Chef Travis Waynick of Northern Lakes Seafood Company carefully curates a menu of fresh fish and seafood in a nautical-themed environment. Duos and quartets of diners embark on aquatic journeys with cups of creamy lobster bisque or clam chowder, or declare herbivorous allegiance with the house, caesar, or iceberg-lettuce salads. All fresh catches, including the Peruvian tilapia, are prepared grilled, broiled, blackened, baked, steamed, sautéed, or buttermilk-fried. Seared scallops sashay to tables, and pan-roasted chicken cuddles with spaetzle and grain-mustard jus lie sauce as a vegetable side watches from the stairway. Reward bellies with sweet slabs of key-lime cheesecake, pumpkin-bread pudding with black-walnut ice cream, or crème brûlée with seasonal fresh fruit.
Once inside Barrio Tacos and Tequila, one is immediately struck by the smoky blues and warm blooms of color that fill the space. Frosted panes of azure glass line one side of the restaurant, and vibrant murals overtake the other walls—the ones that aren't stacked with shelves of tequila bottles, anyway. Orange lights from above branch into glowing tendrils, studding the navy ceiling with miniature suns and illuminating the mortar and pestle on each table. These points of color are akin to the sparks of flavor inside the menu: pleasantly surprising and, in the words of the Detroit News, "bright and well-balanced."
Executive chef Ryan Porter is the brain behind Barrio’s inventive recipes. As a teenager, Ryan cooked for his family every night, honing the creativity that would lead him through American-, Asian-, Italian-, and finally Mexican-themed kitchens. Today, he looks in all cardinal directions for culinary inspiration, fashioning platters in the style of Oaxaca and Acapulco, among other regions. He stuffs tortillas with nine types of taco fillings, including housemade chorizo. On the side, scoops of chili-dusted sweet corn transport guests to Mexico without forcing them to throw out the giant bottle of shampoo they keep hidden under their shirt.
Tim Castañeda's culinary education began at his family's dinner table. Nourished by the fresh salsas and flavorful meats, Tim developed a deep appreciation for and understanding of the traditional flavors of Mexican cuisine. After cooking in his family's restaurants during his youth, Tim continued to perfect his recipes and spice blends in Mexican eateries throughout the country. He brings his years of experience to Zumba Mexican Grille, where he whips up freshly made tacos, burritos, and quesadillas reminiscent of the authentic dishes of his childhood.
Named for the Spanish slang word for "energy," Zumba bustles with color and zest—from its shiny stainless-steel counters and rainbows of wooden chairs to the skirt steak, red-chili pork, and fresh vegetables sizzling on its grills. When customers walk in, their first step is to pick meats, toppings, and black, pinto, or magic beans. Then the servers behind the counter begin building Mexican specialties—including the burritos, named the city's best by Real Detroit Weekly. After receiving their orders, guests stroll over to the fresh salsa bar, where six different housemade varieties in various spice levels await them.
Chen Chow Brasserie's executive chef experimented with gigs as a musician and pro BMX rider before he discovered the culinary arts. After settling on this new career path, he wrangled a team of like-minded chefs to help craft a menu of inventive Asian-inspired cuisine, including miso-infused Chilean sea bass with crispy udon noodles and togarashi-blackened steak fillet. They also craft sushi rolls loaded with exotic ingredients such as forbidden black rice and brûléed salmon, and they occasionally hand over the reins to local celebrities, who design limited-edition maki rolls for charity. In addition to these eclectic morsels, the restaurant curates a collection of rare teas and sakes.
These Asian-fusion meals populate tables in a modern, ornately decorated dining room. Here, a recessed ceiling anchors scroll-shaped lighting fixtures that cast their silhouettes across a backlit wall. Circular booths facilitate hassle-free conversations or games of four-way patty-cake.
With its deep-burgundy walls, heavy curtains, and crystal-draped chandeliers, What Crepe’s dining room hearkens back to Belle Époque–era Paris. The scent of simmering crepe batter and melting cheese further imbues the bistro with an aura of authenticity. Chefs flip more than 50 sweet, savory, gluten-free, and vegan crepe varieties that have earned praise from the Metro Times and the Detroit Free Press for their freshness and ability to be delivered through mail slots. Savory standout The Obvious garnishes chicken and caramelized apples with feta, while the Nutty Monkey blends banana and Nutella, then tops them with vanilla ice cream. In addition to crepes, dining companions can share sips of organic tea and the restaurant’s own blend of french-press coffee.
Picture a pub so packed with soccer fans that the ones lucky enough to have seats at the big, wooden bar can barely cheer without thwacking the people on all sides of them, and you’ll have some idea of what Dick O’ Dow's was like during the last World Cup. While such sporting events of such importance come only once every four years, the pub manages to maintain the fun-loving—and authentically Irish—atmosphere day in and out, in particular by enlisting live musical acts to perform as guests gulp pints of Guinness and solemnly discuss the latest Fun Street Journal. Even the party room suggests Old-World Ireland, with its stone fireplace, climbing ivy, and color palette of rich reds and browns. Here and in the main bar area, visitors feed on a full menu of traditional Irish fare, such as shepherd’s pie, irish stew, chicken pot pie, and bangers 'n' mash.