BEST NEW RESTAURANT
11411 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck; 313-733-8406
Mexican food on Hamtramck's Polish strip? It might have sounded odd a decade ago, but among our readers it has a serious following. No matter how much you like pierogies and kielbasa, traditional Mexican food — with a few of Maria's "specialties" — make this family-owned and -operated restaurant a welcome addition to Hamtramck's already culturally diverse dining scene. (And 99-cent Taco Tuesdays and Thursdays don't hurt either.)
BEST RESTAURANT UNDER $50 PER DINER
Atlas Global Bistro
3111 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-831-2241; atlasglobalbistro.com
Sakana Sushi Lounge
22914 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-336-2555
Our readers were split between a sumptuous eatery and a lounge where you can dine. As a dining hotspot with a menu that screams "four-star," Atlas Global dedicates itself to serving exotic selections ranging from Fiji Island prawns to Moroccan spiced tilapia. Sakana, however, offers the best of both worlds, with fine sushi, more than 50 specialty drinks and the intimacy of a lounge. Its fresh sushi bar — with an American-friendly sushi menu — choice sakes and nightclub-style ambience have ensured its popularity since it opened last year. At night, it becomes a DJ lounge in earnest.
BEST RESTAURANT UNDER $15 PER DINER, BEST CARIBBEAN RESTAURANT
Irie Caribbean Cuisine
45580 Cherry Hill Rd., Canton; 734-844-8892; irierestaurant.com
Mirroring last year's success in our reader's poll, Irie again wins a few categories handily (including Robert Parker's win as Best Chef and a tie for Best Appetizers). The Caribbean flavors, friendly waitstaff and live entertainment of this western suburban grill have made it a cheap island getaway for anyone looking to get their groove back.
BEST RESTAURANT TO BLOW SERIOUS DOUGH
31425 W. 12 Mile Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-848-9393
Based on its many wins in this category, Tribute has rightfully earned its place as the byword for expensive excellence. With the recent economic downturn, however, Tribute has ironically lowered its entrée prices from $34-$59 to a more accessible $24-$39, with the same portions and quality. Though it threatens Tribute's standing in this category, we somehow doubt our readers will be disappointed.
BEST LOCAL CHEF
Irie Caribbean Cuisine
Maybe it's his bachelor's degree in hospitality. Maybe it's the quality of Irie's Caribbean fare. Maybe it's something he learned when he catered the Olympics. Whatever it is, it has made Robert Campbell the winner of this readers' category two years in a row, proof positive that he knows something about building a strong and loyal following.
BEST KID-FRIENDLY RESTAURANT
18650 Ford Rd., Detroit; 313-996-8910; see redrobin.com for more locations
With a fun, friendly atmosphere, bottomless fries and an extensive menu that offers more than just chicken tenders — we can see why kids love this place! But if the screechy sippy-cup set puts nerves on edge, adults have the right beverages at their disposal to take the edge off.
BEST RESTAURANT WITH A VIEW
100 Renaissance Center, 71st floor, Detroit; 313-567-2622
After the glass elevator spirits you up to the topmost floors of the Renaissance Center, you'll dine while treated to a spectacular view of the shores of the Detroit River and the Windsor skyline. Nothing even comes close for our readers.
BEST RESTAURANT WITH A WATER VIEW
400 Renaissance Center, Detroit; 313-567-7301
Amid plenty of contenders (including Andiamo Riverfront, Coach Insignia and Portofino), our readers chose this jazz restaurant and supper club, which, at a lower altitude than Coach Insignia, affords commanding and captivating views of the scenic Detroit River.
BEST RESTAURANT PATIO, BEST ROMANTIC RESTAURANT, BEST HANGOVER BRUNCH
La Dolce Vita
17546 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-865-0331
In good weather, there's the sun-splashed patio. In bad weather, there's the valet parking and intimate interior. Topping it all off is the popular and imaginative pajama brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every second Sunday of the month, making Detroit's hidden getaway on Woodward Avenue off McNichols Road into a triple-threat.
BEST AFTER-HOURS EATERY
National Coney Island
It's not like National does anything fancy or flashy. The 21-location local chain just concentrates on the gut-pleasing, chili-soaked, mustard-drenched, onion-sprinkled coney fare that has become a tradition for metro Detroit night owls.
BEST SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Real Seafood Co.
341 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-769-7738
Located in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor, Real Seafood Co. provides locals with the freshest selections of seafood from the East Coast and a raw oyster bar, all in an atmosphere that's comfortable, open and lively.
BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT
3409 Bagley St., Detroit; 313-843-0179
Smack in the best-traveled part of Mexicantown, Xochimilco's mix of selections runs from the familiar, gringofied chimichangas to more uncommon selections, such as nopalitos (cactus cooked with eggs). And the after-game, post-bar crowds don't lie, sometimes lining up to get in well after midnight.
BEST SPANISH RESTAURANT
Sangria Tapas Café
401 S. Lafayette Ave., Royal Oak; 248-543-1964; sangriaroyaloak.com
Whether it's the sizzle of the signature tapas or the spice of live flamenco dancers, Sangria delivers an authentic slice of Spanish style. And with a heated patio area for the fall and winter season, expect Sangria to keep things simmering through the year's end.
BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT
121 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-994-0211
Those yearning for a taste of France will love this restaurant with its elegant setting, a selection of more than 1,000 bottles of wine, and being able to order from the menu without having to parlay-voo.
BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT
3401 Riopelle St. in Detroit's Eastern Market; 313-831-4940
A mainstay of the Detroit restaurant scene since 1890, steady patrons are often struck by how their surroundings look just as they remember they did during long-ago visits. And that consistency played well for our readers, edging out even the Andiamo chain for the top spot.
BEST GREEK RESTAURANT
558 Monroe St., Detroit; 313-964-6800; pegasustaverna.com
Pegasus has it all going for it: In the heart of Greektown, open late, and with waiters who bring flaming cheese to your table crying, "Opa!" With more than 20 years in business, why change a good thing?
BEST AFRICAN RESTAURANT
545 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-547-6699
Fork and knife be damned: Come and trade in your silverware for the tasty injera, a crepe-like bread used as a base for Blue Nile's wide (and endless) buffet of meats and vegetables. In a nod to the West, the full bar awaits your order.
BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT
Mon Jin Lau
1515 E. Maple Rd., Troy; 248-689-2332
215 S. Washington, Royal Oak; 248-545-2700
2801 W Big Beaver Rd Troy; 248-816-8000; more locations at pfchangs.com
In a tie suggesting a delicate balance, our readers favored the winning Chinese bistro chain, the tasteful Royal Oak fixture and the sophisticated and upbeat Troy eatery.
BEST VEGAN RESTAURANT, BEST VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT
Inn Season Café
500 E. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-547-7916; theinnseasoncafe.com
A longtime provider of vegetarian cuisine in metro Detroit, Inn Season has gotten better with age. Fine, organic ingredients have always been its hallmark, this eatery takes health food to the level of haute cuisine.
BEST INDIAN RESTAURANT
36600 Grand River Ave., Farmington Hills; 248-615-7700
The extensive menu of traditional Indian food sprawls across the subcontinent, featuring sophisticated dishes from the north and spicier fare from the south, including pulaos and biryanis from Hyderabad.
BEST MIDDLE EASTERN RESTAURANT
22651 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-548-0680; anitaskitchenonline.com
This Ferndale spot has thrived since opening earlier this year. With a stylish, comfortable atmosphere and good food at reasonable prices, it's no surprise. The ideal sampler is the mixed mezza, a range of Anita's finest Middle-Eastern dishes offered with or without meat.
BEST CONEY ISLAND
Lafayette Coney Island
118 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit; 313-964-8198
Arguably the most serious coney dog destination in Detroit, you wonder why hot dog pilgrims and food TV crews aren't mobbing the place to see the staff plate the Motor City equivalent of the baguette.
BEST EAST EUROPEAN RESTAURANT
Polish Village Cafe
2990 Yemans St., Hamtramck; 313-874-5726
From the moment you step down into Polish Village, you're transported back to Hamtramck's high Polish period, with hearty fare, a full bar and waitresses in ethnic costume, as well as the history on the walls. Mother would approve.
BEST SUSHI RESTAURANT
45 E. 14 Mile Rd., Clawson; 248-585-2314; noblefishhouse.com
1456 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-962-7200
Sometimes great things come in simple packages. Though the front of Noble Fish is a humble Japanese grocery, the back is a no-frills sushi restaurant of outstanding quality. Even so, Noble found a match in Oslo, the restaurant-nightclub that quickly regained its luster when it reopened in January. The downtown Detroit spot is a destination for not just sushi and Thai fare, but for techno, house and hip hop in its downstairs club. Woodward, 1; Main Street, 1.
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. Wherever you got it, Sala's spicy Thai fare was a winner.
BEST BREAKFAST RESTAURANT
Original House of Pancakes
Locations in Birmingham, Grosse Pointe Woods and Southfield; originalpancakehouse.com
With 15 types of specialty pancakes, gourmet waffles and breakfast crepes, as well as such proteins as thick-cut bacon, hickory-smoked ham and the "special recipe" corned beef hash, our readers named this popular breakfast chain as their fave.
New York Bagel
23316 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-548-2580; with locations in Oak Park, Southfield and West Bloomfield
With almost 90 years in the bagel business, the Goldsmith family has been selling bagels made the traditional way — boiled then baked — since 1921. Fourteen varieties should please everybody (a fresh one is 85 cents; $7.25 a dozen) but the full deli counter's sandwich options will please those seeking something more substantial.
BEST BRUNCH BUFFET
400 Monroe St., Detroit; 313-965-4600; with locations in Southfield and St. Clair Shores; fishbonesusa.com
Although it has two affiliate locations, what probably puts the Greektown Fishbone's above the rest is the exclusive Sunday buffet available for $24. While a wide selection of traditional breakfast items would make it alluring enough, the buffet kicks it up a notch with selections like salmon shrimp, catfish beignet, many Cajun-Creole creations and a dessert table! And the interior, with its high ceilings and water wall, make it a pleasure to linger.
BEST VEGGIE BURGER
4620 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-831-1400
Chefs and menus have come and gone at Cass Cafe, but the café lentil burger has remained a pleasing constant. With a hearty mix of brown lentils, walnuts, Parmesan cheese and other delicious ingredients, it's no wonder it's the house specialty.
BEST NEIGHBORHOOD PIZZA
17125 Conant St., Detroit; 313-892-9001; 8 more locations at buddyspizza.com
A longtime winner in the Neighborhood Pizza category, their square pie is dense and cheesy enough to approach a Chicago-style thickness. (No cardboard-thin, foldable triangles here!) And their original location on Conant Street in Detroit still has the walk-down bar with nary a plasma screen in sight.
BEST CHEAP PIZZA
Pizza, Pizza? Next year will mark 30 years that we've had that phrase drummed into our consciousness. Little surprise that in the capital of the Ilitch empire, the competition has been crushed.
BEST GOURMET PIZZA PLACE
Pizza Papalis Taverna
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.
BEST BURGER RESTAURANT
Red Coat Tavern
31542 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak; 248-549-0300
A perennial favorite, the Red Coat burger can come topped with a wide selection of condiments and bread, which makes diners feel special and individualistic. If the redcoats ever made burgers this mouthwatering, you may wonder why we ever proclaimed independence.
BEST ALL-AROUND BUFFET, BEST CASINO BUFFET
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 STEAK HOUSE
Ruth's Chris Steak House
755 W. Big Beaver Rd., Suite 151, Troy; 248-269-8424; ruthschris.com
What's it going to take to outdo a Ruth's Chris steak? With more than 100 locations worldwide, they've topped our list the past two years. Well done!
BEST SOUL FOOD RESTAURANT
575 Bellevue St., Detroit; 313-393-4930
Remember your grandma's penchant for cooking a week's worth of food in one day? The same effect is achieved at Southern Fires, where they serve so many classic Southern entrées, from mac 'n' cheese to smothered steak to short ribs to catfish fillets, you'll be cursing your zipper before dessert.
BEST WINE LIST
121 W. Washington, Ann Arbor; 734-994-0211
417 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-544-6256
Our readers seemed equally disposed toward the sturdy restaurant with classics for the connoisseur and an unstuffy hangout for the enthusiast. While the Earle complements its upscale classic menu with an incredible 34-page wine list, Vinotecca may be a little less intimidating, with merely more than 100 bottles drawn on every region and type.
45580 Cherry Hill Rd., Canton; 734-844-8892;
1521 Broadway, Detroit; 313-963-0497; smallplates.com
Caribbean-inspired Irie gets a nod for best apps because they're authentic and anything but boring. (How many restaurants actually offer fried plantains or Jamaican beef patties?) But Small Plates gets just as many props, with individual portions of upscale fare at between $4 and $14 a plate.
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. Now eat your cookie, hippie-feet.
BEST BREWPUB RESTAURANT
Motor City Brewing Works
470 W. Canfield St., Detroit; 313-832-2700
This handcrafted Detroit space boasts several lagers, ales, wines and even the odd mead-based quaff, with chopped salametti, cheese, olives and pizza. Art nights, boutique bathrooms, a patio for warm days and a few choice parking spots make it perfect.
Bread Basket Deli
Locations in Detroit, Redford, Warren and Livonia; www.breadbasketdelis.com
With several locations throughout the metro Detroit area, this local chain delivers a menu selection that is definitely beefed up, featuring gut-busting triple- and quadruple-decker Dagwoods.
Astoria Pastry Shop
541 Monroe St., Detroit; 313-963-2530
From caramel apple and Oreo cheesecakes to crème brûlée and baklava, this Greektown institution has been on Monroe since 1971 to help sate our readers' collective sweet tooth.
BEST TEA ROOM
117 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-541-5252
When Jim and Janice Girling opened Goldfish Tea in Royal Oak in early February, they aimed to offer people the highest-quality product and an education. Inside their Chinese teahouse, drinking tea stems from an ancient tradition, one that goes deeper than the clever marketing of dunking a bag into boiling water.
417 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak; 248-398-0001; gayleschocolates.com
A shop renowned for seducing many a sweet tooth since the mid-1980s, Gayle's remains dedicated to producing chocolate in every format that's fashionable, from truffles to bars to Halloween-oriented candies.
3723 Plaza Dr., Ann Arbor; 734-929-0500
Our readers were clear: Zingerman's does it right. For instance, they make their gelato with an authentic Sicilian gelato machine, using traditional Italian recipes. With innovative flavors (one is "burnt sugar") and a good mix of Michigan-raised ingredients, you've got a winning local formula.
BEST INDEPENDENT ICE CREAM
Ray's Ice Cream
4233 Coolidge Hwy., Royal Oak; 1-888-549-5256
This sweet local institution marks a half century in operation this year. With more than 40 flavors of real homemade ice cream and unique dairy treats like huckleberry ice cream, Detroit club coffee, cotton candy confetti and "the Fat Elvis" — banana ice cream with a peanut butter ribbon — this open-year-round scoop shop has the competition licked.
BEST CHAIN ICE CREAM
Cold Stone Creamery
Dozens of area locations; coldstonecreamery.com
Who knew the ice cream world could still be revolutionized? With fresh toppings that are "folded" into the ice cream right in front of you, you have the makings of a personalized and delicious experience. And, yes: all the sprinkles you want.
BEST CHAIN COFFEE SHOP
535 Griswold St., Detroit; 313-961-6337: for more locations, see starbucks.com
Free wireless Internet, a cozy spot to sit with friends or get some work done, and, oh yeah, coffee too, all help make Starbucks a reliable java stop. Especially if your favorite shop wasn't one of the 600 sentenced to death in July.
BEST INDIE COFFEE SHOP
2287 Holbrook St., Hamtramck; 313-319-8766
500 Griswold St., Detroit; 313-964-1928
Both provide espresso classics and cozy atmospheres with a local edge.
When it comes to real coffeehouses, our readers were torn between the neighborhood and the city. In two-story Hamtramck, Café 1923 serves up fresh java with rotating art shows, a library lounge and even a pleasant backyard nook. Nothing could be more different than the Rowland Café in the glorious mezzanine of the art deco skyscraper ecstasy that is the Guardian Building, our readers' other pick.
BEST RESTAURANT TO IMPRESS OUT-OF-TOWNERS
BEST BEER SELECTION IN A RESTAURANT
BEST BARBECUE RESTAURANT
2138 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-962-9828
No longer a contender for Best New Restaurant, Slows has come full circle, from new kid on the gritty block to sturdy denizen of the after-work and weekend dining scene. What keeps people waiting two deep at the bar during prime dining time? Factors include the barbecue — cooked "low and slow" — an imaginative beer selection, and a great atmosphere in a historic building.
Conspicuous Consumption - Staff Picks
by Metro Times food staff
From style to fare to special dishes, our staff picked what's best