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Mar 12, 2012 04:08 PM

Lunch & Late in Downtown Detroit

We are headed to Detroit this weekend and are staying along People Mover route with no car. We have been to Detroit several times over the last few years but we tend to hit the same restaurants each time (Hockeytown mostly, due to hours/hosting team events). We are looking to try new things. Because we will be at Joe Louis from 3-10pm Friday and Saturday we are stuck with their ridiculous food prices, so we can't really do dinner but are looking for places that would serve lunch or late night.

We do not drink, so we are not looking for bars. Casual places are best since we'll be in jeans. We like pizza (have tried PizzaPapalis and would go back unless there's a better idea), we like burgers, bbq, sandwiches, pasta, breakfast, chinese, indian, mexican, etc.

Thanks for your help!

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  1. Okay, I'll start. I like the Chicken Shawarma sandwich at the Bucharest Grill (phone: 313-965-3111) at 2040 Park Avenue, which is only a short walk from the Park Avenue People Mover station. While it's connected to a bar (that's the seating section), you can certainly get your sandwich(es) to go and eat 'em on the way, or back at the hotel. Sundays and Mondays they're only open until 12AM, but every other night of the week, they're open until 2AM (and yes, the *kitchen* stays open until then).

    I just double-checked with them about the hours, and I'm dead-on correct. You can walk in at 1:58AM Tuesday-Saturday and still be served.

    It's not the *very* best chicken shawarma sandwich in the area, but it's *darned* good, and very, very affordable, considering it's downtown. As it happens, it's also in one of the "good" sections (read: walkable, safely) of downtown.

    Check out the website for further help:

    That's my first suggestion for decent, late night food down there, within walking distance for you. I'll try to think of more.

    4 Replies
    1. re: boagman

      I'm also a Bucharest fan. I like the chicken and the beef shawarma, and the salads. If you're feeding a crowd, Bucharest will sell you a six-pack of shawarmas (all one kind, and no substitutions) for $25. Their wraps contain easily 50% more protein than similar sandwiches I've had elsewhere.

      Bucharest does DELIVER, and I'm quite sure they'll deliver to Joe Louis if you give them your cell number, tell them which door and agree to meet them there when they call.

      If you're going over that way, there's a new place Hot Taco around the corner from Bucharest. Hours are 11am to 2am daily. It's far from authentic or the best Mexican in Detroit, but if you want open late, reasonably near the People Mover and not total dreck, there it is. They also sell whole rotisserie chickens for some price that seemed reasonable to me when I heard it.

      Nearer to Joe Louis and right by the Financial District People Mover stop, the new Wah Hoo serves up somewhat upscale (and somewhat overpriced) Americanized Chinese standards and sushi until midnight on weekends. It's owned by the family that brought you Fishbone's and the newly-reincarnated (to rave reviews) London Chop House. Their chef has a solid reputation locally. I think they'd like the place to be a bit swanky (cocktail lounge upstairs, etc) but I'm sure they also want the casually-dressed, after the game patrons. For convenience and better-than-chains fare, you may like this place.

      I like Al's Paradise Cafe for breakfast or lunch. They use no pork products, but offer the traditional breakfast meats in turkey, lamb and beef versions. Their Syrian cheese is a bit unusual, which is part of the attraction for me. It's a carry-out primarily, and about a block from a People Mover stop.

      Hudson Cafe does a more elaborate breakfast, still casual though more so on weekends when people aren't office-bound. The red velvet pancakes are the star. The Cadillac Square People Mover station would be closest.

      The lobby of the Guardian Building is worth seeing, whether or not the Rowland Cafe (M-F 7-5, Sa 10-6) is open when you visit.

      Then of course there's also Greektown (now with a Five Guys, even) and the Saturday Swarm that is Eastern Market.

      If you've never been to the market, it might be worth the short cab ride. The crave-able pizza (Supino's) is there, as are really good sandwiches and soups at Russell St Deli. Farmer's Restaurant serves up great heaping helpings of corned beef hash and eggs. And from stall vendors you can grab such treats as respectably good almond ($2.50) or caprese croissants ($3.25 as I recall). There are a couple really good coffee outlets-- one from an old fashioned truck and the other from the new Germack Roasters storefront.

      There are lots more, but these places came to mind first. Enjoy your stay in Detroit!

      1. re: ak994

        Wow, great info posted ak994 !

        1. re: ak994

          Was about to post the same thing VTB wrote! Great information, ak994.

          1. re: ak994

            Thanks, I'll be checking out Bucharest this week. Great info, even for someone who works downtown!

        2. The People Mover "PM" runs until 2AM on weekends, so I'm told, but I can't confidently recommend it to a couple ladies from out of town (don't know your situation). Women like Latin music, much to my chagrin, so I can point you to Vicente's by the PM Cadillac Place station. Fun. Good, interesting Cuban food. Okay value, but not cheap. Dinner until eleven, dancing until two am. For a more heavily policed PM stop you could hit Greektown's Red Smoke BBQ. Not bad, though local foodies avoid Greektown just like San Francisco foodies avoid Fisherman's Wharf.

          1 Reply
          1. re: VTB

            On related note-- the People Mover stop nearest Bucharest and Hot Taco is called Grand Circus Park. Bucharest is then 2 block north (via Woodward) and a bit less than one block west on Elizabeth. Their door is on Elizabeth St. These places are a bit closer (by a couple blocks) to Joe Louis than is Hockeytown.

            Also, you are welcome to sit in Park Bar and eat your food from Bucharest. Though a bar, they do also offer soft drinks and I think coffee/tea.

          2. I like the "schwarma" from Bucharest as much as others here, but it's a little different from Middle Eastern shawarma. It is *very* garlicky. Another idea near the stadiums is Angelina, right on Grand Circus Park. Moderate-to-upscale Italian, very good pizzas, pastas. Open for lunch.

            The new Hudson Cafe on Woodward looks pretty good for breakfast, but I have not personally tried it.


            7 Replies
            1. re: Jim M

              "I like the "schwarma" from Bucharest as much as others here, but it's a little different from Middle Eastern shawarma. It is *very* garlicky."

              This is an accurate statement, and it should be pointed out that I *love* garlic. Fantastic stuff, that. Bucharest Grill's chicken shawarma is, indeed, different, but it's still very good.

              1. re: boagman

                Lest readers from out of the area wonder why there's all this hedging about shawarma, know that the type usually found in metro Detroit is the vertical spit version, most typically of Lebanese origin, which looks like this (from the wonderful Tuhama's in Dearborn)--

                Bucharest's, in the other hand, was developed by some Romanian guys totally absent the middle eastern/Lebanese influence. A recent local newspaper article summarized the difference this way:

                "Bucharest grills its marinated chicken breasts individually and cuts them into strips, rather than cooking them en masse on a vertical skewer and slicing them like gyros. The hot-off-the grill chicken is tucked into thick, soft pitas, along with lots of the bold but mellow garlic sauce, cool dill pickle spears, and freshly sliced tomato and romaine."


                I always get mine without the mayo, since I think it's just overkill and also dilutes the serious garlic spread. However the shaved dill pickle spears really complement the garlic. I learned the hard way that leaving them out is not a good idea.

                A note of caution about Bucharest-- if there's anything going on at Comerica Park (Tiger games, concerts, whatever) they get totally slammed. Since I don't like crowds or long waits, I avoid Bucharest at those times.

                1. re: ak994

                  AK, I'm a tiny bit confused: there's a separate application of mayo on there? It's not listed among the ingredients (either in the article, nor on the menu), and I don't recall tasting it before. Do they always add it? Can it be substituted with more garlic spread?

                  Just wondering.

                  1. re: ak994

                    Never mind, AK. I called them, and it turns out that you're absolutely spot-on. There be mayo on that thar sandwich, and yes: they will allow it to be subbed out for more garlic spread.

                    Nice! ;)

                    1. re: ak994

                      Okay, AK, first things first: your idea of ditching the mayo (and my idea of substituting extra garlic spread for it)? Pure stinking *genius*. I just got done eating one. Wonderful.

                      Another thing clarified: the 6 for $25 deal does, indeed, have a "No Substitutions" thing attached, but the sandwiches do *not* have to be all the same type. You can do any of them, but there's a $.50 surcharge for each Bucharest sandwich you get. But yes, you can choose any combination of chicken, beef, veggie, or Bucharest (the latter has the $.50 surcharge).

                      And lastly, regarding the Tigers game or event downtown, may I make a friendly, humble suggestion? Call ahead for carryout. Once you do, your order's in line, and if you're smart enough to call while still on the expressway, you'll have time to find a place to park, walk to the Bucharest Grill, walk in, and voila! Your order? It's-a-waitin' for ya. Grab it and go, and you're all set!

                      No mayo. Extra garlic spread. *Great* stinking idea. Really.

                      1. re: boagman

                        Some chow suggestions led me to Bucharest Grill. Wow! That's a great shawarma. I am not upset that it is not from the vertical spit. There was so much garlic but it was great. The 30 minute was worth it for the shawarma, especially at the price. Well done, Bucharest Grill!

                  2. re: Jim M

                    Hudson Cafe was solid. Fantastic service, great food, reasonable portions at reasonable prices. Our party of 6 had no complaints about what we ordered.

                  3. i would add rub bbq on the northwest corner of woodward and grand circus park (grand circus station)

                    for tex/mex downtown,loco's across from the corktown/south of the greektown station

                    next door to loco's is niki's (same owners) for greek fare and greek square pizza

                    24grille in the book cadillac hotel

                    checker burger (near the millender station) for a good burger

                    there is also a texas de brazil outpost and a hard rock cafe inthe compuware building if you want to get your chain feed on

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: xman887

                      Note that Loco and Checker would be described as bars, which they wanted to avoid. Checker is a friendly spot that has the Detroit vibe, though.

                      1. re: Jim M

                        It it okay to disagree with someone else's recommendations here? I'm going to take a chance and hope that it is.

                        I'd definitely avoid RUB Pub. I've been 3 times now-- once to try it, and twice to go along to get along. I'll not go back. The place is loud-- all ceramic tile and mirrors, with their "more than 30" TVs blasting-- and irritating. The meats are boring. At one point they claimed to be smoking them, but I never could find any evidence of that-- or of any rub on it either. The sauces are watery and an abomination. One has tiny onion and pepper nuggets in it-- and they serve it in a squeeze bottle that will explode before the sauce will come out. Which it did. All over me. They responded by dropping off a few extra napkins-- after about 10 minutes. If the food was worth tolerating the negative aspects of the place, I'd go anyway-- or just grab carry-out. But the food is just bad.

                        RUB is first and foremost a sports bar, set up to make lots of profit be selling alcohol in-house and to go in a prime location near two major stadiums. Slow's preceded them in the market, and no doubt made BBQ look like an attractive draw. That might have been true if RUB did it well, which they do not. Also, Saturday is St Patrick's Day and RUB has been promoting a special big green party bash all over town. That's another reason to avoid it unless you'd enjoy their party.

                        The waits at Slow's can be brutal, but with just 2 people you might be able to grab a seat at the bar. If 6 or more want to go, you can phone ahead for reservations. Their kitchen is open until midnight on Saturday. It's a short cab ride from Joe Louis Arena. And no, Slow's isn't perfect all the time, but still I think a far better bet than RUB. I'd even try Red Smoke in Greektown (where I have not been) before going back to RUB.

                        I don't like Niki's or Loco at all either. They're both tourist places, set up to capitalize on the popularity and convenience of the Greektown location even before the casino arrived. Niki's is great if you're taking a youth hockey team out for pizza and salad in advance of a People Mover ride over to see the Wings play, but that's the only reason I'd agree to go. Niki's has Buddy's-type pizza, but they don't do it nearly as well as Buddy's.

                        I'd say if you want that style, grab a cab and head for the original Buddy's up on Conant, just north of Hamtramck. Otherwise Supino's (think crust) in Eastern Market is great, but closed this week for some reason. As you already mentioned there's a PizzaPapalis (Chicago style) in Greektown, and another not far out Jefferson in the Rivertown area. The Rivertown location will deliver downtown.

                        24 Grille is great but pricey. From what you say about your schedule it seems like you'd be too rushed (and underdressed) to enjoy a meal there. They're open till midnight on Saturday.

                        1. re: ak994

                          Disagreements are the spice of life. It's sort of an unwritten rule that we can agree to disagree without being disagreeable. Opinions are our own, and I don't care if *everybody* in this whole freaking world tauts the wonders of Kirk's BBQ in Birmingham...I'm still going to call it a loss and spew vitriol its way, with good reason. You think RUB sucks, and you've come to that conclusion based on multiple tries? My friend, you've *earned* the right to say yes or no.

                          It's not just the wait times at Slows, though. It's the service. The 'cue may be exceptional (it often really is...rare's the day when it's "off"), but the only time I've had good service there was the first time I went. Every subsequent time, it's been (at the very best) middling. I've decided that I'm going to adjust my tip accordingly, here. No more Mr. Nice Guy when it comes to bad service. Adequate will get you 10-15%, and good service will net you the 20% every idiot who shucks plates *thinks* they "deserve". Work for it, and you'll receive it from me. Laziness, absenteeism, or bad attitude? Kiss that percentage goodbye. Slows often falls into the first two of those three.

                          One of these days, I'm going to try out 24 Grille. Thing is, I'm always taken in by Roast's Cocktail Hour when I'm down that way. Love it.

                          1. re: boagman

                            HA! From today's Detroit News:

                            "No ribs for Lovett in the D
                            If you were at Slows Bar B Q in downtown Detroit on Saturday and saw a slim, cowboy-ish looking fella sporting a towering quiff of hair, that was singer Lyle Lovett , cooling his heels in the bar during the usual hour-long wait for a table (no VIP treatment for this guy). Lovett had been walking around downtown snapping photos before his show that night with John Hiatt at the Fillmore, and he felt a little hungry. At the show, in between songs like "She's No Lady," Lovett told the audience that he gave up on Slows after a lengthy wait. "But it smelled real good in there," he said."

                            I can say with absolute resolve that I'm glad that Lovett didn't get any celebrity VIP treatment. He's gotta wait like everyone else. That being said, it's this very thing (along with middling service) that makes Slows its own worst enemy.

                            1. re: boagman

                              Bottom line for our original poster: if you want to try Slows out, try hitting it about 1:45, before your sports thing. I've had very good results at that time.

                              The fact that they didn't just have a host or hostess who could suggest their new Slows to Go place to Lyle does suggest the problem they have, though.

                              Had one lunch at 24 Grille, and it was a bit on the expensive side but worth it.

                    2. Thank you everyone for the excellent suggestions! Too bad we will only be able to try a few!

                      To clarify, I don't really mind if the places are technically bars as long as they have good food. I just meant that I don't really care whether or not the place has a good alcohol selection since we aren't interested.

                      We are also debating what to do on Sunday for lunch. We will actually have a car, but we always just leave it in the parking garage for the weekend and take the PM since that keeps parking costs to a minimum. So leaving town on Sunday is our opportunity to try something out of PM range. Last year we stopped at a cute little crepe place called Le Petit Zinc, which was excellent, although now I hear Good Girls is the place to go. I like authentic crepes since I studied abroad in Brittany (home of crepes), but good ones are hard to find in the US. What do you think of Good Girls?

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: ellen2321

                        While I haven't been to GGGTP myself yet, I've heard nothing but good things, and my girlfriend is wanting to go there. I placated her by going with her to What Crepe? in Royal Oak, which was quite good, too. I'm still wanting to try GGGTP.

                        1. re: boagman

                          I'm skeptical of the GGGTP buzz. Bless their hearts for starting a business in Detroit, and for serving something fun and a little different. I had GGGTP crepes at a street fair and didn't find them to be anything worth remarking on. (I like What Crepe in R.O. & BHam). Judging GGGTP by a street fair probably isn't proper, but I'm going to leave it to someone else, to test drive the actual restaurant. Hey, if y'all tell me it's truly good then I'll be cool and give them a shot on their home turf.

                          1. re: VTB

                            I can absolutely attest to the fact that it's wrong to judge a place by a street fair-esque appearance. If I had dismissed Iridescence based on the Tastefest experience I had with them many years ago, I wouldn't have had the gumption to give them a try for Detroit Restaurant Week a couple of years ago, and had a truly great meal and experience.

                            Street fairs *suck* for trying to get a feel for a place, or its food. Truly.

                            I'm still going to give GGGTP a try. They were the crepe place pioneers, and they're still around, so they've gotta be doing something right, especially since they have an actual establishment now.

                          2. re: boagman

                            Good Girls have some really nice crepes, but the atmosphere is only little slightly upscale of Ram's Horn. Their menu is offers a wide variety and is pretty creative.