Southeast Michigan—home to Detroit and over half of the state's population—has not been particularly noted for its food scene. However, after moving 491 miles away from home, I realized that I'd been taking for granted the food experiences that I now find so endearing.
1. You probably know someone whose first job was at Leo's Coney Island.
You cannot drive for more than 20 minutes without spotting at least one Coney Island. The most well-known Coney restaurant may be Leo's, with over 60 locations within the region. This is your staple joint for American-Greek food, you and your friends' after-school hangout spot, and your parents' go-to when they just don't want to cook. If you get the chance, order the Detroit signature Coney dog, a hot dog topped with beanless meat chili, diced onions, and mustard.
2. You know fall doesn't officially begin until Cider Mill opens.
The most iconic part of a Michigan autumn and our apple season is the reopening of cider mills. My heart floods with joy when I walk through the crisp fall air towards the wooden mill, in anticipation of fresh honey crisp apple cider and warm donuts. Oftentimes, artisanal jams, fruit butters, and pumpkins displayed in large wooden crates are sold outside. In most mills, you can see the giant apple cider press and water wheel that make the cider.
3. You feel like you have to go to Zingerman's when you visit Ann Arbor.
Many Michiganders view Zingerman's Deli as the most famous sandwich shop outside of New York City, and with good reason. Zingerman's has a long-standing commitment to high-quality ingredients. All their meats are house-cured and their breads are baked from scratch. With their cheery color scheme, artisanal food samples, and enthusiastic waiters, Zingerman's is an experience in and of itself.
#SpoonTip: Zingerman's sandwiches are gargantuan, so when in doubt, order the small.
4. You go to the Original Pancake House when you want to amp up your breakfast game.
Although the chain did not start in Michigan, OHOP is an essential part of the Southeast Michigan breakfast scene. During peak weekend brunch hours, the line usually extends out to the parking lot. But the good news is that the food is every bit worth the wait. Their signatures include the Apple Pancake and the Dutch Baby, a sweet popover served with whipped butter, lemon, and powdered sugar.
5. You don't care how basic you look when you walk through Downtown Birmingham with your juice.
Southeast Michigan, especially Downtown Birmingham, has enough avocado toasts and smoothies to satisfy the basic white girl in all of us (no shame in being basic y'all). The highlights include Beyond Juice, which has the most incredible egg white sandwich, and Sweet Earth, a Michigan family-owned frozen yogurt shop that features a wide range of vegan, lactose-intolerant, and sugar-free options, as well as your standard flavors.
I miss hearing my dad say on a Saturday night after dinner, "So, anyone interested in Sweet Earth tonight?"
Ultimately, every Southeast Michigander knows that we are not only from best state, but the best part of the state. We also know that no matter how far we go and how great exotic cuisines are, there really is no place like home.