At the core of any venerable hole in the wall restaurant is utility. These places exist to serve the needs of workers on the run and in need of sustenance. They often are independently run by entire families. And many aim at affordability.
Some stick to just that formula and we don’t think much of them. Others manage to strike a fine balance between utility and originality and are the types of spots that you flock to again and again. Here are some such places to whet your Michigan appetite.
1. Blue Heron Cafe and Bakery, Cadillac
Featuring farm fresh eggs, baked goods all made in-house, and a chef-inspired variety of breakfast foods, this is certainly more than your average neighborhood bakery.
2. Choo Choo, Grand Rapids
Situated inside a former yard office for Shipman Coal Company, this GR staple has been around since 1946. This spot specializes in no-muss breakfasts, burgers, and making you feel like you're one of the regulars.
3. Dallas Deli, Grand Rapids
This tiny roadside BBQ joint may not look like much but once you get a taste of its Texas-style smoked meats, you'll be an instant convert.
4. Di Maggio's Pizza and Burgers, Coloma
Just steps away from Lake Michigan, this family-owned spot has been in operation for almost 60 years and focuses on home-cooked style cuisine. It's kind of in the middle of nowhere, so once you get to this place, you'll feel like you're in a pizza oasis.
5. Georgina's, Traverse City
People tend to throw around the term "hole in the wall" loosely to mean that a place is maybe on the cheap side, that it's not all that impressive looking, or that it's an ethnic restaurant. The phrase has many connotations, but in this case we prefer to think of this spot - widely considered a "hole in the wall" - in terms of size. It's an intimate space, where diners can be intrigued by a mashup of Asian and Latin foods.
6. Kara's Restaurant, St Clair Shores
Blink once and you may just miss this spot, located in Detroit's east side suburb of St. Clair Shores. So make sure you pay close attention, because you'll be in for a number of quality, affordable Greek treats.
7. La Huasteca, Grand Rapids
Because Mexican restauranteurs have mastered the hole in the wall (in the best possible way), you have La Huasteca. Named for the region surrounding the Gulf of Mexico, this mostly takeout place has your choice of tacos - in both "authentic" and "American" style - fresh guacamole, and street food platters like the alambre, which you may not find at the more Tex-Mex inspired restaurants.
8. Motor City Soul Food, Detroit
Separated by thick bullet-proof glass, you place your order through bank teller style stations. Choose from succulent fried chicken, flavorful greens, and the most tender oxtail, among many other entrees and sides. You'll take home the styrofoam box, dig in, and ascend straight to foodie heaven.
9. Que Huong, Madison Heights
Michigan's small but thriving Vietnamese population means we are blessed to have a number of delicious pho shops. This one stands out to us because it not only features that therapeutic both and rice noodle bowl that the southeast Asian country is known for, but also banh mi, a sandwich that blends the nation's local flavors with a flaky French roll.
10. Taqueria El Rey, Detroit
Most people associate Mexican food with tacos and cheesy enchiladas, but the nation's style of grilling chicken should also be noted. Take a bite of the coal-fried, smoky pollo at this spot and you'll feel like you're at one of those small food stands in a faraway Mexican city.
11. The White House, Clare
Don't let the small stature of this tiny place trick you into thinking the cooks here will skimp on the flavor. No, in fact, the burgers here are of heavyweight proportion, so make sure you have an appetite.
12. Yemen Cafe, Hamtramck
Locals swear by this small, Yemeni-style eatery, not so much for the atmosphere, but for what comes out of the kitchen. Lamb, chicken, and vegetarian dishes are all packed with flavor and scooped up with a giant piece of flatbread - known as a malooga.
We know the hole in the wall can be found in all corners of Michigan. Tell us, which is your fave go-to spot?