21 of the best things we ate in 2016 in and around metro Detroit

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Rock City Eatery: Nikita Sanches' Rock City Eatery finally has the space and freedom to break out of his confines. Formerly located in a mostly working-class Hamtramck, now Sanches and Co. are in the midst of Detroit's boom. Offerings include the visually pleasing "High Steaks," which is in fact a steak meal — smoked tri-tip with herbs, smoking leek, and a side of "Willie Nelson" tater salad. The protein is served on a dainty miniature replica of a Weber barbecue grill. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 4216 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-265-3729; rockcityeatery.com
Rock City Eatery: Nikita Sanches' Rock City Eatery finally has the space and freedom to break out of his confines. Formerly located in a mostly working-class Hamtramck, now Sanches and Co. are in the midst of Detroit's boom. Offerings include the visually pleasing "High Steaks," which is in fact a steak meal — smoked tri-tip with herbs, smoking leek, and a side of "Willie Nelson" tater salad. The protein is served on a dainty miniature replica of a Weber barbecue grill. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 4216 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-265-3729; rockcityeatery.com
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Satchel’s BBQ: There's a cell phone store on Washtenaw next to the Whole Foods — maybe you've seen it. If you're paying attention, you'll see a couple large wood smokers in the front of the parking lot. Satchel's is around back, entrance on the side, occupying the back half of the one-story building. It's unassuming, it's simple, and the interior is hand-painted with a pastoral scene, decorated with rough-hewn fences along the wall. (Kitschy, maybe, but who cares when the food is this good?) Your best bet might be to order a combo plate, trying a bit of the pork and a bit of the brisket or chicken (also very good) together.   — Aaron Egan (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 3035 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-971-5100; satchelsbbq.com
Satchel’s BBQ: There's a cell phone store on Washtenaw next to the Whole Foods — maybe you've seen it. If you're paying attention, you'll see a couple large wood smokers in the front of the parking lot. Satchel's is around back, entrance on the side, occupying the back half of the one-story building. It's unassuming, it's simple, and the interior is hand-painted with a pastoral scene, decorated with rough-hewn fences along the wall. (Kitschy, maybe, but who cares when the food is this good?) Your best bet might be to order a combo plate, trying a bit of the pork and a bit of the brisket or chicken (also very good) together. — Aaron Egan (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 3035 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-971-5100; satchelsbbq.com
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Al Saha: Al Saha's shawarma is flavorful and juicy, basted and cooked slow on the spit; get it with hummus as an entree for yourself if you like. Or, avail yourselves of the extensive vegetarian options — once again, a hallmark of the cuisine that's done that much better here. — Aaron Egan (Photo by Sarah Rahal. Click here to read the full review.) 14246 W. Warren Ave., Dearborn; 313-908-7807; alsaharestaurant.com
Al Saha: Al Saha's shawarma is flavorful and juicy, basted and cooked slow on the spit; get it with hummus as an entree for yourself if you like. Or, avail yourselves of the extensive vegetarian options — once again, a hallmark of the cuisine that's done that much better here. — Aaron Egan (Photo by Sarah Rahal. Click here to read the full review.) 14246 W. Warren Ave., Dearborn; 313-908-7807; alsaharestaurant.com
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Super Happy Sushi at Café 78: Rolls like the All That And a Bag Of Chips — coated in Better Made Potato Chips — display the menu's signature combination of more traditional flavors with unconventional ingredients. "My whole goal is to take Japanese ingredients, and to prepare them for the American palate," chef Rob Lee says. — Adam Woodhead (Photo by Jason Leinart. Click here to read the full review.) 4454 Woodward Ave, Detroit; 313-832-6622; mocadetroit.org
Super Happy Sushi at Café 78: Rolls like the All That And a Bag Of Chips — coated in Better Made Potato Chips — display the menu's signature combination of more traditional flavors with unconventional ingredients. "My whole goal is to take Japanese ingredients, and to prepare them for the American palate," chef Rob Lee says. — Adam Woodhead (Photo by Jason Leinart. Click here to read the full review.) 4454 Woodward Ave, Detroit; 313-832-6622; mocadetroit.org
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Farmer's Hand: I ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Farmer's Hand one recent blissful day. One of my dining companions was oddly silent as we feasted and I gushed; later, she said, "I think that was the best ham sandwich I've ever eaten." Was it the beer bread from the Mother Loaf in Milan? The white cheddar from Fluffy Bottom Farm in Chelsea? Maybe the curry mayo made in-house? I know only that I went back for a loaf of the bread the next day, making sure to arrive early, as the weekly deliveries usually sell out within 24 hours. For breakfast most days you'll find egg-and-meat sandwiches and a couple of parfaits.  — Jane Slaughter (Photo by Sarah Rahal. Click here to read the full review.) 1701 Trumbull Ave., Detroit; 313-377-8262; thefarmershand.com
Farmer's Hand: I ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Farmer's Hand one recent blissful day. One of my dining companions was oddly silent as we feasted and I gushed; later, she said, "I think that was the best ham sandwich I've ever eaten." Was it the beer bread from the Mother Loaf in Milan? The white cheddar from Fluffy Bottom Farm in Chelsea? Maybe the curry mayo made in-house? I know only that I went back for a loaf of the bread the next day, making sure to arrive early, as the weekly deliveries usually sell out within 24 hours. For breakfast most days you'll find egg-and-meat sandwiches and a couple of parfaits. — Jane Slaughter (Photo by Sarah Rahal. Click here to read the full review.) 1701 Trumbull Ave., Detroit; 313-377-8262; thefarmershand.com
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Huron Room: Have it straight ahead as a classic fish and chips combo, with thin-cut fries and slaw; take in sandwich form in a generous bolillo roll; or give a nod to Mexicantown and enjoy it in tacos (they come grilled and nestled in corn tortillas, with onion, cilantro, and lime). For the fish and chips and sandwich, the fish comes beer-battered and fried. The filets taste light, refreshing, and not overly fried. They're also served in abundance, especially in the sandwich, so order if you've got the appetite to match. Thin-cut fries come with both selections, and a glass spray bottle of malt vinegar gives you the chance to spritz on a smidge or drench them. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 2547 Bagley Ave., Detroit; 313-265-3325; huronroom.com
Huron Room: Have it straight ahead as a classic fish and chips combo, with thin-cut fries and slaw; take in sandwich form in a generous bolillo roll; or give a nod to Mexicantown and enjoy it in tacos (they come grilled and nestled in corn tortillas, with onion, cilantro, and lime). For the fish and chips and sandwich, the fish comes beer-battered and fried. The filets taste light, refreshing, and not overly fried. They're also served in abundance, especially in the sandwich, so order if you've got the appetite to match. Thin-cut fries come with both selections, and a glass spray bottle of malt vinegar gives you the chance to spritz on a smidge or drench them. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 2547 Bagley Ave., Detroit; 313-265-3325; huronroom.com
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Pho Hang: The first thing we notice on the menu is the pho is prepared with chicken broth, instead of the more typical beef found in other places. Combined with the essence of ginger and clove, the chicken variation makes for a lighter taste. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 30921 Dequindre Rd., Madison Heights; 248-583-9210
Pho Hang: The first thing we notice on the menu is the pho is prepared with chicken broth, instead of the more typical beef found in other places. Combined with the essence of ginger and clove, the chicken variation makes for a lighter taste. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 30921 Dequindre Rd., Madison Heights; 248-583-9210
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Bona Sera: The least expensive main dish is about as fused as you can get, an Italian version of Korean bibimbap: Bi Bada Bing (with porchetta, brown rice and an over-easy egg). All this is the product of co-owners Barb Marcotte's and Annette Weathers's imagination, augmented by some recipes from Marcotte's Italian grandmother and a cold beet soup from Jekabson's Latvian heritage. — Jane Slaughter (Photo by Sarah Rahal. Click here to read the full review.) 200 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti; 734-340-6335; bonaserarestaurant.com
Bona Sera: The least expensive main dish is about as fused as you can get, an Italian version of Korean bibimbap: Bi Bada Bing (with porchetta, brown rice and an over-easy egg). All this is the product of co-owners Barb Marcotte's and Annette Weathers's imagination, augmented by some recipes from Marcotte's Italian grandmother and a cold beet soup from Jekabson's Latvian heritage. — Jane Slaughter (Photo by Sarah Rahal. Click here to read the full review.) 200 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti; 734-340-6335; bonaserarestaurant.com
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GreenSpace Café: A must-try is the grilled avocado. The avocado is cut in half and then stuffed with fresh pico de gallo salsa, placed on a layer of enchilada sauce and accompanied by two fresh organic tortillas. The tortillas came out warm and thick, like how abuela would make them at home, and were perfect for scooping up the creamy and spicy avocado mix. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 215 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-206-7510; greenspacecafe.com
GreenSpace Café: A must-try is the grilled avocado. The avocado is cut in half and then stuffed with fresh pico de gallo salsa, placed on a layer of enchilada sauce and accompanied by two fresh organic tortillas. The tortillas came out warm and thick, like how abuela would make them at home, and were perfect for scooping up the creamy and spicy avocado mix. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 215 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-206-7510; greenspacecafe.com
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La Rondinella: The handful of entrees appear simple at first but are prepared in a style all Mancini's own. Among our favorites is the rabbit gnocchi. The pasta lacks that familiar, dense doughy consistency we tend to associate with gnocchi. Instead, his are light, almost airy, allowing for the richness of the rabbit to come through. The manicotti has little resemblance to those ricotta-filled and marinara-topped tubes of pasta one might be accustomed to. Instead, he takes rich, earthy roasted mushrooms and wraps them tightly in crepes, a pleasantly surprising take on an otherwise played out entree. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 2453 Russell St., Detroit; 313-567-2051
La Rondinella: The handful of entrees appear simple at first but are prepared in a style all Mancini's own. Among our favorites is the rabbit gnocchi. The pasta lacks that familiar, dense doughy consistency we tend to associate with gnocchi. Instead, his are light, almost airy, allowing for the richness of the rabbit to come through. The manicotti has little resemblance to those ricotta-filled and marinara-topped tubes of pasta one might be accustomed to. Instead, he takes rich, earthy roasted mushrooms and wraps them tightly in crepes, a pleasantly surprising take on an otherwise played out entree. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 2453 Russell St., Detroit; 313-567-2051
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SavannahBlue: If dining is an aside for socializing and sipping drinks, there's a variety of flatbread personal pizzas that will do just the trick — ranging from the "Easy Train" pepperoni and cheese to the more interesting "The Annie," topped with roasted garlic sauce with greens, chard, spinach, scallions, and goat mozzarella cheeses. Other small-bite treats are the hummus, made with black-eyed peas instead of chickpeas, and the house dry-rubbed wings — with a crunchy skin and coupled with a sweet, garlic molasses barbecue sauce. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 1431 Times Square, Detroit; 313-926-0783;  savannahbluedetroit.com
SavannahBlue: If dining is an aside for socializing and sipping drinks, there's a variety of flatbread personal pizzas that will do just the trick — ranging from the "Easy Train" pepperoni and cheese to the more interesting "The Annie," topped with roasted garlic sauce with greens, chard, spinach, scallions, and goat mozzarella cheeses. Other small-bite treats are the hummus, made with black-eyed peas instead of chickpeas, and the house dry-rubbed wings — with a crunchy skin and coupled with a sweet, garlic molasses barbecue sauce. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 1431 Times Square, Detroit; 313-926-0783; savannahbluedetroit.com
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Katoi: The Chinese duck noodles are more than ample for splitting between two or three. The broth is loaded with intensity, thanks to a blend of wood ear, shiitake, bok choy, and five spice. And the "Crying Tiger" smoked brisket (smoked in a shipping container smoker attached to the building) gives us again that Asian flavor with a Midwest twist. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 2520 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-855-2964; katoidetroit.com
Katoi: The Chinese duck noodles are more than ample for splitting between two or three. The broth is loaded with intensity, thanks to a blend of wood ear, shiitake, bok choy, and five spice. And the "Crying Tiger" smoked brisket (smoked in a shipping container smoker attached to the building) gives us again that Asian flavor with a Midwest twist. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 2520 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-855-2964; katoidetroit.com
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Sister Pie: It's a bright spot on a quiet corner in up-and-coming West Village, a sweet shop that's equal parts bakery, serene writer's nook, and conversation starter. When Lisa Ludwinski returned to Detroit in 2012 she decided that pie making would her business, utilizing those improvisation skills she learned back in New York. You see it in Sister Pie's ever-changing menu. There's the ginger peach, made with Michigan peaches, grated fresh ginger, light brown sugar, and lemon juice. One of her signature pies, the salted maple, takes Grade B maple syrup, large flakes of Maldon sea salt, and tops off with either vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream. As the for the pie crust, it has a baked-at-home crumbly quality. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 8066 Kerchaval St., Detroit; 313-447-5550; sisterpie.com
Sister Pie: It's a bright spot on a quiet corner in up-and-coming West Village, a sweet shop that's equal parts bakery, serene writer's nook, and conversation starter. When Lisa Ludwinski returned to Detroit in 2012 she decided that pie making would her business, utilizing those improvisation skills she learned back in New York. You see it in Sister Pie's ever-changing menu. There's the ginger peach, made with Michigan peaches, grated fresh ginger, light brown sugar, and lemon juice. One of her signature pies, the salted maple, takes Grade B maple syrup, large flakes of Maldon sea salt, and tops off with either vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream. As the for the pie crust, it has a baked-at-home crumbly quality. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 8066 Kerchaval St., Detroit; 313-447-5550; sisterpie.com
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The Peterboro: The differences between the Peterboro and most local Chinese fare are evident on every level of the menu. Among the larger plates suitable for sharing, the perfectly crispy Hong Kong-style pan fried noodles pair seamlessly with a serving of wok-fried market vegetables that are nice and garlicky, and prepared with a fermented black bean sauce. The fatty cumin lamb ribs, soy braised and coated in five-spice powder, had our dining partner reaching for second helpings. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 420 Peterboro St., Detroit; 313-833-1111; thepeterboro.com
The Peterboro: The differences between the Peterboro and most local Chinese fare are evident on every level of the menu. Among the larger plates suitable for sharing, the perfectly crispy Hong Kong-style pan fried noodles pair seamlessly with a serving of wok-fried market vegetables that are nice and garlicky, and prepared with a fermented black bean sauce. The fatty cumin lamb ribs, soy braised and coated in five-spice powder, had our dining partner reaching for second helpings. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 420 Peterboro St., Detroit; 313-833-1111; thepeterboro.com
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Pop’s For Italian: To start, we sampled several of the appetizers, including the prosciutto and melon or burrata, the fried roman artichoke, and meatballs. The sweet, balled melon helped to cut the saltiness of the prosciutto, as did the creamy, lightness of the cheese. The artichokes came nicely breaded, reminiscent of fried chicken skin, with a tart lemon finish. And as for the meatballs, they're of the requisite juicy variety, scrumptious and ideal for sharing. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 280 W Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-268-4806; popsforitalian.com
Pop’s For Italian: To start, we sampled several of the appetizers, including the prosciutto and melon or burrata, the fried roman artichoke, and meatballs. The sweet, balled melon helped to cut the saltiness of the prosciutto, as did the creamy, lightness of the cheese. The artichokes came nicely breaded, reminiscent of fried chicken skin, with a tart lemon finish. And as for the meatballs, they're of the requisite juicy variety, scrumptious and ideal for sharing. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 280 W Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-268-4806; popsforitalian.com
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Craft Work: This spring, Craft Work had a shakeup with co-owner and chef Matt Dalton departing with business partner Hubert Yaro just over two years after the duo opened the West Village spot. In his place is chef Aaron Solley, who comes to us from dining haven Portland, Ore. The menu still features a couple of meat dishes, but now you know where the protein comes from. There's the popular Beeler Farms pork shoulder with Asian slaw, soy, mirin, yuzu, and Sriracha sauce, and a Creekstone Farms New York strip (rubbed in sea salt and cracked pepper and served a la carte). — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 8047 Agnes St., Detroit; 313-469-0976; craftworkdetroit.com
Craft Work: This spring, Craft Work had a shakeup with co-owner and chef Matt Dalton departing with business partner Hubert Yaro just over two years after the duo opened the West Village spot. In his place is chef Aaron Solley, who comes to us from dining haven Portland, Ore. The menu still features a couple of meat dishes, but now you know where the protein comes from. There's the popular Beeler Farms pork shoulder with Asian slaw, soy, mirin, yuzu, and Sriracha sauce, and a Creekstone Farms New York strip (rubbed in sea salt and cracked pepper and served a la carte). — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 8047 Agnes St., Detroit; 313-469-0976; craftworkdetroit.com
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Rosa Mexicana: Mole comes in a myriad of variations and involves sometimes dozens of ingredients. Some are dark, almost black, and very bitter to the taste, some more tomatoey or spicy and red, while others are very sweet and chocolate-y. This one hit both the sweet and picante notes and, when coupled with succulent boneless chicken breast, was quite satisfying. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Serena Maria Daniels and Andrew Laurila. Click here to read the full review.) 1436 Fort St., Lincoln Park; 313-724-6434
Rosa Mexicana: Mole comes in a myriad of variations and involves sometimes dozens of ingredients. Some are dark, almost black, and very bitter to the taste, some more tomatoey or spicy and red, while others are very sweet and chocolate-y. This one hit both the sweet and picante notes and, when coupled with succulent boneless chicken breast, was quite satisfying. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Serena Maria Daniels and Andrew Laurila. Click here to read the full review.) 1436 Fort St., Lincoln Park; 313-724-6434
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Woodpile BBQ Shack: Award-winning pitmaster Steve "Bubba" Coddington’s repertoire spans several regional barbecue styles, including Central Texas beef brisket, pulled pork, jalapeno cheddar sausage, whole or pulled chicken, and St. Louis spare ribs. Order meats by themselves by the half pound, inside a half-pound sandwich on Crispelli's Bakery brioche buns, or in a number of combo meals (ranging from a $10 lunch to a feast for four at $44.95). Add-ons of candied bacon or burnt ends are also available. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Dontae Rockymore. Click here to read the full review.) 303 S. Main St., Clawson; 248-565-8149; woodpilebbqshack.com
Woodpile BBQ Shack: Award-winning pitmaster Steve "Bubba" Coddington’s repertoire spans several regional barbecue styles, including Central Texas beef brisket, pulled pork, jalapeno cheddar sausage, whole or pulled chicken, and St. Louis spare ribs. Order meats by themselves by the half pound, inside a half-pound sandwich on Crispelli's Bakery brioche buns, or in a number of combo meals (ranging from a $10 lunch to a feast for four at $44.95). Add-ons of candied bacon or burnt ends are also available. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Dontae Rockymore. Click here to read the full review.) 303 S. Main St., Clawson; 248-565-8149; woodpilebbqshack.com
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Pie-Sci: The weekly specials complement the spot's regular standbys, divided by increasing levels of complexity. For example, you'll find a classic Margherita on the "Basics" elementary-level section. More daring diners can graduate onto the "Complex" menu for interesting combos like the "Age of Asparagus" (a white pizza with garlic oil, shaved/marinated asparagus, mozzarella, with shaved Parmesan, a balsamic glaze drizzle, and a lemon wedge). The most advanced level in the pie lab is "Graduate," with seasonal selections such as the ICP (Insane Cauliflower Pizza), a pie with red sauce, oven roasted cauliflower, feta, red onion, jalapeno, and more balsamic drizzle.  — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 5163 Trumbull Ave., Detroit; 313-818-0290; piescipizza.com
Pie-Sci: The weekly specials complement the spot's regular standbys, divided by increasing levels of complexity. For example, you'll find a classic Margherita on the "Basics" elementary-level section. More daring diners can graduate onto the "Complex" menu for interesting combos like the "Age of Asparagus" (a white pizza with garlic oil, shaved/marinated asparagus, mozzarella, with shaved Parmesan, a balsamic glaze drizzle, and a lemon wedge). The most advanced level in the pie lab is "Graduate," with seasonal selections such as the ICP (Insane Cauliflower Pizza), a pie with red sauce, oven roasted cauliflower, feta, red onion, jalapeno, and more balsamic drizzle. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 5163 Trumbull Ave., Detroit; 313-818-0290; piescipizza.com
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Palma: Palma restaurant is believed to be the only Bosnian eatery in metro Detroit. The first thing you'll notice about the menu is its heavy emphasis on meat, with cevapi as the main draw — a grilled, skinless sausage of minced blended lamb and beef typical of countries in southeastern Europe. You may have seen variations of it served at other restaurants. Here, even though there is no casing, the cevapi's consistency manages to have a bit of a snap, so it's nice and firm. The spice gives a slight kick, though it does not overpower the essence of the meat. It's paired with a side of sliced onions and an optional kaymak, a kind of sour cream or cream cheese dipping sauce, and two heavenly, spongy slices of lepinja bread — warmed on the grill, where it soaks up all the grease. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 3028 Caniff St., Hamtramck; 313-262-6234
Palma: Palma restaurant is believed to be the only Bosnian eatery in metro Detroit. The first thing you'll notice about the menu is its heavy emphasis on meat, with cevapi as the main draw — a grilled, skinless sausage of minced blended lamb and beef typical of countries in southeastern Europe. You may have seen variations of it served at other restaurants. Here, even though there is no casing, the cevapi's consistency manages to have a bit of a snap, so it's nice and firm. The spice gives a slight kick, though it does not overpower the essence of the meat. It's paired with a side of sliced onions and an optional kaymak, a kind of sour cream or cream cheese dipping sauce, and two heavenly, spongy slices of lepinja bread — warmed on the grill, where it soaks up all the grease. — Serena Maria Daniels (Photo by Scott Spellman. Click here to read the full review.) 3028 Caniff St., Hamtramck; 313-262-6234
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