This is my recommended, tried, tested and promised (to some of my friends and colleagues) list of restaurants in Detroit. I consider this as a good place to start if have you any doubts about what this city has to offer. I can’t emphasize enough that these places are in safe, happy and flourishing neighborhoods but for “legal” reasons, I cannot guarantee 100% Safety. This list is arranged in the order of when I visited these places.
The Mid-Town Trio:
These three places (two restaurants and a distillery ) are located in Midtown Detroit. All three are in close vicinity of each other and form a triangle.
- Two James Spirits: This is a small distillery located in the Midtown and they distil vast varieties of alcohols ranging from vodka, whiskey to the infamous Absinthe (they have their own version) . Not only do they sell bottles of their locally produced goods, they have a bar which uses their products and turn them into glorious cocktails. A must try.
- Slows Bar Bq: This barbecue joint is famous all over the US and has been featured on various food shows. While most of their menu is meat motivated, they do have some options for the vegetarians. If you are a vegetarian, I would recommend you try Blackened TVP. It is a strange mix of veggies and tofu, turned into something totally unexpected, then smoked just like meat but its NOT MEAT. Also, you should try this place (even if you are a vegetarian) for the sauces. Yes! Must try.
Bonus : If you are still not convinced to go to this BBQ place because of whatever reasons, try Astro Café, right next door. My definition of this café… Hipster coffee shop with cool ambiance which kicks *bucks butt any fine day. They have a wide variety of coffees from all over the world. Bonus Bonus: You will probably not find any pretentious teenagers sitting with their Mac Books trying to look busy in this place.
- Mercury Burger and Bar: This joint is across the street from Slows (and Astro Coffee Shop) and serves some delicious burgers. Yes they do have some veggie burgers. Once I went to this place with my wife, on the way back from the airport. We called for our burgers and also requested some fries with them. The servers were nice enough to tell my wife (who is a vegetarian) that their fries are fried in lard (pork fat). So just a heads up but the burgers were great! Tip: Whenever I have gone to Mid-Town, I have followed this routine and it always works. You drive directly to Two James and park in their gated parking lot which also has a security guard. Then you go inside, look at the menu and call for your drink. While the bartender does his magic, you walk to Slows and put your name on their list (yes, slows is always busy. At any meal time average wait is 35mins – 1hr 15mins. Not a reason to worry or not to eat there because we have a plan! ) Then you walk back to TwoJames enjoy a drink (or mocktail. Yes, the bartender knows some tricks and can turn most cocktails to virgin drinks upon request and they all taste great. So if you are driving that’s what I would recommend) By the time you get done here, you will receive a text message from slows that it’s time to get fed. Enjoy your supper, go back to TJ if you want or just take a walk in the neighbourhood and on the way back a burger at Mercury would do justice to all your hard work. If you can’t finish a full burger, you have some for breakfast the next day or a late night snack.
- Seva : It don’t know why but it was really unexpected when I found this place. A vegetarian (not vegan, but do have vegan options too) restaurant in the middle of Detroit. I have been to this place for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They always had something good for each meal. Strongly recommend this place. They have a good selection of wine and servers are really helpful.
- Santorini Estiatorio: This is an authentic Greek restaurant in the Greek town. This restaurant was strongly recommended by a Greek friend of mine who took me there. As per the knowledge shared by my friend, this place is owned and run by Greeks and they know what they are doing. He also prefers this over some of the rivals in the area. ( Pegasus and Golden Fleece, which are other competitors in the area.)
- Vicente’s Cuban Cuisine: Located in heart of Detroit, it has great reviews and it was packed when we went there for dinner a few months ago. Food was good and they did have a couple of vegetarian choices. Not too many but enough for a vegetarian person to pay them a visit or two. Bonus: They have salsa nights and they teach you some tricks there, if it’s your thing.
- Selden Standard: Has not been named the “Best Restaurant 2015” by Detroit Press for no reason. My favourite place on this list so far, Selden Standard has got everything right. Its modern, casual and elegant décor sets the right mood. Unlike a typical American restaurant, they serve small (humane size) plates. Gives you an opportunity to try multiple dishes and share (The food is so good, you probably wouldn’t want to share). Tip: They are busy. Very very busy on the weekends. Please plan ahead and make a reservation. Try their lamb chops and must try S’more Sundae (Their dessert menu keeps changing. You will get this if you are lucky and foolish if you still don’t try.)
- Detroit Institute of Bagels: This was a recommendation from a colleague who lives in the area and with a name like this I had to try this place. You wouldn’t expect much from a bagel place. (At least in my head, being a bagel shop, I was expecting this place to be a small store with a wall rack full of 6-7 kinds of bagels.) But the moment we walked in to this place, its huge! And really inviting. The staff is nice too. I went there on a winter morning so couldn’t take advantage of the outdoor seating but its on my list to visit again in summer and for lunch. Note: My visit to this place was not a planned one. We stopped there on our way back from the airport. We had our dog with us and I was not sure about their pet policy. ( I have not found too many pet friendly restaurants in the metro area). We still took our chances and asked the guy on register if it was OK to bring our dog in. His response : a very friendly “👍”
- Punch Bowl Social: Had heard of this place from a friend as a “super hip bowling alley where they let you drink while you bowl”. So I went to this place during my 1hour 40 minutes waiting time at Selden Standard ( Yes! Almost 2 hrs wait! Make reservations !!!) And this place was nothing less than what it was advertised as ” a super hip bowling alley”. Good hangout place if you want to have a chill evening with friends. They have a restaurant area as well (not tried yet but the customers seemed happy so I guess I will try it in the future)
- Hudson Cafe: Located close to Detroit Opera House, this was a random find by my wife. It’s a good breakfast place sitting in the heart of Detroit. Should try if you are in Detroit.
- The Brooklyn Street Local : Located in Corktown, BSL is a minute away from Detroit Institute of Bagels. This small little breakfast place is a must try. I am not sure how to distinguish this place from others but something from my visit did appeal to me and I am definitely going there again. Note : This joint is run by a couple from Canada and I think it is needless to say try their poutine.
- Dime Store: This is my (actually my wife’s) latest find in Downtown Detroit. Located in the lavish Chrysler Towers this cozy place is quite a gem. The place was packed when we got there. Tip: Get your name on the wait list take a walk to the Roasting Plant. A small coffee shop but can easily be confused for a science lab. Ok that’s a bit of an exaggeration but do check this place. Tip Tip: Make sure you park in the financial district parking lot right next to the Chrysler Towers and Dime Store will validate first two hours of your parking. So nice of them 🙂
Hope you share my enthusiasm for the glorious food scene in Detroit and pay some of these places a visit. When you do, please share your experiences. I am sure this list covers just a few of the vast list of options that are out there and I have not yet explored. If there are places that you love and its not on the list, we need to talk.