The Motor City is so much more than diners
Detroit has been having a bit of a moment in the food scene as of late, which is helping to spread the word that there's a lot more to this town than its greasy spoon Coney Island diners. Culinary influences here are diverse: from the city’s early French Canadian settlers to its Southern-inspired comfort food brought by the Great Migration to its huge Arab-American population. The combination means that there's a variety of breakfast cuisines represented all over town, from red velvet waffles to foul madamas. Whether you’re vying for a seat in a nationally-ranked eatery or looking for that little-known true “Detroit” experience, you’re bound to find just what you need to satiate your Motor City appetite.
Rose's Fine Food, Poodle Platter
You might have read about Rose’s Fine Food in Bon Appetit. The tiny diner made its name for its urban farm-fresh produce, house-made baked goods, and for paying its workers a living wage. For a sense of all of that, there’s the deceptively simple Poodle Platter. It’s made up of two perfectly poached eggs, garlicky sautéed kale, spiced potatoes, and a thick slice of toast, topped with ricotta and jam.
Brooklyn St Local, breakfast poutine
Who better than Torontonians Deveri Gifford and Jason Yates to bring this classic French Canadian-style staple to Detroit? They take the diner’s standard poutine (available with beef or surprisingly rich mushroom gravy), organic cheese curd (or Daiysa vegan cheese), fatty cubes of lardon (or tempeh), and swap out caramelized onions for an egg sunny-side up.
Kuzzo’s Chicken and Waffles, Big Red
This waffle comes in spongy, red velvet cake form, drizzled with a frosting glaze, and served with a bourbon-y cup of maple syrup. With your choice of three whole wings or tenders, the chicken comes out to near perfect crispiness and its savory flavor balances out the decadence of the dessert-like waffle.
Hudson Café, Strawberry short cake French toast
Once that egg batter is slathered on, these French toast squares are generously dusted in graham cracker crumbs and stuffed with strawberries and cream cheese drizzle, and then topped with even more strawberries.
Dilla's Delights, Aaliyah lemon-filled doughnut
At this shop named after the late, great rapper J Dilla, the “Aaliyah” (another late, great Detroit native, RIP) is a lightly glazed, lemon-filled doughnut that oozes with citrus jelly. All doughnuts here are made with 100 percent organic flour and most ingredients are Michigan-sourced.
Sheeba, Foul Mudamas
When in metro Detroit, you’re sure to find yourself eating Middle Eastern cuisine, given the region has among the largest Arab American populations in the country. For breakfast, go for the Foul Mudamas at the Yemeni-owned Sheeba in Hamtramck. It’s a traditional dish consisting of mashed fava beans and topped with tomatoes, onions and tahini. You can also opt for foul and eggs for added protein.
Café Muse, Salmon gruyere scramble
For a tried and true contemporary American spot that’s sure to please just about everyone in the brunch party no matter their tastes, there’s Café Muse. Ingredients are locally-sourced and everything is made from scratch. Especially popular among fans of savory breakfasts, the salmon gruyere scramble with aromatic chives is a filling, yet healthy option.
Le Petit Dejeuner, shrimp and grits
By night, this spot is known as TV Lounge, a popular club where Detroit-centric techno and house music reverberate through the walls. When the club kids have cleared out by morning, it becomes Le Petit Dejeuner, which turns out stacks of pancakes instead of records. On top of its many griddle-topped-with-fruit offerings are the shrimp and grits, which some say are the best in town.
Parks and Rec, lamb bacon
Of course only in Detroit will you find a modern, chef-driven diner set inside a turn-of-the-century, once abandoned castle. Situated inside the historic GAR Building downtown (and sharing a kitchen with the upscale Republic restaurant) is Parks and Rec. Once you’ve been seated at one of the folding chairs that look like they’ve been salvaged from the public pool deck, order yourself the lamb bacon with your eggs. It’s made in-house, cut thick, and is slightly sweet (no need to dunk in syrup).
Family Donut, Burek (also spelled Börek)
On Fat Tuesday, otherwise known in the metro Detroit enclave of Hamtramck as Paczki Day (a nod to this town’s Polish immigrant roots), this doughnut shop fills with folks looking to get their glutinous fix before Lent. The rest of the year, the Yemeni-owned storefront (previously owned by a Macedonian family) is famous for its burek, a thin, flaky, baked pastry, stuffed with cheese, veggies, or meat. It’s common in Bosnian, Serbian, and other former Yugoslav nations’ households, and holds a special place in the hearts of many in this ethnic burg.
Hunger can strike at any time, which is why the 24-hour diner is around. While some places are little more than greasy spoons, others strive to be thoughtful in their offerings. Take the recently-opened O.W.L in Royal Oak. Sure, there’s an expected variety of breakfast sandwiches, but the menu also is heavily influenced by Mexican flavors. The chilaquiles, for one, are prepared with warm, fresh-made tortilla chips, tomatillo salsa, cilantro, jalapenos, radishes, and cheese, and topped with a sunny side-up egg.
Le Petit Zinc, ratatouille crepes
Because the very word Detroit is French (for the strait of Lake Erie), we’ve got to have some influence from French cuisine. This charming bistro offers garden seating, as well as cozy tables indoors, reminding us of a quaint Parisian café. The savory ratatouille crepes are huge and go great with a cappuccino or even a giant slice of chocolate cake.
Sweet Potato Sensations, J.T.'s Special
This west side Detroit staple features everything sweet potato: pies, cakes, cornbread, fries, pancakes, and waffles. Every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, guests can dig into a Belgian-style, savory waffle with three whole Amish chicken wings.