It is time, once again, to eat, Detroit. On Aug. 3, EAT Detroit returns.
Lick your chops.
Three years ago, we created an event where participants could wander from one top Detroit restaurant to another, eating and drinking to their heart’s content, all for the price of a single wristband.
It was a huge success, beyond our wildest dreams. Nearly 1,200 people gathered on a warm June evening and walked or rode special shuttle buses between 19 of Detroit’s hottest and trendiest restaurants, who served up samples of signature dishes and drinks to the participants.
All profits went to help our neediest citizens through the charitable programs of SAY Detroit. We raised a good amount of money. And diners got to sample 19 restaurants in a single night, took mental snapshots of their interiors and menus, and came back to their favorites over and over.
The restaurants were happy. The participants were happy. The beneficiaries were happy. The event received a 92% approval in a survey from those who took part.
We put it on the calendar for the following summer, with plans to make it an annual event.
And then COVID-19 came.
Back for seconds
I don’t need to tell you what that virus did to the restaurant industry. “Gutted” is a word that comes to mind. We watched restaurants closed by law, then fear, then economics.
Even when COVID faded enough for restaurants to reopen, many were shells of their former selves. Cooking staff had moved on. Wait staff was impossible to find. Customers remained reticent. A number of eateries simply couldn’t take the endless barrage of bad news. Some closed for good. If not for takeout business, many more would have joined them.
But seasons pass and clouds lift. And after canceling EAT Detroit in 2020 and 2021, we spoke to the restaurant owners about 2022 and got a courageous and grateful thumbs up.
And so, we’re thrilled to announce that this summer, more than 20 of the finest and most desired eateries in Detroit have agreed to take part on Aug. 3, from 5:30-9:30 p.m., in the second EAT Detroit event.
Better late than never.
These 20 restaurants include Baobab Fire, the incredible East African eatery that was voted Best Restaurant of 2022 by the Free Press, as well as top 10 finishers Barda, the hot new dining spot by Argentine chef Javier Bardauil, and Supergeil, German for “super cool” where the Free Press noted “lamb, beef and chicken are seasoned spectacularly and cooked on vertical rotisseries.”
Also this year, the Corktown area, which has exploded into a culinary hot zone, will be a large part of EAT Detroit, with celebrated restaurants like Slows Bar BQ, Cork & Gabel, Ima and Takoi all taking part.
Those restaurants will be linked by shuttles that run constantly between clusters of others. So you can chow down in Corktown, then head up to the Whitney, traditionally one of Detroit’s most elegant restaurants, then shoot over for amazing pizza at Mootz Pizzeria, or the incomparable vegan coney dogs at Chili, Mustard Onions, then continue down Woodward for some Mexican fare at Calexico, then cut to Library Street for some of Vicente’s Cuban offerings, then back to Woodward for some mouth-watering offerings from Townhouse Detroit, then over to the famed steakhouse Prime + Proper, just blocks away.
And we haven’t even mentioned trendy and award-winning spots like Grey Ghost, La Lanterna, Leila, Lumen Detroit, Oak and Reel and La Feria Spanish Tapas.
The award-winning San Morello restaurant, created by famed chef Andrew Carmellini, will serve as the centerpiece for a VIP reception at the Shinola Hotel.
There will also be local musical acts performing at many of the eateries.
And we will be honoring the late Jack Aronson, who through his Garden Fresh company and endless philanthropy fed so many in Detroit.
All of this in a single night. All to help others.
Come hungry. Do good.
Bring your appetites
Here is how it works. Tickets are strictly limited to the first 1,000 people, with 750 general admission tickets, and 250 at the VIP level.
The general admission ticket of $150 gets you the wristband that allows unfettered access between 14 of the restaurants, starting at 5:30 pm. You pick the restaurant where you wish to begin, get your wristband there, and off you go.
The VIP ticket of $275 gets you into the VIP reception at San Morello, featuring the music of jazz great Alexander Zonjic, and then full access to all 20-plus restaurants (the VIP-reserved spots are Baobab Fire, Prime + Proper, Townhouse, Takoi and Barda, for capacity reasons.)
Each restaurant serves three of its specialty dishes for you to sample, plus a signature drink. You dine and dash from one to the other. (The idea was actually inspired by the Dine and Dash concept created by chef José Andrés in Washington, which I got to attend in 2018.)
You can even win VIP tickets through a contest the Free Press is running at https://freep.secondstreetapp.com/EAT-Detroit/.
Now, an event of this size doesn’t run itself. Volunteers are a huge part, and you’ll see them everywhere, guiding you, riding the buses and wearing signature aprons provided by Gordon Food Service, which has returned as a sponsor.
More sponsors and volunteers would be welcome. There’s still time. Any companies or volunteers interested, and all those who wish to purchase tickets, should go to eatdetroit.info.
Tickets go on sale at that site at 10 a.m. Monday. In 2019, we sold out in less than a day. We’re hoping people come back with equal enthusiasm. After all, it has been three years since we could even conceive of doing this again.
So in the spirit of great food, supporting local business and furthering the resurgence of Detroit’s culinary scene — and most of all to help the needy children, veterans, families and seniors in our community — we hope you’ll come eat, Detroit, at EAT Detroit on Aug. 3.
Eat, drink, repeat — and do good.
How much better does it get?
List of participating restaurants in Eat Detroit 2022
Chili Mustard Onions
Cork & Gabel
La Feria Spanish Tapas
Mootz Pizzeria + Bar
Oak & Reel
*Prime + Proper
*San Morello (catering VIP reception at Shinola Birdy Room)
Slows Bar BQ
Vicente’s Cuban Cuisine
*VIP ticket only