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Foodies Visiting Michigan (Grand Rapids, Central MI, Detroit)

kagi Jan 14, 2013 06:08 PM

A friend has a one-year job in Alma, MI this year, so my wife and I are visiting here there this weekend. We're flying into Grand Rapids just in time for dinner, then spending three days in the middle of the state, on one of which we'll probably go to Detroit. Any can't-misses in those three areas? We're pretty adventurous. Probably not up for super-duper fancy, but any price range is OK. Thanks!

  1. k
    kagi Jan 22, 2013 09:32 PM

    OK, thanks for all the recommendations. We started with Wei Wei Palace in Grand Rapids -- delicious duck, squid with peppercorn, snowpea shoots. My friend who's marooned out in Alma for the year was pretty happy to find the Asian supermarket in the same building, too.

    The next day, we stopped by Zingerman's on the way down to Detroit. I can see how people would get annoyed with the scene there, but the food is great. I really enjoyed the smoked whitefish salad on rye.

    For dinner that day, we went to the Polish Village in Hamtramck. Everything was good -- but people should be warned that the wait to get in on a Saturday night can be a killer. In any case, the soups were all excellent, and the mushroom cake was particularly interesting.

    On the way back to the airport in Grand Rapids, we stopped at Founder's brewpub. The beer was excellent; the food was not. Peppercorn ale, though -- yum. So, thanks everybody!

    1 Reply
    1. re: kagi
      boagman Jan 22, 2013 11:26 PM

      Were you coming from Indiana, and sat in the back of Polish Village? If so, I was the guy sitting at the table next to you, eating my dill pickle soup and pork chops! Glad you enjoyed it!

      I apologize for not informing you about the wait issue. That's on me. Weekend nights here, as you can tell, get really, really busy in a really small space. They do a very good job of moving tables, though, eh? Most folks "get it"...they don't camp out after they're done when there are 30+ people waiting to sit down.

      I will say this: the strolling musicians they had on Saturday night were something *completely* new to me. I've never seen them before, *ever*, and not to be mean-spirited, but I hope to never see them again. The place is just far too small to cram another two bodies moving around in that area, interfering with the waitstaff, blocking the aisles, annoying the bejeebers out of some of the customers, et cetera. It's not that I object to the general idea...but the timing? No way, man. *Way* off, here.

      So glad you were able to enjoy yourselves...or at least it sounded like you did!

    2. nsxtasy Jan 19, 2013 08:46 AM

      I've never been all that impressed with Zingerman's. But suburban Detroit has some of the best Jewish delis you'll find anywhere, including Star Deli (Southfield), Steve's Deli (Bloomfield Hills), and Deli Unique (Bloomfield Hills, West Bloomfield, Novi).

      www.theepicureangroup.com/restaurants... (Deli Unique)

      2 Replies
      1. re: nsxtasy
        VTB Jan 19, 2013 12:08 PM

        I can understand how people could get rubbed the wrong way by the exploitative pretentiousness of Zingerman's, and most board comments about Deli Unique are positive, but (to understate it) I personally like Zingerman's way, way more than Deli Unique. I certainly like Star Deli, in any event.

        1. re: VTB
          boagman Jan 19, 2013 01:57 PM

          Deli Unique is fine to my recollection, and they really do have a good corned beef hash. It was recommended to me by another Chow board member, and when I went to try it, it really was a comedy of errors that the place went overboard to absolutely make *right*. In the end, I had really, really good corned beef hash, a Mountain Dew, and all I had to pay for it was a nice tip to my server (whose fault pretty much *none* of the comedy was, so she made out all right!). I'd go back for it in a minute.

          Star Deli is also good, but be mindful that it's carryout only (no seating). It's quite good, and they're definitely a local institution. It's not quite as good as Stage Deli, but Stage is more expensive by a factor of about 50%, and while Stage does have seating, their service is almost universally lousy. That being said, fair is fair: the last time I was at Stage Deli, the service was more than adequate...it was actually good! This is certainly the exception, though, and not the rule, unless things have changed. Either way, no matter the service level, Stage is far more expensive than it should be.

      2. k
        kagi Jan 16, 2013 03:14 PM

        Thanks for the recs. Can anybody recommend a specific Middle Eastern place in/around Detroit?

        VTB: yeah, we have pretty good barbecue around here -- but we don't have Polish, so if you've got a good recommendation, let me know!

        6 Replies
        1. re: kagi
          boagman Jan 16, 2013 08:09 PM

          For Polish, Polish Village Cafe in Hamtramck is probably the best around. It's really good and true to its roots, and it's also quite inexpensive. Don't miss the dill pickle soup, the potato pancakes, the Hungarian pancake, and other good stuff. Your total bill will be *low*, and you'll be happy.

          1. re: boagman
            BobRe Jan 17, 2013 08:52 AM

            Polish Village Cafe website:


            And I agree, I think PVC has great food.


          2. re: kagi
            trapani Jan 17, 2013 03:25 PM

            Go to Dearborn. You can eat & shop at the amazing New Yasmeen Bakery (Warren Rd)--and its more than a bakery. Just down the street is a classic, full-service Lebanese restaurant The Cedarlands.

            1. re: trapani
              kagi Jan 17, 2013 04:19 PM

              Great! Keep 'em coming!

              1. re: trapani
                VTB Jan 18, 2013 07:37 AM

                +1 on new yasmeen for savories
                +1 for cedarlands, an old institution, though part of its reputation is built on high quantity for a low price. Consider trying raw lamb kibbee.

                Also consider the upscale Al Ameer, and the ice cream / pastry place Shatilla.

                1. re: trapani
                  berkleybabe Jan 30, 2013 05:21 PM

                  +1 on Yasmeen, you'll really get the feel of the culture there plus great chow

              2. Niki in Dayton Jan 16, 2013 08:40 AM

                Zingermann's Deli in Ann Arbor is an experience every foodie should have at least once!

                1 Reply
                1. re: Niki in Dayton
                  ebethsdad Jan 17, 2013 10:03 AM

                  Second this. Zingerman's is one of the top delis in America. Last year "Saveur" magazine awarded its rye bread "best bread in the country". I would also add the Roadhouse, but recommend reservations.

                2. nsxtasy Jan 15, 2013 12:07 PM

                  In Grand Rapids, six one six is indeed excellent, but if I had to choose only one place, it would have to be Grove, which has a chef-driven creative small plates style menu. I really loved dinner there the last time I was in town. I've also enjoyed Leo's, for creative fresh seafood. Those would be my top three choices.

                  I've posted detailed reports on dinners at all three of these in these comprehensive discussions of Grand Rapids dining:



                  1. m
                    Markcron Jan 15, 2013 06:16 AM

                    In GR:
                    San Chez Tapas Bistro is a loud, fun place. Good wine and tapas, but loud and crowded (just so you know). If you like this type of sorta hip environment, I highly recommend.

                    I also had dimsum at a Wei Wei Palace (4242 Division Ave S, Grand Rapids, MI 49548 ) - it was good. This place is nothing at all to look at, dingy in a not so great part of town, but the dimsum was good.

                    616 is supposed to have some pretty exceptional food, but I can't speak from experience. Some say the best in the city.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: Markcron
                      missmind Mar 9, 2013 08:17 PM

                      I went to San Chez this evening, and yes, very loud and packed, but wow, much better tapas than anything I've had in metro Detroit. The sangria was also excellent.

                      1. re: missmind
                        boagman Mar 9, 2013 09:24 PM

                        There's tapas in Detroit?

                        1. re: boagman
                          missmind Mar 10, 2013 03:36 PM

                          A rhetorical question? If not, there have been a few over the years. Casa de Espana, which had its moments, and some weird place in Farmington, I think, in a hotel, that was pretty good the first time and then not so much. I never went to Sangria--I seem to have an aversion to restaurants in Royal Oak.

                          1. re: missmind
                            boagman Mar 10, 2013 04:15 PM

                            I remember the place in what used to be the Farmington Hills Holiday Inn. Never went there, but I remember it. Sangria I avoid because it's in Royal Oak, and I fully admit that I'm developing (have already developed?) a bit of a prejudice with regard to any restaurant that opens in Royal Oak, especially downtown.

                            I've heard of Casa de Espana, but never been there, either.

                            1. re: missmind
                              nsxtasy Mar 10, 2013 06:12 PM

                              >> I seem to have an aversion to restaurants in Royal Oak.

                              Worried they get their food supplies from the Detroit Zoo?

                              (I kid, I kid!)

                              1. re: nsxtasy
                                boagman Mar 10, 2013 06:15 PM

                                Nice! I wasn't even being that bad, but since you've decided to, I give you your props! ;)

                                1. re: nsxtasy
                                  VTB Mar 10, 2013 06:26 PM

                                  One would have to live in metro Detroit to appreciate that joke...pretty good coming from a nonDTWer! :-)
                                  Okay, Sangria is fun and it is not an affront to and a scam against eaters. But, as a Spanish food fan I sadly say that it is not good. Just passable.

                                  1. re: nsxtasy
                                    missmind Mar 10, 2013 06:36 PM

                                    >>>Worried they get their food supplies from the Detroit Zoo?

                                    I might be up for that. :)

                                    1. re: missmind
                                      VTB Mar 10, 2013 06:39 PM

                                      Caution, the place may have closed. It recently sold for over $1.5M. What the heck? Mediocrity has its rewards.

                          2. v
                            VTB Jan 14, 2013 07:43 PM

                            In Detroit we are not ashamed of our BBQ, Polish, pizza or Italian. But, since you are from North Carolina, I would be nervous about steering you in any other direction than Middle Eastern. It is memorable.

                            The only other thing that comes to mind is an expensive night out in Ann Arbor. An experience which combines solid food and great atmosphere. Another personal favorite is Blue Nile Ethiopian in Ferndale, but many on the board would not support me in that rec, particularly if you have had Ethiopian elsewhere. Bounce around Detroit's (Saturday) Eastern Market if you get a chance-- Lots of snacks in and around. Fun. Autoshow is starting, too. Pretty awesome.

                            1. b
                              boagman Jan 14, 2013 07:12 PM

                              As always, the Detroit area (specifically Dearborn) has the highest population of Middle Eastern people outside of the actual Middle East itself, lending itself to some extremely good Middle Eastern restaurants. Say what you will about our sushi, our lack of avante guard cuisine, our dis-and-dat...unless you're planning on using your passport and ringing up a severe airline bill, you can probably get better Middle Eastern here than anything else. Several good places to choose from.

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