Best Of 2015


Kresge Court
5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-7900;

1464 Gratiot Ave., Detroit; 313-737-6606;

Café 78 (inside MOCAD)
4454 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-784-9636;

Our winners are dedicated to the proposition that no art-lover deserves to starve. They’re all serving benefactor-worthy fare (sandwich breads include focaccia, ciabatta, brioche), and two of the three maintain a full bar. It’s set up to look like nibbling — paté, charcuterie and cheese boards, house-made potato chips — but you can easily find enough to keep you going for a hard day of high culture. Trinosophes and Café 78 even serve breakfast. All the food spaces are big, but in the latter two it’s big as in barn-like whereas at the DIA, the gorgeous Kresge Court is part of the art experience.

2445 Michigan Ave., Detroit;

The hype about Two James' whiskey? It's inspired by the mystery flavor "umami" of the rich pork and fish broths of Japanese cuisine, pours delicately, drinks a little smoky, and has 70 percent corn and 30 percent rye. And, according to our readers, the hype is a stimulating reality.

Ferndale is nothing to sniff at, and downtown is blowing up, but the best place to dine remains Detroit's Corktown neighborhood. Why? It's because it's in the midst of a burst of creativity, with a wide range of establishments, including neighborhood spots, burger joints, upscale eateries, wine bars, distilleries, bagel stops, and difficult-to-categorize places like UFO. And new places keep opening, the next likely being Katoi.

Not all restaurant promotions are equal. Without naming names, some of them pull together arbitrary collections of eateries within one area, including a few clinkers that need to drum up business, and several of the fixed-price "deals" seem like anything but. But the organizers of Dine Drink Detroit consistently pull together a strong list of hip establishments that's not just phoned in but thoughtful.

Judging by a recent, 107-word editor's note, Finley evidently wants a nightcap in downtown Detroit, but has a hard time finding a bar that will stay open late enough. Finley wrote, "bars can already stay open and serve alcohol until 2 a.m., and almost none do. Most start stacking their chairs on tables at midnight or before, even on weekends." Huh? Just where has Finley been hanging out? Steven's Place?

18713 Van Born Rd., Allen Park; 313-563-8349;

Hidden in an old cinderblock box dressed up with trim, Three Nicks Scoreboard is one of those great old bars, with a U-shaped lowered ceiling matching the bar, bikini-clad servers, and a half-pound burger that's delightfully juicy. The patty is kind of a big, ugly thing, with the kinds of bulges and seams that practically scream "hand-formed." And it's incredible, not just juicy, but — buttery? There's a richness here that suggests beef cooked in clarified butter, and it's wonderful. All in all, it's an excellent half-pound, two-hander, four-napkin burger.

7208 W Fort St, Detroit; 313-843-9186;

Detroit abounds with charming, old-school burger joints serving sliders fragrant with the aroma of grilled onions. But Motz's stands apart, thanks to the quick service, 85-year history, gracious staff, and the milling workaday crowd that stuffs the joint around lunchtime. Then there's the charming banter of a family-owned business where jokes and gentle barbs fly back and forth that makes a late meal at the counter into dinner and a show.

29110 Franklin Rd., Southfield; 248-544-2442

711 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-750-2442;

The former Pizzeria Biga carries Napoletana-style pies, the only main course found here. The dough, which is made through an intricate process, can be topped with such items as wild as duck prosciutto and tonno (imported Italian tuna). Worth noting: Gluten-free and vegan options are available upon request.

16351 Ford Rd., suite 100, Dearborn; 313-253-1010; See for other locations

Despite the abundance of Middle Eastern restaurants in Detroit, even few of those who love it understand what sets Lebanese cuisine apart: an emphasis on deft preparation, fresh ingredients, and, yes, a reluctance to overspice things. That means hummus without excess tahini or a gummy consistency, baba that's silky and almost campfire smoky, and tabbouleh with just a few tablespoons of burghul. Ollie's has all that down, and even a few old-school Lebanese treats, such as batata harra and yakhanat arnabit.

The Eastern Market sausage operation run by Will Branch and Zachary Klein raises the bar by using natural ingredients, sourcing as locally as practical, and doing it all in one of the most heavily regulated food businesses. But it's those flavor profiles that make their product worth it, such as Vietnamese chicken sausage, pork with sage and apple, Moroccan lamb and fig, or turkey and red mole.