Anthony Bourdain in Detroit: 9 Spots Where Tony Ate

Many of the things we consider to be All-American originated from Detroit, or one of her neighboring cities along the Great Lakes where industry built America and then shipped it to the rest of the country.

Detroit isn’t just a national treasure. It IS America. And wherever you may live, you wouldn’t be there — and wouldn’t be who you are in the same way — without Detroit.

Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown

Anthony Bourdain visited Detroit three times: first as part of his “Rust Belt” episode (season 5, episode 13) of No Reservations, again as part of a book tour that became the “US Heartland” episode (season 6, episode 15) of No Reservations, and finally on a dedicated visit to film season 2 (episode 8) of Parts Unknown. These were his only three on-screen visits to Motor City.

Anthony Bourdain in Detroit Hero

If you’re planning a trip to Detroit, you’re in luck: many of the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Detroit during his visits are still open today – this is perhaps surprising given how he shows the downtrodden and depressed parts of the city and suggests that it’s hard to predict a positive future.

Nevertheless, you can eat well in Detroit, and Uncle Tony can be your guide. Read on for what he ate and where.

Want to watch the episode where Anthony Bourdain visits Detroit?
The “Rust Belt” episode of No Reservations is available on Amazon, Hulu, and Apple TV; the “US Heartland” episode of No Reservations is available on Amazon and Apple TV; and the Parts Unknown episode is available on Amazon and Apple TV.

In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Peoria, Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ, Bodwéwadmi (Potawatomi), Myaamia, Wyandot, Meškwahki·aša·hina (Fox), and Mississauga peoples, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

No Reservations (“Rust Belt”)

Bourdain’s first visit to Detroit occurs as part of a visit to several cities in this part of the country (including Buffalo and Baltimore); he’s accompanied by multi-time companion Zamir Gotta to show him a different side of America. The pair sample a variety of cuisines you might be surprised to find in this part of the country – or not at all if you know the way immigrant groups settled across the continent.

Polonia Restaurant

Anthony Bourdain in Detroit - Polish Food

First up, they visit Polonia Restaurant, to sample Polish food. Polish immigrants settled across the Great Lakes Region, including Detroit, so it’s easy to find great Polish food here. The pair enjoy a number of different foods, including pork fat on bread and pickles, followed by a selection of soups: cabbage soup, Easter soup with sausage, dill soup with sausage, and blood soup.

They also sample a number of other dishes, including sausage, stuffed cabbage, potato dumplings, goulash, roast duck with apple sauce, latke with mushrooms, and city chicken – which is actually veal on a stick.

Al-Ameer (Dearborn)

Next up, Tony and Zamir seek out Lebanese food; Bourdain comments how he’s excited to sample the flavors he was just coming to enjoy during his first, truncated Beirut trip.

At Al-Ameer restaurant in Dearborn (within the greater Detroit area), they sit down with Rashid, who happened to be on the same evac from Beirut back in 2006. Rashid runs the restaurant and orders most of the menu for Tony and Zamir to try, including baba ganoush, Tabbouleh, hummus, kibbeh, cheese and meat pies, and raw lamb kibbeh nayeh.

Cadieux Cafe

Anthony Bourdain in Detroit - Moules Frites

The pair’s third and final stop in Detroit is at Cadieux Cafe, a long-time establishment famous for hosting Belgian feather bowling – a unique take on the sport of bowling but which draws large crowds of Belgians and others too.

Over the course of a game which looks as much like bocce as bowling, Tony attempts to settle a score with Zamir – for issues like the “Hitler-Stahlin pact” and “the massage in Uzbekistan” – before the pair tuck into belgian beer stew, moules frites (mussels and fries), and plenty of beer.

No Reservations (“US Heartland”)

Bourdain’s second trip to Detroit was brief – as mentioned, it was part of a book tour in 2009-2010. During that trip, he made only one stop on camera, and though it wasn’t exactly in Detroit (it was in Livonia, on the outskirts of the city) it did feature a Detroit-area chef training the next generation of chefs.

School Craft College

Anthony Bourdain in Detroit - Charcuterie

School Craft College is a local community college in the Detroit area. There, Chef Brian Polcyn, who started Forest Grill in Birmingham (another Detroit outskirt), gives Tony a lesson in charcuterie followed by an incredible tasting spread followed by bacon-wrapped venison tourine with chanterelles. The two talk about the fine art of charcuterie and teaching skills like this to preserve different food traditions.

It is the only place Bourdain visits during this trip, but certainly had my mouth watering craving some great cured meats.

Parts Unknown

Tony made a long overdue return to Detroit in 2013; this time, his visit was dedicated to showcasing how much Detroit had lost, especially following the 2008 recession and struggles in the automotive industry. But as you might expect, he also shows a different side of the city through its industry and cuisine.

Duly’s Palace

Anthony Bourdain in Detroit - Coney Island Chili Dog

While Bourdain is understandably surprised to be eating a food he can easily find “at the source” near his home in NYC, he still follows local advice and heads to Duly’s Palace for a… hot dog.

Specifically, he tries a Coney Island-style dog smothered in mustard, chili, and onions which makes a mess but earns the description of “symphonic” from Tony after eating it.

Cutter’s Bar & Grill

Next, he heads to Cutters, a local watering hole, for a bite and conversation with political advisor Adolph Mongo. The pair talk about modern politicians, corruption, and Detroit’s history and future, and tuck into burgers and other pub food, paired with vodka on ice.

Greedy Greg’s

Anthony Bourdain in Detroit - Pork Smoked Collards

While it might just look like someone grilling in their yard, Greedy Greg’s Soul Food is far from it: this is, as Tony describes it, a “do-it-yourself barbecue joint” run by the family that owns the land – and does things their way to help survive as Detroit struggles.

Bourdain tucks into ribs, rib tips, mac and cheese, and pork-loaded smoked collards that he says are among the best he has ever tried.

Guns & Butter

Chef Craig Lieckfelt was one of the world-class and well-trained chefs to come home to Detroit and be part of its revival: during his visit, Tony was able to get a seating at the chef’s Guns & Butter pop-up.

To show how Detroit dining has an upscale angle, Bourdain and his dining companion – journalist Charlie LeDuff – tuck into warm egg yolk with smelt roe; chilled summer soup with melon in a lemon verbena broth; smoked mussels in lobster broth; baby Greek salad with beets, tomato, and feta; potato pierogis and kielbasa with Beurre fondue and burnt butter pine nuts; and locally sourced lamb with sour cherries, mulberries, pistachios, and yogurt sauce.

Pupuseria y Restaurante Salvadoreño

Anthony Bourdain in Detroit - Pupusas

This at-the-time unofficial – and illegal – restaurant was serving traditional Salvadoran dishes primarily to local immigrants and first-generation Americans with Salvadoran heritage.

Over steamed tamales, ground pork chicharron pupusas, curtido (spicy pickled slaw), pollo asado, and shrimp in garlic butter, Tony, his fixer, and another local talk about how they want Pupuseria y Restaurant Salvadoreño to stay under the radar; today, you can visit and enjoy the same dishes in a legal, licensed establishment.

Have any questions about these places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Detroit during his three visits? Let me know in the comments below!

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Valerie is a travel writer currently based in Cleveland, but her favorite destinations are Alaska, London, and Jordan – only one of which Bourdain ever visited! You can find her writing on Lonely Planet, Forbes, and her travel blog, Valerie & Valise.

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