Best Restaurant to Rediscover – Forte
Birmingham's been getting a lot of action lately with some much-talked-about new restaurants (including our "Best Restaurant to be Seen," South Bar). With all the new (shiny) restaurants debuting, it's easy to forget about the old stand-bys ... but Forte deserves your attention once again, with a new Executive Chef (Rich Travis, most recently of Tribute) and totally redesigned interiors and menus which include playful small plates and pizzas. The name is the same, but that's about it.
Best Pan-Asian – Mon Jin Lau
Mon Jin Lau is much more than the best Pan-Asian restaurant, it is also home to some of the best weekly entertainment with Shanghai Wednesdays and an incredible happy hour and happy ending (reverse happy hour). A commonplace Chinese dish like almond chicken is taken to another level with fresh ingredients and bright flavors. Mon Jin Lau employs a culinary team of chefs from all over Asia in order to giver diners the most authentic tastes possible.
Best Restaurant To Be Seen – South
Birmingham's hottest new destination is all warm weather and beach bodies, even in the dead of winter. From the spicy Latin-fusion menu to the sultry club nights where there's never a cover, this chic multi-room hotspot is a destination all its own. Part casual-upscale restaurant, part sports bar, part nightclub & ultralounge and all VIP, South has us feeling the Miami heat. Celebutantes and ballers are known to frequent, and you can feel like one yourself at Direction South with Jody Haddad on Thursdays.
Best Restaurant To Open In The Last Year – Lockhart's
Barbeque is the cuisine du jour around these parts. Seems like a new place is opening up every week. That just means diners have to be more savvy about where their hard earned money is going. Lockhart's, even though it opened in 2010, has already staked a claim as some of the best BBQ in the Detroit area. A lot of the acclaim can be pointed at their chef, Steve "Bubba" Coddington. Bubba is a former competitive barbequer who takes his BBQ seriously. From the fantastically smoky burnt ends to righteously spicy jalapeno brown beans to the lip smackingly sweet pulled pork, Coddington and his crew are making some delicious grub. Don't skip out on the Dr. Pepper cake at dessert, it is unique and decadent. Add to that a draft beer list focusing on some of Michigan's finest brews and you have a contender to dethrone Detroit's BBQ king.
Best Restaurant With Live Music – Dylan's
Grosse Pointe is becoming quite the destination for dining and music. Dylan's offers live music almost every night of the week. By live music, we're not only referring to their weekly house acts Brian Cleary and Marty Ballog, but also special acts like Thornetta Davis and the Benjamin Lake Band. Add to that their Raw Bar with insanely fresh sushi (which is half off on Sundays, by the way) or various small plates, and you have a recipe for success.
Best First Date Restaurant – Fountain Bistro
Look guys, there's nothing wrong with dinner and dancing, but dinner and ice skating followed by hot chocolate and fire-roasted S'mores? Now THAT shows your creativity! Lucky for you, Fountain Bistro offers all of that right outside their door. Located directly in Campus Martius Park, with its summertime dancing water fountain and wintertime ice rink, Fountain Bistro offers endless opportunities for a romantic rendezvous in the heart of downtown. You're on your own for the second date, but this will guarantee you at least get one!
Best Spanish – Sangria
Sangria is the total package when it comes to food and entertainment. Want appetizers? Sangira'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.
Best Crêperie – Good Girls Go To Paris
Good Girls is to crêpes what Slows is to BBQ – it is so much more than simply a place to eat, but rather a bonafide DETROIT experience, known as much for its food as it is for its ambiance, its people, its story of against-the-odds success. Offering nearly 50 different kinds of savory and sweet crêpes bursting with fresh, indulgent ingredients (all named after the "good girls" in Torya's life), this place has charm, character and our favorite crêpes in the Paris of the Midwest.
Best Restaurant For Romance – Luciano's
Nestled in the corner of a strip mall in Clinton Township, Luciano's is the place to wine and dine your significant other. Nothing says romance like a plate of spaghetti and meatballs à la Lady and the Tramp. Of course, there are a number of other dishes available, too, including their house specialty, shrimp Casalinga. Breaded shrimp blanketed by a lemon garlic cream sauce that would bowl over any tough guy and turn him into a cuddly teddy bear.
Best Restaurant For Appetizers – Centaur
Yes, they have martinis. But did you know that they also have the most impressive appetizer spread in town? From lamb lollipops to cheesecake lollipops, the all-small-plates selection is extensive and every item is outstanding. The price is equally attractive: all plates are $10 or less with towers (orders of 3) half off Sunday through Thursday 4 to 7 p.m. And – AND – food is served until 2 a.m. seven days a week.
Best Diner – Fly Trap
Ferndale's premiere "blunch" spot almost always has a wait. Even before Guy Fieri and his Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives crew visited, all of Ferndale and most of metro Detroit knew about the special food stylings of the Fly Trap crew. Like any diner, omelettes, pancakes and burgers are on the menu, but don't skip over more ambitious dishes like lemongrass pho or green eggs and ham. Two more words: Swat Sauce. You're welcome.
Best Food To Soak Up The Booze – Plaka in Greektown
Rough night? Yeah, we understand. So do the fine folks at Plaka Café, which is open 24 hours for your post-drinking-binge eating binge. They have a wide variety of food ... and it has grease in it ... and carbs ... and it is often the difference between spending the whole next day in the fetal position or popping a couple of aspirin and going to brunch. Plus it gives you some time to shake off the vodka before stumbling home. It's all about your safety.
Best Coney Island – National
With a number of locations throughout metro Detroit, that signature National Coney Island chili is never far away. With some locations open 24 hours, it's hard to deny the sobering power of large Hani and a plate of chili cheese fries. That's not all, though. The National burrito is a huge plate of chili covered, beefy goodness and their breakfast isn't bad either. Most locations are large enough to handle big groups, so your whole crew can grab a Hani at the end of the night.
Best 24-Hour Restaurant – Leo's
Where else can you get pancakes, gyros and a Coney dog at 4 a.m.? Not Denny's, that's for damn sure. Shoot. Leo's Coney Islands are open 24-7 like 7-Eleven, and they're just about as easy to find. Whether you're a high school student sitting with your 12 besties drinking coffee and discussing the merits of the band of the moment (ah, the good old days) or you've got the late-night drunchies (or maybe mid-day; we don't judge here), Leo's has you covered.
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 both to the in store experience and their delivery. 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 Bang For Your Buck – Big Boy
Don't act like you don't know. Roast may have burgers on lock, but sometimes we like to sink our teeth into the "Original Double Decker" – two all-beef patties with American cheese, lettuce and Big Boy's signature "special sauce" on a sesame seed bun (the template for all fast-food copycats). And for a mere $6.99 you can also get their "endless" soup, salad and fruit bar, and here's an insider's tip: they can ASK you to leave, but they can't FORCE you. Just sayin'.
Best Coffee House – Epiro's (Greektown)
Epiro's is a relatively unknown, exclusive coffee shop. Strong coffee and fresh pastries make the following for this coffee shop loyal. Being in the heart of Greektown doesn't hurt either. People walk by everyday, sometimes more than once a day. Inevitably, something will catch a person's eye and another customer is hooked.
Best Sunday Brunch – Beverly Hills Grill
We take our brunch very seriously here in metro Detroit. Unlike a surprising number of other big cities (we're looking at YOU, Chicago), locals know that brunch is not just a meal – it is an ART. So it is not uncommon to find lines out the door and waits of up to two hours at some of our favorite brunchtime destinations, the most infamous of which is the Beverly Hills Grill. Though a little more down to earth than 90210-ish name might imply, their brunch menu epitomizes epicurean sensibilities. Bananas Foster French Toast with candied pecans and cinnamon is a decadent ooey-gooey delight. The Potato Latke "Sandwich" with Canadian bacon, brie, sweet onion and an over-easy egg sure doesn't sound kosher but we're cool with it. A Sunday at Beverly Hills Grill is sure to be a splurge – and you should be prepared to wait – but it's well worth it.
Best Coffee – Biggby
It's not hard to find a Biggby now. In the past couple of years, we have seen the emergence of Biggby as the largest coffeehouse chain second only to Starbucks in the metro Detroit area. This is not by mistake, they make great coffee. Much of their coffee is fair trade and/or organic and they are a locally owned and operated. If you're lucky enough to run into Biggby Bob at one of his many locations, he'll buy you a coffee.
Best Bagel – Detroit Bagel
Oh bagels, cleverly-disguised doughnuts that you are, why must you tempt us with your tantalizing array of flavors all wrapped up in your soft round body with just the right amount of crunch in your glossy golden crust and all tender and chewy on the inside! For 40 years now Detroit Bagel Factory has been baking up these carbolicious delights fresh daily and we love them like we love a bad habit. Try the Parmesan; it will change your life.
Best Breakfast – Toast
The veracity of claiming "best breakfast" has a foundation in two components: biscuits and coffee. Toast serves copious amounts of strong coffee and they keep the cup full. Aunt's Leola's biscuits and gravy are absolutely heavenly. Flaky buttery biscuits are topped with cheese, eggs and pleasantly peppery gravy. It is actually difficult to stray from this dish once you have tried it. There are other items on the menu including a sweet Nutella laced breakfast panini, but why deny the biscuits?
Best Vegetarian – Golden Gate Café
Located just south of 8 Mile on Woodward, Golden Gate is decorated more like your grandma's kitchen than a restaurant. Of course, your grandma probably doesn't serve shots of wheatgrass juice, tempeh burgers, or kale and sprouted lentil salad. This homey little place has a small menu focused on fresh ingredients. It's a refreshing change from your typical culinary landscape and could possibly revise your opinion on vegetarian cuisine. Golden Gate's preparation and attention to flavor could have you coming back repeatedly.
Best Soul Food Restaurant – Beans and Cornbread
Soul food isn't necessarily good for your health, but it is good for your soul. Fried chicken, macaroni and cheese and braised greens are the holy trinity of soul food. There's no easy way to master fried chicken, but Beans and Cornbread has done it. Crispy well-seasoned skin and juicy interior makes each piece of chicken a joy to bite into. Don't forget about peach cobbler, either. Your soul needs some sweetness to be fully satisfied.
Best Food Truck – Jacques' Taco
As the newest "it" cuisine, taco trucks have experienced a major overhaul in our collective conscious. Now the adventurous "foodie" seeks them out as wild prey in unexplored terrain. The truly tenacious (these things can be hard to track) are rewarded with the unique culinary experience of cheap street food that's better than what you get at most restaurants, and OH! the bragging rights! Jacques' Taco is a ramped-up version of the traditional taco truck: Chef Wes is a Michelin-starred chef preparing gourmand versions of tacos, and is often in suburban areas like Royal Oak and Novi. Taco trucks are not indigenous to these parts but as their populations have spread, some have become domesticated (a phenomenon known as taco truck diaspora). Jacques' makes your undertaking a bit easier by announcing where they'll be on what days, so even if you're not a culinary thrill-seeker you can still enjoy the spoils.
Best Seafood Restaurant – Ocean Prime
Ocean Prime gives us the best of both land and sea (which we'd certainly expect from a marriage between Cameron's Steakhouse and Mitchell's Fish Market). But in addition to stellar seafood the space itself is STUNNING. Soaring ceilings, soft curves, tactile textures and artistic lighting make this a feast for the eyes as much as the stomach; but don't be jealous, stomach – crab-crusted blue tilapia and Chilean sea bass in a champagne truffle sauce are just a taste of what's in store for you.
Best Restaurant For Pasta – Angelina Italian Bistro
Pasta recommendations cannot be taken lightly. There is something particularly special about perfectly cooked pasta. The housemade pasta at Angelina, particularly in their braised pork ravioli, is pillowy with just the right amount of give. What's not to love about pouches of pasta filled with portions of spiced pork that melts in your mouth? The only thing keeping us from visiting Angelia every day is that they are closed on Mondays.
Best Fondue – Melting Pot
At the Melting Pot your prix fixe four-course meal offers a variety of options. Choose your own luscious cheese blend served with crusty hunks of bread for dipping; enjoy a hearty salad with their signature dressings; pick from an assortment of meats and seafood served with vegetables to cook in a rich broth or oil; and finally decide on your decadent chocolate dessert served with strawberries, fudgey brownies and creamy cheesecake for dipping. Playing with your food has never been so sexy.
Best Local Menu – Woodbridge
With every chef under the sun claiming to be focused on locally sourced this and sustainable that, it is refreshing to find a place that lives the mantra. A good portion of the fruits and vegetables used here are not only sourced in Michigan, but right around the corner. Michigan cheeses and beers are also featured. If it can be sourced in Michigan, Woodbridge tries to figure out a way to use that product.
Best Tex-Mex – Penny Black
Tex-Mex/BBQ/Cajun/Southwest ... Rochester's spankin' new homage to spicy Southern cooking presents a scattershot variety of fusion items, from handmade guacamole to hot wings, brisket sliders to Baja fish tacos, Cajun beef tips to shrimp po' boys, St. Louis ribs to jambalaya, quesadillas to fajitas. Really, the array of options is staggering, like touring the American South from one coast to the other. Tex-Mex is just one of many styles on the menu here, and all are equally worth exploring.
Best Dessert – Pronto!
Pronto's dessert selection is huge. Their red velvet cake has won awards. And why not? Their take on the Southern classic has a mild cocoa flavor and a lovely whipped cream cheese frosting. Is that too subdued for you? How about a slice of peanut butter chocolate bumpy cake? Don't like cake? Don't worry, there are plenty of cookies and other treats to keep you happy. Swing by the corner store for enough candy to make you feel like a kid again.
Best Food Challenge – Pancho Villas
About a thousand people have tried, but only 13 have succeeded in conquering the Super Burrito, an eight-pound behemoth that includes ground beef, lettuce, tomato, rice, beans, onions and cheese. If that wasn't enough, the whole thing is smothered in cheese and chili. While RDW cannot condone the eating of this burrito, keep in mind that it is only $16.95, so if you only eat a pound, you take home seven pounds of tasty leftover Super Burrito goodness.
Best Raw Food – Tom's Oyster
It doesn't get much more raw than oysters. And for raw oysters, it doesn't get much better than Tom's Oyster Bar. They serve six different types of cold-water raw oysters daily from some of the best oyster waters in the world. But that's not all that's raw about Tom's: they also have a full sushi menu featuring all of the classics as well as some signature creations, and the cold smoked salmon is a house specialty.
Best Fried Chicken – Chicken Shack
Rather than simply frying their chicken, Chicken Shack broasts it. Broasting is a combination of pressure cooking and deep frying. This cooking method is faster than traditional deep frying, which makes for a crispy exterior and a juicy interior. Biting in to a piping hot Chicken Shack chicken leg is a flavor explosion. And don't sleep on the broasted potatoes, either. Chunks of crunchy and creamy potatoes are cooked then immediately slathered with butter. These little nuggets of joy are a perfect chicken companion.
Best Ribs – Oxford Inn
Ribs are becoming a bit of a heated topic in these parts thanks to a surge of upscale BBQ joints along with old-school rib shacks all promising to be the best. But when it comes to ribs, to each ribeater his own. If you prefer award-winning baby back pork ribs caramelized with BBQ sauce that are so tender, so juicy the meat just falls right off the bone and into your mouth, Oxford Inn has the best in town.
Best Steakhouse – Gaucho's
Four words: 15 kinds of meat. Gaucho's Brazilian Steakhouse is the only authentic "churrascaria" in the area. The way it works is simple: all meals are fixed price and you have unlimited servings of fire-roasted, skewered meats. (And when you need a little rest between meats, your meal also includes their gourmet salad bar which features Italian salami, smoked salmon and prosciutto – and no that does not count as more meat ... it's more like transition meat ... a meat intermezzo?) You use green and red tokens to signify to the gaucho – the meat-carver – when you want more meat or when you need a time-out to digest (which color is used for which is fairly intuitive). Otherwise the gauchos come around presenting 15 different meats in intervals and you just eat and eat and eat. MEAT. It's less fine dining and more FUN dining, and we love the succulent meat parade.
Best Gyro – Plaka Plymouth
Shaved meat in flatbread topped with onions, tomato, and tzatziki is simple enough, right? Every coney island serves one, as do any true Greek restaurants and nearly each and evry gyro is different. Olga's isn't even called a gyro, rather it is an Olga and is served with a sauce that is closer to yogurt than tzatziki. Plaka, on the hand, shaves their gyro meat from a spit and slathers it with real deal housemade tzatziki (cucumber sauce). The blend of spiced meat with cool sauce is street food heaven.
Best Salad – J. Alexanders
J. Alexanders offers a wide range of casual-upscale American steakhouse dishes, but we love those heaping salads for dinner. If the word "salad" makes you think "polite plate of greens," J's challenges you to take on their Boca or Cypress salads and dare to call them dainty. Generously topped with hearty ingredients and flavorful house-made dressings, these greens eat like a full meal. Plan on getting a to-go box for that "delicate" salad of yours.
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. Also good for sharing are the brick oven pizzas.
Best Fast Food – McDonald's
What? It's the world's largest fast food restaurant chain and it's even more Mc'merican than apple pie. For hundreds of millions of people all over the world, those golden arches conjure happy childhood memories by way of the appropriately named Happy Meal, and there is no better hangover cure than the sausage, egg & cheese McGriddle. And when these guys bring back an old menu item, it makes international headlines (see: the McRib). Now go get yourself a Shamrock Shake while supplies last.
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 cheese. 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, the perfect corned beef companion.
Best Sub Sandwich – Potbelly
They say they were named after an antique stove, but we know the real truth: a "potbelly" is what you'll become if you indulge in your love of their sandwiches a bit too often. Oh, sure, they have their "Skinnys" menu ... but our favorite is "The Wreck" – four different kinds of meat with mayo and Swiss cheese served on their warm buns that goes straight to our buns. Add to that an order of creamy potato salad and a hand-dipped Oreo malt ... hence, "potbelly."
Best BBQ Restaurant – Slows
As if anyone reading this hasn't been to Slow's. The national media favorite Detroit restaurant to flaunt still has the some of the best BBQ around. Sure, other places have opened, but the heavyweight champ has yet to be dethroned. Their famous mac and cheese is the stuff of lore. Let's not forget about the BBQ, their brisket is lusciously tender and smoky and the pulled pork is lip smackingly juicy. Even the dessert is impressive. Peach raspberry cobbler is a sweet and tart take on the Southern treat. Their beer list is consistently the best around town and heavily focused on Michigan beers. The food and atmosphere brings people from all over, which is why on a Tuesday night, there is consistently a wait. Don't even think about weekends. If waiting a couple hours to eat sounds outrageous, Slows To Go opened recently, so the BBQ can go home with you – no beer to go, though.
Best Bar Food – Town Tavern
If there is any doubt to as to the quality of Town Tavern's food, consider their buffalo burger. A burger that can stand bun to bun with any other in the area, it is topped aged white cheddar, arugula, caramelized onion, and Dijon mustard. The layering of flavor in this burger is second to none with the addition of peppery arugula being magical. Other dishes like short rib tacos and buffalo macaroni and cheese, spin typical bar fare into something special.
Best Bar Burger – Rosie O'Grady's
Rosie O'Grady's is a sports bar haven, but it's also a haven for hungry diners craving high quality bar food, from coal-fired artisanal pizzas to exceptional burgers. Made with U.S.D.A. Choice Angus ground fresh on-site daily and hand-pattied to order, these burgers are in a whole different league than the rock-hard, flavorless frozen patties you get at most other bars. Our choice is "Emily's Choice": a bleu cheese-stuffed burger cooked over mesquite with Jack cheese, bacon and avocado. Droolikins.
Best Burrito – Zumba
Inside the tiny building that houses Zumba Mexican Grille is a world of fresh, affordable, healthy Mexican food that will forever make you swear off the over-processed "food product" you get at certain fast food chains. The burritos are more than a handful – literally – and are stuffed with rice, beans and your choice of meat and toppings. And with the skirt steak burrito being the most expensive item on the menu (at $6.35), you can leave without feeling guilty about your waistline OR your wallet.
Best Slider – Tel Way
The slider has been commandeered by fine dining restaurants and grills everywhere. Even though a Kobe beef slider might be delicious, it owes its existence to the originators. Tel Way makes an old school slider. Sixty cents for one or $2 for four, this is the definition of cheap, good eats. Add fries for sixty-five cents and you have a combo meal for under $3. Open 24/7 except for Christmas, so satiating that slider craving can happen anytime.
Best French Fries – Mr. B's
Mr. B's has been a staple of the metro Detroit sports bar scene for many years, and what has made it consistently popular with each new wave of freshly-21 collegiate sports fans and the older tried-and-true regulars is the fact that it's a no-frills kind of place. The menu is all bar standards, but the fries are their signature: their "original recipe" crispy seasoned fries are a long-time local favorite, and a welcome change from the soggy, bland fries at other places.
Best Pizza Delivery – Jet's
No matter how "hot n' ready" a pizza might be to pick up, that's not as convenient as delivery. One phone call and 30 minutes later, a piping hot pizza pie is at your door. Sterling Heights based Jet's Pizza has quickly taken over the Midwest all the way down to Florida and Texas. A tastier alternative to other local chains, their 8 Corner pizza is a deep-dish lover's dream come true.
Best Pizza (deep dish) – Pizza Papalis
If you're looking for authentic Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, look no further than Pizza Papalis in Greektown. They've been serving their golden-crusted 3-inch-thick pies since the '80s, formulating exclusive recipes with high-protein unbleached flour for the flaky crust and imported Italian tomatoes for their secret recipe sauce. The deep dish takes longer in the oven, but you'll need that time to build your appetite: one slice is enough to stuff even the hungriest pizza connoisseur.
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. Fresh tomato sauce, lots of quality cheese and toppings, and good crust, you can't ask for much more – especially after the bar closes.
Best New Restaurant for Pizza – Pizzeria Biga
There's gourmet pizza, then there's Pizzeria Biga. They offer the true Neapolitan pizza experience using a starter (called "biga") that makes for airier dough, the same method that's been used in Italy for centuries. The toppings are pure European sensibility: house-made charcuterie, robust imported cheeses, oven-roasted vegetables. The resulting pizzas have a tender, chewy, bubbling crust and wholly unique flavor combinations ("Farm Egg," anyone?). You can also take home a bottle of wine at less than retail cost. Now THAT's amore.
Best Bakery – Avalon
Since 1997 Avalon has been serving the Cass Corridor and areas within a 50-mile radius. It is not uncommon to see Avalon bread being served at many restaurants around town, especially ones seriously about their craft. If you haven't paid a visit to the West Willis location, you must if only to try the infamously decadent chocolate brioche. Sure, it might not be the best thing for you, but this doughnut like bread is one of Detroit's best treats. And it could also double as breakfast.
Best Sushi – Crave
Crave in Dearborn set the standard for sushi restaurants-as-ultralounges in metro Detroit. This place is pure culinary couture, where high fashion meets high food art. Known particularly for its ultra-sexy summertime party series "Crave the Sunset," Crave also boasts an equally sexy sushi menu. The sushi here is contemporary fusion, drawing inspiration from various different culinary traditions with particular Mediterranean influence in their use of citrus fruits and spices. Some of their signature rolls include the "Sunset Roll," made with shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, Japanese cucumber and masago topped with seared scallops and citrus tomato mint relish. The "Temptation Roll" is baked eel, cream cheese and Japanese cucumber layered with seared mignon and topped with a sweet drizzle. These are NOT your typical sushi rolls. These are not what would even be considered "inventive" at other sushi restaurants. These are a culinary creation all their own, and you can only get them here.
Best Ice Cream Shop – Ray's
Ray's Ice Cream is the kind of old-fashioned ice cream parlor (back when they were called "parlors") that brings about a wave of nostalgia for a period of time most of us only know from the movies. This independent neighborhood ice cream shop and soda fountain has been owned by the Stevens family since 1958. They offer over 40 flavors of smooth ice cream by the head-sized scoop, as well as sundaes made with Michigan's own Sanders hot fudge.
Best Chinese – P.F. Chang's
Sure, we might get some flack from those against chain restaurants, but P.F. Chang's does make some delicious Chinese food. Tradition be damned, sometimes a bowl of Dan Dan Noodles or Honey Chicken really hits the spot. The Somerset location to this day still has long waiting times on the weekends, a testament to the quality of food and overall experience PF Chang's gives its diners.
Best Sushi Chef – Inyo, Kenny Wee
The true test of a chef is in his Omakase. "Omakase" means "to trust" in Japanese, and a chef working in this tradition is known for his inventiveness of flavor, style and presentation – it's a sushi chef's swagger. Inyo in Ferndale is already lauded for having some of the most inventive sushi in metro Detroit, but to truly see Executive Chef Kenny Wee's talent in its rawest form (so to speak), opt for the Chef's Choice menu: 7-10 courses requiring 24-hour advance notice, an Omakase experience like none other.
Best Indian – Star of India
Ferndale's only Indian restaurant is a great place for those learning about Indian food to take baby steps rather than delving in headfirst. While the flavors at Star are not as pungent as other places, the focus remains the same – bringing Indian cuisine to the American palate. A good place to start is with an order of the sweet and delicately seasoned chicken korma, basmati rice and naan. It may seem simple, but the flavors are complex and the three dishes work well in unison.
Best Caribbean – Bahama Breeze
At Bahama Breeze, they put de lime in de coconut and drink 'em both up. Jerk seasonings and mango pineapple salsas abound on their extensive menu that features the uniquely lush flavors of the tropics, from savory fire-roasted jerk shrimp in garlic thyme sauce to tender West Indies baby back ribs glazed in guava BBQ sauce. The island-themed menu, endless list of refreshing tropical drinks, and lively Caribbean spirit will make you sing, "Daylight come mon, me no want go home."
Best Polish – Polish Village Café
In the cellar of an old 1920's gentlemen's hotel, the Polish Village Cafe has been open in its current state since 1976. A simple menu of approximately 30 made-from-scratch items and a plethora of different Polish beers both on tap and in bottles make Polish Village a true dining destination. All of the classic Polish plates are here: pierogi, golabki, city chicken and Polish sausage to name a few. For a little something different, though, try the Placek Po Wegiersku (Hungarian Pancake), a well seasoned potato pancake topped with pork and vegetable goulash is the ideal winter comfort food. Filling, spicy, salty, and substantial, this is not your average meat and potatoes. Pair it with an Okocim Lager for the sake of being thorough. Don't forget the chrusciki (angel wings) for dessert. These flaky cookies melt in your mouth with the perfect amount of buttery sweetness.
Best Italian – Andiamo
After 20 years, the Andiamo Restaurant Group has become a distinctive brand in metro Detroit with 10 different locations serving up some of your favorite rustic Italian-American dishes. This locally owned chain is your favorite place for hearty pastas and old-fashioned Italian hospitality, and each location has its own unique personality and flavor. Whether for a business lunch, a romantic dinner, or a 200-person banquet, Andiamo serves you well. Buon appetito!
Best Japanese – Kyoto
Diners at Kyoto have two options: sushi or teppanyaki. Kyoto's sushi made by experienced sushi chefs is some of the freshest around. Teppanyaki is part meal, part show. Groups sit down at a grill/table and watch trained chefs cook in front of you. Whether you watch the sushi chef at work or the teppanyaki, there's no denying the precision that goes into either position. For a full Japanese dining experience, order sushi for an appetizer prior to enjoying a teppanyaki show.
Best Middle Eastern – Olives
Living in a metropolitan area with the largest Arabic population outside of the Middle East means we have easy access to REALLY EFFING GOOD Arabic food everywhere we go. (What's that, Chicago? New York? Awwww, so sorry you're missing out!) Olives Mediterranean Grill offers all of our Lebanese and Greek favorites – hommous, baba ghanouge, kibbee, stuffed grape leaves, fattoush and tabboulee salads, shish kafta and chicken tawook, gyros and shawarma, as well as raw juices. The void left by La Shish has successfully been filled.
Best Mexican – Rojo
Behind Chef Luis Garza, Rojo is not your run of the mill Mexican restaurant. The setting is more upscale than most Mexican restaurants, but the feel 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 Thai – Bangkok
Thai cuisine is so much more than Pad Thai and Drunken Noodles (not that we have anything against drunken anything). Authentic Thai incorporates the delicate flavors of kaffir lime, coconut milk and lemon grass – with a whole LOT of spice kicked in (if you so desire). Bangkok Cuisine offers diners a full Thai flavor profile friendly enough for American tastebuds, but spicy enough to be called anything but meek. Think you can handle the heat? Order the extra hot; we DARE you.
Best Cajun – Howe's Bayou
Cajun cuisine does not get a lot of representation in the area. Howe's Bayou has been around for over a decade and has become the spot for all things Bayou. From the red beans and rice to the sustainably rasied Mississippi catfish, Howe's is intent on providing diners with a near authentic dining experience. Southern cocktails are available as well. Mint Juleps and Hurricanes are made in the traditional manner. Their Mardi Gras celebrations are legendary, as well.
Best All-You-Can-Eat – Harbor House
When you think of all-you-can-eat, you probably think of tacky buffets that announce "over 100 items daily!" or places that cater to the olds. At Harbor House, the all-you-can-eat dinner is table-served with options like shrimp, pork chops, frog legs and whitefish, all served with beer-battered mushrooms, soup, salad and fresh-baked bread for only $20. You can also upgrade to crab legs for $34.99 and prime rib (Fridays and Saturdays only) for $25.99. Nothing tacky about that!
Best Irish – Gus O' Connor's
Irish food gets a bad wrap. Characterized as bland and uninventive, it's not easy to get people excited about boiled meat and sauerkraut. Gus O' Connor's, in their two locations, successfully changes 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 Cupcakes – Cupcake Station
It was the first of its kind in Michigan, and it's still our favorite. The Cupcake Station is all cupcakes all the time, baked fresh from scratch every single day. These tempting treats are sinfully delicious with rich, moist cake all wrapped up in whipped buttercream frosting and topped with candy pieces and chocolate drizzle. Specialty cupcakes are stuff-in-your-mouth-sized edible works of art. Stop in on Two-Buck Tuesdays when regular-sized cupcakes are only $2.
Best Hidden-Gem Eatery – Nick's 22nd Street Steakhouse
It's not like Nick's is in someone's basement or hidden behind a wall or to enter, you must walk through three doors and know a password. Nick's is at the corner of Van Dyke and 22 Mile in Shelby Township. The simple fact is that Nick's isn't easy to get to, so it might as well be hidden. It's a shame, too, because their chateaubriand is gorgeous and delicious. And don't miss out on their Greek specialties, either, especially the dolmas (grape leaves).
Best Sunday Mimosas – D'Amato's
D'Amato's hasn't made any kind of ground-breaking innovations to the basic mimosa – it's still just orange juice and sparkling wine – but they (a) offer them bottomless, which is the ONLY way to brunch, and (b) also offer bottomless Bellinis. Which. Is just. AWESOME. D'Amato's also has the rockinest brunch in town with live music by Gino Fanelli's Red Hot Sugar Daddies, which is like swing-jazz-whiskey-rock that goes better with bottomless booze than food does. (You should probably eat too though.)
Best Cheap Breakfast – Club Bart
Bart's Breakfast Club is legendary. No frills, just straight forward made from scratch dishes that would make any prior night's partying seem like a distant memory. For those with a sweet tooth, the house made cinnamon roll French toast could well be the most over the top breakfast item in the metro Detroit area. A large cinnamon roll is halved, placed in egg batter, and fried until golden brown and delicious. If you're willing to consume all of your calories for the day in one sitting, what better way to do it is there?
Best Pancakes – International House of Pancakes
Lots of places do pancakes. Lots of places even do specialty pancakes. But NO ONE does pancakes like IHOP. (And no other pancake has a recurring starring role in "Eat This, Not That.") The truth is, taking a stack of buttermilk pancakes, stuffing it with cinnamon roll filling, slathering on cream cheese icing and piling on the whipped cream is not, in fact, healthy. These are IHOP's new CINN-A-STACK pancakes. We can't WAIT to try them.
Best Greek – Pegasus
Even though Pegasus has been around for over 20 years, their outlook remains fresh. A new location 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. The Greektown location is open until at least 3 a.m. every night of the week, so bring those casino comps over and dine is style.
Best Specialty Maki Roll – Café Sushi
The Super Max Roll. Know it. Love it. Sushi purists will sneer; everyone else will salivate. The Super Max Roll is your standard-issue California Roll – avocado, cucumber – stuffed with tempura-fried shrimp and fried conch. Then the entire roll is dipped in tempura batter and fried. THEN it's covered in spicy mayo and more conch meat and THEN it's broiled until it's all hot and bubbly. And then you eat it. Any questions?
Best Way To Cure A Hangover – Green Apple
What better way to banish the residual effects of a long Saturday night than with a big plate of eggs, bacon, and hash browns? There's nothing fancy about Green Apple in Waterford, but that's the point. Maybe the chevre, kalamata, and roasted red pepper omelet your local boutique diner is serving doesn't sound good. Belly up to the table at Green Apple for a big plate of greasy goodness. Your body will thank you after that first bite hits your lips.
Best Restaurant You Haven't Been To – Café Muse
It is the Oprah book of Detroit restaurants, but there's a lot more on the menu than the Grilled Cheese that Launched a Thousand Yelp Reviews. The team at Café Muse has worked hard to step out of the Big O's shadow, and the restaurant's true potential shines in its ambitious dinner menu. They take pride in working directly with local farms to source fresh, in-season ingredients and boast a handsome selection of handcrafted cocktails, Michigan craft beers and a carefully curated wine list.
Best Tableside Service – Mr. Paul's Chop House
Mr. Paul's Chop House is the definition of elegance. Romantic and softly lit with a wait staff in suits and ties, this is the place to take your significant other for meat and potatoes wining and dining. Part of a true Mr. Paul's experience is the tableside Caesar salad. Specially trained servers meticulously created a Caesar unlike any other you have had, but table service doesn't stop there. Don't forget to try the Cherries Jubilee, a dessert that is flambéed and served over ice cream.
Best Old-School Dining Experience – Lelli's
Lelli's in Auburn Hills is an old-school Italian steakhouse serving up steaks, chops and seafood the same way it has since the original location in Detroit opened over 70 years ago. You got your huge plates of pasta. You got your obligatory lake perch. You got your 14 different preparations of veal (not including combination plates) and five different preparations of lobster. It's not chic. And it's not cheap. But here you can actually TASTE what Detroit's glory days of dining were all about.