Middle Eastern sweets. Pierogi. Korean barbecue. Birria quesadillas. Drive down any of Sterling Heights’ main thoroughfares, and you’ll find a diverse array of cuisines to feast on all within city limits.
With about 17% of its population from an ethnic or minority group, Sterling Heights’ rich diversity is reflected in its culinary offerings. Here’s a taste of the city’s food and dining options.
Chung Ki Wa
2101 15 Mile Rd, 586-264-4488, chungkiwash.com
With its generous portions, friendly service, and casual atmosphere, Chung Ki Wa was a longtime Korean BBQ staple in metro Detroit long before Korean food became trendy. Barbecue dishes such as bulgogi and galbi cooked on tabletop grills are a popular option, but there is also plenty of authentic and flavorful dishes on the expansive menu to explore such as dol sot bi bim bap (vegetable, beef, or chicken served over rice in a stone pot), yook hwoe (Korean-style beef tartare), and budae jjigae (spicy ham, sausage, Spam, baked beans, kimchi, and ramen stew).
2496 Metropolitan Parkway, 586-883-7526, isladetroit.com
After building up their modern Filipino restaurant at Fort Street Galley in Detroit, JP Garcia and Jacqueline Diño had to find a new home after the food hall closed in February 2020. They settled in Sterling Heights, Garcia says, because they wanted to target the diverse population in the city. They found a basically turn-key restaurant and they hit the ground running in winter 2021, offering carryout only at first.
Offering a brief menu of rice and noodle bowls featuring classic Filipino dishes like adobo, pancit palabok, and lechon kawali as well as regional dishes like chicken inasal (grilled chicken with pickled green papaya) and batchoy (egg noodles in bone broth), Isla combines traditional Filipino flavors with a modern spin. Not to be missed are Diño's eye-catching desserts, such as a tropical ube cake and cashew sans rival (meringue cake with cashew and buttercream).
"We're trying to introduce and make [Filipino food] more accessible to not only the Filipinos in the area, but introduce it to the different cultures and nationalities around," Garcia told us last year.
3605 E 15 Mile Rd.
As we said a few years ago
, the sweet shops that dot the city are a testament to the diversity in Sterling Heights, bringing residents and visitors a host of delectable desserts from the Middle East.
One of the go-to spots is Palm Sweets, where every piece of baklava is made by hand using all-natural ingredients. The company began operations in 1996 in Madison Heights, expanding its ice cream line to 28 flavors to complement the dozens of pastries. The business then moved into bigger digs in Sterling Heights, taking over the former M Shatila Cafe.
Que Pasa Taqueria
33874 Dequindre Rd., 586-693-5045; taqueriaquepasa.com
Thanks to countless social media videos of people dunking cheesy fried tacos into steaming cups of consomme, the popularity of birria tacos has soared in recent years. At Que Pasa Taqueria, the husband-and-wife team of Gustavo Ruizvelasco and Indira Zepeda
are taking the trend to the next level with creative twists.
The couple are from Jalisco state in Mexico, where the dish traces its roots. Traditionally it's a soup or stew. The author Josefina Velázquez de León traveled through Mexico in the 1940s, documenting traditional recipes, including one for a Zacatecan birria that called for a whole sheep rubbed with chilies and seasoned with cinnamon, cloves, cumin, and oregano. Today you can find it made with lamb or beef.
Que Pasa has a couple of creative iterations with birria, including the birra pizzadilla, a large pizza-sized quesadilla with slices perfect for dipping, and the birria noodles, with ramen noodles, birria, consomme, cilantro, and onions.
40211 Mound Rd., 586-250-9090, srodek.com
Since 1981, this family-owned business has been making a wide variety of pierogi, from traditional offerings like kraut, cabbage, and potato to more modern iterations like spinach artichoke, breakfast, and buffalo in Hamtramck.
In 2020, the business expanded to a nearly 6,000-square-foot market in Sterling Heights, and a restaurant covering 5,000 square feet. With a state-of-the-art facility and European-style bakery, it's a one-stop shopping experience. In addition to pierogi, people come to Srodek's for its signature specialties like kielbasa, sauerkraut, and stuffed cabbage.
33170 Dequindre Rd., 586-268-1450, trizest.com
The menu at Trizest is vast, but the real draw here is the authentic Sichuan fare that is not as common in metro Detroit as American Chinese staples like sweet and sour pork, lo mein almond boneless chicken (although they do have that too). But when you're here, make sure to try the house specialties like the Sichuan lamb, squirrel-shaped fish, and spicy cumin beef. There's also an extensive selection of vegetarian dishes.
Ventimiglia Italian Foods
35197 Dodge Park, 586-979-0828, ventimigliafoods.com
This family-owned business has been serving metro Detroiters subs, pastas, prepared foods, and imported groceries for a century. In the early 1920s, Antonio Ventimiglia and his brothers came to the U.S. in pursuit of the American dream. Starting out by selling fruit from a cart, he eventually opened a store with his son Victor and two daughters. As Victor's kids — the next generation — grew older, he decided it was time to branch out on his own with Ventimiglia’s on Eight Mile Road in Detroit. And the tradition lives on today with the Sterling Heights location.
The subs have been made by hand every day since the 1960s when Victor would bring sandwiches to his friends at Tiger Stadium to watch the game. Offerings range from Italian, turkey, and ham to prosciutto, eggplant and rosemary ham, and chicken cutlet, and can be served "the regular way" (lettuce, tomato, provolone, and Italian dressing) or customized.
All photos by Steve Koss.