Ten Best: Experience Albena

By: Karen Dybis | August 9, 2019

Photo Credit: Mark Kurlyandchik

Do you want to experience a free meal at one of the best restaurants that Metro Detroit has to offer?

The Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers / Detroit Free Press Top 10 Takeover offers you an opportunity to do just that. Enter for a chance to win TWO TICKETS to dinner at Albena on August 29th, 2019. Be sure to enter no later than Noon on August 22nd for an opportunity to bypass the long wait.

Need to hear a little more about the restaurant before you head out for a meal? Keep reading for a glance into this award-winning restaurant.


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Wooden bowls. Ceramic mugs. Leaf-shaped plates. Rough vessels that carry a sensual morsel of mushroom inside. Something subtle makes people at Albena breathe a bit deeper, examine their dish, think about the food they eat. 

That may be because every detail at Albena seeks to calm the diner, caress the food and care about its environment, something Detroiters truly need. In a big city, a metropolitan location that has been preoccupied with making things for centuries now, taking time to experience what you eat isn’t typical. Most of us eat an on-the-go breakfast, a fast lunch or a hasty dinner.

Albena refuses to participate in that nonsense. You experience the Siren Hotel, its exterior, its interior and its neighborhood in stages. You are in the heart of downtown next to tech companies, skyscrapers and so many coffee shops. There’s practically caffeine in the air.

But Albena and its insistence on providing a minimalist approach to décor, food and drink appeals to you on a soulful level. Right from the start, there is something calming about its soft grays, muted tones and noticeable textures. They want you to see the little things, to examine them with a thoughtful eye. There’s no getting away with loud colors, ugly furniture or scented wallpaper here.

You walk up to the small counter seating area of the restaurant with purpose. You’re one of only a few seats, so the lights and attention are on you. And you’re expected to enjoy that curious feeling of tasting a meal – yes, fully chewing for once in your day, week or maybe month. 

One of the things you’ll immediately notice at your seat is this strange little device next to your plate. It’s called a spoon rest, and it gives your silverware a spot to sit when you’re kicking back and chatting over your meal.

Why do you need it? At Albena, you’re not going to gobble up the intricate and delicately created portion. Oh, no. You’re going to follow that spoon’s lead. You’re going to rest. You’re going to inhale with your whole self. You’re going to relax over a good meal that’s well prepared and thoughtfully presented. 

Albena has been lauded by fans and followers for its symphony-like approach to food, and you can see why. The team has organized savory next to sweet, a carefully created experience next to Detroit’s busy streets, a tribute to the skill and sophistication right across the street from the Michigan Opera Theatre, where people have devoted their lives to acting, dancing and music, practicing for decades on their trade and gifts to the world.

It’s not too much to say Albena, its chef and its staff have been doing the same. They may love spontaneous menu changes and unique menu selections, but they are devoted to the practice and the art of making food, offering a spot-on presentation for that food and a one-of-a-kind experience for local foodies and visitors. 

Maybe 350 square feet is the right size and shape for such a restaurant. You have to buy into watching your food being made, talking to the people who make it, listening to the banter between the chef and the servers. You get a set menu most of the time, taking the guesswork out of ordering as well. 

Stop at Albena. Slow down. Reject what you know about traditional restaurants and accept that you’ll have to chew much more here. You’ll get used to it, Detroit.