Asking where you should eat in Detroit is a lot like figuring out who the best Motown singer was. Marvin Gaye? The Supremes? Stevie Wonder when he was the most talented child on Earth? There are a lot of options to choose from, but luckily that’s where we come in.
Here’s our guide to where to eat and drink across the Motor City. It includes everything from the city’s best coney dogs to where to get Thai food and barbecue in Corktown, along with some great group dinner and date options in between. We’ve only scratched the surface, but this is a great start for the next time you’re in Detroit.
THE NEW-ISH SPOTS EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT
Located inside the former Vernor Coney Island space, Flowers of Vietnam is a Vietnamese restaurant in Mexicantown and one of the city’s most exciting places to eat right now. It started as a pop-up, but after a year of borrowing the space, Flowers of Vietnam redesigned it to give it a more modern feel, while keeping the kitschy neon signage and lunch counter from the original. The menu changes regularly, but typically includes things like caramel chicken wings, lobster vermicelli, and a whole fried fish, along with interesting cocktails and coffee egg creams. Make this the first stop during your next visit.
Lady of the House in Corktown is a restaurant inside an old auto shop that sources its ingredients from small farms in and around the city, which means the produce you eat here might come from just down the street. The rotating menu is based on what’s in season and their wide selection of beer, wine, and cocktails changes throughout the year to match the food. It’s a great place to come with a big group and just order the majority of the menu, but make sure to get the carrot steak and potato donuts if they’re available.
From the outside, Takoi is an all-white structure surrounded by a 16-foot-tall fence that looks more like a secret government operation than somewhere you’d have dinner. Once you walk inside, though, you’re transported to a scene straight out of Blade Runner, with neon green, pink, and blue lights that give it a “So this is what restaurants will be like in the future” feel. The menu includes a lot of shareable Thai dishes, like crispy spare ribs and khao soi, and not-Thai dishes, like smoked duck ramen, because in the future there are no rules. It’s a great starting point for a night out and while there’s usually a wait, you can grab a drink at Two James across the street in the meantime.
Grey Ghost is very serious about two things: meat and cocktails. The dinner menu here is broken down into cured, raw, not meat (salads and seafood), and meat, which includes larger dishes, like duck breast with foie gras. Think of it as really good bar food, since you’ll definitely be drinking here. We recommend the cocktails on tap, but they also have a long list of other drinks too. It’s also a good spot to grab brunch before or after a visit to the nearby Detroit Institute of Arts, which may result in you taking way too many selfies in front of paintings, depending on which you do first.
With bright green walls covered in succulents and dried flowers, Chartreuse is about as close to spring as you can get during Detroit’s long winter. The seasonal menu always includes a few pastas and shareable entrees, along with some vegetarian small plates that will make you think, “If vegetables always tasted like this, I’d probably eat more vegetables.” If you don’t want to sit down for a whole meal, there’s also a cocktail bar in the front where you can just order snacks and drinks and remind yourself that the world isn’t always a cold, dark place.
Much like that friend of yours who randomly got really into Scandinavian design, Gather keeps things very minimal. It’s a small restaurant at Eastern Market with a short menu, four long communal tables, and almost no decorations to speak of. Also like that same friend, there isn’t much rhyme or reason to the food here, but everything from the roasted root vegetables to the smoked chicken nachos and gnocchi is really good. Come here with a small group to split some plates and have a few boozy slushies.
Maru is one of Detroit’s best sushi options, especially if you’re looking for somewhere that feels a little upscale, but you could still wear jeans to. This downtown spot is known for its wide variety of specialty rolls, but if you’re not super into raw fish, they have things like hibachi platters and udon, too. If you need a snack post-bar hopping, Maru also serves select small plates and rolls until midnight on the weekends.
While the combination of New American food, good cocktails, and exposed wood is basically the modern day neighborhood restaurant starter kit, Selden Standard was one of the first to do it in Detroit and really helped kickstart the city’s food scene when it opened a few years ago. While you can’t go wrong with any of the food here, start with the “vegetables & such” portion of the menu, which includes things that are better than anything under a “vegetables & such” header should be. From there, check out the meat and fish section, which includes things like charred octopus and lamb ragu.
Detroit-style pizza is less famous than its Chicago and New York counterparts, but as it gains popularity outside of Michigan, it’s important to point out where it started: Buddy’s Pizza in Hamtramck. This local chain has since opened 12 locations across Detroit, meaning you can get your fix of the rectangular, thick-crust pan pies wherever you are in town. If this is your first time visiting, make sure to stop at Buddy’s.
Coney Islands are a way of life in Detroit and while the city has gone through a lot of changes over the years, Lafayette Coney Island remains one of the few constants. It’s a downtown dive institution that serves the best Detroit-style coney dogs in the world. “One up with everything” is the basic order, which is a hot dog with chili, onions, and mustard on a bun. But one coney dog isn’t enough, so your standard order is two up with everything, chili cheese fries, and a cold beer. Don’t be shy if you need a third coney, or consider ordering a slice of their sneaky good pie.
American Coney Island is located directly next door to Lafayette and is actually the original of the two, while Lafayette is the result of a family fight. The two are pretty similar, with American being the more updated, 24 hour option (Lafayette closes at 3am). Consider trying coneys from both before deciding where your allegiance lies, but never trust a Detroiter who doesn’t have a preference.
Sometimes the only way to refuel after a long night is a huge breakfast and countless coffee refills with no judgement. You’ll get both of these at Clique, a classic diner located in the Rivertown Inn & Suites right off East Jefferson. Everything you could ever want after waking up sleep deprived on the weekend is available here, but the grilled cinnamon roll and breakfast skillets are two of our favorites. It’s always packed during prime brunch hours on the weekend, but if you’re staying nearby and need to stay horizontal for a while longer, they also deliver.
Combine a gourmet version of White Castle with your favorite horse-themed dive bar and you get Green Dot Stables. This downtown tavern serves more than 20 types of sliders, including a Cuban, gyro, and a daily “mystery meat,” which could be anything from fried lobster to cauliflower. It’s a casual spot to eat some tiny burgers, have a few $3 drinks, and be glad that the bar you imagined your grandpa secretly placed race bets at still exists.
When you want to sit on a big ivy-covered patio, eat some pasta, and bring up that trip to Rome that you’ve been “planning,” check out La Dolce Vita near Palmer Park. It’s been around for years, but unless you knew it was there, you’d drive by without giving it a second thought. Once you enter through the large iron gates though, you’re hit with the smell of garlic and greeted by a friendly Italian man waiting at the door. Besides all of the red sauce classics, La Dolce Vita is known for traditional dishes you won’t find anywhere else in Detroit, like pollo saltimbocca, and an extensive Italian wine list.
Gold Cash Gold operates inside an old Corktown pawn shop right on Michigan Ave and if you’re looking for somewhere to dress up a little, but still eat with your hands, this is it. The menu is Southern-ish, and you should definitely get the fried chicken, but it also includes things like bone marrow dumplings and cassoulet stuffed quail. The food’s a bit all over the place, but that - along with their extensive cocktail list, great brunch, and big patio - is exactly why we keep coming back.
Slows opened in Corktown in 2005, opposite the iconic and abandoned Michigan Central Station, and in the time since has become one of the city’s new restaurant forefathers and helped turned Detroit into the food destination it is today. They serve all of the barbecue hits, plus a few local items like The Lafayette - a pulled pork sandwich with mustard BBQ sauce, onion, and cheddar. These days, there are better meals you can have in Detroit (and there are a few Slows locations around the city and state), but this still remains a destination spot.
When you’re deciding where to go for lunch around Eastern Market, stop by Supino’s for a slice to hold yourself over. This family-owned pizzeria sources most of their ingredients from local producers and while you can’t wrong with any of the red or white pies, we like the Margherita and San Gennaro, with onions, roasted red peppers, sausage, and mozzarella. In case you’re with friends and everyone needs a snack, the whole pies are huge and can quickly replace the meal you were thinking about when you first walked in.
Located on the East Side near Belle Isle, Rose’s Fine Food is the neighborhood diner that you’ll wish was around the corner from where you live. It has the long, old-school counter and bottomless coffee you expect, along with surprisingly good breakfast and lunch food (they close at 3pm on weekdays and 5pm over the weekend). The menu changes each season, but you can always count on the classic Grandpa Richard’s Pancakes and seasonal frittata to cover the sweet and savory bases.
When you’re with a big group and no one can agree on where to go for dinner, head to Craft Work in West Village. This place specializes in comfort food, like chicken pot pie and spaghetti and meatballs, along with things like lamb curry and their own take on the Big Mac. There’s a full raw bar as well, in case someone you’re with really wants some oysters with their pot pie. Craft Work also has long bar tables, so your whole group can sit together and eat a variety of things you’d never expect on the same menu, but that still somehow works.
Looking to catch a game, grab a beer, and eat some wings? Sweetwater is the answer. Staying near the Renaissance Center or Hart Plaza for a work event and want some wings? Go to Sweetwater. Are you sitting on a friend’s couch and are suddenly overrun with the urge to eat delicious chicken wings? Hear us out - you should go to Sweetwater. What we’re trying to say is that Sweetwater Tavern has excellent wings and it’s the main reason we keep going back to this downtown classic. The ribs, rib tips, burgers, and general bar food are also all good, in case this is the one time in your life when you don’t in fact want wings.
Located right off the Ambassador Bridge, this West Fort ramen shop serves a wide range of noodle dishes, from more traditional options like their signature tantanmen with minced duck, scallions, and bamboo shoots, to “dorm room ramen,” a gourmet take on the 29 cent pack of Maruchan noodles. They also make their own brand of whiskey and if you’re looking for a good Happy Hour, sake pours are only $2 from 3-6pm every weekday.
“Mexicantown,” also known as Southwest Detroit, is the only place you should go when you’re craving tacos here. There are plenty of overdone, guacamole-made-at-your-table restaurants in the area, but skip those and head to our personal favorite, Taqueria El Rey. This super casual spot is known for its wide variety of tacos and whole grilled chicken, which is cooked under a tent next door. If you don’t feel like tackling an entire bird, choose from their lengthy taco list that includes everything from al pastor to beef tongue.
Detroit Institute of Bagels in Corktown has everything you want in a really good bagel shop. Bagels that are boiled and baked fresh each morning? Yep. Lots of options for cream cheese and smoked fish? Affirmative. A chorizo, avocado, and egg sandwich called the La Colmena that we’d eat every morning if we could? OK, you get the point. All of the bagels are great, but if they haven’t run out of the small batch rosemary olive oil bagels yet, make sure to grab one when you go.
Ima is a casual Japanese noodle shop in Corktown that’s perfect for a quick lunch, weeknight dinner, or after a visit to nearby Batch Brewing Company. They serve traditional bowls of udon, and rice dishes topped with everything from barbecued eel to curry, along with dumplings and jicama shell tacos that we weirdly like. Try the forest udon and if you really want to make a night out of it, opt for a sake tasting.
Detroit Vegan Soul is a magical place where vegans and carnivores can get together and at least agree on one thing: the hush puppies are amazing. Come here with someone who doesn’t believe tofu can taste good or your vegan friend who won’t have to ask for any substitutions for once. We’re partial to the sandwiches, like the BBQ tofu and veggie burger, but everything is good here and will likely be one of the healthier things you’ve eaten in a while.
Hidden down Belt Alley - a Midtown alleyway filled with street murals and art galleries - is Standby, a semi-speakeasy that doubles as a cocktail bar and restaurant. The bar itself, which is referred to as a “cocktail lab,” serves more than 50 different cocktails, most of which are really delicious, but also take a few minutes to make. It’s dimly-lit and definitely intimate, so if you’re looking for a good date spot, come here. You can also stop in until midnight for a late dinner, with the gnocchi and cheeseburger being two of the biggest crowd pleasers. If you want another bar to check out afterward, grab a frozen cocktail at The Skip at the other end of the alley.
Cafe D’Mongo’s is almost impossible to try and explain. Located next to the old Detroit Synagogue downtown, it’s the kind of quirky dive bar that feels like it’s been around 100 years even though it opened in 2007. Between the small space, stiff drinks, and absurd amount of Detroit history and pictures on the wall, d’Mongo’s is the kind of place you want the bartender to know your name, even if you’re just passing through. Expect live music, some very friendly regulars, and to have more drinks than you planned to.