8047 Agnes St., West Village
This newish restaurant is nestled in between Belle Isle and Indian Village, on the first floor of an apartment building. Like a lot of the food in Detroit, everything on the menu is refreshingly affordable, starting with the $6 cocktails and $3 beers (there's nothing on the menu over $20). It's a favorite for happy hour.
719 Griswold St., Downtown
Part of downtown’s emerging restaurant scene, Dime Store calls itself an “American Brunch Bar”—a dining category we can certainly get behind. A full bar serves Michigan craft beer, wine, and cocktails, which are all welcome complements to the restaurant’s extensive list of sandwiches. Duck-confit hash, build-your-own omelets, and inventive eggs benedicts lend a modern twist to an otherwise retro breakfast menu. Located on the lobby level of the century-old Chrysler House skyscraper, the casual spot has an inviting vibe that defies its industrial setting.
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.
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.
Gold Cash Gold
2100 Michigan Ave., Corktown
Josh Stockton's philosophy at Gold Cash Gold might best be described as "waste not want not," starting with its location in an old pawn shop (hence the name) and the hardwood floor, rescued from a basketball court at a now-closed elementary school, which features a flying eagle. Stockton, who trained at French Brasserie and Blackberry Farm, also brings the mantra to his cooking style, which prominently features pickling, preserving, and whole-animal butchery. Favorite dishes on the seasonally changing menu include burrata with sweet pepper jam, kielbasa with sauerkraut, and a soulful pickle-brine fried chicken.
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.
Joe Muer Seafood
400 Renaissance Center, Downtown
Fancy eateries are not what makes Detroit a cool city. That said, if you're looking for a white tablecloth meal while you're here, go to Joe Muer Seafood—which still isn't strictly formal. The restaurant has a long history with the city: An original Detroit destination, the first iteration of Joe Muer opened in 1929 and remained opened until the late 80's. In 2011, the original concept returned, with some updates of course. The restaurant is now in the admittedly maze-like GM Renaissance Center, but in a prime corner spot with a view of the Detroit River just beyond its glass windows, or outdoor patio, depending on the month/where you're sitting. A lot of people come for the raw bar/seafood tower situation; lunch at the central sushi bar is a smart move. Off of the main dining space, there are a few rooms available for private dining, too.
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.
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.
Mudgie’s Deli & Wine Shop
1413 Brooklyn St., Corktown
Just down the block from Batch Brewery, Mudgie's looks like a residential house at first glance. (You enter around the corner through the white gate on Brooklyn Street.) The first room is a wine shop, which leads into the bar, and then the casual dining room. The move here is sandwiches—they have a big line-up of specialty combos, and then a build-your-own option. The Puglini (chicken with pesto, roasted red pepper, artichoke, and Asiago cheese, served on a warm ciabatta) is a solid choice.
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