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Tripe, Pig’s Feet, Head Cheese… Here’s Where To Expand Your Palate In Metro Detroit

By: Aaron B. Cohen | February 28, 2022

Traditional Mexican Menudo Soup

Metro Detroit is a community teeming with diversity. It can be felt in every aspect of life, but perhaps most notably, in the cuisine we share. If you’re an adventurous eater, you’ve likely already experienced the remarkable eclectic of food available within a short distance from where you are right now. But how adventurous are you, really?

Oftentimes, a culture’s cuisine is dulled down in order to accommodate public demand. But for those who seek real culinary adventure, Metro Detroit offers all sorts of unique dishes and ingredients that are sure to challenge what most Americans consider normal. If you’re looking to try something completely new, check out these spots around town.

El Nacimiento

While tacos may be as commonplace on an American menu as burgers and fries. The truth is that Mexican cuisine is one of the world’s most intricate and diverse schools of. One dish that is extremely common in parts of Mexico, but rarely makes its way to American menus, is the traditional menudo – red chile and tripe soup.

What is tripe? It’s stomach. The texture is unique unto itself and unlike any other animal product. It’s spongy, yet firm in texture, and presents in a sort of honeycomb configuration that cannot be compared to anything else. While its flavor implies fat, it’s a shockingly low-fat product, and an exceptional absorber of flavor.

Perhaps that’s what makes menudo so special. Spicy red chilis flavor a broth that makes its way into every molecule of the tripe. It’s a flavor explosion, amplified by copious amounts of raw onion and fresh cilantro. For the best in town, head over to El Nacimiento in Southwest Detroit and see what you’ve been missing.

Stage Deli, Star Deli, Steve’s Deli

Metro Detroit is home to a handful of legendary Jewish Delis that specialize in old country favorites. Chopped Liver is a creamy spread made of blended fried chicken livers. While it may sound appalling to some, the dish is a household favorite, often served alongside other traditional Jewish appetizing staples. Vegetarian chopped liver is equally as delicious, relying on crushed nuts as a foundation for the protein. For the best in town, check out the three S’s – Stage Deli, Steve’s Deli, and Star Deli.

Ever heard of gifilte fish? Often associated with the Passover holiday, the dish combines matzo meal and whitefish into a singular, log-shaped mass that is then jarred and served cold or at room temperature. Sometimes it is on the sweeter side, other times it is purely savory. While you may have never even heard of it before, it’s likely available at your local supermarket in the kosher foods aisle.

Muskrat Dinners

Dating back to Michigan’s earliest French fur traders, Muskrat has been a delicacy often associated with lent. While Catholics often abstain from meat during this time, locals embrace the history of a water-based mammal that, centuries ago, kept their ancestors alive during the challenges of a Michigan winter. These days, you’ll be hard-pressed to find it on a restaurant menu, but several Downriver churches offer up Muskrat dinners in honor of the centuries-old tradition. It is usually par-boiled then fried in butter with white onion.

Srodek’s Campau Quality Sausage, Co.

For some traditional Polish fare that goes beyond pierogi and schnitzel, head to Srodek’s Campau Quality Sausage, Co. in Hamtramck. There, you’ll find a deli counter with products to take your lunch sandwiches to another level. Try the head cheese – a mixture of meats derived from the head of a pig. Or, if you’re looking for an unusual snack, go for the jellied pig’s feet.

Kim Nhung Superfood

Locals know the best Vietnamese food in town can be found in Madison Heights. If you’re eager to explore beyond the classic pho and bahn mi, make your way to Kim Nhung Superfood. This Asian market is loaded with products and ingredients you won’t find anywhere else. Crispy Anchovies, duck head, cuttlefish. If you’re looking for something really unique, you’ve got to try to balut.