Last weekend, Mr. Squid and I surprised the kids with a weekend away in Detroit to see the musical Wicked and to visit some of our favorite southeast Michigan foodie haunts. While Detroit’s reputation might be more tied to auto-making, or ‘the Big three,’ Michiganders would say, this town knows how to eat.

Here are my favorite foodie spots in and around Detroit.

1) New Yasmeen Bakery

We drove straight from Cleveland to New Yasmeen. There you’ll find meat kibbee, tabouli, fattoush, madardara, and a dozen other dishes I can’t even pronounce, but love sampling. That’s what you’ll find at this Middle Eastern restaurant in the heart of Dearborn. The city also happens to have one of the largest Middle Eastern populations of any town in the U.S. In other words, if you’re looking for authentic flavors, stock up on pitas and hummus here.

Chicken shawarma

My suggestion: Chicken shawarma–grilled chicken pieces spiced with cardamon, allspice and slathered with a garlic/yogurt/tahini sauce, peppered with pickles and wrapped in a homemade pita.

What the kids liked best: Uh, the pastry counter. Seriously, they have chocolate cups filled with whipped vanilla and chocolate cream. On the savory side, my two youngest daughters downed cheese pies while my oldest polished off a meat shawarma.

2)Best China

There’s no website for Best China and if you blink, you’ll miss this dive that’s tucked in a mini-mall behind a gas station in Canton. The owners, who are from Shanghai, have two menus, one for English speakers, and another full of regional favorites, all listed in Chinese.

My suggestion: Sesame chicken. I know, I know, it’s not authentic Chinese cuisine, but I could seriously drink the sauce that doesn’t suffer from the sticky-sweet flavor, or worse, ketchup-based blandness you normally encounter when you order sesame chicken elsewhere. Order the pork potstickers (fried or steamed) as soon as you get in if you want them before your meal, otherwise you’re likely to get them as dessert, which is just fine with me.

What the kids liked best: Everything. But dipping their potstickers in sauce with their chopsticks is always fun.

3)Lupitas Tacqueria

Real Mexican tacos--no cheese, no crisped shells, lots of flavor!

Regular readers know I love Mexican food, especially tacquerias, or taco shops. In the Mexicantown area of Detroit there are several good places for authentic fare, but Lupitas stands apart for their tacos and endless chips and plentiful salsas that are served as appetizers. *Lupitas is only open for lunch and I must admit, I think it’s better during the week versus the weekend.

My suggestion: Tacos al pastor, which are made with pork that’s marinated, then roasted on vertical skewer and before it’s slivered off in pieces. If you’re feeling more adventurous ask for the torta ahogada, which isn’t on the menu, but is a specialty of Mexico’s Jalisco. The sandwich is usually filled with pork, beans, and cheese then it’s dipped into a chile-infused sauce. Warning: it’s hot!

What the kids liked best: Tacos lengua. My middle child who shuns peanut butter loves tacos lengua, or beef tongue tacos. Go figure.

4)Mudgie’s Deli

Located in Detroit’s Corktown district, Mudgie’s inventive dishes–on one visit the soup of the day was cheeseburger–use fresh, local ingredients. For a taste a Mudgie’s check out their recipe here for brownie waffles.

My suggestion: We weren’t able to visit Mudgie’s on this visit, but I’ll admit I follow their Twitter feed just to get meal ideas. Whatever the special is, that’s my order.

Mudgie's Deli decadent brownie

What the kids liked best: Brownie waffles, of course.

5)Leo’s Coney Island

Coney Island restaurants are a Michigan novelty. You just don’t get these anywhere else. Even though the restaurants are named after the chili-doused New York dog, the food here tends to veer more toward Greek flavors–along with your typical diner fare. Note: there are several different Coney Island chains, Kerby’s (spell coney with a K), but Leo’s are the best IMHO.

My suggestion: The Greek salad. And make sure to get the small (the large feeds 4+). Mr. Squid likes the Greek salad with peperoncinis, feta, olives, beets, and chickpeas so much he bought a bottle of dressing to bring home.

What the kids liked best: The coney dog

I just had to pass along more pictures from New Yasmeen. Enjoy!

It took us three days to finish off this chocolate-filled, chocolate cup

My youngest sampling kibbee

Mmmmm, the deli counter

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