Thursday, December 20, 2012


Brooklyn Street Local's traditional poutine. All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.
One thing was absolutely, unequivocally clear this year: when we find a trend that we like, we sink our collective teeth into it and violently shake our heads back and forth and beat it against the pavement until there is nothing left but lifeless spit-covered shreds no longer even resembling the thing it once was. We did it with upscale BBQ. We're still doing it with artisan coffee (and there's even MORE since that updated update) and classed-up comfort food (see: every restaurant that opened this year, all of them). What can I say? When we make something A Thing around here, we make it A MOTHERFUCKING THING. 

Also, for comparison's sake, here's last year's list.

If anything won in metro Detroit's dining scene this year (besides steak, below), it was from-scratch comfort food joints coming together with historic preservation (often with an automotive history). Curt Catallo and Ann Stevenson are huge proponents and they also happen to be at the helm of some of the biggest, most buzziest openings of the past few years. Vinsetta Garage was no exception, taking a historic old auto garage built in 1919 and giving it new life as a burger and comfort food restaurant that has resonated resoundingly throughout metro Detroit. Currently the couple is working on doing more of the same with the Fenton Fire Hall, set to open next summer. 

I. TOLD. YOU. SO. One year ago, noooooooooo oooooooone had heard of this "poutine," despite us being spitting distance from the Canadian border. And I yapped and yapped and yapped and yapped about it, which I thoroughly documented here. And now, oh yes: IT IS A THING. To the point that Corktown is the Poutine Capital and I am the Poutine Queen. People are even experimenting with it: most recently on my radar, pork belly poutines from One-Eyed Betty's and Toasted Oak Grill + Market, pile o' pork poutines from 24grille and TAP (note: TAP's is not good), and tater tot poutines from the Wurst Bar and Ronin. 

Wolfgang Puck Steak. Hyde Park Prime. Prime 29. Detroit Prime. London Chop House. Andiamo Italian Steakhouse (times three). Luca's Chophouse. All opened this year. Stoney River Steakhouse in Birmingham also received approval from the city commission and will open next year (Boringham seems to be playing it safe after those South Bar shootings). It should also be noted that Birmingham and nearby Troy and Bloomfield Hills already have Hyde Park, Fleming's, Churchill's Bistro, Big Rock Chophouse, Capital Grille, Ruth's Chris, Morton's, Cameron's, Shula's, Eddie Merlot's (also opening next year), and probably more I'm forgetting. Plus, plans for a new hotel/office/apartment/parking garage development in Royal Oak include an upscale steakhouse. Oh, when we catch scent of a trend around here...

Cafe con Leche del Este.
In 2009 metro Detroit had never even heard of a pop-up. And then came Hugh. Now, three years later, pop-ups have reached critical mass ... or have they? Major retailers from the Somerset Collection and Moosejaw see the pop-up possibilities, while the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation sees them as an opportunity to breathe new life into empty blocks and lead to permanent business plans. From Dave Mancini opening his doors to poptreprenuers at Supino Pizzeria to community coffee houses like Cafe con Leche del Este, Always Brewing Detroit, and Coffee and [    ], it looks like pop-ups are now permanent.

This year saw the rise of a different kind of restaurateur: passionate about people and preservation, and more often than not a restaurateur by accident, the Culinary Class of 2012 is on a tear and looking strong going into 2013. Curt Catallo and his wife Ann Stevenson already had huge hits with Clarkston Union and Union Woodshop, then Vinsetta Garage opened and HOLY SHIT. I put my name in for a table and was given a beeper they said will probably go off sometime in February. Maybe March. But I'm welcome to wait at the bar if I can find a seat. They're also adding the Fenton Fire Hall to their oeuvre in 2013. 

In the meantime, Luciano del Signore is opening up Bigas like they're 7-Elevens (next on deck: Ann Arbor), Mindy Lopus is opening three new joints in Grosse Point Park, Jon Carlson and Greg Lobdell have huge plans for 2013 which include a new concept in Royal Oak and a third Jolly Pumpkin Cafe, the Root is opening a second location in Howell, and the Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company went from zero to 60 (or at least four) with a flagship location in Midtown and satellite cafes in the Maple Theatre in Bloomfield Hills, another in Lake Orion, and a fourth planned in partnership with Lopus's Bona Fide Bakery in Grosse Pointe Park


Beer gardens! While Tashmoo didn't make it on the round two of Hatch Detroit voting, they still packed empty lots in West Village when they popped up those handful of days. Bill's Beer Garden barely opened in time to take advantage of the warm weather, but thanks to global warming their season stayed strong into December. Other restaurants/bars in the works for next year have plans to build a beer garden, most notably Griffin Claw Brewing Company in Birmingham. If you build it, they will come. If you will it, it is no dream.

Ferndale! We still love it. This year it was because of One-Eyed Betty's, Imperial, Local Kitchen + Bar and John D Bistro. The city also got some really weird sculptures and announced a soon-to-open second location of Midtown's popular Canine to Five doggie day care. Dino's is expanding and has big plans for the old VFW Hall. Early next year B. Nektar Meadery will be moving into their new digs (with tasting room), and the owners of Imperial just announced they're opening a new concept called Ferndale Public House.

Corktown! Still Brooklyn-y. This year saw even more popular joints open: Green Dot Stables, an insta-hipster-hit that has already appeared in GQ and Martha Stewart Living; Brooklyn Street Local, where poutine is king; and Mercury Burger Bar, which ... serves a demographic, anyway. Next year will *fingers crossed* bring about the LONG-AWAITED opening of Detroit Institute of Bagels. Two James Distillery will be the first distillery to open in Detroit city proper since Prohibition, Batch Brewery will make Corktown so meta it's nano, and we'll get to see if Cooley and Co. strike gold once again with Gold Cash Gold.

Eastern Market! I can't even wrap my head around all of the new happenings in Eastern Market over the last year. Let's start with this, which was up to snuff as of the point at which I posted it. Let's then also add Corridor Sausage's new facilities, Salt + Cedar, Michigan Artisans, and 323 East's new digs starting in January. Oh, and whatever the hell is happening on Gratiot.
UPDATE: About an hour after I posted this, Curbed Detroit reported that the proposed shipping container hotel and event space called Collision Works is on track to purchase land from the city in the Eastern Market area.

Santorini Estiatorio.

Re-boots! We loved them last year, and we still love them this year. The Vicari family shut down three of their Andiamo eye-talian restaurants and reopened them as Andiamo Italian Steakhouse. Wolfgang Puck closed his Grille inside the MGM Grand Detroit, then made up for it by opening Cucina + Pizzeria and Steak. Mosaic closed and was reborn as Santorini Estiatorio. Opus One is still working on their renovations and re-branding. The London Chop House was resuscitated (and this is one corpse I'm glad was dug up and trotted back out). In Ann Arbor, Habana moved and is now adjoining Lena while Mash, a whiskey and bourbon and beer bar, makes so much more sense with Blue Tractor BBQ and Brewery upstairs. Ootie's isn't so much a rebooties but it's fun to say. And Green Dot wins at everything.

Beer! The state of Michigan has become a petri dish of microbreweries, but let's just focus on metro Detroit. Craft beer continued to be A Thing around here, and in fact is going at it even harder. Used to be I could list from memory all of the places in a given city that serve "good beer." Now I find myself making qualifying statements: "Well, they carry Michigan beers, but it's mostly stuff like AXL and Crooked Tree and Full Circle. If you want a really good beer selection..." Hell, even the Free Press finally caught on. So did asshole scalpers. Great things in beer that happened this year/are happening next year: One-Eyed Betty's, Clubhouse BFD, Palate, the Jolly Pumpkin Cafe in Royal Oak, Falling Down Beer Company, Chelsea Alehousethat Jet's Pizza, Green Dot, and probably way more I missed.

Baconfest! You're welcome.


Look out for the east side. Grosse Pointe Park will get all of Mindy Lopus's new joints plus Dave Gilbert's new joint plus a second location for Luxe, and also City Kitchen is expanding. Over in West Village, four new spots are opening (and not that they aren't all equally exciting, but Craftwork and Red Hook are more equally exciting). I think it's safe to say that the east side is sick of being everyone's bitch.

Hamtramck ... oh, just you wait. It will give me something to write about in January.