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Dec 16, 2009 12:57 PM

Seeking suggestions for downtown Detroit options

I'm in town for just one night next month and will be staying downtown crossing an item off my bucket list by checking out the Auto Show. Looking for a meal to knock my socks off and prefer a downtown location. I tend to favor places that feature local ingredients and places that venture off the beaten trail and don't feel like the latest chain restaurants. Based on searching here and asking around, I've identified Opus One and Rattlesnake Club as likely options. I'd love feedback on other places I should consider or if you favor one of the other of these. Just based on their websites, I'm leaning Rattlesnake Club as seeming a bit more adventurous, but I've got an open mind on the subject. I'm not really concerned about the cost -- I intend to trick my friend into paying.

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  1. Oh, boy! Be prepared, SouthernGent. As first in, I'll strongly suggest you pack away a couple of Coneys each at Lafayette and its neighbor, American Coney Island. That's a mid-day meal suggestion.

    1 Reply
    1. re: RedTop

      I agree Roast would be a good spot for a nicer dinner and I'm pretty sure they try to go with almost all local or regional ingredients at least. Or check out the 24Grille which is also in the Book Cadillac. Have had a couple meals there and was very happy with the food and the service was great.

    2. Note that Opus One is walkable, but Rattlesnake Club is not. Both are reasonable choices. If, as a good southern gent, you like pork cooked right, I would highly recommend Roast in the new Book-Cadillac hotel on Michigan Ave., close to Cobo Hall. Superb, if expensive, meat-based main dishes and appetizers; roasting pig rotating peacefully on a spit right in the middle of the dining room. Also open for lunch, and then you could try one of the other places for dinner. Distinctive old-school Detroit Italian places: Roma, Mario's, Giovanni's (cab to all). BBQ to rival the South: Slows on Michigan Ave. (very crowded, take a cab from downtown, avoid peak hours).

      Cheap food with local atmosphere: the coney islands, as described above. The bars downtown (Checker Bar, Sweet Water, Foran's/Grand Trunk) are generally friendly places with decent fare.

      20 Replies
      1. re: Jim M

        Only other place I would add to Jim's list is Supino's Pizza located in Eastern Market (Detroit's Farmer Market). Some may shoot me in the knee caps for not suggesting one of the Detroit Style Pizza places (Buddies, Niki's, Sheilds, Loui's or Cloverleaf)......but Supino's has stole my heart. Best it to get some of it takeout as the dining area is a postage stamp and they sell no alcohol.

        1. re: JanPrimus

          ::cocks sniper rifle and aims for a killshot to JP's head::

          No, I kid. I jest. You know me. Actually, while I would *normally* try to inspire you to get some Detroit style 'za, it sounds as though you really want to stay in the downtown area, and that's hard to get downtown. So, JP, I forgive you, this once.

          A few other suggestions I might add to the aforementioned ideas: the Ren Cen has a couple of pretty well-regarded restaurants in Coach Insignia and Seldom Blues. Directly across from the Ren Cen is the Marriott, which has Sweet Lorraine's as its restaurant, also well-regarded. Iridescence in the Motor City Casino's hotel was absolutely fantastic when my friend Donna and I were there together.

          There are other places I could mention, too (42 Degrees North?), but I'll stop here. Don't want you suffering from overload.

          1. re: boagman

            "Ren Cen"=Renaissance Center, the big tubular skyscrapers. Coach Insignia is on the very top--gotta be an awesome view.

            And what happened to the Shield's that was planned for downtown, anyway? You'd think it'd be a natural to get visitors like SG who want to sample local cuisine. Maybe when things pick up again ...

            Angelina is a downtown Italian place you could walk or short cab ride. Newer-style cuisine, very good.

        2. re: Jim M

          I am indeed a big fan of all thing porcine, as any good southern boy should be. My standards for roast pig are very high, however. I'm much more easy going when it comes to coneys, although I wonder if you do the white spicy sort like upstate new york or the red "Nathans" style dogs. That sounds like a lunch must-do. We intend to spend as much time as possible talking cars at the show, but a mans gotta eat! Thanks for the tips thus far, one and all.

          1. re: SouthernGent

            For more info on your Coney destination...


            I am personally a Lafayette man...usually at 2:30 AM...

            1. re: JanPrimus

              Looks awesome. For some reason, I thought they were the same as Cincinnati coneys and would be smothered in cheese. I'm even more into the idea now that I know they have a twist.

              1. re: SouthernGent

                Not that I am trying to influence your destination or anything....


                1. re: JanPrimus

                  I think a taste off may be in order.

                  1. re: SouthernGent

           suggested...some of us can take up the challenge!

            2. re: SouthernGent

              SouthernGent, are you in for Press Days or for the regular show?

              1. re: coney with everything

                Sadly, I have no press connections, so I'm just having to go with the masses. I thought about trying to work a friend who runs a car website to get credentials through him, but that felt a bit sleazy.

                1. re: SouthernGent

                  Sleazy? SLEAZY?!?!?!?

                  You *do* understand that this is Detroit you're coming to, right? Things don't *get* much more sleazy than they do here. You'd fit right in! ;)

                  1. re: boagman

                    New Orleans may be the Big Easy....but Detroit is the Big Sleazy (Sorry New Jersey).

                    1. re: JanPrimus

                      Don't put down Detroit--god knows the rest of the world does an outstanding job of that already :)

                      SouthernGent--sometimes TPTB are stingy about credentialing a website, but I say go for it. Press days are hands down worth it.

                      1. re: coney with everything

                        Hell...C.W.E. Sleazy is what I like about Detroit. If it could be Sleazy with jobs....Oh the glory! I love the non-sanitized night life of Detroit. I say this though as one of those people that used to run and organize some the after hours parties that you tried to keep your kids from hearing about.

                        I think with the great despair Detroit is allows for the great music that this city produces. You may not be a fan of the some of the genres Techno, Motown or Garage Punk that the city is responsible for.....but very few cities can claim to be the home of more than one genre...all of which would not have been possible without Detroit being what it is.

                        Viva Detroit in all of its Sleazy Glory!

                        1. re: JanPrimus

                          OK, I'm cool with that :) .

                          And Motown killed itself when it went to LA, IMO. It needed Detroit.

                          Jobs would be good, though...

                          1. re: coney with everything

                            The Lions are always in need of players . . .

                  2. re: SouthernGent

                    I haven't gone on a press day, but I have gone on a supplier day before it opened to the public and can say that it rocked. You could actually SEE the cars and sometimes get in them. However, if part of your visit is to just experience the phenomenon of the show, then go public. It's a real happening. Food at Cobo is terrible; eat before you go.

                    1. re: dct

                      I'm hoping that going midweek and getting there when the doors open will make it at least bearable. Worst case, I'll just knock people down. I'm a big dude. ;)

                      My local connection seconds the Roast nomination, so I think we'll go there. Thanks to all.

            3. I figured that the least I could do as payback was to give you some feedback on my experiences. We did in fact end up hitting up Lafayette for a couple of Coneys one afternoon and the American Coney Island on the next day as a mini-taste off. Personally, I'm voting for Lafayette if I only get one choice. I thought the casing on the dog had a more pleasing snap and the chili a better flavor. I'm also a sucker for the slightly more aged lunch counter feeling there as well. My friend preferred the ambiance of American Coney Island although he admitted that the actual sausage was better at Lafayette. I'm a no onions guy, which may influence my vote. My buddy said the onions at American were sweeter and had a better flavor. Personally, I think he just didn't like the waiter yelling the order to the kitchen at Lafayette, which was part of its charm to me. My bud ate his hotdog with a knife and fork, if you know what I mean.

              Dinner was at Roast and it was spectacular. We split an order of the sea scallops, which were cooked to perfection. I had the Bacon Lardon Salad avec a crispy fried pig ear, which was brilliant and my friend had a boring green salad that he was pleased with. I was feeling like a caveman surrounded by a whole goat turning slowly on the spit and freed from my wife's gentle suggestions of low fat healthy food, so I found a steak in order. I judge my chop houses on Ribeye, which is my mental ideal of a good cut of beef. It was thick with that distinctive dry aged flavor and absolutely first rate. The Roasted Potatoes were uninspired but the Fried Brussels Sprouts were a shocker. I'm usually turned off by the bitter edge of Brussels Sprouts, but these were delightful. Fresh and tasty and hopefully the deep fry mitigated the health benefits of the dark green veg. I'd hate to think I wasted my kitchen pass on something wife-approved. The Ribeye was topped with a tasty paste that was mostly shallot cooked down to a melted sweet goo. Despite only managing half of my steak, I still had dessert but limited myself to a sorbet that was nothing special. The service was just about perfect -- always nearby but not obsequious. The only note that I thought was a bit off was the elaborate wine service with the showy decanting of my relatively modestly priced Australian Shiraz (which was delicious, I just though the elaborate ritual decanting was a bit precious). All in all, I'd say the restaurant aimed at a very high standard and generally hit the mark. I'd recommend it to my fellow travelers for sure. The open floor plan with the slowly turning roast meat creates the perfect ambiance for a good chop house. Thanks to all who offered suggestions.