10 New Restaurants to Dine at in Metro Detroit

Among the area’s culinary newcomers, these stand out from the rest
Bellflower - new restaurants
Bellflower’s all-day sandwich menu features items such as the Chicken Boudin Sandwich (forefront) and the Shrimp & Oyster Sandwich, both served on housemade milk bread and dressed with lettuce, onion, tomato, pickles, pickle vinaigrette, and mayonnaise.

“Resilient.” It’s a word often used to describe Detroit and its surrounding cities. And if nothing else, 2020 showed us that metro Detroit’s food scene embodies the trait in spades. Though the food and beverage industry has been among the hardest hit during the pandemic — as of December, more than 110,000 restaurants had closed nationwide, according to the National Restaurant Association — a cadre of resilient restaurateurs boldly sought to defy the odds and open new restaurants. Despite the challenges of operating an eatery during a pandemic, 726 new restaurants and food businesses have opened in Michigan since last March. Here, meet 10 of those intrepid newcomers to the food and beverage scene in Southeast Michigan.

Bellflower Restaurant

From the outside, you wouldn’t be surprised to learn Bellflower’s historic building once housed Ypsilanti’s local exchange of the Michigan Bell Telephone Co., which inspired its name. Yet, beyond the doorway is a distinctly modern interior, complete with bright white walls; leafy, potted plants; and minimalist works by local artists. Bellflower’s menu, however, is more decadent than it is understated. Offerings include rich New Orleans classics, such as Po’boys made with house-baked bread and hearty gumbo teaming with hunks of beef shank and pork belly, as well as vegetarian options including aloo gobi vegetables and roasted honeynut squash. Bellflower Restaurant, 209 Pearl St., Ypsilanti; bellflowerypsi.com

Alchemi

The farm-to-table restaurant Alchemi opened last summer out of what used to be Mr. B’s Sports Bar in downtown Royal Oak. The once tartan-carpeted interior is now dimly lit by industrial fixtures and shrouded in mixed textiles, evoking the intimate coziness of a speakeasy. Appropriately, Alchemi’s craft cocktails — served in mismatched, vintage-inspired glasses — are the highlight of the experience. The classic Old Fashioned receives an update with cinnamon-vanilla bourbon and chocolate bitters, while the Netflix show-inspired Peaky Blinder features orange peel-infused Irish whiskey and blueberry shrub. Dinner options, such as the Rosemary-Garlic Lamb Chops and Crispy Duck Skin Tacos, are just as intriguing. Alchemi, 215 S. Main St., Royal Oak; alchemiroyaloak.com

Blue Fish

Last September, Dearborn welcomed Asian restaurant and sushi bar Blue Fish. Its menu — a modernized mix of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese fare — features deep-fried gyoza, kimchi fries, and an extensive selection of ramen. And not to be forgotten is its impressive sushi selection. Here, there are traditional rolls, such as tuna and salmon, as well as creative options, like the Shakey Shakey — a flame-torched shrimp tempura roll drizzled with honey and spicy mayo. Still, Blue Fish’s artful presentation may be its crowning glory. Plates are adorned with vibrant edible orchids; caterpillar rolls are laid out in the likeness of their namesake; and sushi smorgasbords are served atop large, three-dimensional, wooden boats. Blue Fish, 22001 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-757-7995; bluefishmi.com

East Eats - new restaurants
Salmon Tikka Couscous is served atop a creamy sweet potato puree at East Eats.

East Eats 

Centered on the concept of socially distant dining, Jefferson Chalmers’ latest restaurant is composed entirely of individual geodesic domes. While the setup may have been born of necessity — at the time of launch, indoor dining in Michigan was suspended, thus lending a unique opportunity for the outdoor dome park — the result yields a uniquely intimate dining experience. Each dome at East Eats is heated and outfitted with benches, cushioned chairs, and a repurposed shipping-crate table. Diners can enjoy comfort food with international influences, such as Roasted Chickpea Couscous featuring Israeli couscous and sauteed greens and topped with cilantro dressing, and Curried Cauliflower Mac ’n’ Cheese. For dessert, try the Lemon Cardamom Cookie served with vegan vanilla bean coconut milk ice cream. East Eats, 1018 Navahoe St., Detroit; easteats.us

Bunny Bunny

Culinary duo Justin Tootla and Jennifer Jackson departed acclaimed Ferndale seafood restaurant Voyager last year to work on a new project. In August, they unveiled their new Chinese joint, Bunny Bunny, located in Eastern Market. The menu is divided by region, with options such as Cumin Lamb hailing from the North, Stir Fried Duck from the East, Sweet and Sour Pork from the South, and a vegetarian fried eggplant dish from China’s central provinces. Bunny Bunny is currently takeout-only, but eventually, its dining room will boast a nostalgic 1980s feel, complete with a pastel and neon palette. Bunny Bunny, 1454 Gratiot Ave., Detroit; 313-974-6122; bunnybunnydetroit.com

Cucina Lab Torino

Italian chef and caterer Elisabetta Balzola, who moved to Detroit from Italy in 2014, opened Cucina Lab Torino last October. Intended to feel more like an intimate home kitchen than a restaurant, the quaint dining room features a warm, simplistic design and an open kitchen. Chef Bazola’s creativity is unbounded by a set menu. Instead, she gathers the freshest ingredients each day to craft seasonal, multi-course meals. She’s been known to serve such authentic Italian dishes as crawfish and clam Garganelli pasta, veal tartare with artichokes and parmesan, and homemade panettone — a traditional sweetbread with dried fruit. Cucina Lab Torino, 3960 Crooks Road, Ste. 200, Troy; 248-525-9098; cucina-lab.com

Oak & Reel - new restaurants
Grilled Dover Sole boasts a crisp char at Oak & Reel.

Oak & Reel

Chef Jared Gadbaw, who previously ran the kitchen at Michelin-starred Marea in New York City, opened the Italian seafood spot Oak & Reel last September. Set in an industrial space in Detroit’s Milwaukee Junction neighborhood, brick, concrete, and exposed ductwork meet chic, contemporary accents to create an atmosphere that’s upscale yet casual. Oak & Reel offers a five-course tasting menu consisting of citrus-cured yellowtail, octopus with smoked mussels, black truffle gnocchi, ossobuco with monkfish, and a sweet chocolate paste topped with candied hazelnuts. Pair the meal with a selection from the restaurant’s extensive list of international and domestic wines. Oak & Reel, 2921 E. Grand Blvd., Detroit; oakandreel.com

Lala’s

Last July, Chef Allie Lyttle revealed Lala’s, the fresh, new incarnation of what was once the high-end French restaurant The Standard Bistro & Larder. The space’s chartreuse, velvet booths remain, but its matte black and white walls are now adorned with pop-art style paintings, reflecting Lala’s more relaxed and whimsical vibe. Lyttle’s menu is modern and creative. Dinner options include the Lala’s Burger, with pimento cheese and candied bacon, and the Farro Salad with apricot and pickled onion. And on weekends, guests can enjoy Lala’s “brunch board,” a varied assortment of breakfast and lunch dishes that varies from week to week. Lala’s, 5827 Jackson Road, Ann Arbor; 734-263-2543; lalasannarbor.com

La Palapa del Parian

La Palapa del Parian started as the local food truck El Parian, named after owner Nancy Diaz-Lopez’s native city in Mexico. But last spring, it joined the ranks of brick-and-mortar Mexican spots in Southwest Detroit. Still, this one stands out. One element that sets La Palapa del Parian apart is its plethora of seafood options, including shrimp tostadas and spicy octopus. Other authentic Mexican offerings include enchiladas, chiles rellenos, and fajitas. La Palapa del Parian, 1633 Lawndale St., Detroit; 313-749-7143; facebook.com/LaPalapaDelParian/

Olin Bar and Kitchen

The newest addition to downtown Detroit’s culinary scene is Olin Bar and Kitchen, from Holly McClain — one half of the husband-and-wife duo behind Highlands in the GM Renaissance Center. More relaxed than its older sibling, Olin offers American fare with Spanish and Mediterranean influences. For dinner service, that means small plates of Steamed Clams and Potatoes and Artichokes Bravas, as well as Confit Chicken and Smoked Trout Bucatini entrees. Olin also offers a Sunday brunch menu with dishes such as Spinach Crepes and Challah French Toast. Both menus feature rotating selections — such as an artisan cheese board and Savory Goat Cheesecake — from the restaurant’s cheese program. Olin Bar and Kitchen, 25 E. Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-774-1190; olindetroit.com  

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