12710 W. Warren Ave., Dearborn; 313-582-8185; alameerrestaurant.com
Dearborn's Al Ameer Lebanese restaurant consistently runs at such a high level that the James Beard Foundation chose it in 2016 for its America's Classics Award, which goes to eateries that "have timeless appeal and are cherished for quality food that reflects the character of their community."
But many Metro Times readers have known about it long before the national exposure. It opened in 1989 at Warren Avenue and Miller Road just as Dearborn's Lebanese population spiked. It's best known for bright dishes like its peak fresh kibbeh; char-grilled chicken breasts with blackened edges that arrive in a small puddle of a lemony, garlicky "gravy"; and kafta packed with allspice, parsley, onion, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon.
Founders and chefs Zaki Hachem and Khalil Ammar were chefs in Lebanon before meeting in Dearborn and launching the restaurant, and the Hachem family's continuing hands-on involvement keeps the ship tight. The restaurant opened its own halal butcher shop next door some time in the early 2000s, and it can't be overstated what a difference an in-house butcher can make in terms of freshness and quality. There's also experience in the kitchen, where longtime chefs, some of whom have been with the restaurant since the beginning, man the vertical spits on which dozens of layers of beef, lamb, onion, and spices baste in the meat's own fat and juices to produce what's among the fullest, richest shawarma you'll find in Dearborn. —Tom Perkins