Dearborn, a city within the Detroit metropolitan area, has a long-established Arab-American population, accounting for some 40% of the total population—the largest proportion among U.S. cities of similar size. The first Arab immigrants, mostly Syrian/Lebanese Christians, migrated for auto-industry work around the turn of the 20th century (the Ford Motor Company is headquartered in Dearborn; Henry Ford once lived here); they were soon followed by Palestinians, Jordanians, Yemenis, and Chaldeans/Iraqis. Today Dearborn is not only home to North America’s largest mosque, but also countless Middle Eastern groceries, bakeries, and restaurants. Got business in Detroit? A Middle Eastern meal in Dearborn is a no-brainer.
The area is often dubbed Little Beirut, so head straight for a Lebanese favorite: Al-Ameer (two locations including the original, 12710 W. Warren Ave., map), a spacious, diner-like restaurant specializing in made-from-scratch (and inexpensive!) Lebanese food since 1989. For a generous sampling of what’s on offer here, get the Al-Ameer platter (pictured at top): grape leaves, fried kebbie (a.k.a. kibbeh, minced-lamb bulgur croquettes), chicken and lamb shawarma; tawook (chicken), lamb, and kafta (minced spiced lamb) kebab; two falafel, hummus, fattoush (parsley- and pita-flecked Lebanese salad). The creamy hummus goes perfectly with everything on the plate, especially the basket of hot, puffy pita bread—fresh-baked to order in a traditional brick oven—that accompanies every order. (Every table also gets pickled turnips and hot peppers to start; the platter comes with tahini and labneh, an addictive garlicky yogurt sauce.)
Got room for more? Try the raw lamb kebbie—approved by Anthony Bourdain when he was in town—and, for dessert, the Al-Ameer Specialty: a sweet mango-based drink with chunks of strawberry, apple, banana, cantaloupe, and pineapple, plus raisins, pistachios, honey, and creamy ashta. There’s no alcohol served here, but the raw juices, like the Vitality (carrot, beet, celery), are delicious.
Also in Dearborn, La Pita (22681 Newman St., map) gets rave reviews and has similar Lebanese offerings, including a “liquid health bar” of juices and smoothies; while no-frills Hamido (two locations including 13251 W. Warren Ave., map) is celebrated for its chicken shawarma. In the same area is Middle Eastern patisserie Shatila (14300 W. Warren Ave., map), a must for homemade desserts like ashta or pistachio ice cream and countless exotic pastries. A bit further west in Garden City, you can’t go wrong with Al-Sultan restaurant (415 N. Inkster Rd., map).
Anyone have a favorite Middle Eastern restaurant in Detroit that we’re missing?
For more on where to eat in Detroit, see our Detroit section.