Best of Detroit 2012
Nutritional Value - Staff Picks
Our staff picks for dining in Metro Detroit
Published: April 25, 2012
Best Small Plates
300 Town Center Drive, inside the Henry hotel, Dearborn; 313-253-4475; triadearbornrestaurant.com
Tria encourages experimentation with its combo of small sizes and smallish prices. Dinner guests can try nibbling plates of five spreads and snacks for $12 (such as olive tapenade, marinated olives and nuts). Or get one Black Angus slider with red onion jam and one braised lamb taco, $4 apiece. Share flatbreads spread with smoked salmon or with mushrooms, chèvre, arugula and caramelized onions. Some dishes are available in half-sizes (such as the impossibly rich lamb ragout), and the "small is possible" ethos extends to wines and desserts. You can order 2-ounce, 5-ounce or 8-ounce servings of wine, allowing you to create your own flights, and get a miniature dessert for $3 or five for $7.
Best American Restaurant
340 Town Center Blvd., White Lake; 248-698-2400; therootrestaurant.com
The Root is not only aggressively American in its menu choices (pork shoulder, New York strip, meatloaf, pumpkin pot pie, cheese grits, corn on the cob) but insistently Michigan: pork pasties are on the menu. In truth, it's not sticking to nearby suppliers, but to chef James Rigato's outsized cooking skills, which have produced such excellent takes on old favorites. He tosses linguine with house-made bacon and shrimp from Okemos (!), roasts quince to mix with arugula and pumpkin seeds, braises pork in cider and then adds cheddar grits. The result is taste sensations that draw diners from all over metro Detroit.
Best Locavore Cuisine
2501 Jackson Rd., Ann Arbor; 734-663-3663 (FOOD); zingermansroadhouse.com
You can't get much more local than sourcing from eight miles away on your own farm. Chef Alex Young's Cornman Farms grows 27 vegetables for the Roadhouse in scores of varieties, including many heirlooms, and raises old breeds of hogs and cattle for diners' barbecue glee. He says varieties are chosen for their suitability to the Michigan climate, bragging that, in the summer, vegetables are served just hours after they're picked. The rest of the harvest is put up for the winter — no need to import from afar. And what goes around comes around: Your leftovers go back to the farm as compost.
Best Raw Food
204 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-336-9043; www.cacaotreecafe.com
We are continually being warned about foods that are harmful to our well-being, those containing too much fat, too much lactose, too many hormones and preservatives. When shelf stability is more important than healthfulness, making the right choices becomes difficult. Amber Puopore, owner of the Cacao Tree and longtime advocate of a vegetarian diet, has taken her diet to another level, serving raw foods that retain many of the nutrients lost in the cooking process. She uses mostly organic ingredients, sourcing as much she can locally. Almost everything is vegan. What's more, the purity of the flavors is compelling, even to a meat-eater.
Best Middle Eastern Restaurant with Alcohol
32621 Northwestern Hwy., Farmington Hills; 248-932-1300; lechefmi.com
Despite the abundance of fine Middle Eastern restaurants in metro Detroit, it can be difficult to find one that serves cocktails and wine, a must for some folks. Tucked away in an obscure strip mall, Le Chef has it all. Owned by a Lebanese family — both husband and wife are chefs — you'll find generous portions of their take on the usual dishes, reflecting their pride and the expertise, all served up in a contemporary room with white tablecloths. Save room for the crème caramel and French pastries.
8731 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck; 313-871-4349
Forget hummus — it's not traditional in Yemen — and seek dishes far afield from the well-known Lebanese. The 8 a.m.-to-midnight, seven-days café is no-frills — no raw juices, no dessert — and oriented toward men from the neighborhood. A giant piece of flatbread (malooga) is the utensil of choice. Basically, lamb is spiced and cooked in a variety of ways, in large servings: on the backbone with vegetables, in a dark broth, ground with egg and vegetables, in stews called soups, and served in heavy cast-iron pots. Prices are nonstandard too: $5-$10 for entrées.
Best Old-School Italian
3401 Riopelle St., Detroit; 313-831-5940; romacafe.com
For the last couple decades, the majority of new Italian restaurants have anxiously tried to distinguish themselves from their "inauthentic" older cousins, aka red-sauce joints. You know, the places where most of the dishes have a thick blanket of mozzarella, and where you'll unfailingly find familiar standbys such as chicken Marsala and eggplant Parmesan. We say there's nothing wrong with these old-school restaurants — in fact, they should be celebrated for the hearty hybrid cuisine they offer. Detroit's oldest and best is Roma Café in the Eastern Market. Not only does the place have history and ambience up the ying-yang, their food is rock-solid. In addition to covering the usual classics — pastas, steaks, several preparations of chicken and veal — Roma also offers such items as frog legs, sautéed sweetbreads and escargot for more adventurous diners.
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