You know how breakfast is (supposedly) the most important meal of the day? Well, here’s another broad statement: appetizers are the most important aspect of a dinner out.
This is especially true if you’re with a large group, because then you can order numerous snacks and sample them all. Don’t disrespect yourself, or your fellow tablemates, by ordering a mediocre pile of nachos and calling it a day, especially when several Metro Detroit restaurants serve up appetizers so scrumptious and filling, they could pass for the actual meal.
I present to you some of the area’s tastiest hors d’oeuvres, which can be found at the following locations:
Ironwood Grill, 840 W. Ann Arbor Trail, Plymouth, is one of my favorite restaurants, if you haven’t figured that out yet. One of the reasons why I’m so devoted to this place is because they’ve got some seriously delicious starters.
Spinach Artichoke Dip, Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Black Bean and Corn Salsa, and Ironwood Nachos are all great choices. And before you say anything, these are not nachos of the plain variety that I just belittled. They’re piled with refried beans, cheddar jack cheese, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, black olives, black beans, lettuce, peppers, and your choice of meat. So there.
Union Street Saloon, 4145 Woodward Ave., Detroit, has both starters and sharable items on its menu, so make sure you arrive with a crowd. Deviled Eggs are prepared with Michigan honey, and Sticky Bacon is a) perfect and b) drizzled with Michigan maple glaze. If there’s one thing I like (besides bacon), it’s supporting the local economy!
Other dishes sure to please your group are Dragon Eggs (a concoction of chicken breast, bleu cheese, Rasta sauce, romaine lettuce, Caesar dressing and mandarin oranges), Lobster Lollipops (lobster tails with cornmeal batter, vinegar slaw, and stone ground mustard hollandaise), Sweet Corn & Poblano Tamales and more.
Beaver Creek, 1609 N. Wayne Rd., Westland, is a rustic, lodge style restaurant that makes you feel as if you’ve traveled a few hours up north. The first course menu is full of items like the Wild Thang! appetizer sampler, which includes venison sausage, rabbit ravioli, duck tenders and BBQ buffalo balls, and gives you a little taste of everything. The restaurant’s Creek Fries consist of homemade seasoned steak fries, topped with Monterey jack and cheddar cheese, bacon, and chives, and served with ranch for dipping.
Beaver Creek Mushrooms, which are sautéed in Michigan wine, Fried Cheese Sticks, and Hot Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers are great choices for the vegetarians among us.
One Eyed Betty’s, 175 W. Troy Ave., Ferndale, is no stranger to unique cocktail snacks. Start your dinner off the right way with Fried Okra (served with Sriracha mayo), Bacon with a Side of Bacon (braised pork belly with applewood smoked bacon and a fried poached egg), One-Eyed Oysters, or Samosa (a curried potato and pea dumpling served with cilantro sauce).
One Eyed Betty’s has an extensive craft beer selection (nearly 50 rotating choices), as well as wine and mead, so it’s a great place for appetizers with friends. Keep in mind; they open at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Mexican Fiesta, 24310 Ford Rd., Dearborn Heights, can be lumped into my “favorites” category alongside Ironwood. And while, yes, there is a Mexican Fiesta II in Canton, you’re going to want to go out of your way to go to the original.
As soon as you sit down, you’ll be greeted with a pile of warm, freshly made tortilla chips and house made salsa. If you have no self-control, you’ll find yourself shoveling them into your face, one after the other, until your meal arrives. Not that I know from experience.
In addition to the chips and salsa, the Queso Cheese Dip with peppers and Botana (tortilla chips piled with refried beans, sausage, cheese, tomatoes, avocado and more) are also excellent choices. You can never go wrong with the Guacamole, either.
Hogan’s Restaurant, 6450 Telegraph Rd., Bloomfield Hills, has one appetizer that stands out amongst the rest: Roasted Garlic a la Gorgonzola Cheese, which is just what it sounds like—roasted bulbs of garlic served with melted cheese and toasted pita bread. You can add portabella mushrooms or sautéed gulf shrimp and scallops in garlic butter if you’d like, too.
If for whatever reason that doesn’t sound appealing, Hogan’s Party Wings, Baked Spinach Dip, and Ranchero Chicken Nachos are surely crowd pleasers.
The Stand Bistro, 34977 Woodward Ave., Birmingham, is an upscale gastro bistro (is there any other kind?) with several starters and items to share. Fancy dishes like Lobster Fried Egg (soft boiled egg with lobster and asparagus), Beef Short Ribs & Goat Cheese Grits (braised in honey and soy) and Beet-Cured Salmon (served with pickled leek puree and radish salad) would make even Gordon Ramsay smile.
Shareable dishes include Sweet Roasted Turnips that are prepared in a brick oven, Mac-n-Goat Cheese with cheddar, and Spaghetti Squash served with brown sugar butter.
Grape Leaves, with locations in Troy, Southfield and Oak Park, has plenty of Middle Eastern appetizers on its menu, but the very best one is not even considered an appetizer. It’s considered a “side order.” The item in question is the homemade Garlic Spread, which is, in a word, heavenly. The hummus-like dip would be nothing without the fresh, warm pita bread that it’s served with. The best part? This out-of-this-world snack only costs a measly $1.49.
All of the vegetarian and omnivore snacks under the actual appetizer section are reasonably priced and delicious, including Spinach Pie, Lamb Grape Leaves and more.
With all of this first course goodness, sometimes it just makes sense to skip the entrée and get a little bit of everything with a few starters. With hors d’oeuvres this good, who could blame you?