Located in the U.S. state of Michigan, Detroit is the largest and most populous city in the state as well as one of the most popular cities in the United States. Located on the banks of the Detroit River, the city also serves as a major port. Detroit is best known for its contributions to the expansion of the automotive industry during the 20th century, which is how it got its famous nickname “Motor City”. In fact, the “Big Three” manufacturers in the world – Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler – are all headquartered in the city.
Apart from being a major industrial city, Detroit has also gradually become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. This is because of the city’s extremely rich and unique culture; Detroit is the birthplace of Motown music and is home to some fantastic museums and historical attractions. The city is also quickly becoming a hotspot for excellent dining.
Motor City has no shortage of dining options to choose from. The city’s highly diverse restaurant scene features everything from high-end establishments and casual eateries to all-American dining favorites and spots that serve international cuisine.
If you want to try the best of the best, check out our guide on where to eat like a local in Detroit. (Pro tip: For a hassle-free dining experience, look for a luggage locker in the city where you can store your bags).
While this barbecue joint now has multiple locations across Michigan, the flagship store originated in Corktown in 2005 and has since become a Detroit dining institution. A favorite among carnivores and beer lovers, Slows is known for its selection of barbecue favorites.
Get ready to sample dry-smoked ribs and pork ribs, as well as some local items, including their signature Yardbird sandwich (featuring mustard-soaked pulled chicken) and The Lafayette (pulled-pork sandwich with cheddar, mustard BBQ sauce and onions). The restaurant also boasts a range of delicious sides that pair well with your meat (such as enchiladas and chili cheese fries) and an impressive 57 beers on tap.
When you ask the locals about Detroit-style square pizza, they most likely will point you in the direction of Buddy’s Pizza. This local dining institution was the birthplace of Detroit-style pizza. In 1946, Buddy’s came up with a deep dish square pizza inspired by the Sicilian way of making the Italian dish.
Today, their own spin on pizza is widely recognized as one of the city’s most beloved local foods. While Buddy’s now has several locations across Detroit, it’s still best to visit the original store in Conant. The restaurant serves numerous pizza flavors and even allows diners to customize and create their own pizza.
For a fancier and more sophisticated dining experience in Detroit, you can’t go wrong with the critically-acclaimed Selden Standard. Found in the neighborhood of Midtown, this upscale restaurant is headed by award-winning chef Andy Hollyday and features New American dishes created using locally sourced seasonal ingredients. The focus at Selden Standard is small, clean plates that feature mouthwatering, farm-to-table meals such as grilled squab, duck sausage and vegetable carpaccio.
Even though meat is a huge part of the city’s dining scene, there is a decent amount of spots that serve healthier alternatives and plant-based options. Among the most popular restaurants for diners looking for a meat-free meal is Detroit Vegan Soul. Located in the West Village neighborhood, this 100% vegan restaurant offers soul food classic but in plant-based form.
Some of the bestselling dishes in their menu include the DVS vegan burger, seitan pepper steak and their signature “catfish”, which is actually cornmeal-battered tofu. The best part is that the food in Detroit Vegan Soul can be enjoyed by even the biggest carnivores and meat lovers.
Perhaps the most beloved local food in the city, aside from the Detroit-style square pizza, is the coney dog. Also referred to by locals simply as “coney”, this dish is actually a hot dog sandwich that’s slathered with chili and onions and drizzled with mustard. When you ask Detroiters where to get this local delicacy, there’s a good chance they will tell you to check out American Coney Island.
Founded in 1917, this family-operated restaurant was the first to create the coney dog. A falling out between the brothers who operate the restaurant led to the creation of next-door neighbor Lafayette, the famed rival of American Coney Island. At present, the longstanding rivalry between the two restaurants is as iconic as the coney dog itself and is a huge part of the city’s culture. Ultimately, however, the choice for the best coney dog simply boils down to personal preference.
Detroit has a significant Middle Eastern population, most of which are settled in the neighborhood of Dearborn. This is why the area is home to some of the best Mediterranean restaurants in the city, including Hamido. Located in the heart of Dearborn (and a second location in Dearborn Heights), this Lebanese restaurant has a large following because of its delicious and authentic Lebanese food.
Some of the signature dishes on their menu include the chicken shawarma, falafel, kibbeh and gyros. Hamido is also known for its family-size platters, which are perfect for those who are having a big feast at home. Do note that the lines here can get awfully long, so it’s best to call ahead to place your order.
Pretty much a destination in itself, Sister Pie is a definite must-visit when going on a gastronomic adventure around Detroit. Located in the West Village neighborhood, the corner bakery is renowned nationwide and has received critical acclaim for its baked goods and quality pies. Sister Pie is the brainchild of Detroit native Lisa Ludwinski, who spent some time working in New York City before going back to her hometown and coming up with her now-famous bakery.
The spot is known for its rotating sweet and savory pie flavors that change every month. Some of the bestselling baked goods on the menu include tomato mozzarella hand pie, grape and goat cheese pie, sweet beet pie, freshly-baked buttered corn scones, and peanut butter and paprika cookies.