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Recommendations for Detroit

I'm a DC foodie and will be in Detroit this weekend for a wedding. We will have some down time during the day on Thursday and Friday so looking for some good lunch spots in downtown Detroit. We are staying across from the Ren Center and won't have a car.

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  1. Greektown is an easy walk from the RenCen area, or take the People Mover--the running joke is that all the Greek restaurants use the same underground kitchen, as their menus are virtually identical.

    There are some excellent restaurants in the RenCen itself, as well as a food court for the GM employees.If it's nice out, the GM employees will be outside by the river behind the RenCen. I HIGHLY recommend a stroll down the Riverwalk if the weather cooperates.

    Are you interested in any particular type of cuisine? Detroit has lots of options but not having a car is a bad thing.

    1. You have to hit Lafayette or American for a coney. I am a Lafayette devotee.
      Andiamo's in the Ren Cen has beautiful outdoor seating overlooking the reiver and Windsor if you have a nice day. At least stop in for a Happy Hour drink.

      If you have a nice day and all afternoon, go to Eastern Market, pick up picnic fixin's, and head to Belle Isle to watch the freighters go by. Worth the cab fare.

      1. I'd stroll on up to the Woodward, just north of Campus Martius (1040 Woodward)--good, slightly upscale American food that also reflects the city where it's located.

        The coney places will serve two of you and give you change back from a ten, but the onion breath may knock out the bride during the wedding rehearsal. Still worth a visit.

        A cheap option with nice ambiance is the Rowland coffee counter in the Guardian Building on Griswold, just steps from your hotel. They always have a couple of unusual soups and sandwiches, and the setting is great--one of the more beautiful office buildings in the U.S. Also excellent espresso drinks.

        Could also try the new Asian Village, one building east of the Ren Cen, facing the river. I've tried the lunch area, which has pan-Asian foods including Indonesian fried rice. There's also a sushi bar and a fancy place called Fusia--not sure if it's open for lunch. It's all brand new, so no guarantees, but it's a project by one of Detroit's hipper designers if you are into checking something like that out.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Jim M

          I've heard some bad , bad things about Asian Village , hopefully they are just growing pains , but I trust my downtown sources , so I will stick to my suburban asian options . There are some good greek options on Monroe , in spite of what some people say . Golden Fleece has great greek style bar food , the braised lamb shank at Cyprus Taverna rocks , how can you not like places that have cold octopus salad on their menus ? Jacoby's is also a good choice .

        2. As Coney points out, not having a car is a great disadvantage in Detroit. Detroit's a wasteland as far as public transportation goes. All those lovely auto companies . . .

          But you're just a few blocks from Foran's Irish Pub. Get on Woodward and start walking and you can't miss it on the right. I haven't been there in ages, since i worked downtown, but they knew a thing or two about bar burgers back in the day. I'm betting they still do.

          I echo everything that's been said about Lafayette or American Coney Island. Day-twah institutions, both. A foodie coming to Detroit owes it to themselves to at least give it a try.

          1. Please, please stay away from any of the restaurants on Monroe Street (Greektown)--except Astoria Bakery for desert.

            I'd suggest Cobo Joe's, inexpensive.
            Tom's Oyster Bar, expensive.
            Jacoby's German Bier Garten, moderate.
            Vincente's Cuban, moderate

            All of these are strolling distance from where your hotel is.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Griller

              These places will all give you a decent meal (I've never been to Cobo Joe's. But if you're searching for Vicente's, note that he has only one "n" in his name.


              Vicente Cuban Cuisine
              1250 Library St, Detroit, MI 48226

            2. Isn't Sweet Lorraine's still across from Ren Cen? Always great, authentically good food. Coneys are a real Detroit benchmark. My best choice in Greektown is Laikon Cafe. I'd avoid New Hellas-"touristy" at least for Detroit.

              1. if you are staying across from the ren cen, you will be at the courtyard by marriott. in the lobby is sweet lorraine's which is great.

                in the ren cen: andiamo's for italian and seldom blues for upscale continental with a southern accent.

                up beaubien toward greektown: the detroiter for a good burger, loco for mexican, nikki's for detroit style square pizza

                in greektown: mosaic for upscale mediteranian with an artistic flair, pizzapapalis for chicago style deep dish, and any number of greek places. stay away from fishbones unless you want to treat yourself to high priced, touristy, deep fried food with a side of bad service (there is a good thread about this place)

                between your hotel and woodward ave: checker bar for a very good burger, greenwich time for basic bar food with absolutely no frills

                on woodward: eph mcnalley's for good deli sandwiches, foran's for burger & sandwich fare, the thai place next door (but they are a little weak on the heat, so go one level higher than you normally would), the woodward in the compuware building for contemporary continental, the thai place in the compuware building (they are heavy handed, so order a click down from your normal spice level).

                near by, the above referrenced vicente's for cuban

                in harmony park: lola's for casual, contemporary food, coach's corner for bar food

                and of course, just west of campus martius, our iconic coney islands - i prefer lafayette over american.

                5 Replies
                1. re: xman887

                  Thanks for all the great responses! We love all types of food so I'm glad to see lots of different recommendations. We thought about renting a car but figured it wasn't worth the expense since we will only have Thursday and Friday afternoon. Bummer that Detroit lacks metro like DC but it makes sense. Will report back on our trip!

                  1. re: nvagirl

                    You still have time to rent a car and there would be a tremendous number of better choices available if you do. The best Detroit spots are not downtown.

                    1. re: nvagirl

                      When you check into the hotel, talk to the staff about transportation. I don't know about the Marriott, but Athenium Suites sends a guy in their van to take me anyplace within 5 miles. He comes and picks me up when I call on the cell phone to go back to the hotel.

                      1. re: nvagirl

                        Thanks everyone for your recommendations. We actually didn't get out to try a lot but we did try Sweet Lorraine's in our hotel which was decent. We ate there for lunch twice and had their breakfast buffet which was free (definately would not pay for). I also ate at Bastone in Royal Oak. I thought the food was great, esp. the cheese plate and roasted garlic apps. I had the scallops for an entree and they were cooked perfectly although the sauce on the plate lacked flavor. The wedding reception we attended was at the Roostertail. While the setting was nice on the water, the food at the reception was awful. My husband and I were a little taken back by the city of Detroit. There was virtually no foot traffic during the day and it was basically dead at night. We didn't feel safe on the streets, even during the day. The Ren Center was a disappointment. I thought it was more like a mall/office building, meaing there were lots of shops and restaurants. I did like looking at the old and new cars on display. Thanks again for all the posts.

                        1. re: nvagirl

                          i have worked downtwon for 17 years. your hotel (the courtyard) is off the beaten path for foot traffic. to see people during the day during business hours, you need to be two blocks west on woodward - even then, its not like ny, chicago, boston, sf, etc. at night, you needed to be three blocks north in greektown around the casino. shows how small the pockets of vibrancy are in our city.

                          we continue to suffer from the fact that few people live downtown, save for some young people and empty nesters seeking the urban loft/condo/apartment experience. this results in chow (and other commerce) challenges - not enough people downtown to support a burgeoning restaurant scene and not enough selection downtown to attract people from the burbs for a dining trip. very chicken-egg theory. don't get me wrong, we all have a list of great and favorite places in the city, but often they are frequented when people are downtown for another reason (work, ballgame, auto show, festival, special event, etc.). there are a greater number of fine places to go to in the suburbs. personally, unless my wife and i are already downtown for something, we rarely decide to drive 25 miles downtown for dinner.

                          as for the ren-cen, it was originally designed to be an four towers of office space, a hotel, and with four floors of retail including restaurants. henry ford was the catalyst behind the development in the 70's and it cost ~$350 million. a few years ago, general motors bought the building our of foreclosure for $80 million. over the years, the retail (remember gantos, sibley's. etc.) and most of the restaurants (la fontaine, dionysus, etc.) disappeard. gm has since spent hundreds of millions of dollars on renovation to open the former bunker-like building up, but retail has been reduced to the wintergarden area. for food, you have seldon blues, andiamo's, the marroitt restaurant off the lobby, coach insignia on the top of the hotel, and a fast food court. since the office space is exclusively gm - there is very little foot traffic in and out of the building and it is a 10-15 minute walk from the central business district - tough to do if you only have an hour and/or it is raining/snowing.

                          that said, i am amazed by the number of places that gut it out and survive in the city based on a lunch-only crowd in the business district, pre and post wings/tiger games, and casino traffic. it says a lot when the mayor continually touted during his reelection campaign that 30-some restaurants and bars opened up in the city in 2004-2005. a little more than one per month - that is not much to brag about compared to other major cities around the country.

                    2. I have not tried them yet, but Michael Mina just opened two new restaurants at the MGM Grand (an easy cab ride from the RenCen), and Wolfgang Puck opened a new restaurant there as well. Write in with a review if you decide to go.