In metro Detroit, you hear a lot about our specialties like coney dogs and Detroit-style pizza, but the area is also a great place to find regional foods from other American cities. Sure, we’re not known for them, but have you tried…
A Philly cheesesteak from Gabriel’s Cheese Steak Hoagies
There’s nothing like unwrapping a piping hot sub from Gabriel’s Cheese Steak Hoagies, particularly on a cold day. Every element of their cheesesteak is executed perfectly. It has a generous helping of flat-top grilled ribeye, caramelized onions, and melted American cheese on a toasted eight-inch Italian roll. The sub isn’t complete without tangy diced hot cherry peppers (though they’re technically an add-on).
Gabriel’s has bonified Philly roots. The restaurant was founded in 1959 by Philadelphia native Al Gabriel. A U.S. Air Force veteran, he opened Gabriel’s in Ypsilanti after retiring from his line cook position at Willow Run, the nearby World War II bomber plant.
Ypsilanti Gabriel’s Cheese Steak Hoagies, 2585 E. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti; 734-483-5846; ypsigabriels.com or Westland Gabriel’s Cheese Steak Hoagies, 1919 N. Wayne Road, Westland; 734-722-4224; westlandgabriels.com.
A Chicago dog from Lipuma’s Coney Island
If you like your hot dog “dragged through the garden,” Lipuma’s Coney Island in downtown Rochester serves up a very good Chicago-style option. In true Windy City fashion, it’s dressed in neon-green relish and bright yellow mustard. Laid on a poppyseed bun, the dog is topped with white onions, sport peppers, two tomato wedges, a pickle, and a dash of celery salt.
Lipuma’s isn’t your typical coney island. Their all-over-the-map menu includes Texas, New York, Russian, and Mexican dogs, in addition to their classic coney. The late Bill Lipuma founded the local gem nestled by Paint Creek in 1969. Today, Bill’s son Tony carries the magic tradition.
An In-N-Out-esque burger from California Burgerz
The closest In-N-Out to Detroit is in Denver, about a 1,300-mile drive away. Luckily, California Burgerz has two metro Detroit locations. Owner Hani Omasan’s love of In-N-Out inspired him to open the Hamtramck location in 2017. A Yemeni immigrant, Omasan wanted to expand dining options for the local Muslim community, so the menu is 100% halal.
If you want an In-N-Out experience, try the Classic CB Burger. It has American cheese melted on a well-seasoned patty, crisp pickles, a thin tomato slice, lettuce, and white onion sandwiched in a potato bun. The secret ingredient is the CB Sauce — a nod to In-N-Out’s famous Spread (which is Thousand Island-adjacent).
Nashville Hot Chicken from Fat Daddy’s HOT Chicken and Waffles
Fat Daddy’s Hot Chicken and Waffles makes a Nashville hot chicken sandwich that will bring tears to your eyes: their signature “Fat Daddy.” The breading is extra crispy, and the chicken is incredibly juicy. The heat level is at the customer’s discretion — ranging from “country-style” (no heat) to “too damn hot.” If you opt for the latter, be warned: the burn lingers long after each bite. The spice is balanced with sweet and savory combination of pickles, house-made creamy coleslaw, and southern-style comeback sauce.
Chef and owner James Brandon opened the original Downriver grab-and-go spot toward the close of 2019. Since then, it’s added two more locations: one in Ann Arbor, and one in the MGM Grand Casino food court.
A Reuben from Hygrade Deli
So, where did the Reuben originate? That’s a contentious question — it’s between Omaha, Nebraska, and New York City. While Detroit has never claimed the Reuben, corned beef is a big deal here. Eastern Market is home two major corned beef producers — Sy Ginsberg’s (acquired by Grobbel in 2017) and Wigley’s.
Metro Detroit has a lot of great Reubens. But for brevity, here’s a place to start: Hygrade Deli in southwest Detroit. Their Reuben is one to remember, stacked with Sy Ginsberg’s corned beef, kraut, Swiss, and Thousand Island on fresh-grilled rye.
Founded in 1955, the deli has changed hands a few times over the years. Its current owner, Chuck Nolen, bought it in December 2021. He also owns Cutter’s Bar and Grill and chairs the Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance.