Today’s guest bloggers, Erin Rose of PositiveDetroit (dot) net and PickMiDate (dot) com and Joe Hakim of The Hungry Dudes share their recommendations on where to go for dinner this Valentine’s Day in the Detroit area.
“Hey honey, it’s Valentine’s Day. Where are you taking me to dinner?”
Sound familiar? A distant kin to nails on a chalkboard? I bet it does. Might we suggest something different by taking your sweetie for a culinary trip around the world this Valentine’s Day within the Greater Detroit Area. Take out your globe and give it a good ‘ol spin and when your finger lands on a country, you know that just around the corner, you can indulge in that country’s native cuisine. Definitely a luxury here in the Motor City! That’s right, in our own backyard! Detroit has one of the most diverse populations, concentrated in one area, in the entire world. Our community is rich with international cultural flair. Fortunately for us, those that emigrated here did not arrive empty handed, packing their delicious native recipes with them. What a treat to have a worldly, authentic culinary experience just a hop, skip, and a jump away! Plus this food fiesta is not limited to just couples. Get a group of your friends together and turn it into your own “Dine Around Detroit” version of the Pub Crawl. Who knows, you might meet your Valentine during your travels.
So this Valentine’s Day 2012, take a trip around the world in less than 80 days that does not require a passport, invasive body scan, or questions from NSA.
Note: Valentine’s Day was just the excuse for us to write this, but you could take a culinary excursion anytime your heart (and stomach) desires.
Here’s a list of restaurants we’ve tried. There are plenty more, so be adventurous!
Bastone opened in May of 2004 in a prime Royal Oak Downtown location. They brew their own Award Winning Belgian-style beers in house, which you can enjoy at their location or to-go. The menu contains many Belgian-style favorites including Waterzooi, Steamed Mussels, and personal favorite, Pomme Frites (with the horseradish mayonnaise).
Lazybone’s Smokehouse was there at the genesis of the Detroit barbecue renaissance and they’re still there today. Now with two locations, Lazybone’s is serving house smoked awesomeness in Roseville and Clinton Township. If you’re looking for something special on Valentine’s Day, an order of pig candy will melt the heart of any bacon lover.
Not only can you get a fantastic mint julep at Howe’s Bayou, but the food is pretty great too. Nearly everything is made in house. The cornmeal fried catfish is first dredged in mustard, which imparts a mild tang.
There’s something special about Golden Harvest. Maybe it’s the sheer scope of it. Walk inside and it looks like a huge cafeteria that could fit hundreds of diners. Their dim sum is a sight to behold. Carts upon carts of yummy steam buns, fish cakes, and other delights are pushed around to entice those lucky enough to be indulging.
The only thing spicier than the food at Vicente’s is the entertainment. Every Friday and Saturday night from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. the dance floor opens up for salsa dancing. With a tapas menu perfect for sharing, Vicente’s is a perfect date night spot. Try the Camarones Cubita Bella, shrimp with cream cheese and jalapeno wrapped in bacon. They’ll provide a little bit heat before your night of steamy salsa dancing.
Head on over to Drago’s! Meat, cheese, and bread. Pleskavice is a simple delicacy made with ground meat and spices. Served with kajmak, a sharp cheese spread that tastes like a cross between Bulgarian feta and cream cheese, and raw white onion, this cheeseburger on steroids is the ultimate finger food. Don’t miss the burek, either. You’ll thank us later.
Speaking of finger food, Ethiopian cuisine is served sans silverware. Instead of boring old forks and knives, Blue Nile serves their food on a platter with plenty of injera bread, a yeast risen flatbread usually made with teff flour. Eating with your hands is an intimate experience, so dine with someone you’re fond of and be prepared eat well.
Chef Paul Grosz not only serves some tremendous French inspired cuisine, but the atmosphere at Cuisine is truly romantic. The menu is always changing, so you are always getting fresh, well prepared dishes that not only taste great but also feature meticulous craftsmanship.
In business for over 100 years, the Dakota Inn Rathskellar specializes in German favorites like potato pancakes, knockwurst, and any other kind of wurst you can imagine. Visit during Oktoberfest and be prepared to eat, drink, and be merry with live music. Singing and dancing are always encouraged.
Located smack dab in the middle of Greektown on Monroe, Pegasus is a Greek food nirvana. Start with saganaki (OPA!) just watch your eyebrows and move on to tender lamb chops or, if you’re feeling adventurous, some lemony octopus. And don’t dare think about leaving until trying the loukoumades, fried balls of dough dusted with cinnamon, sugar, and walnuts finished with honey.
As we all know, our winters can be pretty intense. Sure, we are in the midst of the warmest winter in recent memory, but once the cold hits we’ll all want some comfort food. Chicken Paprikas at Hungarian Rhapsody warms the body and soul. Slow cooked chicken pieces in a mildly peppery cream sauce served over dumplings will stick to your bones and keep you happy for hours (maybe days).
Megha’s Athidhi Indian Cuisine is a gem of place. Specializing in South Indian cuisine, their menu is more challenging and ultimately more rewarding than most other Indian restaurants in the area. However, as much as the menu is different, one thing is similare – Athidhi does offer a lunch buffet. There’s no better way to get acquainted with Indian food. Dive right into dosas, chilli chicken, and lab hyderabadi – you won’t be disappointed.
To say O’Connor’s Public House serves only Irish food would be incorrect. When your menu has the bacon explosion and scotch eggs, there’s no need to hide such wondrous things. However, their Irish food is nothing to scoff at either. Irish bacon (cured pork loin) and Braizen Head Beef Brisket are just a couple of more traditional items. For all the whiskey lovers, O’Connor’s has an impressive array of whiskeys ranging in flavor profile and price. Bring a designated driver.
To call Cafe Cortina an Italian restaurant is to do it a horrible disservice. Cortina is more an experience than simply a restaurant. It is an experience centered around each guest. Upon your arrival, you are greeted by name. Service is never pushy, but always comfortably on top of things. The food is prepared using family recipes and is elegantly rustic. Yes, it may be considered a splurge, but Cortina is worthy every cent.
Sterling Heights on 15 Mile between Ryan and Dequindre is surprisingly rich in its ethnic culinary choices. Korea Palace offers a large menu of traditional Korean dishes like bulgogi, short ribs, and bibimbap. Each entree includes five or six house made pickled vegetables including kimchi and sprouted soybeans. For the winter months, the spicy shredded beef soup is fiery bowl of beefy goodness.
When we think about Jewish cuisine, we seem to skip past dishes like kugel and head right for Jewish delis like Bread Basket. Who doesn’t love a plate of fatty, luscious pastrami? Put that same pastrami in between two latkes (potato pancakes) and you can call us your best friends.
Seems like if ask anyone who inhabits the metro Detroit area where the best sushi can be found, they’ll answer Noble Fish. It’s not just because there is some sushi conspiracy going on. Noble Fish’s sushi is somehow fresher and better prepared than most of its competitors. Also, the charm of walking through a grocery to the back room does not hurt its cause either.
Let’s be honest, most of the Mexican restaurants in the metro Detroit area specialize in Tex-Mex and while there is nothing wrong with that, authentic Mexican cuisine is more our speed. Before you order at Los Altos, a salsa platter is brought to the table with 6 incredibly fresh salsas and plenty of chips for dipping. Slow cooked meats like tripe, tongue, and beef head along with carnitas (fried pork) and carne asada are just a few of the choices to fill tacos and burritos. And the tres leches cake is a wonderfully sweet way to end your meal.
Note: Los Altos is cash only.
A little over 4 years ago, the Pronko family saw a void in the Detroit Area dining scene. The lack of Mexican Asian fusion was too much for them to bare, so they created Maria’s Comida. Now we have a kung pao burrito for those days when we can’t decide. A line of salsas (and soon a barbecue sauce) was born from this concept. Now, Maria’s House Made Salsas are available all over the Greater Detroit Area and Ohio!
Al-Ameer is located on West Warren in Dearborn in the midst of a number of other fantastic Middle Eastern restaurants. It is not just because Anthony Bourdain visited a couple years ago that we’ve picked them as the best. Rather it is because of one unique dish, the baked eggplant salad. Stay with us, the salad has baked eggplant, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, mint, and parsley. It’s a truly amazing mix of earthy, crunchy, tart, and savory. Don’t like eggplant? No need to fret, the hummus, falafel, kibbeh, and shawarma is also delicious.
For over forty years, Emily’s Deli has been family owned and operated. Sam, Emily, and Sam Jr. are present every day they’re open. Known as “The Home of the Meat Pie,” the famous pockets are filled with ground lamb, onion, pine nuts, lemon juice, and spices. Words cannot do meat pies justice – they must be experienced. Also, experience the kibbeh nayyeh. Made fresh every morning, kibbeh nayyeh is served raw and usually with olive oil and raw onions and is an umami bomb of flavor.
Note: Carry-Out Only
No need to hop a flight to NYC or Amtrak your way to Chicago. In 2009, GQ magazine named Detroit as the 3rd best city for pizza in the whole US of A. Did you know there officially is a Detroit-Style Pizza? Mmmhmm, that’s right! The Detroit Style pizza is a style of pizza developed in Detroit. It is a square pizza, with a thick deep-dish crust with toppings placed under the sauce.
The crust of a Detroit-style pizza is especially noteworthy in that, in addition to occasionally being twice-baked, it is baked to a chewy medium-well done state, and many parlors will apply melted butter with a soft brush prior to baking.
The origins of “Detroit-style” pizza are from local Detroit pizzeria Buddy’s, which developed and began serving their signature pizza in 1946.
The pizza at Supino Pizzeria is the antithesis of Detroit style pizza. Round, thin, and crisp where Detroit style is square, thick, and chewy. Of course, both can co-exist and we are glad they do! We’re especially fond of the Bismarck. Topped with prosciutto, mozzarella, and an egg, this is a perfect morning pizza if you will. The runny yolk makes for a messy, joyous eating experience. One that we like to experience over and over again.
Recently featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Polish Village knows Polish cooking. Cabbage rolls, pierogi, city chicken, and duck blood soup are all regular menu items. However, the most impressive item might be the Hungarian pancake, a huge potato pancake covered in pork and vegetables with a spicy kick.
Mae’s is a diner first and foremost, but owner Jessica McCarthy has a special trick up her sleeve. Æbleskivers are orb shaped pancakes topped with raspberry jam and whipped cream. Given the amount of care each order of æbleskivers demands, Mae’s is the only place to eat these little delights. Don’t sleep on the rest of their menu either. Butter burgers (yes, burgers cooked in butter on a buttered bun) may be a catastrophe for your arteries, but they sure do taste good.
Sangria was visionary in its concept. Open for over a decade in Royal Oak, Sangria brought the tapas concept to metro Detroit. The menu is still very much focused on small plates along with dynamite paella. One of our favorites is the fantastic curried chicken salad, which is the perfect combination of sweet and savory. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that the sangria is also delicious, either the red or white versions.
It’s easy to become bored with Thai food. So many places are kicking out uninspired, gummy noodle laden plates of mush. Sy Thai, however, always serves delightfully fresh and well prepared plates. The Ka Prow with its fresh basil flavor is one of our favorites. The Von Sen and Coconut Curry Noodle makes our mouth water just thinking about it. Bubble drinks are whimsical slushies with tapioca pearls floating throughout.
There maybe no such thing as a free lunch, but Que Huong makes an inexpensive lunch that will amaze your taste buds. Bahn Mi is a quintessential fusion food. A perfect layering of grilled pork, cilantro, carrots, jalapeno, and sauce inside a warm, crusty, chewy baguette, it’s survival food of the most glorious kind and it is only $3. Add an avocado smoothie and you could easily subsist on this meal for years to come.
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