The Staff Picks. Here we go:
6430 Farmington Rd., West Bloomfield; 248-661-4466
Did I not JUST SAY (in regards to the category "Best French Restaurant") "At least it wasn't the Lark"? Guys, listen. The Lark: it ain't that great. Yes, they do have hands-down the biggest and best wine list in all this Great Lakes State (none others even come close), but aside from that--the food just really isn't that good. Yes, it's tiny, and you have to make reservations weeks in advance, and it's super-expensive, all of which lends it the air of being super-exclusive, but you know what? Exclusivity does not a great restaurant make. It's an experience; nothing more. So what IS the best splurge? IRIDESCENCE, YOU FUCKING DOLTS! Followed closely by Tribute in Farmington Hills...though I suppose I can't say that with any real confidence, seeing as how I haven't been since the newest chef took over. So, Iridescence, without question and without hesitation. Maybe also the Rattlesnake Club, though it wouldn't be quite the splurge you might think (this is another one of the many fine restaurants that have reduced prices in this economy). Ugh, the staff picks are not off to a good start.
BEST PRE-THEATER — MODERATE
4145 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-831-3965
Yeah, you know, this is an alright place. If you're looking to keep a budget, it won't disappoint. Though I would also recommend Angelina Italian Bistro where the pasta is made fresh from scratch daily and the price range is comparable.
BEST PRE-THEATER — UPSCALE
4421 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-832-7500
The Whitney finally resuscitated itself from the snooty, stodgy place it once was when it revamped in 2007, and the food is supposedly better than it has been in years (and is also more affordable, as many of the old fine-dining staples have responded to these economic times by reducing prices to entice budget-conscious customers). There is also a new jazz bar called the "Ghost Bar" on the third level (same as its always been, just with a name now) where you can have an after-theatre drink and listen to some jazz. As an alternate, I'd HIGHLY recommend Cuisine right by the Fisher Theatre. A little more French flair and a lot less pretense, though of course not nearly as decorated.
BEST CUT-RATE SWANKY
31425 W. 12 Mile Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-848-9393
Again with the new chef, though. Three years ago I would have been all over it; the free birthday dinner is also new (as I celebrated my birthday there several years in a row and it was NEVER free, lemme tell 'ya). You know what restaurant is still cut-rate swanky and hasn't reduced prices AT ALL (because they don't need to)? Yeah: Iridescence. Uh-huh. They sure are.
BEST AL FRESCO
La Dolce Vita
17546 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-865-0331
BEST AL FRESCO — NON-DETROIT
Don Luciano's Place Trattoria
237B Dalhousie St., Amherstburg; 519-736-2917
This is new to me??? Though it's in Canada, and to cross the border is just entirely too much trouble. However, it does sound lovely. To save yourself the hassle of customs, head out to Commerce Township (it's like being in another country anyway) to It's a Matter of Taste. That patio is simply stunning.
BEST NEW RESTAURANT — UPSCALE
735 Forest Ave., Birmingham; 248-258-9400
Speaking of Five Lakes Grill...Forest Grill is Chef Brian Polcyn's latest venture, and since opening last summer has received a number of accolades. This is the new "it" restaurant, though some reviews have been mixed. A must for any foodie, whether it lives up to its hype or not.
BEST NEW RESTAURANT — MODERATE
220 S. Main St., Clawson; 248-288-0220
Clawson is really coming into its own on the culinary scene, and Due Venti is its strongest offering yet. With so many mediocre (and highly Americanized) Italian places abounding, this place sounds like it really nailed the nouveau Italian concept (light and airy, lots of fresh fish), and with its emphasis on utilizing local produce, it's already a winner to me.
BEST NEW RESTAURANT — DOWNTOWN
Angelina Italian Bistro
1565 Broadway, at Grand Circus Park, Detroit; 313-962-1355
Ah, here she is. Angelina really is phenomenal, with great food at great prices (and you really can taste the difference in the fresh-made pasta--nothing else could possibly be as flawlessly al dente). The calamari is a must. The Paparadelle is my favorite. The wine list is solid, but be sure to try a martini while you're there--the Guinness Espress Martini is my favorite in town (and "town" includes Proof, Centaur, and Pulse).
BEST RESTAURANT TO MOURN
There's really just too many that could go into this category. Can I vote for Twingo's again?
Maria's Front Room
215 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-542-7379
You know, I never really cared for the old place. That generic Americanized Italian I just mentioned above? This place all over. But I've heard good things about the reopened spot (under new ownership), and am a bit curious. Even if it's better that still doesn't mean it's good, but we shall see.
BEST NEW SPINOFF
203 Pierce St., Birmingham; 248-25TOAST
BEST RESTAURANT MAKEOVER
201 S. Old Woodward Ave., Birmingham; 248-594-7300
Well, at least they didn't use my "just call a snail a snail" line. And I do agree with the "best makeover" win...even if I did say it first.
BEST WHILE IT LASTED
Mercury Coffee Bar
There were good things about it. There were bad things about it. I miss the slow coffee. I don't miss the $7.00 bite-sized sandwiches. And no one misses the poor management and the lack of clear direction. C'est le vie, MCB.
BEST NEW SUBURBAN DINING DESTINATION
I swear to God and Allah and Buddha and Gaya and Frodo Baggins I made the above comment about Clawson before I had even scrolled all the way down to see this category on the Staff Picks list. And yes, I OBVS agree.
BEST ANN ARBOR RESTAURANT
115 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-327-2312
Ann Arbor is too far. But I do like the Chop House. I know nothing about Logan.
BEST EASTERN MARKET
2460 Market St., Detroit; 313-393-1711
Let me tell you something about the restaurants in Eastern Market: most are not that great. I was just having a conversation about this the other day when it dawned on me that Eastern Market eateries are only fashionable BECAUSE they're in Eastern Market, and Eastern Market itself is fashionable. Vivio's really isn't that good. And is, in fact, kind of disgusting. Not quite Lafayette Coney Island disgusting, but close. Even their well-loved Bloody Mary mix is really just not that great (the "mix" appears to be nothing more than watered-down tomato juice). And yet, people flock there. For the absolute best in Eastern Market? Supino Pizzeria. More here.
Smoke and Spice
1515 Ottawa St., Windsor; 519-252-4999
Apparently I need to make the trek to Windsor. If MT staff one-upped the much-loved Slows for this place, there must be something to it.
Señor López Taqueria
7146 Michigan, Detroit; 313-551-0685
A much better choice than the readers picked.
BEST SOUL FOOD RESTAURANT
Beans & Cornbread: A Soulful Bistro
29508 Northwestern Hwy., Southfield; 248-208-1680
The staff and readers agree. I vaguely wonder if this is because both were hard-pressed to name another soul food restaurant.
BEST MEXICAN-ITALIAN RESTAURANT
3710 Junction Rd., Detroit; 313-894-2070
Readers, I've been saving you from El Barzon for a reason. There is a review forthcoming, as well as an event; I will reveal my hand after all is said and done. But let me just say that the concept of a super top-secret foodie find in a downtrodden part of southwest Detroit seems to mean more to people than the food. The prices are right but the food is only so-so. Come to the Supper Club in May! (<----irony)
BEST CUBAN RESTAURANT
415 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-544-6255
I'd vote for Vicente's personally, though neither is stellar.
At this point, I am tiring of this Best Of list. I will just copy the rest for you, as there are about 50 more categories to go (every restaurant gets its own category, w00t!).
BEST ITALIAN — SPLURGE
Ristorante Café Cortina
30715 W. 10 Mile Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-474-3033
BEST SAMMARINESE RESTAURANT
Tre Monti Ristorante
1695 Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-680-1100
It's generic Italian.
BEST POLISH RESTAURANT
Polish Village Café
2990 Yemans St., Hamtramck; 313-874-5726; polishvillagecafe.net
There really couldn't be another option.
BEST GREEK RESTAURANT
579 Monroe St., Detroit; 313-961-1550
6 of one, half dozen of the other.
BEST MEDITERRANEAN RESTAURANT
2900 S. State Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-332-9700
Again with Ann Arbor?
BEST EGYPTIAN-INFLUENCED MIDDLE EASTERN RESTAURANT
43259 Woodward Ave., Bloomfield Hills; 248-858-5800
3720 Rochester Rd., Troy; 248-524-0300
35558 Grand River Ave., Farmington Hills; 248-615-1900
4240 Pontiac Lake Rd., Waterford; 248-674-3100
BEST NEW MIDDLE EASTERN RESTAURANT IN THE CITY
3236 Caniff St., Hamtramck; 313-872-9454
BEST LEBANESE RESTAURANT
BEST VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT
27641 John R, Madison Heights; 248-547-6763
Also try the more upscale Annam in Dearborn.
BEST THAI RESTAURANT
323 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-548-5373
I was wondering when this one would appear...a longtime favorite of many.
BEST LAOTIAN RESTAURANT
1449 W. 14 Mile Rd., Madison Heights; 248-597-0800
Look at Madison Heights, rounding out the cultural offerings!
BEST TAKEOUT FOR A CHARLIE CHAN MOVIE
2346 Franklin Rd., Bloomfield Hills; 248-335-1228
How about best name?
BEST ETHIOPIAN RESTAURANT
Taste of Ethiopia
29702F Southfield Rd., Southfield; 248-905-5560; 2453 Russell St., Eastern Market; 313-567-6000 (lunch only)
ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE. More to come.
Modern Food & Spirits
1535 Cass Lake Rd., Keego Harbor; 248-681-4231
Yossi's Israeli Cuisine
7325 Orchard Lake Rd., West Bloomfield; 248-626-0160
BEST GARDEN BURGER
The "Stevers McFever"At Woodbridge Pub, 5169 Trumbull Ave., Detroit; 313-833-2701
BEST POMMES FRITES
419 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-544-6250
They might not be called "pommes frites," but the truffle and parmesan fries at Royal Oak's Town Tavern are like sin. Really really good sin.
The following is NOT an insult to my intelligence as a pizza lover.
BEST PIZZA — NEW
BEST THIN-CRUST PIZZA
2595 Rochester Rd., Rochester Hills; 248-844-8899; 6622 Telegraph Rd., Bloomfield Township; 248-855-5855
BEST PIZZA AND COCKTAILS
3249 12 Mile Rd., Berkley; 248-544-4100
BEST BURGER AND A MALTED
Red Knapp's Dairy Bar
304 S. Main St., Rochester; 248-651-4545
This was a place we used to trek out to from far away Clinton Township just for that freakin' milkshake. At the time, not much was poppin' in Rochester. But Red Knapp's is worth the trip. (Insert quote about the five dollar milkshake from Pulp Fiction here.)
BEST CORNED BEEF
Al's Famous Deli
32906 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak; 248-549-3663
Le Petit Zinc Creperie & Cafe
1055 Trumbull, Detroit; 313-963-2805
28948 Orchard Lake Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-932-7400
BEST DEAL ON A TAMAL
2054 Junction, Detroit; 313-554-9087
Peng Lai Pan Asian Cuisine
6130 Rochester Rd., Rochester Hills; 248-656-3800
BEST SUSHI AND A COCKTAIL
326 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak;248-546-0888
BEST PLACE TO SUCK THE JUICE OUT OF CRAWFISH HEADS
22848 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-691-7145
BEST SLOW FOOD RESTAURANT
Eve: The Restaurant
415 N. Fifth Ave., with entrance on Kingsley Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues, Ann Arbor; 734-222-0711
BEST RAW DEAL
Red Pepper Deli
116 W. Main St., Northville; 248-773-7672
BEST GREEN RESTAURANT
Mind Body & Spirits
301 S. Main St., Rochester; 248-651-3663
BEST VEGETARIAN NOT IN A VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT
1600 Rochester Rd., Troy; 248-526-1444
BEST PLACE TO SATISFY YOUR MEAT TOOTH
1114 Washington Blvd., inside the Westin Book-Cadillac, Detroit; 313-442-1600
BEST RETRO EXPERIENCE
Clawson Steak House
56 S. Rochester Ave., Clawson; 248-588-5788
BEST SMALL PLATES
Gala: A New American Bistro
33316 Grand River Ave., Farmington; 248-478-2355
401 S. Lafayette Ave., Royal Oak; 248-543-1964
Maple Leaf Café
297 Maple Rd., Birmingham; 248-723-1222
BEST FINER DINER
The Fly Trap
22950 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-399-5150
BEST FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD BAR AND RESTAURANT
5169 Trumbull, Detroit; 313-833-2701
I heart you!
BEST FOOD IN A SPORTS BAR
6550 Allen Rd., Allen Park; 313-389-5050
BEST DETROIT HISTORICAL TOUR WITH YOUR BURGER
450 W. Fort St., Detroit; 313-964-9127
BEST KITCHEN IN A COCKTAIL LOUNGE OR JAZZ BAR
2030 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-961-2543; cliffbells.com
BEST PLACE TO SING A GERMAN DRINKING SONG
Dakota Inn Rathskeller
17324 John R St., Detroit; 313-867-9722
BEST PLACE TO HAVE A DRINK BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER DINNER
2138 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-962-9828
Ah, they still found a way to squeeze Slows in.
27475 Groesbeck Hwy., Roseville; 586-775-7427
BEST $5 SANDWICH, STORY AND A SMILE
8500 Capital St., Oak Park; 248-541-9703
BEST DINNER AND A SHOW
6820 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-843-2146
BEST NEIGHBORHOOD BAKERY
220 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-398-8018
BEST CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE
Au Bon Pain
100 Renaissance Center, Detroit; 313-393-2271; Campus Martius, 800 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-226-6600; Detroit Medical Center, 4201 St. Antoine St., Detroit; 313-832-4801; www.aubonpain.com
BEST CRÈME BRÛLÈE
555 Forest, Plymouth; 734-455-9463
She might have chocolate and vanilla (i.e., traditional) creme brulee, but what about Passionfruit? Head to the Rattlesnake.
BEST ICE CREAM
Shatila Bakery & Café
14300 W. Warren Ave., Dearborn; 313-582-1952
29101 Greenfield Rd., Southfield; 248-559-5985; also locations in Detroit and Livonia
That bread pudding really is good.
If there are any restaurants that failed to receive their own category, contact the Metro Times staff and maybe they'll do another Best-Of 2009 in three months and include it. Ah, I kid, I kid! At the very least, this sizable best-of list will expose a lot of great restaurants to a lot of new people, and that dear foodies is a good thing. Bon appétit!