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Dec 23, 2010 07:47 AM

top picks in metro detroit

nathan skid is a food/restaurant reporter/blogger for crain's detroit business. i read him pretty regularly because he is a decent source for news about our food scene.

it's the end of the year, the season for "best of" lists. here is his list of five favorite places in metro detroit plus favorite picks of other crain's staffers. there are a lot of chow favorites here. thought it would be good for some chow-fodder.

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  1. Interesting read. Mr. Skid seems to be a big ethnic food fan.
    Staff picks are entertaining. The Tom's Oyster Bar pick makes me scratch my head a bit, and the Oxford Inn pick makes me wonder whether that place has improved since I ate there thirteen years ago, or so.
    Worthwhile article, in any event.
    Thanks xman887.

    14 Replies
    1. re: vtombrown

      > Tom's ...

      I really liked the outdoor deck at Tom's location in Farmington Hills ... a nice place to enjoy
      their seafood sampler appetizer on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I disliked the nearly pitch black

      > Oxford Inn ... thirteen years ago

      So you're one of the regulars eh? <g>

      In my perpetual search for the perfect crock of French Onion soup, I will checkout this
      recommendation for today's lunch. (Note to self: Set expectations to "Low")

      1. re: rainsux

        Nate -- or The Unstoppable Nate Dogg as he is sometimes known -- is a colleague of mine. (I am a part-time copy editor at CDB. That used to be a full-time job, but the newspaper business is not an especially happy or lucrative place to be these days.)
        Nate's dad has owned or run a series of restaurants; Nate grew up in restaurant kitchens and knows more about the business than many people who write about it.
        I wasn't around when he called out for staff suggestions, so mine aren't on the list.

        1. re: vdoucette

          > I wasn't around when he called out for staff suggestions, so mine aren't on the list.

          Now's your chance!

          1. re: rainsux

            Here is my non-inclusive, in-no-particular-order list, subject to change at any time due to my capricious nature:

            Traffic Jam in Detroit, for nachos, cream of mushroom soup, mac-and-cheese and darned near anything I've ever tried. Fine beers from what I remember, but diabetes stopped my drinking in 1999.

            Sweet Lorraine's in Berkley. Always good, often with a surprise on the menu. (Let the record show that I will always miss the Raven Gallery, a folk club that occupied this space for many years previously. No liquor license, so a high school kid like me could get in and hear national-level musicians without a hassle. Close enough to the house to ride my bike.)

            Los Altos in Detroit. My favorite Mexican food. A former co-worker at Metro Times clued me in.

            Side Street Diner in Grosse Pointe. Co-owner Meghan Spicer is my favorite restaurateur on the planet. She and her cousin Sheila Taylor do basic diner fare, elevated and very, very good. (And unless she's swamped with the lunch rush, I can count on a Meghan hug with every meal!)

            Russell Street Deli in Detroit's Eastern Market. Great atmosphere, great sandwiches, and great that the new owners didn't screw it up. Close to the office -- who could ask for more?

            Supino's Pizza, also in Eastern Market. It takes guts to open a restaurant in Detroit, especially in a place that had previously held a pretty mediocre pizza place. This one is worth a trip for the fine thin-crust pizza and its inventive toppings. (If you only like Buddy's-style deep dish, this isn't the place for you.)

            Tomatoes Apizza. I've only been to the Farmington Hills location. My wife and I really like it, and any kids we've ever taken there have loved it.

            Priya in Troy. My go-to spot for Indian food, especially since Ruchi in Southfield closed. Priya is much better than Ruchi was, but Ruchi was only about five minutes from my house.

            Lockhart's in Royal Oak. Barbecue heaven, and close by. The staff has been accommodating when my party of four turned into a party of six (with one in a wheelchair) on a busy, busy night. The smoke ham we bought for holiday noshing has been wonderful -- and popular. I await the coming bowl of pea soup.

            May's Bangkok Express in Ferndale. Yes, it's a greasy chopstick. But it was my introduction to Thai food (under a previous owner), it's fast, and it's cheap. It's also where I met my wife.

            There are others I could add, if I were more awake and alert.

            Tomatoes Apizza
            29275 14 Mile Road, Farmington Hills, MI

            Los Altos Restaurant
            7056 W Vernor Hwy, Detroit, MI 48209

            May's Bangkok Express
            254 W 9 Mile Rd, Ferndale, MI 48220

            Priya Restaurant
            72 W Maple Rd, Troy, MI 48084

            2457 Russell St, Detroit, MI 48207

            Russell Street Deli
            2465 Russell St, Detroit, MI 48207

            1. re: vdoucette

              Bangkok Express was my first Thai food too, back when MomsKitchen lived in Fashionable Ferndale and was being courted by Mr MomsKitchen. We often picked up carryout there. I was wondering if it was still open.

        2. re: rainsux

          The Oxford Inn was closed today.

          I ended up at Monty's. Seems that Esther and <WhatsHisName?> have retired. I really like
          the new chili recipe.

          1. re: rainsux

            I'm kind of glad Oxford Inn was closed today, since you weren't having the ribs, and from what I and others have experienced, the ribs are basically the sole reason to go there. I like those ribs a lot, but they're not smoked or anything like that...just tender, fall-off-the-bone, tasty-sauced ribs, with decent sides.

            It really is one of those places where you wonder why they offer anything else. Do one thing, and do it well, and all that. The rest of the menu? Not so much.

            1. re: rainsux

              Whoa......lets talk about this Chili. Michigan to me has been devoid of even a half decent bowl most of my life.

     beans? Beef? Ground meat or a cut? Big Cuts or little cuts? Spice level? Thick or soupy?

              BTW more than willing to whip up a portion for any of you if you want!

              At least of what I like. No beans, decent spice, good amounts of non-ground meat, three kinds of Chili's, toasted cumin, oregano and minimal tomatoes.

              1. re: JanPrimus

                > Whoa......lets talk about this Chili. Michigan to me has been devoid of even
                > a half decent bowl most of my life.

                Monty's chili includes <gasp> beans. The thicknesss is a nice mid-range between
                soupy (Achatz) and thick (Onion Roll). They use ground beef and include chopped
                onion, green pepper and tomatos - no chopped chili peppers. The spice level was
                a nice "medium" for me; it would leave you, um, disappointed.

                > BTW more than willing to whip up a portion for any of you if you want!

                I accept your generous offer.

                1. re: rainsux

                  I'm in, too, if the offer's still open...I'll even bring some Blenheim Extra Hot Ginger Ale if you want some. Beanless chili sounds *great* to me.

                  1. re: boagman

                    We can do this after the new year....Vince you in?

                    1. re: JanPrimus

                      If by "Vince" you mean vtombrown, then I have no business at all replying to this thread.

                      I'm not even a Vince myself ....

                      1. re: vdoucette

                        :-) I've never been to a party where I was anything more than an appendix to the invitation list; so, don't bet the house on your supposition vdoucette.

                        In any event, JanPrimus, your chili sounds almost exactly like the recipe featured in this month's Cooks Illustrated, except that their version had a nominal (seemingly optional) addition of pinto beans. I made it tonight and it was quite delicious. Next time, I'll use more fresh "hot" peppers (fresno, poblano, serrano), rather than so many dried peppers, because the wife said it tasted more like beef mole than chili.

                        And, hey, based on the famous Bizarrebecue, I would NEVER miss an event at the J.P. estate (though, this time, I'll park a bit further from the fairway).

                        PS---Boagman takes his chili with a powerful dollop of soft aged cheese upon it.
                        PPS---I transport strong pre-mixed drinks, salad sides and/or cornbread.
                        PPPS---If momskitchen comes, she will need to ration-out the pickles, while keeping the crock sequestered in a secure location.

                        1. re: vdoucette

                          Don't worry....I'm not very Vincish myself.

          2. I've only been to 5 restaurants on this whole list - it doesn't cover the west side very well, it's very east side oriented. It got me thinking I need to go to Cuisine, though. Paul Grosz and I grew up in the same neighborhood...I don't remember much about him except he was really quiet and sat next to me in 5th grade. Anyone been there?

            3 Replies
            1. re: momskitchen

              Your Westside compatriot Jim M says he's been to Cuisine several times and the fancy French-style food was wonderful. (perhaps he'd like to expand on that description?)

              1. re: vtombrown

                You know, maybe I need to give Cuisine a second chance. The singular experience did leave a pretty bad taste in my mouth, but perhaps it's time to give it another go. Or not. I'll see how things grab me in the future, but there are just so many places I want to try that I've never tried's hard to go back to a place that's been given an honest shot (and failed) when many other places haven't even been given their first grab at the brass ring, you know?

                1. re: boagman

                  Cuisine is currently up for sale. Hopefully, this doesn't have a negative effect on the food, as I've enjoyed it the few times I've been there.