- Michelle Gerard
- Buddy’s: A Detroit original.
The Detroit restaurant scene never sleeps, with what seems like hot new eateries opening up every single day. But as everyone flocks to those new, buzzy, trendy joints, we can’t help but maintain a soft spot for the tried-and-true places that just really get us, you know? The ones where the soup is always spiced just right and the savory meat falls off the bone. These restaurants seem to intrinsically know us, and they can sense exactly what we need. Even if we get distracted for a bit, we keep finding ourselves going back to them again and again because we just want to be understood, you know? So while everyone else might be chasing after the next hot young thing, we keep a light flickering in our hearts for these underrated spots that just always seem to get it right. Well shit, we’ll say it: We’re in love.
Al-Ameer12710 W. Warren Ave., Dearborn; 313-582-8185; alameerrestaurant.com
In an area well-known for its Mediterranean cuisine, Al-Ameer stands out from the crowd. Family-owned and -operated, Al-Ameer serves delicious dishes, including hummus plates, chicken shawarma, and mujadara (a lentil and rice dish made with caramelized onions). The eatery now has three locations in the Detroit area, and it’s the first Michigan restaurant to take home a James Beard America’s Classics Award. We admire that it uses ingredients fresh from local farms and serves made-to-order entrees.
Ajishin42270 Grand River Ave., Novi; 248-380-9850
A tip of the hat to the staff of this cozy and inviting Novi noodle shop, where it seems like prices haven’t changed since Day One. Ajishin serves up classic Japanese udon with a host of toppings that’ll warm even the iciest of hearts every time. In the summer, go for the Udon with wasabi and yamaimo. Also come for the criminally cheap lunch special — it’s worth the wait every time. There’s a reason this favorite spot has been open for over 20 years.
Amore da Roma3401 Riopelle St., Detroit; 313-831-5940; amoredaroma.com
We are in amore. This Detroit mainstay has been serving Italian classics in Eastern Market since 1890. (The spot, previously known as Roma Café, changed its name and ownership in 2017 after operating for 127 continuous years.) Amore da Roma is the perfect place to load up on lasagna, fettuccine alfredo, and tortellini with your loved ones. The exceptional seafood menu — which includes shrimp scampi, fresh pickerel, and cold-water lobster tails — and Sunday brunch are standouts.
Asian Corned Beef13660 Wyoming Ave., Detroit; 313-834-1819; asiancornbeef.com
This is the original home of the corned-beef egg roll, which is something of a Detroit-style fusion delicacy, and we can’t help but crave the unique and original concoction again and again. Egg roll wrappers are folded around a pile of razor-thin corned beef, and the package is dipped into a deep fryer until it’s crisp. In its original form, the cured meat is accompanied by gooey white cheese like mozzarella or Swiss. While Asian Corned Beef has rapidly expanded in recent years, the Wyoming Avenue spot on the city’s west side is the OG spot, which opened in 1982.
Avalon Cafe and Bakery422 W. Willis St., Detroit; 313-832-0008; avalonbreads.net
This quaint and friendly neighborhood bakery’s original location opened its doors on Willis Street back in 1997, and we’ve never felt so welcome anywhere. The Detroit mainstay is known for its house-made breads, scones, cakes, cookies and croissants. The full menu also includes breakfast options such as lemon ricotta pancakes and lox toast, sandwiches, salads, pizza, beer, and (sustainably made!) wine. Its loyal patronage led to the bakery opening up several more locations in Detroit, as well as another in Ann Arbor.
Buddy’s17125 Conant St., Detroit; 313-892-9001; buddyspizza.com
Buddy’s invented the beloved and sought-after Detroit-style pizza at its first location at the corner of McNichols Road and Conant Street. The restaurant opened in 1946 and specializes in the square deep-dish pies, which get topped with a hefty amount of Wisconsin brick cheese. The chain now has plans to go national, just in time for Detroit-style pizza’s growing popularity across the country. Wherever Buddy’s ventures next, it’ll always be in our heart.
Noble Fish45 E. 14 Mile Rd., Clawson; 248-585-2314; noblefish.syvatta.com
We’re always plotting out in our heads the next time we can visit Noble Fish. What was once a small Asian food market with a tiny sit-down sushi restaurant in the back got a major makeover last year. Loyal Noble Fish patrons now have a spacious place in which to stretch their legs, dine, and enjoy. The restaurant’s larger space took 10 months to renovate and seats 42. The eatery also serves prepackaged sushi for foodies on the go who just can’t resist the allure of Noble Fish’s scrumptious cuisine.
Nunn’s Bar-B-Que II19196 Conant St., Detroit; 313-893-7210; nunnsbbq.com
Nunn’s is so quality that we’re scribbling its name on our notebooks. It’s one of the pit-style Detroit classics, where the meat from the ribs and chicken slides off the bone without much encouragement. Down the menu, the potato salad is a zesty side that’s among Nunn’s best, and the vinegary greens are a fan favorite. For dessert, check out the kenta cake, a mildly sweet, frosted pound cake that seems to be a Nunn’s original. We’ll take one cake with two forks, please.
Pupusería y Restaurante Salvadoreño3149 Livernois Ave., Detroit; 313-899-4020
Our hearts go pitter-patter for the empanada-like pupusas here, which are made with thick, handmade corn tortillas and filled with cheese, beans, pork, squash, or loroco flowers. A handmade tortilla is night-and-day different from the thin, floppy kind from the factory. And so are the moist, well-stuffed Salvadoran tamales, which are both savory and sweet. The horchata is head and shoulders above the norm, too — it’s made with milk and nutty-flavored morro seeds. For dessert, fried platanos are served the traditional way, with a pool of warm, puréed black beans and another pool of cooler crema.
Trizest33170 Dequindre Rd., Sterling Heights; 586-268-1450; trizest.com
A modern take on Chinese cuisine from Sichuan, Trizest creates a balance of flavors and allows for textural interplay that makes the cuisine exciting. The dishes, including vegetarian options, are surprisingly light, clean, and bright, with ingredients that are the hallmark of Sichuan’s piquant flavor portfolio. Trizest also gives us heart eyes because the food’s presentation is impressive, and the portions are huge. If we ever had a misunderstanding with Trizest, we’d apologize and hold a boombox playing Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” outside its bedroom window in the rain.
So many restaurants, so little time. Sign up for our weekly food newsletter delivered every Friday morning for the latest Detroit dining news.