Science-free holiday post–FOOD!

OK, this is a meme that I’ve always wanted to do (at least since this morning). It will involve no tagging, no involuntary contributions, just some cool info sharing.

We all have favorite restaurants, places we can drop in for a favorite meal. What I’m interested in is not the best gourmet places, but the best everyday places. So, I’ll share with you some of my local favorites from the NW Detroit metro area (leaving out some from earlier in my life, as I can’t verify their continued existence).

1) Mr. Kabob, in Berkley, MI. This place rocks. It’s in a damned gas station, but they cook up some wickedly good and cheap mideastern carry out (and you can eat there if you don’t mind the comings and goings of the gas patrons).

2) Redcoat Tavern, Birmingham, MI. This cramped, dark, smoky spot is well-known for one of the best burgers in Michigan.

3) Juilleret’s, Charlevoix, MI. I dare you—I double dog dare you—to find a better breakfast. The french toast is incomparable.

4) Steve’s Deli, Bloomfield Hills, MI: Detroit has great delis. Really, New York, you guys are pitiful. You must have a #4 (corned beef, swiss cheese, coleslaw on rye with russian dressing)—it’s a classic Detroit deli sandwich. (Yes, Star Deli is better, but it’s takeout only.)

5) Athens Coney Island, Birmingham, MI: Coney Islands are Detroit diners. They are often Greek-owned, and have lots of classic Greek specialties, but what they all share in common is the Coney, a natural casing hot dog in a steamed bun with chili sauce (not chili). You gotta do it. (Yes, Lafayette and American are the classics, but how often do you really go to downtown Detroit, even if you live here?)

So go ahead and tell us your favorite hometown eateries—we want to know.


  1. Dunno if it’s still there, but Mexico Lindo in Halifax, Nova Scotia is the best Mexican grub I’ve ever had, and cheap too. Nothing like it here in Ottawa.

  2. Here are some, though they are really scattered.

    My three favorites for mideastern fair; Woody’s Oasis, in Okemos, MI. Hoda’s, in Portland, OR. And the very best is the Aladdin’s (now New Aladdin’s) in Lansing, MI – I haven’t been there in years, but have been assured that it is just as incredible as ever.

    The very best Gyros, anywhere in the world, come from a foodcart that is two blocks north, half a block east of the Portland central branch library, called Aybla Grill. Honestly, one of my very favorite foods in the world is Gyros. I have tried them in more than fifty U.S. cities and a few other countries. Chef Saied makes the very best and is a very gracious host (as one can be with a food cart). For those who are not keen on the meat type foods, according to my ex, they also make the very best falafel ever. Also the very sexiest prices.

    My favorite for Coney’s is the Greek run Sparties, which is right next to Alladin’s, in Lansing. They make a passable gyro, and if you sit at the counter and talk to the cook, he might fatten it up – if you tip well, he’ll definitely fatten it up the next time. And if you go in for breakfast often enough, your food will be close to ready by the time you make it from your truck to your seat. (if you happen to want something else that morning and didn’t think to call, tough!)

    Don’t even think about Coney’s in Portland, least ways I never found a passable one. But then again, Portland has a hella lot of restaurants and I was only there three years.

    However, there are a shit-ton of great food carts in downtown Portland that serve great diner food, without the diner (which wouldn’t be smokey, because this is Portland we’re talking about). Some of my very favorites, aside from Aybla’s, are in Pioneer Courthouse Square. In fact, the three that are there all rock in a big way. From Honkin Huge Burritos, to the Philly Cheesesteaks and Burgers (who’s owner is working on a NY trip WTF??) finishing with the hotdog stand run by the most wonderful Korean women, who insisted on giving my son a hotdog, when we had just spent all the cash I had on me at Powell’s (the largest used bookstore in the world). The dogs really aren’t that great, but she has veggie dogs, sausages and the loveliest personality (she’s pretty too).

    The nice thing about the Portland food carts, especially Pioneer Square’s, is that you can actually chat with the people making your food and hang out while you eat. Very communal and friendly, I usually have more of a problem walking away than with getting bored (because you’re never the only one talking with the cart peeps).

    And if you have an interest in Ethiopian food (who hasn’t?) and are in the Lansing area, Altu’s in East Lansing is the place to go. Even if you’ve never considered the idea of Ethiopian cuisine, if you’re ever in the area, you have to try it out. It is simply the very best food ever, served traditionally. Which is really fun if you have kids under nine or ten. If you’ve never had it, I won’t ruin it, but trust me – kids have a blast. I should note that I tried several Ethiopian restaurants in Portland, a couple that were actually nice dining experiences, but Altu’s is absolutely the very best.

    Happy Holidays…

  3. It will involve no tagging, no involuntary contributions, just some cool info sharing.

    If you really want to get into the Christmas spirit, you should tag your relatives, and force them to make some suggestions.

    I’m not taking part in his, simply because I’m English, and therefore unqualified to comment on good food.

  4. Don’t Panic

    Su’s Mongolian BBQ in San Jose. Flew back from Chicago just to eat there twice … Oh, I guess we were here to visit relatives as well. There’s a great Greek place in Cupertino located in an old barely remodelled Taco Bell that was also worth the price of the ticket -I forget the name of the place, but 7 years away haven’t diminished it’s place in my tastebud hall of fame. Alas the hole-in-wall kabob place in Fremont CA seems to have sucumbed to the economic downturn. Sadly I can’t think of any similar places that I’d rave about in the Chicago west suburbs where I currently reside.

  5. I go downtown all the time…and I live there. *sigh* Yet another round of subtle slights to Detroit.

    Some good restaurants: Country Restaurant in Dearborn, MI. Best Lebanese food you’ll ever have.

    Cass Cafe in DETROIT, MI. Nice restaurant/art gallery. Get the Spinach and Artichoke sammich.

    Mercury Coffee Bar in DETROIT, MI. Great coffee shop with some delicious food. All natural, locally bought produce, too.

    Angleina Italian Bistro in DETROIT, MI. It’s a bit more high end than what you’re asking, but it’s still delicious and fairly affordable food.

    Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza in DETROIT, MI. Best pizza I’ve had in a long time. Unfortunately, it’s not brick oven fired.

    Wasabi in DETROIT, MI. I love the Korean and the Japanese food at this place. SOOOO good!

    Julian’s Coney Island in Keego Harbor, MI. I love this Coney. The owners are awesome and I’ve been going there since I was a babe in arms. They know exactly what I’m going to order once I sit down.

    National Coney Island in Roseville, MI. I’m talking about the one on I-696 and Gratiot. It’s open 24 hrs which is why it’s on my list.

    Niki’s Pizzeria in DETROIT, MI. Delicious square pizza right in downtown. Great big pizzeria, too. Saganaki is on the list, too.

    I personally prefer American to Lafayette. It’s a little bit bigger and the food is served up hot and fast.

  6. thanks for reminding us suburbanites that there’s still a lot going on south of 8 mile

  7. minimalist

    Charlottesville, VA: Jinx’s Pit’s-Top Bar-Be-Que on far east Market Street (past the downtown mall). Phenomenal chopped-pork barbecue sandwiches on butter-fried bread. I cannot stress enough how awesome these sammiches are. The cucumber salad is a great accompaniment (cole slaw is for noobs).

    Bethesda, MD: Chicken on the Run on St. Elmo Avenue. Best rostiseria-style (Peruvian/South American) chicken in the DC area. I always have a quarter- or half-chicken with their tasty, tasty rice and beans and yuca.

  8. Watertown, MA: the Deluxe Town Diner. Great little old-school diner with a hipper-than-most menu — things like sauteed spinach and Wagyu beef burgers. (It was also in the video for the Blue Man Group/Venus Hum cover of “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer.)

    Arlington, MA: Blue Ribbon BBQ. Generally agreed to be one of the two best barbeque joints in Massachusetts.

    Yarmouth, MA: Keltic Kitchen. Basically an Irish-themed diner with some excellent breakfasts, a decent selection of lunch, and a little Irish-stuff shop out back, including a good selection of Irish/British candy and meats. Got written up by USA Today as one of the ten best breakfast joints in the country.

    Hyannis, MA: The Brazilian Grill. The best steak house vegetarian death march on Cape Cod — classic Brazilian churrasco à rodizio, and an enormous Brazilian buffet to go with it.

    All over the Boston suburbs, and for some reason in Key West, FL: the Upper Crust. The best thin-crust pizza in Massachusetts (although Sweet Tomatoes here on Cape Cod is a close second).

    Boston/Salem/Lowell, MA: The Boston Beer Works, sort of the platonic ideal of an upscale brewpub. Huge menu, huge beer selection, and as an added bonus the Boston locations are within a block of Fenway Park and the Garden, meaning they get huge gameday crowds for the Sox, Celtics, and Bruins. I’m surprised they haven’t opened a location in Foxboro.

    Providence, RI: Not a restaurant per se but a huge Italian deli, Venda Ravioli on Atwell’s Ave has lots of hard-to-find Italian groceries and cold cuts. I don’t get there nearly enough.

    Boston/Providence: Fire + Ice. It’s a build-it-yourself stir fry place (what some call, for reasons I am not privy to, Mongolian BBQ). It’s been around just a little too long to still qualify as hip or interesting, but it’s a great place to kick back with a few plates of stir-fry and a bowl of rice.

  9. Anonymous

    There’s a great Greek place in Cupertino located in an old barely remodelled Taco Bell that was also worth the price of the ticket -I forget the name of the place, but 7 years away haven’t diminished it’s place in my tastebud hall of fame. I think I know where that is….I have to go down to Cupertino on Saturday and I’ll check it out and post here.

    My father called this class of restaurant “working men’s restaurants”. Good food at a good price.

    My personal current favorite is J. & J.’s Hawaiian Barbecue.. I frequent the one in Menlo Park.

    In my youth, Kirk’s Burgerswas a Sunday tradition, after church with the grandparents. Back then, it was the long-gone south Palo Alto branch, on El Camino just north of Charleston/Arastradero. The ambiance has been upgraded without substantive change.

    If you are in Mountain View, CA, I can heartily recommend Canton Chinese Fast Food. Like one of the Yelp reviewers, I avoided CCFF for a while in favor of the late, lamented Burrito Real. But one afternoon I was passing by and saw the fresh box of broccoli being prepared…so my daughter and I started eating there. The strip mall (as of 10/08, last time I was there) is being renovated…I hope CCFF survives the disruptions of the renovations.

  10. Actually, my favorite Coney is The Senate in Livonia, where my parents live. There’s another one on Haggerty Road in Northville, but it’s in golf course clubhouse that’s very old school (lots of wood and paneling), and it kind of steals from the diner atmosphere. On the other hand, the Northville location does serve alcohol. There’s also a Senate in Detroit itself (its original location), but I’ve never been there.

    Another favorite of mine in Michigan is the ever-famous Buddy’s Pizza, again the Livonia one. I go there with my parents a lot when I’m in town.

  11. I also forgot a couple of others. There’s the Union Street Tavern on Woodward near the DMC and Traffic Jam & Snug on Canfield near 2nd in Detroit. The latter hasn’t changed much since the 1960s; I can picture hippies hanging out there 40 years ago–and they probably did.

  12. I forgot about those midtown spots..

  13. featheredfrog

    Just for Deli. As a New Yorker, I say you must not have sampled The Carnegie, Wolf’s (forget Katz’s), but the best in the area?

    Harold’s in Edison, NJ. Corned Beef, Pastrami and Brisket (not to mention the smoked whitefish and other specialites) It’s attached to the Holiday Inn in Edison.

    Worth the side trip just for the world’s best grilled cheese and bacon sandwich. Bring your coronary artery roto-rooter. Or just eat some incomparible coleslaw.

  14. The reason I didn’t include Union Street and TJ’s is because they’re well above the price point I thought you were looking for. TJ’s…is okay. I used to like it a lot more but the menu has changed and they don’t have the bakery there anymore. Union Street is right across from where I live. It’s great. The Rasta Wings are awesome.

    If you’re looking for some great gourmet brick oven pizza, go to Motor City Brewing Works right across the street from TJ’s. That’s the actual hip place that people hang out in. Same with Cass Cafe. TJ’s is where the yuppie older folks who moved into the city for the cheap real estate go.

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