Bates Hamburgers 33406 Five Mile Road, Livonia, 734-427-3464, $; This slider stop is a venerable west side institution, with some saying you haven’t lived until you’ve tried one of Bates’ “gut bombs.” The blandishments are few — just the essentials: salt, pepper, mustard and ketchup — but it doesn’t get any more authentic than this. Great for going alone, eating at the counter and rubbing elbows with the people.
Detroiter Bar 655 Beaubien St, Detroit, 313-963-3355, $$; Yes, it’s a bar, but it’s also a grill worthy of this meat-and-potatoes town. The downtown spot packs ’em in for lunch. Expect solid bar fare, including big salads and a tasty chicken breast sandwich. The staff seems especially proud of their half-pound burger, the “house special,” draped with enough meat and cheese to bring tears to a vegan’s eyes, including ham, bacon, American and Swiss, served with fries and a mug of beer or a pop. Open 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily, except Sundays, which vary.
Duly’s Coney Island 5458 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit, 313-554-3076, $; This little southwest Detroit diner seems to have been built when people were a head shorter than they are today. Low-slung stools grace the long lunch counter, with small tables crowded in the back. Open 24 hours, with a fairly lively after-bar crowd, we’re still getting used to sneaking around the cook to get to the restroom. Smoking allowed.
Hambo Coney Island 22900 Woodward Ave., Ferndale, 248-414-9400; $: A cheap stop for a hash brown or a BLT, Hambo’s will serve you in a jiffy, even if you arrive during Sunday’s busy post-church crowd. Open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday, until 3 p.m. Sunday.
The Ham Shop 1219 St. Antoine, Detroit, 313-965-0088, $; We love this downtown greasy spoon, and not only because it’s right around the corner. The food is reliable, but it’s also a great place for people-watching. Hard by the courts, it’s a hub of activity around breakfast and lunch, with jurors, lawyers, cops and witnesses gorging themselves on hearty diner fare: chicken pitas, philly steaks, turkey melts, anything that sits heavy in the hamper. Closes at 3 p.m. Smoking permitted.
Janet’s Lunch 15033 Kercheval St., Grosse Pointe Park, 313-331-5776, $; A place doesn’t stay open for 69 years by chance. Founded in 1938, Janet’s still serves such diner mainstays as hot beef, hot pork, hot turkey, mashed potatoes, soups made from scratch and home-made pies, including banana cream, apple, cherry and blueberry. If the waterfront air whets your appetite, there’s fish after five everyday, all day on Fridays. Great for eating alone, with 27 stools to choose from. Open Monday-Saturday, 6 a.m.-8 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
Lafayette Coney Island 118 W. Lafayette, Detroit, 313-964-8198, $; As soul titans Gamble and Huff wrote so long ago, “If you don’t know me by now …” That is, unless you’re new to Detroit, in which case, know this: Service here is fast, affable and loud. Accommodating night crawlers and day stalkers alike, the king of coneys boasts bright lights, long counters and cheap prices.
Nami Sushi Bar 201 W. Nine Mile, Ferndale, 248-542-6458, $$; You might never guess it from glancing at the expanse of glass facing Nine Mile Road, but, inside, Nami possesses a chill and cozy atmosphere. Narrow as the storefront restaurant is, its bar runs quite a ways, making it an ideal place to watch the show put on by expert sushi chefs. Nami’s strength lies not in authenticity, but in the breadth of its offerings, running the gamut from the everyday creamy California rolls to dessert rolls featuring chocolate and lemon. Check out the new chicken lettuce wraps, tempura shrimp appetizers, and a brand new wine list.
Noah’s Deli 14500 Michigan Ave., Dearborn, 313-582-8361, $: Though the spot opened as a deli back in 1936, it was only reincorporated as Noah’s 30 years ago. But the offerings are timeless, and Noah’s built its reputation on corned beef that’s fresh-cut, lean and made on-site. This is your stop in east Dearborn for deli-style sandwiches. In addition to the specialty corned beef ($6.50), there’s also ham, salami, roast beef, pastrami and turkey, as well as soups, meatloaf and hot plates. Pick from their counter’s 27 seats. Open 6:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday.
Omega Hawg & Dawg Deli 2100 Hilton Rd., Ferndale, 248-548-5700, $: This narrow, rectangular building on the northeast corner of Hilton and Cambourne has minimalist diner décor. Coney fare predominates, including burgers, triple-decker sandwiches, salads and a large omelet menu. But expect inventive twists, such as a bag of sliders, “chilly dilly” (chili with all the fixings) and all-day breakfast. With 10 years on the block, this puckishly named eatery has solid fare, reasonable prices, and undeniable staying power. Open 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday.
Telway Diner 6820 Michigan Ave., Detroit, 313-843-2146, $: This is the sort of place that looks like it hasn’t changed since the late 1960s. The tiny building on Michigan Avenue is frequented by police, late night cabbies and local yokels at it’s busy take-out window. You’ll find no-frills service with a charming gap-toothed smile. Settle in for a bowl of “hillbilly chili” or a classic slider.
Toast 23144 Woodward Ave., Ferndale, 248-398-0444, $; It’s difficult to make a poor choice when ordering at Toast. The Grand Marnier French toast pairs vanilla-soaked challa bread with toasted almonds and other ingredients perfectly, and the more-than-filling granola banana cakes are made to explode stomachs — in a good way. Unfortunately the quality of their food, combined with short operating hours, often makes finding a seat a difficult proposition. Those dining alone, however, can usually walk to the back counter, plop down and enjoy the aromas until their food arrives.
Zumba 121 N. Main St., Royal Oak, 248-542-1400, $; Zumba, located right across the street from the Main Art Theatre, serves the film crowd and anyone seeking a fresh, quality meal well. While the menu boasts just a handful of items, including the elusive “Baja-style” fish taco, all choices are made to order and can be customized multiple ways. Zumba labels vegetarian choices clearly, and diners top their meal from the fresh salsa bar where at least six varieties, ranging from very mild to spicy, are offered. Those dining inside sit at a stainless steel counter where they can enjoy the view of freezing passers-by.