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Why isn't Detroit a Restaurant City?


san
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Locals often refer to Metro-Detroit as the TriCounty Area. This consists of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.Oakland County,MI is considered one of the wealthiest counties in the country.

I can think of four local restaurants that, if they were in NYC, would be major destinations and would be reviewed yearly. And those are the places I am sure of, There are many other places that might or might not join that list :cool:

Please let me know if I interpreted your post correctly or not .

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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check out this Detroit News Article about woodward avenue

Since 2003, $1.5 billion in private development and investment has occurred along the roadway, according to the Woodward Avenue Action Association. Approximately $58 million more is under construction or in advanced planning for 2007 and $90 million in residential construction is either under way or just completed.

here is another article about the restaurants on woodward now, as well as some of the classic eateries and diners that have closed:

eat up woodward

Edited by san (log)

Sandy Levine
The Oakland Art Novelty Company

sandy@TheOaklandFerndale.com www.TheOaklandFerndale.com

www.facebook.com/ArtNoveltyCompany twitter: @theoakland

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check out this Detroit News Article about woodward avenue
Since 2003, $1.5 billion in private development and investment has occurred along the roadway, according to the Woodward Avenue Action Association. Approximately $58 million more is under construction or in advanced planning for 2007 and $90 million in residential construction is either under way or just completed.

here is another article about the restaurants on woodward now, as well as some of the classic eateries and diners that have closed:

eat up woodward

I am suprised there was no reference to the Rialto,Como's, or that little French place in Ferndale on Woodward.

Also, I am curious as to how a region whose Forums get over 20,000 'views' is not a restaurant city. I Know, no on thinks of MetroDetroit as one entity{sp?). Well, at least some people do.

san- Should I assume that you agree with me on this point i.e. when talking of Detroit, one must speak of the Metro(TriCounty)area?Or, am I the only local who feels this way? I would very much like your thoughts on this.

Edited by Naftal (log)

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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Two enthusiastic locals and a dozen solid restaurants doesn't make a culinary destination. It isn't even clear that whatever area we've arbitrarily decided is 'Detroit' includes a dozen solid restaurants. Would it be possible at all to make a list of the top 50 mid-tier and higher level restaurants in the area without listing the multitude of suburban chains? Is there a competent food critic working at a major Detroit paper?

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Two enthusiastic locals and a dozen solid restaurants doesn't make a culinary destination.  It isn't even clear that whatever area we've arbitrarily decided is 'Detroit' includes a dozen solid restaurants.  Would it be possible at all to make a list of the top 50 mid-tier and higher level restaurants in the area without listing the multitude of suburban chains?  Is there a competent food critic working at a major Detroit paper?

How do you define "chain"? Is a group of restaurants owned by a great chef a chain? If so,Mario Batalli and Ray Kroc are equals :hmmm: By the way, I am in no way saying that Kroc is a chef, but he does own a chain.

Also, how do you define 'competent' as in "competent food critic"?

Edited by Naftal (log)

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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Two enthusiastic locals and a dozen solid restaurants doesn't make a culinary destination.  It isn't even clear that whatever area we've arbitrarily decided is 'Detroit' includes a dozen solid restaurants.  Would it be possible at all to make a list of the top 50 mid-tier and higher level restaurants in the area without listing the multitude of suburban chains?  Is there a competent food critic working at a major Detroit paper?

How do you define "chain"? Is a group of restaurants owned by a great chef a chain? If so,Mario Batalli and Ray Kroc are equals :hmmm: By the way, I am in no way saying that Kroc is a chef, but he does own a chain.

Also, how do you define 'competent' as in "competent food critic"?

Restaurant Chains from Wikipedia:

A restaurant chain is a set of related restaurants, usually with the same name in many different locations either under shared corporate ownership (e.g., In-N-Out Burgers in the U.S.) or franchising agreements. Typically, the restaurants within a chain are built to a standard format and offer a standard menu. Fast food restaurants are the most common, but there are also midscale upscale establishments (Applebee's, T.G.I. Friday's, Ruby Tuesday, Olive Garden etc.). Restaurant chains are often found near shopping malls and tourist areas.

As far as a food critic goes - I'd give any paper the benefit of the doubt if they've got someone on staff working as a restaurant critic full time; As long as the paper is paying for all meals (no comps), the critic is dining anonymously, and they have any sort of food section in their paper as long as it's printed every week (or more often).

Edited by melkor (log)
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Would it be possible at all to make a list of the top 50 mid-tier and higher level restaurants in the area without listing the multitude of suburban chains? 

I'll start:

1. The Lark

2. Tribute

3. Coach Insignia

4. Rugby Grill

5. Forte

6. Shiraz

7. Small Plates

8. The Whitney

9. Zinc

10. Shiro

11. Crush

12. Crave

13. The Rattlesnake Club

14. The Hill

15. Bambu

16. Hong Hau

17. Mon Jin Lau

18. Fiddlehead

19. Vie Nove

20. Assaggi

21. Northern Lakes Seafood

22. Iridesence

23. Five Lakes Grill

24. Little Italy

25. Bucci

26. No. VI Chop House

27. Mario's

28. Nomi

29. McKinnon's

30. Giovanni's

31. Carl's Chop House

32. 220

33. Big Rock Chop House

34. Il Posto

35. D'Amato's

36. Cafe Cortina

37. Cuisine

38. Bacco

40. The Earle

41. The Earle Uptown

42. The Lord Fox

43. The Fox and Hound

44. The Sea Grille

45. Evan's Street Station

46. Mediterrano

47. Camaron's

48. Mitchell's Fish Market

49. Andiamo

50. Loon River Cafe

51. Paint Creek Grill

52. Seldom Blues

53. La Musique

54. Sweet Georgia Brown

55. Fishbones

These are all locally owned. And there are more.

Edited by TJHarris (log)

Tobin

It is all about respect; for the ingredient, for the process, for each other, for the profession.

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What area do they cover?  Are those places all serving food they cook or are some of them Sysco shops?

Thirteen are in Detroit proper. Thirty-seven are in Tri-County Area. Five are in areas slightly further out (Ann Arbor and Tecumseh) There are also several fine houses across the Detroit River in Windsor, which is geographicly closer than most of the Tri-county area to downtown Detroit.

To the best of my knowledge these are all scratch houses.

Tobin

It is all about respect; for the ingredient, for the process, for each other, for the profession.

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To me this list shows that 1) metro Detroit really isn't a national dining destination but 2) of course there are decent places to eat in the area.

It's a commonly acknowledged problem, in the press and otherwise, that the economy isn't helping matters. Just off the top of my head, your #11 Crush is already closed. #43 Fox and Hounds is closing in August.

I personally wouldn't count Ann Arbor/Tecumseh or Windsor.

Some of the places, Cameron's, Mitchell's, I would designate as "chains" even though they are undoubtedly expensive high end places. Just look at the websites for these places. Actually, a number of steakhouses in the area are places like Mortons or Ruth's Chris Steak.

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To me this list shows that 1) metro Detroit really isn't a national dining destination but 2) of course there are decent places to eat in the area.

It's a commonly acknowledged problem, in the press and otherwise, that the economy isn't helping matters.  Just off the top of my head, your #11 Crush is already closed.  #43 Fox and Hounds is closing in August.

I personally wouldn't count Ann Arbor/Tecumseh or Windsor.

Some of the places, Cameron's, Mitchell's, I would designate as "chains" even though they are undoubtedly expensive high end places.  Just look at the websites for these places.  Actually, a number of steakhouses in the area are places like Mortons or Ruth's Chris Steak.

OK, Then substitute in Opus One, Clarkston Cafe, Sterling Inn, Traffic Jam and Snug, Atlas Global Bistro, Diamond Jim Brady's Bistro, Steve and Rocky's, Rocky's of Northville, Mezze, and Jeremy's.

But I agree that Detroit isn't a national dining destination and has a long way to go to become one.

Edited by TJHarris (log)

Tobin

It is all about respect; for the ingredient, for the process, for each other, for the profession.

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Just took a look at the Fox & Hounds Web site. That's a shame. I'm sure that restaurant is very much Old School Fine Dining -- the sort of place "the Grownups" ran here in Philly before "the Kids" opened all those funky restaurants with mismatched place settings, fabric-covered ceilings, and creative, rule-breaking food during Philly's "Restaurant Renaissance" of the 1970s -- but it's been around long enough to qualify as a Bona Fide Local Institution, and it's always a shame when one of those bites the dust, unless (as with Old Original Bookbinders' prior incarnation here) the food had sunk to the level of Tourist Trap Cooking.

I assume the buyer will knock down the building and put in a "power center" or townhouses or "lifestyle retail" or something like that?

Cameron's and Mitchell's are definitely chains. Whether Mario Batali's restaurants qualify is another matter entirely. They don't meet the criteria listed in that Wikipedia squib. Neither do these 12 Philadelphia restaurants:

The Continental

Continental Mid-town

El Vez

Buddakan

Jones

Morimoto

Striped Bass

Barclay Prime

Washington Square

Pod

Tangerine

Alma de Cuba

Except for the two Continentals, all of them have dramatically different menus, decor and price points. All of them also have the same owner -- concert promoter-turned-restaurant entrepreneur Stephen Starr.

So is this a chain? Kinda-sorta -- Starr has three Buddakans now (the other two are in NYC and Atlantic City) and two Morimotos (the other in NYC, from whence Masaharu Morimoto came).

Yet I'd say these places contribute to both Philly's roster of great restaurants and its rep as a great restaurant city and thus would belong on any local list like the one for Detroit above.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Naftal, I'm not sure I buy your arguments either that Detriot is unique in being tied to automobile travel and that this is a primary cause of its current and historical culinary doldrums.  There are plenty of cities that are dispersed across an equally large or larger acerage and which have equally ineffectual public transportation (I would argue that there is no such thing as a post-automobile-age low-density/high-area city with effective mass transportation) and which nevertheless have good restaurants and culinary culture -- Houston comes immediately to mind.

Portland. but Portland's unique in a lot of ways.

Ottawa too.

but I agree with your point.

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What area do they cover?  Are those places all serving food they cook or are some of them Sysco shops?

"Sysco shops"?

Does Sysco directly operate restaurants as well as supply them? Or does it run an operation that provides all-but-finished portion-controlled dishes?

Now I'm curious.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Two enthusiastic locals and a dozen solid restaurants doesn't make a culinary destination.  It isn't even clear that whatever area we've arbitrarily decided is 'Detroit' includes a dozen solid restaurants.  Would it be possible at all to make a list of the top 50 mid-tier and higher level restaurants in the area without listing the multitude of suburban chains?  Is there a competent food critic working at a major Detroit paper?

How do you define "chain"? Is a group of restaurants owned by a great chef a chain? If so,Mario Batalli and Ray Kroc are equals :hmmm: By the way, I am in no way saying that Kroc is a chef, but he does own a chain.

Also, how do you define 'competent' as in "competent food critic"?

Restaurant Chains from Wikipedia:

So Mario Batalli runs a chain. That's fine with me...

A restaurant chain is a set of related restaurants, usually with the same name in many different locations either under shared corporate ownership (e.g., In-N-Out Burgers in the U.S.) or franchising agreements. Typically, the restaurants within a chain are built to a standard format and offer a standard menu. Fast food restaurants are the most common, but there are also midscale upscale establishments (Applebee's, T.G.I. Friday's, Ruby Tuesday, Olive Garden etc.). Restaurant chains are often found near shopping malls and tourist areas.

As far as a food critic goes - I'd give any paper the benefit of the doubt if they've got someone on staff working as a restaurant critic full time; As long as the paper is paying for all meals (no comps), the critic is dining anonymously, and they have any sort of food section in their paper as long as it's printed every week (or more often).

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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I've been to three of these (on expense accounts): granted, they're not high on your list.

the Rattlesnake Club was a pretty good steakhouse.

Andiamo basically sucked. ditto for Seldom Blues. I've heard good things about The Lark.

Would it be possible at all to make a list of the top 50 mid-tier and higher level restaurants in the area without listing the multitude of suburban chains? 

I'll start:

1. The Lark

2. Tribute

3. Coach Insignia

4. Rugby Grill

5. Forte

6. Shiraz

7. Small Plates

8. The Whitney

9. Zinc

10. Shiro

11. Crush

12. Crave

13. The Rattlesnake Club

14. The Hill

15. Bambu

16. Hong Hau

17. Mon Jin Lau

18. Fiddlehead

19. Vie Nove

20. Assaggi

21. Northern Lakes Seafood

22. Iridesence

23. Five Lakes Grill

24. Little Italy

25. Bucci

26. No. VI Chop House

27. Mario's

28. Nomi

29. McKinnon's

30. Giovanni's

31. Carl's Chop House

32. 220

33. Big Rock Chop House

34. Il Posto

35. D'Amato's

36. Cafe Cortina

37. Cuisine

38. Bacco

40. The Earle

41. The Earle Uptown

42. The Lord Fox

43. The Fox and Hound

44. The Sea Grille

45. Evan's Street Station

46. Mediterrano

47. Camaron's

48. Mitchell's Fish Market

49. Andiamo

50. Loon River Cafe

51. Paint Creek Grill

52. Seldom Blues

53. La Musique

54. Sweet Georgia Brown

55. Fishbones

These are all locally owned. And there are more.

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What area do they cover?  Are those places all serving food they cook or are some of them Sysco shops?

"Sysco shops"?

Does Sysco directly operate restaurants as well as supply them? Or does it run an operation that provides all-but-finished portion-controlled dishes?

Now I'm curious.

They don't as far as I know, operate restaurants. There are however no shortage of restaurants around the country that do little more than reheat frozen Sysco product, plate it, and deliver it to the customer.

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Restaurant Chains from Wikipedia:

So Mario Batalli runs a chain. That's fine with me...

Remind me again what he has to do with the Detroit restaurant scene?

As far as a food critic goes - I'd give any paper the benefit of the doubt if they've got someone on staff working as a restaurant critic full time;  As long as the paper is paying for all meals (no comps), the critic is dining anonymously, and they have any sort of food section in their paper as long as it's printed every week (or more often).

So... Does Detroit have a restaurant critic?

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Restaurant Chains from Wikipedia:

So Mario Batalli runs a chain. That's fine with me...

Remind me again what he has to do with the Detroit restaurant scene?

As far as a food critic goes - I'd give any paper the benefit of the doubt if they've got someone on staff working as a restaurant critic full time;  As long as the paper is paying for all meals (no comps), the critic is dining anonymously, and they have any sort of food section in their paper as long as it's printed every week (or more often).

So... Does Detroit have a restaurant critic?

The reference to Batalli was meant to show that a restaurant is not bad just because it is part of a chain. And yes, we do have many restaurant critics, Molly Abrams and Danny Raskin come to mind, but I do know that there are others too.

Edited by Naftal (log)

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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Restaurant Chains from Wikipedia:

So Mario Batalli runs a chain. That's fine with me...

Remind me again what he has to do with the Detroit restaurant scene?

As far as a food critic goes - I'd give any paper the benefit of the doubt if they've got someone on staff working as a restaurant critic full time;  As long as the paper is paying for all meals (no comps), the critic is dining anonymously, and they have any sort of food section in their paper as long as it's printed every week (or more often).

So... Does Detroit have a restaurant critic?

The reference to Batalli was meant to show that a restaurant is not bad just because it is part of a chain. And yes, we do have many restaurant critics, Molly Abrams and Danny Raskin come to mind, but I do know that there are others too.

Don't Forget Sylvia Rector and Christopher Cook.

Edited by TJHarris (log)

Tobin

It is all about respect; for the ingredient, for the process, for each other, for the profession.

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That's true.  Though I haven't been to Houston in about 25 years, I doubt it has the suburban sprawl that Detroit does.  At the same time, LA does, and definitely has its share of quality dining establishments.  I get very confused when I start to find similarities between Detroit and LA.  :) Anyway, are there 'restaurant cities' in areas without popular mass transit systems where suburban areas are spread out like in Detroit?

The answer is yes, and you answered the question yourself: two great examples are Houston and Los Angeles.

I am more familiar with Houston, so I'll use that as an example. There really isn't much of a "dense inner core" to Houston. To someone who is used to pre-automobile East coast cities, it all seems like a gigantic suburb of various densities. Houston covers 600 square miles. Considering that all of Wayne County covers 672 square miles, it's hard to argue that Detroit has "more spread out suburban areas" than Houston (I would argue, rather, that if they become any further spread out than Houston is, they're no longer "suburbs"). Houston's mass transit is largely a joke -- you need a car to get around in Houston.

As for the "list of 50" -- I think it says something that one has to go that far afield (Ann Arbor?!) to compose such a list. Here is an off-the cuff list of Gramercy/Murray Hill restaurants. All are within walking distance of each other.

  1. 15 East
  2. A Voce
  3. Artisanal
  4. Asia de Cuba
  5. Asia Sushi and Hibachi
  6. Barbounia
  7. Benjamin Steakhouse
  8. Beppe
  9. BLT Prime
  10. Blue Smoke
  11. Blue Water Grill
  12. Bocca
  13. Bolo
  14. Casa Mono
  15. Cinque Terre
  16. Country
  17. Craft
  18. Craftbar
  19. Devi
  20. Domenico's
  21. Eleven Madison Park
  22. Fleur de Sel
  23. Gramercy Tavern
  24. I Trulli
  25. Japonais
  26. La Carne Grill
  27. La Pizza Fresca
  28. Les Halles
  29. L'Impero
  30. Lucy Latin Kitchen
  31. Park Bistro
  32. Pera
  33. Porcao Churrascaria
  34. Pure Food and Wine
  35. Rosa Mexicano
  36. Rossini's
  37. Silverleaf Tavern
  38. SushiSamba
  39. Tabla
  40. Tamarind
  41. The Garden Cafe
  42. The Water Club
  43. Tocqueville
  44. Union Square Cafe
  45. Urena
  46. Veritas
  47. Wild Salmon
  48. Wolfgang's Steakhouse
  49. Zana Restaurant
  50. Zereoue

This is a good example of why NYC is a restaurant city and Detroit isn't.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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Another thing I note, and I meant to say this in response to an above post which claimed that ethnic foods are "well-represented" in the area, is the relative dearth of ethnic restaurants on your list.

With our large Middle Eastern population, how is it that we don't have any great Middle Eastern restaurants? Can't we do better than La Shish? Look at the threads here and you see recommendations for places like Mr. Kebab, which resides in a gas station. (I'm not saying it's not a legitimate recommendation, but, c'mon, can't the area do better?)

I can't think of a single truly notable Thai, Korean, or Indian place, even though I know that some affluent suburban schools in the area have an almost comical proportion of Asians. Hong Hua seems to be the only candidate on most lists for best, or at least fanciest, Chinese in the area. (Who am I to argue, but I had a laughably bad experience the one time I went.) Japanese is fairly well-represented, I guess, though I suspect on a national level there isn't a really outstanding example. It seems to me Mexican is a joke in the area, outside of Mexicantown. Ditto Greek outside Greektown (and maybe within too.)

What it boils down to, for me, is that it seems almost all of the "recommended" ethnic places in the area fall under the unusually good cheap eats category. I think a true destination restaurant city, in addition to the quality cheap eats, needs to have multiple examples of ethnic restaurants at or approaching the fine dining level.

Edited by Leonard Kim (log)
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Another thing I note, and I meant to say this in response to an above post which claimed that ethnic foods are "well-represented" in the area, is the relative dearth of ethnic restaurants on your list.

I am assuming that your must be referring to my list. That is just what it is...my list. No particular order or focus. I did try to stay away from the good-cheap places and most of the Mexican and Thai seems to fall into that catagory. But we could add Cherry Blossum, New Seoul Garden, Pegasus, Steve's Back Room and Priya.

Edited by TJHarris (log)

Tobin

It is all about respect; for the ingredient, for the process, for each other, for the profession.

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Another thing I note, and I meant to say this in response to an above post which claimed that ethnic foods are "well-represented" in the area, is the relative dearth of ethnic restaurants on your list.

With our large Middle Eastern population, how is it that we don't have any great Middle Eastern restaurants?  Can't we do better than La Shish?  Look at the threads here and you see recommendations for places like Mr. Kebab, which resides in a gas station.  (I'm not saying it's not a legitimate recommendation, but, c'mon, can't the area do better?)

I can't think of a single truly notable Thai, Korean, or Indian place, even though I know that some affluent suburban schools in the area have an almost comical proportion of Asians.  Hong Hua seems to be the only candidate on most lists for best, or at least fanciest, Chinese in the area.  (Who am I to argue, but I had a laughably bad experience the one time I went.)  Japanese is fairly well-represented, I guess, though I suspect on a national level there isn't a really outstanding example.  It seems to me Mexican is a joke in the area, outside of Mexicantown.  Ditto Greek outside Greektown (and maybe within too.)

What it boils down to, for me, is that it seems almost all of the "recommended" ethnic places in the area fall under the unusually good cheap eats category.  I think a true destination restaurant city, in addition to the quality cheap eats, needs to have multiple examples of ethnic restaurants at or approaching the fine dining level.

"multiple examples of ethnic restaurants at or approaching the fine dining level"...Mario's and Andiamo fill that requirement.

Edited by Naftal (log)

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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