Jim's Food and Drink Guide to Detroit

January 15, 2019 Jim Nader


Detroit is one of the great cities in the U.S. It's home to technical and creative talent, big dreams, and unbelievably good food. The economic revival is well underway, thanks to giant established companies, startups, local public efforts, and philanthropies. 

The city is steadily gaining a reputation as a ‘food destination.' Inspired by the 2019 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), I decided to share some of my favorite spots for food and drinks. There’s an array of cuisines from all over the world, plus a plethora of bars, cafes, eateries, and restaurants featuring internationally-recognized chefs with organic farm-to-table values. Here are a few of my favorites:

FOOD

Lady of the House

Organic salad, eggs, and vegetables in a farm-to-table setting

Lady of the House embodies ‘home cooking’ - you know the type grandma used to do - but it’s updated with a creative, contemporary POV. Not only are Chef Kate and the food amazing, but this restaurant and bar located in Detroit’s historic Corktown neighborhood is committed to supporting Michigan farms and its local community. Try the Carrot Steak - where hollandaise and pistachio come together in perfect, unexpected harmony - I really can’t describe how incredible it is! If you close your eyes, you will actually think you’re eating a steak! 

TAKOI

Thai-inspired and Southeast Asian ingredients, rice, avocado, fish

The food truck formerly known as KATOI, morphed from an Ann Arbor pop-up to TAKOI, a Thai-inspired restaurant on Michigan Avenue, Detroit in 2016. This walk-in restaurant has won a slew of illustrious awards and serves up amazing family-style Thai and Southeast Asian-inspired food. Utensils optional.  Get the Papaya Salad and the Ribs - you’ll thank me!. 

Grey Ghost

Gourmet cheeseburger like at the Grey Ghost in Detroit

At the heart of the historic Brush Park and Midtown neighborhoods, Grey Ghost Detroit awaits. Named after a notorious rum running pirate during the Prohibition era, this restaurant and bar is home to fantastic craft cocktails and one of the best burgers you’ll eat in Motown. Known for quality meats and artfully butchered cuts, this spot also has non-meat options like Beet Poke and Mushroom  Pierogi. The portions are notoriously large, so order wisely.

Izakaya Katsu Detroit

Authentic Japanese sashimi, soba noodles, and soup at Izakaya Katsu Detroit

If you're looking for 'real deal' Japanese food in Detroit, look no further than lantern-crowned Izakaya Katsu Detroit. Featuring tatami-style seating, Katsu Detroit also offers communal dining, booth, and bar style dining experiences. What to get? Okonomiyaki, soba noodles, cold sake - legit Japanese dining finally arrives in Motor City limits!

Apparatus Room

Raw oysters served on ice with lemon wedges

Ever dream of dining in the engine room of a historic fire station? That dream becomes reality at the Apparatus Room, the ground floor restaurant and bar at the Detroit Foundation Hotel. This gorgeously restored space features classic subway tiles, hanging Edison light fixtures, a breathtaking bar, and thoughtfully dispersed industrial accents. There’s even a Prix Fixe menu for NAIAS 2019, complete with a choice of starter, entree, and dessert at $25/person. Try the Squid Ink Cavatelli, Cod, Pork Belly, or Short Ribs

Roast

Gourmet grilled steak and oven roasted garlic with fresh herb garnish

Got a hankering for quality meats? Answer the carnivore’s call at Roast, owned by Iron Chef Michael Symon. You can’t go wrong with the Filet Mignon prepared with sea salt and olive oil or with Crab Bearnaise sauce. The Beef Cheek Pierogi are a menu stand out. And, if beef isn’t your thing, there are plenty of salads, poultry, and fish dishes to choose from at Roast - the Duck Confit is one of my favorites!

Can’t get a table? Fear not: Try London Chop and Prime and Proper to get your 'meat fix.'

Mudgie’s Deli

Cold cuts, lettuce, tomatoes, and garnishes on thick artisan bread

A local favorite for lunch, this spot in Corktown serves up some serious sandwiches that’ll make your mouth water for months to come - like the towering Corned Beef or robust Reuben. For vegetarians, there’s a tempeh-based Reuben for option and a host of gluten-free options. Mudgie’s has also got an impressive wine and beer selection- can’t go wrong with a sandwich and beer (or two) - and if you’re feeling fancier go red, white, or rosé.  

Guilt Chocolates

If you’re going to be in town for NAIAS, you can catch Guilt Chocolates at the Winter Market in Capitol Park in Downtown Detroit on the following dates: January, 19-21, 25-27; February 8-10, 15-17 from 11:00 AM - 8:00 PM (Sundays), 9:00 PM (Saturdays). This small-batch, artisanal chocolatier makes everything from dried fruit chocolate bars featuring off the beaten path ingredients like fennel seed and passion fruit puree to hand-decorated coconut, hazelnut, and cinnamon-infused Winter Collection chocolates. You really won’t believe what they look like.  Check out their Instagram for inspiration.

But you don’t have to go there to be a hero at home. Visit Guilt’s online shop to get the best chocolates in the region delivered to your door!

DRINKS

Batch Brewing 

Pale beer like those brewed at Batch Brewing in Detroit

A tiny, bustling brewery with a passionate team, Batch Brewing is a great downtown option for a local brew and some snacks. Their tap list is always fresh and seasonal and their food choices change regularly. Run by two friends who left corporate jobs to chase their beer dreams, Batch Brewing is a hip option for a drink and a look into local Detroit beer culture.  

For something more mainstream, you can also check out Atwater Brewery and Taphouse.  A local artist, Tony Roko, did all the bottle labels, which is a nice touch!

Buhl Bar

Craft cocktail with rosemary, mint, and bourbon

An intimate bar located in a historic building, Buhl bar is a local favorite for craft cocktails in a classic setting. The Buhl Building is one of the most storied buildings in town and was home to the Savoyard Club, an elite club for local businessmen, until the club’s closure in 1994. A stop at the Buhl Bar can be a step back into Detroit’s high society

The Royce

Grapes, figs, cheeses, and proscuitto

The Royce is a wine shop and bar that houses the most eclectic wine collection Detroit has to offer. A bright and airy space, the Royce offers a modern wine experience where patrons learn and experiment with vintages from around the world. The menu also includes international cheeses and meats for a complete tasting experience. 

Two James Distillery

Fine distilled spirits (whiskey) being poured into two glasses

Two James Distillery is the first distillery to open after the prohibition and is located in Corktown, Detroit’s oldest neighborhood. Making a variety of spirits, Two James is best-known for its Old Cockney Gin - try the Jitterbug Perfume cocktail from the gin menu and take home a bottle for later. In addition to the tasting room, the distillery offers daily tours for a look into their history and process. 

Firebird Tavern 

Tropical cocktail with blood orange, berries, and fresh mint

If you’re going to Greektown, stop into the Firebird, a warm and lively tavern featuring upscale versions of your favorite pub grub. Choose from an extensive list of draft and bottled beers and inspired craft cocktails like the Apple Sangria featuring cabernet wine, Garnacha, Applejack brandy, unfiltered apple juice, and cinnamon and Rosemary Bees Knees, a gin-based cocktail with rosemary honey-infused syrup and fresh lemon. The Firebird even has a Charitable Drink of the Week, a rotating cocktail where $1 from each drink is donated to the Gleaners Community Food Bank - drinking for a good cause. 

The Skip

Mulled wine with cinnamon and colves

Looking for some reasonably priced drinks a little off the beaten path? Try the Skip, a popular watering hole located in the Z-Belt alley. The tiki-themed bar has a tropical cocktail list that expands to include seasonal favorites like mulled wine and a spiced cranberry gin and tonic. Don’t judge me, but I go there for the $2 can of Hamm’s. The decor and atmosphere are absolutely fun and you’ll love their seasonal glassware. 

Detroit, MI Locations of NAIAS 2019

Be sure to connect with fellow diners while you’re out and about - they’ll be more than happy to share their recommendations and cool facts you probably didn’t know about their city - like how Detroit City was once home to Vernors’ Ginger Ale, the oldest soft drink in the US, which was served to the public in 1866. 

 


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About the Author

Jim Nader

Jim Nader leads the Automotive division at Appirio. A Detroit native, Jim has spent over 20 years helping customers plan their growth, improve their business processes, and foster customer engagement. A passionate collaborator, Jim is always seeking to improve the workdays of his clients and colleagues.

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