- Rebecca Powers Special to The Washington Post
In this city with four major pro teams, there's another sport: trying to keep track of the dizzying number restaurant openings. National headlines have proclaimed Detroit a hot food destination. Certainly, Motor City natives can list a lifetime of favorites, many dating back generations. The latest restaurant breed tends toward new American cuisine, dedicated to local sourcing with a splash of Michigan-made beer or Detroit-distilled spirits. In one newbie Detroit diner, where tables are so close that your neighbors' conversations merge with yours, a fellow patron told me she and her husband were opening a wood-fired pizza place soon. Of course! Menus, it seems, are Motown's new playlist. And in the 313 area-code tradition, consider a nightcap at one of the proliferating bars, including one in the mural-filled Belt Alley. Later, a Coney dog is the classic Detroit fourth meal.
Just off the atrium-lit lobby of the Chrysler House, a 1912 neoclassical downtown skyscraper formerly named the Dime Building, as locals still prefer to call it, is the Dime Store restaurant (eatdimestore.com; 719 Griswold St.; 313-962-9106). This 75-seat spot is a bustling contrast to the stately architecture it occupies. Funky, 1970s-style light fixtures are suspended from tangled black cords above the 12-seat bar. Floors are concrete, east-facing windows offer an expansive street view, and the food is varied, creative and locally sourced. Here, in this self-dubbed American Brunch Bar offering "breakfast, lunch and booze," T-shirts mingle with business suits and the walls are painted with murals depicting the "heads" sides of Mercury and Eisenhower dimes. Of course you can order a custom omelet, but why not a duck Reuben sandwich ($13.50), which was the most popular item at my table recently. Other favorites include the duck bop hash ($12.50) and breakfast sandwiches ($7.50-$10.50). The menu offers "day drinks," and its most popular, I'm told, is the peach sparkling wine mimosa ($8), which is as light as midday. Afterward, stop in at Bon Bon Bon, just across the lobby, for a nationally acclaimed chocolate ($3 ) made just minutes away. Then, work off the calories with a stroll down the block to the Guardian Building, a National Historic Landmark with a stunning art deco interior.
Square Detroit-style pizza is a thing - and you won't find it at Supino Pizzeria (supinopizzeria.com, 2457 Russell St., 313-567-7879), where round pies reflect owner Dave Mancini's Italian roots in Supino, Italy, plus years of trial-and-error experimentation in his home kitchen with a KitchenAid. Supino opened a decade ago, making it a veteran of Detroit's new-wave dining. Its windows face the historic Eastern Market, where it's a draw for takeout and sit-down diners alike. In addition to pizza, the menu offers antipasti, daily pastas and salads. (Try the rucola salad with labne dressing, $7.) Local bakery Katie's Cannoli provides the handmade traditional dessert with chocolate sauce and pistachios ($4). Which pizza to order? There are 13, divided into two categories: white (no sauce) and red (with). The popular Bismark (red, $13 and $19) is topped with mozzarella, prosciutto and egg; the Affumicata (white, $13 and $19) is nicknamed "the Smokey" for its combination of smoked prosciutto and smoked Gouda with roasted garlic, chopped parsley, mozzarella and ricotta. Supino is as comfortable as a pizza joint should be. Dine at the bar and get a side order of conversation. As for the bar itself, note the eight varieties of amaro ($6 and $8), the Italian herbal liqueur. To justify the calories, meander the market (Saturdays are lively) or walk the Dequindre Cut, a recreational path that leads to the Detroit River.
Take a single-story, plain building that once housed a dry-cleaning business on a forlorn stretch between downtown and Midtown, paint the cinder block, add an attractive patio with a fireplace, and you have the foundation of a restaurant that garnered immediate raves when it opened in late 2014. Selden Standard (seldenstandard.com, 3921 Second Ave., 313-438-5055) turns out meals with subtle flavors enhanced by a wood grill. Its narrow interior hugs diners. The decor is restrained, with graphite-colored walls, white subway tile with in-vogue dark grout, concrete floors and a long, wooden bar that ends at the visible kitchen. But the aura of simplicity is a contrast to what arrives on the plates. I recently watched three men nod silently to one another as they consumed forkfuls of the vegetable carpaccio ($10). Sharing is encouraged here, and at my table, we took two forks to the grilled whole trout ($32), gussied with pineapple puree, guajillo chiles and herbs. It's possibly the best restaurant fish preparation I've ever had. We also split smoked potatoes with scallion crème fraîche, Comté cheese and dill ($10); and roasted beets with avocado puree, kohlrabi and pepitas ($11). The chocolate halvah (sort of like a Snickers bar, the waitress explained) is highlighted with tahini caramel, sesame ice cream and pistachio ($11) - a sweet but not heavy finish. Selden's owners aren't finished. They're opening another restaurant in another hot neighborhood, one of many proposed to satisfy Detroit's large appetite for new dining.
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Powers is a writer based in Detroit. Her website is rebeccapowers.com.