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Cadieux Cafe (Detroit, MI)

It’s someone fitting that a few days after a write a tribute to Anthony Bourdain, I find myself writing up a spot that I first learned about watching his second show, No Reservations. Bourdain was actually quite a fan of Detroit, loving the people and the food. One of his quotes was “I’d love to be able to say that I came from Detroit. That would be like the coolest thing I could ever say,” and you could tell by watching his shows that he enjoyed his visits. And one of the places he visited and enjoyed was a quirky spot on the east side of town: Cadieux Cafe.

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A&L Ham Palace (Detroit, MI)

A good discussion of Detroit’s culinary history has to include not only the Coney Island and the unique square pizza, but it’s also got to talk about ham. You see, back in the mid-20th century, much of Detroit’s burgeoning workforce needed quick, cheap, and nourishing meals to sustain them through their work day. The many “Coney Island” restaurants that are still common throughout the metro area were one answer to that, but in the middle of the 20th century, the many factories of Detroit and Dearborn lead to another style of diner appealing to the blue collar worker: the Ham Palace, and instead of the typical Greek owners of a Coney, a ham palace is generally owned by Eastern Europeans such as Albanians or Poles. The concept is simple: your basic diner, but instead of focusing on Coney dogs, the star of the menu at a ham palace is ham: one of more large ham roasts sitting in the kitchen, with thick slabs cut off the bone to order. It makes for a great centerpiece to both breakfast and lunch menus: a ham platter for breakfast, a ham sandwich for lunch, or a nice pea soup made from the trimmings. Starting in the middle of the 20th century, a good number of factories around the area had ham palaces, ham sandwich stands, or even places that sold entire roasted hams to go (indeed, the famous “Honey Roasted Ham” company started in a modest building, existing but vacant, on Fenkel Road in northern Detroit). At one time Dearborn even had over a dozen such establishments, but as the auto industry and the area’s fortunes waned, these businesses started to wane as well. That said, there’s still a good number of them in existence, like Lile’s Sandwiches in Dearborn on Michigan Ave (in a true nod to multiculturism, it’s actually a ham sandwich shop nestled in among several halal Middle-eastern places now), or Mike’s Famous Ham Place about a mile to the East in Michigan. Or, for this visit, I was looking for one of the places still named as a “Ham Palace”, A&L Ham Palace on Fort Street.

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Grand Trunk Pub (Detroit, MI)

Continuing with the side topic of Detroit Architecture, I rather like some of the little bits of older Detroit that are still around. One block “south” of Campus Martius Park is a mixed block of old four-story buildings that’s dwarfed by the huge Z-shaped First National Building on twos sides, and the Vinton Building on the other, but the rest of that block is vintage 1870s buildings left over from a much earlier Detroit area (a similar out-of-time block can be seen in the nearby wedge-shaped Flatiron Building, which I visited in 2011 for my Greenwich Time Pub review). Originally a jewelry store (home of the famous Traub Bros. jewelry company whose “Orange Blossom” vintage jewelry is still quite valued), this spot then for decades was a ticketing office for Montreal’s Grand Trunk railroad, selling tickets for the nearby train at Brush Street Station (long gone, razed in the early 1970s to make room for the Rennaisance Center, although the eagle-eyed pedestrian can see lots of little bits of evidence of the track’s existence between downtown and the Dequindre Cut rail trail). The age of the automobile ended the Grand Trunk’s operation in the 1930s, and the impressive ticket counter was repurposed as a bar for the nearby Metropole Hotel. Over the next few decades it changed hands several times, and when I first encountered it, it was “Foran’s Pub”, and since the early 2000s it has been Grand Trunk Pub.

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The Apparatus Room (Detroit, MI)

While I rather love Detroit architecture, Detroit has a bit of a mixed history with historic preservation, with it seeming that historic buildings that fell onto hard times having roughly equal chances of getting refurbished, left to rot, or getting turned into yet more surplus parking lots (with the exception of game days, the city has one of the largest parking surpluses I’ve ever seen). One of the more impressive buildings that was always a bit of a concern has been the old Detroit Fire Headquarters, across the street from Cobo Hall. Actively used as a fire station until the early 2000s, by 2011, the building was only used for administrative purposes, and by the end of 2011 the administrators moved out as well. In 2013, the building was one of many across Detroit that the city was attempting to sell during its bankruptcy, and it sold to a group of investors in 2013. After several years of planning and renovation, it opened in 2017 as the Detroit Foundation Hotel, and the old garage bays that, way back in the day used to hold the fire fighting apparati, re-opened as The Apparatus Room.

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Dilla’s Delights (Detroit, MI)

After a brief detour back to Lebanon to write up Muriel’s Donuts for donut day, I’m returning to my Detroit-area reviews, and, interestingly enough, staying with the donut theme for another review. My whole reason for being in Detroit was volunteering at The FIRST Robotics Champsionships, and that event had portions scheduled at both Cobo Hall and Ford Field, and I ended up walking between the two more than a few times. So, when I was given a box of stuff over to Ford Field, and then asked “hey, can you grab some donuts or snacks for the guys setting things up?” my immediate answer was “I’ve got this!”. I was sure of this, since I knew my route will take me right by Dilla’s Delights.

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Supino (Detroit, MI)

While my reviews of Brass Rail and Via 313 covered the basic concept of “Detroit-Style Pizza” in detail, that doesn’t mean that every place in Detroit serves up pizza that style. There are many places around the Detroit area serving up traditional, round, Italian-style thin-crust pizza done well. Indeed, at several of the breweries I visited, I asked people where their favorite pizza was, and there was a general consensus around one place having the best overall pizza in Detroit, and that was Supino.

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Dime Store (Detroit, MI)

If there’s ever a sign that an area is on the upswing, it’s when it starts to pick up some good, delicious breakfast joints. It wasn’t all that long ago that almost all of the options for a decent breakfast in downtown Detroit had the words “Coney Island” associated with them, or you had to nervously wonder if the in-house breakfast at your hotel was halfway decent. But in relatively recent history, more than a few decent breakfast options have become available: the Hudson Cafe, the Parks and Rec Diner, and Dime Store all being locations that were on my radar, and since my walk to Cobo Hall took me right by the Chrysler Building (formerly the “Dime Bank Building”), I figured it would be a good opportunity to stop in and check out Dime Store.

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Brass Rail (Detroit, MI)

A few years ago, I did a review of Via 313 in Austin, that featured “Detroit-style pizza” (which is actually a thing, as we’ll review below), but realized that I’ve never really reviewed a proper Detroit-style pizza place here in…. Detroit. The canonical source for Detroit-style “square” pizza is Buddy’s, but their original location is way up at McNichols (aka “6 Mile”) and Conant, and for my visit to Detroit I was actually downtown without a vehicle, so I decided to check out a place with my friend Brian (an actual Detroit resident!) on Grand Circus Park, just across the street from the giant Hazen Pingree statue: the Brass Rail.

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Omelette and Waffle Cafe (Plymouth, MI)

Every time we head out to visit the extended family in Michigan, one of our traditions is to take a morning and go out to lunch with Carol’s father, which usually means a chance to explore a different breakfast place in the western suburbs (for example, this is why we visited Bode’s a few years ago. Over the last several visits, I had noticed that one place in Plymouth was routinely getting fairly busy, including occasional lines out the door, and I decided that on my next visit, we’d take Carol’s father there: the Omelette and Waffle Cafe.

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Sora Japanese Cuisine (Detroit International Airport)

A continuing mission of mine here at Offbeat Eats is trying to help fellow travelers find good places to eat. As I’ve commented many times before, airport food is generally a dismal experience, and with a few rare exceptions (notable airports I’ve found that have multiple good options for food include Heathrow and San Francisco, for example), airport dining is best avoided, and if you find yourself needing a meal, you often pay through the nose for it. One particularly pleasant exception to this, however, lies in Detroit’s International Airport. Detroit is often the butt of jokes, and it often has earned that status, but for a city of its status, Detroit actually has a rather nice airport, particularly in their main McNamara terminal (home of the particularly cool colorful tunnel between concourses, which you can see here). There are a lot of restaurants here, of varying quality, but one thing stands out: primarily due to the large number of Japanese passengers passing through the airport, it sports multiple Japanese restaurants. One of these, Sora Japanese Cuisine and Sushi Bar, is one of my rare examples of “Good airport food”.

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