I’m definitely a foodie.  I love to cook…trying new recipes and making up my own.  I love to go to new restaurants, especially mom-and-pop places.  There are almost no chains that can compare to a well-done local restaurant.  In fact, I have a sort of rule when I travel that I try to never go to chain restaurants that I can get at home. Of course, I don’t go to them when I’m at home either, but that’s another story. Here’s a list of a few of my favorites with their reviews:

Athen’s Coney Island
Royal Oak, Michigan

If you’ve never had a coney (or you’ve had ones you don’t like), you’ve got to try this place. No matter what people say, coney islands are from Detroit and the good ones can only be had right here. In it’s truest form, a coney is a chili sauce that has no beans, a very fine meat, and a unique, slightly spicy sauce. The chili drenches a hot dog and then is topped with mustard and onions. I’m not a huge hot dog fan (except at a baseball park), so I opt for the coney burger or “loose” as it’s known. Same basic idea, except the hot dog is replaced with spicy, fine, loose ground meat (not a patty as the name implies). This place is a metro Detroit legend and in my opinion, it’s the best. It’s not expensive, the food is fast, and it tastes great. They remodeled not to long ago which can often be the death of a restaurant, but not this one. While they definitely changed the charm (not better or worse, just changed), the food is still as good as ever.

Casey’s Tavern
Ann Arbor, Michigan

In an often-missed part of Ann Arbor, away from the student traffic, is a tiny tavern that can only be described as a “towny” bar. It’s always packed and there’s almost always a wait. The bleu cheese burger and fries are incredible. Friends of mine rave about the onion rings as well. The food is about as authentic pub food as you can get and the atmosphere feels comfortable though the breeze from the front door in winter can be a bit brisk.

Emeril’s
New Orleans, Las Vegas, Orlando

My hopes were high for this place and they were truly exceeded. The food was so amazing, it makes you truly understand what Emeril means when he says it’s a “food of love thing.” I’ve been to several of his restaurants, and Emeril hasn’t let me down yet (except for his sitcom, of course).  One of my favorite things was to eat at the chairs that overlook the kitchen (set up much like his show).  From there, watching and interacting with the chefs is easy and fun.  They’ll explain what they’re doing and even give little samples where they can.

Grey Gelding
Saratoga Springs, New York

Saratoga Springs is a strange town in many ways.  During the cold winter months, it only has about 25,000 people, but it’s built to handle the surge of an additional 100,000 people during the summer months and especially horse racing season.  In the city itself, there are very few chains which have been mostly relegated out to Wilton.  In town though, there are a ton of great mom-and-pop restaurants such as Hattie’s (awesome real southern food), Il Forno, Brindisi’s, and Ravenous.  However, none of them compare to Grey Gelding.  Atmosphere, Food, Wine, and Service…they have it all.  Set in a warm, cozy environment, Scott & Jamie brought years of catering experience together to create a great, constantly changing menu.  They spend a lot of time testing items and pairing them with wine recommendations.  Their quality and selection of wines by the bottle and by the glass far exceed any other restaurant in town including the Wine Bar.  What really sets them apart though is their exceptional and friendly service.  When you visit, say hi to Jamie, Scott, Drew, and Ben for me.

Holly Hotel
Holly, Michigan

Nestled in an out-of-the-way section of an out-of-the-way town, this restaurant is a real find and one of my all-time favorites. The atmosphere is outstanding as part of an old small-town hotel. The food and service are absolutely incredible. It is a bit pricey, but it’s worth every bit.
 
La Dolce Vita
Ann Arbor, Michigan 

Tucked away between Gratzi and the Chop House in the Ann Arbor business district is a tiny-but-elegant little dessert place. I think it’s really the atmosphere and the service that make this place, but it’s a great way to start and/or end a night in scenic downtown Ann Arbor.  Check out their dessert and their wine menu while sitting in the comfy chairs and sofas
 
Sorrento’s
Flushing, Michigan

I’m a huge Italian food fan. The place isn’t fancy. The food isn’t fancy. The location isn’t fancy. They give you a lot. It’s really good. It doesn’t cost much. As a warning though, you will have left overs, and the left overs stink like no other leftovers I’ve ever smelled. They still taste great when warmed up, but don’t leave them in the car for too long.  I especially love their baked pastas with the meat sauce, and most importantly don’t forget the world’s best homemade cheese sticks! 
 
Zingerman’s
Ann Arbor, Michigan 

No proper mention of food and Ann Arbor can go without mentioning Zingerman’s. Their food is not cheap, but it is the best. Somewhere as a cross between and deli and a restaurant, the staff caters to your every whim, especially on hard to find delicacies. I recently had breakfast there for the first time. Though lunch is what they are known for, even breakfast was incredible.  Other fun side trips are to the bakery and creamery where the fresh breads, cheeses, and ice creams are made every day serving a good part of south eastern Michigan.  Be sure to take the tours offered on the weekends.  They are educational, fun, and most importantly very tasty!