Secret food tour: All the best Downriver eats (and drinks) you've never heard of

This article was originally published in our sister publication Metromode.

If like me (until recently) you’ve never ventured Downriver, you are seriously missing out on some good eats (and drinks).


I know; nobody told me either.

It’s like some secret community of food destinations nobody wants you to know about (but they totally do).

Nonetheless, I recently took a mini-tour Downriver to check out some of the area’s iconic food spots and some newcomers on the block.


A Taste of Southern Hospitality


Before you walk in the door, the white, plantation-style building on Jefferson Avenue, adorned with a forest green awning, sets the tone for a unique dining experience, highlighted by the charming decor, Southern hospitality, and a fine dining menu with a farm-to-table approach.


Savannah's RestaurantWhen local business owners Joseph and Laurie Dixon purchased Savannah's Southern Style in Trenton nearly five years ago, the financial advisors had zero experience running a restaurant.


What they did have, however, was a strong background in business management and a developed palate for good food and wine.


Inspired by their desire to preserve a piece of Trenton's history, the husband and wife decided to take a chance, and in October 2015, they purchased their third local business, becoming the new owners of Savannah's.


After major renovations and staff additions, Laurie says they learned early on, through trial and error, what not to do.


She credits their growing success, in part, to Savannah's executive chef and co-developer of their menu, inspired by always-fresh, locally sourced ingredients.


"What I pride myself on is consistent, excellent food," says Laurie. "What we sell is the experience."


Savannah's Southern Style in Trenton - $$

Menu Spotlight: Coffee-dusted bone-in ribeye

Catering? Yes

Experience: Southern nostalgia and charm.




Brunch on Vinyl at The Glass Onion Griddle


What's a food tour without a trip to a local diner for breakfast?


It isn't.


The Glass Onion Griddle


Serving as a bonus nod to owner Anthony Bagdasarian’s love for music is the framed vinyl and artwork that adorn the diner’s walls, including a very cool Glass Onion-inspired piece.


Opening in 2016, the Glass Onion Griddle offers brunch (breakfast + lunch) daily. But get there early because they close at 3 pm, with extended hours on Fridays (open until 9 pm).


FYI: The diner is set to expand this year, with a focus on catering services and adding seating for guests.


The Glass Onion Griddle - $

Menu Spotlights: Crab Cake Eggs Benedict, "The Godfather" Sandwich

Catering? Yes

Experience: Good eats, good vibes, and vinyl.




The Taco Stand Taqueria 2 - Taylor


I learned about this hidden gem while talking with locals over breakfast at The Glass Onion Griddle (go figure). Just 7 minutes away, I paid my bill and headed right over (because, tacos).


When owner Carlos Cantu opened The Taco Stand Taqueria in 2016 in Allen Park, he wanted to bring authentic Mexican cuisine to the area because, quite frankly, it didn't exist. In March 2018, Cantu opened his second location in the neighboring city of Taylor.


The staff pride themselves on their homemade salsas, pico de gallo and guacamole, made every morning with locally sourced, fresh ingredients.


In an effort to provide an eco-friendly atmosphere, the restaurant is working to go paperless and offers recycling options for dine-in guests. Customers, new and loyal, can visit them online for more information, including their custom catering services.


The Taco Stand Taqueria 2 - $

Menu Spotlights: Tacos (of course), Carne Asada Fries, Burritos (California and Taco Stand)

Catering? Taco truck available to rent for events.

Experience: Tacos *insert mouth-watering emoji here




Wyandotte’s New Kid on the Water


Wyandotte native Joshua Cade is no stranger to the restaurant business. Prior to opening Whiskeys on the Water in 2016, he served as the general manager of Lions, Tigers, and Beers until the local bar burned down in 2012.


Whiskeys on the WaterRecently celebrating their three-year anniversary, Cade says the bar and restaurant serve as "everything to everyone," offering lunch and dinner Monday through Friday, with the addition of brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.


Menu favorites include the Fresh Atlantic Salmon and Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich.


At the bar? Whiskey, of course, and your garden variety of cocktails. Tapping into a growing industry trend, they also offer Spiked Seltzers, which be described as a flavored hard club soda.


Looking for some weekend fun? A second-floor dining area converted into a dance floor, DJ, and drinks make for a good time out with your favorite party people.


Whiskeys on the Water - $$

Menu Spotlights: Fresh Atlantic Salmon, Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich

Bar Favorites: Old-Fashioned, Mai Tai

Catering? Yes

Experience: Weekend fun on the second floor.




Mediterranean for Lunch at The Avenue


Longtime residents and business owners OJ and Glenda Jaward take pride in their River Rogue community — and they couldn't see themselves living or investing anywhere else.


The Avenue"This is a small city, and you have generations and generations of people that just don't leave," says Glenda. "And that's a good thing."


Looking to help fill the void of limited dining options in the area, the husband and wife opened The Avenue Restaurant in 2016.


The key to their success? Their loyal customer base made up largely of local factory workers who flock to the restaurant daily for a Mediterranean-American cuisine-inspired lunch.


And, even during the "slow period" that follows, the phone doesn't stop ringing for orders from hungry locals.


The Avenue Restaurant - $

Menu Spotlights: Shawarmas, Angus Beef Burgers

Catering? Yes

Lunch destination with strong community ties.



Italian Market on the Corner of Powell and Oakwood (Honorable Mention)


During my initial search for local food staples Downriver, a friend recommended Gonellas Foods “in Melvindale.”


Gonella's. Photo by David Lewinski.Turns out, as I learned halfway into my visit, the 75-year-old community staple belongs to Southwest Detroit. Still, I wanted to include this revered Italian market, best known for their cold-cut subs and olive bar.


So what makes this place so special? Honoring the market’s founders and their Italian heritage, owner Peter Hanni, and his sons Dior and Delon, have kept everything exactly the same since purchasing the establishment 30 years ago.


Gonellas Foods - $

Menu Spotlights: “The Italian,” Olive Bar

Catering? Yes

Experience: A little taste of Italy.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.