Eating our way through Michigan

The Detroit dining scene has certainly taken up the restaurant headlines as of late, what with the spattering of trendy, New American eateries taking hold across the city. Long before the Motor City began garnering attention, several other parts of the Mitten dominated the restaurant landscape. We offer you four prime foodie road trips in the state, so you can indulge no matter where you go.


We start off in Detroit, famous for its classic Coney diners, ethnic dining enclaves, and chef-inspired locavore bistros.

8 a.m. – Breakfast at Rose's Fine Food

We begin our trip at this eastside establishment, where you're bound to be enticed by the made-from-scratch menu featuring garlicky greens, expertly poached eggs, aromatic slices of house-made bread, and delectable pastries like the Crybabies. You'll want to show up early, as seating is limited and the kitchen space is jam-packed. As long as you're patient, you'll be rewarded with a restorative first meal brought to you by a warm staff.

10551 E. Jefferson Ave.;

10 a.m. – Coffee at Urban Bean Co.

You're on some sort of deadline and you need a quiet place to hole up with your laptop. A high-quality, caffeinated pick-me-up wouldn't hurt, either. You're guaranteed all of that at Urban Bean Co., a stalwart Capitol Park cafe that's been around since the neighborhood was still weird. The place features a DJ booth on the second floor that's used for evening sessions, but during the day, the mod space is surprisingly tranquil. Keep it simple with a pour-over cup o' Joe or fancy with the Pure Evil Latte, with espresso, amaretto, cherry, and milk. If you can't have your coffee without something to dunk it in, there's the 313 combo, featuring a small drip and a Dutch Girl doughnut.

200 Grand River Ave.;

Noon – Lunch at Taqueria El Rey

Chicken is the name of the game at this Southwest Detroit joint. The pollo is smoked low and slow over lump coal in an open-air grill pit, situated under an adjoining tent. The result, a wonderfully charred flavor, is punctuated with a mix of spices. At just $11.50 for a whole chicken, plus sides of rice, beans, tortillas, and salsa, or about $7 for a half chicken, you can easily split a lunch for two or bring back enough to feed the co-workers in the office. If chicken is not your jam, the spot also specializes in tacos with a variety of meats (pastor, lengua/tongue, even cabeza/beef head), ribs, and seafood cocktails.

4730 W. Vernor Hwy.;

4 p.m. – Happy hour at Northern Lights Lounge

Stop in this laid-back spot in the New Center neighborhood, where you'll be met with a diverse crowd, chill music, free shuffleboard, and one of the best outdoor patio spaces in the city. During weekdays 3:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m., bottles of domestics are $2, well drinks are $3, and martinis are $5. If you can't wait 'til dinner time, there's a decent bar food menu from which to nosh.

660 W. Baltimore St.;

6 p.m. – Dinner at Mabel Gray

This much-celebrated restaurant takes you just outside the city limits and delivers an exquisitely executed, hand-written menu that changes daily. Local celeb chef James Rigato, a co-owner, lets his imagination be his guide, often drawing inspiration from the region's culturally diverse culinary traditions, while sourcing his ingredients locally.

238 John R Road, Hazel Park;

Ann Arbor

On the edge of metro Detroit sits Ann Arbor, whose food scene is more established, and for good reason. While there are plenty of cheap eats to be had by the college crowd, and you probably daydream about the Reubens at Zingerman's on a daily basis, you'll also find a number of craft brewpubs, fine-dining restaurants, intimate cafes, and legendary destination eateries.

8 a.m. – Breakfast at The Fleetwood Diner

It's a hungover college student's best morning cure: the Hippie Hash at Fleetwood Diner. It's loaded with browns topped with broccoli, grilled tomato, onion, green pepper, mushroom, and feta cheese. Either you'll be all set to face another day or you'll be lulled into a food coma. In which case, see below.

300 S. Ashley St.;

11 a.m. – Coffee break at Comet Coffee

For most of us, coffee is a necessary evil to wake up our senses in the morning. For others, it's a craft. You've got your pour-over, your French press, and then there's the latte art — whimsically designed foam. Just how do the baristas do it? For those of you whose Instagram accounts are filled with the stuff, there's Comet Coffee.

16 Nickels Arcade;

Noon – Lunch at Frita Batidos

You can't go wrong with a burger, but how about one with a Cuban twist? At this sleekly designed and popular spot, you'll find a mix of Cuban-inspired street food with burgers made with spicy chorizo, black bean, chicken, fish, or beef. For a refreshing end to your meal, a cajeta or coconut cream batido will hit the spot.

117 W. Washington St.;

5 p.m. – Happy hour at Raven's Club

The drinks here are on par with any craft cocktail spot. The Blood & Sand, for example, will hit the spot on a warm summer night, with blood orange-infused Scotch, fresh orange juice, and Cherry Heering. The original hand-pulled old-fashioned features house-made Old-Fashioned bitters. And for the non-drinkers, there's a pretty sweet ginger beer, also made in-house. The best part: Happy hour goes from 5 p.m.–7 p.m. and late night on Thursdays from 9 p.m.-closing time. That means $7 cocktails, $1 off select draft beer, and $4 for snacks.

207 S. Main St.;

7 p.m. – Dinner at Slurping Turtle

Marvel at the many culinary talents of chef Takashi Yagihashi (who brought us Tribute in Farmington Hills), who can throw down a masterful rendition of Japanese delights. Think homemade ramen, sashimi, nigiri, and maki rolls, all set in an impressive atmosphere.

608 E. Liberty St.;

11 p.m. – Night cap at the Last Word

You've bopped around town all day. How about unwinding in this intimate, low-lit speakeasy, where your bedtime story comes from the cocktail menu, printed in an old-fashioned book? Whether you're a cocktail gal, a whiskey connoisseur, or you're more of a craft beer buff, this place has you covered.

301 W. Huron St.;

Grand Rapids

If we're being honest, listicles seem to have a knack for pointing out qualities you're looking for when you're in search of the next big thing in the foodie-verse. If lists don't lie, then we're to believe that Grand Rapids (not Detroit), is in fact the new food mecca in Michigan. That's according to a recent Thrillist list. With a number of iconic breweries, a diverse offering of ethnic cuisine (think Latin, German, and others), and an abundance of fresh produce and meats at its fingertips, we'll have to agree.

8 a.m. – Breakfast at Marie Catrib's

Spend breakfast in a busy, yet homey kind of place, where the menu is all made from scratch, and you get to choose from decadent sweets right of the griddle like the Panukakku (a Finnish pancake, with homemade berry jam) or stuffed French toast (we drool over the caramelized bananas ones.)

1001 Lake Dr. SE;

10 a.m. – Coffee at Madcap Coffee Co.

Not just any coffee will do. The more you know about each and every bean that goes into making your favorite caffeinated beverage, the best. Which is why GR has Madcap. You'll feel good about where it's roasted because it's done so right in the city. The best part, you can sample the pour-over brews to figure out your favorite by ordering a flight of three 8-ounce cups. Plus, you're set in super sleek, modern space that'll put you in a warm, fuzzy place in a way only a coffee shop can achieve.

98 Monroe Center St. NW;

Noon – Lunch at Kitchen 67

When you're in Beer City, you're going to want to dive into a menu that celebrates it. And it wouldn't hurt if that menu got top accolades as having one of the best sandwiches in the country. That place would be Kitchen 67, home of the Bird in Hand. The Huffington Post called the chicken sandwich — made with beer-braised chicken, breading made with Founder's Red Rye beer batter, mayo, lettuce, and served on a caramelized, 67-branded brioche bun — the No. 1 sandwich to try before you die.

1977 E. Beltline Ave. NE;

3 p.m. – Shop at Downtown Market

Be part of the farm-to-table movement by picking up your own farm fresh fruits, veggies, and meats in the Market Hall. This space rivals anything we've got going on at Eastern Market. Not only will you find local produce, but you'll also come across a number of eateries that vend a variety of nom noms like sushi, tacos, Thai, baked goods, and more. Really, a place where you can bring something back home for later.

435 Ionia Ave. SW;

6 p.m. – Dinner at Founders Brewing Co.

No trip to Grand Rapids would be complete without stopping off at one of its many famous breweries. You've been meaning to see where this brewmaker puts together the magic ingredients that make up the All Day IPA. Plus, nothing works up an appetite quite like a few swills of beer. To satiate that craving, there are specials in the tap room's deli like the Glutton: smoked pulled pork butt, thick-cut bacon, house-made beer cheese dip, fried onions, all topped with Dirty Bastard BBQ sauce and smashed into an everything bun from Nantucket Baking Co.

235 Grandville Ave. SW;

Traverse City

TC is without a doubt the veteran of the food cities, with its close proximity to fresh lake fish, picturesque scenery that sets the mood at any one of its fine-dining establishments, the many wineries nearby. It's the summer home of celeb chef Mario Batali and his wife.

8 a.m. – Breakfast at Patisserie Amie

The attention to detail in the preparation of the French pastries here is on point. The croissants sell out quickly every morning, the crepes can be had either sweet or savory, and you have the choice to either take your goodies to go or dine in the quaint bistro space.

237 Lake Ave. No. 200;

Noon — Lunch at Trattoria Stella

At one of the most iconic restaurants in TC, you'll find a great meal, no matter if you come for lunch or dinner. The farm-to-table rustic Italian eatery features house-made breads, pastas, and cheeses, as well as heritage breeds of beef, pig, and lamb. The menu changes frequently, but here are a few recent examples of what you'll find for lunch. A chilled serving of Burrata Pugliese, with charred tomato, vinaigrette, and crostini, pizza (in red or white sauce), a cheese board with your choice of three varieties, or a plate of gnocchi, with green beans, lemon, garlic, sautéed kale, and crisp shiitake mushrooms. The best part about this place: During lunch, it's far lower in price than some of what you'd see on the dinner menu.

Trattoria Stella, 1200 W. 11th St.;

6 p.m. – Dinner at the Cooks' House

Plan ahead and make reservations at this petite, yet highly popular place, because you'll need them. Again, the ingredients on the menu here are sustainable, meaning that they were procured as responsibly as possible. For dinner, the tasting menu is the way to go. Diners choose from a five-course or seven-course menu and get to sample the famous hay smoked walleye, oxtail and beef cheeks, and chocolate stout cake, to name a few selections.

115 Wellington St.;

10 p.m. – Night cap at 7 Monks Taproom

While Traverse City is more known for vino, there are plenty of destination wineries that belong on another road trip list. But when you'd just like a sudsy pint of brew, you come to this spot. You'll find 46 handles of Michigan brews and other rare beers on tap.

128 S. Union St.;

Scroll to read more Made in Michigan articles


Join Detroit Metro Times Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.