Avalon International Breads 422 W. Willis St., Detroit, 313-832-0008, $: If you like your sandwiches made for you, show up at lunchtime as the focaccia comes out of the oven. It might be topped with organic roasted zucchini, tomatoes, basil and Parmesan. Avalon has branched out from the baguettes and crusty peasant loaves that have brought bread-starved customers flocking for years. Now brioche, scones and cinnamon rolls expand the meaning of “bread.”
Blue Nile 545 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale, 248-547-6699, $$; For those unfamiliar with Ethiopian dining, a big part of the draw is that you get to eat with your hands (steaming washcloths are tendered before and after). At the Blue Nile, you get only two all-you-can-eat choices: four meats and seven vegetables for $18.90, or all-veg for $16.90 (kids eat for half price). Diners use small pieces of injera to scoop up the food, and the juices soak into the unleavened bread so that the last part of the meal is the tastiest.
Café Felix 204 S. Main St., Ann Arbor, 734-662-8650, $$; Ann Arbor’s Café Felix is practically poetic. The tradition of a European café holds true to form. You’ll find a prime wine list (two pages long) as well as coffee drinks and delicious food. Every finishing touch within the butter-colored walls is indeed, as the French say, “Au point.” Try the Brie and strawberries served with fresh baguette.
Cass Cafe 4620 Cass Ave., Detroit, 313-831-1400, $; The lofty open space on two floors can accommodate intimate or large groups, and caters to canines and molars, including lentil walnut burgers and roasted red pepper hummus for the latter. They also have beer and wine specials, including dollar Black Labels on Thursdays, and featured-wine Fridays. In this minimalist environment, friends gather to enjoy a pleasant “non-vibe” amid curated art exhibits.
Good Food Company East 74 W. Maple Rd., Troy, 248-362-0886, $; Purveyors of organic and natural foods, the café serves cafeteria-style and by the pound, so you can tailor the meal to your appetite. Daily lunch specials satisfy Mexican, Indian, and old-fashioned American tastebuds, offered alongside fresh soups, garden vegetable salads, and black bean burgers. Eat inside from 11 to 3, or shop the deli from 9 to 5.
Inn Season Café 500 E. Fourth St., Royal Oak, 248-547-7916, $$; Inn Season Café — a longtime provider of vegetarian cuisine in metro Detroit — has gotten better as it has gotten older. Fine, organic ingredients have always been its hallmark, but the health food nature of the cooking has been eclipsed; now you are eating vegetarian haute cuisine. Come in the Fall for chili and hot cider.
Margarita’s Mexican Restaurant 27861 Woodward Ave., Berkley, 248-547-5050, $; Located right smack in the middle of the Woodward corridor suburbs is a Mexican restaurant that would never even dream of pandering to the Chi-Chi’s crowd. This authentic Mexican cuisine is heavy on the veggies and true to its roots. This place is right under your nose — don’t miss it a second time.
Om Café and Gallery 23136 Woodward, Ferndale, 248-548-1941, $; How does a vegetarian restaurant weather almost a quarter of a century? Find out by visiting Om Café, where you’ll find vegan, vegetarian and macrobiotic choices. And not only does the café offer some fish dishes for your flesh eating (or vegetarian-cheating) friends, but all desserts are vegan, so everybody gets to have a sweet finish.
Peacock Tandoori Restaurant 4045 Maple Rd., Dearborn, 313-582-2344, $$; The unlikely location on a Dearborn side street somehow adds to the appeal of the Northern Indian curries, birianis and tandooris, now with an extended menu of Indo-Chinese and South Indian dishes. Designations of spice levels on the menu can be trusted, ranging from mild to wild — which is where the Indian beer comes in handy, maybe a Kingfisher or a Taj. There’s a full bar, a rarity where local Indian restaurants are concerned, and keep an eye out for the new dance night once a month.
Rangoli Indian Cuisine 3055 E. Walton Blvd., Auburn Hills, 248-377-3800, $$; Entrées at Rangoli come in small copper bowls. Among our favorites: nargisi aloo (a saucy, scooped-out potato stuffed with nuts, vegetables and cheese); chicken tikka masala (roasted breast meat in a thick and luscious sauce); spicy-hot chettinadu pepper chicken (fiery peppers in a coconut curry). Vegetarians can keep coming back for something new, with aloo gobi (potato cauliflower) recommended. If you’re new to Indian food, there are several combination dishes you can try, or come for the lunch buffet — you can’t beat the price: $7.95 weekdays, $8.95 weekends.
Russell Street Deli 2465 Russell St. Detroit, 313-567-2900, $; This chattery Eastern Market deli serves lunch on weekdays and lunch and breakfast on Saturdays to a loyal crowd. The customers are happy because they’re eating really good food, and there’s something about sharing tables with who-knows-whom that brings out the best in people. Both breakfast and lunch menus offer original combinations of fresh ingredients that make the best veggie sammies to ever set you salivating. While you’re slurping on a veggie soup — try the eggplant or the organic carrot ginger — peer over the bowl at Toby Millman’s photography and printmaking from Tel Aviv. Now accepting credit cards.
Seva 314 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor, 734-662-1111, $$; Ever had a TLT? Tempeh, lettuce and tomato. Tempeh is a soy and grain patty with “a nutlike flavor and texture.” It’s a great substitute for meat and goes well on hamburger buns too. Seva is an all-vegetarian, all-vegan restaurant with a winningly genuine staff. They’re changing over to their Fall specials, with offerings like goat cheese ravioli with mushroom walnut sauce, a different chili every week, baked brie, and new soups all the time.
Sprout House 15233 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe, 313-331-3200, $; The Sprout House is serious about their health and finds nutrition to be key in a long life. A sort of organic grocery, with produce, vitamins and health and beauty products, this place does a thriving carryout business in sandwiches and refrigerated prepared dishes. Offering vegan, organic dairy, organic chicken, soy cheese and vegetarian options, the store has preservative-, growth hormone- and antibiotic-free foods. Live healthy.
Starving Artist 212 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale, 248-545-5650, $$; An art gallery and restaurant that features an international menu of reinvented faves. Veg and vegan-friendly dishes are featured. Only the freshest ingredients are used in their dishes, and organic ingredients are used whenever possible. A full selection of fine wines, beers and cocktails are available to complement any meal choice. The restaurant is also a full-retail art gallery that features various artists’ works throughout the year. Showings change every month or two. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Toast 23144 Woodward Ave., Ferndale, 248-398-0444, $; Toast has taken over Delia’s space in Ferndale, bringing a new decor and layout. The food is marvelous, plus beautiful to look at. Weekday egg-fests include some pretty fancy fixins along with more regular fare, and it gets more lavish on the weekend. Go see if the chef has perfected his roasted curried eggplant soup yet.
Traffic Jam & Snug 511 W. Canfield St., Detroit, 313-831-9470, $$; Although not even close to being vegged-out, Traffic Jam and Snug restaurant has some pretty interesting food of their own, not to mention, much of it is made in house. The selection changes all the time, so don’t count on phony dogs anymore, but do enjoy any of Traffic Jam’s own brewed beers. If coney islands aren’t your thing, try the Delta Stack: collard greens, avocado, roasted peppers and dill ranch served on corn bread with sweet potato fries. Wash it down with Fruity Pebbles and Faygo Rock and Rye homemade ice cream. It’s good.
Udipi 29210 Orchard Lake Rd., Farmington Hills, 248-626-6021, $$; Located along a stretch of Orchard Lake Road that is home to several Indian restaurants, Udipi is the only vegetarian one. Unusual and delicious dishes, including vada, a savory donut made of lentil flour and dotted with bright green cilantro, and dosa, a crepe made of rice flour, filled to overflowing with tomatoes, potatoes and onions. House-made naan too.