Best Brazilian Steakhouse - GAUCHO'S
Brazilian steakhouses are not for the faint of heart or those with small appetites. Gaucho's is named for the waiters who, not unlike meat pushers, carry around large skewers of perfectly seasoned meat and slice said meat directly on to your plate for your carniverous enjoyment. Churrascaria is an art in Brazil, and Gaucho's doesn't take this art form lightly. With 16 different types of meat (plus shrimp!), pacing is key. You don't want to fill up too quickly, which leads us to another important point. Gaucho's offers a salad bar, and while there is plenty of deliciousness on the salad bar, you're at a STEAKHOUSE, so keep your eyes on the meaty prize. To go along with the meat, Gaucho's has an award-winning wine list with plenty of affordable wines both by the bottle and glass. It's all about excess at Gaucho's – go hungry and leave satisfied, guaranteed.
Best New Restaurant - JOE MUER
Everything that's old is new again. Joe Muer Seafood was a Detroit mainstay for nearly 70 years before closing in 1998. In late 2011, Joe Muer Seafood reopened inside of the RenCen to much anticipation and fanfare. And why not? The food is fantastic, the atmosphere is elegant, and the fond memories are respected. With many of the classic dishes on the menu, rest assured that this "new" spot is steeped in the Muer traditions.
Best Restaurant for Pasta - LUCIANO'S
Modeled after owner Luciano's hometown (Augusta, Sicily), you get the true Italian experience here – literally. The interior is designed to look and feel like a true Italian plaza. With three rooms, private booths and architecture that will remind you of that trip you took years back, the good news is that you're about to experience some of the best pasta you've ever had. Olive oil, real Italian cheeses, fresh garlic...the whole kit and caboodle!
Best Pizza (Round) - COMO'S
One of the best things about Como's is their hours. Open until 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, there is nothing quite like a hot pizza after a night of excess. Not as thin as some other places in the area, Como's pies have a decent chew to them. With fresh tomato sauce, lots of quality cheese and toppings, and a damned good crust, you can't ask for much more – especially after the bar closes!
Best Local Menu - BURROUGHS TAVERN
Burroughs is one of the few metro Detroit restaurants that actually smokes its own meat – and they do a damned fine job of it. In fact, their Smokey Wings are a thing of legend. Smoked for a ridiculously long period of time, they come across as seasoned and smoky as you could ever hope a piece of meat or poultry would taste like. But one of the biggest draws and most respectable things about their menu is that 75 to 80 percent of it is Michigan local fare (sometimes more, depending on the season). In fact, their fantastic Burroughs Bread Pudding is created using Michigan dried cherries instead of raisins – a brilliant, tasty and very Michigan-esque replacement. Nicely done, guys.
Best Mac & Cheese - CLARKSTON UNION
On our last visit to the Clarkston Union, it became abundantly clear that their macaroni and cheese was special. Not because there was a line out the door filled with people waiting to have a forkful of the cheesy stuff. Rather, we were given a sticker. The sticker had a noodle with wings. Whether or not this is an allusion to the Union's mac & cheese being heavenly, we're not sure. What we are sure of, though, is that the Union's version of this well-known side dish is beyond excellent. Noodles are al dente, the cheese is creamy and pleasingly sharp. The whole pan is then topped with breadcrumbs, leaving a crisp and buttery top layer. This isn't your mother's mac and cheese. To cut the richness of a huge bowl of mac and cheese, order off the Union's extensive beer list. Ask one of the staff to make a pairing; we guarantee it will be worth your time and effort.
Best Burger - BAGGER DAVE'S
This is quite an honor. Bagger Dave's sits atop a mountain of some of the area's most popular establishments and with good reason. Let's start big with the Train Wreck Burger, two patties topped with fries, a fried egg, cheddar cheese, onions, mushrooms, lettuce, and Railhouse burger sauce on a toasted sesame seed bun. If that isn't a meal in a bun, we don't know what is. As intimidating as this burger may sound, patties are not the huge 1/2- pound monsters many places serve. Rather, the thinner, more manageable patties allow for comfortable eating. No need to be weighed down by a pound of beef unless you want to be. Bagger Dave's is very proud of its Michigan roots and tries to source as much of their ingredients from the Midwest as possible. This includes a pretty extensive list of Michigan beers to pair with their burgers.
Best Restaurant You Haven't Been To - NICK'S STEAKHOUSE
Don't be ashamed that you haven't been to Nick's Steakhouse yet. The chateuabriand for two has been calling your name, you just haven't given in yet, right? The steak is flaming when brought to the table. What better way to impress a date than with flaming steak? Go on, make the drive out to Shelby Township. You won't be disappointed.
Best Restaurant to Rediscover - STREETSIDE SEAFOOD
Having just received the 2011 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, it's a wonder that Streetside Seafood could be considered for rediscovery. Fact is, Birmingham has had a lot going on in the past year or two, so Streetside might be your old standby now. Change that right now. With a menu brimming with fascinating seafood options (crab and lobster enchiladas!), there's really no way to go wrong. And with that Wine Spectator award, you can be sure you'll discover a new wine or two while you're there as well.
Best Restaurant to be Seen In - SOUTH
Being located in downtown Birmingham only helps South's cause here. And their awesome bartenders don't hurt matters either. In fact, the southwestern-inspired menu is pretty hot, too. Speaking of hot, South's outdoor patio is one of the coolest places to hang out in all of Birmingham and it is open all year round. Fact is, South is a pretty flashy place and lots of pretty people hang out there. Even if you don't order food, get a Blueberry Mojito and hang out on the patio. You'll look cool regardless.
Best Restaurant with Live Music - DYLAN'S RAW BAR
Dylan's is one of the few restaurants that has live music every night of the week. From East side piano legend Marty Ballog playing every Wednesday through Sunday to other local acts like Jody Raffoul or Thornetta Davis stopping by every so often, music is as important as food to Dylan's image. The music usually starts around 8:00 p.m. and there is rarely a cover. Don't skip out on the food either. Dylan's has some of the best sushi on the East side.
Best Cajun - GATOR JAKE'S Bar & Grill
Not only is Gator Jake's a premiere party spot, but they serve a mean jambalaya too. Gator's is one of those places that has both the mood and the flavor of New Orleans down pat. They don't try to make every Cajun dish under the sun; rather, they make a few dishes really well. With alligator on the menu, Gator Jake's is one of the few places where you can get this exotic meat. Try it – don't worry, it tastes like chicken.
Best Caribbean - BAHAMA BREEZE
Bahama Breeze's menu is a like a breath of fresh tropical air. Not just the menu either, the whole décor of the place reminds us of laying on the beach in Jamaica. To us, seafood is where it's at – the tropical curry, with its delicate spiciness balanced by roasted pineapple chutney, is something special. If you're feeling Caribbean, you might as well drink too. Try the Painkiller. Believe us, you will be feeling no pain after one of these.
Best Chinese - WAH-HOO
Before we talk about Wah-Hoo's food, let's make a quick mention of Fish Bowls. Fish Bowls, while not Chinese per se, are cocktails served in bowls that will serve two to three people, or one really thirsty person. They're awesome. And so are the lettuce wraps and Shanghai Calamari. We're not saying the Fish Bowls overshadow the food, but we are suggesting they'd make a great companion to anything you might order.
Best Greek - PEGASUS Taverna
Even though Pegasus has been around for over 20 years, their outlook remains fresh. Along with their Detroit location, the one in Saint Clair Shores provides another outlet for people to taste this famous Greek food. From the saganaki ("Opa!") to the lamb chops, each dish is made with precision using Papas family recipes. For the adventurous eater, the marinated octopus is a wonderful addition to a Greek salad. Tender, garlicky, and well-seasoned, octopus is a Greek delicacy that Pegasus does perfectly.
Best Indian - PRIYA Indian Cuisine
Indian food, aside from being difficult to find and incredibly tasty, is one of the few cuisines where your vegetarian friends aren't a pain in your butt. You'll have every opportunity to enjoy meat, poultry and seafood, but you might just want to veg out for once (see what we did there?) You'll love the very large selection of non-meat dishes, but really, no matter what you get (we're going to highly recommend the Tandoori Mixed Grill, a delightful sampling of beautifully seasoned meats and onion), you're going to be pleased.
Best Irish - O'CONNORS PUBLIC HOUSE
Irish food gets a bad rap. Characterized as bland and uninventive, it's not easy to get people excited about boiled meat and sauerkraut. O' Connors does everything they can to change that image. They are making nearly everything in house and from scratch, so even commonplace sandwiches like a reuben are elevated. Especially tasty are boxty, a traditional Irish pancake similar to a crepe. As strange as it may seem, the vegetarian version with balsamic glazed vegetables and bleu cheese is incredible, even though the filling might not be totally Irish.
Best Italian - ANDIAMO
At last count, there are nearly a dozen restaurants that fall under the Andiamo Restaurant Group umbrella in metro Detroit. And every single one of them is fantastic, not only as an institution and storied Italian restaurant, but as a mecca of entertainment. But really, in the Tri-County Area, Andiamo has come to be synonymous (since 1990) with great Italian food. With a different chef in each location, each menu varies slightly – but they are each consistently delicious, rustically Italian and full of love.
Best Japanese - CAFÉ SUSHI
Besides their delicious, standard and traditional rolls, Troy's Café Sushi offers wonderful delights in the nigiri and sashimi categories (really, how many places do you know that actually have sea urchin on the menu?) Additionally, they've got fantastic prices and specials on sushi combos and specialty rolls – in fact, their Dancing Eel roll is a delightful creation (for those of you who are suckers for eel like we are), but you really can't go wrong with any of the Japanese offerings on their menu – from mongolian beef to miso sea bass. Enjoy, and bring a healthy appetite!
Best Mediterranean - ELIE'S
For the past 16 years, the Mondaleks have been providied Birmingham and beyond with fresh and flavorful Lebanese dishes that have become a staple in metro Detroit. Their hummus, grape leaves and shish tawook are beautifully created, and they have a wonderful offering of smoothies and raw juices that are customary to the cuisine (give the Super Surprise a try – it's a delightful blend of berry, citrus, mango, milk and honey that provides a fantastic tour to your taste buds).
Best Mexican - ROJO Mexican Bistro
Under Chef Luis Garza, Rojo is not your run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurant. The setting is more upscale than most Mexican restaurants, but the mood remains relaxed thanks to Garza's comforting cooking. Whether you're interested in scallop tacos or one of the 100-plus tequilas available by the shot, Rojo has what you need. The focus is on fresh food with a slant toward seafood. All of the usual Tex-Mex dishes are available, too.
Best Middle Eastern - GEMMAYZE
Gemmayze is a relative newcomer to Royal Oak, but the restaurant's food is steeped in traditional Lebanese technique. From the fresh- baked pita bread to the hummus to the incredible kibbe nayeh, it really is no wonder why people are noticing Gemmayze. If you haven't been, plan to order the Ara-yes Halabi on your first visit. A layer of kibbe is pressed between pita and and grilled. It is simple and absolutely glorious. You might have to order two.
Best Polish - POLONIA
Located in the heart of Hamtramck, Polonia has captured the old world atmosphere and culture of Poland. And after being in business for over 40 years, this restaurant has producing authentic Polish cuisine down to a science. Their extensive and affordable menu even gained them well deserved recognition on the popular Travel Channel show No Reservations. They serve any Polish dish you can think of, from stuffed cabbage to beef goulash and potato noodles.
Best Spanish - Sangria Tapas Cafe
Sangria is the total package when it comes to food and entertainment. Want appetizers? Sangria's traditional tapas menu is an elaborate array of Spanish small plates perfect for couples or groups alike. Maybe dinner is more your speed? Try the paella, which can be made for couples or large groups. Even if you don't want to eat, Sangria's namesake red wine cocktail is some of the best you will ever have. If none of that interests you, then dance! Sangria offers free salsa lessons on a weekly basis.
Best Pan-Asian - MON JIN LAU
Not only does Mon Jin Lau offer something new when it comes to Asian cuisine, it offers a unique experience as well. They offer delicious nu-Asian cuisine and innovative sushi that we never even knew existed, along with fine wine and stylish cocktails. In addition, a well-trained and polite staff will make you feel right at home. And the intricate Asian-inspired décor and scenery creates a culturally unique atmosphere that you won't be able to find anywhere else.
Best Pizza (deep dish) - BUDDY'S Pizza
As a pizzeria, it's sometimes difficult to remain distinguishable among the numerous competitors in the industry. And Buddy's Pizza seems to overcome this difficulty with ease, becoming a favorite for anyone that has dined there. They specialize in making deep-dish pizza that will make your mouth water, and offer an extensive menu of specialty pizzas including anything from Hawaiin to barbeque. Their fun, family-oriented atmosphere and reasonably priced pizza, combined with their stellar service, make Buddy's one of a kind.
Best Gourmet Pizza - PIZZERIA BIGA
Chef Luciano made a name for himself at Bacco, but Biga isn't far behind. Biga refers to the natural fermentation of the pizza dough, which has numerous health and taste benefits. The pizza is cooked in an oven that can reach temperatures upwards of 900 degrees. Biga's pizza has a tremendous chew and a pleasing char to the crust. Toppings are fresh and used sparingly, which allows the crust to shine. Even the simple margherita pizza is elevated at Biga. It's amazing what a 900-degree oven can do.
Best Vegetarian - INN SEASON
It isn't the easiest thing in the world to find a truly great vegetarian experience. We're meat eaters here in Motown, right? Well, not all of us. And while you're bound to find veggie offerings on the menu at more places these days than you would have 20 years ago, you're still hard-pressed to find an establishment like Inn Season. Whether you stick to a strict vegetarian diet or not, you will undoubtedly fall in love with the fresh, organic and local ingredients that go into every dish at Inn Season in Royal Oak. Offering delicious and colorful stir-fry dishes, Mexican, pizza, salads, burger alternatives and an actual children's menu, you literally cannot go wrong.
Best Soul Food Restaurant - BEANS & CORNBREAD
Soul food isn't necessarily good for your health, but it is good for your soul, hence the name. There's more to soul food than fried chicken. Sure, Beans & Cornbread has delicious chicken, but just as soulful is the fried catfish. Red beans and rice are beautifully flavored. One of our favorites, though, is a fusion food of sorts – the Harlem Burrito, a flour tortilla filled with black eyed peas and collard greens. It's the first soul food burrito we'd ever tasted.
Best Seafood Restaurant - OCEAN PRIME
Ocean Prime prepares seafood in ways we have only dreamed about. Surf and turf that combines scallops and short ribs is ingenious. Dishes showcase the seafood, while not forgetting that the fish is part of an entire composed dish. Side dishes accentuate the seafood. For example, the blackened swordfish with spinach and jalapeno corn tartar is a well-taught lesson in texture and heat. Only a delicate hand could create a dish like this.
Best Thai - SALA THAI
You know that popular pizza place in Eastern Market? Well, right down the street from there is a truly special Thai restaurant. All of the dishes you know and love are on the menu, like pad thai and chicken satay, but there are also lesser-known dishes that you'll have a hard time finding anywhere else. Gaeng Phanaeng, for example, is a curry dish that is non-existent on nearly every other Thai menu for miles and miles.
Best Sushi - CRAVE Restaurant & Lounge
Right on the main stretch of Michigan Avenue in the midst of plenty of excellent middle Eastern food is the best sushi you can get in metro Detroit. Crave has become a destination for its impeccably fresh fish. The cool modern atmosphere and fantastic music helps too. Quite simply, 95% of good sushi is its freshness and Crave ensures each and every piece coming off the sushi bar tastes like it was still swimming mere hours before.
Best Steakhouse - NEROS Steakhouse
We're going over to Canada for our steak. Located inside Caesars Windsor, Neros is the height of elegance. Even as an elegant steakhouse, Neros still has a huge 22-oz. triple dry aged porterhouse. And while there is nothing elegant about a steak that large, the preparation is meticulous, and the flavor will bring a tear to even the most rugged guy. So get all fancied up and go eat a steak in Canada.
Best Tex-Mex - CANTINA DIABLO'S
It's hard not to have a fun time at Cantina Diablo's. As a Tex-Mex restaurant, their focus is food that is equally delicious and accessible. From classic Tex-Mex faire like nachos to more American dishes like chipotle chicken fingers, Diablo's caters to many tastes and succeeds in offering fresh and flavorful Tex-Mex. For our tastes, though, order one of the combination plates. With three to four items in each, it's an opportunity to try something a little different.
Best Bar Food - UPTOWN GRILLE
The menu at Uptown Grille is almost overwhelming. Incredibly enough, everything is pretty damn good. For a bar with an incredible beer list that also serves breakfast seven days a week, Uptown Grille impresses on every level. With a focus on locally sourced ingredients, even the most inane dishes like nachos or potato skins taste especially good at Uptown. If you're feeling adventurous, order the Suicide Wings. You'll thank us later.
Best BBQ Restaurant - LOCKHART'S
Each and every time you walk or even drive by Lockhart's, the aroma of freshly smoked meat always seems to be emanating from the building. Walk in and that aroma hits your nose and sends it into BBQ shock. Lockhart's does BBQ right. From the pulled pork to house-made sausages to the wildly addictive burnt ends, each and every meat is smoked in-house, low and slow. And what is BBQ without beer? Lockhart's has an impressive selection of Michigan beers on tap. Even better? After 7 p.m. on Wednesday, all beers on tap are only $2.50. Cheap beer and tasty BBQ? Sign us up!
Best Breakfast - TOAST
Breakfast is serious business. It is the most important meal of the day. Toast is serious about making sure you get the best possible food in your belly to fuel you for the day ahead. Besides what may be the best biscuits and gravy in metro Detroit, the Cure might be the most glorious gift from the hangover gods ever. Home fries smothered in sausage gravy, green chili, and cheddar cheese, and topped with two eggs. Hangover be damned. (For the record, though, they do serve other meals.)
Best Coney Island - NATIONAL
There are few words more comforting than "Large Hani with a side of chili cheese fries, please." There are plenty of imitators out there, but National can lay claim to the Hani, the original chicken finger pita. Their namesake, the Coney Island? Yeah, that's pretty awesome, too. That combination of chili, mustard, onion and natural casing hot dog is a taste sensation that knows no bounds. A few of the Nationals are open 24 hours, too, so you can kill that coney craving any time of any day.
Best Burrito - ZUMBA
Before there was Chipotle, Zumba was doing the "Fresh Mex" thing and doing it well. The fillings are excellent, especially the red chile pork. This isn't a dinky-ass burrito, either. With rice, beans, meat, sour cream, guacamole and whatever else they put in it, that bulging tortilla probably weighs close to a pound. And don't forget to make a stop at the salsa bar. All of the salsas are made in-house and have a phenomenal freshness that has reduced us to drinking them. Yes, we drink salsa. Don't judge.
Best Creperie - WHAT CREPE
Four words: Signature Rib Eye Truffle. Never in our lives did we think one dainty crepe could satisfy our hunger pangs. Earthy and savory, the combination of luscious seared steak, sliced mushrooms, spinach, and Swiss are stuffed into a thin yet hearty crepe. The secret? Truffle zip sauce. Ask for it on the side. Hell, ask for a pint glass full of it because this glorious liquid should be on everything.
Best Deli - STAGE DELI
How could you not love a deli that names sandwiches after Broadway musicals? Some Like It Hot (#40) is an especially spicy sandwich with layers of pastrami, hot peppers, hot mustard, hot horseradish and hot Swiss chese. Don't worry, you can order a simple corned beef sandwich, too. All of the other traditional deli items are available like lox, blintzes, and even luscious fried chicken livers. Added bonus: Dr. Brown's Cel Ray soda is available as the perfect corned beef companion.
Best French Fries - BOURBON STEAK
It may seem strange for us to direct you to a fine dining establishment like Bourbon Steak for fries, but hear us out. These aren't run-of-the- mill, super-salty, limp fries. Rather, they are perfectly cripsy and served in three separate metal cups with three different dipping sauces. Why are they perfectly crispy? Because they're fried in duck fat. Yes, that's right – duck fat. There is a special savoriness to these fries that is unparalleled. Best part? The fries are free. Sit down for dinner – fries are on the table. Perfect.
Best Broasted Chicken - CHICKEN SHACK
For the tastiest broasted chicken, Chicken Shack is, and has been, where it's at! The crispy golden chicken – which is marinated in a top-secret family recipe – is moist, juicy and delicious. It is cooked fresh to order in 8-10 minutes in quantities from one piece to 11,400 pieces (for realzies, that was their largest order placed by an organization). They are also famous for their hand-cut broasted potatoes and fall-off-the-bone tender ribs. Pork chops and seafood are also available, along with their world-famous cole slaw, which is made in-house daily. The founders – John and Iola Sobeck – are celebrating 55 years in business (with a whopping 19 locations in the Metro Detroit area). For delicious food that keeps you coming back for more – Chicken Shack is where it's at!
Best Guacamole - SAGEBRUSH CANTINA
All guacamole is not created equal. Although the ingredients might be pretty similar, it becomes an issue of preparation and freshness. Sagebrush's is amazing in that it is the perfect balance bewteen creamy and tangy. Light, but still substantial enough to stand up to a crisp tortilla chip. Even more impressive? This guacamole will make nearly everything on the menu taste better. However we cannot stand behind guacamole on fried ice cream, so don't even think about it.
Best Gyro - OLGA'S
An entire franchise has been built around the "Olga," broiled seasoned beef and lamb topped with onions, tomatoes and Olga sauce. The Olga is a gyro except somehow tastier. Maybe it's that near-addictive Olga bread (don't even get us started on Snackers), or maybe the creamy Olga sauce that's like tzatziki but not. Fact is, Olga's has been perfecting this sandwich for years and every time we walk through the doors, you better believe the Olga is what we're ordering.
Best Ribs - OXFORD INN
Ribs are available everywhere. And while it may be convenient to grab a slab of ribs anywhere, it also means there are a lot of mediocre offerings out there. Before ordering a slab from some random pizza joint or 7-11, head over to Oxford Inn. Their recipe is tried and true. Tender, almost fall- off-the-bone meat is covered in a tangy sauce. Every bite is more lip-smackingly delcious than the last.
Best Tapas - SMALL PLATES
While the tapas section of their menu isn't huge, the offerings are well-made and perfect for exploring tastes and pairings with wine or beer. Like any tapas restaurant, the idea is to order a number of plates and share them amongst friends and/or family. The short menu at Small Plates might actually encourage groups to order one of each of the plates. Gather a group of friends and celebrate with small dishes of food while drinking large glasses of wine.
Best Salad - THE HUDSON CAFÉ
Admittedly, it can be difficult to get excited for a salad. The Signature at Hudson Cafe, however, makes eating green stuff exciting. That's because they top it with grilled chicken, avocado, tomato, red onion, pecans, cranberries and taco strips. All of that is great, but the finishing touch is champagne vinaigrette. Equal parts tangy and luxurious, the dressing lends just enough acid to cut through the rich avocado.
Best Shawarma - BUCHAREST GRILL
It would not be impossible to subsist strictly on Bucharest shawarmas. Hear me out: if you order the full-on Bucharest shawarma, a large pita is filled with chicken, garlic sauce, fries and cabbage. Almost every food group is represented, so you can eat happily in the knowledge that you're consuming a garlicky, balanced meal. Believe us after you've eaten your first Bucharest shawarma, you'll be forever changed. Now any time we're within a mile of the place, we always seem to end up with a shawarma in our hands.
Best Fondue - MELTING POT
Who doesn't love dipping everything into a bowl of molten liquid? The Big Night showcases everything the Melting Pot has to offer. Start off with your choice of cheese fondues, then your choice of salad (which is not for dipping). The "Land & Sea" has chicken, beef and shrimp all ready to be dipped into your favorite sauces. All of this is great, but you're really at the Melting Pot for chocolate fondue.
Best Slider - HUNTER HOUSE
It's not rocket science. Bun, beef, onions, pickles and cheese (optional) compose sliders. And sure, the quality of the ingredients definitely matters, but not as much as the technique. Hunter House has been at it for over 60 years. Not only is their technique spot-on, you better believe that grill is well-seasoned. And with all of these so-called gourmet sliders on the market, it's nice to get back to basics. Meat, onions, bun – done.
Best Specialty Maki Roll - CAFÉ SUSHI
The specialty roll menu at Cafe Sushi is as lengthy as some sushi restaurants' entire roll menu. For hotheads, the triple spicy tuna is an incendiary dream. Spicy tuna topped with wasabi tobiko, jalapeno, and spicy mayo is heat layered with heat and topped with a firecracker. Surf 'N' Turf is stuffed with shrimp, beef and crab meat along with avocado, spicy, and eel sauce. It's the best of the all worlds in a convenient little roll. How cute.
Best Tableside Service - BOODLE'S
It is possible to have every course prepared tableside at Boodle's. The décor harkens back to '80s elegance and may seem dated now, but give the food a chance to bring you back. When a Caesar salad is prepared in front of you, it makes a world of difference. There's nothing quite like Caesar dressing coming together before your eyes. Steak Diane is a classic French dish that has a sauce so addictive you'll want to drink it. Finally, Bananas Foster is a simple yet exciting dish to watch. Flambéed tableside, you'll want tableside service all of the time.
Best 24-Hour Restaurant - LEO'S
Come on now, we all know what winning this category means: this is the place to be at 3 a.m. Seriously though, what is better at 3 a.m. than a couple coney dogs and a plate of cheese fries? Maybe a couple of eggs over easy, hash browns, bacon and toast? Either way, Leo's has you covered and they make sure you get that food fast. Believe us, they don't want your drunk ass hanging around, so eat those eggs and go!
Best All-You-Can-Eat - HARBOR HOUSE
No buffets here. Harbor House's all-you-can-eat options are plentiful and everything is served tableside. Ten different entrees are available, like shrimp, London broil, pork chops, chicken parmesan, and more at the very reasonable $20 starting point. Upgrade to prime rib, ribeye, or crab legs for an added fee. Not only do you get the entree, but all beer-battered mushrooms, soup, salad, and choice of potato. And you can order as much as you want. Sounds good to us – just need to buy some stretchy pants.
Best Bagel - DETROIT BAGEL
The bagel scene around Detroit offers plenty of options, but none even come close to Detroit Bagel. Bagels are all about texture, chewy without being tough. Flavor doesn't hurt either. Detroit Bagel is impressive in both taste and texture. If you're lucky enough to grab a warm parmesan bagel, with its combination of chewy, savory, and melty, there are few breakfast items better than that.
Best Bakery - ASTORIA
Astoria is nearly synonomus with dessert. Savory isn't really an option, but it doesn't need to be. In both their Detroit and Royal Oak locations, Astoria is close to numerous dining establishments that take care of the entrees. Focus on sweets. One of our favorite items is a traditional Greek cookie made with cinnamon, dipped in honey and topped with crushed walnuts. Super sweet with spicy balance from the cinnamon, we can't resist grabbing one every time we walk by Astoria.
Best Bang For Your Buck - BIG BOY
Big Boy is as Michigan as the Joe Louis fist. And the best part is that if you drive by any of the many Big Boy locations around town, you'll notice a plethora of truly affordable meal options. You really can't beat a Big Boy, fries and a Coke for $5. Many of the Big Boys have also undegone a facelift, so expect to be surprised by the new digs!
Best Local Coffee House - TORINO ESPRESSO BAR
To call Torino a coffee house is to do it a great disservice. Torino does brew some fantastic coffee, but their menu is so much more than that. Aside from cafe mocha, Torino has a full bar, which makes coffee drinks much more interesting. On top of that, their food is pretty fantastic, too. However, let's not stray far from the coffee house part, the caramel espresso martini will change the way you think about martinis – it is THAT good.
Best Cupcakes - NOM NOM's CUPCAKE FACTORY & SWEETS SHOPPE
Cupcakes have made their way across metro Detroit like wildfire over the past couple years. Nom Nom, located all the way in Westland, has developed flavors that are both unique and delicious. Not only that, their flavor list is enormous. From classic flavors like red velvet to wackier ones like tequila lime, Nom Nom will keep your sweet tooth guessing. Oh, and of course there are bacon cupcakes. Mmm, artery clogging.
Best Delivery - JIMMY JOHN'S
If you work in an office, you have experienced the super-fast and efficient delivery of Jimmy John's. Their motto "Subs so fast, you'll freak,"refers to their delivery more than their in-store service, although those subs are made quickly in house too. Next time you have a hankering for a Turkey Tom or Vito, give them a call. According to their commercials, they'll be there with the sandwich before the phone is hung up. If you order online, they'll be there just after you hit "submit order." They are just THAT fast.
Best Dessert - PRONTO! TUMMY LUV
Maybe it's not totally clear, but Pronto is more than just a restaurant. The almost-full block of Washington Street they take up houses an entire sweet shop. In fact, there is a second dessert case in between Pronto's bar and the main dining area. Their cakes are wonderful, especially the superb red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. Red velvet has won awards, but there are plenty of other varieties, too. And there's more than cake, too. Tortes, cheesecakes, cookies, brownies and more round out sweet tooth heaven.
Best Diner - The FLY TRAP
Even as more diners open in the Detroit area, the Fly Trap remains the innovator in diner cuisine. Their menu is both playful and exciting. Rumbles are eggs scrambled with different ingredients to form a new taste sensation. The Boot takes mozzarella, basil, tomato and black olives and mixes them together into something heavenly. Hell more your thing? Try the fiery-hot spiced beef brisket. And don't forget the SWAT sauce.
Best Fast Food - McDONALD'S
Not sure if you've noticed, but many of the McDonald's around town have switched over to 24 hours. That means you can basically get a Big Mac or quarter-pounder with cheese around the clock, except during breakfast; then you "settle" for a McGriddle or a Sausage McMuffin. And that Dollar Menu. Where else can you go and get a meal for under $5? Face it, you think about hitting that drive-thru every time you roll by. It's OK, it happens to the best of us.
Best First Date Restaurant - ZAZIOS
Located in Birmingham, Zazios' huge windows are perfect for admiring the weather outside. Whether it's sunny or rainy, the natural ambiance is appealing. Their menu is steeped in Italian tradition. It would be quite possible to order an appetizer, salad, pasta course and entree – and split each course. What's better on a first date than a four-course meal? Get to know the person you're with, then maybe you can split dessert.
Best Food Challenge - MALLIE'S SPORTS GRILL & BAR
Mallie's holds the Guinness Book of World Records record for largest hamburger – clocking in at over 320 pounds. That burger is THE food challenge to end all challenges. However, no one can eat that much, so Mallie's offers smaller, more "manageable" challenges, too. Eat a 3-pound burger and a side of fries in 15 minutes for one. Gather nine of your closest friends and tackle the 50-pound monster. Your 10-person crew has an hour to kill that burger. Then the team doesn't eat for a week after.
Best Restaurant To Take Out-of-Town Guests - MICHAEL SYMON'S ROAST
Last year's Best Restaurant winner hasn't slowed a bit – in fact, they're booked solid. The meat experts not only dazzle you with their fantastic array of precisely-prepped meats (their Roast Beast of the Day is always a pleasant surprise) and stellar array of craft beers, but something carrying Michael Symon's name would have to be as plush and impressive as the fantastic eatery within the gorgeous Book-Cadillac Hotel in Detroit. (Also, please be sure to try the BBQ Pork Belly when you go – it's mind-blowing!) So, the next time you need to take out some friends from not-Detroit, be sure to call Roast ahead of time and make a reservation for a very impressive evening.
Best Food Truck - EL GUAPO
Even though El Guapo has been active for less than a year, it has recently undergone a huge menu change. Don't worry, you can still get a chorizo burrito with their signature Guapo sauce. However, the menu has expanded to include such luxury items as short rib and pork belly. Check their website to see where El Guapo will be parked, although they've been spending a lot of time at Wayne State recently.
Best Hidden Gem - ROMA CAFÉ
It's kind of absurd to think that a restaurant that has been around for over 100 years could be considered a "hidden gem." Roma Cafe, while being one of Detroit's most well-known restaurants, is also off the beaten path. Located just outside of the heart of Eastern Market, Roma Cafe has been serving classic Italian cuisine for as long as it has been open. It's a spot that every Detroiter should visit once, not only for the food, but for the experience.
Best Ice Cream Shop - RAY'S
Within a quaint storefront with a neon sign on Coolidge Road, nestled close to the border of Troy and Royal Oak, lies Ray's Ice Cream. The reputation that the institution of frozen treats has built for itself is well-merited – they've been going strong since '58. And it's not just a local favorite, either. Folks make the hike from downriver and way north of Oakland County to check out the '50s-style parlor and soda fountain shop that boasts well over 50 flavors of delicious ice cream.
Best Ambience - MARIO'S ITALIAN RESTAURANT
Times were different in 1948. And Mario's, which opened in that golden year, hasn't changed the things that matter in the 64 years since then. How would you like an elegant and warm atmosphere in which to enjoy your dining experience? Well, that's what you'll get here. Tableside cooking, a fantastic wait staff, valet parking, ballroom dancing – the whole nine yards. You will be treated like you're going out to a nice meal in a swanky joint for the entire experience.
Best Pancakes - PANCAKE HOUSE
Where better to go for pancakes than Pancake House? The family-oriented breakfast restaurant offers specialty pancakes that you've probably never even heard of, including anything from apple pancakes to Danish Kijafa cherry crepes. Their extensive knowledge of both authentic national and ethnic pancake recipes allows them to offer one of the most extensive and unique menus. In addition, everything is very reasonably-priced, quality is maintained with great pride and a well trained and knowledgeable staff will never leave you unsatisfied.
Best Pizza Delivery - JET'S
We've all seen the commercials; it's no secret that Jet's Pizza prides itself on speedy delivery and promises quality food at a great price. And being the seventh largest pizza chain in the nation, it's evident that they have the state-of-the-art resources and skills to deliver on this promise. They offer a menu full of delicious salads, subs, and pizzas, but their specialty is their deep dish, which has been perfected to satisfy everyone's varying preferences.
Best Restaurant for Romance - ANTONIO'S CUCINA ITALIANA
Since 1964, Antonio's has been doing things the Italian way. What that means is tradition and being treated to a fantastic meal in an atmosphere that promotes intimacy (what's more intimate than breaking bread together, right?). An authentic Italian meal, created using family recipes and made in-house, is what you're in store for at Antonio's, and if that isn't the best way to treat your sweetheart, we don't know what is.
Best Restaurant for Appetizers - BIG ROCK
Big Rock Chophouse typically gains a lot of recognition for their delicious, award-winning brews. And while their specialty beer is definitely something to brag about, we think it's their amazing appetizers that deserve the attention. Hailed as one of the best chefs in the Detroit area, Brian Henson works his magic, offering an extensive appetizer menu including anything from calamari to bourbon beef pastries at a reasonable price, which is even lower during their impressive happy hour specials on weekdays from 4-6 p.m.
Best Quality for the Money - LITTLE CAESARS
The person who invented the $5 Hot 'n' Ready pizza needs to be honored forever. No one idea has come to signify value more than the Hot 'n' Ready. For $5, it is totally possible to feed at least three adults or four (or more) kids. For just $2 more, add some insanely buttery and cheesy Crazy Bread and Crazy Sauce. You've dropped $7 and you're feeding your whole family. There's no need to call ahead either. The beauty of the Hot 'n' Ready is that it's always there. Quick quality – the best kind.
Best Sunday Brunch - BEVERLY HILLS GRILL
Metro Detroit is slowly becoming a brunch beacon of sorts. There are a number of places serving fantastic brunch, so Beverly Hills Grill must be doing something special. A stuffed poblano pepper filled with eggs, chorizo and sweet corn chevre is as unique a breakfast item as you'll find anywhere. And with alcohol available, it is possible to pair that pepper with a Bloody Mary. Of course, if bloodies aren't your speed then order a mimosa. Go ahead – you've earned it.
Best Coffee - BIGGBY
Having given Starbucks a run for its money, Biggby not only offers a delicious cup o' java, but they've got a few things that the others don't – a giant "Super" size (24 ounces, to be precise) for their beverages, in addition to unique and fantastic flavors, flavor combinations and some truly fantastic food. What's that? You just came in for an Americano? Well, if you're a sucker for a great pastry like we are, you'll also be walking out with something delicious to go with that coffee.
Best Smokehouse - UNION WOODSHOP
If there is one indication of how serious the Union Woodshop is about its smoking, it's the presence of a smoked Caesar salad on their menu. They're smoking salads, fer chrissakes! Every smoked meat on the menu is smoked in house and the sausages are made in house too. Smoked pizzas and even smoked cheddar round out a menu that celebrates the joy of smoking more than any other we've seen.
Best Sub Shop - SECOND STREET SUB SHOP
Most sub shops are defined by the quality of their sandwiches. Don't get us wrong, Second Street does make an absolutely incredible sandwich. However, there's a special bonus for visiting Second Street, and that's owner Scott Perry. Scott is a genuinely funny guy who loves his little sub shop. He only serves the best ingredients, and nearly every single sandwich that leaves the sub is touched by him. You can't beat the service.
Best Place to Soak Up the Booze - PLAKA
Is there any place better to hit up for a cheap, delicious and greasy breakfast after a night of partying than Plaka's? In the heart of Greektown, you can get yourself a fantastic spinach pie, chicken kabob or tasty omelette with sausage. And it's delightful. The marriage of a greasy spoon, Coney Island and Greek café make this one great place to eat – literally any time of day.
Best Sushi Chef - KENNY WEE at INYO
Inyo has been on the cutting edge of sushi ever since it opened in Ferndale. Chef Kenny Wee is the driving force behind the menu. Because of this, we'd like to direct your attention to the "chef's choice" section of the sushi menu. Three options: $25, $50, and "name your price," at any price level Chef Wee will take your taste buds on a ride that you'd never dreamt possible. Have faith in the sushi chef and your stomach will be rewarded.
Best Sunday Mimosas - LILY'S SEAFOOD
One of the draws to Lily's Sunday brunch, aside from the food, is the bloody Mary and mimosa bar. Diners are able to build their own bloodies and mimosas. Each trip to the bar costs a measly $3, so if our math is correct, five mimosas will cost only $15. If you can put down five mimosas on a Sunday morning, we want to hang out with you. And don't forget, lush, this is brunch – order some eggs, too, OK?