Where's the Beef in Metro Detroit? (& Lamb, Pork, & Duck)

Morrisey named one of his seminal albums Meat is Murder. Comedian Denis Leary took that one step further in his 1992 stand-up special No Cure for Cancer, saying, "Meat tastes like murder, and murder tastes f@#%ing good.
 
With all the love for vegetarians and vegans going around, it would seem like our carnivore friends are merely an afterthought. Vegetarians get their own cookbooks and whole recipe sections of cooking magazines dedicated solely to their lifestyle. So do the gluten-free folks, who are quite literally the one-percenters of the world, and yet have permeated mainstream eating. Vegans, they get their own lists and guides and books and TV shows and other special snowflake treatment. Not sure if someone is a vegan? Don't worry, they'll go out of their way to tell you. 
 
So, who sings the song of the unapologetic carnivore? The Man Vs Food dude doesn't count. No, there is little love for we who might otherwise be called meatatarians.
 
Listen veg-heads, you're adorable, don't ever change. Now bring me a cheeseburger.
 
Like it or not, Detroit is still a meat-and-potatoes kind of town – except now the meat is a burger made from chopped brisket and is topped with house-smoked applewood bacon from heritage breed hogs raised on a local farm with arugula grown in a greenhouse two miles away and house-made bleu cheese aioli. And the potatoes are hand-cut and fried in duck fat (altogether it will cost you $20). 
 
We may still be meat and potatoes, but we've come a long way from the greasy bar burger with minced onions, squeeze-bottle ketchup, and American cheese.
 
Some places go without saying: Lockhart's BBQ, Slows BAR BQ, Union Woodshop, Bad Brad's BBQ, and every other upscale BBQ joint out there all serve the meat you want to eat. But once you get past the pulled pork, ribs, and brisket – well, then what? These places treat their meat with the tender love and attention some give their own pets … if, you know, people ate their pets. 
 
Roast – Detroit
I mean, c'mon. Iron Chef Michael Symon's first Detroit restaurant (he is known to be seeking out additional locations in the city and metro area to start setting up B Spot Burger joints) is still the winner and supreme champion of all things MEAT. Seriously: dude had a pork tattoo. There's a roast beast prominently displayed in the dining room for all to see. On a spit. Dead. Vegetarian? *pats head* You should maybe go somewhere else. So much to mention here, where to begin? How about: roasted bone marrow. Crispy veal sweetbreads. The Roast burger (#putaneggonit – before it was cool). Everything else. And a personal favorite: the lamb ragu, Chef Andy Hollyday's own creation that is consistently one of the best things on the menu. (Sometimes it's duck instead of lamb. And that's okay.)
 
Monk – Royal Oak
A hand-pattied burger topped with foie gras, pancetta, marinated tomato and herb-flecked goat cheese served with duck fat fries and four different kinds of house-made aioli. WUT. Yes, it's true. With lots and lots of Belgian beers to boot. Monk is brand new to the scene and has already upped the ante for Royal Oak restaurants. 
 
Forest Grill – Birmingham
Still overseen by Mr. Charcuterie himself, Chef Brian Polcyn, with new Chef de Cuisine Nick Janutol (most recently from L2O in Chicago), Forest Grill continues to lead the charge in metro Detroit with their house-made charcuterie. Try the porchetta, the Prosciutto di Birmingham, the daily selections of pate and terrine, or get an assortment of charcuterie and salami. 
 
The Root – White Lake 
Executive Chef James Rigato was just a featured nominee in Food & Wine's "People's Best New Chef in the Great Lakes region" (the only Michigan chef nominated), and the Root was just featured on a full episode of the Cooking Channel's America's Best Bites. But, you know, NBD. The Root has a balanced menu of meat and veg dishes, and this is because Chef James has a huge passion for local produce and local producers. Whether it grew from the ground or ate the thing that grew from the ground, you can bet your Brussels sprouts that the ground was somewhere in Michigan, usually not too far from the restaurant. Try the Dragon's Milk-braised crispy Michigan pork belly or the naturally-raised Michigan grass-fed beef burger, ribeye, or NY Strip. Wash it all down with all-Michigan beer on draft.
 
Rodin – Detroit 
Lamb! The other red meat. Rodin's high-ceiling sessy industrial French décor screams Parisian waifs in Pucci sipping on champagne-tinis, but the reality is this is Detroit, and there's not a' one of us healthy girls who can't get down on a plate of lamb stew. Their "sloppy lamb" is the classic French navarin with a modern twist – braised lamb shoulder served over brioche. Mais oui!
 
Vinsetta Garage – Berkley 
May is National Burger Month, and while metro Detroit isn’t short on burgers of excellence, Vinsetta Garage has quickly risen to the top of that list. The historic old garage reborn as a restaurant opened less than a year ago, and from day one has been filling its waiting list. The iconic building's history and the excellent adaptive reuse notwithstanding, people come here for one primary reason: the food. Classic American comfort food meets classic American car culture here, but in addition to the Union Joints' signature macaroni and cheese and the out-of-this-world disco fries (get the disco fries), the burgers are the real stars at Vinsetta. Try the Macon Bacon burger made with Angus beef, Woodshop MI maple bacon, pancetta, grilled Canadian bacon, house-made bacon jam, and smoked cheddar; or the 3 A.M. burger featuring an Angus patty, Swiss, and Woodshop MI maple bacon topped with a fried egg, crispy fried onion strings, and Sriracha mayo.
 
Frita Batido's – Ann Arbor
Chef Eve Aronoff does not fear lard. You should know this going in, because at Frita Batido's – what with its sophisticated modern style and sleek palette of white and silver – looks can be deceiving. Well, maybe not. The "Inspired Cuban" sandwich – made with lemongrass roast pork, thick-cut bacon, tasso ham, gruyere, cornichons, and chipotle mayo on traditional Cuban bread (made with lard) – doesn't actually look like a weight-loss item, but with all of the fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, seasonal flavors, and refreshing fruit juice cocktails, your senses might be tricked into believing this is a health food restaurant. Ah, well, "health" is a relative term, and eating items made with such high-quality sustainable ingredients certainly ranks higher on the health quotient than a salad of iceberg lettuce shipped in from California and a side of frozen factory-made fries (that would be considered vegan, btw). 
 
The Grindhouse – Detroit 
Granted it's still kind of early in the year, but it's not a stretch to say that Corridor Sausage's expansion into mobile vending – called the Grindhouse, now at a food truck rally near you – and markets (having just passed their USDA inspection and getting approval to wholesale their products and market to other states) is one of the most important and significant things to happen in local food this year. Because these guys are awesome. You can get a variety of Corridor's hand-made sausages dressed up and served on a bun, like the Vietnamese-style chicken sausage with cucumber, pickled carrots and daikon, fried shallots, and Sriracha aioli. There's also a few other unique items, like duck sausage Scotch eggs, chorizo gravy poutine, and Hungarian fried pizzas. 
 
Atomic Dawg – Berkley
Oh HAI again Corridor Sausage! You made the list twice because what you are doing is at least two times as interesting as anything else that's happening in metro Detroit food! Though technically the Atomic Dawg is not owned by Corridor Sausage, it is "owned" by Corridor Sausage in the pwned kind of way. As American chefs continue combing through the archives of the greatest hits of American junk food for the Next Big Thing in garbage gone gourmand, it seems that sights are set on the good old all-American hot dog. Atomic Dawg uses Corridor Sausage for their sausage selection (which includes a sausage of the week) serving what is, essentially, a really dressed up version of a meat tube.  
 
Wolfgang Puck Steak – Detroit 
Good GOD y'all there are a lot of steakhouses in metro Detroit, and the bulk of them are located in BloomTroyMinghamField Hills. This one is not. Overseen by Wolfgang Puck's right-hand man here in Detroit, Executive Chef Marc Djozlija, Steak is one of the best in its class – and this class is the size of the University of Michigan's annual undergraduate graduating class. For those of you who take your steak really seriously, get the bone-in rib eye steak.
 
One-Eyed Betty's – Ferndale 
Bacon with a side of bacon. Pork belly poutine. Pork belly poutine omelettes. Pork belly sandwiches. Bottom line? A lot of pigs died to make you happy at One-Eyed Betty's, and happy you shall be. Especially with All Of The Beer.

Nicole Rupersburg is a freelance writer, regular contributor to Metromode, Concentrate and Model D, and popular Metro Detroit food blogger. Read her blog at http://www.eatitdetroit.com. There are times where she can be shy and retiring. Just not around food.

All Photos by David Lewinski Photography

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