Rose’s Fine Food
10551 E. Jefferson Ave., Lower East Side
Co-owners Molly Mitchell (the chef) and Lucy Carnaghi (front of house) are actually cousins, who became close spending summers on their grandparents' farm in Northern Michigan. Sourcing locally is a big part of their business, and they have a laundry list of local farms, gardens, and other producers that provide ingredients for their seasonally changing menu.
2520 Michigan Ave., Corktown
It feels like everyone in Detroit is talking about Katoi, which opened in Corktown in early 2016 after running the food truck/pop-up circuit. And it starts to become clear why as soon as you get past the solid block door. It's inarguably scene-y: there's a DJ post, the bar is bathed in a blue neon light, the seating area (which looks into a completely open kitchen) is neon green, and the exposed brick wall (the building is an old garage) in the dining room is a hot pink. That said, the strong food menu—Thai-inspired dishes—is not overshadowed by the vibes.
1312 Springwells St., Southwest
While the restaurants in the central Detroit neighborhoods—Midtown, Downtown, and Corktown—get more airtime, Mexicantown and the greater Southwest have a number of local gems. El Asador is one, a bit off of the beaten path, marked by a bright mural on its exterior brick wall, although the interior is totally nondescript. Billed as a Mexican steakhouse, El Asador does the classics (like quesadillas) simply, and really right.
47 Watson St., Midtown
Most of the great food in Detroit is pretty casual, so the opening of Grey Ghost, a more dressed-up spot in Brush Park, was a welcome addition to the restaurant scene here. The owners (who just relocated from Chicago) specialize in forward-thinking takes on unusual meats, like grilled shishito peppers with candied oxtail, fried quail with pepper jelly and corn flakes, and fried bologna on a waffle with cheddar and jalapeño. The cocktail program, executed behind a stunning bar made from salvaged bowling alley wood, is helmed by Will Lee, who's got a formidable Detroit resume that includes both Standby and Selden Standard. The name, Grey Ghost, refers to a pirate who ran rum on the Detroit River during prohibition.
3921 2nd Ave., Midtown
Ask anyone about the more sophisticated menus in Detroit, and Selden Standard comes up again and again. Named Restaurant of the Year by the Detroit Free Press, the restaurant is a collaboration between Andy Hollyday (a Toledo native who grew up cooking in his family's restaurant) and Evan Hansen (a local businessman with a major passion for wine and beer). Hollyday's menu is all about locally sourced food and shared plates, with an emphasis on cooking from scratch—pasta is all handmade, butter is churned in the back of house, and ricotta and pickling are done on-site. It's close to Comerica Park, so it's a great place to go before Tigers games if you're driving in from the suburbs.
Parks & Rec Diner
1942 Grand River Ave., Downtown
This spot gets its name from its castle-like residence, the Grand Army of the Republic Building, which was home to the City of Detroit Parks and Recreation Department for 40 years. The all-day, every day breakfast menu is full of elevated classics, like cornbread waffles served with Detroit-style chili and cider-donut French toast. The giant house-made cinnamon roll—filled with walnuts and doused in an orange chevre icing—is legend enough to deserve its own category on the menu. Parks & Rec shares executive chef Sarah Welch with the adjacent (and equally wonderful) Republic Tavern.
2457 Russell St., Eastern Market
If you’re looking for the best pizza in Detroit, this beloved Eastern Market spot is where you want to be. Chef Dave Mancini—who also owns the laid-back La Rondinella next door—offers 13 different kinds of pizza, ranging from tried-and-true favorites like margherita, pepperoni, and cheese to his "City Wing Thing": a thin-crust pie topped with smoked turkey, cherry peppers, smoked Gouda, and mozzarella. And, if you’re feeling choosy, Supino’s has a build-your-own option. Also to note: the pizzas here are wonderfully huge.
Mercury Burger & Bar
2163 Michigan Ave., Corktown
Located on the same stretch of Michigan Avenue as Slows BBQ, Gold Cash Gold, and Astro Coffee, this cozy diner is a big part of historic Corktown’s renaissance. It’s not your average burger joint, though: patty choices range from beef topped with Corktown’s own “Topors” Hungarian hot peppers, to salmon filet seasoned with ginger, to a mushroom cap option. Sandwiches, hot dogs, hand-cut fries, and salads round out a menu that also includes a selection of tater tots. There’s also a full bar, where you can snag a rum-spiked milkshake.
Flowers of Vietnam
4430 Vernor Hwy W., Mexicantown
Though it's still only open for Saturday and Sunday dinner, Chef George Azar's Vietnamese pop-up has been open several months now, and rumors are spreading that it might become a more permanent installation—a prospect that everyone's rooting for. Just down the street from Clark Park, in a neighborhood that's much better known for Mexican food, Azar serves authentic Vietnamese food in a former Coney Island that's still filled with plenty of relics from the past, from old-school diner stools, to leather booths, to the old-school menus (white with individual letters that can be swapped out) behind the bar. Azar's menu is actually written in Vietnamese, serving bubble tea and Vietnamese coffee, mango and papaya salad, and a delicious pho. And though they're technically Korean, we've heard the caramel chicken wings are out of this world.
Wright & Company
1500 Woodward Ave., Downtown
Wright & Company occupies the second floor of one of Detroit's oldest buildings, Wright-Kay, at Woodward Ave. and John R. Street—brought to you by the same team behind other popular Detroit spots like Sugar House (the cocktails at Wright & Co. are excellent, too), and Chinese-inspired Peterboro. The Wright & Company space is brilliant: exposed industrial piping, tin ceiling, vintage light fixtures, long marble bar with steel chairs, curved booths, and light flooding in from the surrounding floor-to-ceiling windows. It's generally busy and they don't take dinner reservations (although you need one for Sunday brunch), so come early or plan to hang at the bar (no arm twisting required) while you wait for a table.
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