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12 Detroit area chefs share their favorite local dishes

James Rigato, chef at Mabel Gray

You're used to asking friends about their favorite dishes from the many eateries around town. Maybe you look up reviews, check the menus online or … gasp! … Look on Yelp. Rarely are the chefs, cooks or restaurant operators who create these culinary wonders ever asked where they turn to when they're not in the kitchen. 

We thought they might some delicious opinions on their favorites, and we weren’t wrong. Here the favorite dishes from Detroit area chefs. 

Kate Williams, Lady of the House
Favorite dish: Beef tartare at the Apparatus Room

I had it about two months ago. It's lightly tossed in aioli, squash. I was practically drunk off the tartar. I don't even remember what else was on it, but I love a good tartare.

What you want in a good tartare is simple: delicious meat, seasoned well. Having fun with the rest of the flavors is awesome. I don't discriminate against ground beef versus hand-chopped, as long as it's seasoned well, prepared well, that care was taken. You want very responsibly sourced meat, pasture raised, and grazed not factory farmed.

Maxcel Hardy, River Bistro
Favorite dish: Grilled turkey chops at Chops Bar & Grill

I’m at Chops Bar & Grill almost every day. It's on Grand River about a mile from Bistro.

The chops come with a chop sauce and nicely sautéed mushrooms. It's marinated and grilled to perfection, served alongside vibrant rustic sautéed spinach and pulled together with nice red skin smashed potato. It's real homey. I call it a Cheers bar where everyone knows you, but it's good food. It takes me back to NYC a lil' bit. It gives me comfort when I'm leaving the restaurant late, to know I can get something real good.

Mike Ransom, ima
Favorite dish: Chinese lamb sandwich at 168 Asian Mart

It's this little cafe in the back of an asian mart in Madison Heights, where they have this Chinese cumin lamb sandwich — it's almost like a Chinese pita. It's called rou jiamo.

Essentially, it's thinly sliced lamb, onions, bell peppers, cilantro, toasted cumin seeds, and hot chili peppers, folded into Chinese flatbread, almost like a pancake, toasted, kind of blistered on outside, like a nice caramelization. The first time I had it, I was like "wow." I love cumin lamb with rice, to be able to grab and go, it's kind of fun.

Karen Schultz, Nosh Pit
Favorite dish: Vegan nori roll or vegan curry mac at Om Cafe

The nori rolls contain a mixture of veggies and an add-on of tofu, which is how I order it. The sauce they serve it with is their house goddess tahini dressing, and that paired with the delicious pickled ginger and wasabi is what makes the dish. 

The curry mac has crushed peanuts and a wonderful tangy coconut sauce — the only vegan mac comparable is my own at the Nosh Pit. I try to get to Om a couple times a month. I love their food and Jessica, the owner, is a great friend.

George Azar, Flowers of Vietnam
Favorite dish: Short ends slab and a 1/2 pound of shrimp fried at Vicki's Barbecue

Vicki's is pretty much my go-to. Make sure you ask for it fried hard with extra fries and an extra side of sauce. They start with a slice of bread and fries and place the slab right on top. What makes it is that extra sauce, it's like a hot barbecue sauce — I think it's North Carolina-style it's very acidic with cayenne pepper.

Also the corn beef hash well-done from Hygrade Deli. Really, it's the people there. They’re from my 'hood, they're my people. That's the shit with me and dining, that's what does it for me: it's the people.

Warda Bouguettaya, Warda Pâtisserie
Favorite dish: Forest Noodles at ima

I can eat it every single day and not get tired of it. The broth is so savory, consistently delicious, and leaves my body satisfied without begging for a nap. 

Kiki Louya, The Farmer's Hand & Folk Detroit
Favorite dish: Jicama shell tacos with wakame slaw at ima

The texture is great. Jicama has a crunch, so I don't miss taco shells one bit. Plus, the flavor combo is killer — clean, straightforward. But most of all, when dining out, I notice the freshness of ingredients, and I think that freshness really comes thru in those tacos — heck, it comes through in everything ima offers on their menu. I’m really just a big fan of everything Mike's got going on over there. 

Ali Beydoun, Sicily's Pizza & Subs
Favorite dish: Brazed lamb tongue sandwich at Tuhama's

This small place, on Warren Avenue in east Dearborn, that every young man who had moved here from Lebanon back in the '80s, and was going through the struggle for work, school, a place to stay and missing home, knows very well. The place was like a second home and where we went for old-country comfort food.

The chef was always there behind the counter. In the morning, he prepped all the food fresh from scratch (before this word was a cliché). After he opened at 11 a.m., he whipped up some of the best sandwiches I have ever had. Some of them were so good, they brought memories and at times tears to the crowd of young men who weren't old enough to even grow a beard yet.

This was one of the most memorable sandwiches that I still go back to now every once in a while for old times sake and to bring memories of home back alive. After he brazes it for several hours, he peels the skin of the tongue, he lays the meat on pita with a light spread of garlic, some fresh tomatoes, French onions and parsley with a little sumac, chili powder and lemon juice. It's one of the most delicious things I have ever had here that resonates with the food back home. Chef Medhat is still killing it at Tuhama's.

Deveri Gifford, Brooklyn Street Local
Favorite dish: Chorizo tacos and shrimp tostada from Taqueria El Rey

I eat it at least once a week!

Sarah Welch, Marrow
Favorite dish: Lamb agadah at Yemen Cafe

With a shitload of garlic sauce.

James Rigato and Sam Stanisz, Mable Gray
Favorite dish: Miso-cured cabbage at Grey Ghost and strozzapretti norcina from Bacco

Bigalora has a version [of the strozzapretti norcina] that's delicious as well, but Sam prefers the more elegant version at Bacco. A must order for her.

The miso-cured cabbage is such a satisfying dish and really thoughtful. Cabbage is such an MVP utility vegetable and the Grey Ghost team really do it justice.
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