161 Vester Ave., Ferndale; 248-629-9951; valentinedistilling.com
Rifino Valentine continues to blaze the trail for craft distilleries in Michigan, and along the way he's producing some of the finest vodka, gin, and whiskey we've tasted. This year, Valentine Vodka earned the honor of World's Best Vodka at the 2016 World Vodka Awards. "I've always appreciated the American craftsman; working by hand, making one-of-a-kind items that stand the test of time," Valentine says. "In distillation, this means selecting the best ingredients, distilling in small batches, and taking care in every single step of the process." You can enjoy the fruits of his labor and take a tour at Valentine Distilling's Vester Avenue cocktail lounge in downtown Ferndale, and find the spirits at numerous bars and liquor stores, too.
401 S. Lafayette Ave., Royal Oak; 248-542-0082; bistro82.com
Bistro 82 is no stranger to our Best of Detroit honors: Last year, the restaurant earned a staff pick for Best Appetizer Menu. For our readers, that appeal was clearly broader, as it was named the best in its region. Under the guidance of chef Derik Watson, the kitchen churns out excellent mains as well, from a prime 14-ounce rib-eye dry-aged for 28 days to a delightful vegetable risotto accented with cashew cream. Add attentive service and an interior of sleek, clean lines and you have this year's best.
3921 Second Ave., Detroit; 313-438-5055; seldenstandard.com
The much-lauded Selden Standard scored big time this year, winning Hour Detroit's 2016 restaurant of the year, and chef-owner Andy Hollyday landed a James Beard nomination for best chef in the Great Lakes region. With all that, it's no surprise our readers agreed and have named the Midtown eatery the best Wayne County has to offer. Ingredients are locally sourced, the small plates menu changes with the seasons, and the beverage program is just as respected as the food. Come summer, the outdoor patio ties the experience all together for an unforgettable affair.
216 S. State St., Ann Arbor; 734-623-2233; savasrestaurant.com
Our readers picked Sava's last year for its breakfast offerings. But the restaurant is great all-around because it does it all: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The dinner menu offers plenty of choices: straight-ahead fine dining (seared Arctic char or braised lamb shank, for instance), as well as burgers and sandwiches; diners can just as easily assemble meals by choosing among the salads, sides, and creative small plates.
39091 Garfield Rd., Clinton Township; 586-263-6540; lucianositaliancuisine.com
Luciano's wrapped up this category last year, and it's easy to see why it's back on top again. Family-owned and -operated, with white linens, soft table lighting, and a menu of old-fashioned Northern and Southern Italian cuisine made with fresh, natural ingredients, and in generous portions at prices a little friendlier than many fine-dining restaurants.
1214 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-306-1954; jimbradysdetroit.com
Proprietor Tom Brady (no, not that Tom Brady) has seen to the rebirth of a legendary Detroit institution in suburban Royal Oak. Inside the former Oxford Inn, the space has a mid-century "Don Draper" quality, with upholstered barstools, sunburst light fixtures, and a pink payphone in the ladies room. As for the food, it's also a throwback to a time when going out to eat called for a steak, juicy burger, or a sandwich named after a regular. Drinks are equally nostalgic, as is the Motown playlist. With a generous happy hour and a kitchen that stays open late, it's quickly become a favorite neighborhood spot in Oakland County.
1942 Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-446-8360; republictaverndetroit.com
With its historic setting in the castle-like GAR Building, a kitchen attuned to nose-to-tail meatiness, and a run-up to opening that kept us in anticipation for months, Republic was a runaway smash hit when it opened last year. Sure, you can have satisfying dishes of country-style ham, seafood cassoulet, or grilled lamb, but you may be surprised how much flavor they're able to pack into their shareable Ploughman's plate.
120 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 888-456-3463; mezzevino.com
When is an Italian restaurant not an Italian restaurant? When it embraces all the flavors that enliven the Mediterranean coast, from mussels to meatballs, from calamari to couscous. Now there's the sort of restaurant concept where large groups can go to dine and leave nobody unhappy: Even if a diner doesn't like at least one Mediterranean dish, the menu offers steak, lamb chops, and grilled chicken.
52969 Van Dyke Ave., Shelby Township, 586-580-9382; vastkitchenandbar.com
Open since last year, the Vast crew wanted to provide a restaurant that was high-end but approachable, sophisticated but not intimidating. That translates into a menu of burgers and sandwiches for lunch, but some pretty high-toned entrees for dinner, including filet mignon, Parmesan-crusted chicken, lamb chops with polenta, and crab cakes. At the corner of Van Dyke and 24 Mile, the business is closed Sundays.
203 Pierce St., Birmingham; 248-258-6278
23144 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-398-0444; eatattoast.com
Often the best isn't anything new at all, but a classic that endures ever-changing trends in the dining scene. That's the case for our readers, who've once again named Toast Best Breakfast in Oakland County. As crowded as it gets during the weekend brunch rush, diners are rewarded with scrumptious breakfast platters like the Bananas Foster buttermilk pancakes, with candied banana, caramel sauce, cinnamon, and Chantilly cream. Then there's also the array of coffees, fresh squeezed juices, Bloodys, and mimosas.
1942 Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-446-8370
On the flip side of Republic in the funky, reimagined GAR Building, we have the Wayne County winner for best breakfast. Parks & Rec gives us a chef-inspired breakfast and lunch vibe. Bacon is in a unique lamb form, hash browns are "high end," and sweets like the Dutch Baby popover are freshly baked in-house.