No, Detroit isn't the new Brooklyn. And we wouldn't recommend you go out and buy a house in Detroit for $500, unless you have a background in construction. But the Motor City is changing, from a rusted-out industrial city to an interesting locale with a burgeoning arts scene (hipsters included). If you're in the city, head to the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA), catch a Tigers game, buy a watch at Shinola, and, most importantly, get a bite to eat.
It's tough to boil down the Detroit food scene into just a few spots. The landscape is a mix of old school and trendy. Though the cuisines are not on this list, the city and its surrounding suburbs are gold mines for Greek, Middle Eastern, and Mexican (see: Mexicantown.)
Coney Dog at Lafayette Coney Island (118 West Lafayette Boulevard)
Founded by a Greek family in the early 1900s, the Coney Dog is iconic. Everyone in Detroit does their Coney a little differently — but they always get it with the basic ingredients: a snappy, hot dog on a white-bread bun topped with Coney Sauce, a meaty chili (bean-free, of course). We recommend topping your dog with mustard and onions, but other Coney enthusiasts have been known to skip the onions and add hot pepper. Feel it out. Pair with fries and a Coke or a Vernor's Ginger Ale, and you're set. You'll notice American Coney Island next door — Detroiters tend to pick a restaurant and stay loyal to it, though some swear the dogs are the same at either location. If you're stuck in the 'burbs or in the airport for a layover, National Coney Island is a perfectly acceptable place to grab a Coney.
Pint of Hawaii 4-9 at Atwater in the Park (1175 Lakepointe Street)
Technically, Atwater in the Park is just a few blocks away from the Detroit city limits in a wealthy suburb called Grosse Pointe Park, but the brewery itself was founded in Detroit. Housed in a beautiful former church, Atwater offers a huge variety of beers and some seriously satisfying German fare. We're partial to the Hawaii 4-9, an airy fruit ale brewed on site.
Dill Pickle Soup at Polish Village Cafe (2990 Yemans Street)
Polish immigrants are a big part of Motor City history, which is more apparent in Hamtramck than any other Detroit neighborhood. Drive down the main drag and you'll see a ton of little spots to grab pierogi. While Anthony Bourdain stopped at nearby Polonia for a bite, we're big fans of Polish Village Cafe, a basement restaurant that plays polka and serves meatballs, stuffed cabbage, and more. The Dill Pickle soup is a hearty and creamy potato-based soup with the tang of dill pickles — one bite and you'll be hooked. Warning: This stop is cash-only and worth the trip to the ATM.
Salted Maple Pie at Sister Pie (8066 Kercheval Street)
Sister Pie has been baking pies since 2012 and just opened a brick-and-mortar store this year, after owner Lisa Ludwinski won $50,000 in Detroit's Hatch Contest for startups. The salted maple pie is a rich, sweet crowd-pleaser, with just a hint of flaky sea salt on top. The store's pie selection tends to rotate, but you'll likely find a pleasing variation (blueberry thyme, sour cherry bourbon...) And go earlier than later; the store does tend to sell out.
Pretzel Nuggz at Hopcat Brewery (4265 Woodward Avenue)
At Hopcat Brewery on Woodward, everyone's talking about the crack fries, advertised in huge letters on the menu. So we know you'll probably get the fries: crispy beer-battered fries that have won all sorts of accolades. But if you're looking for some really amazing bar food, the buttery, salty pretzel nuggz are just the ticket, paired with a tangy cheese sauce. With the nuggz, the fries, and a cold, locally brewed beer (look for the "local 30" list), you won't even need to order anything else.
The Detroiter at Buddy's Pizza (Various locations)
Detroit-style square pizza is a must when you hit the Motor City. While Buddy's is the classic spot, Loui's Pizza in Hazel Park is charming, with chianti bottles hanging from the walls, and Jet's is the corporate chain version, in case you're feeling lazy and want delivery. Buddy's offers a lot of different variations on Detroit deep-dish, but our favorite is The Detroiter pizza, a pepperoni pie topped with flavorful tomato basil sauce.