Sure this place is a traditional steakhouse, but that doesn't mean they're skimping on the upscale accoutrements and gorgeous décor. Just the entryway is enough to give patrons the kind of experience they're in for when stepping inside Caesar's Windsor's finest restaurant. Impressive and imposing, the iron gates and leather wrapped columns greet diners with a preview of what is to come. A stone fireplace as well as a gorgeous glass-enclosed wine cellar at the center of the restaurant also offers restaurant- goers more than just something great to taste. Oh, and about the flavors and textures that are served up inside Neros, although traditional at its core, the menu has been modernized to meet to needs of foodies and food lovers the world over. Steaks grilled to perfection, seafood prepared by the finest chefs in the area and meats like bison, Berkshire pork and Piedmontese beef are offered alongside timeless yet contemporary side dishes that please patrons with the freshest of flavors.
Best new restaurant Santorini
When restaurants rebrand, it can be seen as a sign of desperation, an attempt to rekindle a flame that has burned out. This is not the case with Santorini, the former Mosaic in Greektown. Rather then continuing on the path of eclectic fine dining, they've changed courses towards a more traditional Greek menu. Don't get us wrong, this is not gyros and chicken kabobs. Santorini's cuisine is elevated and Greek-inspired. From the bread that Santorini serves all the way down to its baklava, everything is traditional with a twist and better than you're going to get at any quasi-Greek Coney Island/diner. Specialties like arni kleftiko are served up in parchment paper after being baked in the material as well. A mix of oven-baked lamb and seasonal veggies, it's a traditional dish you won't find in many other restaurants. Seared octopus, flaky salmon and lamb are on the menu as well as plenty more of our favorite dishes.
Best Local Coffee House Great Lakes Coffee
Calling Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company a coffee house only tells half the story. Sure, they have their own expertly-roasted coffee, baked goods and one of the swankiest interiors for a coffee house we've ever seen, but they also have an impressive selection of beer, wine, spirits and other savory foodstuffs. It's no surprise they've been featured in multiple national publications. Where else can you go to get some work done, have a fresh-roasted cup of Joe and move on to a Jolly Pumpkin beer or two? And that's just the drink portion of the menu. The food is a thoughtful mix of charcuterie, pickled veggies and cheeses with vegan and raw options available as well.
Best Gyro Kouzina Royal Oak
Metro Detroit is no stranger to gyro, a delicious sandwich of meat, veggies and tzatziki wrapped in pita, but KouZina has taken the gyro to a whole other level. Walk in to their Royal Oak location and you immediately see three glistening spits of meat: lamb, pork and chicken. Each offering a different type of gyro for a different taste sensation. They make their pita fresh in house. There is so much care put into each and every sandwich that is made, you'll think your mom has made it for you. Don't stop at just the gyro, either. Feta fries, hand-cut fries topped with lots of briny feta cheese and spices, are quite possibly the best invention since fries. A gyro and feta fries is the value meal of 2013. Feeling frisky? Ask for a sandwich with all three meats. You're welcome.
Best Taco El Charro
When you roll up to an El Charro, you will undoubtedly notice "unique soft shell tacos" on the menu. It would behoove you to order at least one of these fantastic taco manifestations. Somewhere between a soft and hard shell taco, El Charro's shells are simultaneously crunchy and chewy. Not only that, one taco is substantial. A meal of two tacos with their comforting beans and rice is stick-to-your-bones delicious. Even with an amazing shell, if the filling is bland, there's no point. Whether you choose ground beef, shredded chicken or refried beans, rest assured it's all delicious, especially if you drizzle a bit of their house-made salsa on top (we love the spicy stuff). Oh, and most of their locations serve booze, too. Tacos and margaritas are best friends. Pro tip: add guacamole and jalapeno slices to the taco for an additional textural and spicy treat.
Best Tapas Sardine Room
Known for their raw bar stocked with fresh oysters, New England lobster, peel and eat shrimp, tuna and hamachi crudo, where the Sardine Room really shines is in the department of small plates, also known as tapas. Appetizer-sized dishes like James curry (made with edamame, fried broccoli, portobello mushrooms, greens, basmati rick and pickled red onion), house-made gnocchi (pan fried with arugula puree and shaved Pecorino Romano) and poutine (the most delicious of all French fry varieties that includes pulled pork, cheese curd, pickled chilies and natural sauce), are satisfying enough to eat on one's own or to share with friends.
Best Smokehouse Lockhart's Bbq
Pitmaster Steve "Bubba" Coddington knows his way around a smoker, and that's what sets Lockhart's BBQ apart from all other trendy/upscale 'cue joints. When it comes to smoked meats, these guys don't play around. Their smoked brisket is the stuff of every Texan's dreams (so it would make sense that this place is named after the barbecue capital of Texas, which in turn makes it one of the BBQ capitals of the world: Lockhart, Texas). And they've also got your smoked St. Louis ribs, smoked chicken (served by the half), smoked pork, smoked sausage, smoked ham and really anything else Bubba can think of to throw in the smoker. Any suggestions?
Best Cajun Gator Jake's
It's a sports bar that specializes in Cajun and Southwestern food as well as a variety of steaks, fish, pasta and sandwiches. Items like their "Rajun Cajun" shrimp (large shrimp served in a mild spicy Cajun butter), jambalaya, crawfish etoufee, Pasta Orleans and authentic gator bites make this one of the best places this far north of the Bayou for some good old-fashioned Creole cuisine.
Best Restaurant You Haven't Been To Local Kitchen - Ferndale
Local Kitchen hasn't even been open a year, so it might not be surprising that it's not on your radar yet. But it should be. With a menu focused on locally-sourced produce - scratch that - locally-sourced EVERYTHING, their offerings are forever evolving. With a fun approach to making delicious food and offering an upbeat atmosphere, Local Kitchen is a must visit in 2013.
Best Restaurant to Rediscover - Big Rock
Decorated Executive Chef Brian Henson is competing for the title of Regional Chef of the Year. Do you need another reason to check out Big Rock again? The food is excellent. And do you know what else is also excellent? The house brewed beer. There are layers to Big Rock. Is it a special occasion place? Sure. But they also have one of the most affordable happy hour menus in metro Detroit. Trust us, visit again, you'll be glad you did.
Best Restaurant to be Seen In Social Kitchen
Opened by one of metro Detroit's hottest up and coming chefs, Social Kitchen is the place where everyone wants to go but only a select few are lucky enough to secure a seat. It's that place everyone talks about at the water cooler on Monday morning. If you weren't there, you just have to listen.
Best Restaurant with Live Music Cliff Bell's
The food is awesome at Cliff Bell's – think elevated comfort food - but what's also awesome is the live music that accompanies your dining experience. Their stage has seen the likes of jazz greats, not to mention enough local musicians to keep any lover of Detroit music happy. On top of that, the atmosphere is cool as hell. Cliff Bell's is a perfect hangout spot and a great place to take a date.
Best Restaurant to Impress Visitors Coach Insignia
What's one way to impress an out-of-town guest (or even just someone who doesn't get into the city that often)? Take them up to a restaurant at the top of a 72-story building with 360-degree views of the city, the Detroit River and Windsor. That's one way to do it, anyway. Coach Insignia is the highest hotel restaurant in the Western Hemisphere, and is also one of the top fine dining restaurants in Detroit. The view is spectacular, sure, but so is the modernized steakhouse fare and the Wine Spectator award-winning wine list.
Best Tableside Service Mr Paul's Chop House
Mr. Paul's Chop House is a best kept secret of the east side. Located in an unassuming building on an unassuming stretch of Groesbeck in Roseville, Mr. Paul's has been serving guests for more than 30 years with the kind of exceptional, detailed service that has all but been forgotten in the modern steakhouse concept. Enjoy a Caesar salad for two mixed and served tableside or one of their tableside-flambéed desserts like cherries jubilee.
Best 24-Hour Restaurant - Leo's
You've been partying. It's past 2 a.m. – again. What do you do? Go to Leo's. Duh. There's really nothing better after a night of excess than more excess. Coneys? Check. Chili cheese fries? Check. Two eggs over easy, bacon, pancakes, hash browns and coffee? Check times 5. Leo's being open 24 hours with a full menu is a glorious thing. Three a.m. hunger pangs be damned!
Best All-You-Can-Eat - Harbor House
When you think "all-you-can-eat," you're probably imagining a buffet with one of those snot-guard plexiglass barriers protecting the food that's chilling out in metal trays from grubby hands and germy sneezes. That's not Harbor House's all-you-can-eat. At Harbor House you can get shrimp, London broil, frog legs, fried chicken, pickerel filet, baby back ribs, lake perch, rainbow trout, fresh catfish and chicken parmesan all prepared to order in the kitchen and served to you by their waitstaff for only $19.99, plus up to 10 additional items daily including prime rib and crab legs.
Best Bagel - Detroit Bagel
You want to know the secret to Detroit Bagel's bagels? Their recipe has been perfected over 50 years by master bagelsmiths and they are still just as dedicated to their bagel art as ever. See, they actually take the time to boil their bagels before baking them. What difference does that make? It's the difference between a proper New York/Jewish-style bagel that has a golden, chewy crust with a dense interior and the hockey pucks that too often pass for bagels everywhere else. They also serve New York bialys (round rolls that are similar to, but softer and lighter than bagels), which are little-known outside of New York.
Best Bakery - Astoria
Astoria originally opened in Greektown in 1971 and has been one of Detroit's premier pastry shops ever since. The original Greektown location still cranks out over 100 fine European pastries daily for customers to salivate over, as does their second location in downtown Royal Oak. The pastries and cakes and cookies and tortes are displayed like glittering jewels in glass cases, and their now-iconic white pastry boxes tied with twine and stamped with the Astoria logo can cause as much excitement and anticipation as that iconic baby blue box from Tiffany & Co.
Best Bang For Your Buck - Big Boy
One of metro Detroit's most recognizable chains, Big Boy promises delicious food and great value. The Big Boy burger is legendary 'round these parts and its price is one of the reasons. For around $5, you can get a Big Boy, fries and a Coke. That's a serious meal for $5 and it's available every day of the week.
Best Burger - Old Shillelagh
You may know the Old Shillelagh as Detroit's oldest, biggest, bestest Irish bar. And you may also know them for their annual St. Patrick's Day party (the world's largest, and once again an RDW Best Of winner). But you should also know them for their massive, juicy burgers: hand-patted USDA Choice Angus beef on fresh buns from the local ASB Bakery. Try the appropriately-named Fricken Awesome Burger (FAB) topped with thick-cut bacon and a house-made roasted onion mayo.
Best Bar Cuisine - Town Tavern
There's bar food, and then there's bar cuisine. Town Tavern specializes in the latter. This comfortable and stylish bar and restaurant in downtown Royal Oak boasts a refined casual concept reflected in the menu. Skip the fries and wings and instead order up some signature parmesan truffle fries and buffalo shrimp with gorgonzola dipping sauce. Love mac and cheese? Their's has lobster in it. On the burger cleanse? Try their Buffalo Burger with aged white cheddar, arugula, caramelized onion and dijon mustard. To call this mere "bar food" is an injustice.
Best BBQ Restaurant - Bad Brad's
Now with two locations on the northeast side (in New Baltimore and Shelby Township), Bad Brad's is drawing customers in from all over metro Detroit based on the popularity of their excellent BBQ and, in their Shelby location, their equally-excellent wood-fired pizzas. Everything they serve is made from scratch by accomplished chefs, and their brisket and pork shoulder are smoked low and slow. You pretty much can't go wrong with anything on their menu – BBQ platters, BBQ tacos, mac & cheese made to order, crispy homemade fried chicken, Bad Brad's BBQ Burger, BBQ chicken salad – but we're particularly partial to appetizers like the BBQ nachos, loaded BBQ cheese fries and BBQ potato skins.
Best Breakfast - Mae's
Mae's is the only place in the metro Detroit area that serves aebelskivers, orb-shaped pancakes that are golden brown on the outside and full of pancakey goodness on the inside. Served with whipped cream and jam, they're a treat that should be savored often. With booze about to be added to the menu (SOON!), Mae's should be considered for weekly breakfast consumption, if not daily.
Best Burrito - Zumba
In a new location right next to the Emagine Theatre in Royal Oak, Zumba's walk-up-counter ordering system means you get to watch your burritos being made and choose what fillings and toppings you want included. Choose from grilled skirt steak, grilled chicken, beer-battered whitefish, stewed Mexican chicken, ground beef, braised pork or the all-veg beans and rice.
Best Taqueria - Hot Taco
Detroit's hottest taco shack is located right behind the Fox Theatre and is open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily for all your lunch, dinner and drunken late-night taco needs. They keep things deliciously simple – order tacos (on flour or corn tortillas) or burritos with your choice of "hot" chicken (their own marinated rotisserie chicken), simple chicken, pork, chorizo, steak, tilapia, blackened shrimp or all-veggie with a bottle of Mexican Coke or rainbow-colored Jarritos. It's fast and casual and cool ... er, hot.
Best Urban Oasis - Fountain BistroLocated in the heart of Campus Martius, Fountain Bistro serves up appetizers like duck wings and crab cakes, entrees like char grilled lamb chops and sautéed lake trout, salads like Caesar and warm goat cheese and sides like traditional pommes frites and creamed spinach. Soups, sandwiches, burgers and wraps along with rotini, gulash and turkey fill their lunch menu and an enviable wine list compliments all their edible offerings. With a view of beautiful downtown Detroit to boot, there isn't much more you could ask for.
Best Korean - Bibimbap-Novi
Korean is an oft-misunderstood cuisine. It's Asian, but it is wholly different from say, Chinese or Japanese. Make the journey to Novi and search out Bibimbap. The restaurant's namesake is a good place to start: bibimbap starts with a hot stone bowl filled with rice, beef, egg, veggies and sauces. As the dish is eaten, the bowl cooks the ingredients more contributing to the amazing depth of flavor of the dish. It's a fantastic dining experience.
Best Caribbean - Bahama Breeze
When you want to experience the islands in the middle of winter in metro Detroit, head over to Bahama Breeze. Items like their coconut shrimp and their skillet-simmered jerk shrimp in garlic-thyme butter taste just as good as they would if you were eating them seaside (well ... almost), and they've got a huge variety of citrus-and-spice-infused seafood dishes, Caribbean-style tapas (like chicken empanadas) and enough fruity, rum-y drinks so that by the end of the night you might actually believe you're in Jamaica. Close enough, 'mon.
Best Chinese - Wah-Hoo
How could you not be excited about a Chinese place that calls itself Wah-Hoo? Well, it just so happens that there's plenty here to be excited about! Wah-Hoo in downtown Detroit specializes in sushi and Chinese dishes. They've got a huge selection of maki rolls, hand rolls and vegetarian rolls. On the Chinese side, they've got all the favorites – General Tso's chicken, lo mein, chow mein, five kinds of fried rice and an excellent appetizer selection that includes pot stickers and Shanghai wings. They've also got great lunch and happy hour specials for the downtown work crowd.
Best Coney Island - National
If the coney is Detroit's signature food, then National should be one of Detroit's signature restaurants. Located at seemingly every corner, it's hard to ignore National's prominence. They have more than hot dogs, too. If you've never had a Hani, you need to get over to your closest National and order one. Get some chili cheese fries while you're at it.
Best Creperie - Good Girls Go To Paris
Not familiar with crepes? They are thin pancake-like treats that are often filled with delicious things. Good Girls has mastered the art of crepe making and that's your gain. There are two sides of the menu: savory and sweet. Each crepe is made by hand and filled to order. If you've never had a banana and Nutella crepe for breakfast or dessert, you haven't lived.
Best Cupcakes - Nom Nom
Nom Nom's enormous cupcakes have a special place in our hearts. And not just because they have a whole section called "booze cakes." Which they do. In flavors like Irish car bomb (chocolate cake infused with Guinness with a Bailey's buttercream frosting) and Jager bomb (Jagermeister-infused chocolate cake with Red Bull frosting). They also have soda pop cupcakes, cheesecake cupcakes and candy bar cupcakes. They'll forever have a special place in our hearts and arteries.
Best Deli - Stage Deli
Stage Deli is not just a deli. It is a Detroit institution. This is a proper Jewish deli that's as proper as a Jewish deli can get, and while metro Detroit is certainly not short on its Jewish delis and houses of corned beef, Stage does it best. That house-made corned beef is piled high between two slices of rye bread that wear that massive pile of meat like a yarmulke. Order that with some homemade matzo ball soup, borscht and lox and you'll be saying "oy vey" for your overstuffed stomach in no time.
Best Delivery - Jimmy John's
That commercial where they talk about how fast Jimmy John's delivery is? It's no joke. It's FAST. Not only are the sandwiches awesome (and they are – on that fresh-baked bread all warm and smelling all deliciously), but they'll be at your front door ready for you to eat before you even finish updating your Facebook status to say that you're about to eat some Jimmy John's. Also good for lunch AND late-night.
Best Dessert - Pronto/Tummy Luv
Pronto is many things to many people. A great place for a lunchtime salad or sandwich? Yep. A popular gay club and video bar by night? For sure. But anyone who has ever been inside and gazed longingly at the glass cases full of pretty cakes and pastries knows they're also a hugely popular bakery. Whether you're looking for a custom wedding cake or just grabbing a couple of giant cookies to fix a wicked sweet tooth craving, Pronto's pastries and desserts are, much like everything else about this place, fabulous.
Best Neighborhood Joint - Toast
In two words, Toast in Ferndale is totes adorbs. It's teeny-tiny with classic diner furniture and vintage toasters displayed on the walls. Getting a seat is a treat in itself at this super-popular breakfast and lunch spot, but once you're lucky enough to snag a vinyl seat at one of the formica tables, get ready to enjoy one of the best breakfasts in all of metro Detroit. (Pro tip: the breakfast panini is hidden under "sides" but deserves your full attention.)
Best Fast Food - McDonald's
With most Mickey D's open 24 hours nowadays, there's always a chance to hit the drive thru for those late night Big Mac cravings. Admit it, we all get them. There's something about those two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese and onions on that sesame seed bun that just sings to us.
Best First Date Restaurant - Joe Muer
If you want to come out of the gates claiming to be a BALLER then Joe Muer is the only choice for a first date. Yeah, you'll spend some cash but it's worth it to impress your lady, right fellas? The food is top notch for all kinds of appetites – seafood, steak and even vegan. Just hope you're not expected to go back for date two.
Best Fondue - Melting Pot
Everything tastes better on a stick. Or in this case, a fondue fork (though it should be noted that they discourage you eating directly from the fork because of safety and blah blah). If you love cheese, meat (and/or veggies) and chocolate, the Melting Pot has all the makings of the perfect meal. All those times your parents told you not to play with your food – they were wrong.
Best Food Challenge Hunter House-Birmingham
Nearly everyone wants to be famous in some regard. Maybe your claim to fame will be eating an insane amount of sliders in one sitting. Here's the deal: walk into Hunter House and tell them you want to be part of the wall of fame. You'll be required to eat a certain amount of beefy, oniony sliders along with some fries and maybe some other stuff. Consume it all and your photo will hang forever on the wall of fame. Something to aspire to, eh?
Best Mac & Cheese - Clarkston Union
This is the mac and cheese that put Clarkston Union (and its sister restaurants Union Woodshop and Vinsetta Garage, where the mac and cheese recipe stays stubbornly, and refreshingly, the same) on the map. Actually, literally – the Wall Street Journal took notice of it back in 2003 and since then it has been covered in Food & Wine and profiled on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. It's all about that crunchy top.
Best Restaurant To Take Out-of-Town Guests - Slows
If you've got guests coming in from out of town looking for the Official Detroit Experience™, where else could you possibly take them besides the most important barbecue restaurant in America? (And more importantly, why would you take them anywhere else?) Slows and their magical meats have been featured in the New York Times (twice), the New York Post, Food & Wine (twice), Bon Appetit, on the Travel Channel and more. While many swear by the sammiches, it's their phenomenal beer selection that keeps us coming back.
Best Food Truck - Ned's Travelburger Food tastes better when it comes from a truck. Or at least so you would think what with the current food truck craze that's been sweeping metro Detroit over the last couple of years. But damn it all to hell if meals on wheels actually do sometimes taste better, and Ned's TravelBurger is a great example of this. All "TravelBurgers" are made using locally-raised beef from family farms in Michigan with locally-sourced ingredients including the fresh-baked buns from Holiday Market. These aren't just some of the best burgers you'll get from a truck. These are some of the best burgers you'll get, period.
Best French Fries - Bastone's
French fries, by definition, are pretty damn delicious. Bastone's, though, take fries to new heights. Forget calling them fries, call them by their fancier Belgian name – frites. Add a number of different dipping mayos (yes, mayos – Belgians are crazy, aren't they?) and you've got the perfect snack to pair with one of Bastone's excellent house-brewed beers.
Best Broasted Chicken Chicken Shack
For the tasitest broasted chicken, Chicken Shack is where it's at! The chicken, marinated in a top-secret family recipe, is moist, juicy and delicious and cooked fresh to order in less than 10 minutes. Their signature hand-cut broasted potatoes and fall-off-the-bone tender ribs are famous. Pork chops, seafood and grilled chicken are also available along with their house-made cole slaw. Check any of their 18 metro Detroit locations for daily specials and catering options.
Best Greek - Pegasus
So much more than gyros, Greek cuisine runs the gamut from flaming cheese (OPA!) to deep fried balls of honey-dipped dough (loukoumades) to marinated octopus. Pegasus serves all of these and more and has for decades. Located in the heart of Greektown, it's fitting that Pegasus is serving the quintessential example of Greek cuisine.
Best Guacamole - Sagebrush
Mashed up avocado, garlic, cilantro, onion, and chiles – guacamole seems like a pretty simple dip, but there's so many variations and with simple deviations, it's easy to mess up the balance. Sagebrush Cantina has mastered the proportions. The prefect blend of creaminess, spiciness and lime hits your palate with every tortilla chip. Add a margarita and life doesn't get much sunnier.
Best Hidden Gem - Frittata-Clawson
Newsflash: Main Street does not end at 12 Mile. Head just a bit further north and there is Clawson and its many hidden gem restaurants, bars and shops. Frittata serves one of the best breakfasts and brunches in metro Detroit, specializing in their namesake dish, frittatas (baked omelettes). Plus their seasonal patio is adorbs.
Best Ice Cream Shop - Ray's
Their red, white and blue packaging is hard to miss at grocery stores, but did you know Ray's has one of the most adorable old timey shops around? With a huge selection of hand-scooped ice creams, including their amazing cinnamon, and the charm of decades past, Ray's will bring back memories of childhood when a banana split was all that mattered.
Best Cuban - Vincente's
There aren't many restaurants that boast ethnic dancing along with their cuisine, but Vincente's has both spicy food and salsa (dancing, that is). From succulent super fresh shrimp to the deceptively simple yet incredibly delicious black bean to classic plantains, Vincente's has the flavor and attitude of Cuban food on lock.
Best Hibachi - Ichiban
Admit it: you like watching Japanese chefs work their hibachi magic as much as we do. What's not to love? It's dinner and a show all at once! From flipping shrimp tails into their chef hats to making massive mounds of fried rice and doing tricks with chef's knives and steak, hibachi dining is a singular experience. And no one does it better than Ichiban in Sterling Heights.
Best Indian - Priya
Priya specializes in continental Indian cuisine, with the refinement of the north matched with the sauces and spices of the south. From tandoor meats (a clay oven fired by charcoal and wood that imparts a smoky flavor into anything cooked inside) and homemade breads (including the signature Indian bread, naan) to spicy curry sauces and vegetarian rice dishes, Priya offers a whole new world of flavors to explore.
Best Irish - O'Connors Public House
Whether you're going for the traditional Irish cuisine (bangers and mash, corned beef and cabbage, lamb stew), a traditional Irish pub atmosphere (the whole interior of the place was actually built in Ireland and shipped over, right down to the stained glass salvaged from churches in the U.K.) or the perfect pint of Guinness (so good it's worth waiting for), O'Connor's in Rochester is the best full-blown authentic Irish experience this side of the pond.
Best Italian - Andiamo
As one of the most established local restaurant chains in metro Detroit, Andiamo has been serving customers quality Italian cuisine for more than 20 years. With multiple locations including downtown Royal Oak and inside the Renaissance Center overlooking the Detroit River, Andiamo offers the kind of exceptional dining experience we've come to expect from the Vicari family.
Best Japanese - Cafe Sushi
To be clear, this is the Best Japanese category – so not just sushi, but the all-around Japanese experience, which sushi is most definitely a part of. Café Sushi in Troy offers the full Japanese experience, from their miso soup and bento box lunches to their nabemono ("cooking pot") menu with table-side hot pots and stir fry. Doumo arigatou for all the good grub, Café Sushi!
Best Local Menu - Burroughs Tavern
Do you like smoked fish? Smoked beef? Smoked chicken? Smoked pork? If your answer is, "YES, YES, A THOUSAND TIMES YES," you need to head over to Burroughs Tavern in Brighton for some of their smoky treats. Everything here is made (and smoked) from scratch using as many Michigan ingredients as they can. They've got a full BBQ menu of smoked meats as well as a smoked fish platter, plus a variety of burgers, sandwiches, salads and sides.
Best Mediterranean - Elie's
There's certainly no shortage of places in metro Detroit for Mediterranean food, but Elie's in Birmingham offers the kind of upscale Mediterranean experience missing from a lot of shawarma shacks. Elie's has been around for 16 years serving traditional Lebanese dishes including popular items like hummus and grape leaves as well as mainstream fare like fresh seafood and lamb chops, plus fresh-churned raw vegetable and fruit juices. They also have a fully-stocked bar featuring Lebanese beers, wines and spirits.
Best Mexican - Rojo
We love Mexican food just about any way we can get it, but Rojo Mexican Bistro delivers it in a sexy Mayan setting with lots of dramatic red ("rojo") accents. From their made-to-order guacamole to their "kick ass" tacos (order from a variety of options including everything from lobster to portabella to pulled pork and bacon) and massive margaritas, Rojo takes metro Detroit's Mexican cuisine to a whole new level.
Best Middle Eastern - Pita Cafe
Pita Café serves healthy Middle Eastern food and raw juices that are just as ideal for the taste-conscious as for the health-conscious. Their traditional favorites include hommous served a variety of ways, falafel plates, vegetarian kibbe and grape leaves, traditional kibbe (raw lamb) as well as fried and baked kibbe (still lamb) and so much more. Plus shish kabobs and shish kafta and shawarma and a selection of over 30 rolled pita sandwiches for under $5.
Best Shawarma - Bucharest
A declaration shall be made right here, right now: the Bucharest shawarma should be the official sandwich of Detroit. If there's a more satisfying sandwich, we have no earthly idea what it is. Grilled chicken, fries, cabbage, tomato, pickles and garlic sauce – oh, the garlic sauce! You might not be able to sit within 15 feet of anyone for a couple hours after eating one, but it's totally worth it.
Best Ambiance - Rattlesnake Club
Celebrating their 25th year, the Rattlesnake has always been known as a swanky spot with excellent food. Their waterfront location is nothing to scoff at either. Even more important is the spacing between tables. So often tables are quite literally on top of one another, but at The Rattlesnake, ample space is given which makes for a more comfortable and romantic dining experience.
Best Pan-Asian - Mon Jin Lau
Mon Jin Lau is a NU-Asian restaurant and lounge. The Chinn family opened this house of fusion in 1969, but despite being full-blown middle-aged this restaurant has remained on the cutting edge of cuisine and culture for nearly 45 years running. Fashionable food in a sexy atmosphere with ultra-haute weekly "Shanghai Wednesdays" parties that remains one of metro Detroit's hottest events makes Mon Jin Lau a true jewel (true to its name – "house of a thousand jewels"). The award-winning cuisine takes influence from China, Korea, Thailand, Japan and Vietnam, and is complemented by the Wine Spectator-awarded wine list.
Best Pancakes - Pancake House
Two words: bacon pancakes. They're an inspired blending of two favorite breakfast foods into one glorious combination. House-made bacon bits are strewn about generously in a classic buttermilk pancake. The original pancakes are good, but the sheer number of variations at the Pancake House will take you to pancake nirvana.
Best Deep Dish Pizza - Buddy's
Buddy's specializes in what is called "Detroit style" pizza - deep dish, square, cheesy, chewy and crusty. There's something about the corner piece of a Buddy's pizza. Relationships have ended over lesser transgressions than taking that last corner. It's no surprise that Buddy's is the best deep dish – there's hardly anyone in their class.
Best Round Pizza - Como's
How many of us have been hanging out in Ferndale when the bars close and we're hungry for something awesome? We're all very lucky that Como's is open until well after 2 a.m., so their incredible pizza is available at just the right moment. Como's strikes the balance between charred and doughy. The fact that they're open after the bar closes isn't just a glorious coincidence.
Best Gourmet Pizza - Pizzeria Biga
The most fascinating thing about Pizzeria Biga is that their gourmet pizza has its foundation in very simple ingredients. The philosophy is simple: fantastic dough, fresh ingredients and careful construction. When all of these come together, it's glorious. Don't get us wrong; simplicity the way Biga does it is definitely gourmet. Try it yourself – you'll see what we mean.
Best Pizza Delivery - Jet's
Jet's has made the "all corners" pizza famous. It's an 8-piece deep dish square pizza where every piece has a delicious crusty corner. They don't just specialize in making sure everyone gets a corner slice, either. They also served up delicious flavored crusts, heavenly cheese bread and even subs and boats. Plus, have you ever tried their house-made ranch? TO DIE FOR! And you know what's the cherry on top of all that ooey gooey cheesy (and ranch-y) deliciousness? You never have to leave the comfort of your couch to get it. With a Jet's close to most metro Detroit homes, they're literally a phone call away.
Best Polish - Polish Village Cafe
Ryan Gosling ate there this summer when he was in town scoping out the city for his directorial debut, How to Catch a Monster. Neil Patrick Harris (aka the LEGENDARY Barney Stinson) is also a regular visitor whenever he's in town visiting family. And good golly if it's good enough for Ryan Gosling then we will STALK IT EVERY DAY IN THE HOPES HE MIGHT RETURN. Their pierogi has no equal. Those perfectly boiled and fried pockets of yum are a Polish super food. Then there's the duck blood soup (OH YEAH), the dill pickle soup (for you less adventurous sorts), the golabki and the city chicken (not really chicken). Just try the sampler platter.
Best Restaurant for Romance The Whitney
The Whitney is the ultimate Detroit panty-dropper restaurant. (Or maybe we should say pantaloon-dropper, since the old dame passed her centennial a couple of decades ago.) Romance and a bit of mystery abounds in this 1894 solid granite manse that has 52 rooms, 218 windows, 20 fireplaces and numerous stained glass windows made by Tiffany's. The devil is in the décor, which is fully complemented by the decadent menu with items like roasted game hen, baby lamb and Oysters Whitney.
Best Restaurant for Appetizers El Barzon
The awesome thing about El Barzon is its concept – half Italian/half Mexican. No, it's not some kind of funky fusion menu where you're getting meat ravioli topped with guacamole, but two distinct sides of a menu. The appetizers are especially fantastic. Perfect guacamole and an inspired dish called "Bis Pasta," are both incredible and a great way to start a meal that's destined to be quite memorable.
Best Quality for the Money - Little Caesars
The $5 Hot-N-Ready revolutionized the grab and go meal. A large pizza with cheese and pepperoni, hot and ready to go out the door (hence the name) without the need to call or order ahead. When you're in a pinch, Caesars is the answer. For $5, you can feed a family. And the Crazy Bread? Those hot, doughy, garlicky, buttery, cheesy pieces of heaven? Yeah, add some of those and you're eating like a king for less than $8.
Best Sunday Brunch - Beverly Hills Grill
There's a reason this place can get a two-hour wait on Sundays. Their Sunday brunch is everything a brunch should be – sumptuous, sexy, decadent and boozey. Rotating weekly specials keep people coming back every week to see what's new, but menu staples like the bananas foster French toast and the potato latke "sandwich" (Canadian bacon, brie, sweet onion and an over-easy egg sandwiched between two potato latkes) are always a hit and we can guarantee you will never find a better-looking benedict.
Best Coffee - Biggby
BIGGBY Coffee is blowing up all over Michigan and is slowly taking over the country Starbucks-style, but no matter how big they get they'll always be our #1 since they are a Michigan-based company, and also because of their sweet, sweet lattes. These things are dessert in a cup with names like Butter Bear (caramel and butterscotch) and Teddy Bear (caramel and white chocolate). Their crème freeze smoothies are great in the summer, and if you're not into all that sweet stuff, their regular BIGGBY brand roasted coffee will keep coffee purists happy.
Best Vegetarian - Seva
Michigan is as Midwestern as it gets, so meat and potatoes are definitely the norm, but there are beacons of shining vegetarian fare. The brightest is Seva. From popular appetizers like their vegan yam fries and General Tso's cauliflower to their peanut-kale salad and totally vegan Seva Club (made with tofurkey, smoked coconut "bacon," avocado, lettuce, tomatoes and vegan aioli on toasted Avalon Pullman bread), Seva offers vegetarian cuisine for even the most meatatarian among us.
Best Soul Food Restaurant Beans & Cornbread
Beans & Cornbread serves up the heart and soul of down-home southern cooking. Between Baby Sister's Babybacks and Mama's Meatloaf, Beans & Cornbread gives you that feeling of a big friendly southern family welcome, and their soul-warming soul food is like a warm hug in your belly. Fried chicken, farm-raised catfish, smothered pork chops, candied sweet potatoes, homemade mac and cheese and more make this THE place to go for more than a little soul.
Best Seafood Restaurant - Joe Muer
If it has a shell or swims, you will find it on the menu at Joe Muer, the stunning fine dining seafood restaurant overlooking the Detroit River in the Renaissance Center. From their extensive raw bar offerings (including several kinds of oysters) to their sushi menu and wide variety of seafood entrees with an ever-changing selection of "chalkboard specials" (recent features included Atlantic Monkfish Osso Buco with black truffle risotto, basil oil and gremolata in a rich lobster sauce), Joe Muer is where you go for aquatic eats.
Best Restaurant for Pasta - Luciano's
Luciano's in Clinton Township has been serving outstanding northern and southern Italian cuisine since 1987, and while we love pretty much everything about this place (including the heaping baskets of fresh garlic bread ... drool), their pasta is from out of this world and straight onto your plate. Fresh pasta made in-house and cooked perfectly al dente (that's Italian for "awesome") with a variety of house-made sauces to choose from (creamy Alfredo to hearty meat sauce and the lighter Palomino), we all get lucky with this Luciano.
Best Tex-Mex - Cantina Diablo's
Tex-Mex happens to be one of our favorite varieties of quasi-authentic foods. And of those who purvey dishes of this sort, Cantina Diablo's is certainly the best. Found in downtown Royal Oak, this rather new establishment serves up delicious tacos, mango salsa, chipotle shrimp, shrimp brocheta and shrimp Diablo, just to name a few of their amazing offerings. Made-to-order guacamole is also on the menu and if you like to see what their food preparation looks like, you can order their BK tableside-tossed fajita salad and watch as chefs prepare it before your very eyes.
Best Ribs - Red Smoke
Just one of the amazing restaurants found in Greektown, Red Smoke is a traditional barbeque restaurant that specializes in pit-smoked meats and delicious side dishes. Pulled chicken, house-made sausage, pork and brisket are just some of the amazing meats they offer and candied sweet potatoes, baked beans, mac and cheese, sweet potato fries, black-eyed peas and creamy coleslaw are among the amazing accoutrements served up with main dishes. But, oh yes, those ribs. Available in St. Louis or Carolina style, back and spare ribs are dry-rubbed in a special blend of spices, marinated and slow-smoked and wet-basted with a secret recipe then char grilled, stacking on the flavor and creating the most tender and mouth-watering ribs the city has to offer.
Best Salad - The Hudson Cafe
Serving up a selection of traditional salads, The Hudson Café uses the freshest of greens, veggies, meats and cheeses. The Greek comes replete with kalamata olives, tomatoes, red onions, feta and beets. Their signature salad is a mix of grilled chicken, avocado, onion, tomato, pecans, cranberries, taco strips and greens tossed in a champagne vinaigrette. The Hudson is smoked turkey, ham, greens, gherkin pickles and Swiss cheese mixed with Maurice. The roasted beet and artichoke also has oranges, walnuts and goat cheese and the seafood salad is a mix of crab and shrimp and all are served with a freshly grilled slice of herb focaccia. Who says salads have to be rabbit food?
Best Sub Shop Second Street Sub Shop
With subs so big you'll need to unhinge your jaw to pack all the deliciousness into your gob at once, Second Street Sub Shop serves up sandwiches that are both mouth-watering and totally satisfying. We're particular fans of the vegetarian variety that includes fresh veggies and lots of cheese. Feeling a bit more carnivorous? Try the mortadella, capicolla, salami and provolone. Oh, and don't forget to ask for the pesto spread. Oh, and that bread. THAT BREAD. Is it lunchtime yet?!
Best Slider - Green Dot Stables
Arguably the hippest place to eat in the city of Detroit, Green Dot Stables is often talked about and many a line has been formed trying to get into its doors. And it's really no small wonder why the hippest of Detroit hipsters adore this eating and drinking establishment or why they've won the prestigious award of Best Slider in our 2013 Best of Detroit polling. With varieties like lamb, gyro, PBJ, catfish, ham and swiss, Korean, bologna, coney dog, black bean, bbq bacon, tempeh and mystery meat, you can bet they've got every nook and cranny of the slider niche covered.
Best Brazilian Steakhouse - Gaucho's
Named for the waiters who carry around large skewers of perfectly seasoned meat and slice it directly on to your plate for your carnivorous enjoyment, Guacho's takes the art of Churrascaria seriously. With 16 different types of meat (plus shrimp!), you'll want to come with an enormous appetite when eating at Guacho's. Offering a salad bar in addition to plenty of meaty goodness, Gaucho's also has an award-winning wine list with plenty of affordable wines both by the bottle and glass. There's no doubt you'll leave this place completely stuffed and totally satisfied.
Best Sushi Chef - Kenny Woo [Inyo]
Ferndale's Inyo is known for turning out the best of the best in sushi. A restaurant as well as a lounge, you'll find a variety of delicious and savory treats concocted and perfected by Chef Kenny Woo inside its walls. Woo has worked as an Omakase ("I'll leave it to you" in Japanese) chef for many years, meaning he can craft chef's choice dishes for customers with flair and style. Using the freshest of seasonal ingredients, Woo never needs an order and always manages to deliver both beautiful and tastebud-tantalizing dishes to his oh-so-loyal customers.
Best Thai - Sala Thai
Sala Thai isn't just the best because it's the most authentic you'll find in metro Detroit. It's also because it's the most DELICIOUS. Familiar, yet more exotic than traditional Chinese food, Thai cuisine is the spicy goodness we Michiganders crave during both the winter and the summer months. Sala's menu includes favorites like chicken curry, pad Thai, tom yum soup, curry puffs, golden shrimp rolls, spicy ribs served with Thai sauce and mango sweet rice. With sushi on the menu as well as beer, wine, cocktails and sake, Sala Thai's three locations (Eastern Market, Sterling Heights and Somerset Collection) offer patrons a satiating and tasty experience.
Best Sushi - Crave
Crave in Dearborn is a long-standing monument to the deliciousness that is fusion food. A perfect mix of Mediterranean and Asian influences, Crave's menu spans small plates, steaks and, of course, sushi. Perennial favorites like tempura California and spicy tuna can be found here as well as creative specialties like the yam yam, Las Vegas, La Jolla, temptation, gem and sunset rolls. The Mediterranean-infused delicacies include raw and smoked seafood like salmon, king crab, shrimp, ahi tuna, yellowtail, red snapper and lobster as well as fresh vegetables and house-made sauces.
Best Sunday - Mimosas Cafe Muse
Café Muse does many things right. Whether it's the Oprah-approved grilled cheese or the scrumptious soups that have us heading there for lunch at least once a week, everything they do is delicious. Now, having acquired a special permit, you can now enjoy their tasty Sunday brunch with some orange juice and champagne BEFORE NOON. But that's not the only reason this spot has earned its name as the best purveyor of the vitamin C-rich alcoholic beverage. As with everything Café Muse does, they do it right, using the best of gourmet ingredients and a heaping helping of love for good food, the staff puts together one hell of a delicious drink.
Best Specialty Maki - Cafe Sushi
In the beautiful and ancient language of Japanese the word maki means roll. So what we're saying is the special rolls at Café Sushi are the cream of the crop, the best of the best, the most delicious of all metro Detroit maki. Rolls like the catepillar contain eel and cucumber and are topped with avocado, sesame seeds and eel sauce. The rainbow is a traditional California roll topped with salmon, whitefish and tuna. More exotic fare like the Jameson consist of snow crab, tempura flakes, wasabi tobiko and are topped with avocado and eel sauce. The Jason is smoked salmon, cream cheese and avocado topped with cooked shrimp. With many more visually beautiful and tastebud-tickling special rolls on their menu as well, it's no wonder they were voted to have the best menu around.
Best Place to Eat at 3 A.M. - Plaka Cafe
Soaking up the suds after a long night out is one of metro Detroit's favorite pastimes. And thanks to Greektown's Plaka Cafe, you can enjoy delicious, calorie-dense coneys, cheese fries and gyros after spending the night drinking and dancing. Open 24 hours a day, this diner has American favorites as well as dishes with a Greek twist. The only regret we have about Plaka Cafe is that there isn't one on every corner.
Best Wine Selection [Restaurant] Cork Wine Pub
At Cork, everything is about wine. With over 100 wines available by the bottle or glass, their fascination with and dedication to wine is never-ending. Owner Nancy Crutchfield has over 20 years of experience in the fine-dining industry, bringing to her pub tons of knowledge and expertise. Serving up craft beer as well as liquor, liqueur and an exceptional menu made using locally-procured ingredients, there's plenty to love about Cork, but most especially we love the wine.
Best Bloody Marys - Dino's-Ferndale
The mixing of a Bloody Mary is an art. From picking the right mix (or making your own) to using the right amount of vodka, a good bloody Mary can turn into a great bloody Mary in a matter of seconds. Spicy and served up perfectly with the requisite celery stick and pickle, Dino's Bloody Mary is the best in town for more than just the fact that it's got the perfect flavor. Made by Dino's incredibly accommodating staff, this Bloody Mary is made all the more delectable by the upscale yet not uptight team that dish up deliciousness to their patrons.
Best Fish and Chips Tom's Oyster Bar [Royal Oak] ;
Yes, Tom's does oysters quite well. But they do many other things with a flair that other restaurants lack as well, including their fish and chips. Beer-battered and hand-cut, their filets of Atlantic cod are hand-dipped in Tom's fresh made beer batter and flash fried to perfection. Served up with freshly fried chips (that's Irish for French fries), the dish is made all the better paired with one of Tom's craft drafts or delicious cocktails.