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Woodward Ave: Detroit’s Burger Run

By: Aaron B. Cohen | June 27, 2022

Photo courtesy of Grey Ghost

There are certain foods that are unequivocally Detroit: coneys, square pizza. Few would be quick to suggest that burgers hold similar status in the hearts and minds of the community.

But here’s a secret: Woodward Avenue – Metro Detroit’s primary thoroughfare since the city’s founding, is home to multiple restaurants that many people – maybe even you – consider to have the best burger on planet earth.

It’s a topic rarely discussed in the local food scene. Sure, Redcoat Tavern has always received rave reviews, and Grey Ghost’s double-patty stack stands out at a restaurant otherwise dedicated to genre-bending, New American fare. But when you take a step back, or rather, zoom out to about city-level on Google Maps, it becomes clear: Woodward Avenue is a burger Mecca.

Why is this the case? One could argue it’s only natural that the historic street – the home of Dream Cruise and the connective tissue between Detroit and its northerly suburbs – would support a staple so deeply embedded in the American culinary paradigm. The iconic image of a ‘56 Chevy Camaro rolling from downtown to the burbs is only further reinforced by an inevitable pitstop for burgers, fries, and a shake at the local diner.

Regardless of why, there is no doubt that the Avenue holds host to the best burgers in town. Here are a handful of restaurants that can make the claim for the top selection (north to south).

Luxe

Downtown Birmingham’s go-to burger spot doesn’t feel like a burger spot. You may be equally inclined to order the seared tuna salad. But the burger is one of the best in town, and the scene is always lively. The sweet potato fries – fried in duck fat – are a must.

Redcoat Tavern

Dimly lit and perfectly cozy, Redcoat combines a cavernous British pub with gastronomical prowess. The burgers are thick; it’s the perfect place for those who crave their burger cooked rare or medium-rare. For a (slightly) healthier experience, go for the Piedmontese patty, a leaner, less-greasy beef that eats like butter. To complement your burger, share a plate of the legendary onion rings, or go for one of their house-made soups. The Caribbean seafood chowder is definitely spicy, but packed with a flavor you won’t find anywhere else.

Duggan’s Irish Pub

Everyone loves a classic Irish pub, and Duggan’s delivers. The multi-floor establishment is ideal for catching the big game while you fill up on burgers and beer. The Big Chief Double Decker may incapacitate you for the remainder of the evening, but sometimes, that’s what you’re looking for. You’ll also find Irish specialties like chicken pot pie, shepherd’s pie, and of course, fish ‘n’ chips made with Michigan perch.

Mt. Chalet

Like Redcoat, Mt. Chalet also offers a Piedmontese burger. While Chalet receives a little less attention, many argue the burger is just as good, if not better. The outdoor patio is perfect for summertime dining, and the Tommy Tomato – essentially a tomato grilled cheese – is perfect with the generous portion of coleslaw piled on top.

Vinsetta Garage

If you’re seeking that Detroit aesthetic, Vinsetta Garage has you covered. The former auto shop has been converted into one of Metro Detroit’s most popular eating and drinking destinations, complete with an extensive menu of salads, pasta, meat and vegetarian entrees, and unusual Detroit-style pizzas (get the Coney Pizza with mustard). The Vinsetta Burger is perfect for bacon lovers, but it’s certainly worth exploring the other options listed, like the Duck Burger, the Macon Bacon (bacon, pancetta, grilled Canadian bacon, bacon jam, smoked cheddar), or the EV1 – possibly the best vegan burger in Metro Detroit. Be sure to try the Union Mac, as made famous by their sister restaurant, Clarkston Union.

Grey Ghost

The mother of all double-deckers. You’ve got to respect a restaurant that pushes culinary boundaries while remaining loyal to tried and true classics. Order your burger with pride and ignore the judgment of friends and family who opt for the highly-refined, always-shifting New American offerings. If you find yourself alone in Detroit on any given night, grab a seat at the bar and pound the Instagram-famous burger while pursuing a cocktail list designed to inspire.

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