Editor’s note: Despite the bad press from the national media, Detroit isn’t all about abandonded buildings and violence. Break the stereotype and discover the Asian hangouts of Detroit and surrounding areas.
Not many people know this but Detroit actually used to have a Chinatown. However, in the 1950’s they were forced to move out of their neighborhood for the construction of the John Lodge Freeway. The Chinese regrouped in the 1960’s and relocated to the Cass Corridor but eventually dispersed and fled to other areas due to violence, many of them moving across the border to Windsor, Canada.
Due to its history or not, Asians in Detroit today are still well dispersed around the metropolitan Detroit area. Despite the lack of a large centralized Asian community, micro communities exist all around the metropolitan Detroit area.
In the city of Madison Heights on John R. Road and surrounding towns such as Warren, are small concentration of Vietnamese, Thai and Philipinos businesses. If you are looking for Pho, authentic Filipino or Thai food, Madison Heights is where you should go.
Filipino hangouts start on the streets of Madison Heights where you can find an authentic home-made quality restaurant called New Lutong Pinoy. They serve a mean BBQ pork so good it makes grown men look for their mothers in the kitchen. If there was an epitome of Filipino hangouts in Detroit, it would be Royal Kubo of Clawson- a joint that serves solid Filipino fares and the best place in town to watch Pacquiao fights, and hosts karaoke nights on the weekends.
There are too many Thai restaurants to list but one of my favorite Thai joint is Sala Thai. They have 3 locations but I used to frequent their location inside the Oakland Mall food court for lunch. They eventually found a permanent location on 14 Mile road. They made their food so hot that ice cubes were a necessity the morning after. I’ll spare the details but their medium is actually hot and their hot is extra hot!! They are not catering to Americans, they treat their spiciness like they are back home! If any of ya’ll have any other nominations for Thai hangouts in Detroit let me know.
Novi is where alot of Japanese residents call home, and is also nominated as our Japanese hangout of Metro Detroit. In fact, Novi is where you can find the most authentic Japanese food in metro Detroit, such Cherry Blossom and my personal favorite, Ajishin. Ajishin is not the typical Japanese restaurant, it is more like a quick-eats joint and does not have a full selection of menu… and they don’t need to. They serve the best tasting udon noodles, chirashi, nigiri and sushi rolls in town- possibly in the entire midwest! It would rank top 3 regardless. Novi has the biggest Japanese grocery market in Detroit, One World Market on Grand River Avenue. They have a great sushi roll take-out section and has a decent sized dining section for a quick ramen or sushi roll retreat.
Korean hangouts in Detroit took a big hit in recent years, many closing down their storefronts due to the resession. Korean pool halls, Internet cafes and bubble tea shops have been made extinct. Many Koreans live in or near Troy but some of the best Korean restaurants are found outside of Troy. Bibimbop in Novi, New Seoul Garden in Southfield and Korea House in Farmington Hills is some of my personal favorites. Some other Korean hangouts in Detroit includes karaoke rooms such as Music Capsule of Southfield, Jina Karaoke of Farmington and Friends Karaoke in Ann Arbor.
If you happen to be in Detroit and got the craving for some dimsum, Shangri La is the place to go, located in Bloomfield Hills. Once inside, you’d never know you’re in a strip mall in a rich town. People are talking loudly- so loud its rude- carts of dimsum are racing in between the aisles and the clanking of dishes and chopsticks fill the air, just as you would expect in an authentic Chinese restaurant. Defintely a Chinese hangout as you won’t find any other place filled with as many Chinese in one location. Hong Hua remains as one of my favorite, most authentic Chinese restaurant in metro Detroit. Ask for their Chinese-only menu and you will find things like dumpling noodle soup, congee and other authentic staples you will never find in a typical Americanized Chinese restaurant.
Let’s face it, Detroit doesn’t have a good reputation in the media or even the world. It’s true, with the economic downturn & miserable unemployment rates, Detroit had seen better days. Much better actually. However, what you see in the media isn’t what everything Detroit has to offer, and I’m on a mission to prove that to the world. I believe Detroit will get back on its feet once more.