A Feast of Flavors

Oakland County restaurant scene gets better and better
Photo courtesy of Goji Seoul Kitchen in Royal Oak.

In Oakland County, the prospects for finding any kind of food you desire are luscious, endless and diverse. With so many nationalities represented, you could probably dine on a different country’s cuisine every week of the year.

What’s really cool is that new restaurants are opening almost weekly that will dazzle your tastebuds with dishes so divine, you’ll wish you had more give in your waistband.

A case in point is Marek and Danuta Kolynicz’s Polka Restaurant and Beer Cafe (2908 E. Maple, Troy, 248-817-2601, gopolka.com).

Polka has been a hit since its doors opened in 2018. It’s done up like a modern Warsaw beer hall with Eastern European murals, servers dressed in authentic Polish garb and music from the old country livening up the huge space.

Chef Ramses Romero, formerly of Royal Oak’s Ronin Sushi Bar and Birmingham’s Cameron’s Steakhouse, just tweaked the menu, adding a few more soups and offering city chicken as a weekend special only. Try the potato pancakes, pierogis, beef short ribs, pork schnitzel or the combo plate sampler. Polka’s fresh-baked dinner rolls and all other Polish provisions are at the market next door.

Fast-casual Peruvian pollería Culantro (22939 Woodward Ave., Ferndale, 248-632- 1055, culantroperu.com) opened to out-the- door crowds last May. Peruvian Betty Shuell and her family, who emigrated from Ecuador to Michigan in 2000, are astounded by the response.

“We have gotten such a warm welcome in Ferndale,” says Betty’s son, Alvaro. “We sold out of food every day at the beginning — it’s sort of a need we weren’t aware of.” Culantro features a vast, spicy menu of entrees such as ceviche, grilled steak with chimichurri and a fried egg and the biggest hit — the charcoal- fired rotisserie chicken, marinated for 24 hours and cooked in a special oven from Peru. Accompaniments include zesty sides and creamy desserts.

Another new fast-fabulous eatery is Jiti’s Indian Fusion Food (5114 Rochester Road, Troy, 248-432-2766, jitisfastfood.com). Chef/owner and Mumbai native Lucky Singh’s menu of fresh, authentic flavors puts a modern spin on traditional Indian food.

“We have seven different bases (including tacos, burritos and pizza crust — the fusion part) and seven homemade sauces,” says Singh, whose restaurant is named after his wife, Jiti. Choose from vegan, several meats, curries and veggies. Everything is grilled, and Singh says he’s thrilled about his customers’ reaction to his new location (an older location is in Farmington Hills). “Troy is amazing,” he says. “We are already given 4.7 stars (out of 5) on Google.”

Brazil stars at the upscale-chain churrascaria, Fogo de Chão (301 W. Big Beaver Road, Troy, 248-817-1800, fogodechao.com). Here, it’s all-you-can-eat grilled meats carved tableside in a sophisticated two-level dining room. The Marketplace caters to less-meaty appetites, and the bar is spectacular.

Royal Oak’s  Gogi Seoul Kitchen (109 E. Fifth St., 248-544-6250, gogiseoulkitchen.com) shares space and a full bar with Jolly Pumpkin. Find kimchi — the crunchy, spicy-sour Korean side dish — in several apps, small plates and even a burger on Gogi’s adventurous menu, with add-ons like soy-glazed Spam and bulgogi short ribs.

Gran Castor, a Latin street food eatery from Clarkston-based Union Joints restaurant group, is housed in a converted Hooter’s on Rochester Road at Big Beaver in Troy. Ann Stevenson, co-owner/interior designer with husband Curt Catallo, described it as “a super- funky, lively taqueria with some winks to its Hooter’s past” as part of the decor. Cameron Berg is the chef.

Stevenson says Union Joint’s long-awaited 8MK restaurant, in the hip old art-deco WWJ transmitter building in Oak Park, is on track to open at the end of 2019 (unionjoints.com).

Beyond the faraway flavors, folks are raving about many other new restaurants, among them: Voyager, fashionable Ferndale’s fab new American sustainable seafood outpost (600 Vester St., 248-658-4999, voyagerferndale. com); Frame, behind Joebar (23839 John R Road, No. 2, Hazel Park, framehazelpark. com), a sort of chef incubator with communal seating and a cool vibe; 54 West (54 West 14 Mile Road, Clawson, 248-632-1467, 54westmi. com), with craft cocktails, small plates, bowls, sides and desserts; Commonwealth Cafe (300 Hamilton Row, Birmingham, 248-792-9766) for innovative local/organic breakfasts and lunch; and for vegans, fast-casual plant-based smoothies, wraps and bowls at GreenSpace & Go (32867 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak, 248-850-8500, greenspaceandgo.com), founded by local cardiologist Joel Kahn. Along that same healthy, fast-casual theme, the Arizona chain Grabbagreen is opening in Birmingham (167 N. Old Woodward, 248-952- 9977, grabbagreen.com) with smoothies, detox drinks and farm-to-table foods.

This article first appeared in the 2019 Oakland County Prosper magazine.
Written by Patty LaNoue Stearns.