These Black-owned restaurants are powering metro Detroit’s dining scene
It is well-documented that Detroit is home to a vast African American population with rich and diverse cultural traditions. Nearly 80% of the city’s residents are Black, and, over the past several decades, the surrounding communities that make up metro Detroit have become increasingly diverse. It makes sense then that some of the region’s most sought-after eateries are helmed by Black metro Detroiters.
Black chefs and restaurant owners have long been associated with establishments specializing in foodways that are ancestral to the American South — namely cuisines like barbecue and soul food, which are known for their decadent dishes and rich flavors. Crispy fried catfish in a gritty cornmeal batter, tender pork ribs slathered in sweet barbecue sauce, hearty baked macaroni and cheese and savory collard greens teeming with smoked meat are among mainstream favorites.
Today, though, Detroit’s Black-owned restaurants have become more reflective of the diverse population of metro Detroiters whose roots span the Black Diaspora. Restaurateurs are bringing island flavors from the Caribbean, staples from East to West Africa, seafood dishes from coastal cities and international cuisines that draw inspiration from a chef’s travels across the globe.
Here, we round up a list of Black-owned restaurants powering metro Detroit’s dining scene.
Baobab Fare, Detroit
Sitting at the intersection of Woodward Avenue and Grand Boulevard, Baobab Fare brings new flavors to Detroit. Owners Hamissi Mamba and Nadia Nijimbere, a husband-and-wife duo from Burundi, celebrate East African cuisine and culture. The restaurant offers authentic East African foods and specials, such as Ugali, a traditional East African swallow served with an okra stew, and Mhogo, which includes the root of the cassava plant served with shredded chicken that is pan-fried in a tangy mustard-onion sauce. The restaurant is unique in its employment of former residents of Freedom House, a temporary home for asylum-seeking survivors of persecution from around the globe. The restaurant also houses a coffee bar stocked with beans from Burundi available for purchase.
6568 Woodward Ave., Detroit. 313-265-3093, baobabfare.com
Bert’s Marketplace, Detroit
Established in 1987, Bert’s Marketplace in Eastern Market serves up barbecue, soul food and live music. Founded by Detroit’s Bert Dearing, the restaurant is known for its ribs and fried chicken. While its delectable food might be the main attraction, the marketplace is also famous for its bars, live jazz shows and concerts as well as two hallway-length murals that pay homage to Black history in Detroit.
2727 Russell St., Detroit. 313-567-2030; eatatberts.com
The Block, Detroit
One of three local establishments owned and operated by the Byrd family, The Block has become a staple in the Black community since it opened in 2015. The bar and kitchen is a one-stop shop for lunch, brunch and dinner service, as well as vibrant happy hours. Additionally, diners flock to the Midtown Detroit mainstay for special programming, such as Wings and Tequila Wednesdays, a weekly event featuring specials on the restaurant’s crowd-favorite wings and tequila, a live DJ and an influential host for the night.
3919 Woodward Ave., Detroit. 313-832-0892; theblockdet.com
Central Kitchen & Bar, Detroit
Dennis Archer Jr. is the majority owner of this spot on the ground floor of the First National Building. It's steps from Campus Martius Park and Cadillac Square. Archer's father is former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer. The spot opened in August 2015 and, Archer Jr. says, still has much of the same staff, including Executive Chef Christina Stanco. It was named among the 2016 Free Press Best New Restaurants. On the menu, the Detroit Burger is a favorite, featuring roasted wild mushrooms, zip sauce, gruyère cheese, lettuce and bistro sauce on brioche. The burger's flavor is similar to French onion soup. There are sandwiches, soups, salads and entrees on the menu. Brunch is offered on the weekends and is often themed. On Sunday, Juneteenth and Father's Day, Central Kitchen will feature its disco brunch with local DJ Bruce Bailey.
660 Woodward Ave., Detroit. 313-963-9000; centraldetroit.com
Chef Maxcel Hardy’s Coop Caribbean Fusion is known for its unique cuisine that draws inspiration from Hardy's Bahamian roots. Located at a stall in the Detroit Shipping Co. food hall in Midtown, Coop serves up jerk ribs and Caribbean-seasoned grilled chicken. Hardy has also gone on to open Jeds, a quick-service pizza and wing joint in northern Detroit. In addition to a wide array of pizza and wing options, the restaurant also offers Caribbean-style ribs and burgers.
Delphine’s Jamaican Restaurant, Warren
Located in a strip mall on Nine Mile Road in Warren, Delphine’s Jamaican first opened its doors in 2018. Founded by Delphine Drake, owner of DnV Jamaican Seasonings, which can be purchased at Eastern Market and local grocery stores, the restaurant offers authentic Jamaican flavors. The jerk chicken, which is marinated for 24 hours in Drake’s jerk sauce, and the curry goat are standouts on the menu.
14377 E. Nine Mile Road, Warren. 586-217-5000; delphinejamaicanrestaurant.com
Fat Daddy’s Hot Chicken and Waffles
Opened in 2019, this Downriver carryout spot is known for its Nashville-style hot chicken. Owned by Jay "Jim" Brandon, the restaurant offers a wide menu of chicken sandwiches, chicken tenders, chicken and waffles and catfish. The Fat Daddy, a fried, boneless chicken thigh sandwich, is the joint’s specialty item. The restaurant has locations in Redford Township, Riverview and MGM Grand Detroit.
See website for locations and hours, 734-288-3051, fatdaddyshotchicken.com
Flamz Pizzeria, Detroit
Flamz Pizzeria is a build-your-own pizzeria known for its thin crust. Diners can create a meat lovers, veggie or any combination pizza they desire. Though he opened Flamz in 2019, owner Billy Owens is not new to the restaurant world — he also owns Big Burgz, a burger joint just a stone's throw from the pizzeria also on East Warren Avenue on Detroit's east side.
16369 E. Warren Ave., Detroit. 313-924-5714
Fusion Flare Kitchen and Cocktails, Detroit
Fusion Flare Kitchen and Cocktails is a high-end restaurant located on the west side of the city, specializing in American cuisine and soul food. Owner Mashalle Sykes opened Fusion in 2018 with the idea of bringing an upscale restaurant to the Grandale neighborhood. The menu consists of shrimp and grits, handcrafted cocktails, catfish and more.
16801 Plymouth Road, Detroit. 313-653-3700
Hygrade Deli, Detroit
A southwest staple once owned by Stuart Litt for 50 years, Hygrade Deli was passed over to restaurateur Chuck Nolen after the building was listed for sale in 2021. Nolen also owns Cutter’s Bar & Grill in Detroit's Eastern Market. Hygrade Deli has garnered national attention, including a cameo on the silver screen in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," which was released in 2016. The deli is sought after especially for its corned beef sandwiches.
3640 Michigan Ave., Detroit. 313-894-6620
Ima serves up Japanese cuisine with Midwestern ingredients out of its multiple locations throughout metro Detroit. You can find udon noodle soups, ramen, sake and other Japanese-inspired dishes and drinks. Chef-owner Mike Ransom earned his culinary arts degree from Kendall College in Chicago and opened the first Ima location in Corktown in 2016. He followed up with locations in Midtown and Madison Heights and has since opened SuperCrisp, a fast-casual sandwich shop adjacent to Ima's Midtown location. Ima has also partnered with North Pier Brewery to create a series of canned cocktails.
Visit imanoodles.com for locations
Imaginate, Royal Oak
Chef-owner Omar Mitchell has created a fine-dining experience with a theatrical twist using ingredients sourced from local farmers markets. Whether it is Bangkok popcorn shrimp served in a mini popcorn maker or a Caesar salad served in a Roman bust sculpture, guests can expect nothing short of a creative meal. For $150 per patron at the Chef's Table, guests are offered a 3D experience of storytelling and good eats, plus an evening of entertainment.
4015 Lafayette Ave., Royal Oak. 248-633-8899; imaginaterestaurant.com
Ivy Kitchen + Cocktails, Detroit
In November 2019, Nya Marshall opened this East Village neighborhood spot on Jefferson Avenue noted for its cocktail menu, home of the $8 happy hour and an American-fusion menu featuring small plates, sides and entrée options. On the menu, you'll find house specialties of sesame ginger salmon, prime-aged ribeye and smoked salmon deviled eggs. The inspiration to open the Ivy Kitchen and Cocktails, Marshall says, was her love for the community and a desire to bring quality food options to the neighborhood she grew up in. Ivy added a brunch menu that features shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles and French toast that is served 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday. The $8 happy hour is 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and covers small plates items, wine and cocktails.
9215 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit. 313-332-0607; ivykc.com
The Jamaican Pot, Detroit
Co-founder of The Jamaican Pot Mama Rose can always be found in the kitchen — but she’s never alone. She’s joined by her husband and co-founder Bruce Cunningham, uncles, aunts and more. For nearly a decade, the family-run restaurant has been slinging Jamaican staples, such as saucy oxtails, brown stew and its signature, boneless jerk chicken. In true Caribbean form, dishes are paired with rice, ripe plantains and shredded cabbage.
14615 W. Eight Mile, Detroit. 313-888-8102; thejamaicanpot.com
Joe Louis Southern Kitchen, Detroit
This spot in Detroit’s New Center is inspired by and pays homage to boxer Joe Louis and his Southern upbringing. Serving breakfast, lunch and brunch, Joe Louis Southern Kitchen offers an array of dishes from waffles, stacked-high fluffy pancakes, bananas Foster French toast and smothered Cajun fried turkey legs topped with a variety of options from jambalaya to shrimp alfredo. There are Southern favorites such as shrimp and grits and chicken and waffles. The restaurant's interior features photos of Louis’ boxing career and the space is designed to look like the front porch of an old, Southern home with trees and greenery in the ceiling and a print of a front yard with a white picket fence. The ownership group includes Johnny Cannon and Joe Louis II.
6549 Woodward Ave., Detroit. 313-788-8338; joelouissouthernkitchen.com
The Kitchen by Cooking with Que, Detroit
Quiana Broden, chef and owner, opened this demonstration kitchen and shared culinary space on Woodward Avenue in New Center more than three years ago. The Kitchen offers a menu of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, soups and desserts. There’s a Saturday-only brunch that features items such as Vegan chick’n and waffles, carrot lox toast and kimchi hash. Broden sought to create a place where vegans and meat-eaters could coexist, and where customers could learn about healthy foods. Inside the space, there are two kitchens. One is used for demonstrations and serving lunch. Broden uses the other as a shared rental space for other culinary experts.
6529 Woodward Ave., Detroit. 313-462-4184; thekitchenbycwq.com
Kuzzo’s Chicken and Waffles, Detroit
Ron Bartell, Detroiter and former NFL cornerback who finished his career with the Detroit Lions, opened Kuzzo’s Chicken & Waffles in 2015 along Detroit’s Avenue of Fashion. Generous portions of fried chicken and waffles are the specialty at Kuzzo’s — pronounced KUZ-ohs. The chicken is crisp, tender and juicy and the waffles are thick and fluffy. A dozen waffle combos are offered. Its menu also has a variety of Southern favorites and sides from collard greens to mac and cheese, yams and red beans and rice. There's also a breakfast menu served all day and a cocktail menu. In 2016, Kuzzo’s was named a Detroit Free Press Best New Restaurant.
19345 Livernois Ave., Detroit. 313-861-0229; kuzzoschickenandwaffles.com
The Lobster Food Truck & Pit Stop, Dearborn
Chef Nick Wilson and his aunt Kathryn Wilson teamed up to start the Lobster Food Truck that's been rolling around metro Detroit for four years. Late last year, the co-owners opened the Lobster Pitstop, a storefront on Ford Road and Wyoming Avenue (across from Ford-Wyoming Drive-in) in Dearborn. On the menu are Wilson's lobster rolls with chunks of sweet lobster meat, dressed lightly and piled into buttery rolls. There are also fried lobster bites tossed in a signature seasoning and seafood mac and cheese. The expanded menu also includes other fish and shellfish dishes, as well as daily specials. Nick Wilson, a Detroiter, has worked in the food and restaurant industry all over the U.S. He returned home in 2018 at the request of his aunt to start the food truck. You'll find the Lobster Food Truck at local events and around metro Detroit neighborhoods.
The Lobster Pitstop, 10405 Ford Road, Dearborn, 313-406-5854; thelobsterfoodtruck.com
Louisiana Creole Gumbo, Detroit
This restaurant has been around for more than 50 years, serving up its variety of creole, gumbo, Cajun and jambalaya signature dishes along with other specialties of red beans, meats and rice. It’s operated by Joe Spencer, president of Louisiana Creole Gumbo (LCG foods Inc.), and his family. The menu also includes chicken, shrimp or catfish Po’ boy sandwiches, mac and cheese and other Southern-style dinners. The original location is on Gratiot Avenue in the Eastern Market area. There is also a location on 7 Mile in northwest Detroit. A third location opened in Farmington Hills more than a year ago.
2051 Gratiot Ave., Detroit. 313-567-1200; detroitgumbo.com
Maty’s African Restaurant, Detroit
Chef Amady Gueye and his wife Maty opened this Senegalese restaurant in 2017 near the old Redford neighborhood. Its menu features many traditional African dishes. The family-run spot's signature dish is chicken Yassa, a half or whole chicken that is stuffed with minced garlic, onion and parsley and fried. The Yassa is glazed with Maty’s housemade mustard onion sauce. Maty’s is also known for its peanut butter soup, grilled fish and Senegalese egg rolls, or nems. Lamb Deebee, lamb shanks and chicken and lamb skewers are also among Maty’s specialties.
21611 Grand River Ave., Detroit. 313-472-5885; matysdetroit.com
Motor City Soul Food, Detroit
Motor City Soul Food has mastered the art of comforting soul food dishes. The family-owned business has been serving up recipes from the archives of husband-and-wife owners George and Martha Clay for more than 20 years and has garnered much praise from metro Detroiters and visitors alike. The restaurant has been featured on the Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern." It was voted the No. 2 Best Place to Eat by the “D.L. Hughley Show,” and the late Free Press restaurant critic Sylvia Rector highlighted the restaurant's mac and cheese in 2014. Today, guests can enjoy Motor City Soul Food’s award-winning fried chicken or sweet candied yams at locations in Detroit, Oak Park or Redford Township.
Visit motorcitysoul2go.com for locations
Norma G’s, Detroit
In addition to becoming one of Detroit’s few Caribbean restaurants when it opened in 2018, Norma G’s became the first full-service restaurant to open in Detroit’s Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood in 30 years. Lester Gouvia, a Trinidad native, transformed what once was a popular food truck into a brick-and-mortar, selling modern takes on West Indian staples. In addition to Caribbean classics, such as doubles and curry goat, tender oxtails and spicy jerk chicken show up in tacos and nacho appetizers.
14628 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit. 313-290-2938; normagscuisine.com
Out of a second-floor walk-up, SavannahBlue offers elevated soul food dishes to diners as they overlook a bustling downtown Detroit scene. When the restaurant opened in 2016, co-owners J.D. Simpson and Roger Yopp and Yopp's late wife, Tanya Heidelberg-Yopp, enlisted chef Christopher McClendon to craft Southern dishes with an upscale flair. A smooth, Georgian Hummus dish replaces chickpeas with black-eyed peas; sharp parmesan cheese and shitake mushrooms add interest to a bowl of shrimp and grits, and a flavorful snapper is served whole in a white wine tomato broth. The newest addition to the restaurant is Willow, a dimly lit speakeasy craft cocktail bar on the ground level. An expansive willow tree anchors the bar as a nod to its namesake.
1431 Times Square, Detroit. 313-926-0783; savannahbluedetroit.com
Sloppy Crab, Detroit
In 2021, chef-owner Al Moxley expanded the Sloppy empire with Sloppy Crab, a seafood-centered rendition of his first location, Sloppy Chops on Detroit’s west side. Whereas meat dishes are the focus at Sloppy Chops — as the name implies, thick-cut pork and lamb chops shine here — seafood staples take center stage at Sloppy Crab. Keeping up with the seafood boil trend in metro Detroit, the restaurant’s Sloppy Seafood Pot is a must-try. The pot is filled with a medley of crustaceans, corn on the cob, baby potatoes and Andouille sausage and it’s complete with the signature Sloppy Sauce with a seafood twist.
519 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit. 313-800-5114; sloppycrabdetroit.com
Yum Village, Detroit
In 2019, chef and owner Godwin Ihentuge transformed his food truck business to this brick-and-mortar spot on Woodward Avenue in Detroit's New Center neighborhood. A Nigerian and African American, Ihentuge's Yum Village showcases Afro-Caribbean cuisine.Jerk chicken, jollof rice, maafe peanut stew and Suya pepper seasoned fried chicken are among the specialties. Ihentuge focuses on sourcing 15% of its ingredients from Haiti, the Caribbean, and West Africa, according to the website. He also sources most of the ingredients from the Detroit area. Ihentuge is a Detroit native, who grew up and went to school in Detroit. Yum Village was named the 2020 Detroit Free Press, No. 2 Best New Restaurant. Ihentuge appeared on an episode of the Food Network's "Beat Bobby Flay" last December. He made it to the second round, but lost to the celebrity chef. Yum Village recently opened a second Detroit location in Detroit's West Village on Agnes Street in the former Detroit Vegan Soul spot. There's also a Cleveland location.
6500 Woodward Ave., Detroit. 313-334-6099; yumvillage.com
Contact Lyndsay C. Green at [email protected]