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Sep 20, 2013 11:27 AM

Detroit - downtown - one night only

Hi there,
Toronto hound visiting for one night (next Saturday) with husband and some pals, all laste 20s-early 30s. Looking for the best of what's unique/cool/delicious in Detroit's food scene. We love bar seats, reclaimed wood, smallish plates, hipster music, good service, craft beer/cocktails, good wine - the man likes pork/beef/pasta dishes and I go in for veg/seafood. Food quality and service are paramount, but we do like places that feel happening and buzzing. (Like, say, Publican or Sable in Chicago). Any and all types of cuisine.
Would prefer to stay walking distance from Marriot but willing to take transit if that's best.

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    1. Ugh--"Transit"??? Good luck.
      Yeah, I'll just give a reserved +1 to Roast.

      1. What is this "transit" you speak of? Roast will be dandy for the meat-eater, not so much for the seafood/veg person. Cliff Bell's is a restaurant/jazz club that would attract a fun crowd and has very good food and unique atmosphere. You could walk it, but I'd take a cab back late in the evening. Joe Muer's would satisfy both folks but is not exactly "happening" but old-school and good at it. The happening places tend to be cheaper because the people who've moved into Detroit lately are young and impecunious—to meet them, and get really good sliders for $2 or $3 apiece, go to Green Dot (long dicey walk, short cab ride). Can you get good Cuban food in Toronto? Vicente is pretty good, and if you go Friday night and hang out you will see some excellent dancers. That one you could walk. Finally, I have heard good things about this place but have not tried it yet—it sounds like what you're looking for.

        Enjoy, and let us know how you make out!

        4 Replies
        1. re: Jim M

          thanks for all these tips! how dicey a walk are we talking, to Green Dot?

          1. re: LemonLauren

            Dangerous! No foot traffic southeast of Third Avenue after about 3 PM. Absolutely no police presence in this area. We love Green Dot and would surely recommend it to you. But a cab there and back to your hotel IS essential.

        2. Roast is probably where you want to go. For a more casual (but amazing!) feel go to Slows BBQ.

          14 Replies
          1. re: Elyssa

            I was going to suggest Slows, because I think BBQ is one area where we may be a cut above Toronto. It's terrific, and it has been one of the hot spots for several years now. But if you go there on Saturday night, expect to wait and wait and wait. Service is so-so, but it's good 'cue.

            1. re: Jim M

              we are free for dinner at 6pm, and have an itinerary item at 8pm. we will get lucky at slow's or should we look elsewhere?

              1. re: LemonLauren

                I think that would be pushing it. I would try to arrive earlier than that, especially if the Tigers are in town. This said, it's several months since I've been there, and I don't know what the Saturday crowds are like since they opened their new takeout place. Anybody else been in recently? You could call them.

                1. re: Jim M


                  I would never bet on the Slow's waitstaff getting you in &
                  out on a schedule. If you choose Slow's, understand that
                  you are taking the risk that you will depart without having
                  been satisfactorily fed & watered.

                  For their first few years, the front of the house was
                  amateur hour, in stark contrast to the kitchen's abilities. I
                  vowed to never return - and have not. I was not joking
                  when I quipped, "This would be a hell of a place to open a

                  Lately; I've been reading reports (here) by trustworthy
                  contributors that Slow's has fixed the waitstaff/service
                  problems. I hope it is true. The kitchen certainly deserved
                  a better front of house operation.

                  If you want to get your drunk on; Sugar House is a few doors
                  down from Slow's. Dark. Knowledgeable mixologists. Dark.
                  Not cheap. Dark. Excellent craft cocktails. Dark. Not
                  "NYC/Manhattan" expensive. Dark. Host (bouncer?) can
                  be a bit of an arse if you do not know (his?) house rules.
                  Dark. A nice addition to the Corktown neighborhood. Dark. I
                  found their drink menu to be overwhelming. I told the waiter
                  I wanted something with a hint of mint, and not very sweet.
                  Dark. He rattled off a few suggestions. Dark. I shrugged; and
                  said, "delight me." He over-achieved.

                  Did I mention that it is dark inside? Seriously; load a
                  flashlight app on your smartphone.

                  1. re: rainsux

                    I don't know that the front folks have changed, but the place has expanded. This has added a lot of space (especially when the patio is counted). I went on a Thursday at 7:30pm with two others and was seated in ten minutes...and, i had good service at the bar in the meantime. However, I did sense that the kitchen had started cutting some corners.

                    1. re: VTB

                      > However, I did sense that the kitchen had started cutting some corners.


                      1. re: rainsux

                        In the age of GPS, maybe our friends from Toronto should go to Dearborn, and still make it back by 8pm?

                      2. re: VTB

                        VTB, can you flesh out what, exactly, the corners are that were being cut? I hadn't noticed, but that might be because we're ordering different things.

                        1. re: boagman

                          IMO, the brisket was not as marbled or deeply smoked, and the sides were not memorable. It was good, but not excellent. Beer selection was great.

                          1. re: VTB

                            That's the thing, then. I never get brisket for barbecue. The only thing I noticed about the sides I got was that the potatoes in the potato salad weren't cooked through as much as they should have been (too much potato crunch), but the flavor was just as I remember it.

                            I think we just order different things.

                      3. re: rainsux

                        went to slows for lunch last friday. five of us, so I thought we would be screwed because we would need more than a four top. walked in at 11:30 and sat right down. service has improved tremendously over the past year or two. fairly friendly versus disinterested. attentive. drinks taken care of promptly and refilled when needed. and delivery of the food in a reasonable amount of time.

                        lately, iI have been hooked on the triple threat sandwich - pulled pork with thick cut bacon and a thick sliced of smoked ham. not the most kosher meal, but really good. and i got a different side this time - waffle fries with cheese, which is the same cheese from the mac-n-cheese. pretty good. pretty filling, but pretty good.

                        now if they would just serve plain old brewed iced tea and not just the mango/passion fruit/honey/balsamic/whatever sweet concoction that they have for $2 a glass with "no refills" (nod to boagman who i bet would drink a glass of sand delivered by valet that parked his car in the $3 lot across the street before ordering a $2 no refill iced tea...)

                        1. re: xman887

                          Only because I like my iced tea completely bereft of "seasonings" and sweeteners. ;)

                          1. re: xman887

                            We had a similar experience a few weeks ago...we got in a little after 11 and were seated immediately (fortunate that we were so early as there was a Tigers game that afternoon and the place filled very quickly)

                            Good service and seriously wonderful food.

                      4. re: LemonLauren

                        BTW, although this is a BBQ place, they do have some no-meat dishes that have kept my vegetarian friends reasonably happy.

                  2. Thanks everyone for your help. We ended up having only an hour and half to get to/from and eat dinner, so I made a reservation online on OpenTable at Small Plates since it was walking distance and was on the Eater 38 list.

                    It took a while to get drinks, but we once we notified them of our time constraints, the staff was great. We were a group of five, and we ordered nine plates - sweet potato fries, cornbread, mediterrenean dip trio, ahi tuna, fish tacos, mini-coneys, eggplant sliders, lettuce wraps and a special watermelon-feta salad. We had been travelling/walking/biking all day so we it was the perfect meal. The salad and fish tacos were standouts for me, as well as the local beers on tap.

                    On Sunday we had an hour for lunch in midtown at 11:30, so we went to Traffic jam and Snug as Motor City Brewing Works wasn't open yet. The food was hearty, HUGE portions, and great selection of beer, as well. Again, good for our group, but not fancy or refined.

                    Given the circumstances, I think we did pretty well! Next time we come to Detroit we won't be with a group tour so we'll do our best to stay/eat more in Midtown.