Detroit’s Culinary Scene Heats Up
April 26, 2017 | Metro Times
Read the full list of Best of Detroit 2017 Best Food winners here.
While unscientific, Best of Detroit voting can provide a pretty good picture of the Motor City's culinary drift. It's an undeniably exciting time in the region's dining scene, especially in greater downtown, where it's a challenge to stay on top of all of the city's new menus. Despite that, one fact remains: Michiganders still love the region's classics.
Of the roughly 100 food categories, only around 15 restaurants that opened in the last three years are represented (excluding the Best New Restaurant category). That's not necessarily a bad thing, and and it's likely because southeast Michigan's restaurateurs have offered up some damn good eateries for decades.
Among that list are household names like Zingerman's (Best Sandwich, Best Deli in Washtenaw), Joe Muer (Best Seafood), Avalon International Breads (Best Bakery), Fleetwood (Best Diner in Washtenaw), Slow's Bar BQ (Best Barbecue), Green Lantern (Best Round Pizza and Best Macomb Pizza), Bangkok 96 (Best Thai in Wayne), Bucharest (Best Shawarma), Buddy's (Best Pizza in Oakland and Wayne), Andiamo (Best Dessert in Oakland), Red Coat Tavern (Best Burger in Oakland), Toast (Best Brunch in Oakland), and Mudgie's (Best Deli in Wayne). That's a formidable roster of old schoolers.
It was also their ilk that dominated the Best Steakhouse category: Clawson Steakhouse, Knight's, London Chop House, and Mr. Paul's — all of which are deserving, though that'll be an interesting category to check next year after the Caucus Club and Prime and Proper get rolling.
Of the new-ish kids on the block, it was no surprise to find Mabel Gray's James Rigato took Best Chef for his refined, well-crafted modern American fare. The Morrie, with dishes like Kung Pao Cauliflower and Brisket Mac, and Bobcat Bonnie's, purveyor of spicy fried pickles and Queso Fundido, won Best Happy Hour in Oakland and Wayne, respectively. GreenSpace Cafe, which is the newest of the region's vegetarian and vegan shops with a range of creative offerings like carnitas burrito mojado or Salsicce, a flatbread with seitan sausage, took the Best Vegetarian honors.
O.W.L., which quickly built up a reputation for its wonderful marriage of American diner food and mexican fare, won in the Best Diner and Best 24 Hour/Late Night categories, and Pop's for Italian, with its Neapolitan pizzas and classic pastas like baked ziti and fettuccine alfredo, won Best Italian in Oakland.
The Best New Restaurants category saw no real surprises given the amount of chatter and excitement each generated. That includes Black Rock (Macomb), Otus Supply (Oakland), Mikette Bistro & Bar (Washtenaw), and Grey Ghost (Wayne).
Perhaps the most passionately debated dish in Detroit is the coney dog, and the hottest contest in that mix is between Lafayette and American in downtown Detroit. This year, it's Lafayette that wins the contest, while National Coney Island takes the honors in Oakland and Macomb, and Uptown Coney Island wins in Washtenaw. American Coney Island's crunchy taters are considered the Best Fries in town, according to our readers.
Another lively conversation is that on the best Detroit-style pizza. Is it the style's creator, Buddy's, that deserves the award? Or do one if its break-offs, like Loui's, Shields, or the new up-and-comer, Detroit Pizza Company, do it better? None of the above, say our voters: They selected metro Detroit chain Papa Romano's as the best Detroit Style/Deep Dish pizza.
In Washtenaw County, readers say NeoPapalis makes the best pizza pie, and Supino Pizzeria — with its New York-style thin crusts that include options like the Affumicata with smoked gouda, mozzarella, smoked prosciutto, chopped parsley, and roasted garlic — wins in the Most Creative Pizza category.
Metro Detroit also holds a long list of respectable restaurants with international flavors. According to our voters, the best tacos are not found in the heavily Mexican southwest Detroit, but at the popular Imperial in Ferndale, which serves up varieties like papas con rojas, a chorizo, potato, and queso fresco taco. Readers also say Shangri-La, a hip Midtown Chinese eatery that specializes in dim sum, is the region's best option for Chinese food. Corktown anchor Slow's Bar BQ wins for best barbecue, but Smoke Ring, with its Kansas City-inspired barbecue and amazing brisket, is the best of Detroit's thriving food truck fleet, readers say. And for Italian, our readers pointed to fan favorite Giovanni's, a classic restaurant that trades in homemade pasta, fresh ingredients, lots of tangy tomato sauce, and homemade pasta. If it's fresh fish that you crave, our readers say to head to Ichiban in Sterling Heights or Canton, a sleek, hip eatery with all of the classic rolls and inventive specials like the Spicy Girl, with crunchy spicy tuna, yellowtail, and salmon covered in spicy mayonnaise and caviar.
But with all those good dishes to eat, which restaurants stand out above the rest? Which are the best in their respective counties? In Wayne County, readers say it's Selden Standard. The hip Midtown spot sets the bar for seasonal small plates and works closely with local farmers to find the best ingredients for dishes like Cauliflower Fritters or Rabbit Porchetta. In Oakland County, Bistro 82 is what many consider the "crown jewel" of the area's dining scene for its French-inspired menu, attention to detail, and execution. In Macomb, readers selected Luciano's, a mainstay since it opened in the 1980s. It's your classic upscale Italian experience with white linens, soft lighting, and a menu of old-fashioned northern and southern Italian cuisine that's made with fresh, natural ingredients. And in Washtenaw County, voters say Aventura, an Iberian eatery heavy on the olive oil, seafood, chorizo, and manchego is the Ann Arbor area's best restaurant.
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