The Best Food and Drink in Michigan for 2019
December 20, 2018
The best of America’s mitten
The Best Food and Drink in Michigan
When you travel through Michigan, you won’t just find the Great Lakes, you’ll also find great cuisine. To celebrate the Wolverine State (and every other state), we rounded up its best foods, drinks, and culinary hotspots as part of our second annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
Michigan is home to one of America’s very best restaurants, Roast, which was featured on our 101 Best Restaurants in America list. Michigan is also home to some of this country’s very best craft breweries, including Bell’s, Founders, and Dark Horse. But you’ll also find fabulous macaroni and cheese at Detroit hotspot Slows Bar-B-Q, world-class cocktails at the Goodnight Gracie Jazz & Martini Bar in Royal Oak, and the most delightful cupcakes at Union General Cupcakery in Canton. If that’s not enough to whet your appetite, we’re not sure what else will get the job done.
Over the course of the past year we’ve honored everything from its best hot dogs and brunch spot to its best bar and craft beer in our comprehensive and wide-ranging lists and rankings, compiled through extensive research and with input from a wide network of site contributors, bloggers, journalists, and chefs. The results are the best food and drink in every state, and here's the finest that Michigan has to offer.
Best 24-Hour Diner: Fleetwood Diner (Ann Arbor)
This small trailer-style diner caters to Ann Arbor locals and University of Michigan students and faculty alike, who jockey for tables at which they can dig into menu items like the Half & Half Burger (with 50 percent bacon and 50 percent ground beef), gyro platters, omelettes, and their famous Hippie Hash -- a layer of hash browns topped with grilled vegetables and feta cheese.
Best Airport Restaurant: Bigalora (Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport)
Founded by award-winning chef Luciano Del Signore, Bigalora offers up delicious Italian-American cuisine while you wait for your flight in or out of Michigan. Try one of their fresh salads or a delicious appetizer like focaccia or wood-roasted wings before delving into one of their many types of red and white pizzas or an entrée such as rigatoni bolognese or chicken parmigiana. Finish it off with a dessert classic such as gelato or tiramisu.
Best All-You-Can-Eat Deal: The Grand Hotel Main Dining Room (Mackinac Island)
This famed 1887 hotel is an ideal spot for luxuriating over a long luncheon. (You know it’s luxurious because it’s called a luncheon.) While looking out over the world’s longest porch (yes, you heard that right), you can enjoy a daily lunchtime feast from chef Hans Burtscher that includes fresh salads, high-end cheese, fresh fruit, and a rotating selection of seafood and slow-roasted meats. Adult hotel guests pay $30; non-guests pay $47. It may seem a little steep, but once you take a seat in the bright, colorful dining room you’ll know it’s well worth it.
Best Bar: Goodnight Gracie Jazz & Martini Bar (Royal Oak)
Right outside of Detroit, the Goodnight Gracie Jazz and Martini Bar is, in fact, a martini bar, but it also stocks a plethora of whiskey, Scotch, and bourbon. The intimate bar, with dark mood lighting, live music, and a lively dance floor, specializes in concoctions made with house-infused Tito’s vodka, including raspberry-infused for the Vixen Martini, strawberry-infused for the strawberry mule, pineapple-infused for the pineapple mule, and many others. There are 23 martinis on the menu, the signature non-martini cocktail being the Kentucky Buck (Ridgemont Reserve 1792, the bar’s exclusive single-barrel hand-selected blend, with freshly muddled strawberries, fresh lemon juice, Angostura bitters, simple syrup, and ginger beer). Save room for the sliders, which include prime rib with “zip” cheese, crab cake, and chicken parmesan.
The Best Bar in Every State
Best Beer: CBS, Founders Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids)
Founders KBS tends to get all the love on “best beers” list because it’s released annually, but in late 2017, beer geeks were blessed with a surprise release of a more elusive Founders breakfast stout: Canadian Breakfast Stout, better known as CBS. Made with the same base and aging process as KBS but with the addition of maple syrup as a nod to their neighbors up north, this brew is rich and velvety, and perfectly sweet. Founders doesn’t release CBS regularly, but we anxiously await our next opportunity to sip this beer.
Best Brunch: Dime Store (Detroit)
This insanely popular Downtown Detroit brunchtime destination has been going strong since a trio of longtime friends opened it up in 2014. You’ll find a spectacular variety of traditional favorites and creative creations on the menu, where just about everything is scratch-made with high-quality ingredients. Standouts include Samoa-inspired waffles; a chorizo-spiced burger with Cheddar, pico de gallo, and homemade guac; carnitas breakfast nachos; spicy pork belly Benedict on a homemade biscuit; house-made sausage or duck confit hash; brioche French toast with fresh fruit; build-your-own omelettes; pork rinds with white truffle oil and sriracha; some of the city’s best mac and cheese; house-confit duck leg sandwich; Korean barbecue sandwich with shaved steak and pickled vegetables; a killer cheesesteak; and several creative salads. One visit and you’ll be coming back again and again.
Best Burger: Velveeta Cheese Burger at Redamak’s (New Buffalo)
Founded by George and Gladys Redamak in 1946 and owned by Jim and Angie Maroney since 1975, the legendary Redamak’s is only open from March 1 to November 15 due to the fact that it only holds a 10-month resort liquor license, but it’s definitely worth a detour to the sleepy hamlet of New Buffalo on the shores of Lake Michigan. Expect a wait (even though the restaurant seats 400), and when you finally snag a table, do what everyone else does: Order a burger — the Velveeta Cheeseburger, in particular. Butchered and ground in-house, these patties (which are available in either 5 1/3- or 8-ounce portions) get a nice sear in their own individual skillet and are then draped with a glob of melty, oozy Velveeta. It’s served with ketchup, mustard, pickles, and onions (lettuce and tomato were only introduced within the past few years), but honestly all you really need is meat, cheese, and bread. You’ll never receive a burger cooked below medium, but something about these burgers makes them irresistibly delicious. Cash-only and undeniably quirky, there’s nothing else quite like Redamak’s.
The Best Burger in Every State
Best Cheesesteaks: Big John Steak & Onion (Various Locations)
This Michigan mini-chain has 16 locations, most of which are in Flint. In business since 1972, they’re using fresh rib-eye steak in their cheesesteaks, griddled to order and piled onto a freshly baked roll with or without onions. White American is the cheese of choice here.
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Best Chili: American Coney Island (Detroit)
One of the most popular spots for a classic “Coney-style” dog (and locked in friendly competition with its neighbor Lafayette Coney Island for decades), American Coney Island was founded by Greek Immigrant Gust Keros in 1917. Whether you eat his classic Coney chili, which is made primarily with beef hearts and spiked with healthy doses of garlic, cinnamon, cumin, and oregano, atop a hot dog, fries, or just on its own, you’ll be plotting your return before you even leave.
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Best Chinese Restaurant: Best China (Canton)
Shanghai specialties are the selling point at the popular Best China, best chosen from the Chinese menu available upon request. For your determination, you’ll be treated to mountains of preserved vegetables, tender Lion’s Head pork meatballs, and thick, springy fried noodles and rice cakes. But for all the adventurousness, they still manage to make an excellent wonton soup.
The Best Chinese Restaurant in Every State
Best Chocolate Shop: Bon Bon Bon (Detroit)
Bon Bon Bon/Yelp
Chocolate is supposed to be fun, and that’s something Bon Bon Bon takes to heart. This Detroit shop makes open-top chocolates inspired by local cultures, using local ingredients, and packaged in recyclable boxes. Each stunning bon is handcrafted; they come in unique flavors like Paczki (with fried dough and powdered sugar), Avocado Toast, and Slow Drag (whiskey caramel, tobacco, and dark chocolate).
Best Coffee Shop: Astro Coffee (Detroit)
If you're ever visiting Detroit, head over to Corktown — Michigan's Brooklyn — to find a great coffee scene starring Astro Coffee, a small shop that's been featured in The New York Times, Condé Nast Traveller, and Bon Appetit, among others. They offer a variety of tea and coffee sourced from many different roasters and producers, as well as locally sourced baked goods and sandwiches. The flat whites here are especially notable, and their egg sandwich is amazing, made with soft-scrambled eggs, fresh herbs, and aioli on an Italian roll.
Best Craft Brewery: Bell's Brewery (Kalamazoo)
Bell’s Brewery has been producing delicious, inspired brews since 1985. Two Hearted Ale, Black Note Stout, and Hopslamare regular fixtures on best beer lists. This Kalamazoo icon places great emphasis on sustainability, environmental stewardship, and the low environmental impact of their beer. Spent grain is donated to local dairy farmers to feed cattle, and the brewery’s carbon footprint has been drastically reduced due to recycling practices that only require once-per-week garbage pick-up.
The 50 Best Craft Breweries in America
Best Cupcakes: Union General Cupcakery (Clarkston)
This cupcakery is still impressively operating as an old-fashioned general store. Don’t let the Old World charm and whimsical curiosities fool you, though — the signature cupcakes are piled high with a distinctive tower of frosting and have unique flavor profiles that make them more modern than they probably care to admit! If you make a pilgrimage to this cupcake hotspot, try the “How About Them Apples” caramel apple cupcake topped with caramel buttercream frosting.
The Best Cupcakes in Every State
Best Dive Bar: Abick’s Bar (Detroit)
Abick's Bar is Detroit’s oldest continuously family-operated bar, and the tin ceiling and years’ worth of signs show its age. The drinks are cheap and the jukebox is always rocking. If you’re lucky, you may meet the bar’s mascot: the owner’s adorable mastiff named Shadow.
The Best Dive Bar in Every State
Best Doughnuts: Sweetwater’s Donut Mill (Kalamazoo)
You want a unique doughnut flavor? Sweetwater’s has you covered. Though they offer nearly infinite takes on the doughnut, their candy bar series is what makes this Kalamazoo shop stand out. Yes, you can get doughnuts inspired by Mounds, Snickers, and Reese’s candies. There are also masterfully executed classics, such as the Boston crème and a perfect powdered doughnut.
Best Farmers Market: Boyne City Farmers Market (Boyne)
Take a trip to the Boyne City Farmers Market to support the long list of farmers, vendors, and artisans that fill the stalls. Boyne also has food assistance programs helping low-income and elderly community members. The market is open every Wednesday and Saturday, May through Labor Day, before moving indoors for November through April.
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Best Food Truck: Detroit 75 (Detroit)
Detroit 75 Kitchen is a perfect representative of Detroit’s buzzing food scene. Their website describes their style of cooking as “street food made with high-end techniques,” and there must be some truth to this; they’re widely considered to make some of the top sandwiches in Detroit. Their Third Street Detroit Philly is a crowd favorite, made with tender beef, pickled jalapeños, mushrooms sautéed peppers and onions, and swiss cheese, all topped with their signature vinaigrette on a toasted bun. On Wednesdays, they do a “magic dusted,” applewood-smoked chicken served with jalapeño cheddar cheese cornbread, and honey butter. Add a side order of their BBQ Chicken Egg Rolls and you can die happy.
Best French Fries: Green Dot Stables (Detroit)
The menu at this Detroit staple features more than 20 types of sliders, which of course beg to be paired with some fries. Thankfully, there are five different fry preparations here: truffle and herb, venison chili cheese, poutine, Cajun, and regular. We suggest you opt for the truffle and herb variety; a dusting of herbs and a sprinkle of truffle oil kicks these light and fluffy fries into the stratosphere.
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Best Fried Chicken: Zehnder's of Frankenmuth (Frankenmuth)
Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth is a 1,500-seat institution that is famous for its all-you-can-eat German-style fried chicken dinners. Kitsch is the game here, as the restaurant is associated with a waterpark (and its adjoining hotel), but don’t let that fool you into thinking their fried chicken tries too hard. It is simple, salty, and keeps Midwesterners coming back for more.
The Best Fried Chicken in Every State
Best Fudge Shop: JoAnn’s Fudge (Mackinac Island)
JoAnn’s has been in business since 1969; today there are two Mackinac Island locations as well as one in Mackinaw City. Fudge is made daily in its quaint and charming shops with the highest quality cream and butter available, cooked in copper kettles over a gas flame and cooled on marble slabs, and is available in 29 varieties including butter pecan, double dark chocolate, pumpkin pie, and raspberry truffle. The fudge here is classic and simple, and just about perfect.
Best Hot Dog: Lafayette Coney Island (Detroit)
One of the culinary world’s greatest rivalries is between two neighboring downtown Detroit hot dog stands: Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island. While the battle over which hot dog tastes better is on par with the fight between Pat’s and Geno’s cheesesteaks in Philadelphia, most locals will tell you that it’s Lafayette all the way, for several reasons. The hot dog has a juicy, salty, smoky snap, the coney sauce is spot-on, and the fries are crispy, but it’s the experience that puts it over the top in our book: While American is shiny and a little charmless, Lafayette is a divey, weathered, eccentric sort of place that hasn’t been renovated in many years, but the charm is palpable, especially in the staff, who’ll most likely bring you your order in less than 30 seconds. In short: the perfect hot dog stand.
Best Hotel Restaurant: Rugby Grille (Birmingham)
The Detroit suburb of Birmingham is home to the elegant Townsend Hotel and its restaurant, Rugby Grille. The Grille has all the fine-dining trappings, like white tablecloths, fine silver, and crystal wine glasses, and a high-end menu to match: Creekstone Farms steaks, Imperial Farms wagyu, tableside Dover sole with green beans almondine and beurre blanc, chateaubriand for two, steak tartare, crab cakes, oysters, and a burger topped with wagyu short rib ragù and seared foie gras. It also serves a fabulous brunch.
Best Indian Restaurant: NeeHee’s (Canton and Troy)
Specializing in vegetarian street food, NeeHee’s came about when brothers Rikesh and Vrijesh Patel, along with their wives Dipali and Krishna, transformed the popular food counter at their grocery store into its own full-fledged restaurant in 2009. With over 150 dishes on the menu and a large dining room that can accommodate groups of up to 20, it’s a popular family spot for South Asian locals in southeast Michigan and even has an education room for corporate meetings and training. You’ll find menus for vegan, gluten-free, and orthodox Hindu Brahmin diets here, as well as a menu for kids. Try the paneer pakoda (paneer cheese stuffed with chutney, deep fried in chickpea flour batter, and served with mint-cilantro as well as tamarind chutney), a vada pav, or one of their many chaats and dosas.
Best Italian Restaurant: Bacco (Southfield)
Chef and restaurateur Luciano Del Signore’s home base, Bacco, has been drawing crowds for its contemporary high-end Italian cuisine since 2002. High-quality ingredients, prepared simply, result in some truly outstanding dishes. Take the strozzapretti, for example: These long tubes of fresh house-made pasta are tossed with a sauce made with house-made sausage, tomato, cream, and a touch of truffle oil and plated like no other pasta dish you’ve ever seen.
The Best Italian Restaurant in Every State
Best Jewish Deli: Zingerman’s (Ann Arbor)
Zingerman’s opened its doors in 1982 and has since grown into a huge organization encompassing its flagship deli, a bake house, and a candy manufacturing division among other businesses. All of their soups are made from scratch and include matzoh ball, Jewish chicken broth, and kreplach. It also features knishes, chopped liver, potato latkes, and noodle kugel. As for the main event, most customers flock to their corned beef Reubens and other specialty sandwiches like Jon & Amy’s Double Dip, made with Zingerman’s corned beef and pastrami, Switzerland Swiss and Wisconsin muenster cheeses, as well as hot and regular mustards on pumpernickel and rye bread.
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Best Macaroni and Cheese: Slows Bar-B-Q (Detroit)
This classic side dish is elevated to new heights at this trendy Detroit barbecue joint. Shells are combined with a sauce made primarily with béchamel and mild Cheddar, and, as a finishing touch, more grated Cheddar is broiled on top. It’s rich, creamy, and insanely addictive.
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Best Mexican Restaurant: Taqueria El Rey (Detroit)
This low-key Southwest Detroit gem is perhaps best known for its adobo grilled chicken, cooked on a massive drum-like grill by owner Chico Fuentes and his son, Sammy. Whole chickens, served with rice, beans, tortillas, and salda, cost just $11.50, and they’re astoundingly delicious. Tacos and tortas are also spectacular, filled with your choice of 10 fillings, including pastor, asada, tripe, lengua, and cabeza.
Most Expensive Restaurant: London Chop House (Detroit)
This elegant and classy institution has been going strong since 1938. Dining in this very fancy spot will certainly set you back, as steaks start at $32 for a small 6-ounce filet and go all the way to $110 for a 14-ounce boneless wagyu rib-eye. Non-steak entrées, like lamb chops and Dover sole, average over $40.
The Most Expensive Restaurant in Every State
Most Outrageous Restaurant Dish: Avocado Spiral, Xushi Ko (Dearborn)
Avocado lovers will revel in this appetizer at XushiKo, a Japanese fusion hibachi grill and sushi bar. An entire avocado is stuffed with your choice of salmon or tuna, as well as lemon and scallions.
Most Romantic Restaurant: Iridescence (Detroit)
Michelle N. / Yelp
A sparkling 16th-floor restaurant inside the MotorCity Casino Hotel, Iridescence is the only AAA 4 Diamond restaurant in Detroit, and it wears it well. With its super-high ceilings, modernist décor, deep blue lighting, amazing views, and comfortable seating, Iridescence is, well, iridescent. Its menu is also upscale and lavish, with items like broiled oysters, Alaskan king crab on brioche, 48-hour short rib with a sweet corn and Cheddar tamale, elk shank potage, Hawaiian opah, A-5 Kobe strip loin, and Niman Ranch steaks. End your meal with a Melting Chocolate Sphere or boozy baba au rhum, and don’t miss the award-winning wine list.
Best Pancakes: Pancake Factory (Shelby)
The only downside to this small-town favorite? It gets absolutely packed on weekends. As the name implies, it’s all about the pancakes at this homey family-run restaurant, and there are lots of varieties on the menu. If you’re looking to go traditional, you won’t be let down by their buttermilk, buckwheat, pecan, chocolate chip, blueberry, or banana pancakes, which are fresh, light, and (of course) scratch made. But if you’re in the mood for something different, opt for their thin and slightly gooey flapjacks, their puffy German pancake (or its smaller cousin, the Dutch baby), or their pièce de résistance, the old-fashioned apple pancake, which is baked with fresh apples and a cinnamon glaze and could double as a decadent dessert.
Best Pizza: Buddy’s Pizza (Detroit)
Detroit’s signature square pizza style is like a Sicilian slice on steroids. There's crisp, thick, deep-dish crust action, often formed from the process of twice-baking in square pans that have been brushed with oil or butter, and a liberal ladling of sauce spread across the cheese surface. It supposedly all started at Buddy’s Rendezvous, a neighborhood tavern, in 1946. Try the signature Detroit Zoo pie from the Motor City Pizza Collection: Motor City Cheese blend, roasted tomatoes, fresh basil, pine nuts, and tomato basil sauce.
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Best Ramen Shop: Johnny Noodle King (Detroit)
The team behind this Detroit gem hails from places as disparate as Vietnam and Eastern Europe, so while there’s plenty of Japanese influence in its creative and delicious bowls of ramen, it’s pretty obvious that they’re not afraid to stray from the norm; the Korean ramen contains shredded beef, kimchi, and Korean chile flakes; the Philly contains shredded beef and Poblano; and the Southwest contains shredded chicken, corn, tomato, cilantro, crema, and shredded cheese. Flavorful, well-balanced, and a whole lot of fun, Johnny Noodle King also offers several traditional ramens, as well as a “dorm room” variant of just broth and noodles. Make sure you snag one of the six counter seats for a view of the gigantic cauldrons of boiling both, which is made fresh throughout the day.
Best Restaurant for Breakfast: Donckers (Marquette)
Donckers is perhaps best-known for its hand-crafted chocolates, but locals know that its restaurant (open at 7 during the week and 8 on weekends) serves some of the finest breakfasts you’ll find anywhere. As many ingredients as possible are all-natural and sourced locally, and the results are pretty spectacular: flapjacks and waffles made according to an old family recipe and served with real maple syrup; build-your-own-omelettes with options like smoked Gouda, steak, portobellos, basil, and avocado; hash made with house-made corned beef or grilled sirloin; steel-cut oatmeal; all-natural breakfast meats; and a wide variety of breakfast sandwiches served on locally-made ciabatta. Who needs chocolates when there’s a breakfast like this?
Best Restaurant: Roast (Detroit)
Michael Symon is one of America’s most fearless, fun-loving, and unpredictable chefs, and at his entry into the Detroit dining scene, all of this is evident and more. The dinner menu at Roast contains delicious and unexpected twists including beef cheek pierogies, pork belly with watermelon and halloumi, and “roast beast” with cassoulet and pork sausage — and the steak selection isn’t fooling around. Dishes like filet mignon with crab béarnaise, dry-aged New York strip with smoked mushroom conserva, dry-aged rib-eye with preserved lemon and smoked garlic, and dry-aged porterhouse for two with marbled potato and caramelized onion will make immediately obvious why Symon is one America’s top chefs.
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Best Sandwich: Reuben, Zingerman’s Delicatessen (Ann Arbor)
Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw opened Zingerman’s Delicatessen in 1982, and since then this quintessential Jewish deli and gourmet food shop has become beloved in the city, so much so that even President Barack Obama stopped in to try one of their famous Reubens. That Reuben, made on an award-winning homemade Jewish rye with Zingerman’s corned beef, Swiss, sauerkraut from The Brinery, and Russian dressing, is easily the restaurant’s best-selling sandwich, and with good reason: It’s the best sandwich you’ll find in the entire state.
Best Soup: Cauliflower Gruyère Soup, Dime Store (Detroit)
Dime Store has become a popular casual local gathering place, and regulars tell anyone who will listen to drop by and try the soon-to-be legendary cauliflower Gruyère soup. Executive chef Josh Taylor uses plenty of puréed fresh cauliflower and an ample amount of high quality Gruyère to make this creamy, cheesy creation that has regulars coming back for more and more.
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Best Sports Bar: Cheli’s Chili Bar (Detroit)
Named after owner and former Detroit Red Wings defenseman and NHL Hall of Fame inductee Chris Chelios, Cheli’s is an indoor/outdoor sports bar with over 30 HDTVs. It’s just a slap shot away from Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, so you can feel like you’re in on the live action. Expect spillover after the game, so the party just keeps going (especially if there's a win involved). Fans love the magnitude of beer selections and the rooftop patio with bleacher seats (from which it's possible to watch ball games for free). For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2019.