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.
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.
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.
With its deep-burgundy walls, heavy curtains, and crystal-draped chandeliers, What Crepe?s dining room hearkens back to Belle ?poque?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 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.
Extreme Pizza is not your run-of-the-mill, ma-and-pa pizza shop. Here, the cooks pile their house-baked crusts with a slew of uncommon combinations, including the ginger-peanut-sauce-marinated chicken strewn across the Kickin? Chicken pizza, which is also topped with peanuts, green onions, swiss, fontina, mozzarella, and fresh cilantro. The Paia Pie may seem standard with pineapple and Canadian bacon, but the addition of mandarin oranges and its mozzarella-cheddar blend make it more unique than a unicorn with two horns. As an alternative to the pies, freshly baked calzones, creatively loaded salads, monster subs, and chicken wings also populate the menu.
The dough wizards at Papa John's hand toss circular masterpieces with original and thin crusts made from high-protein flour to support warm bouquets of toppings. Hand-cut produce crowns all of Papa John's pizzas, mingling with the sun-soaked sweetness of sauce made from fresh, California-grown tomatoes. By adhering to its brand promise of "better ingredients, better pizza," Papa John's grew from a back-tavern pizzeria into more than 3,500 restaurants within three decades' time, or the amount of time it takes to grow a single pizzeria from a small seed.