Dining: What's new and what is history since last year's North American International Auto Show
Car and truck fans from all over the world will descend on downtown Detroit this month as part of the North American International Auto Show, and they're going to get hungry.
As they may have heard from the national food media, our dining options continue to swell downtown and in the surrounding area. Whether you've never been to downtown Detroit before or it's just been a minute, here's a guide to what's changed around Cobo Center since the last NAIAS:
One of the newest restaurants downtown is San Morello, inside the Shinola Hotel at 1400 Woodward, just steps from Campus Martius. This beautifully lit upscale Italian spot comes to us from NoHo Hospitality, which is overseeing all of Shinola Hotel's bars and restaurants. This applauded restaurant group has properties in Baltimore and New York City, including a restaurant inside Robert De Niro's Greenwich Hotel.
For more new and upscale hotel dining, The Siren Hotel at 1509 Broadway is home to Albena, an eight seat, multi-course tasting experience from chef Garrett Lipar. Reservations are paid for in advance and sold in pairs for $130 per person at albenadetroit.com. Also open at The Siren is the tiniest, pinkest cocktail lounge in the city, the Candy Bar, which is great place to wow out-of-towners or take a date for a pre-dinner cocktail.
Other charming new spots that are good for impressions are Besa, an upscale, window-filled spot in the Vinton Building at 600 Woodward. With dishes like Michigan-raised lamb belly porchetta ($25) and Hudson Valley half duck with carrot puree ($48), consider this months-old restaurant a special occasion destination.
Looking for something more casual to take the torque-loving crowd? Detroit went from zero to three food halls in the past 10 months or so.
The newest one is Fort Street Galley, which is downtown at Fort and Shelby at 160 W. Fort, just a few blocks from Cobo's front steps. Here you'll find high ceilings and a variety of seating options, from the bar to communal tables to lounge areas. Grab a craft cocktail or beer from the bar, then order food from one of four kitchens that serve Filipino cuisine, barbecue, gourmet sandwiches or sustainable seafood. It's all brought to you after you seat yourself.
A similar concept is found in Midtown at the new Detroit Shipping Company, 474 Peterboro. Made up of more than 20 shipping containers, this spacious dining hall has a full bar, plus food from Brujo Tacos & Tapas, Bangkok 96 Street Food and Coop Caribbean Cuisine. With room to seat about 200 people, this 10,000-square-foot venue (which also has an art gallery, beer garden and podcast studio) can really pack 'em in.
Lastly, Greektown Casino's new food hall Monroe Market has a variety of cuisine in a food court, plus Noodle Art, a cool, colorful Japanese restaurant. Because this is located just outside the casino border, all ages are welcome here to nosh on barbecue, Southern, Mexican or American fare. At least one of the food hall's kitchens are open 24/7, too.
Those looking to fuel up before the show will find more breakfast options downtown than last year. Brome Modern Eatery and AK Takeaway are both new breakfast and lunch spots within sight of Cobo. Iggy's Eggies (walk-up window) and the Applebee's/IHOP (in the Millender Center) are also new and casual choices to start the day. For something homey and hip, venture over to Folk Detroit cafe in Corktown, which is decidedly one of the favorite new restaurants to open in Detroit this past year.
Also in Corktown, diners are enjoying the modern European cuisine from new bar and restaurant Cork & Gabel. The simple, one-page menu here takes influence from Italy, Germany and Ireland, with items like charcuterie, a schnitzel BLT and a house burger that pair well with the bar program.
Noticeably absent this year is Cobo Joe's, the casual sports bar and barbecue joint a literal stone's throw from the Auto Show. It closed over the summer. Detroit's Hard Rock Cafe location will serve its last meals this month, too. The themed restaurant's last day is Jan. 26. (No word yet from landlord Bedrock as to what will replace it.)
Over in Foxtown, Cheli's Chili is closed permanently, and the Town Pump is out of the Park Avenue House building and is preparing to reopen across the street where Centaur Bar was.
In Greektown, Santorini Estiatorio has shuttered and is being renovated for a new concept. The same owners also purchased the New Parthenon and have closed it for renovations.
For those not looking to explore the city, Cobo Center has sustenance for you. In addition to the food stands in the venue's concourse — Detroit Made Kitchen, Go Natural, Cork and Grind, Sausage Haus and Detroit Made Market — this year there's also a cafe within the main hall serving flatbread pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers and more, including grab-and-go items.