Photo Credit: Mark Kurlyandchik

Restaurant of the Year: Experience Ima

Do you want to experience a free meal at Metro Detroit’s Restaurant of the Year? 

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 Ima on August 13th, 2019. Be sure to enter no later than Noon on August 8th 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.


If you need directions on how to find Ima Detroit, they go something like this: Head to Michigan Avenue in the city’s Corktown area. Yes, the one near the Michigan Central Station in the distance and narrow Victorian houses all about.

Don’t stop when you hit the portion of Michigan Avenue that’s brick – keep on driving. Keep going down this historic drive until you see a Goodyear Tire store. Notice that tiny restaurant next door? No, not Slow’s Bar B Q – you’ve gone too far. You want the little storefront with the big glass windows, white overhang and bike racks in front.

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That’s how Ima looks – it’s a secret spot, a hideaway, a refuge from the rush and push of Michigan Avenue and its hard-working attitude. This is the street where people go to find new spark plugs, not bowls of silky broth and warm noodles.

Yet that is where Ima sits, unassuming and simple. Having an award-winning restaurant right next to a car repair joint? Yes, and that’s not all. There are empty lots, old standbys like the Gaelic League and vacant office buildings all looming nearby. With its petite size, sleek interior, clean design and savory menu, Ima has the right attitude to fit into the Michigan Avenue vibe. 

That’s because US-12, much like the rest of Detroit, is the kind of road that has to work for a living. To borrow from the late, great author Elmore Lenard, it isn’t getting by on its looks, like Woodward Avenue, or relying on the waterfront to give it personality, like Jefferson.

Perhaps that is why diners of all generations say when they find Ima – they find it welcoming. They find it delicious. They find it in between flights, when they come in town to see family, when they need to catch up with a close friend. 

What exactly is Umami? Some call it the fifth taste or the part of our taste buds that seems to defy definition. There is salt, sweet, bitter, sour and that savory sense that is just plain old good that has been called Umami of late. Foods that fit this description tend to be rich, salty or meaty – think about a great parm cheese, sun-dried tomatoes (remember those?), miso or shiitake mushrooms.

Ima in some ways is defined by Umami – it is that thing you didn’t know about, that place that was missing on Michigan Avenue. Last November, Bob Wrosch of St. Clair Shores took his brother Dennis to dinner at Ima Detroit. It was his brother’s first visit, and he had no idea what to expect.

“The place was standing room only; all ages, nationalities, and races. And it was so much fun! We were seated at a community table, across from a young man and his 12-year-old son. Dennis ordered the Vegan Pho,” Wrosch recalled. “I ordered Spicy Pork Udon, as did the father and son across from us. Now to the fun part. The father was (an engineer) from India. He’s been everywhere, but is now working in our city. His son recently arrived from Singapore, where he had been living the last eleven years with his mother. The boy has eaten Spicy Pork Udon every week for as long as he could remember. It’s his obvious favorite meal. And he loved Ima’s version as much as anything he had elsewhere.”

The bottom line is Ima offers that noodle-y goodness to get you through another Detroit day while still giving Michigan Avenue and its neighbors like Gold Cash Gold or Slow’s a run for their money. It’s that something you never knew you needed — but are glad is there.

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