Travel Blog Post: Detroit Delicacies

Being a fan of dark techno, I made my pilgrimage to Detroit for Memorial Day Weekend’s Movement festivities.  I was not going to just enjoy the music though, I was excited to embark on the culinary delicacies of Detroit.  While Detroit is known for their Coney Island Hot Dogs, I obviously did not take part in this tradition being a vegetarian.  Read below for some notable Detroit food and drink destinations that you can squeeze into one weekend.

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Detroit views
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Detroit has a plethora of beautiful street art

Ollie’s Lebanese Cuisine: Dearborn Michigan

Neighborhood: Dearborn

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★

Affordability: ★★★★

Ambience: ★★★1/2

Service: ★★★★

 Food Quality: ★★★★1/2

Overall Rating: ★★★★1/2

I did take part in the rich Lebanese cuisine that has become a major part of Dearborn and the outer Detroit dining.  For our first night in Detroit, we went to Ollie’s Lebanese Cuisine, a casual dine-in restaurant in Dearborn, which is open till 11pm on Fridays.  It was perfect for us as we got into town at night and needed some grub before we danced ourselves clean.  It was pretty lively for 9-10pm on a Friday night.  There were many diverse families there, which is unique for a Chicago suburb but is more commonplace in Detroit suburbs.  The service here is not traditional, our server had some sass, but he was overall very nice.  Their portions are humongous and they are very reasonably priced.  They serve you plenty of warmed pita bread with this unique and delightful whipped garlic butter.  You can find more unique foods at Ollie’s that go beyond the typical hummus and falafel options for vegetarians.  We started with their Batata Harra, which are their sautéed potatoes in red pepper, garlic, cilantro, and lemon: simple and glorious!  They were crispy with just the perfect amount of oil, seasoning and spiciness.

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Potatoes

For our entrees, we shared the Vegetarian Ghallaba over hummus and the Fasoolya Bil Banadoura.  Both were savory delights.  They came with a hearty and flavorful lentil soup.  The cumin really came through in the lentil soup and it was definitely a highlight of the meal.  The Vegetarian Ghallaba was basically sautéed vegetables served over a spicy hummus with a pickled turnip on the side.  The vegetables were seasoned and sautéed nicely and drizzled with olive oil over the spicy hummus.  The hummus was not your traditional hummus–the spiciness took it in the direction of something reminiscent of a red pepper hummus.  The Fasoolya consisted of stewed white beans in a tomato sauce with tomatoes and peppers served with a generous portion of rice pilaf.  It was a flavorful dish with mild flavors though.  The rice pilaf had a hearty, crunchy texture with almonds to contrast with the softness of the Fasoolya.  We of course took some leftovers back and they gave us even more pita bread.  It was an authentic dining experience that I will return to when I am back in Detroit.

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Stewed Vegetables over Hummus
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White beans simmered in tomato sauce

Green Dot Stables: West Side Industrial Detroit

Neighborhood: West Side Industrial

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★

Affordability: ★★★★★

Ambience: ★★★

Service: ★★★★

 Food Quality: ★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★

Our next night we went for something a bit more mainstream: sliders, but they were non-traditional sliders.  Detroit seems to have a lot of places with sliders on their menus, and I am not sure why.  Most of the time I ignore sliders since they are pretty meat-centric, but Green Dot Stables in Detroit has a wonderful assortment of vegetarian and pescatarian slider options.  Green Dot Stables seems to be a staple in Detroit and has a very casual bar restaurant concept with an outdoor patio.  They are all about cultivating a relaxed vibe where you can stuff your face with a lot of food in a dark, woodsy space.  Our server was down to earth and was very excited about the sliders/drinks.  All of their cocktails were $3 and that included a Moscow Mule!  While their cocktails were a bit watery, I couldn’t really complain since they were only $3.

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Tofu Banh Mi, Red Curry Tofu, and Breaded Catfish

Their sliders were very affordable at $3 per slider and they also have side dishes that complemented the sliders perfectly.  Our server suggested that each person should order about 4-6 menu items.  They had over 20 slider options and there were about 5 pescatarian/vegetarian options.  So I was able to try the: Kale Chimichurri Quinoa slider, Breaded Catfish slider, Tofu Banh Mi slider, and Red Curry Tofu slider.  We also ordered a side of Truffle Fries and Mac n Cheese, which were all $3 and large enough to split with another person.  The Kale Quinoa slider with Chimichurri sauce definitely stood out.  It was basically a veggie burger with a delicious chimichurri sauce and a bit of kale.  The breaded catfish slider had a savory and crunchy breading but they slathered on too much tarter sauce, which muted the catfish flavor.  The Tofu Banh Mi slider was unique, but they had too much sambal mayo (which tasted like a regular mayo).  They did have a generous portion of the pickled vegetables.  The tofu had a great texture and had an overall soy sauce flavor.  My other favorite slider was the Red Curry Tofu.  The red curry sauce was not very prevalent but the tofu was smoked really nicely, which is refreshing for a vegetarian. It too came with a generous portion of pickled vegetables.

My overall thoughts regarding the sliders is that it would’ve been nice for the buns to be toasted and for there to be less mayo/tarter sauce on the actual burgers.  However, both of the sides were absolutely delicious.  The truffle fries had that perfect truffle flavor with plenty of herbs, and they were string fries, which absorbed the truffle and herbs seamlessly.  The mac n cheese was absolutely mouthwatering and it was a simple mac n cheese with parmesan and a mornay bechamel sauce.  I could not get enough of it, and probably could have had a whole order to myself.  It had a remarkable flavor even though it is such an American staple. But the dish wasn’t overwhelming and heavy like it usually is.

Beverly Hills Grill: Beverly Hills

Neighborhood: Beverly Hills/Southfield

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★

Affordability: ★★★★

Ambience: ★★★★

Service: ★★★★★

 Food Quality: ★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★1/2

For brunch, we ventured into the Southfield, Beverly Hills suburb and had a pleasurable, culinary brunch experience at Beverly Hills Grill.  Since we were up pretty late listening to techno, we needed a spot that served brunch at least till 3pm and were happy to find that Beverly Hills met that requirement.  It has more of a business casual vibe with families dining and has some higher priced items as they specialize in seafood.  Our server was nice and excellent with those coffee refills.  They didn’t have almond or soy milk, which I thought was strange for a higher end place like this, but their coffee tasted fresh and robust.  Their Sriracha Bloody Mary was spicy and tangy with the regular bloody mary fixings.

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Smoked Salmon Benedict with a Dill Caper Hollandaise

For brunch we had the Smoked Salmon Benedict and the Vegetable Scramble with a side of James Beard’s Hash Browns.  The Smoked Salmon Benedict stole the show and was one of the best Smoked Salmon Benedicts I have ever had!  It was a poached egg served over a bed of cream cheese and spinach potato latke.  It was served with a dill caper hollandaise that melted in my mouth.  It was a lovely savory benedict between the smoked salmon and capers.  I don’t think it needed the cream cheese but it wasn’t overbearing.  James Beard’s Hash Browns were deserving of its name.  They were crispy, crunchy, and soaked up the egg yolk perfectly.

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Vegetable Scramble

Compared to the Smoked Salmon Benedict, the Vegetable Scramble was a bit underwhelming.  The eggs were generally soft but they could have had a creamier texture.  The goat cheese was super tasty but the rest of the vegetables and eggs could have been seasoned more.  It wasn’t a very flavorful dish.  For the quality of food and the portions, Beverly Hills Grill has a wonderful brunch at $10-17 per plate.  It’s laid back and gourmet without feeling stuffy.

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James Beard’s Hash Browns

The Keep: Downtown Detroit

Neighborhood: Downtown Detroit

Affordability: ★★ ★

Ambience: ★★★★★

Service: ★★★★

Beverage Quality: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★1/2

Perhaps you’re looking for some cocktails to get you in the mood for dancing?  While Detroit has retained its gritty feel, you can find a decent cocktail downtown.  For a fancy cocktail, we went to a cavernous bar called The Keep in downtown Detroit.  It is definitely a hidden gem with a gritty Detroit feel.  You walk downstairs into a dark, subterranean basement where there are all kinds of cool nooks that you can sit in, or you can sit at the bar for a more social experience.  We sat in one of the corner booths, which is more private.

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Peycal Sour

I had the Peycal Sour with Absinthe, which was an herbaceous cocktail with egg white and bitters.  It was beautiful and not sugary/sweet nor was it too harsh of an Absinthe flavor.  I definitely savored the flavor.  I also tried the Modified Whiskey Cocktail, which had whiskey, sugar, and vanilla extract.  It was potent, boozy, and reminiscent of an Old Fashioned.  The bartender took awhile to make the cocktails, but they were definitely delightful.

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Modified Whiskey Cocktail

If you want a cavernous cocktail experience in Detroit, this is the place to be! It would be wonderful if The Keep could host a Movement after party with dark, minimal techno as it’s the perfect space for such music.

Detroit has a thriving art and music scene and a blossoming foodie scene while still remaining humble and gritty.  It is also a vegetarian-friendly city in spite of its reputation as a Coney Island Hot Dog haven.  But you can find diverse Indian, Yemeni, Syrian, and Lebanese cuisine in a state/region that is not known for its diversity (Michigan).  I am impressed with what Detroit and its surrounding suburbs has to offer.  While I have a bias against suburbs, Detroit’s suburbs are definitely on the same level as dining in Metro-Detroit.  You can find high-quality Mexican, Middle-Eastern, and New American cuisine without spending your entire paycheck as you would in larger cities like Chicago and New York.  There is a lack of pretentiousness in the dining scene, which is refreshing as it reinforces the idea that you don’t have to be expensive to serve high-quality cuisine.  If you’re looking for a shorter, affordable weekend trip filled with a rich cultural heritage illustrated through its vibrant art, multifaceted music, and diverse food scene, Detroit is a splendid option.

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