BEST NEW RESTAURANT
BEST RESTAURANT UNDER $15 PER DINER
BEST GREEK RESTAURANT
Kalamata Greek Café
3149 Crooks Rd., Troy; 248-643-2600; kalamatagreek.com
We don't dare discount Kalamata's win just because of their (admittedly successful) online pleas for votes. Hey, they made it easy, and the following spoke loud and clear in favor of this busy shop, which caters to the worker bees in Troy's office towers. The setup is simple, quick and appealing: Instead of waitstaff and tables, Kalamata's counter staff prepares fresh dishes before customers' eyes, using classic Greek ingredients. The midsize menu runs from soups to salads to wraps and sandwiches, and nothing on it costs more than $10. And, lest a suburban takeout joint appear too humble for these high honors, let's remember that Ferndale's successful Anita's started from such humble beginnings out in Edge City.
BEST RESTAURANT UNDER $50 PER DINER
Atlas Global Bistro
3111 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-831-2241; atlasglobalbistro.com
After only striking a tie in this category last year, Atlas owns it. And it's no doubt due to the striking interiors, knowledgeable service and international cuisine. In Atlas' quirky kitchen, ingredients don't necessarily remain with their cuisine-of-origin, and the fusion fare can be at once exotic and down-home, mixing it up with lemongrass, cactus, Gorgonzola, caviar and black-eyed peas. And Atlas simply oozes hip urban cachet, nestled in the Addison Building — a 1905 beaux arts structure that once flirted with the wrecking ball — where it sports high ceilings, polished floors and street views of Detroit's historic Brush Park.
BEST RESTAURANT TO IMPRESS OUT-OF-TOWNERS
BEST BEER SELECTION IN A RESTAURANT
2138 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-962-9828
Slows has really earned this year's trifecta. First off, what visitor to Detroit wouldn't be impressed by this meticulously revamped 1880s building within sight of our majestically rotting train station? Then there's the excellent barbecue, including a mac and cheese that's a satisfying combination of sharp and creamy, potato salad that could have come straight out of an Alabama picnic basket, and a gut-tickling pulled-pork sandwich fittingly dubbed "The Reason." Lastly, there are all those suds, with more than 20 beers on tap, usually featuring at least a dozen brewed in Michigan (including Bell's, Arcadia, Founder's and Dragonmead), and the pages-long beer menu, featuring anywhere between 60 and 80 bottles depending on the season, all at reasonable prices, ranging from $2 specials on cans of Pabst to high-end big bottles, such as the 25-ounce La Chouffe for $13.
BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT
3409 Bagley, Detroit; 313-843-0179
On a normal evening, this popular Mexicantown eatery often has a dining crowd filling its three rooms downstairs and spilling over onto the second floor, drawn by its large portions and inexpensive menu. It's often at its busiest after midnight, depending on what's happening downtown, filled with folks on the town knocking back one last drink with a restorative burrito or enchilada or — let's be honest — the "super nachos" with ground beef and diced veggies smothered in melted cheese and jalapeños.
BEST ROMANTIC RESTAURANT
The Melting Pot
26425 Novi Rd., Novi; 248-347-6358
888 W. Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-362-2221
309 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-622-0055
It's almost too perfect, right? This national fondue chain furnishes the intimate booths, the simmering pots, the low-key lighting. You spear the morsels of meat, seafood and fruit, dipping them, and popping them into your mouth with the cheese or chocolate still dripping off them. And you don't just get pineapple chunks; the sturdier trays come with filet mignon, white shrimp, marinated sirloin, chicken breast, salmon fillet, and even lobster tails.
BEST SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Mitchell's Fish Market
117 Willits, Birmingham; 248-646-3663
17600 Haggerty Rd.; Livonia; 734-464-3663
370 North Adams, Rochester Hills; 248-340-5900
At this upscale chain, you get to watch the executive chef cut freshly caught fish by hand. Choices run from lobster to tilapia, all fresh enough to carry the lingering scent of the sea, with more than 80 items on the menu and 12 different species of fish on their "Fresh Catch" shortlist.
BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT
121 W. Washington, Ann Arbor; 734-994-0211
The vault-like Earle is an Ann Arbor legend, with its candlelit tables, imaginative kitchen and live jazz. Start in the elegant wine bar with its daily specials or check the 28-page wine list. Escargot vol-au-vent, baked goat cheese, salmon pate with cognac — just a look at the appetizers tells you what kind of special place this is. Its sister restaurant, the Earle Uptown (300 S. Thayer, Ann Arbor; 734-994-0222), helped clinch the win.
BEST CARIBBEAN RESTAURANT
539 E. Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-528-1674; 19600 Haggerty Rd., Livonia; 734-542-0891
Seriously, it's not always a jerk move to shoot for the accessible good time. If that means forgoing more authentic island delights and going for the gaudy pleasures of this Florida-based chain's colorful, Caribbean-themed cocktail factories, so be it. There, amid the tropical décor, you can nosh on American-friendly fare like jerk chicken pasta, coconut shrimp and, natch, Key lime pie, washing it all down with selections from the sun-splashed beverage menu, with its Bahamian Sunsets, BahamaTinis and Bahamaritas. In the darkest days of a numbing Michigan winter, it could just be that taste of paradise that helps you hang on.
BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT
21400 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-359-3300; see andiamoitalia.com for more locations
This isn't the first time this constellation of Italian eateries has gotten four stars from our readers. And next year marks 20 years since Andiamo's began its trip to the top, when Joe Vicari bought his lakefront restaurant in Saint Clair Shores. Since those promising beginnings, his Mediterranean kingdom has expanded into the Pointes, Bloomfield Hills, Royal Oak, Rochester, Sterling Heights and beyond, deftly balancing the filet mignon of fine dining with the 15-layer lasagnas of old-line ethnic fare.
BEST AFRICAN RESTAURANT
545 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-547-6699; additional locations in Ann Arbor and Trenton; bluenilemi.com
There are so many reasons to get behind Ethiopian food. You get to trade in your flatware for injera, the spongy, crêpe-like bread used to scoop up what's on your plate. If your party is a mix of carnivores, vegetarians even flexitarians, Blue Nile's kitchen pays just as much attention to the meatless choices as the proteins. Then there's the cuisine's deft seasoning, which can awakens even the humble lentil. What's more, in a concession to the West, the Nile's full bar awaits your order.
BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT
PF Chang's China Bistro
2801 W. Big Beaver Rd. Troy; 248-816-8000; locations in Clinton Township, Northville and Dearborn; more locations at pfchangs.com
Yes, it's a national chain, and, sure, some gourmets might sniff at the concept of "chicken-lettuce wraps" — even though they're darn tasty — but they can go hang it. Our readers overwhelmingly favored this sophisticated and upbeat eatery.
BEST MIDDLE EASTERN RESTAURANT
22651 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-548-0680
Not long ago, this snazzy Ferndale eatery was a vacant ice cream parlor along a quiet stretch of sidewalk. Thanks to the Anita's gang, it's now among the best restaurants in a downtown crowded with dining options. Salads and veggie-intensive appetizers fill a good portion of the menu, and there are a few unusual pita pizzas. If meat is your thing, you can easily fill up with kebabs or shawarma. In warm weather, a large, covered outdoor dining area beckons, and the bar serves wine, juice, smoothies and beer, including a few Michigan craft brews.
BEST THAI RESTAURANT
3400 Russell St., Eastern Market, Detroit; 313-831-1302; see salathai.us for more locations
Once, it was just a storefront in a strip mall on Lafayette Boulevard. Now it has grown into a mini-chain that has extended as far as Sterling Heights and has even grown back into its original spot — with a full bar. Best of all is the Eastern Market spot, a cozy restaurant with sushi service in a historic Detroit firehouse.
45 E. 14 Mile Rd., Clawson; 248-585-2314
This tidy Japanese grocery's eat-in spot doesn't wow you with any forced exoticism, but this no-frills sushi spot is of outstanding quality, and the authenticity in each lovingly prepared portion does the job nicely, thank you.
BEST EASTERN EUROPEAN RESTAURANT
122 E. Washington, Ann Arbor; 734-665-8767
Polish Village Cafe
2990 Yemans St., Hamtramck; 313-874-5726
In an amusing split, our readers settled upon two places that are hilariously different. Ann Arbor's Amadeus harks back to the cafes of Vienna, specializing in traditional Central European dishes — not stinting on the desserts, wines and beers —accented with live classical music by candlelight on the weekends. On the other hand, the subterranean digs of Polish Village can feel as boisterous as grandma's basement on Easter afternoon; decked out in totems of Hamtramck's working-class history, the cozy room is often mobbed after church. Most entrées run a measly $8, and the full bar awaits should you desire a few steins under your belt.
BEST INDIAN RESTAURANT
36600 Grand River Ave., Farmington Hills, 248-615-7700; 72 W. Maple Rd., Troy; 248-269-0100
What does it say when a restaurant wins every readers' poll we've had for Best Indian Restaurant since 2004? How do they do it? Well, the extensive menu sprawls across the subcontinent, featuring sophisticated dishes from the north and hard-to-find spicier fare from the south, including pulaos and biryanis from Hyderabad. By pulling together the subcontinent's various regional cuisines, they've remained our regional winner.
BEST AFTER-HOURS RESTAURANT
BEST CONEY ISLAND
Lafayette Coney Island
2 Congress, Detroit; 313-879-0038
For barhoppers looking for a place to extend the night and quell hunger pangs, it just doesn't get any better than Lafayette. Not only will their enthusiastic staff shout your orders at peak volume, they'll promptly serve you that fortifying Detroit classic drizzled with chili, inlaid with mustard and showered with chopped onions. (Hey, you must be doing something right when you've been in business since 1914!)
BEST CASINO BUFFET
MGM Casino, Palette Dining Studio
1777 Third St., Detroit; 313-465-1777; mgmgranddetroit.com
Though they shy away from the 'B'-word, the all-you-can-eat Palette Dining Studio offers a vast selection of upscale treats, with stations called "Char" (meat cooked over charcoal fires), "Far East" (Chinese, Japanese, sushi and a Mongolian grill), "Sea" (including Blue Point oysters and peel-and-eat shrimp), "South" (Southern foods) and "Indulge" (dessert). Prices range from $22 a head for lunch to $32 per diner for crab leg and prime rib dinners.
BEST VEGAN RESTAURANT
Inn Season Cafe
500 E. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-547-7916
As time wears on, it's getting harder to remember a time when "health food restaurants" were viewed with suspicion. And it's mostly thanks to restaurants like Inn Season, metro Detroit's standout vegetarian eatery, which has demonstrated how fresh, organic ingredients can not only be healthful but can be raised to the level of haute cuisine.
BEST VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT
314 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 734-662-1111
A few steps above the street, the raised patio offers diners a bit of respite from downtown Ann Arbor's bustle. The eclectic dishes change weekly and range the globe, converting traditional meat-based fare into vegetarian or vegan. They also offer a full bar and juice bar, smoothies and cocktails, with a long wine list.
BEST NEIGHBORHOOD PIZZA
17125 Conant St., Detroit; 313-892-9001; for more locations visit www.buddyspizza.com
After living a full life as a neighborhood speakeasy, Buddy's original location on Conant Street only started pumping out its award-winning pizza in 1946. And though it has expanded to nine locations all over southeastern Michigan, it has clearly retained the neighborhood cred.
BEST CHEAP PIZZA
This year marks a half-century since Mike Ilitch opened his "Little Caesars Pizza Treat." (OK, he dropped the "pizza treat" part pretty quickly.) From these small-time origins, Little Caesars has evolved into the area's most popular one-stop instant hot-food stop, where $5 will have you snarfing down a Hot and Ready pizza moments after you walk in. Savor the progress.
BEST GOURMET PIZZA
553 Monroe St., Detroit; 313-961-8020; for more locations, see pizzapapalis.com
When Pizza Papalis first opened in Greektown in the 1980s, Chicago-style pizza was a gamble. Having now outlasted such Monroe Street stalwarts as New Hellas, our readers say Papalis' several locations are a sure thing.
Red Coat Tavern
31542 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak; 248-549-0300
The Red Coat comes out on top year after year, with its list of 20 add-ons, from burnt onions to olives to smoked Gouda, and five types of bread, including grilled rye or pumpernickel.
Original Pancake House
Locations in Birmingham, Grosse Pointe Woods and Southfield; originalpancakehouse.com
Why is OHOP best? It just might have something to do with its 15 types of specialty pancakes, gourmet waffles and breakfast crêpes, as well as such proteins as thick-cut bacon, hickory-smoked ham and the "special recipe" corned beef hash. Start that day right.
BEST SOUL FOOD
Beans & Cornbread
29508 Northwestern Hwy., Southfield; 248-208-1680
This busy, colorful dining spot features bright artwork, a bustling open kitchen and a 70-seat dining room decorated with African-American memorabilia. In addition to pleasing renditions of soul food standards, expect innovative creations that take soul food a bit farther uptown, often adding a fresh twist. For casual dining, their more intimate bar area offers specials and after-work networking events.
422 Detroit St., Ann Arbor; 734-663-3354; see zingermansdeli.com for more locations
When Paul Saginaw was shopping for business loans to open a delicatessen in Ann Arbor, at least a few bankers scoffed that the idea could work, didn't like the location, and declared that nobody would ever come down there. A year later, they wondered why nobody had ever opened a deli in Ann Arbor in such a perfect spot. A quarter-century later, Saginaw can survey his gastronomic empire, which includes a bakehouse, a roadhouse, a creamery and more, but still serves up New York-style classics on Detroit Street. (As for those bankers, ...)
Arbor Brewing Company
114 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-213-1393
Arbor Brewing Company Pub and Eatery and the Corner Brewery have been slinging pints of pilsners for almost 20 years. More than just brewpub proprietors, ABC owners Matt and Rene Greff help beer novices become beer aficionados, teaching classes available through Washtenaw Community College in Ypsilanti. Each month ABC throws a beer tasting featuring brews from around the world, not to mention some of their own famous brews like the Red Snapper Amber Ale and the Sacred Cow IPA.
BEST WINE LIST
BEST WINE BAR
417 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-544-6256
An unstuffy hangout for the enthusiast and an approachable point of entry for the newbie, Vinotecca has a relaxed atmosphere and a wine list of more than 100 bottles drawn on every region and type, making it the perfect place to volatize your esters while choosing from a mouthwatering menu of Michigan-inspired meals.
Tom's Oyster Bar
24935 Jefferson Ave., St. Clair Shores; 586-774-TOMS; with locations in Royal Oak, Rochester Hills and Detroit
Tom's short list of appetizers ranges from sliders to buttery calamari to Prince Edward Island mussels. Grandest of all is the hot appetizer sampler for two ($20), which comes loaded with crab cakes, chicken tenders, calamari, oysters Rockefeller, barbecue spice grilled shrimp and artichoke-spinach dip.
Avalon International Breads
422 W. Willis St., Detroit; 313-832-0008
The Cass Corridor mainstay continues to expand upon its initial premise: to supply the local community with fresh, deftly crafted breads and pastries in an ethically sound and environmentally sustainable manner.
541 Monroe St., Detroit; 313-963-2530
320 S. Main, Royal Oak; 248-582-9220
From caramel apple and Oreo cheesecakes to crème brûlée and baklava, this family-owned Greektown institution has been on Monroe since 1971 to help sate our readers' collective sweet tooth, serving more than 100 different kinds of tasty treats. Nothing is less than perfection with the bakers hard at work day and night, seven days a week, baking everything on site.
BEST INDIE COFFEEHOUSE
2287 Holbrook, Hamtramck; 313-319-8766
Nestled into a former corner store not far from Hamtramck's iconic Kowalski sausage shingle, the creators of Café 1923 pulled off a noble goal: taking an old Hamtramck building that had been in their family for 80 years and lovingly restoring it, turning it into a spot for reading, wifi and coffee-drinking. And the smallish space is really quite intelligently redesigned, whether you're in the front room, which is adorned with art and featured street views, or the middle "library" room, which permits smoking and offers sidestreet views, or, in fine weather, the small back yard patio, where, soaking in a ray of sunshine while you sip, you can imagine yourself anywhere you want to be.