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Dec 15, 2008 05:31 PM

Avenues of Food in the Midwest

Here's an approach I don't think has been tried much around here . . . sometimes, when visiting a new city, I'll seek out restaurant recommendations from here or elsewhere. But we all know the restaurant scene is dynamic, and what's good one month may be a different story the next. Sometimes it's fun to drive or walk where there are a lot of restaurants, and just pick one that looks promising.

So I wondered if people would be interested in posting some "Avenues of Food" where such hot spots are located in various cities. Not necessarily the best of anything, but just places where you would have a lot to choose from, and an above average chance at a good meal. In New York or SF people can take this for granted but elsewhere such a critical mass is rarer.

In metro Detroit I would nominate Orchard Lake Road in the northwestern suburbs. There are just a lot of good restaurants along there. You can hit Pars, a Persian place (that's a major ethnic group in our area), a bunch of Middle Eastern joints (Falafel House is my fave), several decent Indian places, one of the famed Jewish delis of the Detroit area (the Stage), a real high-end place (Tribute, just off Orchard Lake on 12 Mile), a pastry shop, a pretty good sushi bar, Thai food . . . one necessarily blue-ribbon, but all solid and representative of the area. You could drive along there and pick a place for lunch, and you'd probably do well. And you probably wouldn't find it unless you lived here.

Where would you send me in your city?

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  1. for cleveland offhand i would say three strips or drags are fruitful for 'hounding down: w25th near lorain for the wsm & varied restaurants nearby; mayfield rd for little italy; & lastly st. clair from roughly the e20's to e40's for chinatown.

    1. Oooh! Fun post. In the Twin Cities, I'd send you to three streets: "Eat Street" in Minneapolis, which is Nicollet Street roughly between downtown and Lake Street (an accumulation of many types of ethnic restaurants and markets, including some fantastic Vietnamese). Lake Street itself from about Nicollet to about the Lake Street bridge (again, lots of neat little restaurants, including East and West African and Latin American); and University Avenue in St. Paul from the Capitol to about Snelling (again, a ton of neat little spots, including many Southeast Asian joints. If you go on a Saturday (and maybe on a Friday) you can get Big Daddy's BBQ on University Avenue.


      7 Replies
      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Don't forget about Central Avenue in NE Minneapolis.

        1. re: bob s

          Oohh, yes, you're right, how could I forget! I think there's a little pocket of deliciousness in St. Paul near El Burrito Mercado, but I don't exactly know the boundaries of it. I hope someone chimes in with that one.


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            The central intersection of that area is Concord and Robert St. I believe.

        2. re: The Dairy Queen

          I would second Lake Street. You have everything from the Somali hole in the wall to the Midtown Global Market, Bryant Lake Bowl, sushi, Longfellow Grill and Craftsman. If you extend it to Lake Calhoun, you've got a number of good options in Uptown.

          I'm not as enamored by Eat Street and University has some gems, but doesn't offer much beyond Asian and Mexican. Perhaps my number one choice, even above Lake Street, I would substitute Grand Avenue in St. Paul from Whole Foods east to the hill, especially when Brasa opens. You have Vietnamese, Thai, Afghan, Nepali, Chinese, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern/Turkish, Japanese and on down the line, ranging from good to great. Even very good burgers, decent greasy spoon, a great bakery, good ice cream, coffee and the Golden Fig.

          1. re: MSPD

            MSPD, I'm trying to picture the good greasy spoon and the very good burgers on Grand Ave but am drawing a blank. Would you remind me of which ones those are? (Everything else I can totally imagine...)


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              The Uptowner is a decent greasy spoon as is Grandview Grill. Coffee News Cafe has a very good burger.

              Keep in mind that for this particular post, I used "decent", "good", "very good" and "great" in the most literal sense. Think 5-6-7-8 out of 10. For example the Uptowner and Grandview Grill are about 5 out of 10.

              1. re: MSPD

                Ah, yes, the Uptowner and the Grandview definitely count as greasy spoons!

                I've never had anything but breakfast at Coffee News, but now I know I'll have to stop by for lunch for their burger one of these days (unless they'll serve me one for breakfast...)


        3. As a recent post reminds me, the short north in Columbus, which is the area of High Street just south of The Ohio State University, and has all types of cuisine, including the famous Jennie's Ice Cream (fabulous stuff; really unique combinations like Thai chili with peanuts, chile, and coconut milk).

          Dayton doesn't tend to have much in any one concentrated area. There's the Oregon district (5th Street, just north of downtown), but the restaurants there, although independent, can be hit-or-miss. Jay's is usually good for seafood, though.

          There's also the south suburbs and State Rt 725, home to Rue Domaine and Meadowlark, among a ton of chains. Since most of the restos on SR 725 are buried in strip malls, it might be hard to find the gems, though.

          1. In St. Louis: Manchester Road, between Vandeventer and Kingshighway: tequila, Nepalese, gastropub, soul food, upscale, bar food, and don't forget the very edgy Atomic Cowboy.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Doug

              More St. Louis:

              South Grand; lots of "ethnic" restaurants as well as Jay's International grocery.

              Olive Street from 170 east; sort of St. Louis's oriental row, but other types represented as well.

              The Loop on Delmar; The American Planning Association recently named this “One of the 10 Great Streets in America.” Lots of college kids walking around, and our own "Sidewalk of Stars".

              Central West End: A smaller central area but it goes way up and around Euclid.

              Where else?

              1. re: Richard 16

                I had a wonderful time on South Grand when I was in St. Louis a couple of summers ago. First time I ever had Persian food, in fact--can't remember the name of the place, but I had beef tongue (not everybody's cup of tea, I admit) and liked it. Then I started to hear about Pars in Farmington Hills, MI.

                Thanks for all the responses to this thread! It's giving me some great vacation ideas.

                1. re: Jim M

                  Cafe Natasha? I've never been - comments Jim? Anyone?

            2. Okay, I'll chip in a non-complete list from Milwaukee. I'm sure there will be quick enough response that I'm wrong : )

              Milwaukee St. in downtown is purportedly the restaurant row, but I don't think it's very good. The exception would be Zarletti's.

              If one extends Brady st. past its natural boundaries to the west, you could include Sanford, Trocadero, then on Brady st. proper, we'll skip Zayna's Pizza, but the rest of the line up is really good. Casablanca, Bosley's on Brady, Cempazuchi, Mimma's, even the Milw. attempt of a Chicago style dog at the Dogg Haus. Glorioso's for Italian deli lunch.

              3 Replies
              1. re: mike_d

                Brady Street is a good one! I really like Cempazuchi, and dream of visiting Glorioso's on my next visit. And isn't there a breakfast/brunch place on Brady called Top Hat? (or Hi Hat? or Cowboy Hat? or something with a hat?)

                Another Milwaukee idea (from a non-native): How about National Ave.? The choices are a bit more sparse than on Brady, but there are some gems.

                Around 5th, there are a bunch of hopping Mexican places, some trendy (and not so trendy) bars, and the delightful La Merenda.

                Near 16th/Cesar Chavez, there are less-fancy Mexican taquerias (especially if you detour up and down C.Chavez) and some Asian places like Saigon and Phan's Garden (never been, so I don't know how they are).

                If you schlep all the way down National to the 30's, there are more Asian places (Noodle House, Thai BBQ, Rice Palace), along with my very favorite restaurant in MKE: Mekato's Colombian Bakery & Cafe at 35th.

                Further west, National seems to be mostly chain-fast-foody, so I'd turn back and eat at Mekato's again.


                1. re: AnneInMpls

                  Not a big town, but a great small town if you like good food. Here in Bloomington, IN, we have Restaurant Tallent on the square downtown with incredibly great food. Nearby on Kirkwood Avenue. there is world-renowned chef Daniel Orr's Farm. Closer to campus on Kirkwood is Finches, with their wood-fired oven that produces so much succulent food. One block south of Kirkwood are all of the exotic ethnic restaurants on 4th Street. It's hard to imagine a more densely packed food scene.

                  1. re: AnneInMpls

                    Hi Hat is something that knowledge folks on this board have recommended for brunch, you're right. I haven't eaten there in years, so can't say, and am willing to bow to others.

                    You're also right about National, there's good Mexican to be had there. I've yet to try Mekato's but your posts on it have me looking for the chance.