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7 Detroit Restaurants You Need to Try

Kiki Louya's favorite Motor City eats

Leah Koenig

January 30, 2020

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Kiki Louya photo courtesy of The Farmer's Hand
Photo: Sarah Barthlow

Chef Kiki Louya has long been a champion of her home city, Detroit, and of restaurants that celebrate a sustainable and ethical approach to cooking and dining. As the co-founder (along with chef and Woman's Entrepreneurial Leadership alum Rohani Foulkes) of the artisanal cafe Folk and the (now-closed) local food–focused grocery The Farmer’s Hand, she has made a deep impact on both fronts.

Last September, that impact expanded in a big way when Louya and Foulkes teamed up with the owners of Detroit-based butcher shop and restaurant Marrow to create the all-female hospitality group, Nest Egg. The team also recently launched the 20-seat restaurant, Mink, which takes Marrow’s sustainable approach to meat and applies it to seafood.

Given her passions, it is no surprise that this Boot Camp alum’s favorite places to dine in Detroit include thoughtful, seasonally focused restaurants that put the city’s community—and its network of urban farmers—front and center. Hers is also the kind of list that can scratch any craving for mezze and perfect pastries. Read on and dig in.

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I think Ochre Bakery is the best new addition to the food scene here in Detroit in 2019. Their food is very farm-forward and their plating is so beautiful and rustic. I love their dips, which they serve with their own house-baked bread—they have a really awesome smoky carrot dip and a hummus with pistachio dukkah on the top. They also have an amazing lemon pistachio loaf that I like to treat myself to a little too often.

Another favorite is Warda Patisserie, which is located inside an artspace in Eastern Market. The owner is Algerian and spent a long time studying in various bakeries in Paris so she brings a lot of technique, but also a lot of cultural references. She makes this flaky rectangular tart that is topped with a changing variety of things—mushrooms and goat cheese, or fingerling potatoes, egg, and a bit of herbs. It is probably 80 percent vegetarian, but she also makes a beautiful beef stew. On the sweet side, I tend to find financiers to be a really boring cookie, but for some reason hers are so moist and flavorful. It really speaks to her talent as a baker.

Octopus a la Planca from Selden Standard photo courtesy of Selden Standard
Selden Standard's octopus a la plancha (photo courtesy of Selden Standard)

I could not give recommendations in Detroit without mentioning Selden Standard, which I think is the most consistently delicious restaurant in the last handful of years. They support all of the local farms and everything on the menu—their lamb sausage, their perfectly chewy charred octopus, their lemon chitarra—is both technically perfect and just really, really good. Their pastry chef, Lena Sareini, is also incredibly gifted. I love her honey ice cream and roasted fennel sorbet. Anytime I have a disappointing meal somewhere else I think, “I should have just gone to Selden.”

Detroit has a big Middle Eastern community, and one of my favorite places is a Lebanese restaurant called Al Tayeb. It is located just outside of Detroit in Garden City, so it is a bit off of the beaten path, but so worth going. They have the most beautiful flatbread and a million different dips—I love the foul (fava beans), which they mix with smashed chickpeas and garlic. I also love the fatteh, which is fried pita bread topped with yogurt and chickpeas. And they make the best hummus I have ever had—it is perfectly balanced with lemon and tahini. The falafel is also amazing, with a great crust on the outside, but so soft inside.

I also love Ima, which is a Japanese-inspired place with three locations around the city. They are incredibly approachable—basically fast casual—but the food is standout delicious. Their yaki udon with mushrooms and sesame-butter is super flavorful and affordable. If you want to ball out a bit, get the seafood kimchi udon which includes scallops, shrimp, clams, and crawfish—it is a seafood bomb. And if you really want to ball out, go for the lobster udon. There are serious chunks of lobster in there and it is so buttery and silky in this beautiful broth.

Ima Noodle's Lobster Udon photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard
Ima Noodle's lobster udon (photo: Michelle & Chris Gerard)

For cocktails, I like Lady of the House. I’m on a mezcal kick currently, but before that I was a big gin drinker. They make a gin and tonic with pickle brine and a little black pepper that is really satisfying. You get the piney flavor of the gin mixed with black pepper, so it is this great savory experience.

I don’t know if I’m allowed to do this, but there’s a dish at Marrow that I can’t get out of my head! They are these glutinous rice dumplings that come 3 or 4 to a bowl. Marrow is a neighborhood butcher shop and uses all local meat, so whatever they are grinding up in-house goes into the dumplings. They are great, and what sets them off is a bit of roe on top. Honestly, I need more like 10 to 15 of them—I could snack on them all night long.

Kiki Louya’s Detroit Dining List

Al Tayeb (Middle Eastern)
873 Inkster Rd., Garden City; 734-237-4606

Folk (Seasonal New American)
1701 Trumbull Ave; 313-290-5849

Ima (Japanese)
Multiple locations

Lady of the House (Modern American / Craft Cocktails)
1426 Bagley St., 313-818-0218

Marrow (Butcher Shop / Elevated Bistro)
8044 Kercheval Ave., 313-652-0200

Mink (Seafood-Forward)
1701 Trumbull Ave., 313-379-6465

Ochre Bakery (Bakery / Cafe)
4884 Grand River Ave., 313-686-5694

Selden Standard (New American)
3921 2nd Ave., 313-438-5055

Warda Patisserie (Bakery / Pastries)
1464 Gratiot Ave., 248-795-3026

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Leah Koenig is a food writer, author of several cookbooks, including her latest, The Jewish Cookbook (Phaidon), and cooking instructor living in Brooklyn, NY. Follow her on Instagram at @leah.koenig.

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