Aut Bar 315 Braun Court, Ann Arbor; 734-994-3677; $: In the warmer months, historic Kerrytown's Aut Bar spills out onto a quiet courtyard it has nearly all to itself. Functioning as a restaurant and a bar for 21 years (the second level is 21 and older only), there's a popular Sunday brunch (10-3) and a new Saturday brunch (11-2), and a Friday lunch (11-2). Sunday specials include cobbler on cinnamon French toast and eggs Benedict. The Aut Bar caters to the LGBT community and their friends and allies.
Blue Nile 545 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-547-6699 221 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor, 734-998-4746; $$: For those unfamiliar with Ethiopian dining, a big part of the draw is that you get to eat with your hands (steaming washcloths are tendered before and after). At the Blue Nile, you get only two all-you-can-eat choices: four meats and seven vegetables for $18.90, or, for veg-heads, the all-vegetarian option for $15.90 (kids younger than 12 eat for half price, or, if they're toddlers, for free).
Earthen Jar 311 S. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-327-9464; $: Featuring vegetarian north Indian food in one big buffet, with dozens of selections. But instead of all-you-can-eat dining, this is dining by the pound — $4.99 a pound, to be exact. After your food is weighed, you can sit down and eat in their casual shop or carry it out. And no tipping means you can get almost a pound of scandalously healthful food for about $5.
Inn Season Café 500 E. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-547-7916; $$: Good news: Inn Season Café — a rare 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. Caters to special dietary restrictions.
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 is authentic Mexican cuisine that is heavy on the veggies and true to its roots. This place is right under your nose — don't miss it any longer.
Mind Body & Spirits 301 S. Main St., Rochester; 248-651-3663; $$: Situated at the corner of Main and Third, their newly remodeled building boasts rooftop solar panels, cork flooring, a bar top constructed of reclaimed wood, rain barrels for irrigating their onsite greenhouse and a bio-digester. But all these nifty, earth-friendly measures don't mean a hill of organic beans without tasty food. No worries there. The menu plainly defines the dishes that are vegan, vegetarian, gluten- and dairy-free.
Red Pepper Deli 116 W. Main St., Northville; 248-773-7672; $: Before she opened the Red Pepper Deli last September, Carolyn Simon had no idea there were so many raw food enthusiasts around. There are. They make up three-quarters of her clientele, and they instruct her on everything from recipes to the science of raw-foodism. But the way Simon does it, raw dishes are scrumptious.
Seva 314 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 734-662-1111; $: The eclectic specials can change weekly, and offerings range the globe (from Ethiopian to Mexican, Indian to Italian), converting traditional meat-based fare into vegetarian or vegan: Favorites include the "Enchilada Calabaza" (a butternut squash baked with spicy enchilada sauce on top and cream cheese), a low-fat Thai salad with a peanut-cilantro dressing. Full bar and juice bar.
Sprout House 15233 Kercheval St., Grosse Pointe; 313-331-3200; $: The Sprout House is serious about health and finds nutrition to be key in a long life. A sort of organic grocery, with produce, discount vitamins and health and beauty products, this place does a thriving carryout business in sandwiches and refrigerated prepared dishes from the store's working kitchen. Offering vegan, organic dairy, organic chicken, soy cheese and vegetarian options, the store has preservative-, growth hormone- and antibiotic-free foods.
Diners & delis
Al's Famous Deli 32906 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak; 248-549-3663; $: The deli with a difference, Al's is spearheading an effort to buy and sell only Michigan-based products. That means they cook their own corned beef (from United Meat in Detroit), buy their pickles from Topor's Pickle Company in Detroit, and use breads and rolls from Superior Bread Company and the Bake Station. So, at Al's, you can get your deli fix and support local businesses. Don't miss his chicken and ribs menu.
Bates Hamburgers 33406 Five Mile Rd., 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. A winning combo, as this place marked 50 years in business last month.
Bread Basket Deli locations in Livonia, Detroit, Redford, Warren and Ypsilanti; see breadbasketdelis.com for all locations; $: Here are the big sandwiches: Single-deckers, triple-deckers, quadruple-deckers, combos, dinner "baskets" and even some meat-laden salads. The prices are reasonable at this local mini-chain.
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.
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.
Janet's Lunch 15033 Kercheval St., Grosse Pointe Park, 313-331-5776; $: A place doesn't stay open for 71 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 homemade pies, including banana cream, apple, cherry and blueberry. There's fish after five every day, all day on Fridays.
Lafayette Coney Island 118 W. Lafayette, Detroit, 313-964-8198; $: Unless you're new to Detroit, you probably already know this place. If not, 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.
Legends Coney Island 5805 Mount Elliott St., Detroit; 313-571-4777; 11123 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit; 313-331-4000; $: Nothing fancy, just a crowd-pleasing Detroit coney institution, serving everything from wing dings and jalapeño poppers to an albacore white tuna melt.
National Coney Island 15555 Hall Rd., Macomb; 586-566-9558; more locations at nationalconeyisland.com; $: A perennial Metro Times Best of Detroit winner, National Coney Island offers several varieties of garden-fresh salads, sandwiches, gyros, Mexican and Greek specialties and award-winning Coney Island-style hot dogs.
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 in 1977. 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, as well as dessert.
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 decor. 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 13 years on the block, this puckishly named eatery has solid fare, reasonable prices and staying power.
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 its busy take-out window. You'll find no-frills service with a charming gap-toothed smile.
Woody's Diner 208 W. Fifth St., Royal Oak; 248-543-6911; $: Family-oriented dining on the first floor, but an older crowd on the upper levels. Oversized windows on the second floor and rooftop views of Royal Oak.
Pizza, burgers & beer
Arbor Brewing Company 114 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-213-1393; $$: Award-winning brewpub's drinkable house brews complement a menu of "upscale pub food." You won't find industrial "food" here: Their kitchen shuns petrochemical fertilizers, pesticides and additives, and they're "replacing the products of food science with the products of nature," with delicious results.
Ashley's Restaurant and Pub 338 S. State St., Ann Arbor; 734-996-9191; 7525 Wayne Rd., Westland; 734-525-1667; $: Billed as a "casual pub," you can't get much more relaxed than when you have 65 beers on tap to choose from, plus a long list of bottle beer, and more than 60 single-malt scotches and "small-batch" bourbons. Kitchen open late.
Aubree's Pizzeria & Tavern 20420 Haggerty Rd., Northville; 734-432-0200; 39 E. Cross St., Ypsilanti; 734-483-1870; 2122 Whitaker Rd., Ypsilanti; 734-483-1525; $: Founded in 1972 in Ypsilanti's Depot Town, Aubree's aims for "warmth, hospitality, tasty food and great drinks."
Bar Louie 44375 12 Mile Rd. in Novi's Fountainwalk; 248-662-1100; more locations at restaurants-america.com/barlouie; $$: When it was founded in Chicago in 1991, Bar Louie was just a neighborhood spot. Now that it has spawned a chain of 44 franchise locations, savor the ironic success of the chain restaurant that "doesn't feel like a chain restaurant." Premium drinks, cheap bar food.
Big Beaver Tavern 645 Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-680-0066; $: How does an Italian restaurant get reborn as a sports tavern? Check out what Mark Larco and company have done here. Not only do they have the burgers and fries, they have the sport and fun, including a massive burger that, if you can finish, you get a T-shirt for eating? Nice!
BlackFinn 530 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-542-9466; $$: Referred to instead as "an American saloon," the sprawling, boisterous lounge has great standards, including steaks, but also hosts a lively singles scene. The 25-bottle wine list has some bargains on it.
Black Lotus Brewing Company 1 E. 14 Mile Rd., Clawson; 248-577-1878; $$: A laid-back, airy high-ceilinged space, the open "kitchen" at one end of the horseshoe-shaped fieldstone bar is small, but churns out generously proportioned starters.
Bookies 2208 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-962-0319; $: Formerly Bookies Tavern on Washington Boulevard, the new Bookies offers three levels and a full-service kitchen. On the first level, a stone and granite bar provides a place to watch the game on six hi-definition plamsa TVs. The second floor has a private VIP area and the third has a roof-top deck with its own bar. The kitchen is open until 11 p.m., after which a scaled down menu is available.
Buddy's Restaurant & Pizzeria 17125 Conant St., Detroit; 313-892-9001; many more locations at buddyspizza.com; $: Our readers love Buddy's, perennial winner of Best Neighborhood Pizza. Enjoy the greasy, meaty square-cut pizza in its original setting. Secure parking.
Butcher's Inn 1489 Winder St., Detroit; 313-394-0120; $: Recently reopened by the crew over at Eastern Market's Cutter's, Butcher's Inn has been reborn as a tequila and margarita bar, with sliders, sandwiches and an Eastern Market location tailor-made for tailgating. Call ahead for hours.
Como's 22812 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-548-5005; $$: Though they do serve pizzas and pastas, Como's is best-known as a lively bar scene, particularly on their commodious tent patio, even on a frigid night, thanks to heat lamps.
CK Diggs 2010 Auburn Rd., Rochester Hills; 248-853-6600; $$: Beer galore at this sports pub, where you can learn the difference between lagers, ales, porters and stouts on their "beer definition" menu. Lunch and dinner menu offers traditional bar fare, as well as pastas, pizzas, and a short menu of surf & turf selections.
Claddagh Irish Pub 17800 Haggerty Rd., Livonia; 734-542-8141; $$: Attempts to re-create the rich traditions of the great pubs of Ireland with an authentic "pub house" experience. Fun, friendly and exuberant atmosphere. Traditional Irish fare.
Cutter's Bar & Grill 2638 Orleans St., Detroit; 313-393-0960; $: Good-size burgers for $4.50, or $4.75 with cheese? And they're not stingy on the meat, gigantic and hearty. If you have enough cash you can shoot for higher things: stuffed chicken breasts, baby back ribs or whitefish.
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.
Dino's 22740 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-591-3466; $: Next door to Club Bart, Dino's shares much with its neighbor: live music and open mics, sandwiches with just a touch more love than you'd expect, and a long bar that serves up quality cocktails. There's nothing intimidating here, and, if the music catches your fancy, many reasons to stay.
Dublin Fish and Chips 41900 Hayes Rd., Clinton Twp.; 586-416-3474; $: Hidden in a little strip mall in Clinton Township, guests can enjoy affordable fish meals as well as all things chowdery, including clam cakes, hush puppies and oysters, all bought fresh and prepared when you order.
Grand Tavern 35450 Grand River Ave., Farmington; 248-476-5700; $$: This neighborhood bar and grill is family-friendly, with 15 TVs, video games and a menu of grilled comfort foods. Open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Saturday, noon to 2 a.m. Sundays.
Green Lantern Lounge 28960 John R Rd., Madison Heights; 248-541-5439; 4326 Rochester Rd., Royal Oak; 248-298-3005; $$: Thin-crusted round pies and deep-dish pies come in four sizes from 10 inches to 16 inches. Reasonable prices.
Gus O'Connor's 42875 Grand River Ave., Novi; 248-465-9670; gusoconnors.com: Award-winning Irish pub with spirits, special events, and a full menu that includes sandwiches, shepherd's pie, Guinness stew and more.
Harbor House 440 Clinton St., Detroit; 313-967-9900; harborhousedetroit.com; $$: You can order off the menu, or you can take a shot at the table-served, all-you-can-eat deal: It will be $19.99, $34.99 or $23.99 depending on whether you want the seafood or prime rib (weekends only).
Hawthorne Valley Country Club 7300 N. Merriman Rd., Westland; 734-422-3440; $$: It's more than a country club; the attached restaurant offers a full menu — including steaks, seafood, pasta, burgers and more — in a casual, family-oriented dining environment. Fresh ingredients, no transfats, no MSG; full bar.
Hogger's BBQ, Sandwiches & More 2959 W. 12 Mile Rd., Berkley; 248-548-2400; $: No-nonsense barbecue joint has it all: pulled pork sandwiches, barbecue chicken, beef brisket, baby-back ribs, fried catfish fingers, chicken tenders and almost a dozen sides.
Howe's Bayou 22848 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-691-7145; $$: Cajun and Creole food pleases those seeking a bit of Nawlins living. Full bar. Great sweet potato fries and bread pudding.
The Inn Place Bar & Grill 917 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-547-6051; $: This local hangout has a diverse clientele, welcoming staff, friendly patrons and a casual atmosphere. It serves everything from breakfast to a late-night burger.
Jolly Pumpkin Cafe and Brewery 311 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-913-2730; $$: While pub-like in atmosphere, the food is a bit more up-to-date. Expect tofu cracklings, French fries flavored with rosemary and truffle salt, and a butcher's snack board of cured meats and more. There is no real entrée menu as such. A small list of daily specials are offered, such as broiled walleye and mushroom risotto. The rest of the list consists of salads, sandwiches and pizza. Children are considered with an entire section of their own. And, of course, there is the beer. Diners not yet familiar with Jolly Pumpkin beers might want to ease into the experience with something tamer, such as North Peak Amber Ale.
Lucy's Tavern on the Hill 115 Kercheval St., Grosse Pointe; 313-640-2020; $$: This place is known in its lakeside neighborhood for burgers. Also offering local fish dishes and other tavern fare amid warm, comfortable surroundings. Their kitchen has a reputation for using only the freshest ingredients, emphasizing the highest quality. All the dishes are interesting, the beer menu is extensive, and it has a patio for warm days.
M&M Cafe 13714 Michigan Ave., Dearborn, 313-581-5775; $: Tender loving care, dished up along with great food, and served in spacious and attractive digs. The menu is mostly American with a few Lebanese dishes: hamburgers, chef salad and turkey sandwiches, kafta, hommous and laban. The grilled shrimp is divine; just as good is a garlicky, buttery lemon chicken topped with thinly sliced mushrooms and served with rice pilaf.
Mr. B's Food & Spirits 423 Main St., Rochester; 248-651-6534; see mrbsrochester.com for more locations; $$: Established in 1977, the Mr. B's mini-empire provides quality food, a comfortable atmosphere and service that pleases, whether you're there for the game or a dinner banquet.
Muldoon's 7636 Auburn Rd., Utica; 586-739-6946; 3982 W. Auburn Rd., Rochester Hills; 248-852-2707; $: Local tavern with good, reasonable prices on food and drink, and a menu that encompasses not just appetizers, sandwiches and burgers, but Mexican too, even offering "sizzling fajitas." Live entertainment Wednesday through Saturday.
O'Mara's 2555 W. 12 Mile Rd., Berkley; 248-399-6750; omaras.net; $$: Irish restaurant and bar with entertainment that ranges from jazz to traditional Irish sounds. Menu includes plenty of protein, including filet mignon, New York strip, mixed grill, barbecued spare ribs and more.
Parrot Cove Yacht Club 33475 Dequindre Rd., Troy; 248-585-6080; $$: Solid bar food in a raffish but homey clubhouse. This Floribbean-themed bar and grill serves a Cove Platter that, at $8.50, is a steal. Relax with a cold one while selecting from among the menu's inexpensive comfort food.
Pasquale's 31555 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak; 248-549-4002; $$: Try "Brown's special," and it's loaded with cheese, pepperoni, bacon, ham, onions, green peppers, green and black olives, and mushrooms, $13 for a small, $16 for a medium and $21 for a large.
Poole's Tavern 157 E. Main St., Northville; 248-349-1715; $: A tavern since the early 1900s, now it's an updated, fun bar and grille, serving baby-back ribs and inventive daily specials.
Rosie O'Grady's 279 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-591-9163; more locations at rosieogradysirishpub.com: Irish pub's new digs on Nine Mile Road are better than ever. They have quality food, lots of beer choices, a full bar, games and more.
Sherwood Brewing Co. 45689 Hayes Rd., Shelby Twp.; 586-532-9669; $: A microbrewery with a full menu of ambitious burgers, pizzas and more, their midday lunch-and-pint specials (11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Saturday) look like a good deal.
Uptown Grille 3100 E. West Maple, Commerce Twp.; 248-960-3344; $$: When you come in, you'll see the café that opens at 6 a.m. where they sell wine and beer, as well as drinks and casual food. After 11 a.m., they open the restaurant, with wine, beer, a full menu of burgers sandwiches and pastas, as well as steaks, fish and desserts.
Woodward Avenue Brewers 22646 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-546-3696; $: Dubbed, "a neighborhood bar with lots of style," the top floor has huge windows overlooking Woodward Avenue. Downstairs has a sidewalk café and lounge with a view of the brewhouse.
Atlas Global Bistro 3111 Woodward Ave., 313-831-2241; $$$: Voted by our readers as the best affordably expensive restaurant (under $50 per diner), Atlas has the vibe of a hip city eatery thanks to its striking interiors, knowledgeable service and international cuisine. In Atlas' quirky kitchen, ingredients don't necessarily remain with their cuisine-of-origin, and the fusion fare can be at once exotic and down-home, mixing it up with lemongrass, cactus, Gorgonzola, caviar and black-eyed peas.
Beverly Hills Grill 31471 Southfield Rd., Beverly Hills; 248-642-2355; $$: For Sunday brunch, be prepared to wait at the bar for as long as a mimosa or two. But once you get your seat, you can choose from a half-dozen scrambles, omelets and frittatas, from the humble vegetable scramble (mushrooms, leeks, tomatoes, spinach and garlic-herb chèvre; can be made with egg whites) to the lobster Cobb omelet (smoked bacon, avocado, tomato, onion and blue cheese). Entering its fourth decade, here's one spot that has weathered more than one recession.
The Breakfast Club 30600 John R, Madison Heights; 248-307-9090; 38467 W. 10 Mile Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-473-0714; $: This eatery is proud of its specialty breakfasts, such as crab cakes Florentine or a crab-asparagus omelet with Hollandaise. A vegetarian omelet made with Egg Beaters or egg whites, smoked salmon with capers and cream cheese, as well as about a half-dozen others. They also serve a chocolate-covered strawberry with every check.
Cafe Muse 418 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak; 248-544-4749; $: You won't find "omelets" on the menu, as the kitchen has chosen to serve scrambled eggs instead. The "exotic mushroom scramble" is rich with truffle oil and a bit of Boursin cheese, topped with shredded basil, which also goes well with the sweet potato side dish. Another scramble choice incorporates ammoglio, a mortar-and-pestle pounding of garlic, basil, peppercorns and tomatoes.
Cafe Zola 112 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-769-2020; $$$: A bistro in the European tradition: a place for gathering, eating and enjoying coffee, espresso, hand-selected teas, and sweet and savory crepes made fresh, one at a time, and served hot and delicious. Or you can enjoy organic egg omelets, luscious house-made biscotti, Belgian waffles, market-fresh salads and sandwiches, and Turkish-inspired specialties. In true European style, there is outdoor seating on the sidewalk.
Club Bart 22728 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-548-8746; $: Some may be more familiar with the night-time music, but every morning, this bar and grill serves up breakfasts, opening at 9 a.m. weekdays, and 8 a.m. weekends. The weekday breakfasts include popular omelets and oatmeal pancakes, but the weekend breakfast choices can get more interesting, including French toast, biscuits and gravy, eggs Benedict, quiches, at least one Mexican-inspired special, and lots of sweet things.
Delmar Family Restaurant 1307 E. 11 Mile Rd., Royal Oak; 248-543-2773; $: Most of the omelets are less than $6, and they're all classics. You have your spinach omelet, your mushroom omelet, your ham-and-cheese. But the choices get grander from there. There's the "meat-lover's," with bacon, ham, sausage and cheese. There's the Southern, with green pepper, onion and sausage with country gravy on top. But, for $6.25, you can have the Delmar omelet, which has it all: ham, cheese, onion, tomatoes, green peppers, even potatoes rolled up in there.
The Emory 22700 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-546-8202; $$: Breakfast is served exclusively Saturdays and Sundays 9 a.m.-2 p.m. One way to start the day right is with a plate of the Emory's huevos rancheros: two crispy corn tortillas layered with black bean spread, a generous dose of sautéed peppers and onions, eggs sunny-side-up and topped with melted cheddar. On the side are potatoes, baked and then flash-fried crispy on the outside and sprinkled with large chunks of onion and pepper. The other side of the plate is reserved for avocado slices and mandarin orange wedges.
The Fly Trap 22950 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-399-5150; $: Chef Gaven McMillian and his partners — wife Kara McMillian and her bro Sean McClanaghan — bought the tiny space that's been home to a diner since 1932. At first, they considered going high-end, but decided to go for a diner. "We're definitely thankful about that now," Kara says. Gaven, a longtime chef formerly at now-defunct Fiddleheads, concocts diner food with a fine-dining finish. "You can't go wrong with that for $8.95," Kara points out. The little diner that could marked five years on the block last December.
Frittata 236 S. Main St., Clawson; 248-280-2552; $: Named after a type of omelet, Frittata has creative dishes without the smokers or fried food odors. Their knowledgeable, enthusiastic staff serves frittatas that are off the hook. The roasted wild mushroom frittata is a blend of wild mushrooms with fresh herbs, Gouda cheese and pancetta (Italian bacon) baked in a herb frittata. Every dish here looks camera-ready, and the frittatas are all $7 or $8, though the build-your-own starts at $5. It's usually not hard to get in weekdays, but on weekends calling ahead for seating is advised. Weather permitting, the outdoor patio is open for folks with pets, and sometimes a DJ will spin light jazz on a Sunday morning.
Gest Omelettes 39560 W. 14 Mile Rd., Commerce Twp.; 248-926-0717; $: Order the "World War I" plate and get corned beef hash, two eggs and toast for $6.85. Or, for a mere $6.30 you can have a go at the "World War II" plate, with creamed, seasoned ground beef and mushrooms over hash browns, two eggs, two strips of bacon and toast. There's even a "Mexican Revolution" plate for $6.55! Remember: All's fair in love and war.
Harvard Grill 16624 Mack Ave., Grosse Pointe Park; 313-882-9090; $: You can create your own omelet here, piling items on until you've created a 2,000-calorie breakfast bomb. Or, you can choose from the usual omelets. One interesting choice is the Irish omelet, with corned beef (natch), green pepper, onion and Swiss cheese. All omelets come with hash browns and toast.
Heavenly Chicken & Waffles 17117 W. Nine Mile Rd., Southfield; 313-429-7199; $: It is exactly what it sounds like: A place serving chicken, waffles and various combinations thereof. Waffles really are better with Amish wings and tiger shrimp.
Louie's Ham & Corned Beef 3570 Riopelle, Detroit; 313-831-1800; $: This boxy, newish diner on Mack and Orleans (near Eastern Market) has a giant pig on its sign. With a hog as a mascot, it's hardly a surprise they have a lot of pork on the menu. And you'll pay full freight for that pastrami on rye or Canadian bacon. But the breakfasts are a little cheaper. Another bonus: a drive-through window.
Original Pancake House 33703 Woodward Ave., Birmingham; 248-642-5775; $: The quintessential breakfast, served all day, with the titular pancake still supreme and the omelets a close second. Do not confuse this with chain pancake houses. This one makes everything from scratch, and adheres to truth-in-menu honesty. No mixes or ersatz ingredients: real cream, real butter, real maple syrup. Often a wait, but worth it.
Pronto! Royal Oak 608 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak; 248-544-7900; $: Technically, it's more than just a "breakfast" place, but if you want to avoid the pricey, overcrowded Main Street restaurants, go to Pronto. Brightly colored walls, a lively feel, a creative and fun sandwich menu and sidewalk seating in the summertime.
Russell Street Deli 2465 Russell St., Detroit; 313-567-2900; $: This chattery Eastern Market deli serves breakfast and lunch six days a week 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.
Toast and Toast Birmingham 23144 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-398-0444; 203 Pierce St., Birmingham; 248-258-6278; $$: In Ferndale, it's difficult to make a poor choice when ordering at Toast. The Grand Marnier French toast pairs vanilla-soaked challa bread with toasted almonds and other ingredients perfectly, and the more-than-filling granola banana cakes are made to explode stomachs — in a good way. And the Birmingham spinoff serves great food and wine "with humor in a fun, casual environment." The hostess station is an old white Detroit Liner stove, a 1940s model with legs and drawers. Serves breakfast and lunch seven days a week, with a menu almost like Ferndale's served till 4 p.m.
Al-Ajami 14633 W. Warren, Dearborn; 313-846-9330; $: Al-Ajami is comparable to a slew of other Middle Eastern restaurants, but it's definitely less expensive. Chef and co-owner Stephan Ajami offers 15 seafood dishes. Also good are the chicken lemon, which combines grilled chicken and pilaf with vegetables doused in lemon butter, a terrific chicken rice soup and a good lentil soup. Servings are enormous.
Al-Ameer 12710 W. Warren Ave., Dearborn, 313-582-8185; 27346 Ford Rd., Dearborn Heights; 313-565-9600; $$: Owner Khalil Ameer says with pride that his Lebanese fare isn't Americanized factory food. He has labored to stay true to the Lebanese table, offering fresh bread, serving no pork or liquor, and preparing food that's not overwhelmed by spices and herbs. Instead of simply ordering a vegetarian platter, diners may choose among vegetarian grape leaves, tomato kibbee, green bean stew, eggplant stew, a "veggie galaba" of rice, mushrooms, carrots, green peppers — and, if you must have it, they'll add more spice.
Anita's Kitchen 110 W. Maple, Troy; 248-362-0680; $; 22651 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-548-0680; $$: Though it started in Troy as a crowded lunch spot for cubicle workers, this friendly café has branched out into a more serious dining crowd with a second location in Ferndale, on Woodward south of Nine Mile Road at the former home of the Frostbite ice cream parlor. In warm weather, a large, covered outdoor dining area allows outside dining. The bar serves beer, wine, juice and smoothies. For the harder stuff, examine the small but diverse wine selection and three Michigan craft brews. Salads and veggie-intensive appetizers fill a good portion of the menu. There are even a few unique pita pizzas. As with most Mediterranean cuisines, Lebanese is considered to be a very balanced, healthy diet.
Beirut Kabob 5827 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit; 313-841-2100; $: Ray Ahmad and brother Mike are serving fine versions of familiar favorites — the menu is short but covers the usual bases — at prices well cheaper than those of the Lebanese restaurants a few miles away in Dearborn. The highest priced entrée is $12, and that will get you three skewers of meat plus your rice, pickles and salad. Most entrées are $6 or $7 — for dishes that cost $12-$15 at other places. Sandwiches run $3.25-$3.99.
Beirut Palace 105 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-399-4600; 2095 15 Mile Rd., Sterling Heights; 586-795-0424; $; The Royal Oak location is situated just across the street from the Main Art Theatre and makes a great start to a night at the movies, particularly on warm nights. (They take in their chairs Oct. 15.) And while we certainly would never suggest patrons smuggle food into the show, shawarma is definitely easier to pick out of teeth than popcorn. At Beirut, they make all their own bread — definitely a plus in an industry where prepacked, hard-to-chew pitas abound.
Byblos Cafe & Grill 87 W. Palmer St., Detroit; 313-831-4420; $; Located near Wayne State University, Byblos offers a Lebanese- and Middle Eastern-inspired menu featuring more than 90 dishes. The servers are friendly and helpful, making this an excellent place for those eager to dip their toes into a larger culinary world. While their juices and Lebanese dishes are quite good, they also offer more run-of-the-mill fare like quesadillas, fettucine Alfredo and grape Crush.
Cedarland Restaurant 13007 W. Warren Ave., Dearborn; 313-582-4849; $$: When the three brothers who own Cedarland converted the large bank building on the corner of Warren and Hartwell into a restaurant, they retained the drive-through window for quick orders. Whether eating in or taking out, the baba is creamy, with a roasted, earthy aroma and just the right bite. You can order it as an appetizer or a side dish.
Elie's Mediterranean Cuisine 263 Pierce St., Birmingham; 248-647-2420; $$$: This popular Middle Eastern place up the street from Toast in Birmingham has a full menu of smoothies, pita roll-ups, and entrées such as warak malfouf, warak enab and Moroccan-spiced swordfish.
Mezza Mediterranean Grille with locations in Orchard Lake, Southfield, Rochester Hills, Royal Oak; see mezzagrille.com; $$: A new entry into the Middle Eastern mini-chain category, Mezza has all the usual classics at bargain prices, and with larger than usual servings. Looks like you can throw a rock and hit the nearest location too.
Mr. Kabob 3372 Coolidge Hwy., Berkley; 248-545-4000; $: There was a time not long ago when you stopped at a service station for gas and maybe a candy bar. Although most now have morphed into convenience stores offering sandwiches, donuts and slurpies, few if any flaunt the restaurant-quality cuisine turned out at Mr. Kabob, located inside a Sunoco station at the corner of 12 Mile and Coolidge. Most popular is the chicken kebab dinner, with your choice of rice or fries and soup or salad for $10.95.
Phoenicia Restaurant 588 S. Old Woodward, Birmingham; 248-644-3122; $$$: Proprietor Sameer Eid has been serving meticulously prepared Middle Eastern food since 1970. He knows his way around the kitchen, and gives a more sophisticated spin to the well-known litany of shish kebab, shish kafta, baked kibbee and lamb chops. Seafood is a specialty, including whitefish, Dover sole, grilled salmon, and a fish long known in the Mediterranean but relatively new to the American table: bronzini.
Pita Café 25282 Greenfield Rd., Oak Park; 248-968-2225; $$: It's a busy place underneath the pretend grape arbor, because both the familiar (baba, the popular chicken shawarma, roasted vegetables) and the less so (arayis, ghallaba) are excellent. In business since the early 1990s, Pita Café has since expanded into Birmingham and Novi.
Steve's Back Room 19872 Kelly Rd., Harper Woods; 313-527-5047; 24935 Jefferson, St. Clair Shores; 586-774-4545; $$: An east side institution since 1988, the eatery behind the swinging saloon doors of a grocery in Harper Woods is still open for lunch, but owner Steve Kalil has moved the main operation to the booming "Nautical Mile" of St. Clair Shores. The house specials feature what is best about Middle Eastern food: the sprightly flavors of lemon, garlic, parsley and olive oil, vegetables used in inventive ways, meat as a minor player.
Yossi's Israeli Cuisine 7325 Orchard Lake Rd., West Bloomfield; 248-626-0160; $$: At Yossi's, much of the menu is similar to what you might find in an Arabic restaurant — kebabs, hummus, shwarma, tabbouleh, baba ghanoush, fattoush — but with differences that are both subtle and substantial. Dishes with the same names may be seasoned differently or prepared differently. Israeli cuisine also incorporates influences from Morocco, with its emphasis on spices and slow cooking. All appetizers are vegetarian, as are four entrées.
Upscale & Romantic
24grille 204 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-964-3821; $$: Though it shares the Book-Cadillac hotel with the open and airy Roast, stepping through the wooden double doors of 24grille means entering its darker, sexier sister. This urban oasis is decked out in leather and wood tones of beige and brown, a more intimate setting sporting a designer's touch, with cushioned stools and benches and wine glasses frosted with the restaurant's logo, all set off with low-key lighting from creative fixtures.
Antonio's in the Park 15117 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe Park; 313-821-2433; $$: This romantic little Italian restaurant has all the Old World charm of a courtyard café in Rome. The menu has handmade pastas, thick and rich soups and to-die-for specials. The atmosphere, suggested by candlelight and colorful tapestries, is so relaxing that slow service would seem like a gift.
Assaggi 330 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-584-3499; $$$: Assaggi's Mediterranean dishes include wood-fired pizza, antipasti, sea bass and sea scallops with hand-rolled pasta. A full wine list and a full bar are available to accompany your lunch or dinner. Known for its seasonal dishes, you can always be sure the menu will incorporate what's in season. Half-entrée orders offer a slightly more inexpensive meal, but with all the flavor intact.
Big Fish Seafood 700 Town Center, Dearborn; 313-336-6350; $$: A Chuck Muer Restaurant, Big Fish responds to the need for "high quality, moderately priced, casual seafood." It has two open dining rooms, an outdoor patio and what may be the largest cocktail bar in town.
Café Felix 204 S. Main St., Ann Arbor, 734-662-8650; $$: Authentic European-style café, serving pastries, breads and cakes baked fresh on-site, as well as European wines, beers and liquors. They serve a full breakfast, omelets, crepes, soups, salads and tapas. No smoking. Handicap accessible.
Cliff Bell's 2030 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-961-2543; $$: Stepping into the newly restored art deco live jazz bar is to arrive in another era. With everything from a standard fillet of beef tenderloin to cassoulet, the French-inspired eclectic food menu speaks for itself. Try the duck confit on a buttermilk biscuit with cranberry jam for a small plate reduction of Thanksgiving dinner. Hedonists will go for a chunk of tender braised pork belly that comes plated with a rich, spicy sweet cider sauce, roasted fingerling potatoes and a pinch of cracklings for good measure.
Coach Insignia 200 Renaissance Center, 71st and 72nd floors, Detroit; 313-567-2622; $$$: This eclectic chophouse is the United States' second-highest restaurant and is located at the top of the GM Global Renaissance Center. Coach Insignia features incomparable food, great service and a world-class wine list to accompany a panoramic view. Handicap accessible; dress code: no jeans.
Cuisine 670 Lothrop St., Detroit; 313-872-5110; $$: Housed in an original Detroit dwelling, walking up into the anteroom of the former home takes you into an intimate experience, where early 20th century parlors, paneled with wood and stucco, have been turned into dining areas. Grosz's reputation for chatting with diners means the kitchen knows better what to do.
Detroit Fish Market 1435 Randolph St., 313-963-3003; $$: The newest addition to the Frank Taylor dining empire fills a gap left by Joe Muer's departure from the downtown dining scene, an eatery specializing in the fruit of the sea. And it's a doozy of a location, set in old Harmonie Park, one of the last remaining oases of Augustus Woodward's 1806 city plan. Retooled and remodeled as an urban upscale eatery trading off the fame of Paradise Valley, the wood-paneled interior is decorated with fanciful murals depicting the creatures of the sea.
The Fondue Room 82 Macomb Place, Mount Clemens; 586-463-8568; $$$: Here private cozy booths provide the ultimate romantic secluded atmosphere — and dipping succulent strawberries in rich Swiss chocolate ain't all bad either! Serving a wide array of savory dishes, desserts and wines, the Fondue Room also educates its servers to act as skilled fondue trainers — to ensure your fondue doesn't end up a "fon-don't."
Giovanni's 330 S. Oakwood Blvd., Detroit, 313-841-0122; $$: Giovanni's could get your date wondering why you're driving toward the Rouge Complex. But, once you get inside, all will be clear: The stunning old spot brims with carved woodwork in the dining room and stainless steel in the kitchen. The restaurant's different rooms are adorned with family photos and heirlooms. And all the restaurant's pastas are homemade by 84-year-old Irma Morri and her staff, including the light angel hair linguine and gnocci. Everything is made to order, and nothing is ever kept in a steam table or on a shelf.
Grape Expectations Wine Bar and Merchant 555 Forest Ave., Plymouth; 734-455-9463; $$: Stocks more than 100 bottles, 50 of them for sale by the glass, and serves Italian- and Spanish-influenced small plates designed by chef Nina Scott. The choices range from fresh and chunky gazpacho to the "Cutting Board," an assortment of meats, olives, roasted peppers and cheeses.
Iridescence 2901 Grand River Ave., inside the Motor City Casino, Detroit; 877-777-0711; 313-237-6732; $$: High atop the hotel tower, Iridescence has a winning team that has given it quite a buzz. Last year they welcomed new chef de cuisine, Derik Watson, who used to work with Iridescence's executive chef Don Yamauchi at Tribute in Farmington Hills. And the entrées are intense, running a very high gamut from grilled Kobe strip steak to roasted swordfish to sautéed Asian sea bass. Unusual city views from just outside downtown Detroit.
The Melting Pot 888 W. Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-362-2221; 26425 Novi Rd., Novi; 248-347-6358; 309 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-622-0055; $$$: A new way of dining mixed with an old favorite, The Melting Pot brings back the fun of fondue. Dipping an assortment of breads, vegetables and apples in your choice of cheese fondue allows you to dictate your desired taste. The dining experience can get a bit pricey but the dessert makes it worth it.
Mon Jin Lau 1515 E. Maple, Troy; 248-689-2332; $$$; Sophisticated but casual chic Asian-Deco decor. New Asian cuisine, combining the taste of Asia with preparations artfully presented. Great ambience for gourmet Chinese food, with a lively bar for drinks or sushi, as well as cool music and lighting. The Chinese stuffed eggplant is an appetizer big enough for two. Lunch Monday through Friday; dinner seven nights including late night dining.
Mosaic 501 Monroe St., Detroit; 313-962-9366; $$: When Greektown goes global, prepare to be dazzled. And it's not all porcini-mushroom-dusted scallops with Asiago potato croquettes, spinach confit, tomatoes and white truffle oil. The feast is as much for the eyes as the mouth at Mosaic, and all of it is drawn from a hip new generation.
Oak City Grill 212 W. Sixth St., Royal Oak; 248-556-0947; $$$: Menu spills over with filet mignon, peppercorn sirloin and pecan-encrusted trout at reasonable prices. On warm nights, the front opens up to add an al fresco feeling. Quality service, live music most nights.
Opus One 565 E. Larned St., Detroit; 313-961-7766; $$: When Tim Kokas opened Opus One in 1987, plenty of observers scoffed that a four-star restaurant tucked away on Larned Street wouldn't, couldn't, shouldn't fly. But Kokas was no stranger to the business, as his family ran the long-lost Chambertin restaurant in Dearborn. But unlike his parents' suburban establishment, he felt that an upscale, luxurious eatery would be a smart gamble. For 22 years, he's been proving the doubters wrong.
Oxford Inn 1214 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-543-5619; $$: A cozy English pub-type atmosphere featuring baby back ribs, an oyster bar and fresh fish. A Royal Oak fixture for years.
Quattro Cucina Italiana 203 Hamilton Row, Birmingham; 248-593-6060; $$$: Quattro Cucina, the new high-end Italian place in Birmingham, aims to create the feeling of old-fashioned service. The place is crawling with attentive staff, and it has been redone with high, curved banquettes in neutral tones, nothing to arrest the eye except some elaborate chandeliers. The food is wonderful. Wine by the glass ranges from $10 to $14. Desserts are mostly Italian. Quattro Cucina is open for lunch and dinner during the week and for dinner on weekends.
Rattlesnake Club 300 River Place Dr., Detroit; 313-567-4400; $$$: There's a reason this place has been selected by our critics year after year as the Best River View: Lots of other spots have pleasant water views, but none can match the fine-dining experience of the Rattlesnake Club. For decades, Jimmy Schmidt, the respected doyen of local chefs, has presided over one of the most creative kitchens in town. The settings are just as elegant as the decoration. One newer addition is the outdoor pergola, with a shaded, garden feel.
Roast 1128 Washington Ave., Detroit; 313-442-1600; $$: After a $200 million renovation, the freshly scrubbed, historic facade of the Book-Cadillac contains this up-to-the-minute establishment. Unlike the 1920s flourishes on the hotel, Michael Symon's Roast is decked out in modern style. But it's a laid-back sort of elegance, relatively minimalist, with slabs of marble, granite and tile, leather-padded columns and sharkskin-style tile mosaics. The kitchen does the meat right, aging everything at least 21 days, and lavishing just as much attention on poultry.
SaltWater 1777 Third St., inside the MGM Grand Casino, Detroit; 877-888-2121; $$: When it comes to beyond-the-pale interior decorating, Michael Mina's opulent seafood restaurant is the catch of the day. Though the surf they serve will tickle your sea-tooth, the elegant space celebrates all things aquatic with equal creativity. The wow-factor is in the way they work the motif of water into every conceivable surface. It's in the cobalt-blue accents at the bar or on the great folding doors to the private dining rooms. And the menu is equally dazzling.
Tallulah Wine Bar & Bistro 151/155 S. Bates St., Birmingham; 248-731-7066; $$: It's hard to believe that, in Birmingham, sale of alcohol by the glass was forbidden until as late as 1972, a holdover from Prohibition that left the city high and dry for 56 years. Especially when you look at a business like the exciting new Tallulah Wine Bar. Expect a full line of wines from around the world, complemented by "clean food." They promise to serve Michigan products, including farm-raised meats and organic produce, using only the freshest ingredients possible to serve a "new American" cuisine, simply prepared, light and not overcooked.
Town Tavern 116 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-544-7300; $$: Elegant (mohair booths, bentwood chairs) 21st century bistro. Grazers can easily make a hearty meal of the "bar-plate" appetizers. Bustling, noisy, with a train passing through Royal Oak a block away now and then.
The Whitney 4421 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-832-5700; $$: Detroit's showplace mansion restaurant, the Whitney used to cater to an older, chamber-music-loving crowd, but it has now made a bid for more casual, younger diners, with happy hours (Tuesday-Friday), shuttle services, DJs, live music, casual garden menus and patio parties, and its quirky Ghost Bar, trading off the building's haunted reputation. And the menu seems just as ambitious as the building, offering entrée choices including pork, salmon, duck, chicken, lamb, risotto, sea scallops, rib-eye and cioppino.
Wolfgang Puck Grille 1777 Third St., inside the MGM Grand Casino, Detroit; 877-888-2121; $$: Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck's restaurant is fairly restrained by casino standards, open and spacious, with the usual gazillion accent lights playing upon its surfaces. You can see the fire flash in the kitchen, visible through windows, as the chefs prepare the innovative, seasonal, organic cuisine Puck has helped popularize. But if you'd rather get away from the bells and whistles (and the subdued chiming of the casino floor), the partitioned dining booths offer a bit more seclusion.
Surf & Turf
The Capital Grille in Somerset Collection North2800 W. Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-649-5300; $$$: This upscale chain does it all, dry-aging its own steaks, cultivating a rich, club-like atmosphere, and serving excellent steaks. You'll pay a pretty penny for it all, around $2 an ounce and up for the main steaks, but, after a day of shopping at the exclusive Somerset Collection, what could top it off better than a porcini-rubbed Delmonico steak, with 12-year-aged balsamic reduction? Totes.
City Kitchen 16844 Kercheval St., Grosse Pointe; 313-882-6667; $$$: Just about everything at City Kitchen merits praise. One might quibble a bit about the price of the appetizers, but not their quality. The individual pizzas, baked in a wood-fired oven, are well worth a try, as are the generously proportioned mains, most of which are priced in the low 20s. Salmon, shrimp, perch, swordfish, and fish and chips, most of which are served with creative pairings of vegetables and starch, are among other maritime offerings.
D'Amato's 222 S. Sherman Dr., Royal Oak; 248-584-7400; $$: Neighborhood Italian joint has eclectic and "from scratch" fare. Plenty of beef, chicken and seafood entrées, and 30 glasses and 60 bottles of wine to wash it down. The attached martini bar also has excellent specialty cocktails.
Flood's Bar & Grille 731 St. Antoine St., Detroit; 313-963-1090; $$: You can tell by the bottlenecked line of glimmering Jags, Beemers, Mercedes and SUVs lined up for valet parking that this is a nightspot where the Motor City's elite come to meet. The food's OK, but that ain't the point; it's the tailored clientele and top-shelf booze that really sets Flood's apart.
Gaucho Brazilian Steak House 39550 W. Seven Mile Rd., Northville; 248-380-7770; $$: The rooms gleam with Brazilian cherry wood and the brilliant white gaucho shirts of the staff at this authentic Rodizio restaurant owned and operated by Brazilians. Eliane Carvalho Coelho Turner and her partner, Neto Fernandez, have brought a real touch of Rio to the free-standing building. It is a fixed price system where an array of 15 different cuts of fire-roasted meats, from filet mignon to lamb chops, are brought to the tables on long skewers, one after the other, until diners call a halt.
The Hill Seafood & Chop House 123 Kercheval St., Grosse Pointe Farms; 313-886-8101; $$: Many of the Hill's "signature dishes" cater to a Reagan-era notion of good eating — surf and turf, lots of blue cheese and bacon in the house salad. Seafood is a strong point: The swordfish is tall and terrific and the calamari appetizer is out of the ordinary. Desserts are quintessentially American: The molten lava cake has a luscious liquid chocolate center. The steaks are the usual cuts — filet mignon, New York strip (prime) and porterhouse — and all are certified Angus beef, char-grilled and prepared to spec. And the preparations aren't just mash and veg anymore, chef de cuisine Matt Couri says they've stepped up their game a great deal.
Katana Nu-Asian Steakhouse 111 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-591-9900; $$: Katana offers a spectacular show seven nights a week in the fine art of teppanyaki, or grilling. This is a Japanese restaurant for those who shudder at raw fish; any steak-loving American will find plenty that pleases. Seven stations are on one side of the restaurant, each with a granite counter wrapped around three sides of a hibachi. For this experience, expect to pay as little as $16.25 for chicken or $40 for a seafood combo of fillets, scallops and lobster. As many as 10 people can be seated at each station. On the other side are booths and tables for those who prefer the bistro and sushi menu, now with full entrées in addition to the small plates.
Lily's Seafood 410 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak; 248-591-5459; $$: Stunning interior, friendly service and a kitchen that believes homemade is best, down to the house-made root beer, cream soda and four varieties of house-made beer. And then there's all that great fish!
Mitchell's Fish Market locations in Birmingham and Rochester Hills; see mitchellsfishmarket.com; $$: Mitchell's Fish Market is a member of that new breed of restaurants: the upscale chain. Featuring an ice-filled display case with luscious steaks and bright fillets, the selection of fish varies daily. You choose the fish and its style of preparation.
Moe's on Ten Seafood Grill 39455 W. 10 Mile Rd., Novi; 248-478-9742; $$$: At Moe's, your friends can have the surf, but you still get your turf. For them: lemon sole that's lightly breaded and served with a lemony sauce flavored with dill and scattered with capers. For meat-lovers: a New York strip sautéed with mushrooms, scallions and herb butter, or a filet mignon heaped with sautéed mushrooms and onions and a demi-glace. And Moe's also serves such popular Michigan fish as lake perch and whitefish, for those who want to keep it local.
n Morton's of Chicago 888 W. Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-404-9845; $$$: No cheap steaks are served here. The Morton's chain specializes in serving only the very best quality, aged, prime quality cuts of beef. They're so serious that a presentation cart of raw meat and fish comes to each table so diners may preview their porterhouse, double filet mignon or live lobster before actually ordering it. Everything is big enough to split. Since the menu is a la carte and expensive, it's far from a bad idea.
No. VI Chop House 27000 Sheraton Dr., Novi; 248-305-5210; $$$: As plush a steak and seafood house as can be found in the area, this one offers top-of-the-line fare in a darkly sophisticated setting. All of the meats are prime, from the filet mignon to the veal chop. Expect to plunk down good money for fine meat. Steaks are broiled at 1,700 degrees to sear in flavor. The remodeled bar now has plasma TVs and is cigar-friendly.
Ocean Prime 2915 Coolidge Hwy., Troy; 248-458-0500; $$$: A large selection of prime-quality seafood and steaks, handcrafted cocktails and world-class wines. Feels like a stylishly retro supper club, only with a welcoming, modern, casual vibe.
Ruth's Chris Steakhouse 755 W. Big Beaver, Troy; 248-269-8424; $$$: The clubhouse-like dining room has a golf theme, lots of wood and brass, and white linen swathed tables. Steaks, ranging from a small filet mignon to a huge porterhouse (for two), come to the tables on platters sizzling with butter, hinting at the New Orleans origins of the now-international chain of very good steakhouses.
Shiraz 30100 Telegraph, Bingham Farms; 248-645-5289; $$$: Diners will find steaks of one grade only — prime, the most expensive and fattiest — plus beef in other forms, like short ribs, veal chops and calf's liver. You can even get duck, or a "surf and turf" consisting of a 7 oz. fillet and lobster tail. Steaks come with a choice of sauces: port wine veal essence, béarnaise, morel, horseradish cream or Detroit zip. The hearty port sauce complements the flavorful steak perfectly.
Sindbads at the River 100 St. Clair Ave., Detroit; 313-822-8000; $$: There's an emphasis on steaks, chops and especially seafood. Try their fresh-made beer batter. Seafood appetizers include Snug Harbor mussels or Campeche Bay shrimp, and New England clam chowder. Steaks include a 16 oz., certified Angus beef center cut New York strip, a choice 8 oz. center cut filet mignon with zip sauce and the "Coxswain's Striker," a choice 9-ounce Delmonico steak. Or come for cheaper versions at lunchtime.
Streetside Seafood 273 Pierce St., Birmingham; 248-645-9123; $$: With just 60 seats and a well-deserved reputation for great fish, this tiny eatery fills up fast every day of the week. Chef Sharon Juergens believes that fish should be simply prepared and well seasoned. The menu seems to travel the world to present the fish in its best light: Gumbo chowder, lobster and shrimp scampi, seafood jambalaya, bouillabaisse. Lots of places serve decent fish, they're not all as fun as Streetside.
Tom's Oyster Bar 318 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-541-1186; more locations at tomsoysterbar.com; $$: Not a lot here in the way of turf, but seafood selections abound. This local mini-chain does it right, from oysters on the half-shell to seafood chowders.
Around the World
Andiamo 129 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-582-9300; more locations in metro Detroit at andiamoitalia.com; $$: No mention of Italian dining in metro Detroit would be complete without including the Andiamo mini-chain. Started about 20 years ago by restaurant entrepreneur Joe Vicari, the organization now has almost a dozen restaurants in the area, with each spot having its own chef to tweak the food to local tastes.
Antonio's Cucina Italiana 26356 Ford Rd., Dearborn Heights; 313-278-6000; 37646 W. 12 Mile Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-994-4000; 2220 N. Canton Center Rd., Canton; 734-981-9800; $$: The menus differ slightly at each location, but you'll find all your favorite old-line Italian classics.
Aladdin Sweets & Cafe 11945 Conant St., Hamtramck; 313-891-8050; $: There is not one dish on Aladdin's menu that surpasses $8.99. In fact, a large mixed fruit shake costs more than any of the appetizers and even a few of the vegetarian entrées that include rice or naan. On the whole, prices hardly surpass what you'll pay for a meal at a national drive-through chain. The variety is amazing and the most expensive dish is $5.99.
Bastone 419 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-544-6250; $$: Belgian brewpub is unpretentious, quirky and interesting, with fare heavily influenced by Germany and France. Which means excellent pommes frites and mussels.
Bistro 222 22266 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-792-7500; $$: In this intimate room, which seats 60, Michael Chamas serves imaginative Californian-Italian cuisine at reasonable prices. Decorated in subdued shades of eggplant, avocado, Portobello and Chianti accented with dark wooden panels, it's an inviting place for what the menu bills as "a culinary adventure." Much of the fare is assertively spiced. As for dinner, if you are going to pass on pasta for a main, you might consider one or two of the six variations ($11.95-$14.95) for your tablemates to share as an intermediate course, or primi piatti.
Buca di Beppo 12575 Hall Rd., Utica; 586-803-9463; bucadibeppo.com; $$: Thousands of people love this place, a fast-growing chain that attempts to re-create the Southern Italian immigrant experience of the 1950s. The surprising thing is that the food is really good — not to mention cheap. The tiramisu is dense and superior, and the wine list has Chianti in a basket.
Cafe Nini Da Edoardo 98 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe Farms; 313-308-3120; $: The Barbieri family is attempting to re-create an Italian café in Grosse Pointe with Café Nini, the latest restaurant to bear the name Da Edoardo. They have Mokarabia coffee, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma and mortadella with pistachios — all that's lacking is a glass of wine to sip with the panini.
Cariera's 6565 Telegraph Rd., Dearborn Heights; 313-278-4060; $$: Charming little Italian restaurant with authentic Italian cuisine. Portions are big enough for two. In two cozy rooms, with bare wooden tables and thick cloth napkins and walls full of family photographs and wine and oil bottles, Cariera's turns out familiar old-fashioned classics.
Crust Pizza & Wine Bar 2595 Rochester Rd., Rochester Hills; 248-844-8899; 6622 Telegraph Rd., Bloomfield Plaza, Bloomfield Township; 248-855-5855; $$: The flavors at Crust are a revelation — not to mention the wines chosen to go along with them. Lots of people pick up a pizza after work, and maybe a six-pack. For not a lot more money, you can have more fun at Crust, where the "Naples classics" attest to the Neapolitan way of thinking.
Dick O'Dow's Irish Public House 160 W. Maple Rd., Birmingham; 248-642-1135; $$: A popular, unpretentious watering hole, this dimly lit pub has an expansive menu, with such bar food as pizza, burgers, sliders, wings, ribs, mac 'n' cheese, ahi tuna and the like. Among the "Irish Classics" ($11.99-$15.99) are boxty, a unique dish whose foundation consists of two thick, slightly charred potato pancakes. Guinness-battered cod and chips come with an admirable creamy coleslaw.
Gim Ling Restaurant 31402 Harper Ave., St. Clair Shores; 586-296-0070; $$: Gim Ling has served dine-in and carryout at the same St. Clair Shores strip mall location for decades. Only relatively recently has it been transformed into a "Modern Asian restaurant." In this case, the term "modern" mostly serves as a stand-in for "better."
Giulio's Cucina Italiana 31735 Plymouth Rd., Livonia; 734-427-9500; $$: The pizza is great, at least the "al pesto" variety. In fact, if you're seeking a good pizza pie, the fare here is much tastier than hitting the local chain, and far cheaper. Giulio's also offers four veal dishes — the usual three (Marsala, piccata, saltimbocca) plus a braised veal roast.
Inyo 22871 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-543-9500; $$: With a wide-ranging menu, striking presentations and quality cocktails, Inyo has sparked a buzz in Ferndale's dining scene. The dishes have not just flavor, but pleasing texture contrasts within a dish. Take the cold appetizer maguro yookwhe: Strips of raw, lean tuna are deepened by a quail-egg topping and served with crunchy sliced Asian pear and a spicy dipping sauce. Excellent specialty cocktails.
Jamaican Jerk Pit 314 S. Thayer