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May 16, 2014 10:20 AM

Not to Miss Places - Cleveland, Detroit area, Columbus maybe?

Hi all - Hoping for some guidance and an overview ... we're taking a road trip that will hit Detroit, Cleveland, probably Columbus - and I want to know what to eat.

We're Californians who moved to Tennessee and have never been to Michigan, or Ohio north of Cinncinnati. We like food. We travel to eat. For this trip we are looking for the food that makes these places unique or special ... ethnic, old time, greasy spoon, whatever. We love a really good meal but we also love a really good hot dog.

I've been trying to read the boards and research but quite honestly I'm overwhelmed and not sure where to start, as I don't know what food groups are really unique to either area, and the board (or maybe just this one) doesn't seem to be as busy as I remember Chowhound being (I've been reading/posting/researching here since well before the days of Chow).

Anyway, I would love to be steered in the right directions - even if you can link to threads for me. Or things like - eat a hot dog in Detroit, Polish food in Cleveland, etc. Please help???? Thanks!

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  1. Coneys are religion in Detroit. For the quintessential Detroit coney experience, visit both American and Lafayette downtown. For the better coney, go to Hippo's in Troy.

    Do desserts at Shatilla in Dearborn. Try their fruit ice creams.

    14 Replies
    1. re: rainsux

      In addition to what rainsux has said, the Detroit area (Dearborn, specifically) is host to the largest population of Arabic people outside of the Middle East itself. We do have some extremely good Middle Eastern food here, and I must admit that I'm a fan.

      We're pretty fat in Michigan, and we like to eat. Some folks will eat *anything*...others seek out the good stuff. There's some really good examples of many different types of cuisine all over the area. Any favorites of yours? Anything you've never tried that you're dying to get a good example of?

      That would help to know, so that we can direct you more specifically.

      1. re: boagman

        I know we want Coneys, so what rainsux said is a great start. I am a huge fan of Middle Eastern food - we used to live in LA near Glendale so we had a pretty good lock on Armenian and Lebanese and general mezze places - but I miss that here in TN so I'd take some reccomendations.

        We like food ;-) but we do tend to seek out the best of stuff. So I'll drive out of my way to get the *best* whatever.

        I don't know a ton about Polish/Eastern European food ... we travel fairly regularly to Germany and Austria, and I've eaten in Prague, but anything further East is kind of a mystery to me food wise, so I'd love to try that if it exists and excels in the area. I like Greek, too, if there is competency in that.

        I've been living in the South of 6 years so I don't need "home cooking American" unless there is a really compelling reason to try something.

        I have a sweet tooth, too, so great donuts, or great bakeries (esp if they are European/German/Ethnic). Also ice cream. Who doesn't love really excellent ice cream, esp on a Memorial Day road trip??

        Does that help?

        1. re: MsAC

          The Detroit area is blessed with a number of different ethnic groups and as would be expected they bring their native cuisine with them. Here are some of my personal favorites.

          Greek - New Hellas, Farmington Hills.

          Mexican - Mexican Village, Detroit & Utica.

          Polish - Polish Village Cafe, Hamtramck.

          Indian - Ashoka Indian Cuisine, Canton & Troy.

          Middle East - Bucharest Grill, Detroit. Jerusalem Gardens, Ann Arbor.

          Hungarian - Hungarian Rhapsody, Southgate.

          Fish & Chips - Scotty Simpsons, Detroit & Brighton.

          Sliders - Greens, Farmington.

          Burgers - Millers Bar, Dearborn.

          Coney - Lafayette Coney Island, Detroit.

          Ice Cream - Calder Dairy, Lincoln Park. Guernsey Farms Dairy, Northville.

          1. re: Ken H

            Agree on many of these, but would go to Dearborn (try Hamido or Kabob Inn on Telegraph for starters) for Middle Eastern food rather than anywhere in Ann Arbor. Bucharest Grill, tasty, cheap, and unique, is a Romanian take on MIddle Eastern food. And I personally am not fond of Mexican Village—get out into SW Detroit and try Nuestra Familia or Los Altos.

            1. re: Ken H

              if he's coming from LA, esp. glendale, he will not need to try the majority of those selections

              i think the middle eastern food, esp the markets in dearborn are interesting. also interesting are the frozen custards up here...more eggy/creamy than regular ice cream.

              only bakeries that are better than what you have in LA would be something like shatila (middle eastern)

              Coneys for the cultural significance...

              I don't know how much time you have, but the majority of stuff just listed are better in LA.

              where r u going to in TN? there's always hot fried chicken in nashville....

              1. re: gan911

                I don't know...places like Le Petit Prince in Birmingham are absolutely top-notch as far as I'm concerned.

                1. re: boagman

                  agree but i think Petit Prince closes for the summer starting about mid-June.

                  1. re: coney with everything

                    I've always been surprised by the love for Petit Prince. I find Cannelle Patisserie to be far superior.

                    1. re: jmax

                      Interesting! Not only have I never tried Cannelle Patiserrie before, but this is the first time I'm hearing of it, too. I called Matt (the owner) to be sure that they make pain au chocolat daily (they do) to be sure that they'll have my measuring stick.

                      I'll report back, but either way: thanks for introducing me to a place I didn't know existed before!

                2. re: gan911

                  Oh definitely. I know when I go on vacation, if the food isn't better than what I can get at home I just sit in my hotel room eating a sleeve of saltines.

                  1. re: gan911

                    We are LA people who have relocated to TN - so we are personal fans of hot chicken. ;-)

                    We don't have a lot of Middle Eastern here so we'd love to eat it in MI, because it is likely to be better than what we see here.

                    I'm interested in Frozen Custard b/c that is a novelty for us... and the Romanian take on ME sounds interesting.

                    From looking at the list above and comments, sounds like I should be trying Greek, Hungarian, Middle Eastern, Polish (as a native Angeleno it is hard to convince me of Mexican food other places... ) And a coney or two for certain.

                    Thank you!!!

                    1. re: gan911


                      I've been to LA over a dozen times and I disagree with your perception. LA has more great restaurants than Detroit, but there are still lots of places in Detroit that are more than worthwhile.

                  2. re: MsAC

                    I will concur with rainsux about Lafayette and American Coney Islands. Mrs. Sippi and I did a taste off a couple years back. I like American better but you really can't go wrong with either.


                3. re: rainsux

                  Breakfast at The Flytrap in Ferndale. I suggest their BLAT + C omelette.

                  For a terrific sub, Gonsella's in SW Detroit, or Ventimiglia's in Sterling Hts. Spring for the hard roll.

                4. If you're on I-75 stop in Lima, OH for a Kewpee burger. Three locations but downtown has the most atmosphere. Local chain with burgers, fries and chocolate malts - a favorite.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mcfenton

                    Kewpee is an interesting choice. It's America's second oldest chain and was Dave Thomas's favourite place to eat as a kid. They have thick shakes and square hamburgers. That may sound familiar.

                    We enjoyed the burgers but not much else. The building is a beautiful art deco example.


                  2. Cleveland/Tremont: Lucky's

                    1. Just wanted to chime in for Columbus recs.

                      Ice cream - of course you will want to try Jeni's, a local (and beyond) favorite.

                      Pastries - Pistacia Vera in German Village and the North Market.

                      Really good meals - Rigsby's, the Refectory, Lindey's, .
                      Kihachi. And for more casual, try Northstar Cafe

                      Ethnic - Huong, Imperial Garden, Sunflower (dim sum), Arepazo, Pasqualone's LaPlaia

                      Unique to Columbus - White Castle, Schmidt's Sausage Haus (although I am NOT a fan), and also keep in mind that Cameron Mitchell got his start here, so there are a couple unique concepts such as The Pearl and Hudson 29.
                      Happy eating in Columbus, Cleveland and Detroit!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: johnmart11

                        Oh, good, thank you. I think we are spending a Saturday night in Columbus. What would be your pick? We have Jeni's here in Nashville and are fans :-)

                        1. re: MsAC

                          Oops! Didn't realize you were from Nashville - no need to go out of your way for Jeni's. I would say that a dinner at Rigsby's and a walk around the Short North would make a lovely evening. Here is the link to check out their menu -
                          If you are there earlier in the day, the North Market is a great place to see a lot of different offerings. For lunch they have a nice Vietnamese place. I can also recommend Kitchen Little and Omega Artisan Bread (for dessert) and Pistacia Vera (dessert, macarons).

                      2. I just mentioned it in another thread, but Happy Dog's dogs are quite good with more topping choices than you can think of. If you time it right, you can get your polka on too

                        For really good food, not necessarily of this area, try any of Zach Bruell's places

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: gourmanda

                          Thank you! Any other things I should be eating in Cleveland???

                          I know about Michael Symon, of course, but guessing a last minute reservation isn't going to happen. Am I right that he has a burger place? Is it any good?

                          1. re: MsAC

                            He does BSpot in a couple of locations. I have been to the Westlake location once and was not impressed; not sure what all the fuss is but, then again, I did not like the first Lola nor Lolita. Jonathon Sawyer's Greenhouse Tavern is well respected.

                            I don't think anyone mentioned it, but if you are in to food, please don't miss the Westside Market (open Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat). Take some time to poke around the different stands--get a bratwurst to chow on while you browse.

                            Enjoy and welcome to Cleveland!