Head to the Motor Metropolis for some nice dishes. The place to eat in Detroit.
We know what you are saying. Going to Detroit to eat? Come on, I’m sure you can do better than that. But you’d be wrong Detroit is the largest city in Michigan, and although it has had some tough times in the last decade or two, it is on the upswing. The area has been home to Native American tribes for generations, and it was not until the 17th century that the first Europeans colonized the area. French fur traders and missionaries collaborated with the Iroquois tribes and named the city “Strait of Lake Erie ” The strait means “the strait of Lake Erie” and is the connection between Lake Huron and Lake Erie. Detroit is without a doubt a unique city. It is the historic home of Motown Sound, the country’s auto capital, and is home to hundreds of historic and intricately designed buildings and skyscrapers.
The city of Detroit was one of the largest and fastest growing cities in the country in the early 20th century. With plenty of job opportunities, the city brought many immigrants from all over the world together with people from other parts of the United States and with them their own culinary traditions. So Detroit is a mix of everything. Mexican and South American restaurants across from soul food and next to modern wine bars are not an uncommon sight, so the choice is plentiful in Detroit. So be sure to check out some of these best restaurants in MotorCity.
The Detroit Coney Dog (Various)
What pizza is to New York, pasta to Italy and barbecue is to Texas, Detroit has the coney dog. Without a doubt, there is no food rivalry similar to the legend of the Coney Dog in the entire Great Lakes region. And while you can get one at some notable hotspots around the city, no trip to Detroit is complete without getting one.
So what is it In the simplest case, the coney dog is rudimentary. A beef hot dog that is placed on a steamed bun, which is then topped with chilli, chopped raw onions, and some mustard. And while it is fundamental in theory, there are some elements to consider. The hot dog must be beef with a natural casing, be grilled and the chilli must not be too thick. Greek immigrants who came to Ellis Island (near Coney Island) likely would have experienced the hot dog there and then taken it west to other cities where the Coney dog would eventually be made.
So where do you go to get one? While there are plenty of restaurants in town that serve them, the two icons of the dog are American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island. The story goes that brothers Bill and Gust Keros opened American Coney Island on Michigan Avenue in 1919. A few years later they had an argument and Bill opened Lafayette Coney Island right next door in 1936. Who has the best coney dog depends on who you ask and is a matter of (sometimes deeply) personal preference. Since both are literally next to each other, try them both out and decide for yourself.
Everyone loves pizza, but who has the best? New York? Chicago? Naples? Maybe it’s Detroit. While other better-known pizzas like the Chicago Deep Dish and New York Slice are the main talkers, Detroit has its own unique twist. Buddy’s Pizza serves a signature Detroit style cake that is square and rooted in more Sicilian baking traditions. The square pizzas have a thick crust with a certain degree of crispness, so every bite is a mix of cheesy, cheeky, savory and crunchy textures rolled into one. Buddy’s has a few locations in the area, but the original is on Conant & McNichols.
After a thick crust pizza and hot dog with chili sauce, you might feel like something healthier. The Apparatus Room is located in the heart of downtown in the fabulous Detroit Foundation Hotel. Run by Michelin-starred chef Thomas Lents, a local resident of the city, the Apparatus Room was once home to the Detroit Fire headquarters before it was bought by the hotel and then converted into a restaurant. In the dining room there are still original elements such as the large bright red doors and three fire rods. The Equipment Room has won numerous local awards for its Michigan meat, vegetables, and fish preparation.
Tamaleria Nuevo Leon
A place that has no dining room, only has cash, and only serves a few things sounds like the recipe for a restaurant that doesn’t last very long, but you’re wrong with Tamaleria Nuevo Leon. The take away only restaurant has been making handmade tamales since the 1950s and the reason they stayed open for so long is because they are just so good. The place keeps the menu small so that everything gets the right time and attention. The service is friendly and from time to time there are changing specials such as cheese jalapeno. Regular fillings include staples like chicken or pork. Be sure to call ahead for large orders because once they’re out, they’re out.
While there are tons of restaurants in Detroit that have long been traditional places that last for generations, the Takoi brings modern flair or fusion cuisine to a futuristic setting. Located in Corktown, as you walk past Takoi you will notice the five meter high walls and all white structure that looks more like a secret government base than a restaurant scene from Blade Runner. Neon pink, green, and blue lights decorate the interior along with futuristic lighting over the bar and tables. The menu consists of Thai-inspired dishes such as crispy spare ribs, scallop salad and Khao Soi. But there are also not quite as Thai-inspired dishes like roast chicken and smoked duck ramen. Grab a cocktail that is almost too nice to drink and Takoi makes for a great evening.
Batch Brewing Company
With New Orleans-influenced dishes, Batch Brewing is a fun place to have an afternoon beer with some friends, or a hangout after work with good beer and even better food. The beer is made by Batch Brewing itself and offers plenty of options for even the most discerning beer drinker, while the food comes from locally made breeders and producers. No matter what you eat or drink here, you support someone on site.
Sameer moved to the United States from Lebanon in the 1960s and has worked in restaurants since then, eventually opening an Italian store in Detroit. His son Samy got into the restaurant game and together the father-son duo Leila opened in homage to Samy’s mother. Leila brings a touch of sophistication to downtown Detroit with a focus on simple but absolutely delicious Lebanese classics. Think less about kebab and focus more on smaller shareable plates like kibbeh, grilled vegetables, sumac chicken, falafel, and cold or hot mezze plates.
Since the turn of the century, Detroit has seen a large influx of Eastern European and Polish immigrants, mostly concentrated in the Hamtramck region. So there is no shortage of amazing Polish bakeries and food and one of the best around is Pietrzyk Pierogi. Her Pierogi shop was opened by Erica Pietrzyk and is a local place aiming for affordable and nutritious food and fair pay for the staff. Pietrzyk Pierogi started his humble life in a small food stand, but word of Erica’s not-too-traditional pierogie recipes got around and it soon became the focal point of the Gratiot Central Market for Polish Delicacies. During the holidays Pietrzyk Pierogi offers some interesting specialties like turkey, potato and filled pierogi, or try the tried and tested traditional ones like potato and bacon.
Detroit Vegan Soul
Soul food is an important part of Detroit’s food culture and for vegetarians there is no place like Detroit Vegan Soul. The Detroit Vegan Soul is located on Grand River Avenue and offers animal-free versions of classic soul food dishes such as macaroni and cheese, seitan pepper steak, curry potato salad and “catfish” tofu fillet. Not to mention the wide range of homemade drinks.
The Jamaican pot
Sometimes good things come in small packages and The Jamaican Pot is one of those places. For non-vegetarian soul food and Caribbean classics, The Jamaican Pot is one of the best places in town to try the islands. The Jamaican Pot is takeaway with a counter in a nondescript Eight Mile mall. As soon as you get close to the place, you will know exactly where it is because there is a chance there is a lineup. Treat yourself to the special jerk chicken, the slowly roasted curry goat, the pepper steak and the steamed oxtail. You might want to pre-order.
Love for rome
Originally known as Roma Cafe, it is the oldest Italian restaurant in Detroit. The Marazza family built the restaurant in 1880 with dishes made from ingredients from the nearby Eastern Market. It was bought by Morris Sossi in 1918 and has been family-owned until 2017. After over a hundred years, the Roma Cafe closed, but its spirit lives on in the Amore de Roma. Under the direction of the former head chef of the Roma Cafe, Guy Pelino, the Amore de Roma brings all the flavors and dishes of the former iconic restaurant into the modern age. Amore de Roma may be the modern version of the classic Italian restaurant, but traditionalism still prevails. Classic Italian-American dishes from meatball sandwiches to baked lasagna and parmigiana are on the menu here, along with a long selection of wines.
Pegasus Taverna Restaurant
Located in the heart of Detroit’s historic Greek Quarter, the Pegasus Taverna Restaurant is Greektown’s go-to for authentic Greek cuisine. The restaurant has been open for over 20 decades and has always been a family business. The restaurant is close to the area’s casinos and is open until late in the morning in case you need a gyro emergency at 3am. Classic dishes like moussaka, pastitsio and hearty lamb chops adorn the menu or try the saganaki, a kasseri cheese dish that is lit right next to your table. Top it off with flaky and sweet baklava for dessert.
In the 19th century, Detroit was a city of wealth. David Whitney Jr. was a wooden baron who became one of the wealthiest people in the state and in 1890 work began on the mega mansion that would one day become The Whitney restaurant. With a whopping 52 rooms and 20 fireplaces, guests can dine in luxury in the former mansion of David Whitney Jr. The property has been restored, renovated and maintained, but still has many original furnishings. Enjoy your dinner by the ornate fireplace, in the glow of the crystal chandeliers or on the terrace surrounded by the gardens.
Our last word
When it comes to dining and food culture, Detroit is no stranger to some pretty amazing options. Fusion, authenticity, fine dining, and vegetarian options are abundant, and while Detroit may have seen its prime some time ago, the food party has only just begun. Next time you get the chance, take a look at one of the places we recommend and let us know what you think. We think you will be pleasantly surprised.