In case you hadn't heard, Detroit's breakfast and brunch game is sick. A bevvy of new restaurants have conceived of some of the most interesting takes on the most important meal of the day. What follows is a list of eye-opening breakfast and brunch spots in metro Detroit, and day-starting dishes to get you going.
Rose's Fine Food
The text at the top of your bill at Rose's Fine Food reads "ROSE'S LOVES YOU!" It's hard not to reciprocate this sentiment, owing at least some part to so many similarly endearing little touches. Plates such as the Silverman's Special — their take on the "classic diner breakfast" — often come with miniature flowers as a decorative accompaniment. They may or may not be edible, depending on what is in season and available from Rose's Kitchen Garden, run by manager Bree Hietala a short distance away, near Eastern Market. That said, if your breakfast potatoes are purple, don't don't worry; that's totally normal here.
Rose's places great emphasis on locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, and a rotating assortment of house-made menu items, including impressive house-baked goods. Cakes and donuts lie just beyond the counter in eye-catching display cases, and the sourdough loaf used for their toast is springy and airy, finished on the grill for an interesting textural crunch. It's the perfect partner for the latest addition to their fall menu, the "Birthday Soup." Fans of hangover pho take note, as this bacon-and-kimchi-based broth is as nourishing as it is easily replicated at home (see our recipe section).
Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of Rose's is the atmosphere. As you listen to Will Sessions from the comfort of your chair or stool, you may notice that the staff seems happy, and further investigation reveals that Rose's pays their employees a living wage. They've nailed the formula. It's the kind of place people frequently describe as being "cute."
Our pick: "Birthday Soup," $9.99-$12.99
Why is the sky blue? Why is water wet? Why is everything on the menu at O.W.L. in Royal Oak so dang delicious? Since it arrived a short time ago, the Mexican-inflected diner has gone from strength to strength, quickly becoming one of the most popular breakfast spots in an area with strong competition. As is the case with many of the eatery's dishes, the beauty of breakfast at O.W.L. is in its simplicity. Their egg sandwiches, topped with your choice of avocado, fried chicken, habanero bacon, chorizo, or a hamburger patty, are breakfast perfection. Try with one of their many house-made hot sauces — kept behind the counter like any worthy prescription — or their signature "Matcha sauce."
Our pick: Chorizo sausage & cheese egg sandwich (with Matcha sauce) $5-$12
Kuzzo's Chicken & Waffles
The chicken-and-waffle plate is one of the newest additions to the hallowed annals of perfect breakfast combinations — such as eggs and bacon, champagne and orange juice, lox and bagels — and the dish now appears on seemingly every brunch menu across the country. Quite often the waffles are of the thick, crispy-edged, perfectly shaped variety one might find in your waffle maker at home. Not so at Kuzzo's, where waffles are pillowy, soft, and expansive — dare we say pancake-like. The result is a greater, more satisfying textural contrast than that of other contemporaries. When combined with some of the better fried chicken in metro Detroit, syrup, butter, and Frank's red hot, the waffles at Kuzzo's form a culinary union that may rival even the holy trinity of the bacon, egg, and cheese bagel.
For the indecisive (or greedy), waffle combos like the Trey-Deuce (breast, drum, and wing) offer guests an opportunity to forgo the decision between light and dark meat. Along with a plethora of classic Southern-inspired dishes (such as shrimp and grits, fried catfish, and the must-have array of soul-food sides) Kuzzo's boasts several unique offerings, such as their "Red Velvet" waffle, and blindingly hued Kool-Aid cocktails. (Here's one place where you do want to drink the Kool-Aid.)
Our pick: "Trey Deuce," $4-$15
Brooklyn Street Local
Next to the front register at Brooklyn Street Local are a number of shirts and tote bags for sale, with expressions reading variously "Real men eat quiche," "Put an egg on it!" and the dictionary definition of "poutine." When co-owner Deveri Gifford moved from Toronto to set up Brooklyn Street Local with her partner just over five years ago, few other places were offering breakfast poutine (still, Gifford says, the curds are often inauthentic), which was included as a nod to her Canadian roots. Other things were different too. Michigan Central Station still had no windows, and the Michigan Avenue corridor had not quite transformed into the food and drink destination it is today.
A colleague stops by to ask Gifford what she wants for lunch. "That's a good question," she says. After a moment of quiet reflection, Gifford decides on the brunch salad, with an extra egg. The greens in the salad come from Keep Growing Detroit, a food sovereignty project in Midtown, and Gifford says she was initially drawn to Detroit as much for its urban farms and DIY culture as the low opportunity costs. Seasonal offerings include a rotating quiche, and a French toast for winter, fall, spring, and summer. Last summer was a lemon-zucchini loaf, and during our visit Brooklyn Street Local had begun to transition into its fall version, which was pumpkin-based. Unlike other popular brunch spots in the area, the crowd seems younger, and without being too presumptuous, vegetarian. Word on the street is — the restaurant is very accommodating to these guests.
Our pick: "Breakfast poutine," $4-$13
Parks & Rec
A friend from the Bay Area claims antipathy to new Detroit. The beef: Where is all the good, cheap food? A few old standbys escape his wrath — Polish Village, Taqueria Mi Pueblo, and the happy hour menu at Roast. But despite his aversion to Chartreuse cocktails and spendy small plates, one relative newcomer makes the list, and his tone softens as he reports that "The Standard," a filling two-egg breakfast from Parks & Rec Diner — with lamb sausage and a coffee included — set him back only $8. What strange times we live in that elevated diner fare, with quality ingredients, at a reasonable price, can be seen as a revolutionary concept.
Our pick: "The Standard," $6-$15
Dime Store is the kind of downtown brunch destination that is packed and busy even on a Wednesday morning. The eatery is the brainchild of owners Jeff Alexander, Larry Kahn, and Ann-Marie Murphy, who had found success in property development (Murphy was a former assistant to Dan Gilbert) before finding the space on the ground floor of the Chrysler House. The Korean-inspired "Duck Bop Hash" is perhaps Dime Store's signature dish. Chef Aris Nueva Espana describes its constituent parts — and how they achieve a balance of flavors — with a vocabulary he says he picked up from a book called The Elements of Taste. It may also have been gleaned from his background at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Along with heat from sriracha, house-made pickles lend acidity, crunch, and a sour element to cut the richness of the confit duck, which Dime Store sources from Maple Leaf Farms near Milford.
Our pick: "Duck Bop Hash," $5.50-$12.50