Eat Well and Cheap: New, Affordable, Yummy Dining in Detroit

In 2008, an exciting new crop of Detroit restaurants has sprouted up. Many are foodie fabulous, with star chefs, innovative menus, bold flavors and exotic ingredients, and many of those are super expensive. But a handful stand out as being both interesting to the palate and kind to our budgets -- a combo we can get behind. Here's a sampling.

Angelina Italian Bistro
There's something that really warms a cold heart about a corner restaurant with huge windows. This one sits on Grand Circus Park, directly across the street from the Detroit Opera House and across the circle from Comerica Park, and resides on the same block as the Detroit Beer Co. and Small Plates.

The restaurant, which opened in October and has received warm reviews already, looks fantastic, with custom metal work peppering the decor and a beautiful large bar that steps up from the airy dining room. It's the scene on the streets, however, that elevates the space from just another restaurant. It's the kind of view that allows the dirty thought that every Detroiter sometimes has: "It's almost like a real city."

And the food? In a word, delish. There's an emphasis on local -- like the superb pine nut encrusted Lake Superior white fish -- and homemade pasta worth carb-loading on. A range of antipasti options -- including a smoked seafood platter -- encourages sharing. And there's a nicely curated wine list.

And the price? For such an elegant, contemporary atmosphere, you'd expect way higher prices, especially given that many new Detroit dining spots are so steep. At Angelina, most dinner entrees are under $20, lunches under $10, plus there are great tasting plates to share. There are lots of great wine options in the mid-20s. And it is 100 percent non-smoking. Yay for that.

It's the kind of place that makes you want to linger over your meal, order another glass and smile. And that's definitely something that Detroit needs more of these days. -- Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Angelina is located at 1565 Madison at the corner of Broadway. Valet parking is available. Hours are 11 a.m.- 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday. Call 313-962-1355. Street parking can be found on Broadway and surrounding blocks, plus the Opera House has a garage.

Supino Pizzeria
There's probably one thing Detroiters debate more than auto industry bailouts and mayoral politics, and that's pizza.

Pizza is serious business in Detroit, and you don't want to throw a slice of Buddy's at a Cal's fan unless you are hungry for a fight. Or just on the East Side and hungry, but I digress.

In the natural order of American society, every neighborhood needs a pizza place. Pizza is food for the soul, and visiting the neighborhood spot we hold dear is like a warm hug from grandma. Supino Pizzeria offers pies so good they will surely hold the bragging rights in the Eastern Market neighborhood. The fact that it has taken over the spot htat formerly housed Flat Planet Pizza is fitting, too.

Note, however, that this is not Sicilian style, like the big fat squares at Buddy's. Think more New York style -- thin and round. Supino's serves up pizza by the slice or whole pie. All are wood-fired to produce a crust that's chewy yet crispy -- that state of pizza crust nirvana to which many aspire but few actually reach. Add sauce and cheese and you have bliss. Eat it folded like a New Yorker, or look out at the market across the street and remember you are in Detroit where we eat our pizza laid wide open, so as to better enjoy that transition from cheese to sauce to bread to crunch with every bite.

Supino also serves up a wide range of white pies. Purists may pooh-pooh the white pizza – and in most cases I cannot blame them. The red stuff is the lifeblood of a pizza. However, if you happen by Supino on a cold fall Saturday and find they're offering their special (not normally on the menu) butternut squash white pizza, with veggies plucked from the market across the street, well, there's no need to quibble over missing sauce.

Just order a slice (or a whole pie if you have a crowd). Pull up a chair in the spare but cozy dining area, or better yet grab a stool at one of the front tables to watch the scene across the street. Wait, did we already make the "real city" observation? – Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey

Supino is at 2457 Russell. Call 313-567-7879. Hours are 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday. Parking is available on Russell or in the Eastern Market lots.

If we can set aside the Korean and sushi menu for a moment, there's a bigger issue here.

Detroit needs a noodle shop. There's a smart chain in London -- Wagamama -- that serves up steamy bowls of broth crowded with noodles and veggies. It's always crowded when the pubs let out, and at lunch time, and for dinner, all the time, frankly, because noodles in broth make people happy.

So my eyes got a little teary when I flipped to the Japanese menu at Wasabi and saw a wide range of both udon and sobu dishes. Ladel some this way, please.

Wasabi's location is primo for a low-key, affordable Asian restaurant. And while casual, it gains a touch of elegance for being tucked inside the beautiful lobby of the Park Shelton, and many of the tables spill out into the actual lobby. The Park Shelton is 1926 building housing condos on Woodward, just across Kirby from the DIA. The clientele includes a mix of residents from the building, art enthusiasts wandering in from the museums, hungry students from Wayne and College for Creative Studies, plus lunching downtown and Medical Center workers.

What's more, the area sorely needed Japanese and Korean offerings. The menu is not really "fusion," in the foodie sense of the word, because the chefs hold true to the expectations of what a bibimbap or a California roll look and taste like. It is Japanese and Korean, not a Japanese/Korean mix. Which is fine and often preferable, unless you've got Ming Tsai in the kitchen. Also note: no liquor license, so don't count on a saketini.

However, for a meal that's both visually appealing and tasty, don't miss the bento boxes for lunch -- sushi, sashimi, dumplings, fresh fruit all tucked into their own little cubbies. Cute and yummy. -- Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey

Wasabi is at 15 E. Kirby at Woodward inside the Park Shelton and across from the DIA. Call 638-1272. Hours are 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday,  noon-10:30 p.m. Saturday. Parking is available on the street along Kirby and on Woodward. The DIA and museums also offer parking lots nearby, including one at Woodward and Farnsworth.

Taste of Ethiopia
It's easy to get into a routine  on Eastern Market Saturdays -- breakfast at Farmer's or Russell Street Deli before shopping, or lunch and drinks at Vivio's after. But it's never a bad thing to get out of a rut, even if it is a tasty one.

Taste of Ethiopia offers something new to the Saturday marketgoer. The menu includes scrambled eggs or tofu with injera -- the soft flat bread the culture is known for. For a more lunchy selection,  there's an Ethio-plate you can fill with your own three choices off the regular lunch menu.

Eastern Market, Midtown and Downtown office workers also will find it a welcome new lunch spot on weekdays. There is a one-trip lunch buffet -- you can either dine in or carry out. The restaurant offers beef and lamb stew, tilapia, collard greens, spicy lentils, cabbage and carrots, plantains and rice or injera. All of this will set you back just $9.45.

The decor is simple, with windows facing out on Russell Street -- perfect for market day people watching. There's a buffet and a handful of tables. The owner, Meskerem (Meskie) Gebreyohannes, and her staff are friendly and pleasant.

Something to try: the Red Rush, a fresh blend of beet, apple and carrot juices. And pass some more injera, please. -- Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Taste of Ethiopia is located at 2453 Russell St., on the same block as Supino Pizza and Russell Street Deli. Call 313-567-6000. Hours are 11 a.m.-3p.m. Monday-Friday, and 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. Parking is available on the street or Eastern Market lots.

Kelli B. Kavanaugh is Model D Development News editor. Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey is managing editor. Send comments here.

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