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Jun 14, 2008 02:28 PM

Detroit recipes needed, please.

I need recipes for Detroit local favorites to feed my boyfriend. I'm from Alabama and we both live in San Diego now. Other than his vague descriptions and Google Images I have no idea what City Chicken, Travis burgers, or Coney dogs taste like... making them hard to recreate.

Any help is much appreciated. And don't feel limited to the three foods above. I'll take anything Detroit.

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  1. I'm from Detroit, and I've never heard of either City Chicken or Travis burgers. Your boyfriend may have grown up in a different part of Detroit than I did. There is a website called that has a forum with posts from Detroiters and Detroit ex-pats. Maybe someone there can help you.

    I did a search on detroityes, and apparently City Chicken doesn't contain chicken (it's a mixture of veal and pork). Here's a link to a recipe for City Chicken:

    3 Replies
    1. re: wanderinglady

      Thanks so much for replying. I believe he grew up in East Detroit but I'm sure that doesn't narrow things down. I went to Detroityes but they don't allow Yahoo users to register. I'll register for a gmail account the next spare moment I have.

      As for the City Chicken recipe, thank you. Unfortunately, I've found 6 different City Chicken recipes and I don't know which is a good, authentic version.

      You're from Detroit. Do you have any local recipes you can share?

      1. re: inkedgal

        The foods I associate with Detroit are coneys, fried shrimp (like Dot and Etta's), BBQ, soul food and -- believe it or not -- corned beef sandwiches. Other than soul food and BBQ (recipes that you can get anywhere), I can't think of any other "Detroit" food that I would have recipes for.

        However, if your boyfriend is a Detroit-style fried shrimp fan, this is an easy approximation: Get tempura mix, add salt and pepper to taste, use twice as much water as directed on the box, dip deveined shrimp in the batter, and deep-fry. I don't like my fried shrimp stuck together, so I use a frying pan, but I think a deep fryer would work too.

        And I found this on the DetroitYes! board: "I make a pretty good copy of coney island chili to get my fix in San Diego. I use a chili block made by XLNT from Los Angeles. I add more ground beef and chili beans. If I use it on loose hamburgers or hot dogs, I leave out the beans." Here's the link:

        Sorry I'm not more helpful, but if I run across anything new anytime soon, I'll post it here.

        1. re: wanderinglady

          Wow, thank you so much.

          That's wonderful news about the XLNT. I've seen that in the stores and I'll give the shrimp recipe a try.

    2. My husband grew up in Detroit, so I'm not the expert in the family, but there are some things that we always have to hit when we get back to the area.

      We go to a classic coney island style diner. You'll find standard diner fare there, and coney dogs, of course, but also Greek classics. Spanikopita, gyros, lemon rice soup. That kind of stuff.

      We go to Pizza Papalis (greektown location) for the best darn pizza ever. Ever. EVER. And I live in Phoenix, with Pizzeria Bianco. I just looked up their website, and discovered that they ship! I haven't tried it, and I don't know if it'll be as spectacular, but I'm definitely going to give it a try. There is something magical about their crust, their ingredients. No Chicago-style place I've tried (including in Chicago) is half as good.

      Schwarma! The Detroit area has one of the most dense populations of middle-eastern immigrants. I eat chicken schwarma at least once a day when I'm there. It's just about my favorite food on earth, and no places around here, good as they are, come close to what I get at the freakin gas stations in Detroit.

      We also always have to make a trip over to Ann Arbor for a Zingerman's sandwich. I don't know if that's one of his obsessions, but it's officially one of mine, and I didn't even grow up there. They also ship. Pricey, yes. Worth it, yes.

      1 Reply
      1. re: modthyrth

        Too funny ModThyth! The pizza sounds amazing and I live in Phx too. And no, we don't have any shwarmas here that I'm awre of. Gotta get to Detroit soon . . Tee Hee. Neva Eva thot I'd say that!

      2. city chicken is my all-time favorite picnic food; i recall many a summer day spent on belle isle while scarfing it down. i'll ask my mom if she still has her recipe; it's been years since i've had it.

        the other foods i remember from growing up in detroit (east detroit, now east pointe, off nine mile between gratiot & kelly) are italian (because of my family, not the restaurant scene), coneys & greek food (many of the coney islands are/were greek-owned), polish food (a treat since we didn't venture into hamtramik often), donuts, donuts, donuts, pizza (loui's @ 9 & dequindre being my fave), lots of fresh lake fish, and middle-eastern (mainly from the la shish chain).

        detroit is/was a pretty blue-collar town, so most of the memorable food came from diners, soul food restos, bars, etc. lots of really good, stick-to-your-ribs, hearty stuff. washed down with plenty of stroh's (sadly, now defunct, although pabst owns the labels). like another poster wrote, not a lot that's really specific to the area. it's the combination that was unique; start your day with a fresh pierogi, have kebabs for lunch, fried perch for dinner, and so on.

        i'll post back if mom comes through, otherwise google around. for what it's worth, our city chicken version was veal & pork, breaded, browned, and finished in the oven. generally eaten cold. i know it didn't have onions atop it, wasn't doused in cream of mushroom soup, or any of the other add-ons i found while searching. i recall it being pretty straight-forward finger-food.

        oh, and no joke, depending on your boyfriend's age, you might ask if he likes muskrat (the older he is & depending upon his religion, the more likely he's had it).

        3 Replies
        1. re: mark

          Depending upon his religion?????

          1. re: praeburn

            detroit/south-east michigan catholics have/had a special dispensation that allowed them to consume muskrats during the pre-easter weeks when various food-restrictions come into play. as the muskrat lives in/near water, the catholics deemed it "fish". i believe it was much more common during the early/mid part of last century; i have only vague memories of hearing about it as a kid during the '70s.

            that's not to say that only the catholics ate muskrat, just that it's a more common experience for them.

          2. re: mark

            tell your mom thank you for me.

          3. I'm from Detroit, and I know city chicken well. I usually associate it with Polish restaurants, though don't know if it's of Polish origin. Speaking of which, however, he might be partial to other Polish treats, such as kielbasa, pierogis, and stuffed cabbage, which are eaten by many Detroiters, Polish and non-Polish alike. Never heard of Travis burgers; will check 'em out. But you gotta give him Vernor's ginger ale to drink. If you don't have it locally, you can find it online--my wife orders it for me as a treat. Saunder's chocolates and hot fudge are other local favorites you can find online.

            1. If you're looking for Vernor's ginger ale, you should be able to find it at Vons. I live just east of Los Angeles, and the local Vons has it there. Also, if there's a BevMo! near you, they have Faygo soda, also from Detroit.