Best New Restaurant (open less than 2 years)
Best Restaurant for Desserts
27799 Woodward Ave., Berkley
No question about it: Vinsetta Garage was the runaway success of the last year. Not only did it open to universally positive reviews, it was so mobbed for months that diners sometimes faced a two-hour wait on a weekday night. What was the winning formula? Co-owner Curt Catallo brought to Vinsetta’s kitchen the same attention to quality as at his famed Union Woodshop and Clarkston Union. The repurposed building, quirky interior and extensive beer selection borrowed a page from Detroit’s ferociously successful Slows Bar-B-Q. The menu creatively takes classic fare and gussies it up (think hot dogs with bacon jam and sriracha mayo, or a “duck burger” with cherry compote), all while being sensitive to dietary restrictions (especially vegan and gluten-free options). The inventive desserts include a whimsical “s’more trio” and Faygo-flavored ice cream. Taken together, it’s no wonder our readers chose Vinsetta Garage as the best new place to park and fill up.
Best Romantic Restaurant in Wayne County
Best Wine Selection in a Restaurant
Best Casino Restaurant
555 E. Lafayette St., Detroit
Detroit’s casino restaurants are known for lacquering on the decadence, and the newest entry, Greektown Casino’s Brizola, is no exception. Everything gets kicked up a notch: Mac ‘n’ cheese becomes lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, mashed potatoes become roasted garlic mashed potatoes, a baked potato becomes a sea-salt-roasted baked potato or, grander still, a twice-baked potato loaded and wrapped with bacon. The menu’s focus, though, is surf and turf, including a lobster ceviche appetizer, Colorado double lamb chops, orange honey barbecued wild salmon, as well as cuts of beef ranging from chipotle-dry-rubbed 10-ounce filet mignon to a 24-ounce T-bone steak. The restaurant also boasts a stylish interior that affords city views, an extensive wine list comprising Old World and New World pours, and an atmospheric bar area. Brizola pulls out all the stops — yes, with prices to match — but who’s counting when you’ve hit the jackpot?
Best Romantic Restaurant in Oakland County
Best Italian Cuisine in Oakland County
Maria’s Front Room
215 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale
It’s interesting that in affluent Oakland County, which brims with Italian restaurants of solid acclaim, year after year our readers award romantic honors to Maria’s Front Room, a cozy trattoria less than a mile from the Detroit city line. Discounting a brief closing five years ago that saw the joint bounce back with a bright redesign, Maria’s has been a stalwart presence in the Ferndale dining scene since the mid-1990s. Though it’s not the candle-in-a-bottle place it once was, the kitchen churns out earthy, hearty, comforting Italian fare that doesn’t pretend to any Batali-like grandeur. Instead, expect the classics — pizza, pasta, chicken, fish and veal — to taste as good as grandma ever made them.
Best Romantic Restaurant in Macomb County
Best Steak in Macomb County
Mr. Paul’s Chophouse
29850 Groesbeck Hwy., Roseville
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 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 an impressive French red-dominated wine list complete the picture.
Best Romantic Restaurant in Washtenaw County
121 W. Washington, Ann Arbor
The Melting Pot
309 S. Main St., Ann Arbor;
26425 Novi Rd., Novi; 248-347-6358
888 W. Big Beaver Rd., Troy;
Our readers split on romance. On one hand is the ambience of the Earle, which makes it a perfect spot for a candlelit dinner for two. On the weekends, expect live jazz to accompany a meal that can include such French- and Italian-inspired entrées as escargot vol-au-vent, salmon paté with cognac, baked goat cheese and duck, complemented by an extensive, award-winning wine list. On the other hand, what’s more sensual than easing morsels into each others’ mouths? At the Melting Pot, you can fulfill all of your fondue fantasies. After all, dipping an assortment of breads, vegetables and fruits in your choice of cheese or chocolate fondue can be suggestive indeed.
Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $15 in Wayne County
Green Dot Stables
2200 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit
Here’s something hopeful: A taste for quality over quantity among our readers? Instead of choosing a restaurant that will bring you a plate piled high with food-service fare for less than $15, our readers chose Green Dot Stables, where you can get small but tasty “sliders” whose flavors dance all over the map. One could order shoestring fries and four of the joint’s exotic sandwich creations — ranging from corned beef to catfish to a Korean-inspired peanut butter-and-kimchi burger — for $15 plus tax. But with the full bar and the hip and attractive crowd, chances are you’ll have a drink or two and end up busting that budget.
Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $15 in Oakland County
The Fly Trap
22950 Woodward Ave., Ferndale
Imperial Taco Bar
22828 Woodward Ave., Ferndale
When it comes to cheap eats in Oakland County, our readers don’t want to stint on style. The Fly Trap, with its upbeat atmosphere, playful dish names, consistent quality and attractive prices, is no stranger to our Best of Detroit pantheon. And it makes sense that it shares the honor with its near neighbor, the Imperial Taco Bar, which, in good weather, throws open its doors to create a sun-splashed dining area with a hint of Baja breeze.
Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $15 in Macomb County
18322 E. Nine Mile Rd., Eastpointe
The chatter about Plaza Mexico is that it’s a friendly little joint with quick service and food that’s good. Particularly popular is their “Combo No. 1,” which includes rice and beans, an enchilada, a burrito and a hard taco. The rest of the menu runs to the usual American-friendly menu items — quesadillas, fajitas, tostadas, etc. — that are both affordable (lunch specials, large portions) and made from fresh ingredients.
Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $15 in Washtenaw County
300 S. Ashley St., Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor’s only 24-hour-a-day diner is an excellent choice. There’s simply nothing on the menu that costs more than $10. You can get the “Hippie Hash” — hash browns grilled with onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, green peppers, broccoli and feta cheese — with eggs and toast for a little more than $6. Adding meat costs extra — less than a dollar extra. Heck, for $15, you could get pork chops with two eggs, hash browns, toast and jelly, then add on a threesome of pancakes! Best of all, the people watching lasts all day long.
Best Restaurant to Spend Less Than $50
Best New Barbecue
Red Rock Downtown Barbecue
207 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti
Here’s the story: Some entrepreneurs took a building on Michigan Avenue with endearing historical quirks, put a bar in the middle of it, served low-and-slow barbecue with a handful of sauces, and topped it all off with a kick-ass beer menu. No, we’re not talking about Slows Bar-B-Q! We’re talking about Red Rock, the latest in a string of very successful local barbecue restaurants. Red Rock offers excellent barbecue, great beers, a historic setting and, better still, no snoot-factor: The service staff is generally outgoing, friendly, conversational and interested in the products they’re selling. How’s that for a change?
Best Restaurant View
GM Global Renaissance Center
Floors 71 and 72, Detroit
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 Italian Cuisine in Wayne County
3401 Riopelle St., Detroit
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 in Macomb County
42705 Grand River Ave., Novi
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 in Washtenaw County
Mani Osteria & Bar
341 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor has been undergoing something of a dining renaissance, with a blossoming of real coffee shops and restaurants serving decent cocktails alongside creative preparations of seasonal food. It’s the perfect setting for Mani Osteria & Bar, an Italian restaurant embracing the national trends toward comfortable dining and shareable plates. Although the small dishes can add up quickly, it doesn’t have to be an expensive outing: Mani serves Old World-style thin, 12-inch pizzas from its wood-fired ovens, and, given the numerous choices, everyone can find something of high quality that fits their tastes and budgets.
Best French Cuisine
Le Petit Zinc
1055 Trumbull Ave., Detroit
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. And 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 waitstaff.
Best Eastern European Cuisine
Polish Village Cafe
2990 Yemans St., Hamtramck
Your Polish grandmother, if you’re lucky enough to have one, would approve. Polish Village Café is known for its authentic pierogies, 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 in 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 they wash down well with a house margarita.
Best Mexican Cuisine in Oakland County
Zumba Mexican Grille
304 N. Main St., Royal Oak
Beyond even Mexican food, Zumba is an ideal destination for anyone seeking a fresh, quality meal. While the menu boasts just a handful of items, all choices are made to order and can be customized multiple ways. That means you get exactly what you want and nothing but what you want. No wonder our readers singled it out as best.
Best Mexican Cuisine in Macomb County
21519 21 Mile Rd., Macomb Twp.
see elcharrousa.comfor 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 sopa piaz, a fried tortilla with honey and cinnamon.
Best Mexican Cuisine in Washtenaw County
La Fiesta Mexicana
529 W. Cross Ave., Ypsilanti
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
19600 Haggerty Rd., Livonia
see bahamabreeze.comfor 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;
221 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor;
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) and sharing the injera, a tangy flatbread 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 in Wayne County
4710 Cass Ave., Detroit
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 one-stop shop for Asian classics.
Best Chinese Cuisine in Oakland County
6407 Orchard Lake Rd., West Bloomfield
The Oakland County outpost of Shangri-La differs from the midtown location quite a bit. Carts of dim sum roll from table to table, diners pointing to what they want, little dishes piling up on the table, which are later counted to calculate the bill. And the great, authentic Chinese dinner menu is lengthy and exotic.
Best Chinese Cuisine in Macomb County
THREE WAY TIE
6880 E. Twelve Mile Rd., Warren
2055 Metropolitan Pkwy., Sterling Heights
The Somerset Collection
2801 W Big Beaver Rd. Space D112, Troy; 248-816-8000; more locations at pfchangs.com
Interesting triple play here: Ho Wah specializes in the Americanized fare adapted from Cantonese cuisine that has become a comfort food, including General Tso’s chicken and all the other usual suspects. Golden Harvest is a low-key eatery known for its specialty dim sum and fresh seafood options, such as walnut shrimp and soft-shelled crab, although the menu also includes items more familiar to American diners, such as sweet-and-sour pork and almond chicken. P.F. Chang’s is the stylish bistro that presents a variety of Asian fare with a sophisticated fine-dining twist. Never was a three-way tie more gracefully straddled.
Best Chinese Cuisine in Washtenaw County
Lucky 7 Chinese Food
1777 Washtenaw Rd., Ypsilanti
Lucky 7 mostly serves the gut-pleasing Americanized classics, but the astute diner will also find a few authentic treats, such as Lucky 7’s beef noodle soup, pepper beef with rice, and beef with white rice mai fun noodles.
Best Thai Cuisine in Wayne County
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 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.
Best Thai Cuisine in Oakland County
Sy Thai Cafe
315 Hamilton Row, Birmingham
A fixture in Birmingham since the mid-1990s, Sy Thai knocked out longtime winner Bangkok Café for this year’s honors, a formidable achievement.
Best Thai Cuisine in Macomb County
43237 Garfield Rd., Clinton Twp.
23519 Nine Mack Dr., St. Clair Shores
Bangkok is an unpretentious restaurant serving generous portions of the pungent, spicy cuisine. And the prices are reasonable, seemingly offering everything in king size for less than $12. Sy Thai offers a list of entrées that includes 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.
Best Thai Cuisine in Washtenaw County
2612 Washtenaw Ave., Ypsilanti
A new contender in the Thai category, this place has recently expanded, a sign of increased demand for its offerings. For more information, hunt down their Facebook page.
Best Indian Cuisine in Wayne County
Ashoka Indian Cuisine
2100 N. Haggerty Rd., Canton
Sure, Ashoka has the usual bright colors, rich flavors and exotic aromas of Indian food. But it’s also a great place to explore the cuisine, with more than 100 items on the menu. The bill of fare wanders the subcontinent from the north to the south, including southern Indian specialties, such as Mysore dosa, plain dosa, vada and bhaji poories. There are even sections of the menu devoted to Indian-Chinese food, a style with a following in India, with such selections as chicken spring rolls, chicken Manchurian with gravy and Singapore noodles.
Best Indian Cuisine in Oakland County
411 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak
72 W. Maple Rd., Troy
Abdul Ullah has almost 30 years of global experience with Northern Indian Cuisine. (Hamtramck diners may remember him from the Bengal Masala Café on Conant.) It looks like he’s hit the big time again with his new venture, which retains many of his specialties, with an emphasis on British preparations that can be hard to find here (such as balti). He shares the honors with the stylish perennial winner Priya, which serves fare from all over India and offers myriad choices for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.
Best Indian Cuisine in Macomb County
26029 Hoover Rd., Warren
Opened just a couple years ago, this is Royal Bengal’s first reader award. In addition to a la carte dining, it also hosts an affordable lunch buffet.
Best Indian Cuisine in Washtenaw County
2876 Washtenaw Ave., Ypsilanti
The owners of Temptations are on a mission to bring curry to the masses. Don’t take our word for it. They envision creating the “first Indian food chain in real sense,” to deliver “Indian cuisine to the nooks and corners all over the United States.” Good to their word, they have opened a cafeteria-style location at Wayne State University. The prices — and spices — are mild, providing a good place for the curious diner to become acquainted with the increasingly popular cuisine.
Best Middle Eastern Cuisine in Wayne County
27346 Ford Rd., Dearborn Heights;
12710 W. Warren Ave., Dearborn;
13007 W. Warren Ave., Dearborn
When it comes to Middle Eastern food and Dearborn, of course there had to be a tie. Al-Ameer offers so many different dishes you could dine for months without repeating once. Add in gargantuan portions and swift, friendly service and you have the makings of a winner. Cedarland, too, has earned its acclaim as well, with food that is a bit more broadly Mediterranean. It doesn’t hurt that it has a drive-through window either!
Best Middle Eastern Cuisine in Oakland County
22651 Woodward Ave., Ferndale
Chic, contemporary space is filled with the smells of Anita Farah’s classic Lebanese fare. Made with only the freshest ingredients, menu highlights include the roasted red pepper hummus and the out-of-this-world mujaddara. The lentil soup, bursting with the taste of fresh lemon, is a must. Also, you’ll find a welcome choice of Michigan beers available.
Best Middle Eastern Cuisine in 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 has made the joint Macomb County readers’ favorite year after year.
Best Middle Eastern Cuisine in Washtenaw County
307 S. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor;
2649 Washtenaw Ave., Ypsilanti;
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. It’s very affordable: You can get the basics for less than $6. Pita Pita tied it up with the venerable winner, thanks to its general excellence and its hefty, eat-for-three-days portions.
Best Korean Cuisine
New Seoul Garden
27566 Northwestern Hwy., Southfield
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.
Best Japanese Cuisine
1933 W. Maple Rd., Troy
Café Sushi boasts an impressive sushi bar and complete Asian kitchen. The tonkatsu curry rice is their most popular dish, featuring 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.
326 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak
Ousting Noble Fish from the top spot it has held for years, Ronin captured our readers’ vote for best sushi. And although Ronin’s chefs turn out sushi of excellent quality, the restaurant’s dramatic, stylish interior, dinner-only ambience and wide selection of beer and sake may helped.
Best Soul Food in Detroit
Motor City Soul Food
12700 W. Seven Mile Rd., Detroit
Another upset, as Southern Fires is edged out of the top spot by Motor City Soul Food, a little joint in northwest Detroit. Don’t let the Plexiglas fool you, the food you order will be some of the best Detroit has to offer. Motor City serves chicken, pork chops, turkey, meat loaf, catfish and more, complemented by more than a dozen side dishes.
Best Soul Food in Suburbs
Beans & Cornbread
29508 Northwestern Hwy., Southfield
A frequent winner in this category, this is the place for upscale soul food with a fresh twist, including excellent meatloaf, salmon croquettes and a dreamy sweet potato cheesecake. Arrive early and plan to stand in line for this perpetually full house. This is a busy, colorful dining spot that features bright artwork and a bustling open kitchen.
Best Vegan or Vegetarian
Inn Season Cafe
500 E. Fourth St., Royal Oak
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 Pop-Up Restaurant
The Brunch Underground
A collaboration between Emily Eisele, chef Tony Aja, and hostess Nikole Moore, the three-person collective is determined to keep the brunch, which takes place 11 a.m.-3 p.m. every other week, affordable. “A lot of pop-ups are $50 and up per person, mostly because of the labor that goes into them,” Eisele says. “We try to keep it at $15 or less, with food that is 85 percent local.” To learn more, see their Facebook page.
Best Restaurant for Locavores
1 Town Square, Southfield;
Launched by the Epicurean Group in August, Gastronomy’s goal is to take all-American ingredients and produce stellar from-scratch fare. They succeed. The kitchen employs a range of contemporary techniques — such as dehydrating prosciutto and turning it into a powder or compressing watermelon and juice under vacuum to heighten flavor. These tools of the trade have been overused to the point of gimmickry in plenty of restaurants around the country, but here, chef Adam Hightower takes a judicious approach, ensuring that the flavors truly shine rather than merely entertain.
Best Food Truck
El Guapo Grill
El Guapo has the distinction of being 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 beef taco, both customer favorites.
Best Barbecue in Wayne County
2138 Michigan Ave., Detroit
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. Our readers voted it best barbecue in the county.
Best Barbecue in Oakland County
202 E. Third St., Royal Oak
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.
Best Barbecue in Macomb County
35611 Green St., New Baltimore;
6525 23 Mile Rd., Shelby Twp.;
27475 Groesbeck Hwy., Roseville
Here’s a mix of venerable and new. Lazybones has long reigned supreme in Macomb County, pleasing the locals one at a time or putting together party pans big enough to hold 100 ribs or the equivalent in pulled pork. Bad Brad’s is a comparatively recent entry into metro Detroit’s barbecue category, but its popularity has grown. In fact, Brad’s has grown along with it, opening a new location in Shelby Township.
Best Barbecue in Washtenaw County
Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewery
207 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor
The folks at Blue Tractor do the barbecue-and-beer format one better: They brew their own beer. Their Bumper Crop IPA isn’t burdened with too much hoppiness and will wash down any of their slow-cooked proteins. Don’t neglect Blue Tractor’s side dishes, especially the baked beans. What’s more, the restaurant is fresh off a $50,000 expansion, which means more room for everybody.
Best Seafood Restaurant in Wayne County
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. 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.
Best Seafood Restaurant in Oakland County
410 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak
It’s no surprise Lily’s wins year after year after year. It has a stunning interior, friendly service and a deep dedication to homemade food — even the beverage menu includes house-brewed beer and root beer for the kids. Both entrees 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.
Best Seafood Restaurant in Macomb County
Pat O’Brien’s Tavern
22385 E. 10 Mile Rd., St. Clair Shores
At Pat O’Brien’s, it’s more than mere fish and chips — though you can get that too! The menu’s fish offerings include perch, Atlantic salmon, lemon-broiled whitefish, Great Lakes smelt, calamari and barbecue-spiced shrimp. And fish-heads have rewarded the tavern with longevity, as it has not only marked more than a half-century on the block, it has also undergone several expansions.
Best Seafood Restaurant in Washtenaw County
Real Seafood Company
341 S. Main St., Ann Arbor
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.
Best Steak in Wayne County
1128 Washington Blvd., Detroit
Roast really puts a lot of care and effort into its steaks. They’re fine cuts of beef, all naturally raised and dry-aged, cooked over a wood-fired rotisserie. And 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 a fried egg.
Best Steak in Oakland County
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
755 W. Big Beaver Rd., Troy
What’s it going to take to outdo a Ruth’s Chris steak? With more than 100 locations worldwide, this is the third consecutive year the chain has won this category.
Best Steak in Washtenaw County
2324 Dexter, Ave., Ann Arbor
Old-time dining in a somewhat casual environment. Knight’s has both 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 Coney Island in Wayne County
Best Late-Night Eatery
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. You don’t mark almost 100 years in business by faking it.
Best Coney Island in Oakland County
Leo’s Coney Island
For info on dozens of locations, see leosconeyisland.com
Chances are that if you’re walking out of a bar in metro Detroit, there’s a Leo’s location within striking distance. Though they’re all classics, the location on Main Street in downtown Royal Oak is the archetypal suburban coney island: bright, clean and filled with a fleet of cushy booths stocked with condiments. A colleague once told us it’s good for a greasy breakfast, “and you can still keep your flirting on because everyone’s still drunk.”
Best Coney Island in Macomb County
National Coney Island
For info on locations in Roseville, Clinton Twp. and beyond, see nationalconeyisland.com
Hand-dipped milkshakes and Sanders hot fudge sundaes (plus the standard coney island fare) will never be too far beyond your grasp. Of the three Roseville locations, for instance, two are open 24 hours (the ones on Gratiot and Grosebeck). And hey, some of ‘em even have booze!
Best Coney Island in Washtenaw County
402 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti
This popular after-bar stop has a kind of self-deprecating humor, billing itself as “Ypsilanti’s finest four-star coney dog, steak-and-egg joint.” Whether you’re stopping in for eggs over easy with hash browns “burned” in the morning, or sopping up booze and making ironic jukebox selections at 3 a.m., Abe’s will hit the spot.
Best Cheap Breakfast in Wayne County
Best Chicken and Waffles
488 Selden St., Detroit
This low-key Cass Corridor bar is in the breakfast game too, offering a variety of omelets with names such as “the Oink” (ham, bacon, sausage and American cheese), “the Poor Richard” (spinach, mushrooms, bacon and Swiss) and “the Goyim” (corned beef, thousand island, coleslaw and Swiss). Early in the day, you’ll often get free credits on Honest John’s encyclopedic jukebox, and when weather warms up, the restaurant’s small patio is at your disposal. Breakfast is served until noon Monday-Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. As for the chicken and waffles, that’s a Belgian waffle covered with your choice of chicken wings or chicken tenders, to be eaten separately or together, with syrup or hot sauce or however you like it, all for $7.95.
Best Cheap Breakfast in Oakland County
24060 Woodward Ave., Pleasant Ridge
The little diner in Michigan’s smallest municipality, Pleasant Ridge, has a big, big following. Mae’s pulls them in with a sort of retro charm and a few tweaks to the usual breakfast offerings, chief among them aebelskievers, spherical Scandinavian “pancakes” served with fresh whipped cream and strawberries.
Best Cheap Breakfast in Macomb County
Travis Coffee Shop
23500 Greater Mack, St. Clair Shores
This quirky corner diner in the heart of St. Clair Shores is where you can walk in at 3 a.m. and find the night owls of the Nautical Mile bar scene intermingled with the locals grabbing a late night snack. Open 24 hours every day except Sunday, when they close 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. Monday, Travis has it all, whether you grab an item off their breakfast menu or bite into a greasy but tasty burger
Best Cheap Breakfast in Washtenaw County
The Bomber, Ypsilanti
306 E. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti
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 Brunch Wayne County
Atlas Global Bistro
3111 Woodward Ave., Detroit
La Dolce Vita
17546 Woodward Ave., Detroit
Brunch apparently runs along a Woodward axis. On the north end is La Dolce Vita, the cozy, secluded spot identified only by a small neon sign, an oasis of tranquility away from the roaring traffic of Woodward. To the south, Atlas has the vibe of a hip city eatery thanks to its striking interiors, knowledgeable service and international cuisine. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each Sunday, it hosts a lively brunch, during which $15 will get you a bottomless Bloody Mary or mimosa.
Best Brunch Oakland County
54 S. Main St., Clarkston
23144 Woodward Ave., Ferndale;
203 Pierce St., Birmingham;
Readers tied this up, and it’s an interesting split. Aligned with Woodward Avenue, the Ferndale and Birmingham locations of Toast offer quirky, hip, urbane charm. Out in the sticks, the choice of Clarkston Union suggests the joys of brunch in more bucolic settings. And, of course, in Oakland County you get both.
Best Brunch Macomb County
Mac & Ray’s
30675 N. River Rd., Harrison Twp.
The clear winner was the brunch buffet at Mac & Ray’s, part of the MacRay Harbor complex. The offerings are huge, from salads to proteins. Brunches are held 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays, and run about $20 for adults.
Best Brunch Washtenaw County
20 N. Washington St., Ypsilanti
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 ever meet. They pour on the quality, serving excellent breakfasts, but there can be lines on a Sunday morning.
Best All-Around Buffet
Assembly Line Buffet
2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit
It’s only natural that a casino should win out in the all-you-can-eat category. And while meat is a major attraction at Assembly Line, the desserts are also surprisingly good.
Best Burger in Wayne County
23700 Michigan Ave., Dearborn
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.
Best Burger in Oakland County
Red Coat Tavern
31542 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak;
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.
Best Burger in Macomb County
Five Guys Burger and Fries
29387 Mound Rd., Warren;
See fiveguys.comfor more locations
The 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.
Best Burger in Washtenaw County
Best Outdoor or Patio Dining in Washtenaw County
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 “FamousBurger” 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; seebuffalowildwings.comfor 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 midday 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 in Wayne County
2457 Russell St., Detroit
This Detroit mainstay serves imaginative fresh ingredients (even an egg!) with a delectable thin crust. They offer five red pizzas and six white, meaning no tomato sauce, and 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.
Best Neighborhood Pizza in Oakland County
23141 Dequindre Rd., Hazel Park
None of the glitterati treks to Loui’s for its elegant decor or haute cuisine, and none of the regular patrons comes to see the occasional glitterati who wander in. This is a quintessential pizza joint — hundreds of straw-covered Chianti bottles signed by diners fill virtually every inch of wall space, the tables are covered with glass-protected red-checked cloths, the food is served on plain plastic tableware. Aficionados flock to Loui’s for the uniquely charred, thick-crust, deep-dish pizza.
Best Neighborhood Pizza in Macomb County
8100 Old Thirteen Mile Rd., Warren
See buddyspizza.comfor other locations.
Perennial winner of our best neighborhood pizza category, after living a full life as a neighborhood speakeasy, Buddy’s original location on Conant Street only started pumping out its award-winning pizza in 1936. And though it has expanded to nine locations all over southeastern Michigan, it has clearly retained the neighborhood cred.
Best Neighborhood Pizza in Washtenaw County
546 Packard, Ann Arbor; 734-769-5555
512 E. William, Ann Arbor; 734-663-3379
At Cottage Inn, everything is made from scratch. And there’s more than pizza, with lasagna, chicken pasta, and more. But the pizzas, round or deep dish, regular or specialty, have built a loyal following.
Best Gourmet Pizza
Amici’s Pizza and Living Room
3249 W. 12 Mile Rd., Berkley
Pizza crust made with bran, biodegradable dishes and soy candles, no TV, even a couple of organic vodkas — Amici’s manages both to be virtuous and to pull it off without a hint of self-righteousness. It is a bar, after all, and it’s hard to say whether patrons are more interested in the vegan pizzas or the 64 cocktails, 35 beers and 5 premium tequilas on offer.
Best Deli in Wayne County
1300 Porter St., Detroit
Mudgie’s has been voted Best Deli in Wayne County every year by MT readers, and even got a nod last year from another magazine for Best Sandwich. But you’ll never see a happier restaurateur than owner Greg Mudge now that he has a liquor license. But the new, short list of wine, beer and mead is as creative as the rest of the joint.
Best Deli in Oakland County
6646 Telegraph Rd., in Bloomfield Plaza, Bloomfield Hills
This New York-style deli is the gold standard in Oakland County, but it’s also much more. You can dine in on everything from nuts to soup, even vegetarian options, and Steve’s even caters.
Best Deli in Macomb County
Bread Basket Deli
2201 E. Eight Mile Rd., Warren;586-754-0055
See breadbasketdelis.comfor more locations.
A favorite among Metro Times readers, this old-fashioned Jewish deli serves mammoth sandwiches with quality ingredients piled high. How high? Their Dagwoods frequently achieve triple- or even quadruple-decker status. Bread Basket Deli is the cornbeef king od Metro Detroit
Best Deli in Washtenaw County
422 Detroit St., Ann Arbor
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 in Wayne County
Motor City Brewing Works
470 W. Canfield St., Detroit
This brewpub has a quirky tiled interior, with a concrete bar, Wednesday-night art shows, and a 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 in Oakland County
Woodward Avenue Brewery
22646 Woodward Ave., Ferndale
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 brew house. WAB serves a selection of its own award-winning micro-brewed beer and root beer, plus gourmet sandwiches, huge salads and more.
Best Brewpub or Microbrewery in Macomb County
14600 E. 11 Mile Rd., Warren
5919 Chicago Rd., Warren
These two Warren establishments properly deserve to share honors for the best, mostly because it would be hard to say one’s better than the other. Sure, the award-winning, high-ABV quaffs at Dragonmead alone would qualify it, if not for the cozy bar area and colorful drinking lounge — as well as the art in the men’s room! But then there’s Kuhnhenn, with its ultra-sour pours with whimsical names and plenty of flavor — and with a brewing supply shop across the parking lot just in case you catch the brewing bug! These two are truly — the best.
Best Brewpub or Microbrewery in Washtenaw County
Arbor Brewing Company
114 E. Washington, Ann Arbor
A cheerful brewpub with house-brewed suds and good, upscale pub food, Arbor Brewing Company has a streetside patio with about 10 tables, some picnic-style and some patio-style with umbrellas. A good place to rest your feet, choose from dozens of beers, have an appetizer (or some ribs) and chat with friends while staying in the middle of the action in downtown Ann Arbor.
Best Beer Selection in a Restaurant
175 W. Troy Ave., Ferndale
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, which are hand-cut from yeast dough and deep-fried then served with milk chocolate and raspberry sauces. It’s all designed to pair with the beer selection, which is no joke: dozens of drafts and more than 80 bottled beers.
Good Girls Go to Paris
15 E. Kirby St., Detroit
877-727-4727 or 313-664-0490
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.
Best Outdoor or Patio Dining in Wayne County
La Dolce Vita
17546 Woodward Ave., Detroit
In addition to its tie for Wayne County’s best brunch, La Dolce Vita deservedly gets honors for its courtyard, which, in summertime, will transport you to a romantic oasis. Is there a better setting countywide for a short menu of eggs Benedict, Mascarpone-stuffed French toast and similarly delectable treats?
Best Outdoor or Patio Dining in Oakland County
22812 Woodward Ave., Ferndale
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 noshing and boozing — mostly boozing — with heating elements for added comfort on chilly days.
Best Bakery in Wayne County
Avalon International Breads
422 W. Willis St., Detroit
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 in Oakland County
220 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale
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. Two years ago, they joined forces with the new Red Hook coffee shop; Pinwheel bakes in the back and Red Hook brews up front. Now that’s our kind of synergy!
Best Bakery in Macomb County
4062 E. 17 Mile Rd., Sterling Heights
15381 Hall Rd., Macomb Twp.
Mannino’s specializes in wedding cakes, as well as cakes for all occasions, whereas Sweetheart bakes cakes, cookies, pies, tarts, tortes and even its own breads.
Best Bakery in Washtenaw County
3711 Plaza Dr., Ann Arbor
Full-service bake shop offers pastries, breads, wedding cakes, a brief lunch menu, even special baking classes for those who want to take home more than carbs.
Best Sweets Shop
541 Monroe St., Detroit; 313-963-9603
320 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-582-9220
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 in Wayne County
2124 Michigan Ave., Detroit
Great Lakes Coffee
3965 Woodward Ave., Detroit
Astro Coffee offers superb coffee, local, fresh, seasonal food and community spirit in an excellent, comfortable neighborhood café. Great Lakes Coffee offers high-quality java and even an array of liquor-based drinks to enhance that little coffee buzz.
Best Indie Coffeehouse in Oakland County
220 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale
This coffee counter is brainchild of Andrew and Sandi Heaselgrave. Sandi is a graduate of the College for Creative Studies who moved to New York for 13 years. After a few years back in Detroit, Sandi and her husband opened Red Hook in the front of Pinwheel Bakery’s space, combining forces for a place our readers evidently can’t get enough of.
Best Indie Coffeehouse in Macomb County
Caffe Far Bella
23233 Nine Mack Dr., St. Clair Shores
First-time winner Caffe Far Bella specializes in coffee drinks, but also offers a small menu of sandwiches, wraps, salads and soups.
Best Indie Coffeehouse in Washtenaw County
Ugly Mug Roastery
317 W. Cross Ave., Ypsilanti
Since 2004, this micro roastery 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 and even an open-air seating area out back.
501 Monroe St., Detroit
Pan-global fusion joint Mosaic closed its doors for three months of remodeling to reopen as Santorini Estiatorio. It’s the first new Greek restaurant in Greektown in a long time, and it makes a wonderful addition. The new look is rustic island, and the stylish blown glass droplets above the bar (the only design elements from Mosaic that remain) fit perfectly with the new theme, as do the large paintings of serene ocean views done by local artist Blake Carmichael. Wicker lampshades that resemble fishing baskets hang from the ceiling, and the dining room is separated from the bar by what looks like the hull of a boat. It makes for a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere perfect for enjoying wonderful Greek cuisine.
Best Menu Makeover
22700 Woodward Ave., Ferndale
With its distinctive design, friendly staff, good beer selection, and attractive twenty- and thirtysomething clientele, the Emory has been a favorite haunt for Ferndale locals since it opened in 2006. However, apart from the burger night special on Tuesdays, the venue has always seemed more of a destination for the bar scene than for dining. We may see that change in 2013, as the Emory has recently rolled out a rebooted menu. The burgers remain, of course, but they’ve added a pork & sage burger with apple slaw and a cilantro lime salmon burger to its traditional lineup. Numerous other tweaks have been made, but perhaps the most exciting update is the addition of sausages from Detroit’s Corridor Sausage Co. Make a difficult choice between the Vietnamese chicken, turkey red mole and garlic & juniper brat, all served on a freshly baked roll from Hermann’s and each with different complimentary garnishes, or come back often and try all three; this is bar food to get excited about.
Best Building Repurposed as a Restaurant
27799 Woodward Ave., Berkley
Before you even get past the door at Vinsetta Garage, you’ll notice details of the building’s past life incorporated into its new incarnation as a hip, mid-priced restaurant. The original neon sign and gas pumps remain out front; old lamps and service orders adorn the waiting area. Although the restaurant’s design was much-hyped and well-executed, we’re happy to say the joint is more than just a pretty face. The quality of both the food and service more than matches the effort surrounding the building’s redesign — in fact, they were qualified to win Best Pizza in a Non-Pizzeria for their excellent wood-oven pies.
Best Bar in a Restaurant
London Chop House
155 W. Congress St., Detroit
Since the London Chop House dusted itself off and reopened for business after two-plus decades, the restaurant’s buzz has centered on the “time warp” classic steakhouse ambiance of dim lights and well-polished wood. However, if $100-per-person tabs are not part of your everyday dining budget, you can still experience what all the fuss is about with a visit to the LCH bar. Nestled between the dining room and the dessert lounge, the bustling bar offers a chance to soak up the über-traditional midcentury steakhouse vibe while rubbing elbows with a blend of local businesspeople, WSU staff and out-of-towners. Cordial, genteel bartenders serve generous pours of top-shelf liquor, including an appropriately good selection of Scotch.
Best Restaurant for Ordering One of Everything
Green Dot Stables
2200 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit
There aren’t many non-fast-food restaurants where the majority of menu items are a) $3 or less, and b) worth ordering, let alone pretty outstanding. So when you go to the Green Dot, don’t hold back; bring a couple friends and order one of everything. How could you live with yourself knowing that you passed up the Coney Dog slider with venison chili, the Korean slider with peanut butter and kimchi, or (heaven forbid) the Mystery Meat? While you’re at it, order a side of the excellent skinny fries and a $3 specialty cocktail or two to wash it all down.
Best Budget Gourmet
St. Cece’s Pub
1426 Bagley St., Detroit
No higher praise than this: top-notch food on what chef Adam Verville calls “a working man’s budget.” At this lovely pub with a stone fireplace and house-infused spirits, you find influences from all over: Mediterranean to the Carolinas, France to Japan. The recipes show Verville cares about his offerings, like walnut squash cakes over crisp kale and rainbow trout with polenta and pomegranate seeds. A burger with caper aioli, roasted beet salad with shaved fennel — it’s all very tony, and yet the highest-priced item is $13; most dishes are less than $10. Saturday and Sunday brunches are almost as affordable.
Best Addition to Ferndale Dining Scene
Local Kitchen and Bar
344 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale
When Rick Halberg, long one of Detroit’s favorite chefs, set out to plan his latest venture, he chose Ferndale, a hip, bustling, tight-knit community. The stated goal of Rick and his business partner, Brian Siegel, was, “to be the kitchen table of our community; a notably comfortable place where friends gather regularly for exceptional everyday food, drink and camaraderie.” Thus was born Local Kitchen and Bar, which has fulfilled that goal, serving “well crafted-comfort,” both food and atmosphere, drawing crowds for the combination. The restaurant offers a 16-seat bar and a communal table for large parties or for strangers to share space, food and camaraderie. The menu is at once simple and innovative, with an emphasis on local, sustainable foods. There’s everything from burgers and steak to fried green tomatoes and fried chicken, with such sides as mac and cheese with candied bacon, brisket sliders and Sicilian meatballs. For vegetarians there’s a variety of salads, crostini and panini and a black bean burrito. The wine list is affordable and there are a couple-dozen beer choices on offer. Save room for Rick’s signature brownie or a seasonal cobbler.
Best Upscale Nontraditional Mexican Restaurant
19459 Mack Ave., Grosse Pointe Woods
What Burrito Mundo may lack in authenticity it more than makes up for in creativity. Some tacos are classics, including the Gringo (shredded cheese and lettuce, diced tomato and ground beef), the Santa Fe (shredded cheese, chicken and lettuce, with corn salsa and black beans) and the Asado (shredded cheese, roasted poblano and red bell peppers, onion and marinated steak). But the inventive specials can include braised pork tacos, heaped with house-braised pulled pork, smoky roasted corn salsa with black beans, and cilantro on sturdy hand-pounded corn tortillas. Or the chili lime shrimp taco with jicama slaw, habanero guac and cilantro, generously mounded with grilled marinated shrimp, perfectly cooked, almost buttery, drizzled with rich Mexican crema. Perhaps best is the mahi mahi taco, sporting generous little fillets that flake apart in the mouth, topped with just enough garlic aoli to make them pop.
Best Budget-Gourmet Italian
962 Dix Hwy., Lincoln Park
A former chef at Bacco’s brings his sensibilities downriver but bows to the local price structure. Chef Ernesto Magdaleno makes his own pastas and sausages and a don’t-miss cannellini bean dip, spices up mussels and calamari, and serves such favorites as carbonara and lasagna as well as a house specialty called gemelli norcina, with truffle oil and tomato cream sauce. There’s nary a meatball to be found, and most pasta dishes are $10 or less, veal at $12-$14 — with side dishes included in the price. The lack of atmosphere and liquor license can be worked around.
Best Kinda French Restaurant
15 E. Kirby St., Midtown
Owner Torya Blanchard wanted “a play on French,” and she and chef Kate Williams are having a great time with it. Classic French dishes are interpreted freely — very freely. Bourride, a fish stew with aioli, becomes a drier dish with salmon and roast potatoes. Duck confit cassoulet loses its casserole character but keeps white bean gravy. Coq au vin emerges as chicken wings coated with candied bacon dust. Beignets are doughnut holes. Great things are done with spiced-up pommes frites. It’s all delectable and served small-plates-style, and the all-French wine list is complemented by fun but not-necessarily-French cocktails — and dancing.
Best Shandong Food
29505 W. Nine Mile Rd., Farmington Hills
Yes, it’s probably the only Shandong food in the area, but that doesn’t make Empire Dynasty less excellent (and the chef cooks Szechuan and Cantonese dishes, too). Shandong province, located on the Pacific and home to one of China’s eight traditional cuisines, is known for its salty seafood, complex vinegars and use of noodles instead of rice. Try Empire Duck instead of Peking Duck, for example; it’s cooked very crisp, with the interior losing none of its fatty lusciousness. Ask for Shandong Soup or one of several steamed fish, brought to your table still simmering, which allows the flavors to become concentrated. This place deserves more traffic from those looking for authentic Chinese of any variety.
Best Nonstandard Middle Eastern
8731 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck
Forget hommous — it’s not traditional in Yemen — and seek dishes far afield from the well-known Lebanese. The 8 a.m. to midnight, seven-day-a-week 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 Goan Food
44175 W. 12 Mile Rd., Ste. F-143, Novi
The tiny seaside Indian state of Goa adapted its Portuguese rulers’ culinary habits, and the result was a culture whose national motto is susegad — no worries. Indo Fusion makes the most of a cuisine based on rice, fish, coconut milk and lots of spices. You’ll forget all about naan after trying light and spongy sannas: steamed dumplings made of ground rice, fresh coconut and buttermilk. In robust pork dishes like dhukramas, sorpotel and chorizo curry (that’s the Portuguese side), meat and spices make equal contributions to flavor. Goan Green Chicken is spiced with chilis, cilantro, ginger, garlic and cinnamon, and Goan shrimp are cooked with peppers and served on a slaw of cabbage and cilantro. And who would expect to find a Goan Christmas dessert, bebinca, in Michigan? This restaurant is one more bit of proof that fusion makes the world go round.
Best Sushi Buffet
Fuji Japanese Buffet
32153 John R Rd., Madison Heights
We’ve gone to sushi bars and found that, after gorging ourselves on nigiri and rolls, the bill sometimes amounted to more than $80. No such fears at Fuji, where the fixed-price buffet means you can stuff your face with quality sushi and still not break the bank. Even though Fuji’s talented sushi chefs work overtime to keep the sushi counter loaded, it’s only natural that many diners’ first choices will be salmon, crab or tuna. But all the sushi choices are quite good, if the cuts aren’t as generous as when you buy sushi a la carte. And if you love the oily tang of fresh fish, there’s no reason to shy away from the mackerel nigiri. On both visits, we were able to load a plate with more than a half-dozen pieces of the shiny-skinned, scallion-topped pleasures.
Best New Indian Buffet
Aahar Indian Cuisine
35564 Grand River Ave., Farmington Hills
Indian food ain’t all curry. The fare of the subcontinent, and its many regional cuisines, offer dals, breads, sambar, tandoori-cooked meats, dosa and a vast array of vegetables. Sound unfamiliar? Now is the time to explore. And there may be no better place to launch your exploration than Aahar Indian Cuisine in Farmington Hills. For less than $10, you can feast on at least a dozen dishes on a lunch buffet that always includes curried goat and tandoori chicken. The staff will explain all of the items. Unlike many other buffets that cater more to non-Indians, Aahar’s spice levels are assertive, but not fiery hot. Namaste.
Best New Small Plates
The Sardine Room
340 S. Main St., Plymouth
734-416-0261 ; thesardineroom.com
Some interesting combinations, like scallops, pork belly and sweet potato, and curried rabbit, and somewhat venturesome ingredients, like foie gras and roasted bone marrow, make the Sardine Room a fun place to order a table-full of plates for sharing. Choose from a trio of country hams or find out what puréed arugula adds to gnocchi, or taste the storied Mangalista pig with stuffed cabbage. The only thing longer than the menu is the drinks list, with lots of single malts and digestifs. And if one small plate isn’t enough, you can ask for it again.
Best Half-Off Night
29110 Franklin Rd.,
711 S. Main St.,
Royal Oak; 248-544-2442
In these less-than-rosy economic times, with restaurants competing for a shrinking pool of diner dollars, many are opting to do a “half-off” night in an attempt to draw customers on a typically slow night of the week. We love a bargain, but these deals often involve warmed-over bar food that’s barely worth the discounted price. Not so at Pizzeria Biga. At both the Southfield and Royal Oak locations, Biga offers half-off delicious wood-fired pizzas with high-quality toppings and homemade pastas on Mondays until 7:30 p.m. If beverage bargains are more your speed, the restaurant offers half-off bottles of wine on Tuesdays. As always, don’t forget to tip your server on the pre-discounted amount.
Best Lunch Downtown
1300 Porter St., Detroit
The mania to make everything in-house means fabulous slaws and krauts, and mustards to top the already mile-high sandwiches, which are stuffed with meats smoked outside by the eponymous Greg Mudge. If you don’t want to waddle back to work, best bet is a half-sandwich with thick soup, or half-salad and the same — though the salads, like everything else here, are generously laden, and come with nine Mudgie dressings. Now that Michigan wine, beer and mead [honey wine] have been added, there’s nothing not to like — if your afternoon schedule allows.
Best Restaurant We're Anticipating to Open
4130 Cass Ave., Detroit
Participating in the Hatch: Detroit business competition, in which business ideas are promoted via social media and voted for online, Elias Khalil initially didn’t think he had a chance in hell. One of three partners in the Spanish tapas restaurant La Feria (a nod to Seville’s famous yearly fair), Khalil considered himself rather inept at online promotion; in the months before the vote, he pounded the pavement in his Cass Corridor neighborhood handing out fliers and telling people firsthand about his concept. But family and friends in Detroit and Spain rallied ⎯ and thousands of votes later ⎯ La Feria came out on top. The restaurant, located on Cass at Alexandrine, is currently under construction and hopes to open sometime this summer. We’ve had the pleasure of sampling some of the food in Khalil’s home and at a couple local events, and we can’t wait for the full experience. Unlike many of the upscale “small plates” concepts that have been popular in the last decade, La Feria is to offer authentic, inexpensive Spanish tapas, such as tortilla de patatas (a dense potato omelet), mushroom caps with a parsley and garlic sauce, and crunchy, creamy croquettes stuffed with chicken and béchamel.
Best Indoor Street Food
22828 Woodward Ave., Ferndale
The concept of Imperial is simple but genius: Use fresh, local ingredients to create a menu that’s unique, delicious and eminently affordable — in this case, L.A. street-food-style tacos. Serve a wide range of domestic and Mexican beers and some creative cocktails alongside. Design a cool layout that, in nice weather, blurs the boundaries of indoor and outdoor space to enhance the cantina vibe. Play good music. Put it in Ferndale, a city where people love to go out but don’t necessarily have the deep pockets of some other Oakland County burbs. Pat yourself on the back as your restaurant deservedly becomes one of the most popular spots in town.
Best Scientifically Healthy Food
3022 Packard Rd., Ann Arbor
When an oncologist gets diabetes, he may look for a lifestyle makeover, and if he’s Indian, the result could be vegetarian and vegan street food in which baked replaces fried, sugar is outlawed in favor of dates (high-fiber), and nutrition is the goal of each dish. Skeptics will be amazed. A vegan mango-avocado-soy shake is both sweet and rich. Chaats’ wraps and pizzas create cornucopias of flavors by using dozens of ingredients. Baked flatbread is made with 15 different grains. Scoff at a carrot and red pepper pizza sauce … till you’ve tried it. Hut-K Chaats won the most votes at a competition sponsored by Mark’s Carts — with a vegan dish.
Best Breakfast Pizza
Crispelli’s Bakery & Pizzeria
28939 Woodward, Berkley
We’re seeing fried eggs atop everything these days, and a pizza is as good a place for one as anywhere. At Crispelli’s, they’re baked, actually, super-fast in a 500-degree stone oven, over traditional breakfast ingredients like ham and cheese, or an Italian version: prosciutto and mozzarella. Even better, a reconstructed New York bagel breakfast with smoked salmon, tomato, cream cheese and red onion, all on a very thin crust. Scrambled eggs on top are possible too, and then the choices multiply. If breakfast pizza doesn’t work for you, there are calzones, quiches, waffles, French toast from house-made baguettes, frittatas and pain au chocolat. And prices are a little lower than at most fancy breakfast places.
Brooklyn Street Local
1266 Michigan Ave., Detroit
Ah, poutine — that decadent mess of golden fries drenched with salty, hot gravy and finished off with cheese curds that add the final textural element to the crunchy and saucy confection. Poutine has been popping up in restaurants all over the metro area as of late, but you won’t find a better version than the one served at Brooklyn Street Local. Perhaps it’s because BSL’s owners hail from Canada, the birthplace of poutine; whatever the reason, they’ve nailed the formula. The only drawback: rather than quelling a post-bar, booze-fueled snack attack (which seems to be poutine’s raison d’être), you’ll have to indulge during daytime hours, as BSL is a breakfast-and-lunch-only joint. A late-night BSL food truck, or at least a poutine-only carryout window, would be a great public service.
Best Burger to Munch to Live Music
PJ’s Lager House
1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit
To be the best, the music would be a wide variety of original local acts, from punk and heavy metal to country, blues and rockabilly; and that burger would be the Black and Blue. It’s grilled with Cajun blackening spices on one side (paprika, oregano, etc.) and blue cheese on the other, so it’s spicy but mellow, with double umami from the dairy and the ground steak. Other burgers come with onions grilled to perfection or they aren’t burgers at all, but house-made falafel.
Best Nontraditional Pizza
11608 Conant St., Hamtramck
This little Bangladeshi-American pizzeria serves some of the most unusual — and flavorful — pies in town. Amar makes round, square and deep-dish pies, and it only gets more interesting from there. They can make pies with a spicy naga sauce, which General Manager Khursed Ahmad says is commonly found in Bangladesh and eastern India. Another Bangladeshi ingredient Amar uses to great effect is bhut jolokia, the ghost pepper, once recognized by Guinness World Records as the hottest pepper in the world. The ghost pepper pizza has a pleasant burn for those who like it, although Amar’s menu warns: “Extreme heat — eat at own risk.” Other innovations include a tandoori pizza, a Philly steak pizza, a gyro pizza and a dry fish pizza. It’s all Halal, which means there’s no pork — and even the pepperoni is made from beef.
Best Kosher Pizza
26025 Greenfield Rd., Southfield
6600 West Maple Rd., West Bloomfield
JP is the granddaddy of kosher pie palaces in metro Detroit. Of course, keeping kosher need not be the driver for you to check the place out. If you are a veggie who wants the thrill of carni toppings without the guilt, you’ve hit paydirt. With pies like the cheeseburger, bar-b-cue pizza and Thai chicken, it’s as close as you dare get to the real thing. If you don’t see what you want on the menu, chart your own course among the myriad toppings. Owners Brian and Rivka Jacobs, along woth their motley crew, keep the lights on seven days a week (opening after the Sabbath on Saturdays). The Southfield location has a couple of tables but is otherwise a takeout joint. The West Bloomfield location, housed inside the Jewish Commuity Center where Matt Prentice’s Milk and Honey called home, has a much larger dining area, complete with a coffee bar. Jacobs, who can general be found behind the counter in Southfield, let’s his rotund frame testify to the quality of the food.
Best Vegetarian Sandwich in a Bar
The Bronx Bar
4476 Second Ave., Detroit
There’s joy in finding something exceptional where you’d least expect it, and that something is the Veggie Machine. Every dive bar menu worth its salt offers burger and fries, which range from barely edible to serviceable, to Miller’s-level legendary. The Bronx Bar is no exception, and its burgers are more than sufficient for soaking up a few PBRs and shots of whiskey. But it’s the Veggie Machine sandwich that makes us actually go out of our way to eat there. The grilled focaccia bread is something magical; its crunchy, buttery goodness is the perfect vehicle for the always-fresh baby spinach, cucumbers and tomatoes. Swiss cheese and a special sauce seal the deal. Even die-hard carnivores of our acquaintance are known to sing the praises of this magnificent sandwich specimen.
Best Place to Eat a Fancy Low-Carb Meal
Texas de Brazil
1000 Woodward Ave., Detroit
If you’re on some version of a low-carb diet — paelo, Atkins, South Beach — it can be hard to go out for a fancy dinner without sabotaging your diet. As long as you avoid the mash potatoes and the not-so-good-anyway dinner rolls, feel free to eat pretty much anything else since most things on the menu are sword after sword of simply prepared, perfectly cooked cuts of meat. The salad bar is loaded with delicious low-carb options like Spanish cheeses, lunchmeats, grilled veggies, fish, and bacon. Mmmm … bacon.
Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant
Noodles & Company
Locations throughout the Detroit metro area; noodles.com
Of course, there’s a cross-section of our readers who would love to try the many eclectic suggestions above, save for one problem: kids in tow. Dining with the family can be an exercise in patience and mediocrity, depending on finnicky palates and varying degrees of table manners. Enter Noodles, the kid-friendly, notch-above fast food restaurant that caters to the Underroos crowd. From ordering to eating, there’s usually not more than five to seven minutes in between. We haven’t met too many kids who don’t like some variation on the noodles theme, whether it’s the creamy mac ’n’ cheese or the guilty-pleasure buttered noodles. However, there are many healthier, more flavorful plates to be found. Our favorites include the slightly spicy Japanese pan noodles with tofu (you may choose from three different proteins to add to any dish) and the creamy, hearty tomato bisque. Food is brought to your table, and the servers do not accept tips. Good food, quick, efficient service, and a carefree attitiude toward child antics makes Noodles our best choice for family dining.
Best Vegetarian Pop-Up Restaurant
We’ve seen a variety of new pop-up restaurants appear over the last year, but several factors put Chartreuse out in front. For one, its run by a certified raw and vegan chef, Corinne Rice. The four-course dinners are vegan, raw, organic, gluten-free, seasonal and made with local produce as much as possible, supporting local farms. What’s more, the creative menus often take classic dishes and deconstruct them, putting the ingredients together in new ways. Plus, the events usually overtake interesting surroundings, such as urban farms or art spaces, often to the accompaniment of live music. Taken together, Chartreuse hits just about every note a pop-up can, and all for just $50 per diner.
Best Nonvegetarian Pop-Up Restaurant
Pop-ups are proliferating faster than fruit flies on a rotten summer tomato these days, but they’re not all created equal. Schnäck, the roving German restaurant brought to you by Porktown Sausage and friends, is the one we look forward to with the most eager anticipation, and try never to miss. The wursts and wieners are the most delectable in town, but that’s not the only draw. In addition to meat products that are stuffed and smoked by hand, expect something pickled on the menu — herring at one dinner, tongue at another. They even ferment their own sauerkraut and make their own mustard for the full German experience. Although the meat is to die for, vegetarians need not miss out; there’s always a creative veggie option, like a celery root “schnitzel” crusted in Better Made potato chips. Best of all, the food is expertly matched with German beer and wine selections.