Hitting Z Spot

For nearly 40 years, a not-so-trendy gathering place has held down the fort in the suddenly popular Milwaukee Junction


Published:

Photograph by Hayden Stinebaugh

Someone invited you out for a food and fun night in Detroit. But you can’t quite remember where … you’re pretty sure it had a “Z” in it? 

What to do? Consider who asked.

Here’s a few hints: 

• Hip Detroit hangs near the Z Garage, a new, 10-floor structure downtown at Library Street and Gratiot Avenue. Not-so-hip Detroit hangs at Z’s Villa, a 100-plus-year-old house on Piquette Avenue near West Grand Boulevard.

• Z Garage has graffiti-inspired artwork. Z’s Villa has sports memorabilia (Go, U of D Cubs!) and old beer signs. 

• Z Garage has Punch Bowl Social, with brand-spanking-new bowling alleys. Z’s Villa has outdoor horseshoes and beach volleyball.

• Z Garage has The Belt alleyway’s Standby, with craft cocktails and chicken-skin-wrapped sturgeon. Z’s Villa has beer, burgers, pizza ... 

Getting the picture?

We enjoy both experiences, but let’s go old-school — as in nearly 40 years of restaurant history.

The Zelinski family (brothers Steve and Mike) once had a joint called Z’s Place at Woodward and Warren avenues. When the property was taken by eminent domain in 2001 to make room for Wayne State University’s Welcome Center, they headed north. But not to the suburbs. 

They focused their efforts on Z’s Villa, an 1890s three-story building just off Woodward that they had already owned for a few years. And even though some more “legendary” neighbors are long gone (like the original Lelli’s), that’s where they’ve stayed. 

Maybe it’s because the neighborhood is far from the newly hopping Midtown, but at times, even decades-loyal patrons call Z’s Villa a “best-kept” secret (something Steve Zelinski says he’s not proud of). 

Now Milwaukee Junction is being touted as an “up and coming” area, and it will be one of the last M1 rail stops. The Bucharest Grill opened a location nearly next door to Z’s. And former Cliff Bell’s chef Matthew Baldridge is slated to open Atomic Chicken nearby. 

But like “The Dude” in The Big Lebowski, Z’s Villa will abide. It’s a no-nonsense place with a solid diet of staples, under admittedly corny categories with a “Z” in them — like bugerz, sandwichez, nachoz, and (no spell-check override needed here) pizza. 

One best bet is the perch, topped with grilled onions (what they call a Ma “Z” touch, and it works). If you’re a fan of cloves, try the Gumbo Yaya. Its prominent profile spikes up the New Orleans-style chicken and sausage dish. There’s also a hefty selection of sandwiches, and they’ve added Eastern Market-sourced corned beef. Or try the Model T Burger, named for the prized output of the Ford Piquette Plant that was once down the street. 

And the prices? The most expensive item is a slab of St. Louis Ribs at $29.50, but most entrees are well under $20. Plus there’s Sicilian-style square pizza with traditional fixings or a “Zuper” vegetarian version with chargrilled veggies (there’s got to be something for the hip crowd). 

One last difference? It costs to park in Z Garage. It’s free at Z’s Villa as is the free shuttle service to Tiger or Lions games, the Gem, Masonic, Fox, Cobo Center, and more. 

Yes, Z’s will abide. 

42 Piquette, Detroit. 313-874-2680. L&D Mon.-Sat. Open Sun. for Lions and Tigers home games.

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

A Prime + Proper Progress Report

The Detroit steakhouse is on its way to becoming one of downtown’s destination dining spots

The Detroit Hot Spot With Dual Personalities

Part restaurant, part night club, we explore the many facets of Sweet Soul Bistro

Birdie’s Something Chocolate Makes a Ganache With Panache

The local business is making sweet success out of a family recipe

7 Michigan Breweries Worth a Trip

Check out these must-visit locations during your summer travels

Meet the Southwest Detroit Pizzeria Serving Sospeso

PizzaPlex in southwest Detroit is challenging what it means to be a new business on the block
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. 7 Michigan Breweries Worth a Trip
    Check out these must-visit locations during your summer travels
  2. To Market, to Market
    Michigan Wine & Cider Festival at Eastern Market May 24
  3. Hour Media’s Real Estate All-Star Party 2017
    Hour Media's Real Estate All-Stars celebrated at the fourth annual Real Estate All-Star Party...
  4. Your Guide to Michigan’s Odd and Unusual Festivals
    We rounded up some of the state’s most niche events, celebrating everything from fishflies to...
  5. Meet the Southwest Detroit Pizzeria Serving Sospeso
    PizzaPlex in southwest Detroit is challenging what it means to be a new business on the block
  6. Dry Times: Looking Back 100 Years After Prohibition
    A century ago, Detroit became the first city in the nation to prohibit alcohol
  7. ‘Grazie Mille’ For the Memories
    Adventures abound in Italy with Michigan winemaker, grape growers
  8. An Hour With... Candice S. Miller
    Macomb County Public Works Commissioner
  9. Motherhood in Metro Detroit
    From pre-pregnancy thoughts to developing unconditional love, several local women give a glimpse...
  10. The Gentleman’s Guide to Style
    From grooming to shopping, a comprehensive directory for stylish men in metro Detroit