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<< back to foods in Detroit

Middle Eastern, Lebanese food

Lebanese food from Al-Ameer in Detroit.

What: Dearborn, a city within the Detroit metropolitan area where Henry Ford once lived, 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); 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. Since the area is often dubbed Little Beirut, we’re focusing on Lebanese food here.

Where: One of the most popular, across-the-board-recommended Middle Eastern restaurants in Detroit is the spacious, diner-like Al-Ameer (two locations including the original, 12710 W. Warren Ave., map), specializing in made-from-scratch (and inexpensive!) Lebanese food since 1989.

When: Daily, 10am-midnight

Order: To sample the best of this place, go with the Al-Ameer Maza platter ($26.95), designed to feed two people—two grape leaves, two fried kebbie (a.k.a. kibbeh, minced-lamb bulgur croquettes), chicken and lamb shawarma; one tawook (chicken), lamb, and kafta (minced spiced lamb) kebab; two falafel, hummus, and salad, for which we substituted the excellent fattoush (parsley- and pita-flecked Lebanese salad). This is a very generous serving of very tasty food—we went home with a lot of leftovers. The two shawarmas, kebbie, and kafta kebab were our flavor favorites. And the creamy hummus, which went perfectly with everything, especially the basket of hot, puffy pita bread—fresh-baked to order in a traditional brick oven—that comes with 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.) There is no alcohol served here, but the raw juices are delicious: We loved the Vitality, a carrot, beet, and celery mix.

If we’d had more stomach space, we would have tried the raw lamb kebbie—approved by 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.

Alternatively: 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 (multiple locations including 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).


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