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
3845 W. Warren Ave., Detroit; 313-894-9906
Vicki's is a small storefront shrimp and ribs joint. The sides are perfunctory, but the ribs are spectacular. They serve their slabs hot or mild, cleaving each rib, leaving a fringe of meat to hold it all together. Then they dunk them in their special sauce — hot slabs get a dusting of spices on the top and bottom, as well as one more generous pour of hot sauce for good measure. The sauce and ribs create a nearly perfect package. The meat is perfectly cooked, not too fatty, not too crispy; the sauce imparts a sweetness, but doesn't overwhelm the meat's smoky flavors. They're a bit pricey, costing $19.62 a slab, but with quality like this, who'd argue over pennies?
Best New Barbecue Restaurant
202 E. Third St., Royal Oak; 248-584-4227; lockhartsbbq.com
Giving a nod to Lockhart, Texas, considered by some to be the barbecue capital of the Lone Star State, this Royal Oak joint is drawing crowds for top-notch 'cue. Start with a plate of the burnt ends, double-rubbed and double-smoked chunks of brisket, then move on to the usual suspects: ribs, chicken, pulled pork and house-made sausage, hot or mild. Go for the hot. The full bar has a selection of cold beer, perfect with barbecue. A side of collards, unlike the usual smothered style, is crisp and tender. A slice of chocolate Dr. Pepper cake is a fitting finish.
Best Raw Food
Red Pepper Deli
116 W. Main St., Northville; 248-773-7672; redpepperdeli.org
She has more competitors than in the past, but Carolyn Simon is still serving the best raw-vegan-organic around; she can convince even omnivorous skeptics that it's possible for a restaurant to eschew cooking. So for a Greenwich sandwich, she'll food-process seeds into "cheese," add spinach, cucumber, avocado and sprouts, and put it on thin crunchy "bread" also made of seeds. It's funny that she keeps the titles — pizza, meatloaf, spaghetti and meatballs — for dishes that don't resemble their namesakes — they're delicious in ways that are surprising and inventive. They have to be.
Best Street Food Destination
Detroit is hardly the best city to find street food, but you wouldn't know it walking around Eastern Market on a Saturday. Follow the enticing aroma of Bert's outdoor grills as they send wafts of mouthwatering smoke into the market. Inside the market you can find baked goods, soups, sandwiches, and other hot eats from Russell Street Deli, People's Pierogi Collective, Good Girls go to Paris Crêpes and J & M Farms. You can also explore the shops around the market for quick eats. Eastern Market is a living, evolving thing. Even regular patrons are surprised on a weekly basis.
Best Hot Dog Stand
Gourmet Hot Dogs
2 E. John R, Detroit; 313-646-8055
This downtown hot dog stand is self-dubbed as the "Home of the Cleveland-Style Polish Boy" — that's a pre-grilled Polish sausage that's dunked into a deep-fryer for crisping, then topped with a heaping layer of cole slaw and fries, and finished with a barbecue-based sauce ($4). They also serve Italian sausage with grilled green peppers and onions, the "Detroit Dog of Champions" with cole slaw, cheese and chili, a turkey Polish dog, a "Hot and Spicy Dog," a slaw dog, a New York dog, a veggie dog, and an "All-American Hot Dog" with onions, relish, mustard and ketchup. One of their biggest sellers is the "Big Lew," an all-beef, quarter-pound hot dog with add-ons to order. All dogs come in an easy-to carry plastic case, wrapped inside tin foil. Be sure to ask for extra napkins. You'll need them.
Best Throwback Diner
24060 Woodward Ave., Pleasant Ridge; 248-548-5288; maesdetroit.com
Mae's is clean and decent and suggestive of a fairy-tale land where young love is measured in baseball euphemisms and cigarettes aren't yet bad for your health. Natural light washes across the white counter and the vibrant aqua vinyl stools and chairs. Vintage wooden soda crates and a milkshake mixer lie among the shelves of kitchen tools and foodstuffs. Though the menu is more eclectic than what you might have eaten in a real 1950s diner, the vibe is all old-fashioned neighborhood wholesomeness with plenty of good food.
Best New Lebanese Restaurant
Le Chef Restaurant
32621 Northwestern Hwy., Farmington Hills; 248-932-1300; lechefmi.com
Hidden from view in a small strip center lies a culinary oasis. The contemporary decor, the white tablecloths, and the welcoming staff all give you a sense of the food that follows. The flavors exhibit a refinement, subtly seasoned, with emphasis on the quality and freshness of the ingredients. Begin with the ubiquitous mixed appetizer. The tabbouleh is pristinely fresh and crisp; the hummus creamy and the baba ghanoush smoky, both with just the right proportions of lemon, garlic and tahini. There's also lamb shank stewed with okra, eggplant stuffed with meat and rice, and a variety of seafood dishes in addition to the shawarmas and kebabs, as well as numerous vegetarian dishes.
Best New Indian Restaurant in the Suburbs
Mazza Indian Cuisine
3354 W. 12 Mile Rd., Berkley; 248-543-6299; mazzaindiancuisine.com
There's no dearth of Indian food in these parts anymore. Located in the former digs of Passage to India, Mazza Indian Cuisine is a recent addition to the pack. The front is now glass, eliminating the cave-like atmosphere. The food, too, has been transformed. The meat and poultry dishes are assertively seasoned, although some are not spicy enough unless you request them so. The chicken tikka masala is first cooked in a tandoor, adding an extra layer of flavor to the sauce that it is finished in. Several of the vegetarian entrées are available as sides. Do not pass on the mulligatawny soup.
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