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50 States in 52 weeks: Detroit for street food

Samantha Lande
25 April 2016

Detroit is putting itself back on the map with its thriving quick-serve food scene. Native Detroiter Samantha Lande shines a spotlight on the family-run businesses behind the revolution, and recommends the places worth a visit

A dog’s life  
The Detroit food scene wouldn't be complete without its ‘Coney Islands’ – a unique type of Greek American restaurant. However, if you want to sample a traditional Detroit Coney dog (a hotdog topped with chilli, onions and mustard), you'll have to pick a side. Two of the most well-known Coney Island restaurants are the Lafayette Coney Island and the American Coney Island, which are located adjacent to one another on Lafayette Street in downtown Detroit. The difference between the two (responsible for their longstanding rivalry) is the subtleties in ingredients – each spot serves their own distinct chilli on a different type of hot dog, topped with their own mustard variation.

A taste of Romania
In 2006, Bogdan Tarasov was working a construction job when he met a man whose brother was opening Park Bar in downtown Detroit. As part of his plans, the brother was looking for some original food to entice people from all over the city. Tarasov, with no prior culinary training, promised to create amazing Romanian food that would guarantee lines out the door. Luckily, he was able to deliver. Bucharest Grill became a sensation with people craving their shwaramas. There are now three (soon to be four) locations across downtown Detroit, full of Tarasov’s family recipes and his own twist on classic Romanian cuisine.

A sports legend
Sports bar Nemo’s has been a staple in the Corktown neighbourhood for a half-century, serving up one of the city’s best burgers with a side of Detroit sports memorabilia. Given that Detroiters take their sports seriously – with a long history of wins for their baseball and hockey teams – this has become the place to be before and after games. There's even a shuttle that runs to and from baseball, hockey and football games. The venue has been in the Springstead family (named for Nemo Springstead) since its inception and is now run by the family's second generation.

Big creativity in a small sandwich
The ‘new school’ slider joint, Green Dot Stables, has gained quite a following for its creative take on the small sandwich. Variations like the ‘Tempeh’ (with wasabi mayo and wakame salad) and the ‘Korean’ made with a beef patty, peanut butter and kimchi, are just some of the two-dozen options served with fries and cheap beer. Owner and Detroit native Jacques Driscoll has turned this equestrian-themed spot into a fun and bustling place for city-dwellers and visitors.