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May 13, 2009 07:18 AM

Detroit & Royal Oak area, Michigan, this weekend - help with foodie finds, esp. Mexican

Hubby and I will be in the Royal Oak area, but we're also planning to visit the Detroit Institute of Arts. We are from Toronto and so used to great food, from what Toronto has to offer.

I have a few places I am considering shopping/eating at. Please let me know if you have any opinions, and especially I'd like to know recommendations for great Mexican (something we don't have in Toronto) in a comfortable atmosphere. I am not looking for any chains or mediocre places, but something special and authentic.

This is my shortlist of places so far:

Holiday Market, Royal Oak
Farmer's Market, Royal Oak

The Forest Grill, Birmingham
Assaggi Bistro, Ferndale

I also want to try a Coney Island hot dog. Is it worth it? Is there a location you recommend?

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  1. Best Mexican IMO is in the city, El Barzón at Michigan and Junction for a full meal, Taquería Lupita on Bagley for tacos. There's a new Mexican place in the burbs that just got a good review in our local alternative weekly today. I haven't tried it, but it sounds pretty good. Many also recommend La Fiesta Mexicana in Ypsilanti (quite a haul from RO).

    5 Replies
    1. re: Jim M

      Thanks, Jim M. Do you know the name of the new Mexican place in the burbs?

      1. re: Jim M

        See link--it's Rojo Mexican Bistro.

        1. re: Jim M

          Could also try barbecue as a cuisine that's harder to find in T.O.--right in Royal Oak is Memphis Smoke. Other good cuisines in central Oakland County: Middle Eastern (hit Falafel House on Orchard Lake Rd. in W. Bloomfield), delis (Steve's on Telegraph, others).

          1. re: Jim M

            Thank you!!! Hubby would love a nice bbq, though it's not so much my thing. Will have to decide how generous I feel, hahaha.

          2. re: Jim M

            Oops!!! That looks great!!! Thanks so much.

        2. Unless there is something specific you want at The Holiday Market it's just another grocery store. If you can bring a cooler and take back meat then Otto's chicken at the RO farmers market is not to be missed. The chicken breakfast sausage and the whole smoked chicken are great as are all of their other products.
          The Astoria pastry shop has a location in downtown Royal Oak. Gayles chocolates is about a block off the beaten path and pretty much across the street from Lilly's.
          The best Coney dogs (IMO) are downtown at Lafayette or American but probably not worth the effort in parking.
          National Coney Island has a RO location.
          If you intend to take Woodward South from RO to the DIA there is a Westborn market on Woodward that may interest you depending on what you want to shop for.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Fritter

            Is Westborn better than Papa Joe's, Fritter?

            1. re: Fibber McGee

              I'm not familiar with Papa Joe's, but if it's different, then I might take a look.

              1. re: Full tummy

                Pappa Joes is a better market over all due to the variety. Westborn has better produce prices on average.
                If you take Woodward North to Birmingham which is not far out of your way then Pappa Joes is worth a visit.
                Did you know that Trader Joes has a Royal Oak location as well? I haven't been to that store but IIR it's on Woodward as well. I'll also second Jim's suggestion for BBQ and I like Lilly's Seafood for lunch.

                Pappa Joes in on average more $ than Westborn. Not a suprise with the quality and the location in Birmingham.

                1. re: Fritter

                  Thanks, Fritter. I have also been to the Trader Joes, but not Pappa Joes, so will check it out.

            2. re: Fritter

              Thank you, Fritter. I believe I've been to the Westborn Market on another visit. Very nice shop, but a bit pricey. I went gaga over the butters there, as we aren't allowed any imports here in Toronto. Will check out the other recommendations!!

              1. re: Full tummy

                I'd add Los Galanes downtown to Jim M's Mexican recommendations. And if you do go to Mexicantown, stop at La Colmena/Honey Bee market. Excellent source for all things Mexican. Well worth the trip.

                As for coneys, I tend to go for National's--pretty good for a chain. If you go to the one in RO (12 Mile), I recommend against ordering beer or wine. It always seems off or old. And don't be daunted by the line--it moves fast.

                Westborn is OK, avoid their prepared foods IMO. Papa Joes is interesting but spendy as Fritter commented. Don't know if you are interested in Trader Joe's but if you're near Westborn they are right across the street and they have Kerrygold butter cheaper than westborn.

                There is a serviceable Middle Eastern market in Oak Park, on Coolidge near 9 Mile, but for ME Dearborn is better, or International Market on Dequindre and Wattles is good (world's best hummus!)

                1. re: coney with everything

                  Thanks for the tip about Kerrygold. My freezer stash is getting low!!!

            3. > I also want to try a Coney Island hot dog. Is it worth it? Is there a location you
              > recommend?

              The best hotdog in that part of the world are at Hippo's:


              > The Forest Grill, Birmingham
              > Assaggi Bistro, Ferndale

              Both good. Both pricey.

              Great seafood in Royal Oak @ Lily's

              Great sushi in Clawson @ Noble Fish

              My favorite place for breakfast; Fly Trap in Ferndale. Also featured on Diners, Drive-In's
              and dives.

              Great vegetarian: Inn Season @ Royal Oak

              6 Replies
              1. re: rainsux

                Thanks for the tips. I have looked at Lily's website. Will take a look at Hippo's and Fly Trap. Sounds fun.

                Btw, what do you recommend at Fly Trap?

                1. re: Full tummy

                  BBQ - Memphis Smoke is OK and it does have a great rooftop deck and live blues on most nights, but it doesn't compare in food quality to Slows BBQ downtown.

                  Bastone in Royal Oak is a favorite of mine - I take all of my out of town guests there because its the food is consistently good, prices are reasonable and the menu is diverse enough for picky eaters.

                  D'Amatos for italian

                  Town Tavern - consistently good

                  Fly Trap - I have never had a bad dish there - both breakfast and lunch items are awesome. I also really love Toast (Ferndale location) for breakfast.

                  1. re: Ludlows23

                    Thanks, Ludlows23. I checked out the Fly Trap menu after rainsux's recommendation, and it looks great. Will look into your other suggestions.

                    1. re: Full tummy

                      There is no particular dish to recommend at the Fly Trap because they are all equally good. Order what interests you. Do not go during peak hours on the weekend or you’ll have to wait. Arrive before 10 a.m. or after 2 p.m. and you’ll have a better chance of being seated immediately.

                      Leo’s Coney Island in downtown Royal Oak is solid. It’s an easy walk from the farmer’s market.

                      If you’re planning to drop the big coin at Assaggi, I would consider visiting the Whitney instead. It’s very close to the DIA and while the food may not be quite as amazing as Assaggi, the ambience is incredible.

                      1. re: Tabrams

                        Thanks for that. Have visited The Whitney website; does look amazing. One to consider.

                    2. re: Ludlows23

                      Checked out the Bastone menu on the Internet, and it looks yummy.

                2. I'm also from Toronto and go to Royal Oak to visit friends. If you want something different Howe's Bayou in Ferndale is close to Royal Oak and offers a cajun/creole flavour that is difficult to find in Toronto. It's a casual place with friendly staff in my opinion.

                  Howes Bayou
                  22848 Woodward Ave, Ferndale, MI 48220

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: lonestartor

                    I love Howe’s! I always get the crawfish boil -- a pound of whole crawfish in a spicy broth -- as an appetizer. There’s not much meat but there aren’t many things tastier than sucking the broth out of a crawfish head. Make sure you have a pint of Abita Turbodog within reach.

                    1. re: lonestartor

                      That sounds great. It is difficult to get something like that here in TO.

                      1. re: Full tummy

                        Thanks, everyone, for your great recommendations and for saving me the post. I, too, am from Toronto and will be in Birmingham/Royal Oak this weekend. We were looking for something different, and I think Howe's fits the bill. Fly Trap perhaps for Brunch.

                        My husband loves Rochester Chophouse so there is no avoiding going there on one night. Last year we went to the Town Tavern on the recommendation of someone on this Board and really enjoyed it.

                        Watch out for us Toronto people (and for the hundreds of Basset Hounds celebrating this weekend in the area and at the Birmingham Parade!)