December 27, 2016

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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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