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Detroit Food Tour

I'm heading to Detroit in a few weeks to visit my sister who just moved there, and I'm in charge of the food tour.

I figure that I have seven lunches and dinners. Breakfast/brunch isn't an interest, unless there's something not to be missed.

Anyway, I'm trying to focus on food that is uniquely Detroit, and/or stuff I can't find in Baltimore.

Also, neither of us are that fond of hot dogs, so we don't plan to waste calories on a Coney Island.

Here's what I have so far. Please let me know what you think of my choices:

The Golden Chicken
Al-Ajami
numerous Middle Eastern bake shops in Dearborn--any recs for one over another?
Yemen Cafe
Aladdin Cafe-other good Bangladeshi in area?
Baker's Keyboard Lounge

I was looking for Macedonian and found something called Dragos Family. When I checked out their menu, it looked like a typical burger & fries (and hot dogs) place, with selection of bureks. Has anyone been? Any other Macedonian recs or recs for Albanian?

Pretty obviously, I'm missing Lebanese. I'd love recs for the best, or the best in the area where I'll be staying, Royal Oak.

Greek isn't included on purpose. Not because I don't like it, but because we have excellent Greek in Baltimore.

Anything else Detroit-y and quirky and good?

Thanks!

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Baker's Keyboard Lounge
20510 Livernois Ave, Detroit, MI 48221

Al-Ajami Restaurant
14633 W Warren Ave, Dearborn, MI 48126

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  1. Shatilla Bakery in Dearborn is tops for what you want. New Yasmeen Bakery has a full Middle Eastern Bakery but also a full menu of Middle Eastern food -- all excellent (East Warren.) I think you're making a mistake missing a Coney Island -- they're cheap, but iconic.. have a bite or two you can afford it, they're an essential food of Motown. Giovanni's downriver (on Oakwood in Detroit) has the best Italian in Detroit --not super red sauce but soulful, homemade, wonderful - ethereal pasta with real sauces made by, literally a grandma. Worth the trip there. Of course, Hamtramck for Polish, kielbasa homemade -- garlic, smoked-- you'll dream of it later. Al-Berdouni in Dearborn (on Chase Rd.) the best Lebanese food in the city. Period. Fattoush that will will weep over it's so good. Slows down in Corktown for bbq. Pita Cafe in Oak Park on Greenfield (very close to Royal Oak) has the best crushed lentil soup and Middle East food. You should have a great time here. If you're not, check in with the gang here, we'll make it happen fo ryou.

    3 Replies
    1. re: berkleybabe

      @Berkleybabe I am sad to report that Al-Berdouni is no longer....it went belly upover a year ago. I'd suggest Ollie's on Ford Rd. or Al-Ameer for Middle Eastern food in Dearborn. Shatila is just a place to go for desserts and coffee - they don't serve food. If you want food+desserts, New Yasmeen Bakery is the best choice.

      1. re: momskitchen

        Thanks, mom, that makes me sad. It was great.

        1. re: momskitchen

          Shatila does look amazing, if overwhelming. Besides baklava, I'm relatively clueless about Middle Eastern desserts so hope I hit it at a quiet time, if there is one, so that I can ask a zillion questions. Many thanks!

      2. Other option is Vietnamese...great restaurants along John R between 13 and 11 mile, also at 13 mile and Dequindre. A great selection of good grocery stores for Asian foods as well.

        2 Replies
        1. re: berkleybabe

          Thanks. This is great. And, I'm having a ball researching even the non-food aspects of Detroit. There's amazing Vietnamese food in the DC 'burbs since there's a huge population there. My sister, however, is moving to Detroit from Chicago and may want something to replace Argyle Ave so I may need to explore this with her. Any other SE Asian foods available? Extra points if you say yes to Lao or even Burmese!

          We actually have fairly good Polish here, but I'm always eager to explore. Which of the Hamtramck places do you like?

          Ok, I might have to rethink the Coney Island thing....

          1. re: baltoellen

            I like Polish Village in Hamtramck, now that Under the Eagle has closed.

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            Polish Village Cafe
            2990 Yemans St, Hamtramck, MI 48212

            Under the Eagle
            9000 Joseph Campau St, Hamtramck, MI 48212

        2. If you're in RO, there is a restaurant in Berkley (next burb over) that has Macedonian. I have never eaten there so can't speak to quality/authenticity. The restaurant is Elie's on Coolidge, apparently no website, but decent reviews on Urbanspoon and Yelp.

          If you go there and decide it's not for you, do NOT go to the Berkley Bistro next door.

          Also for Middle Eastern, if you just want a lunch/carryout, Mr Kabob in the gas station (seriously!) on Coolidge and 12 Mile is very good. Just make sure to check your order before you leave, as they've gotten it wrong for me more than once.

          9 Replies
          1. re: coney with everything

            Very good chicken paprikash at Elie's.

            Mr. Kabob is good, but I actually prefer J's (this one's inside a liquor store) just South of there on Coolidge.

            1. re: Fibber McGee

              Good food inside a gas station & in a liquor store? Now, you're speaking my language! (BTW, I get the best steamed crabs in Baltimore from the back of a liquor store, so I totally get it.) I've come across mentions (not here) for Cadieux Cafe. From the reviews it looks to be a quirky, only-in-Detroit kind of place, but more than likely a place to drink--and feather bowl--rather than eat?

              And, thanks for these recs. Please keep 'em coming!

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              Cadieux Cafe
              4300 Cadieux Rd, Detroit, MI 48224

              1. re: baltoellen

                Yup, it's true, great food in a gas station in my town. Cadieux Cafe is a venerable place, a mecca of Belgian food and drink - and of course, feather bowling. They're known for their mussels (moules) -- huge big bowl steamed with white wine and brunoise of vegs. It's cool spot and very old, East side Detroit (which you'll discover is different from old Northwest Detroit or Dearborn.) Well worth the trip for the color and ambiance and real-deal rest.

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                Cadieux Cafe
                4300 Cadieux Rd, Detroit, MI 48224

                1. re: baltoellen

                  Another iconic Detroit item is the Boston Cooler (nobody knows how it got its name.) It's a scoop of vanilla ice cream in Vernor's ginger ale. Vernor's is very specific to Detroit and has a strong ginger flavor and massive bubbles -- to some it's an acquired taste, to others sacred drink. If you can't find it out at a diner, you can pick up a quart of good ice cream and real Vernor's and make it yourself. At the very least, get a can and you'll be tasting historic Detroit. Also general history claims that Detroit invented the hot fudge sundae -- grab a jar of Sander's hot fudge (where it started) and warm and pour over great ice cream. This will go great with your coney island, which you WILL have when you're here. Best bet = Lafayette downtown.

                  1. re: berkleybabe

                    Well, when you it put it that way....will try a bite or two of a Coney Island! (When in Rome and all that....) Was just talking about ice cream sodas, so a Boston Cooler might be in order. (How weird that two iconic foods of the Motor City are named after places on the east coast...) And, hot fudge, too!

                    Checking out Yelp (yeah, I know, not the most trustworthy source) didn't provide glowing reviews of food at Cadieux Cafe. Perhaps I should eat somewhere more Chow worthy beforehand?

                    Thanks.

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                    Cadieux Cafe
                    4300 Cadieux Rd, Detroit, MI 48224

                    1. re: baltoellen

                      Cadieux Cafe can be hit or miss, but it's the only place for bowls of mussels. The atmosphere can be neighborhood bar/sports bar.

                      Try the Polish Yaught Club for polish food. ( I miss Under the Eagle, when it was good, for polish...)

                      There was a Bosnian restaurant at Caniff and Joseph Campau,,,I think it just changed name and owners. Good cheap chevapi.

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                      Cadieux Cafe
                      4300 Cadieux Rd, Detroit, MI 48224

                      Under the Eagle
                      9000 Joseph Campau St, Hamtramck, MI 48212

                      1. re: baltoellen

                        No, just do it... it's the real deal. Just mussels, it's not a sports bar menu. It'll be worht a try, let us know.

                        1. re: baltoellen

                          Well, have fun...and you MUST post what about your experience, please!

                          1. re: berkleybabe

                            Oh, will most definitely post a follow up. Maybe even with photos! I realized I started researching too early, and still won't be there for weeks, and am spending far, far too much time reading menus online and looking at maps. I don't know what it is about Detroit, but I don't research this thoroughly for a trip halfway around the world. In the meantime, my sister, who's currently living between Chicago & Detroit, is planning to check out a few of these recs this weekend. From what I've seen so far, Detroit seems to be a chowish wonderland! Thank you all for these recs.

                2. If the Dragos Family you mention is on 15 Mile in Sterling Heights you might want to pass. It is a little diner with IMHO pretty bland food.

                  Can't believe no one has mentioned thick Detroit style pizza, Loui's Pizza in Hazel Park or Buddys Pizza. You may also want to grab a burger in Northern Royal Oak at the Red Coat Tavern.

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                  Red Coat Tavern
                  31542 Woodward Ave, Royal Oak, MI 48073

                  Loui's Pizza
                  23141 Dequindre Rd, Hazel Park, MI 48030

                  15 Replies
                  1. re: firestalker

                    Thanks. Will avoid Dragos Family, but enchanted by idea of Macedonian. (Planning to travel there & Albania in the Spring, so good to get a sense of what culinary delights await.) Perhaps we'll fit in Ellie's. Detroit style pizza sounds like it definitely belongs on the itinerary, too.

                    1. re: baltoellen

                      Agree with firestalker. Drago's is very 'meh'. Their Macedonian dishes include only cevapi and burek. Both are quite bland and unimpressive. Ellie's in Berkeley, which others have mentioned, is a much better option for Macedonian. Granted, Ellie's also has a very small selection of Mak food, but their Mak sampler platter is very flavorful and bold.

                      The Bosnian place in Hamtramck indeed reopened, but I haven't been, so I have no idea how the food is. Used to be great.

                      Skip Yemen Cafe, and opt for Sheeba instead (http://www.yelp.com/biz/sheeba-restau...).

                      I'd also skip Golden Chicken. Try Tuhama's or Hamido instead, for Mid Eastern food in Dearborn.

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                      Tuhamas
                      10613 W Warren Ave, Dearborn, MI 48126

                      Hamido Restaurant
                      13251 W Warren Ave, Dearborn, MI 48126

                      1. re: jjspw

                        Sheeba's it is! I'm having a hard time with the other Dearborn places, since everyone seems to have a different favorite. I'm hoping to do a roving tour, just eating a little of what's best at a few places. (This is easier said that done.) I also know that I want to try raw kibbe. Thanks for your recs.

                        1. re: baltoellen

                          You're right about the Mid East food in Dearborn--everyone has their own favorite. I doubt you can go wrong with any of them. The only ones I'd say to avoid are the extremely touristy ones that have a very palatial look inside or out (e.g. Palm Palace, Ollie's).

                          And for the Mid East sweets, I'd recommend Prince's Pastry in Oak Park (very close to Royal Oak). http://www.yelp.com/biz/princes-pastr...
                          Prince's stuff is excellent--IMO, worlds better than the highly-touted Shatila or any of the spots in Dearborn. Prince's stuff isn't overwhelmingly sweet, which is always my problem with the Shatila stuff (disgustingly sweet such that I can't eat more than two bites of anything).

                      2. re: baltoellen

                        Please don't come to Detroit and not have pizza. Loui's is def the best. Splurge and get an antipasto salad too. If you like farmers markets, hit up the one in Royal Oak, or go on Saturday to the one in Detroit before or after your coney dog :)

                        Zingerman's deli in Ann Arbor is always fun...huge portions, kind of pricey...fun college town atmosphere. Also in Ann Arbor is Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger - fun and quirky and pretty decent if you decide before you go that your meal will have no nutritional value whatsoever. They deep fry the vegetables.

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                        Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger
                        551 S Division St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

                        1. re: tdmort

                          I do think we'll fit in a visit to Loui's. I adore farmers' markets, but I'll only be there a Tuesday afternoon to a Friday afternoon, so will miss Eastern Market on Saturday. What day is the Royal Oak market? (I need to time that Coney Island! ;-)) Thanks.

                          1. re: baltoellen

                            Bummer. I too adore Farmer's Markets. Royal Oak's is Saturday as well. I almost forgot - Ann Arbor also has a food cart courtyard - would be a great spot for lunch one weekday. Lots of ethnic food. I don't know what the food truck scene in Baltimore is like, it's fairly new around here.

                            http://markscartsannarbor.com/

                            1. re: baltoellen

                              Royal Oak Farmers Market is Friday and Saturday. Fridays are only from 7AM-1PM, and there are only a half-dozen vendors. If you really like farmers markets, I wouldn't discourage *against* going, but it's just not very impressive at all on a Friday, unfortunately.

                              1. re: baltoellen

                                Actually Eastern Market is now open on tuesdays. Try the Russell Street Deli for breakfast, Supinos Pizza for lunch, and/or Roma Cafe for dinner. The market alone makes it worth the trip IMHO.

                                -----
                                Supino
                                2457 Russell St, Detroit, MI 48207

                                Russell Street Deli
                                2465 Russell St, Detroit, MI 48207

                                1. re: Quit2Chef

                                  Yeah, Supino has really good NY-style pizza. You may or may not find that in Baltimore. Loui's is the native Detroit style.

                                  The Ann Arbor area has unusually good Korean food. Closer to Royal Oak you could try New Seoul Garden in Southfield. Use Google Maps to find it—sort of tricky to find.

                                  With Middle Eastern around here it's very hard to go wrong. For something unusual you might try the Chaldean places in Oak Park. There's one called Sahara on Coolidge near 696 and several on 9 Mile around Coolidge. Slightly different flavors and style from the usual Middle Eastern joints, most of which are Lebanese-owned.

                                  Someone recommended the Polish Yacht Club—an interesting slice of the past, but be aware that it's in a devastated area. Would I drive there during the day? Yes, but be alert.

                                  Never had much luck with Macedonian (or Albanian) around here. This said, I have never been to Ellie's.

                                  If you want to go somewhere that you won't find in Baltimore, or probably anywhere else, try this:

                                  http://news.yahoo.com/city-harper-woo...

                                  Enjoy!

                                  -----
                                  New Seoul Garden Restaurant
                                  27566 Northwestern Hwy, Southfield, MI 48034

                                  Supino
                                  2457 Russell St, Detroit, MI 48207

                                  1. re: Jim M

                                    The link is fantastic! Thanks! I'm a bit more interested in Detroit style pizza, so Loui's is definitely on the itinerary. I've had to google "Chaledean" since it's totally unfamiliar to me, so incredibly excited about learning about it through its food.

                                    We've loads of good Korean places in the 'burbs here, so we'll probably skip it for this trip, but will definitely pass info along to sister.

                                    Thanks for head's up about area around Polish Yacht Club.

                                    -----
                                    Polish Yacht Club
                                    5249 Joseph Campau St, Detroit, MI 48211

                                    1. re: Jim M

                                      Hey, I live eight blocks from the Polish yacht club! (I guess that makes me a tough foodie.) And, three blocks from that restaurant, is as nice as any block anywhere-I call it the Yes Farm collective-where there is urban farming going on. Rising Pheasant Farms-they sell sunflower sprouts, among other vegetables, at Eastern Market-is four blocks from Polish Yacht Club.

                                      -----
                                      Polish Yacht Club
                                      5249 Joseph Campau St, Detroit, MI 48211

                                      1. re: malmarson

                                        Honestly, this entire rough 'hood/not rough 'hood discussion is reminiscent of ones we sometimes have over the Baltimore/DC board. (Mostly the Baltimore side.) I'm enchanted by this Polish Yacht Club area with the urban farming and trying hard to avoid doing the oh so tired Detroit Ruin Porn Tour, so this area will fit right in.

                                        -----
                                        Polish Yacht Club
                                        5249 Joseph Campau St, Detroit, MI 48211

                                    2. re: Quit2Chef

                                      Thanks. The Eastern Mkt website says the Tuesday market closed for the season on 9/27. I'd be delighted, though, if the website was in error! :-)

                                      1. re: baltoellen

                                        The 'night market"- the wholesale part of Eastern Market-is open weekdays from about 1 am to 6:30 am-if you are adventurous.

                                        The website isn't in error-Tuesdays are gone until next year.

                            2. Thanks to everyone for their spot on suggestions! I wrote up my food report while waiting for my flight to board, and you can find it here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/815893