Al Poe is a passionate lover of great food and beer. And Al Poe has a mission: to help people become more adventurous eaters and greater appreciators of all types of delicious food. Plus, Al Poe is funny as hell. His unique sense of humor sets him apart from many other reviewers.
Garnering international attention, there are 35 million+ views on his food photos and reviews on Google. There are also 3 million+ views annually of his reviews and photos on Yelp. Even Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern follow Detroit’s Al Poe!
Talking with Al Poe, you get an international food education. He is a food lover, blogger, historian, BBQ pitmaster, and a prolific restaurant reviewer. When it comes to sharing the hidden glories and succulent subtleties of these topics, his excitement is contagious.
Blogging since 2009, Al writes his own reviews and takes his own photos. “I use my little Nokia camera, nothing fancy. I want the reviews to be as real as possible,” says Al, “The goal is to highlight the amazing variety of food we have, especially in the Detroit area.”
Al Poe’s reviews of restaurants always help boost the establishments business. Mr. Poe has accrued an enormous underground following of foodies, food bloggers, visitors, restaurateurs and more who rely on Al to give them what few others can: the Truth.
He is regularly off the beaten path and always first to know about the new hot spots. Al also has a phenomenal range of historical information on instant-recall from the vast encyclopedia inside his head.
As a dedicated restaurant reviewer, Al factors in many variables such as food quality, price range, ambiance, service/hospitality, attention to detail, etc., into his reviews. And what better place to be right now in the world of food, than in Detroit?
Detroit is a Budding Gastropolis, a Foodie’s Wet Dream. Evolving to the pulpit of food worship, Reverend Al ushers in a new generation of food appreciators, their open maws on salivate, jaws cranked and ready to nosh.
Al’s primary niche is Detroit (Southwest, Westside, Corktown), Dearborn and Downriver. But he travels and eats all over the map.
Hygrade Deli: “Detroit’s Best Reuben”
The Captain, Al Poe and I are sitting inside Hygrade Deli on Michigan Avenue. Stu Litt the owner and Linda Holmes the waitress and several others, including Will the cook are hanging out with us. Al Poe is on his third cup of coffee and talking a mile a minute.
“We’re in reuben corned beef heaven here.”
“Hygrade opened in 1955, it’s the time-capsule that food archaeologists can open daily and enjoy. And when I’m craving the best reuben sandwich I’ve ever had, I go to Hygrade. It’s on par with the famous NYC reubens.”
“The movie ‘Batman v.s. Superman’ and the tv series ‘Detroit 187’ shot here. They had dead bodies on the floor. Linda Holmes the waitress is in the Batman movie and Hygrade is called Ralli’s Diner. The tables, chairs, floor tiles, everything here is a retro original, even Linda!”
“Detroit is famous for its corned beef. Sy Ginsberg’s corned beef comes from United Meat & Deli (3723 Hubbard St) just a few blocks from here. Stu’s corned beef used to come in 100-250-lb. barrels! Hygrade’s great taste is all about the pickle and the Sy Ginsberg corned beef.”
“They use real Topor’s Pickles here. Natural fermentation and no vinegar. McClures Pickles are good Detroit pickles but Topor’s are the original. Topor’s Pickles (2850 Standish St) are also around the corner from here.”
“Topor’s pickles used to come in 15-gallon barrels, now they come in 5-lb. pails. Topor’s Pickle Company started in 1960 in Eastern Market, then in the mid-70’s they moved to Southwest Detroit. The company is now run by Larry Topor.”
“I support 95% of local small business mom n’ pop restaurant owners. Many of these shops fold after decades because their kids aren’t involved, the profit margins are slim, and they’re forced to close. But true creativity and innovation emanates from these temples of delicious food.”
“Take Stu here, for instance. Stu’s father Bernie used to run this place. Now Stu comes into work every day. He preps, cooks all day, closes, then spends hours after work doing the books, orders, inventory. You gotta love, admire and respect that. Plus, this neighborhood is about to boom big time!”
“Hygrade is located in a neighborhood called Westside Corktown, which is a part of Southwest Detroit. This part of Corktown is the most unique section of Corktown. Plus, the rents are cheaper. Linda lives in North Corktown where the rents have tripled. Johnny’s Noodle King is located in South Corktown. This area, Westside Corktown, will be the next part of Detroit to boom, I’m telling you.”
Hygrade Deli (3640 Michigan Ave, Detroit)
Southwest Detroit & the Greater Detroit Area
“After World War II, tons of Mexican immigrants started moving to Southwest Detroit in the 1950’s. And when they arrived, they brought their spectacular recipes and food ideas with them!”
“We have Cabresto, Detroit tequila by way of Jalisco, Mexico, from the Lopez family. The great local Hispanic singer, Jessica Hernandez, her family owns Armando’s Mexican Restaurant. The list goes on of how these immigrants have helped culinarily enrich the Detroit foodscape.”
“The Greater Detroit area is an incredible mix of hundreds of international cultures. Assimilation of new ethnicities oftentimes can be difficult, but food magic can also happen.”
“We’re ridiculously fortunate that we live in an area that offers exposure to so many great and wildly different types of food! Many of these places are small, affordable and run by hard-working families.”
“All too often, suburban gringos (yeah, I’m looking at you North Oakland County!) limit themselves by only going to Bagley Avenue, which they consider to be the extent of ‘Mexicantown’ and what they get is bad Mexican food smothered in a ton of cheese. My advice is for you to explore further beyond the confines of that very limited comfort zone and see the rest of the area.”
Al’s Top Eats: 22 Must-Try Places in Greater Detroit!
1.) Hygrade Deli (3640 Michigan Ave, Detroit) “Detroit’s best reuben and coleslaw. Best damn corned beef, sliced heavenly thin, lovingly smushed between great sourdough rye bread. Always order mine with double meat and I always walk out stuffed.”
2.) Los Altos Taqueria (7056 W. Vernor Hwy, Detroit) “This is the best real deal Mexican food in Southwest Detroit. Taco’s sold by the thousands daily. Two taco lunch special with refried beans, onions & cilantro, on the cheap. Plus, some Grande Pozole stew (pronounced po-zo-ley), can’t go wrong. Always fast, friendly service with a smile.”
3.) Taqueria Mi Pubelo (7278 Dix St, Detroit) “One word: fantastic! Classic two meat plate with chorizo and beef heart. Huracahe topped with al pastor. Negra Modelo on tap. Grande Pozole soup with large chunks of pork butt and chick peas. See my photos, you’ll be hungry.”
4.) Mi Barrio Plaza (4865 Michigan Ave, Detroit) “Sort of camouflaged in a long storefront, this building is white in the front and green in the back. Only open Saturday’s and Sunday’s, this is an old school authentic Mexican market run by a family from Mexico City. They have stalls inside and you can watch them make tortillas fresh in the back on wooden presses called Hurache’s. They have the best goat meat. The husband kills the goat at home and brings it in. Also try the $1.00 flan and the mole.”
5.) Tacos El Primo (3700 Central St, Detroit) “This is a non-descript flea market warehouse near Central and John Kronk. There’s a taco trailer outside and a secret restaurant inside. You walk in, they have a table of salsas, radishes, cucumbers, etc., $1.50 tacos. The lady has a big copper pot full of lard. She rolls dough circles, drops it in the bubbling pot, 3mins each side, it browns, she takes it out, cuts it, stuffs it with Mexican chocolate, rolls it in cinnamon and powdered sugar, it’s $2.00 and it’s the best real churro you’ll ever have.”
6.) Sabina’s Polish Restaurant (3840 Oakwood, Melvindale) “Authentic Polish 100%. Sabina Koziel’s family are from Warsaw and they have a great dill pickle soup. They used to have a great duck blood soup (which goes great with an IPA by the way!) but they mysteriously took it off the menu. Make sure you try the Sweet Farmer’s Cheese Pierogi’s fried, stuffed cabbage, City Chicken, Polish combo plate, Farmers Cheese Nalesniki’s (aka: Polish crepes) topped with applesauce, sour cream and dusted with powdered sugar and the unique open-face Polish sandwich called the Zapiekani, one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had.”
7.) Sheeba Yemeni Restaurant (10327 Dix Ave, Dearborn) “South Dearborn is Yementown, near the Ford Rouge Plant and there’s also a big enclave of Yemeni’s in Hamtramck. Yemeni food rules! Try the Lamb Haneeth, that’s slow-roasted lamb served with mandi (basmati) rice and get a cup of Adeni Tea, which is authentic Yemeni herbal tea.”
8.) Ishtar Iraqi Restaurant (3625 15 Mile rd, Sterling Heights) “There’s the Iraqi Mile in Warrendale on Warren Road between Southfield and Greenfield, which has 12 Iraqi businesses and delicious samoun bread. And there’s Ishar in Sterling Heights. Try the Iraqi Chicken Shawarma Samoun. And definitely get the Iraqi Kabob dinner, which comes with four kabobs. The Iraqi Kabob here mixes lamb with fat, they skewer it and you can watch the fat drip onto the coals below. It’s mouth-wateringly delicious.”
9.) Zenith’s Lunch (11295 W. Jefferson Ave, River Rouge) “A true Southern eating spot in Michigan. Excellent cast iron skillet cornbread, fried bologna sandwiches, Hillbilly steaks, pinto beans, pineapple upside down cake, etc. Most meals are under five bucks and fabulouso. Jackie ‘Dean’ Baker sure knows what she’s doing.”
10.) M Cantina (13215 Michigan Ave, Dearborn) “Halal Mexican spot run by the illimitable Junior Merino from Brooklyn, New York, everything here is phenomenal. Marinated shrimp tacos, filet mignon tacos, plantain chips (shaved thin, look like bacon almost), chicken tinga empanada, Cinco Leches Cake, etc.
Read Mark Kurlyandchik’s review, which I consider to be one of the best restaurant reviews of all-time”
Mark Kurlyandchik’s Review of M Cantina
11.) Kardashians Armenian Bakery and Grill (11330 Allen rd, Taylor) “Good wood-fired food here. Many Armenians were exiled from their country, they went to Lebanon then came to the USA. The owner’s dad is 2nd cousins with Bob Kardashian, who is the father of Kim. Hickory wood goes in the oven here, they wood-fire everything. This is true Armenian street food. Lahmadjoon is a blend of meat and spices made into a sort of thin personal size pizza. Arancini are fried arborio rice balls, Naples-styles, filled with creamy cheese and served with marinara. Just try everything.”
12.) Alcamo’s Italian Market (4423 Schaefer rd, Dearborn) “$5.00 subs and Arancini (Sicilian style rice balls) are out of this world. Best Italian sub in the area. Fresh flavorful meats, cheeses, sausages, olives. I’m here at least twice a month. Also try the wine, parsley sausage, Mici Romanian sausage, garlic butter. The breads, oils and olives section will blow you away.”
13.) Woodpile BBQ Shack (303 S. Main St, Clawson) “Big Bubba is the pitmaster at Woodpile BBQ. This is real Texas BBQ, folks, courtesy of Steve “Bubba” Coddington. They have the best beef brisket in the area. Fat is love, melts in your mouth. Beautiful bark, deep pink smoke ring, yeah we got a true boss on the smokers. You gotta risk it to get the brisket. Start with The Woodpile Sandwich (brisket, pulled pork, jalapeno cheddar sausage, candied bacon), then go from there.”
14.) Vince’s Italian Restaurant (1341 Springwells St, Detroit) “93yr old Mama is in the kitchen stirring sauce and they have one helluva Pizza Bread Beef Burger. Plus, great pizza and pastas from this family-run restaurant. Been going here since I was kid and I’ll be coming here ‘til I die.”
15.) Duly’s Place (5458 Vernor Hwy, Detroit) “Detroit’s #1 coney is right across from Holy Redeemer at a circa 1921 diner run by Albanian’s. If you’re Downtown, go for Lafayette over American. If you go to Duly’s, get a coney and use the restroom. To get to the restroom, you have to literally walk thru the kitchen. Best kept secret: Duly’s Mexican Omelet.”
16.) Tamaleria Nuevo Leon (2669 Vernor, Detroit) “John King Used & Rare Books is where you go when you want the best books. Tamaleria Nuevo Leon is where you go when you want the best tamales. Classic old school tamale shop, been going strong since 1957. Best tamales in Michigan. Cash only, funny dancing tamale logo and try the Spicy Pork Tamales.”
17.) Hungarian Rhapsody (14315 Northline rd, Southgate) “Phenomenal. Real Hungarian Goulash brought to your table inside a little mini cauldron! It comes with Palacsinta (pronounced ‘pala-chin-ta’) Hungarian crepes filled with warm apricots. Also try the Hungarian Paprika Hot Wings, Turos Teszta, Steak Budapest, Chicken Paprikash. It’s all good.”
18.) Fredi the Pizzaman’s Pizza & Pasta (17900 Allen rd, Melvindale) “Hidden gem in downtown Melvindale. Can’t go wrong with Fredi’s Goulash, it’s spicy and filling and the big slices of pepperoni pizza. Also, every week the owner Fredi Bello does a sports podcast called ‘Fredi’s Corner in the Pizza Cave’ from inside the restaurant!”
Fredi’s Corner in the Pizza Cave weekly podcast
19.) Pupuseria y Restaurante Salvadoreno (3149 Livernois, Detroit) “Pupusa’s are thick, handmade corn tortilla’s stuffed with goodness. These are not the thin, floppy, assembly-line made tortilla’s you Taco Bell zombies are used to. Try the Jalapeno y Queso Papusa, that’s queso cheese and jalapeno papusa topped with Curtido, a spicy cabbage slaw. Get the Two Papusas with Rice and Beans Dinner.”
20.) Asty Time Dominican Cuisine (7340 McGraw, Detroit) “Monster restaurant! Owner started in his basement, now he has a restaurant. They make a dish called Mofongo n Camarones al Ajillo, that mean’s fried plantain and pork belly topped with garlic shrimp and a fantastic garlic butter sauce that will make you realize God exists.”
21.) Pollo Los Gallos (7135 Dix St, Detroit) “They use real lump charcoal here and you can get a pollos al carbon, that’s a whole chicken cooked over charcoal, for $12.00 dinner to go. Smoked low n’ slow over charcoal is the trick. The dinner includes a whole chicken, 12oz beans or rice, 10 tortillas, 6 half-ounce salsas, 4oz pickled onions with habanero peppers all for only $12.00! They also have goat soup and little plastic containers of $1.00 jello here.”
22.) La2 Mooshi Grill (7737 Wyoming, Dearborn) “Fantastic Lebanese-Brazilian mashup. This isn’t like those fake Brazilian Churrascaria chains. This is a real Lebanese-Brazilian chef who spent 19-years in Brazil honing his craft. The Brazilian Steak here is out of this world juicy and flavorful. Also, the best skewers of meat. Skewers of chicken tawook, sojuk, beef kebab and more.”
Al Poe’s Biography: Krautbier, Spatchcocking, Southwest & Beyond!
“I’m a beer brewer, hophead, BBQ’er, food lover. I’m a hillbilly, descended from Kentucky and West Virginny hillfolk. Most foodies are younger. I’m gonna be 60 in April 2018.”
“I was born in 1958 in Southwest Detroit at Hubbard and Porter in the Hubbard Farms neighborhood right by Clark Park and the Hotel Yorba. Was raised here and roamed the streets of all the neighborhoods. Spent time with Hungarians, Mexicans, Italian families all over. Used to shine shoes on Michigan Avenue making five bucks a day and no, you tell Billy Batts, I won’t go home and get my shine box!”
“In 1976, at 17 years old, I joined the U.S. Army and was stationed in Germany, that glorious land of beer and brats. Was surprised to find the German women could out-drink me. They could easily drink 5 liters to my 2 liters. In 1977, I spent a week at Munich Oktoberfest and I ain’t ever been the same since. My time in Germany inspired me to try food and beer from all over the world.”
“Came home back to Southwest Detroit, went to Wayne County Community College. Started a family, I’ve been married 36 years now. Have a daughter.”
“I eat out 300 days a year. How can he afford this? Everyone asks. Well, I worked in auto industry management for 30+ years. I now have a Social Security pension and lotsa food-sampling time on my hands.”
“Plus, we don’t eat at high-end restaurants. I go to a place where I can feed the whole family for under $30.00. And if I have any advice for fellow patrons, it’s please try to be a big tipper. Tip 25-30% on your bill at these mom n’ pop places.”
“I moved out of SW a few years ago and now I live Downriver in Lincoln Park. 30% of my neighbors are expats from Southwest Detroit. Lincoln Park is ‘Mexicantown 2.0’. Lot of Hispanic families live here and thanks to them, we have real tacos, tamales, pozole, you name it, cabron.”
“I spend probably six hours per day researching food on the computer, scouring for new restaurant openings and talking with foodie friends. I love food!”
“Started BBQ’ing in my early twenties. Real BBQ has been my passion. My favorite pastime is brewing beer and smoking meats. Spatchcocking my birds is another specialty. Spatchcocking is where you cut out the back bone and lay it flat in a skillet or smoke it on the grill. Make a brine mix of salt, water, spices, etc, drop the meat in there. Next morning, bring it out, dry it and spatchcock that bad boy.”
“The key to great BBQ is low n’ slow for hours. The marbling, the bark, the meat should be so good that you don’t even need any sauce afterwards.”
Detroit Lions Tailgating @ Eastern Market
“About ten or so years ago, Kevin Nowak started the now defunct www.DetroitTailgate.com Around then I joined him in the annual Detroit Tailgate Chili Cookoffs.”
“Every Detroit Lions home game, 7:30am, I was master cook for 250+ tailgaters at Eastern Market in the parking lot of Shed 5. We had free kegs from Atwater Brewery, then later Motor City Brewing Company.”
“We don’t do it anymore. Denny Arney and the Tub Gaters are still going strong though. They fill up a hot tub in a Sterling Heights garage and truck it down to Shed 5.”
“When you go down there, make sure you find the big tent where they have the Honolulu Blue Juice. This is the famous Detroit Lions Tailgating cocktail, very strong, made of four different liquors.”
“If you’ve never tail-gated or tub-gated, throw on some Honolulu Blue and get your ass down to Shed 5 during a Lions home game! I was a 20-year season ticket holder and highly recommend it.”
Detroit Lions Tubgaters
Al Poe & the Bob-Lo Boats
Boblo Island Amusement Park was an internationally popular amusement park on an island in the Detroit River from 1898-1993. Some of the old Bob-Lo Boats (ie: big passenger ferries) thankfully still exist in private ownership.
Al Poe is a Bob-Lo Boat conservator, tour guide and lifelong fan of Boblo Island.
“We used to go to Bob-Lo Island all the time back when it existed. Now the island is all condo’s, the amusement park is gone. However, one of the old 190-foot long passenger steamships, the SS Ste. Claire, is still around.”
“For over five years, we were part of a volunteer restoration team where we would drive to Lorain, Ohio every weekend from May to November to John Belko’s house. John bought the SS Ste. Claire in 2001 and we would go there to help restore the boat.”
“John sold it in 2006 to Dr. Ron Katoo. Ron lives in Detroit and is still working on restoring the boat into a dockside attraction.”
“I was a Boblo Boat Tour Guide and conducted hundreds of tours on the history of the boats. There is also a Boblo Boat Documentary, which I participated in, you should check it out!”
Boblo Boats Documentary
Boblo restoration page
Don’t Get Tricked By Fake Food Pix
“Many of the high-end corporate restaurants hire Food Instagrammers to make their food look good and post fake, stylized pictures online. The food itself is doctored up to look perfect, it’s not real.”
“Restaurants pay them money as paid promoters, which is essentially Payola for Instagrammers. There’s a certain toxic pretentiousness in putting up such a front like this, it’s a greedy way of misleading the general public.”
“Hospitality is huge. Arrogant restaurants are pointless. Great food pictures without the corresponding outstanding service and hospitality to go with it, do nothing but hurt your restaurant in the long run.”
“Social media advertisers get paid up to $3,000/mnth to persuade you to go to expensive eateries. You work too hard for your money, don’t fall for it.”
Hood Foodie: Al Poe is the Inner-City Foodie
“Who doesn’t love food??? Foodlove is one of the few things that unites everybody in the world.”
“And always remember: Fat is Flavor. Mercury Burger Bar, by the Train Station, they fry their fries in lard. And real chili sauce has beef hearts in it. Try making some Hillbilly Goulash sometime. Fat is Flavor.”
“Half of all the nice new restaurants will close in my lifetime. Why? Because the rents will rise and they’ll be forced to shutter. But great food will continue.”
“All the ham kings are cousins. They buy whole hams from Dearborn Brand Ham down on Wyoming Street and slice it themselves. Sticking together and local businesses supporting each other is key.”
Some of Al’s Inspirations
“Mark Kurlyandchik, the Detroit Free Press food writer, is one of the best food writers in the business”
“Breanna Houck runs Eater Detroit. Her insights and coverage are fantastic.”
“The Detroit photographer Scott Spellman is a food photo master.”
“Chuck’s Eat the Street: visits Hygrade Deli in this Detroit episode!”
“The Hungry Dudes are always doing something interesting.”
“Foodbeast is a fun food blog.”
Al Poe’s Final Thoughts on the Detroit Food Scene
“If I’m not parked at a restaurant, you can find me hanging out at any Detroit Lions football event or at Historic Fort Wayne (6325 W. Jefferson Ave, Detroit). I also love to walk along the Detroit Riverfront.”
“The dark side of rapid development is that Downtown Detroit right now is too overly saturated with pointlessly over-priced restaurants. Many of these places will fall hard in the daily battle of Capture the Almighty Dollar.”
“I love all the restaurant owners that are committed to making our city great and who somehow find a way to stick it out through the good and bad times.”
“Personally, I would love to see more South American restaurants and a Scottish restaurant in Detroit.”
“And always remember, you can be an explorer, a food traveler, right in your very own community.”
New Detroit Spots Al is Excited About:
PizzaPlex (4458 Vernor Hwy) “Real true wood-fired logs here plus a cool bonus in the form of a vintage sticker of old police precinct #’s on the wall!”
The Mutiny tiki bar (4654 Vernor Hwy) “Right down the street from PizzaPlex. Bout time we had a damn tiki bar on Vernor!”
Founders Brewery (456 Charlotte St). “Love anything from Founders with their heavy hops. I also smoke ribs with Founders Stout. Founders also makes a really good Imperial Black IPA. Welcome to the neighborhood, boys!”
Woodpile BBQ (6402 Woodward) “Incredibly exited for Woodpile’s second location opening in 2018 in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood, right off the QLine streetcar stop. Texas-style brisket at the new Baltimore Station is the finger-lickin’ ticket.”
Detroit Fall Beer Festival @ Eastern Market (October 2018) “I wear real lederhosen from Germany and a pretzel necklace to take the flavor away and help cleanse the palate when trying new beers. They have over 900 beers from 90+ Michigan breweries here!”
Detroit Festival of Books @ Eastern Market (July 15th, 2018) “Books, funk music, beer and a ton of food trucks and food vendors! What’s not to like? Everything about this gathering is tremendous.”
Thank you for the food journey’s, Al Poe! We look forward to many more from you.
If you know of a hidden gem eatery, restaurant, bar, brewery, etc, that Al Poe should visit, let him know!
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Al Poe’s Pecan Smoked Chicken recipe (Hour Detroit winner)