Metro Detroit is home to a diverse population (and it continues to grow), and that rich diversity is on display through the area’s restaurants.
From a farm to table Airstream in a community garden to Pakistani American fusion food, here’s a taste of some of the area’s unique food businesses.
Khana Detroit: A Safe Space and Community
Three years ago, friends Maryam Khan and Carlos Parisi began the pop-up restaurant Khana Detroit, a play on Khan’s last name and the word “khana,” which means food in Urdu, Khan’s native language.
Khan is Pakistani American and Parisi is Mexican, Italian and Lebanese.
“When Carlos and I started doing Khana, we started as a one-off, like a fun thing for two friends to do, because there was always this part of me that wanted to kind of highlight the culture I grew up in. I’m Pakistani and I grew up eating Pakistani food at home every day,” says Khan.
Khan says she experimented with foods she grew up eating and mixing them with American favorites like Hawaiian rolls to create new concoctions.
“I just started thinking like this stuff is really good. I need to, at some point, put this out for people to eat because no one’s doing this and it’s actually amazing,” says Khan.
Parisi took her up on that idea and became a business partner. He entered Detroit’s food scene about 12 years ago, with his company Aunt Nee’s, a chip, salsa and guacamole company based in Eastern Market. He has the YouTube show called Detroit Digest through Deadline Detroit and the Sandwich Talk podcast with RSVP Detroit.
He says the Khana Detroit has evolved from a late-night snack pop-up in Detroit to a safe space and community.
“The people that we surround ourselves with and the people that we like to be around, it’s, it’s a lot more about the love respect of cultural cuisine, while also having this respect and love for our community and giving everybody kind of a safe space and enjoyable area to kind of be with each other and have fun,” says Parisi.
Don’t Miss These Dishes
- Butter chicken sandwich or nachos
- Gobi Aloo tacos
- Shrimp masala sliders
- Fire fries
- Vegan mango lassi
Where to Find Khana:
- 5-9 p.m. every Tuesday at Batch Brewing Company, 1400 Porter St, Detroit
- Instagram: @khanadetroit
Catrina Mia: Halal Mexican Street Food
Recently, Hanan Chaaban-Bazzi was thinking about the vast availability of taco food trucks in Detroit but none that sold halal food, which inspired her to open her own taco food truck this summer.
Before immigrating to the U.S., Chaaban-Bazzi grew up in Venezuela with her parents, immigrants from Lebanon, who owned a restaurant. Chaaban-Bazzi has been working in restaurants since she was 19, but she always dreamed of opening her own business.
The chance came up when her son’s childhood best friend offered her a spot in a plaza he owns in Sterling Heights. Catrina Mia, which she co-owns with Marouf Hamade, can be found weekdays parked beside the Zazz gas station off of 15 Mile Road and Mound in Sterling Heights. It’s named after La Catrinia, a popular figure in Mexico’s Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, celebrations.
She says she wanted to create something different, especially for Muslims who don’t eat pork. For many Muslims who love tacos, they would have to forgo the dish if it’s not halal, she says.
“I came with the idea to do this for my people,” she says
Chaaban-Bazzi says she has not been able to readily find halal tacos, especially birria tacos, a popular pan-seared corn tacos stuffed with tender braised meat and melted cheese, topped with garnishes, and served with a side of consommé for dipping.
Chaaban-Bazzi says she loves to cook, and enjoys making foods she enjoys making for herself.
“I love what I do. No matter what, I love what I cook [for people],” she says.
Don’t Miss These Dishes
- Shrimp tostada
- Birria tacos
- Jarritos, served in a cup decorated with Tajin
Where to Find Catrina Mia:
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday in the Zazz gas station parking lot, 5757 15 Mile Rd, Sterling Heights
Pink Flamingo: Farm to Airstream Dining
Meiko Krishok has been a co-owner of Pink Flamingo for eight years. Pink Flamingo is a vintage Airstream trailer in the 1950s used for pop-ups in the North Corktown neighborhood near the Motor City Casino. The popular vegan food vehicle is used for pop-up dinners on Thursday nights in the North Corktown neighborhood. Using the farm to table ideology, Krishok and her team whip up foods made from seasonal vegetables from Detroit Farming Collective to create new dishes.
Kriskhok was born in Milwaukee to a Korean mother and third-generation Polish and Italian father. She taught English in the French Caribbean for a few years then she made her way to Detroit through service as part of the Capuchin Volunteer Corps where she taught for two years. During that time she learned about gardening in Detroit.
“I really have found community here, and maybe partly because I’m also mixed … I kind of appreciate like being in a space… part of like being part of a like a deeper fabric of community has been just like really grounding for me.”
She says the food is about eating something at that time and place, appreciating what’s around you, and eating nutritious food that’s locally grown.
“We’re really just going for food that you would want to eat every single day if you could … food that makes us excited to be in this environment, in this place, in this time and in community with all these different growers and producers and other food purveyors who are here. This is really just another way to experience the world around you.”
Don’t Miss These Dishes
- Rice balls
- Vegan options
- Protein add-ins
Where to Find Pink Flamingo: