupts the warm orange glow of their wood-fired oven, practically saying to customers, "Don't be stupid. Get a pizza. It'll be good." And it is. Sporting thin, lightly charred crusts, each pie emerges with a great flavor and texture. The combinations of toppings each look so good — such as Taleggio, truffle and egg or smoked cheese, ham, mushroom and garlic cream — the menu dares you to order a few, just to sample.
Best Cheap Falafel
6540 Orchard Lake Rd., West Bloomfield; 248-855-6929
32748 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak; 248-554-9881
If you're going to name yourself "Falafel King," you'd better serve a damn good falafel, right? The falafel salad is like a combination meal served in a bowl: A large fattoush sans bread is topped with two mounds of creamy hummus, tabbouleh and four falafel patties, all served with just-baked bread that asks only a moment to cool so that the steam won't burn your hands. The signature Falafel King sandwich, pretty much the salad rolled up in a 9-inch pita, is a steal at $4.44. Add a cup of crushed lentil soup for $1.95. Still not enough? You can top your meal off with their smooth, smoky baba ghanoush.
Best Reason to Visit a Radiator Shop
For the most part, no one wants to visit an automotive radiator shop. Because unless you're visiting your cousin the mechanic, the chances are good that your radiator is fried. But not if it's a sunny spring weekend, not if it's Ferndale, and not if there's a giant black truck parked out front. Then you're all good — because rolling taqueria Jacques' Tacos is selling its fare in the auto shop lot. With names like "Little Piggie" for a $3 pork taco, it's a different experience than heading to southwest Detroit — but topped with a delicious sweet corn relish and salsa verde, the different approach is sort of the point. And, as a bonus, you can drop off your car to get that cracked inlet tank checked out. See website for hours and locations.
Best Dining on Wheels
211 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor;
Pop quiz, hotshot: Margie from accounting doesn't like Indian, but Brian in the next cubicle hates her suggestion of Thai food, and they're looking at you for the final word on lunch. What do you do? What do you do? If you're in Ann Arbor, you calm down and take them to Mark's Carts. Entering its second season in 2012, the collective of outdoor eateries is one of the best spots in town for a quick bite regardless of your culinary preferences or prejudices. It's hard to play favorites, but if there's a "can't miss" cart, it's probably San Street, home to steamed pork (or mushroom) buns on par with anything you'll find on the coasts. No joke.
Best Wine Gimmick
in a Restaurant
Green Zone Pizza's Wine Dispenser
17008 Kercheval Ave., Grosse Pointe; 313-332-0559; greenzonepizza.com
It's really two gimmicks in synch: wine on a gift card and wine from a vending machine. Fill up your card and insert it into the Enomatic. Eight bottles are displayed, four reds and four whites, the latter kept colder. Put your glass under the spigot and watch the pour. As each bottle is depleted by happy customers, the wine is kept fresh with argon gas, pumped into the bottle to blanket the surface and keep destructive oxygen away. The third novelty is that you can choose a taste for $1.25-$3.50, a half-glass for $3.75-$10.50, or a full glass for $7.50-$21.
Best Throwback That Stubbornly Hangs On
Polish Yacht Club
5249 Joseph Campau St., Detroit; 313-925-5335; ivanhoecafe-pyc.com
Ask most Detroiters how to get to the Ivanhoe Café, and you'll likely get a bewildered look in response; not so much if you call it the Polish Yacht Club. For more than 100 years, this landlocked spot has been the place to get some of the best pan-fried perch, hand-cut fries, top-notch burgers and kielbasa. The local cachet, the location and the decor make PYC the last place you'd expect to have a website. Skip the enhanced menu and go for the perch. Just be careful of the bones. Photos of local landmarks and bygone celebrities adorn the walls.
Best Local Gringo Taquerista
Timmy "Vulgar" Lampinen
Most people know Timmy Vulgar for his antics as the lead singer of the Clone Defects, Human Eye and Timmy's Organism. Some may be familiar with his visual art, which often adorns the records he's on. But fewer still know him as a talented cook, one who has worked in numerous Detroit-area kitchens. These days, he limits his culinary work to serving his tacos when he bartends Wednesday nights at Hamtramck's Painted Lady Lounge. His tacos are no joke. When it comes to food, Vulgar is most obsessed with Mexican fare. Vulgar strives to keep his Mexican food authentic, using real corn tortillas, white onions, fresh lime and cilantro, and very limited cheese. "If there's one thing I hate," he says, "it's fake, crappy, gringo Mexican food!" And, as Vulgar says, you can't just eat three.
Best Coney Island Maitre d'
Mayo at Duly's Place
5458 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit; 313-554-3076
On weekend nights, at a hallowed little coney island restaurant on Vernor Highway called Duly's, you'll likely find a real Detroiter holding forth up front. He calls himself "Mayo," and as the bar crowd wanders in for post-beer coneys, Mayo treats the front counter as his personal vaudeville stage, wisecracking with the customers up front by the cash register. A sharp-eyed host, he runs the room well, chattering in French, English and Spanish. Along with your onion rings, you could get his philosophy about life, with a host of Mayo-isms along the way. Deadpan and funny, most of his utterances are unpublishable here — in a good way. And what's his philosophy? He pretty much says he doesn't give a hoot. Except the word isn't "hoot." In short, Mayo is a character. Part maitre d', part comedian, part bouncer, part diplomat. He keeps his remarks brief and funny, the better to watch the diners and bid everybody hello and goodbye. If you're a good customer and don't give anybody trouble, he may even give you a sucker when you go.
Best Use of Fake Meat
5169 Trumbull St., Detroit; 313-833-2701; woodbridgepub.com
At the vast majority of America's bars, vegetarians are lucky to have the option of a grilled cheese, some mozzarella sticks or a prefab frozen veggie burger — if anything. Fortunately, Woodbridge Pub takes its vegetarian fare as seriously as the rest of its upscale pub menu. There are a few interesting choices, including a white bean burger with nutritional yeast, a pasta primavera with ramp pistou and a seitan and rice pilaf dinner. But the shining star of the meat-free selections — the one that has vegetarians swooning — is the Pho Philly. Perfectly seasoned soy "beef" on a bolillo roll gets heaped with sautéed onions and red peppers and smothered with gooey melted fontina; there's even a side of mushroom jus for dunking. Hands off, carnivores — no sharing!
Best Restaurant for Omnivores, Vegetarians and Meat-Eaters to Coexist Contentedly
22651 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-548-0680; anitaskitchenonline.com
Meanwhile, at Anita's vegetarian items are so tasty and diverse (the Phoenician pizza and the artichoke pie are favorites) that we find ourselves bypassing the meat as often as not. On the other side of the spectrum, carnivores can get in touch with their inner caveman by ordering the kibbeh nyeh (raw ground lamb with bulgur and spices) or a big, meaty lamb shank. Of course, this being Lebanese food, you won't get far if you don't like onions, garlic or food with actual flavor, but if that's the case you're probably a lost cause anyway and should just dine solo to spare your friends your picky eating habits.
Best Kitchen Open
Only on Weekdays
Northern Lights Lounge
660 W. Baltimore St., Detroit; 313-873-1739
Many MT readers may be familiar with New Center's Northern Lights Lounge as a stylish bar and performance venue, but for several years the nightspot has kept its kitchen open Monday through Friday in a bid for Detroit's weekday lunch and dinner crowds. For a business luncheon, you could hardly pick a snazzier joint. Not only does it sprawl throughout a large building that can seat more than 100 diners, it offers a variety of environments to dine in, including informal chairs up front by the free shuffleboard table, wraparound booths in the moodier main room, simple tables for a tête-à-tête, and even seating along the bar. The full bar can mix up offbeat, eye-catching concoctions. And the menu has several strong choices, with appetizers averaging about $7.50. The fried calamari appetizer is especially good — and big enough to share. Sandwiches average around $7, and include a turkey burger, a club with turkey, ham and bacon, and even a Philly cheese-steak. Their simple USDA prime chuck burger is an excellent specimen of bar food, coming cooked to order on a smallish sesame-seed bun, offering an excellent bread-to-beef ratio in each bite. Kitchen open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday; 21 and older only.
Best Breakfast for You, the Earth and Southeast Michigan
From 6:30 to 10 a.m., Fridays, at 722 Soule Blvd., Ann Arbor; 734-417-1144; selmacafe.org; $12-$15 suggested donation for breakfast
Founded in 2009, Selma Cafe is a weekly local-foods breakfast fundraiser and party catering to people into food. Not just any food, mind you: slow food, organic food, local food, sustainable and secure food. And the folks who gather there often have lively discussions about what the ideal regional food economy should look like. Every Friday morning, on Ann Arbor's west side, a different guest chef creates a breakfast menu chock-full of seasonal, local ingredients, assisted by an all-volunteer kitchen crew. The weekly event happens in the home of the hospitable and gracious Lisa Gottlieb and Jeff McCabe, where they have served about 10,000 meals to 4,000 people, raising more than $100,000 for agricultural projects. Not only are about a third of the funds fed back into the local food systems thanks to the locally sourced menus, proceeds also go toward micro-loans that have assisted such local urban ag figures as Greg Willerer of Detroit's Brother Nature Produce and Kate Devlin of Detroit's Spirit of Hope Farm. All around, Gottlieb and McCabe are on to something delicious.
Best Place to Eat Your Way to Social Justice
COLORS — Detroit
311 E. Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-496-1212;
Newly opened in 2011, COLORS is a restaurant whose motto — "Just. Good. Food." — belies its ultimate purpose. There is good food, to be sure, such as the grilled cheese with Zingerman's cheeses on Avalon bread, the tasty sweet potato fried wontons, and the achiote-rubbed roast chicken. But there's also a larger agenda than serving up great locally sourced lunch fare: The restaurant is a nonprofit whose ultimate goal is to empower its staff by paying a living wage and equipping them with the tools and training to run businesses of their own, should they desire to do so. The restaurant is already serving as an incubator for an employee-run catering division, Colors Event Services, and a spinoff called Café Colors, which will be a retail outlet for Colors-branded products and other local food items.
Best Place to Try Something New
Atlas Global Bistro
3111 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-831-2241; atlasglobalbistro.com
Have you ever tried a green apple gelée? How about lemon horseradish vinaigrette? Or a chicken liver tart with celery root purée? Surely you haven't tried duck breast with braised baby fennel and an apple cider red peppercorn sabayon? We bet you haven't — unless you happen to have dined at Detroit's Atlas Global Bistro. Atlas has been around for nearly a decade, and — though chefs have come and gone — proprietress Nicole Barbour has maintained the restaurant's commitment to innovation. Tentative eaters will find familiar ingredients, such as shrimp or chicken, but paired with such unlikely companions as ale and caraway with a jicama-grapefruit slaw or the aforementioned chicken liver tart. If this all sounds too wild and crazy, rest assured that you're in good hands; we've sampled many of chef Zachary Stotz's dishes and didn't find a single one disappointing.
Best Brewpub Food
311 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-913-2730;
One of the state's finest breweries, Jolly Pumpkin, opened a restaurant in Ann Arbor a couple of years ago. Food at many brewpubs is notoriously mediocre, so it was a pleasant surprise when their menu featured some genuinely delicious fare. Clog your arteries with a mammoth burger topped with bacon, mushrooms and a thick chunk of moderately stinky cambozola cheese. Or dine healthy with their ample selection of vegan fare. And wash it all down with a snifter of what is quite probably the country's best farmhouse ale. Don't live anywhere near Ann Arbor? No worries — they're launching a second location in Royal Oak expected to open as soon fall 2012.
Attached to a Bar
2040 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-965-3111; bucharestgrill.com
The streets behind the Fox Theatre have come alive with clubs and restaurants, dens of food and entertainment that are drawing folks looking for new venues to explore. In the heart of it is the Bucharest Grill, where you'll find an array of Middle Eastern and Romanian food, hot dogs and sausages, as well as shawarmas, the stars of the menu. Try the signature Bucharest shawarma loaded with grilled chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, spices and fries awash with garlic sauce for less than $5. The attached Park Bar awaits you, where you can quaff a cold beer with the chow.
Best Food at Happy Hour
2030 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-961-2543; cliffbells.com
We were going to title this category "Classiest Place to Drink a 50-Cent PBR," but we didn't want to sidestep the sumptuous food offerings. So instead, we'll just focus on the outstanding small plates executive chef Matt Baldridge has devised for Cliff Bell's happy hour. For a mere $3, you can try a dish of grits with heirloom tomato relish and crisp sage. Another dollar gets you sweet cherry pepper "poppers" with roasted pears, Manchego and aged balsamic, or tenderloin tips in puff pastry with mushrooms, shallots and red wine demi-glace. Upping the ante to $5, choices include a spicy shrimp "puff" with pickled veggies, or bacon bites with fresh melon & jalapeño-infused molasses. If drinking a PBR with these posh noshes strikes you as déclassé, they also offer deals on wine, bartender specials, and classic swizzlers and sippers, all $7 or less.
Best Reason to Hate Mondays
Astro Coffee is Closed
2124 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-638-2989; astrodetroit.com
Sure, Monday sucks for at least a half-dozen reasons. But none elicits the same inevitable wistful sigh as waking up, dragging oneself to and from the shower, and suddenly remembering that Detroit's finest café isn't open. Coffee junkies will miss the superior espresso, the addictive flat white, and the ever-rotating selection of nuanced pour over brews. But arguably more so, everyone should be able to start their week with whatever rotating food selection they've dreamed up, whether it's a crumbly cake punctuated with seasonal fruit or an impossibly delicious vegan lentil sandwich. The overall approach and execution are unmatched in the region, and it's no surprise that the combination of food, coffee and friendliness has turned Astro into a community hub all its own.
Best Use of Condensed Milk
300 Hamilton Row, Birmingham; 248-792-9766; gocommonwealth.com
OK, so there's a lot more to Commonwealth than condensed milk. But it's a key ingredient in their signature latte, and it's pretty damn good — a sweetened, almost dessert-like twist on the über-popular drink. They also select and roast their own beans in-house, making it one of only a handful of coffee shops in southeast Michigan to serve single-origin coffees and expressive, flavorful espresso. The food menu stands up to the bar set by the coffee, focusing on quality ingredients. And the space itself is beautiful with two garage doors that open during warmer months, perfect for enjoying a chilled treat in the open air. You might not think a sweetened, condensed milk latte would be good on ice. But it is.
Best Tres Leches Cake
203 Hamilton St., Birmingham; 248-593-6060;
Oddly, for a chef and a restaurant decidedly not of the barrio, Barrio's tres leches cake is even better than those from Mexicantown bakeries; it's richer than it is sweet, though it's plenty sweet. The three milks used to soak this traditional Latin American gem are evaporated, condensed and heavy cream, but the sponge cake is full of air bubbles and doesn't come out soggy. Chef Hammond Lawton's version comes swimming in cream and topped with cinnamon-spiked whipped cream and cubes of raw mango.
Best Restaraurant for Feeling Like a 19th Century Tycoon
4421 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-832-5700;
If you want to revel in an environment of bygone ostentatiousness, nothing beats a meal at the Whitney. With its 52 rooms, 10 bathrooms and 20 fireplaces, the three-story pink-granite edifice built for a lumber baron in 1894 has been one of Detroit's most celebrated restaurants since it opened 1986. The building is unquestionably a work of ornamental majesty, with stained glass windows and fine-carved wood walls really setting off the mood. It certainly provided a sumptuous setting for this issue's model, football hero Justin Durant.
Best New Restaurant
Best Beer Selection
in a Restaurant
Beer Bar & Kitchen
175 W. Troy St., Ferndale; 248-808-6633; oneeyedbettys.com
One-Eyed Betty holds an impressive collection of craft brews, around 45 drafts and 85 bottled beers. Betty's food is luscious, filling and inexpensive. The gargantuan burger is gilded with garlic aioli, melting cheddar, and piled with applewood-smoked bacon. Desserts include house-made donuts, hand-cut from yeast dough and deep-fried, then served with milk chocolate and raspberry sauces. All items pair perfectly with the beer selection, or are cooked with beer — like the tasty beer-and-cheese soup.
Best Restaurant to Take Out-of-Towners
Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $50, Wayne County
Best Barbecue, Wayne County
Best Slow Food
Slows Bar BQ
2138 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-962-9828; slowsbarbq.com
This nationally recognized Corktown gem is packed with faithful barbecue fans willing to wait over fancy beer or wine selections for the delicious Carolina-style pulled pork, the sharp and creamy mac-n-cheese, or the flaky catfish. Not only did our readers vote it the best moderately priced restaurant and best barbecue in the county, they judged it the best place to show off metro Detroit to visitors. As for the slow food thing, well, it is right in the name. ...
Best Romantic Restaurant, Wayne County
Best Steak, Wayne County
1128 Washington Blvd., Detroit; 313-961-2500; roastdetroit.com
Roast covers every detail, from the complimentary coat check to the elegant white linens. Floor-to-ceiling windows afford views of Washington Boulevard. But all this elegance doesn't mean you can't dress casually to enjoy Roast's bounty. And then there's the steak: fine cuts of beef, all naturally raised and dry-aged, cooked over a wood-fired rotisserie. What's more, the poultry and seafood dishes receive just as much love and care. And then there are the inspired touches that make a Michael Symon restaurant special, blending in such unusual ingredients as marrow or fried egg.
Best Romantic Restaurant, Oakland County
The Melting Pot
888 W. Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-362-2221
26425 Novi Rd., Novi; 248-347-6358
309 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-622-0055;
The staff at the Melting Pot is willing to go the extra mile to cater to your fondue fantasies. All tables feature a heating element that keeps your fondue pots hot and ready for your choice of vegetables, breads, meats, fruits and more, dipped in a variety of chocolates and cheeses.
Best Romantic Restaurant, Macomb County
Best Restaurant to
Spend Less Than $50,
16981 18 Mile Rd., Clinton Twp.; 586-416-3501; jbaldwins.com
Jeff Baldwin, the respected chef who presided over the kitchens at the Whitney and Van Dyke Place, owns this casual eatery that elegantly presents about 30 entrées daily, along with a variety of sauces and accoutrements. Among the entrées are crusty pizzas cooked in a stone oven, calamari, crab cakes, ahi tuna, lemon chicken piccata and portobello ravioli. Many desserts are made in-house, including the crème brûlée and rich Black Forest torte.
Best Romantic Restaurant, Washtenaw County
121 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-994-0211; theearle.com
The Earle is the perfect spot for a candlelit dinner for two. Live jazz music accompanies your meal on weekends. The menu includes French- and Italian-inspired entrées, such as escargot vol-au-vent, salmon pate with cognac, baked goat cheese and duck. Choose from an extensive, award-winning wine list.
Best View in a Restaurant
GM Global Renaissance Center, Floors 71 and 72, Detroit; 313-567-2622; theepicureangroup.com
Coach Insignia is lined with floor to ceiling windows, offering a panoramic view. You can view the Detroit and Windsor riverfronts while dining at the second-highest restaurant in the country, located on the upper floors of the Renaissance Center. Even the elevator ride is paned with glass windows, allowing you to view the city from the first to 72nd floor.
Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $15, Wayne County
2040 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-965-3111;
Bucharest Grill is a small counter set up in the back of Park Bar, where you can get inexpensive menu items made up of Eastern European and Middle Eastern dishes. A popular choice is the chicken, beef or vegetarian shawarma wrapped in a pita for around $4. Also desired are the "gourmet dogs," such as a bratwurst covered in your taste of sauerkraut, grilled onions, chili or even bacon.
Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $15, Oakland County
Kalamata Greek Grill
3149 Crooks Rd., Troy; 248-643-2600;
Kalamata's counter staff stays busy preparing generously portioned fresh Greek dishes. The menu includes Greek favorites — spinach pie, lemon rice soup, gyros and Greek lasagna — all for no more than $10. House-grilled pitas are available with most dishes.
Best Restaurant to
Spend Less Than $15,
71 N. Main St., Mt. Clemens; 586-468-4200; seeburgerscheeseburgers.com
Owner Todd loves to talk burgers at this counter service restaurant. The sliders are especially tasty, served three in a basket, and topped with caramelized onions and cheese. But there's more to Seeburger's than just burgers; they also offer meat-filled Italian panini or a generous antipasto salad. They also have a full-service Stroh's ice cream counter, where you can order cream puffs, malts and sundaes.
Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $15, Washtenaw County
Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger
551 S. Division St., Ann Arbor; 734-663-4590
You better order your burger just right; the menu asks you to read it properly before ordering. Yes, the staff at Blimpy Burger loves to poke fun at the customers, but it's all in good fun — and their fresh-ground burgers are worth it. Sloppy, tender and with more than 30 toppings and buns to choose from ... imagine how long it'll take you to eat through the possibilities.
Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $50, Oakland County
18 S. Main St., Clarkston; 248-625-5660; unionwoodshop.com
This retro-style barbeque restaurant serves mouthwatering smoked and slow-cooked ribs, pulled pork and chicken. The pizzas are cooked in a wood-burning oven, and there are also unique vegetarian options, such as the sweet potato burrito. Don't miss the mac and cheese: It's made with sharp cheddar, Parmesan and béchamel in a crunchy crust.
Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $50,
Red Rock Downtown Barbecue
207 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti; 734-340-2381; redrockypsi.com
Freshly opened, Red Rock is a cozy barbecue joint decorated with an exposed brick and wood interior. They serve up the classics: brisket sandwiches, tender ribs, creamy mac and cheese, and more. They also offer a nice beer selection to go with your 'cue.
Best Italian Cuisine, Wayne County
3401 Riopelle St., Detroit; 313-831-2253; romacafe.com
Detroit's oldest Italian restaurant serves up classic Italian dishes, including gnocchi, veal Parmesan, polenta and lasagna topped with a thick, rich tomato sauce. There is a full bar with a wide-ranging wine list. For dessert, we recommend a crisp cannoli studded with bits of chocolate and filled with sweetened, whipped ricotta cheese.
Best Italian Cuisine, Oakland County
Best Italian Cuisine, Macomb County
7096 E. 14 Mile Rd. Warren; 586-268-3200
42705 Grand River Ave., Novi; 248-348-3838;
see andiamoitalia.com for more locations
The Andiamo mini-chain serves traditional Italian fare in an intimate setting that caters to both romantic couples and families. They serve such house-made favorites as spaghetti, lasagna and gnocchi, as well as more creative items, such as vitello con insalata portabella, a free-raised veal rib-eye steak in a portabella mushroom slaw served atop a bed of balsamic-braised Swiss chard.
Best Italian Cuisine, Washtenaw County
347 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-930-6100; paliorestaurant.com
This rustic Italian restaurant serves generously portioned Tuscan dishes, such as spaghetti Bolognese, with rich flavors of veal, pork, porcini mushrooms, fresh rosemary and more. Except thick soups, country breads, and grilled meats and fish.
Best French Cuisine
Le Petit Zinc
1055 Trumbull Ave., Detroit; 313-963-2805; lepetitzincdetroit.com
Le Petit Zinc is a casual and bright little restaurant that offers delicious sweet to savory crêpes, goat cheese, ratatouille and more French-inspired cuisine. The garden patio is a lovely spot to dine al fresco on a nice summer day.
Best Greek Cuisine
558 Monroe St., Detroit; 313-964-6800; pegasustavernas.com
Pegasus is a charming restaurant that serves authentic and flavorful Greek recipes. Even the most simple of dishes, such as the vegetarian platter, are cooked to perfection — full of hearty spices and herbs that are sure to satisfy your taste buds. For meat eaters, the lamb is tender and tastes like it's been slow cooked for hours, even though it'll be briskly served by the attentive wait staff.
Best European Cuisine
Polish Village Café
2990 Yemans St., Hamtramck; 313-874-5726; thepolishvillagecafe.com
Your polish grandmother would approve — Polish Village Café is known for its authentic pierogis, potato pancakes, dill pickle soup, and stuffed cabbage, all moderately priced. There's usually a line, but it's worth the wait. Cash only.
Best Mexican Cuisine, Wayne County
3409 Bagley St., Detroit; 313-843-0179
This popular Mexicantown eatery offers generously portioned Mexican staples at reasonable prices. The chimichangas are deep-fried and gooey, smothered in cheese and guacamole. The hot chips and salsa are addictive, and it washes down well with a house margarita.
Best Mexican Cuisine, Oakland County
28 S. Broadway St., Lake Orion; 248-693-0100; mysagebrushcantina.com
The chips and salsa are made in-house, and the guacamole is fresh and tasty. Sagebrush offers traditional Mexican staples, as well as signature dishes, such as shrimp ranchero. Expect to be carried out after ordering the chimichanga: It's large enough to feed you for a week.
Best Mexican Cuisine, Macomb County
21519 21 Mile Rd., Macomb Twp.; 586-598-7556; see elcharrousa.com for more locations
Sure, El Charro offers Mexican classics, but the spot is also popular for its puffy soft-shelled tacos. For dessert, order the fried ice cream or the sopariaz, a fried tortilla with honey and cinnamon.
Best Mexican Cuisine, Washtenaw County
La Fiesta Mexicana
529 W. Cross St., Ypsilanti; 734-483-1666; lafiestamexicana.net
This family-owned Mexican eatery serves Mexican classics as well as more unusual menu items — such as potato tacos, a house specialty. The house-made tamales are steam cooked and wrapped in cornhusk. They don't serve alcohol, but you can BYOB.
Best Caribbean Cuisine
539 E. Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-528-1674
19600 Haggerty Rd., Livonia; 734-542-0891; see bahamabreeze.com for more locations
Decorated in tropical decor for the Hawaiian-shirts set, this chain restaurant brings you American-friendly Caribbean-style fare. Think coconut shrimp and jerk chicken. The island-themed alcoholic beverages, such as the BahamaRita, are crowd-pleasers.
Best African Cuisine
545 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-547-6699
221 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-998-4746; bluenilemi.com
The Blue Nile is a great place to explore traditional Ethiopian dining. This includes eating with your hands (although American utensils are available on request), sharing the injera, a tangy flat bread used to scoop up morsels of food. The menu includes a wide range of vegetarian dishes, as well as some meat options. Spicy Ethiopian teas are available, as well as a full bar.
Best Chinese Cuisine,
4710 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-974-7669
Shangri-La is a low-key Asian restaurant with attentive service and a full bar. The kitchen offers traditional Chinese-American cuisine as well as roast duck, Singapore noodles and fried squid. The dim sum selections and sushi make Shangri-La a kind of one-stop shop for Asian classics.
Best Chinese Cuisine, Oakland County
Mon Jin Lau
1515 E. Maple Rd., Troy; 248-689-2332;
This modern Asian restaurant offers an extensive sushi and cocktail list, a wide range of seafood and meat items, as well as tofu dishes for the vegetarians, all served up in a sophisticated setting.
Best Chinese Cuisine, Macomb County
6880 E. Twelve Mile Rd., Warren; 586-751-5288
This low-key eatery is known for its specialty dim sum and fresh seafood options, such as walnut shrimp and soft-shelled crab. The menu also includes items more familiar to American diners, such as sweet and sour pork and almond chicken.
Best Chinese Cuisine, Washtenaw County
332 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-668-6638; annarbormiddlekingdom.net
625 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-668-4787; everydaychinesefood.com
Middle Kingdom serves up Americanized fare, such as sesame chicken, chow mein and spicy shrimp, and even grander dishes, such as lobster. San Fu, however, is a popular takeout spot for students, serving the usual American-friendly options. Clearly, our Washtenaw County readers value inexpensive and quick comfort food. And who can argue with that?
Best Thai Cuisine,
3400 Russell St., Detroit; 313-831-1302
2751 E. 14 Mile Rd., Sterling Heights; 586-939-5456; salathai.us
Sala Thai is known for its authentic Thai curries, noodles and rice dishes. Their pad Thai — made to order to your choice of spiciness — has just the right levels of succulence. Along with the extensive appetizer list, the menu includes squid and scallops, pork, beef and chicken, as well as vegetarian selections.
Best Thai Cuisine,
323 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-548-5373
Warm and unpretentious, Bangkok Café offers fluffy noodles dishes, spicy curries and combo options that include house-made soup and fried rice. The kitchen upholds standards of quality, which means no dish is a misfire. Better yet, prices are budget-friendly and portions leave room for leftovers.
Best Thai Cuisine,
23519 Nine Mack Dr., St. Clair Shores; 586-776-8424
Entrées include noodles, curry and variations of fried rice. Each entrée is offered with a choice of chicken, shrimp, squid, krab, squid, pork, tofu, beef or vegetables. Even the mild spice level will prickle your taste buds; advance to medium and your sinuses may go into overdrive. No spice is an option.
Best Thai Cuisine, Washtenaw County
4896 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-528-5588;
Coconut ginger soup, fried tofu (light and crunchy with a peanut dipping sauce), nam prik pao and other hard-to-find authentic dishes are served at this laid-back Thai restaurant.
Best Indian Cuisine,
Aladdin Sweets & Café
11945 Conant Ave., Hamtramck; 313-891-8050
11917 Conant Ave., Hamtramck; 313-893-9902; zamzamcafe.com
The winners both sit on the same block in Hamtramck, along Bangladeshi Avenue (Conant's honorary designation). Aladdin's offerings include the usual Bangladeshi classics, such as fried homemade cheese with spinach, all served on polystyrene plates with plastic cutlery. Prices are budget friendly — no dish surpasses $8.99. But down the street at Zam Zam, you get actual plates and silverware, if many of the same offerings. Zam Zam's meat and vegetable samosas are more substantial, and the entrées may be a bit more geared to American tastes. Your bill will hardly breach $10 per diner; an $8 buffet runs from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays.
Best Indian Cuisine, Oakland County
72 W. Maple Rd., Troy; 248-269-0100; priyarestaurant.com
Priya's vast menu of South Indian food contains massive portions of hard-to-find dishes, such as rice-lentil crêpes stuffed with onion-chili-ginger mix or curry. Food is cooked in the tandoor, a clay oven that gives the dishes their tender consistency.
Best Indian Cuisine, Macomb County
43734 Schoenherr Rd., Sterling Heights; 586-532-5200; michiganmasala.com
Michigan Masala's menu includes a wide-range of fresh Southern Indian tandoori, curry, seafood, lamb, vegetarian and Balti-style dishes. Dishes are served medium-spicy, but can be changed upon request.
Best Indian Cuisine, Washtenaw County
307 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-663-1500; shalimarrestaurant.com
This modern-styled Northern Indian eatery offers Mughlai cuisine. The menu has plenty to offer both vegetarians and meat lovers. Better still, you can wash the dishes down with a cocktail thanks to the full bar.
Best Middle Eastern Cuisine, Wayne County
22681 Newman St., Dearborn; 313-563-7482; lapitadearborn.com
This charming eatery offers traditional Middle Eastern cuisine, such as chicken shawarma and vegetarian stuffed cabbage, even such ambitious dishes as char-broiled swordfish. A full juice bar, a long list of appetizers and combinations, and the addictive hummus and pita will keep your taste buds happy.
Best Middle Eastern Cuisine, Oakland County
22651 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-548-0680; anitaskitchenonline.com
Ever since the folks at Anita's kitchen claimed the old ice-cream shop on Woodward Avenue as their own, gave it a chic, contemporary makeover and filled it with the smells of Anita Farah's classic Lebanese fare, loyal foodies have been naming Anita's Kitchen the best Middle Eastern Cuisine in Oakland County. Made with only the freshest ingredients, menu highlights include the roasted red pepper hummus, the out-of-this-world mujadara (topped with the most perfect caramelized onions: perfectly crispy, perfectly sweet), and their falafel, which comes baked or fried depending on your preference. The lentil soup, bursting with the taste of fresh lemon, is a must. Also, you'll find a surprising and welcome choice of Michigan beers available.
Best Middle Eastern Cuisine, Macomb County
22114 Harper Ave., St. Clair Shores; 586-777-9600
An east-side classic, Sahara crowds them in at its location out in St. Clair Shores. Expect the usual offerings — juices, falafels, hummus — but with a touch of care that made the joint Macomb County readers' favorite.
Best Middle Eastern Cuisine, Washtenaw County
307 S. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-995-5060; jerusalemgarden.net
Billed as Ann Arbor's oldest Middle Eastern restaurant, Jerusalem Garden offers a cheap, quality meal to be enjoyed on their quaint, brick garden patio. Your budget and your belly will thank you for visiting one of Treetown students' favorite haunts where you can get the basics for less than $5 or $6: falafel with baba ghanoush and hummous options, shawarma, kebabs. Splurge and have a cup of lentil soup.
Best Korean Cuisine
New Seoul Garden
27566 Northwestern Hwy., Southfield; 248-827-1600; newseoulgarden.com
15 E. Kirby St., Detroit; 313-638-1272; wasabidetroit.com
We note with interest that both winners of the Best Korean Cuisine category also serve Japanese food as well. New Seoul Garden has the Korean dishes covered, offering such classic fare as bibimbap and bulgogi, even with tabletop grills that could find you grilling your own slices of beef tongue to taste. Wasabi offers no tabletop grilling, but excellent renditions of the Korean food that, until recently, was so hard to find in Detroit.
Best Japanese Cuisine
1933 W. Maple Rd., Troy; 248-280-1831; cafesushitroy.com
A first-time winner in the Best Japanese Cuisine category, Café Sushi boasts an impressive sushi bar and complete Asian kitchen. Having just won Best Entrée in the Taste of Troy, the tonkatsu curry rice is their most popular dish. It features panko-breaded pork fillet atop Japanese curry. Of their sushi rolls, the Maui roll is a must-try — panko-fried calamari, pineapple and asparagus topped with albacore tuna, seared spicy sauce, banana peppers and eel sauce. Almost everyone in the Café Sushi kitchen is family, lending the place an intimate, friendly atmosphere, something akin to having dinner at a relative's.
Best Chicken and Waffles
Fort Street Brewery
1660 Fort St., Lincoln Park; 313-389-9623;
Fort Street Brewery's Chicken and Waffles dish appears under the menu heading "A League of Its Own" — and our readers couldn't agree more. Providing a cool, Northern twist on a traditionally Southern meal, Fort Street Brewery serves up a crisp Belgian waffle topped with cheddar cheese, beer-battered chicken slivers, a fried egg, peppered bacon and a side of maple syrup. Other menu highlights include the Brewery Burger and a dinner basket of beer-battered cod or perch, not to mention a tasty selection of beers brewed in-house.
Best Coney Island, Wayne County
Lafayette Coney Island
118 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit; 313-964-8198
One of the best hot dog spots in town, Lafayette's real charm lies in its character: food orders shouted into the steamy kitchen, the sound of plates rattling and the cast of characters strolling in at 2 a.m. Lafayette's plain coney dogs make a quality meal, boasting thick, meaty chili sauce, fresh onion and mustard, and only all-meat franks — not the filler-laden "hot dogs" common at lesser establishments.
Best Coney Island,
Best Coney Island,
National Coney Island
1812 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-398-6111
More locations at nationalconeyisland.com
Located just across the street from Luna, this coney island is open 24 hours, perfect for satisfying late-night stomach rumblings at 3 a.m. or taking a midday lunch break. Although their coney dog is their most popular seller, don't be afraid to try a crispy garden burger on grilled sourdough or a plate of hot blueberry pancakes.
Best Coney Island, Washtenaw County
Abe's Coney Island
402 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti; 734-485-2008
Billing itself as "Ypsilanti's finest four-star coney dog, steak-and-egg joint," this popular after-bar stop has a kind of self-deprecating humor. Whether you're rolling in with crazy bed head for eggs over easy with "burned" hash browns in the morning, or sopping up booze and making ironic jukebox selections at 3 a.m., Abe's will hit the spot.
Best Slider, Wayne County
33406 Five Mile Rd., Livonia; 734-427-3464
This slider stop is a venerable west side institution, with some saying you haven't lived until you've tried one of Bates' "gut bombs." The blandishments are few — just the essentials: salt, pepper, mustard and ketchup — but it doesn't get any more authentic than this. Great for going alone, eating at the counter and rubbing elbows with the people.
35075 Woodward Ave., Birmingham; 248-646-7121; hunterhousehamburgers.com
Founded in the 1950s, Hunter's burgers are served on moist hot buns, with a glistening sheen on them. But the patties are all about the onions — the folks at Hunters carefully press tasty onions into the patty while it's still on the grill. In fact, if there's a single ingredient that sums up the burger, it's onions. Even seldom-ordered items on the menu show a similar attention to detail.
See whitecastle.com for dozens of locations
This year, the white-enamel-steel-clad mini-burger chain only won out in two counties instead of the near sweep they achieved some years! Their website's helpful Find-a-Castle function will help you when you have your next craving.
Best Cheap Breakfast, Wayne County
488 Selden St., Detroit; 313-832-5646;
Honest John's brings in all types: hipsters wearing big glasses, students, working stiffs, the occasional cop, even a doctor or two. You can get a full breakfast for $5 or $6 — omelets bursting with veggies and cheese, steaming French toast with turkey sausage or grilled cheese on Texas toast.
Best Cheap Breakfast, Oakland County
24060 Woodward Ave., Pleasant Ridge; 248-548-5355; maesdetroit.com
For decades, this snug diner was home to Anna's Coffee Shoppe. In 2010, the folks at Mae's updated the little restaurant while still keeping with the 1950s charm. It's not hard to see what our readers love about this place — cheap, quality food in a comfy neighborhood nook. If you're regretting last night's festivities, order the "Hangover Platter": two eggs scrambled with cheddar cheese, hash browns, a biscuit with sausage gravy and your choice of bacon, sausage links or ham. Or try the Aebelskivers, an order of five spherical Scandinavian "pancakes" served with fresh whipped cream and your choice of strawberries or raspberries in syrup. They aren't lying when they say you'll never be able to eat regular pancakes again.
Best Cheap Breakfast, Macomb County
Best Breakfast or Brunch,
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; thepantryrestaurant.com
Whether you're breakfasting or brunching, Macombers agree, the Pantry is the place to go. A successful mini-chain that's been catering to locals for years with the usual eggs, waffles and pancakes, the Pantry also offers some delicious surprises, including fresh fruit crêpes, a prime-rib steak Caesar salad, and out-of-this-world baked apple pancakes that look like little deep-dish pizzas and have customers lining up out the door on weekends.
Best Cheap Breakfast, Washtenaw County
306 E. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti; 734-482-0550; thebomberrestaurant.net
As the Bomber's website proudly proclaims, breakfast here is not for the faint of heart. Featured on Food TV's Top Five Overindulgences, the Bomber is home to a number of popular breakfast feasts including the "Nature Lovers Pancakes," made with blueberries, raspberries and pecans (sunflower seeds may be substituted) and, for those with super-sized appetites, the "Bomber Breakfast," complete with four eggs and a heaping plate of breakfast potatoes, meat and toast.
Best Breakfast or Brunch, Wayne County
1241 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-237-1000; hudson-cafe.com
The Hudson Café is situated downtown, right on Woodward Avenue. Whether you're grabbing a specialty coffee and hitting the road, enjoying a selection from the baked goods counter and relaxing in Hudson's comfy lounge, or sitting down for graham cracker-crusted French toast with cream cheese drizzle or a create-your-own omelet, our readers insist there's no better spot for brunch in the county.
Best Breakfast or Brunch, Oakland County
23144 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-398-0444
203 Pierce St., Birmingham; 248-258-6278; eatattoast.com
At the Birmingham spot, you'll find great food and wine "with humor in a fun, casual environment." The hostess station is an old white Detroit Liner stove, a 1940s model with legs and drawers. In Ferndale, you can't go wrong with the Grand Marnier French toast— a perfect blend of vanilla-soaked challa bread with toasted almonds and other ingredients. If you want a real delight, try the more-than-filling granola banana cakes. Both locations serve breakfast and lunch seven days a week and have similar menus. Hours vary slightly between the two.
Best Breakfast or Brunch,
20 N. Washington St., Ypsilanti; 734-485-9625;
112 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-769-2020; cafezola.com
Hardly a surprising tie here. At Ypsi's Beezy's, their sign promises simple, honest food and that's just what you'll get, with a side helping of the friendliest staff you could meet. They pour on the quality, serving excellent breakfasts, and there can be lines on a Sunday morning. Café Zola, with its brick walls, large picture windows and, in season, sizable outdoor patio, is one of the more comfortable restaurants in Ann Arbor — especially around brunching time.
Best Late-Night Eatery
Leo's Coney Island
30967 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak; 248-655-1080
More locations at leosconeyisland.com
Leo's extensive menu features American, Greek and Italian foods and stays open till 10 p.m. Whether you're heading out or heading home, Leo's is sure to add a little flavor to your evening.
Best All-Around Buffet
13017 Warren Rd., Westland; 734-641-9163;
see goldencorral.com for more locations
At Golden Corral you don't have to worry about freshness — the food is served hot and fresh each day. It's all-you-can-eat fare that features such familiar favorites as simmered pot roast — along with new menu offerings whipped up to keep things exciting. You won't want to miss the bakery and dessert buffet, so make sure to leave room.
Best Soul Food, Detroit
575 Bellevue St., Detroit; 313-393-4930; southernfiresrestaurant.com
Southern Fires packs 'em in, particularly the Sunday after-church crowd. The prices here are family-oriented (lots of food at low cost). Sweet, cheerful-yellow cornbread comes with your entrée and you get the traditional choice of two sides, which include mac and cheese, collard greens, fried corn, mashed potatoes and baked beans.
Best Soul Food, Suburbs
Beans and Cornbread
29508 Northwestern Hwy., Southfield; 248-208-1680; beanscornbread.com
This is the place for upscale soul food with a fresh twist, including excellent meat loaf, salmon croquettes and a dreamy sweet potato cheesecake. Arrive early and plan to stand in line for this perpetually full house. A busy, colorful dining spot which features bright artwork and a bustling open kitchen, and another frequent winner in this category.
45 E. 14 Mile Rd., Clawson; 248-585-2314;
Out front are aisles 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 too-Westernized sushi madness. The insular Japanese keep things intensely focused, be it decor or food customs or table manners, which is what makes Noble Fish an experience.
Best vegan or Vegetarian Cuisine
Inn Season Cafe
500 E. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-547-7916; theinnseasoncafe.com
A provider of vegetarian cuisine in metro Detroit is a rare treat, and Inn Season Café has only improved with age. Fine, organic ingredients have always been its hallmark, but it's so much more than "health food." With great effort, they comb farmers' markets and community supported farms to ensure only the freshest, best and most local food makes it to your plate. Very open to diners with dietary restrictions.
Best Raw Food
204 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-336-9043; cacaotreecafe.com
Cacao Tree's vegan and gluten- and soy-free menu has the health-conscious crowd crowing. Favorites include the falafel, as well as the Mexican menu. Everything is made onsite from scratch, and ingredients are locally and seasonally sourced. Seats 20, with an additional juice bar.
Best Food Truck
The first modern food truck allowed in downtown Detroit by the city government. Its menu includes creative variations on south-of-the-border specialties — such as the pork belly confit taco and Korean short rib taco, both customer favorites.
Best New Barbecue
202 E. Third St., Royal Oak; 248-584-4227;
Named after the reputed barbecue capital of Texas, Lockhart's opened in late 2010. The kitchen turns out reasonably priced, hefty portions, with appetizers averaging around $8, sandwiches with one side around $9 and barbecue plates with two sides around $14. The thin slices of brisket are well-trimmed and tender, as are the ribs. Wash it all down with an excellent selection of Michigan microbrews — there are 12 on tap.
27475 Groesbeck Hwy., Roseville; 586-775-7427
43203 Garfield Rd. Clinton Twp.; 586-247-7427; lazybonessmokehouse.net
Billing itself as "authentic slow-smoked Southern-style barbecue," Lazybone's has sandwiches for around $8, and smoke plates starting at $8.99. It boasts 'cue styles from Texas to Kentucky to our own Detroit-style tips. Lazybones caters with party pans that can have as many as 100 ribs.
Joe Muer Seafood
GM Global Renaissance Center, #1404, Detroit;
While Joe Muer Seafood is relatively new, the Muer brand, going back to 1929, is known throughout southeast Michigan. But the relaunched institution also has a big staff, big menu and big dessert cart. There are a number of offerings from a fairly classic raw bar, including oysters, a poached shrimp cocktail and steamed mussels; original Muer dishes include the Shrimp Ilene and deviled crab balls.
410 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak; 248-591-5459; lilysseafood.com
Mitchell's Fish Market
370 N. Adams, Rochester Hills; 248-340-5900; mitchellsfishmarket.com
Straight from the kitchen of "Grandma Lily," Lily's offers a stunning interior, friendly service and a dedication to homemade food. Even the beverage menu includes house-brewed beer and root beer for the kids. Both entrées and desserts are delights of flavor and texture. Saturdays and Sundays cater to a "build your own Bloody Mary bar," and Tuesday is "create your own combo" night. Mitchell's has variety: With more than 80 seafood choices, menus are printed twice a day to reflect changes in availability. Summer is the season for soft-shell crab as well as an Alaskan halibut, though there's a short window in early summer when high-quality Copper River salmon from British Columbia will be on offer. Outdoor dining is a draw, as is Monday oyster night.
25901 Hoover Rd., Warren; 586-759-0010;
Macomb County has great seafood dining, from the famous Nautical Mile all the way out to Harbor House on Groesbeck. So .... What's with choosing Red Lobster? Must be those Cheddar Bay Biscuits.
Best Seafood Restaurant, Washtenaw County
Real Seafood Co.
341 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 888-456-3463; realseafoodcorestaurant.com
A hot spot for the freshest top-catch fish and premium seafood for 37 years and counting. With an atmosphere that's comfortable, open and lively, it draws its catches from the waters of Boston, the Pacific Coast, the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. One highlight is its raw oysters, served to order on the half shell.
Ruth's Chris Steak House
755 W. Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-269-8424; ruthschris.com
What's it going to take to outdo a Ruth's Chris steak? With more than 100 locations worldwide, this is the second consecutive year the chain has won this category.
Mr. Paul's Chop House
29850 Groesbeck Hwy, Roseville; 586-777-7770; mrpaulschophouse.com
More than 40 years old, Mr. Paul's is a charmed place lost in time somewhere back in the early postwar era. Here you can have one of the area's best Caesar salads, prepared with a theatrical flair at tableside, often by the owner himself. The chateaubriand steak for two and the cherries jubilee for dessert also involve a tableside show. Liveried waitstaff and impressive French red-dominated wine list complete the picture.
2324 Dexter, Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-665-8644
Old-time dining in a somewhat casual environment. Knight's has both kinds of food: surf and turf — including perch, crab, filet mignon, New York strip, Delmonico, sirloin, porterhouse, prime rib, pork tenderloin schnitzel, baby back ribs, char-grilled London broil and much, much more.
Best Burger, Wayne County
23700 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-565-2577; millersbar.com
Metro Times readers consistently rate Miller's Bar's burger best in Wayne County. Don't let the simple 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. 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. Done and done.
Red Coat Tavern
31542 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak; 248-549-0300
6745 Orchard Lake Rd., West Bloomfield; 248-865-0500
Another stubborn winner: When it comes to the Best Burger in Oakland County, Red Coat comes out on top year after year. Choose among 20 add-ons — burnt onions to olives to smoked Gouda — and five breads. The thick, succulent two-handers require lots of extra napkins. This place never seems to see any sort of downtime.
Five Guys Burgers & Fries
29387 Mound Rd., Warren; 586-751-4897;
see fiveguys.com for more locations
Five Guys empire is far removed from its first shop in Arlington, Va. With more than 1,000 locations in 40 states, the gimmick of allowing customers to custom-order a burger has cemented its place in the burger biz. As of last fall, Five Guys stands as the country's fastest growing-chain, with five stores opening per week.
Sidetrack Bar & Grill
56 E. Cross St., Ypsilanti; 734-483-5230; sidetrackbarandgrill.com
In Ypsi's historic Depot Town district, Sidetrack has been serving delicious grub for over 150 years. The "Famous Burger" cracked GQ's "20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die" list in 2006, with its secretly blended meat on a small, soft and grilled sesame bun. Sidetrack sits so close to the Amtrak line that passing trains rattle the foundation.
Buffalo Wild Wings
More than a dozen locations in metro Detroit;
see buffalowildwings.com for info
If you're packed into a booth surrounded by a calamity of screaming HD TVs, buckets of chicken wings and beers the size of your forearm, you're probably sitting in a Buffalo Wild Wings. The bar maintains mid-day and late-night happy hours, and it proudly flies flags of local pro and college sports teams. Those unable to snag a ticket for the big game can do no better than finding a seat at B-Dubs.
Best Neighborhood Pizza, Wayne County
Best Gourmet Pizza
2457 Russell St., Detroit; 313-567-7879;
Imaginative fresh ingredients — even an egg — with a delectable thin crust! They serve five red pizzas and six white, meaning no tomato sauce; almost all are made with traditional ingredients. 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.
Best Neighborhood Pizza, Oakland County
Several locations in metro Detroit, including Oakland County; see buddyspizza.com for info
Before we broke up our pizza by county, Buddy's was the perennial winner of our Best Neighborhood Pizza category. After a full life as a speakeasy, Buddy's original location on Conant only started pumping out pizza in 1946. And though it has expanded all over southeastern Michigan, it has retained the neighborhood cred.
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. How do they do it? It's right on the box: The pizzaiolo wears a jetpack!
Aubree's Pizzeria & Grill
39 E. Cross St., Ypsilanti; 734-483-1870
2122 Whittaker Rd., Ypsilanti Twp.; 734-483-1525
8031 Main St., Ste. 101, Dexter; 734-424-1400;
For more than 20 years, Aubree's Cross Street location has been catering to Ypsilanti's pizza-lovers. They offer many kinds of pies, from classic round to square deep-dish to build-your-own to thin-crust, even whole wheat crust.
Best Deli, Wayne County
1300 Porter St., Detroit; 313-961-2000;
This Corktown spot used to be the old Eph McNally's, and they carry on the sandwich tradition with a slew of options. The sandwiches are grand; one contains 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.
Best Deli, Oakland County
Bread Basket Deli
32906 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak; 248-549-3663
101 N. Telegraph, Waterford; 248-683-2244; alsfamousdeli.com
Voted Best Deli by Metro Times readers off and on since the mid-1990s, Bread Basket serves more than cheese blintzes: Expect huge sandwiches, such soups as cold beet borscht, even stuffed cabbages. For best effect, drop in for a breakfast, which can include a lox platter, omelets and fried matzo.
Best Deli, Macomb County
23839 Jefferson Ave., St. Clair Shores; 586-776-9898; nauticaldeli.com
New York Deli
25008 Little Mack Ave., St. Clair Shores;
Nautical Deli bakes, prepares and mixes everything fresh each morning. And the menu of soups, salads and sandwiches may not be pretentious, but it does offer a lot to choose from. Plus, Nautical is vegetarian-friendly, with triple-cheese and even tofu sandwiches. New York Deli is more on the traditionalist side, where you can get your deli classics — subs, burgers, any and all concoctions created with cold cuts — all served in a family-style environment with friendly service.
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. With excellent corned beef and pastrami, sandwiches available in numerous combinations, and artisanal breads fresh from the Zingerman's Bakehouse (yes, they have their own bakehouse!), this is deli central for the county.
Best Brewpub or Microbrewery,
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 as local as possible. The excellent beers include classics and a rotating cast of summer brews, meads and more.
Best Brewpub or Microbrewery,
Woodward Avenue Brewery
22646 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-546-3696; thewabsite.com
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, plus gourmet sandwiches, huge salads and more.
Best Brewpub or Microbrewery, Macomb County
14600 E. 11 Mile Rd., Warren; 586-776-9428; dragonmead.com
Tucked away in an industrial-looking building on I-696's service drive, inside it's all about the beer. Dragonmead aspires to a level of sophistication, a nice mix of relaxed couples and cap-and-T guys out for a few, the sort of relaxed, friendly and affordable evening out more people are willing to splurge on. And some of Dragonmead's brews can run to 10 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).
Best Brewpub or Microbrewery, Washtenaw County
720 Norris St., Ypsilanti; 734-480-2739;
Operating on the "reverse mullet" premise (i.e. party in the front, business in the back), CB is a cozy microbrewery equipped with a beer garden and a special tasting room. They'll open at noon, and you can kick back with a pint of one of usually eight beers on tap, including Sacred Cow or Phat Abbot Tripel.
Best Wine Selection
in a Restaurant
Cork Wine Pub
23810 Woodward Ave., Pleasant Ridge;
This year's laurels go to the first-ever recipient of a liquor license in Pleasant Ridge. Not only is Cork's wine list broad and inventive, the menu of small plates to accompany the pours are varied and wine-friendly, never too acidic, spicy or salty to pair well.
Best Wine Bar
Motor City Wine
608 Woodward Ave., 2nd floor, Detroit; 313-483-7283; motorcitywine.com
Up above Woodward Avenue, in a second-floor space in downtown Detroit, is the wine shop of husband-and-wife team David and Melissa Armin-Parcells. Hundreds of bottles of affordable but quality wine line the walls, and a steady stream of customers comes in, tastes a few glasses of wine, and leaves with a bottle or two. Special events, like jazz combos, also are a draw.
Good Girls Go To Paris
15 E. Kirby St., Detroit; 877-727-4727
14929 Charlevoix St., Grosse Pointe; 313-331-2425; goodgirlsgotopariscrepes.com
The traditional French pancake gets an American treatment at this stylish eatery. Each crêpe takes almost four minutes, from careful pouring to when it is handed to the customer. Some come savory, some sweet, but given the variety of choices, nobody will leave unsatisfied. You can even design your own.
or Patio Dining,
La Dolce Vita
17546 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-865-0331; ldvrestaurant.net
La Dolce Vita is one of those gems Detroit offers to those in the know, marked only by the neon letters LDV on a building just north of McNichols Road. Park in back, then walk through a courtyard that, in summertime, will transport you to a romantic oasis. Sunday brunch is punctuated with jazz that accompanies the mimosas and Bloody Marys, a prelude to a short menu of eggs Benedict, Mascarpone-stuffed French toast and similarly delectable treats.
or Patio Dining,
22812 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-548-5005
Whether it's pizza, pasta, or anything that can conceivably be breaded and deep-fried, this fixture on the corner of Nine Mile and Woodward has been serving it up since 1961. Como's sheltered outdoor dining area offers a place for eating and boozing, with heating elements for added comfort on chilly days.
or Patio Dining,
23722 Jefferson Ave., St. Clair Shores; 586-498-3000
More locations at fishbonesusa.com
The outside dining area, which seats about 150, has a lot to offer. The large, covered bar, the stone paving and walls, the marble fire pit and umbrella-covered marble tables offer a kind of European atmosphere. The four 50-inch flatscreens and 30-foot projection screen keep you in touch with your all-American sports.
or Patio Dining, Washtenaw County
812 Monroe St., Ann Arbor; 734-662-5414
Located south of U-M's Ann Arbor campus, Dominick's serves up pizza, pasta, apps and sammiches. Two faves are the chicken quesadilla and the tomato bruschetta on a toasted baguette. Michigan microbrews are also on tap. And then there are the sprawling outdoor options, as seating is available in three spots: the balcony, the front or the back yard — your choice!
Best Bakery, Wayne County
Avalon International Breads
422 W. Willis St., Detroit; 313-832-0008; avalonbreads.net
Sure, Avalon's breads are among the best, regularly featured at restaurants far beyond their Cass Corridor location. 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 loaves of yore.
Best Bakery, Oakland County
220 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-398-8018; pinwheelbakery.com
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. Last year, they joined forces with the new Red Hook coffee shop; Pinwheel bakes in the back and Red Hook brews up front. Now that's a tasty sort of synergy!
Best Bakery, Macomb County
36578 Moravian Dr., Clinton Twp.; 586-791-0360; vitosbakery.net
In the same family for almost 40 years, this is Vito's second annual win in this category, and with good reason: Vito's does it all! Expect cakes, breads, candies, cookies, pizza dough to go, and so much more than just loaves. In fact, more than a bakery, Vito's qualifies as a pasticceria, a genuine pastry shop. If you're not convinced, try a cannoli; you'll be back!
Best Sweets shop
541 Monroe St., Detroit; 313-963-9603
320 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-582-9220; astoriapastryshop.com
Astoria has logged more than 40 years in its Greektown location. How do they do it? By serving 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.
Best indie Coffeehouse, Wayne County
2124 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-638-2989; astrodetroit.com
Calling Astro Coffee a coffee shop doesn't do it justice. Superb coffee, food and community spirit all abound in this excellent, comfortable neighborhood café. Exposed brick, high ceilings, and eclectic furniture create a fun, approachable space. And the food is local, fresh, seasonal and delicious.
Best indie Coffeehouse, Oakland County
515 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak; 248-515-2551; five15.net
It's more than the good java, friendly folks, gift-shop-lite atmo, free Wifi and appetizing snacks that make Five15 a destination. It's also the fun events that lend a surreal quality to your cup of coffee, such as their Friday and Saturday night Drag Queen Bingo (poll winner for the Best Bingo). See their website for a video of the fun, honey.
Best indie Coffeehouse, Macomb County
90 Macomb Place, Mount Clemens; 586-954-2677
23415 Greater Mack Ave., St. Clair Shores; 586-774-5000
Che Cosa is a quirky little joint in downtown Mount Clemens has snacks, coffee, couches and a friendly vibe. Plus, if you want to grab some coffee to go, you can walk right over to the Clinton River and take it easy. And Luna Café is a chill, comfy spot to have a latte or maybe just a regular cup of joe and use the Wi-Fi.
Best indie Coffeehouse, Washtenaw County
The Ugly Mug
317 W. Cross St., Ypsilanti; 734-484-4684; uglymugcafeandroastery
Since 2004, this microroastery has attracted a following with its increasing focus on small-lot coffees from farms and cooperatives in Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia and Peru. The comfy setting doesn't hurt, with tables, couches, barstools, even an open-air seating area out back.