If you’re looking for exciting new food trends in Detroit, chances are you won’t find them in a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant. Across the metro area, chefs are fully embracing their independence and creativity through carefully planned pop-ups. Appearing at local bars, cafes, and festivals, these must-try culinary experiences showcase each chef’s background, talents, and passions.
Here are three exciting pop-ups that showcase the versatility and dynamism of Detroit’s rising stars.
If you visit one of Husky Boi’s pop-ups, you might think you’ve traveled back to the 1990s. Chef and owner Brent Foster seeks to blend his love of ’90s nostalgia and snacks with elevated technique and ingredients to create an enjoyable, one-of-a-kind experience for diners.
After almost 20 years in the restaurant industry, Foster began the business with Gerald Mickel (who serves as co-chef) in spring 2021.
“I’m just a hospitality guy through and through,” Foster says. “I always try to make memories for people.”
Husky Boi’s food itself will bring back memories for guests of a certain age. Foster made his own version of the popular snack Dunkaroos from scratch, serving them with a feta, chocolate ganache, and coconut dip. Another bestselling item is the mushroom stroganoff, made with wild mushrooms, beef roast braised in red wine, heavy cream, and crispy garlic.
“A lot of people were like, ‘This reminds me of something that my mom would make.’ And that was the goal. Stroganoff was something my mom would make,” he says.
Foster describes Husky Boi’s food as “reimagined Midwest.” It reminds guests of classic homestyle cooking but with a creative twist. In addition to its frequent pop-ups at The Elephant Room, Foster hopes to offer Husky Boi’s food through speakeasy limited- invite events. He imagines these dinners as similar to having a treehouse as a kid, giving your friends a secret password to enter.
Follow Husky Boi on Instagram @huskyboidetroit to keep up to date.
Ciara Ball — who cooked in kitchens at Selden Standard, Takoi, Magnet, and more — had a revelation during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic: She never wanted to work in a restaurant again. She wanted to do something for herself, cooking and baking the foods she experimented with during the shutdowns. So, she started her own business, Verna, in 2020.
The pop-up, named after a type of lemon, “is simple food that’s clean and approachable to everybody,” Ball says. Her goal of approachability is a guiding force on the menu. “I try to do primarily vegetarian or vegan. It’s [friendly to] all dietary restrictions so that everybody has something,” she says.
Signature dishes include an open-faced caprese sandwich and carrot and mushroom dumplings, which bring plenty of smoky flavor with none of the meat.
“I roast whole carrots over the fire and then put whole onions into the coals,” Ball says.
She then adds mirin, coriander, and cumin. Verna also stands out for its baked goods — think maple pecan Bundt cakes with vanilla glaze, cheddar egg muffins, and savory tomato pie. Ball will continue to offer pop-ups at local spots like Two Birds, Now Corktown, and Anthology Coffee.
Keep an eye on Verna’s Instagram @verna_detroit to find where it’s appearing next.
Indigo Culinary Co.
Josmine Evans of Indigo Culinary Co. seeks to tell a part of the Indigenous and Afro-Atlantic experiences on every plate. Evans felt called to learn more about her heritage, but this was a challenge.
“For Black folks, this is not an easy thing to do,” she says. “It’s difficult to figure out the specifics of who you are … when your ancestors were considered property.”
Instead of turning to traditional written documentation, Evans decided to follow the food her ancestors would have consumed. She visited West Africa several times to learn about the ways people grow and cook with traditional ingredients there. Evans began her pop-up, Indigo Culinary Co., as a way to share this information with others.
Menus highlight traditional ingredients from the African diaspora. For example, Evans incorporates black-eyed peas, which are native to West Africa, into hummus, which also uses another traditional ingredient from the region: sesame.
“Black folks, particularly West Africans, were using sesame in their cuisines, soups, and stews,” she says.
Past pop-ups have included sweet potato grits with coconut-braised collards and tomato confit, spicy red rice with peanut sauce, and fresh banana and sticky plantain pork ribs. Evans appreciates the pop-ups for their ability to help her educate and talk to people.
“I really enjoy that process of being able to connect with people and change their mind about particular food ingredients,” she says. “We can do so much with these different ingredients that have been passed down to us for generation after generation.”
In addition to pop-ups at Two Birds, Evans also runs The Joy Project, a community space and garden centered on preserving and educating people about these traditional foodways.
This story is from the January 2023 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.