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What: Detroit didn’t invent salt-cured corned beef or rye bread, but it certainly does have a way with both. The city boasts three corned beef kings—Grobbel’s, Wigley’s, and Sy Ginsberg—and is known for producing thick, crusty, double-baked rye bread, so you’re pretty much guaranteed a damn good corned beef sandwich anywhere you go. The typical local presentation is with Swiss cheese, coleslaw, and Russian dressing, on your choice of bread. You might also see the oddly named Dinty Moore sandwich around town, which is not, thankfully, stuffed with canned beef stew, but is a triple-decker version of the corned beef sandwich, often with lettuce and tomato as well.
Note: See our Q&A with corned-beef king Sy Ginsberg on the EYW Blog.
Where: The breakfast- and lunch-only Russell Street Deli (2465 Russell St., map) makes a delicious corned beef sandwich—and that’s only one star dish on its wonderfully fresh menu, which sources generously from historic Eastern Market across the street (see also: Locavore food: general).
When: Mon-Fri, 7am-3pm; Sat, 8am-3pm. Expect a line out the door on Saturdays.
Order: Commit to your sandwich and get the signature Corned Beef All the Way ($8.50), a delicious, eminently satisfying sandwich made masterful by its use of fresh regional ingredients. The super tender, garlicky-sweet Jewish-style corned beef (from Sy Ginsberg) packs a flavor punch despite being on the lean side; the thick-cut rye bread, from a local bakery, is soft and crusty, managing to hold up well against the Swiss cheese and tangy Russian dressing, while the homemade coleslaw adds crunchy texture. A local Topor’s pickle is served on the side. The Dinty Moore ($9.75), we’d imagine, is even more of the same, on three slices of bread. (And the Reuben subs sauerkraut for coleslaw.) Do not miss the excellent locavore breakfasts here, either, all Michigan eggs, maple syrup, and sausages.
Good to know: Precede or follow up your meal at RSD with one of Vivio’s (2460 Market St., map) legendary spicy Bloody Marys—speared with a Topor’s pickle and served with a chaser of cheap beer—across the street. The hangover-busting cocktail is good; the old-school local atmosphere even better.
Alternatively: More good corned beef is to be had at Lou’s Deli (multiple locations including 8220 W. McNichols Rd., map), where the lengthy sandwich menu includes a Dinty Moore and something we find very intriguing called the Sara’s Kinder, which adds an egg to the Dinty; and at Bread Basket (multiple locations including 11320 Middlebelt Rd., Livonia, map), a local franchise that proudly uses regional products from Sy Ginsberg, Topor’s, Better Made, and Faygo (see also: Grocery store goodies). Locavore-friendly Mudgie’s Deli (1300 Porter St., map) in Corktown also has lots of Sy Ginsberg corned beef on its artisanal sandwich menu; the Barrett most resembles a regular Detroit corned beef sandwich (albeit on an onion roll), though there are plenty of nontraditional combinations, too (e.g., corned beef + Swiss + homemade potato salad on a kaiser roll). Hygrade Deli (313-894-6620; 3640 Michigan Ave., map), just outside Corktown, is another classic spot for corned beef, which it makes in-house.
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