Best of Detroit 2011
Photo: Marvin Shaouni
Nutritional Value - Staff Picks
From style to fare to special dishes, our staff picks what's best
Published: April 27, 2011
Best Fine Dining Value
Inside the MGM Detroit Grand, 1777 Third St., Detroit; 313-465-1646
This up-market seafood spot offers plenty of opportunities for big winners at the casino to show off, such as caviar, Australian A-5 beef at $26 per ounce and Champagne at $1,996 by the magnum. But it offers luscious treats for the less-lucky as well, with some entrées in the low 20s and oysters on the half shell for $2 apiece during happy hour. Whatever the order, it will be prepared sublimely, whether a $16 appetizer of ahi tartare, prepared tableside by your server for a fine show, or a $23 cioppino, the San Francisco shellfish stew in tomato broth. Mid-week partiers can take advantage of the Wednesday wine special: half off bottles costing more than $100.
Best Happy Hour
1128 Washington Blvd., Detroit; 313-961-2500; roastdetroit.com
Hit the bar at Roast during happy hour and you can fill up on a few excellent small plates for next to nothing. Try the 5-ounce grilled hamburger on an English muffin topped with cheese, bacon, pickled onions and a fried egg. Our favorite is fried chicken livers with mushrooms and polenta. Spicy hot peppers stuffed with sausage and the rosemary fries are good too. Since all the items on the happy hour menu are only $3, you'll have a couple extra bucks to splurge on something from their excellent drinks program.
Best Restaurant in Macomb County
The Metropolitan Café
52969 Van Dyke Ave., Shelby Twp.; 586-991-6104; themetroshelby.com
Creativity is the watchword at the east side's newest treasure: The menu at Metropolitan Café defies categorization — except to say that it's universally delicious. Chef Alexis Henslee seems to have a knack for turning common ingredients into something entirely uncommon. Be it local perch transformed into a clever Mediterranean dish or a nuanced braised lamb served atop pappardelle, nothing here is expected or obvious. Henslee has established relationships with local farmers and features their ingredients regularly on the menu, which changes seasonally. One might think that such an interesting approach to the cuisine would be accompanied by pretentiousness, but the Metropolitan Café aims for friendliness over fanciness — an exceptional neighborhood restaurant, nothing more and nothing less.
Best Restaurant to Mourn
Eve: The Restaurant
Many metro area food lovers may only know Eve Aronoff because of her unceremonious exit from TV's Top Chef, but Ann Arborites had been packing her restaurant, Eve, long before that. With a thoughtful menu full of local ingredients, a wide selection of wines, and well-made cocktails it was, to many, Ann Arbor's best restaurant. Though the approach was decidedly French, the menu always featured bright flavors, often via delicious Asian or African spicing. While Aronoff politely notes that she needed a break anyhow, an unforeseen rent hike is ultimately what saw the Kerrytown favorite close its doors after about five years. All good things must come to an end; but no one expected Eve's end to come so soon.
Best New Spinoff
117 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-761-2882; fritabatidos.com
With various upscale restaurants making the transformation from extravagant to easygoing (think Milford's Five Lakes Grill becoming Cinco Lagos, or Troy's Larco's becoming Big Beaver Tavern), savvy restaurateurs are taking note. Leave it to Eve Aronoff of the now-shuttered restaurant Eve to find a niche that caters to the comfort food crowd. Frita Batidos serves fritas (Cuban burgers made from spicy chorizo), and batidos (tropical milkshakes), opening early for the breakfast crowd. The interior is elegant but not austere, with communal seating at large picnic tables, as if to bring street food indoors. With excellent presentation, a short, affordable (it tops out at $12), burger-heavy menu, boutique ingredients, and plenty of pulled pork, grilled cheese and sloppy joes, Aronoff's gamble that her Latin vision of American comfort food would pay off would seem a winning bet.
Best Bargain Prix Fixe
Kitchen Sync at Wine Sync
122 W. Main St., Northville; 248-374-9463; winesync.com
Experienced wine hand Alan Verstraete says he always starts building his Saturday night prix fixe menus by choosing the wines; the menu evolves from there. Makes sense, since the restaurant is inside a retail wine store. A first-course salad is perfectly matched with its tipple — say a watercress and pink grapefruit salad with a zippy sauvignon blanc that has a grapefruit tang. Cheese and charcuterie will be complemented with a red, of course, or the second course might be pasta. Entrées (two choices) could be smoked pork riblets or duck breast or pork shank mole — actually, whatever will go with the wine of the day. You can read what's coming up at winesync.com, and it's only $30 for a four-course meal. Reservations required.
Best Rising Food Trend in Metro Detroit
Let's be clear: There has always been good barbecue in Detroit, whether it's the ribs at Vicki's or the barbecue served at such places as Milt's, Uptown Bar-B-Q, Parks, Aunt Bessie's and many other old-style joints. But in 2005, Slows took low-and-slow barbecue and added stylish sit-down dining and the biggest beer menu in town. Six years on and the formula has been re-created throughout metro Detroit, in places such as Lockhart's, Bad Brad's, Penny Black, Hoggers, Rub, Red Smoke and Union Woodshop. Driven by demand for casual dining, renewed interest in craft beer, and a fresh look at low-and-slow 'cue, it's also a reaction against anything that smacks of hoity-toityness. The verdict is clear: Barbecue is the best way to combine the decadent and the down-home in one package.
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