If it seems like you’ve tried every restaurant in town, allow us to point out a few you might’ve missed. Some of these spots are relatively new, while others have been around awhile, so in case they’ve managed to escape your detection, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.
1. Hilton Road Café 3150 Hilton Rd., Ferndale; 248-548-0008 //
This family-owned spot, seating just 25, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner from a menu of omelets, skillet dishes, sandwiches, and some Greek specials. Fresh ingredients and friendly service make it stand out from the crowd. You’ll think you’ve stumbled into Mayberry R.F.D. Effie Lambros is its resident Aunt Bee. B, L & D Mon.-Fri., B & L Sat.-Sun.
2. El Guanaco 59 E. Maple, Troy; 248-526-0622 //
Salvadoran fare is the premise at this mostly carry-out spot. Empanadas, pupusas, fried plantains, and tamales served El Salvador-style aren’t easy to find in metro Detroit, but they’re dished up at this modest carry-out with just a few available seats for those who want to dine in. In addition, there are some Mexican dishes — from caldo de res and pozole to burritos and delicious little street-style tacos. L & D daily.
3. Gregorio’s Italian Restaurant 2356 Biddle Ave., Wyandotte; 734-283-3354 //
You’ll find the kind of folksy charm typical of mom ’n’ pop Italian restaurants at this family-run spot tucked into a small brick structure in Wyandotte. Gregorio’s has just 12 tables in a room lit by small stained-glass lamps, its deep red walls outlined with tiny white lights. The menu of pizzas and pastas is a familiar one, made with family recipes that give it its own special character. L & D Tue.-Sat., D Sun. (Editor’s note: See another take on this place, plus more on Downriver eateries on page 69).
4. Cleopatra Mediterranean Grill 19027 Mack Ave., Detroit; 313-640-9000 //
Naming his restaurant for the Queen of the Nile came naturally for proprietor Farag Wassef. The native of Egypt decorated his storefront space with eye-catching artifacts from his homeland, as well as decorative tilework as a setting for a classic Eastern menu with an Egyptian twist. One of the best ways to try it is to order the meza platter, which includes hummus, baba ghanouj, tabbouleh, falafel patties, stuffed grape leaves, fried kibbe, mixed vegetables, and pickles, all meant for sharing. L & D daily.
5. Chocolate Gallery Café 3672 Chicago Rd., Warren; 586-979-1140 //
This out-of-the-way café combines the talents of Chuck LaBash, the hard-working cook in the big kitchen, and his wife, Cathy, whose touch with chocolate confections gave the place its name. The tightly packed tables give it a homey feeling, and guests are treated very well. The menu of omelets, eggs Benedict, French toast, pancakes, homemade soups, and classic sandwiches is chalked on a board. Chocolate-laden desserts have their own board, as befits their prominence here. B & L Thu.-Sun.
6. Parrot Cove Yacht Club 33475 Dequindre Rd., Troy; 248-585-6080 //
A fun spot with no pretensions, the Parrot Cove has just 50 seats in an odd little freestanding building set back from the road. Bill and Maria Craig are the proprietors, with Bill in the kitchen and Maria in the front of the house. The spin is Tex-Mex, with baby back ribs, fajitas, and nachos every day — and prime ribs from Thursday through Saturday. Margaritas and beer are the drinks of choice. L & D Mon.-Sat.
7. China Ruby 157 W. Nine Mile, Ferndale; 248-546-8876 //
Prices at this sliver of a Chinese restaurant have barely risen since Tina Co and Cuong Luu opened the modest spot in 1988. There are no frills here, but fans of basic Chinese fare won’t miss them. Cuong prepares many of the familiar dishes, like cashew chicken, beef with broccoli, Mongolian pork, and the house specialty, a stir-fried dish he calls Amazing Chicken. For a quarter of a century now, China Ruby has seen dozens of neighboring competitors come and go, but their mouthwatering chicken keeps on tickin’. L & D Mon.-Sat.