How African Americans are Leading a Food Revolution in Detroit


Detroit’s food scene has long been known for its Coney dogs, Greek cuisine. However, in recent years, the city’s restaurant scene has undergone a significant transformation, with African American restaurant owners playing a major role.
Detroit’s history is closely tied to the African American community, with the city being a major center of the Civil Rights Movement. As such, it is only fitting that the city’s food scene should be reflective of the community that calls it home. African American restaurant owners have taken up the mantle, infusing the city’s food culture with their unique flavors and traditions.

One notable example of this is the Detroit Vegan Soul restaurant, which has become a staple of the city’s food scene. Founded in 2012 by Kirsten Ussery-Boyd and Erika Boyd, the restaurant has gained a loyal following for its plant-based take on traditional soul food dishes such as collard greens, mac and cheese, and fried tofu. The restaurant’s success has helped to inspire other African American entrepreneurs to pursue their own culinary dreams.

Another notable example is Kuzzo’s Chicken and Waffles (temporarily closed) which quickly became one of Detroit’s most popular breakfast spots. Founded by Ron Bartell, a former NFL player, the restaurant serves classic Southern-style chicken and waffles, along with other brunch favorites such as shrimp and grits and corned beef hash. The restaurant has become a gathering place for the community, with customers from all walks of life coming together to enjoy a delicious meal.

In addition to these newer establishments, there are also many long-standing African American-owned restaurants that have been serving up delicious food for generations. Two other restaurants are Baker’s Keyboard Lounge and Louisiana Creole Gumbo.

Another dish that has become synonymous with Detroit’s food scene is the Detroit-style pizza. This thick-crust, rectangular pizza is baked in a square pan and topped with a layer of cheese that goes all the way to the edges, creating a crispy, caramelized crust. Many African American-owned restaurants have embraced this style of pizza.

The rise of African American-owned restaurants in Detroit is not just a reflection of the city’s food culture, but also of its changing demographics. Detroit has long been a predominantly African American city, but in recent years, there has been an influx of young, educated professionals who are drawn to the city’s affordable housing and vibrant culture. These newcomers have brought with them a desire for new and exciting culinary experiences, and African American-owned restaurants have been quick to respond.

However, the success of these restaurants is not without its challenges. Like many small businesses, African American-owned restaurants face significant obstacles when it comes to financing and access to capital. Many of these entrepreneurs have had to rely on personal savings and loans from family and friends to get their businesses off the ground. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the restaurant industry particularly hard, but that hasn’t stopped the hustle hard mentality of Detroit best and brightest.

Although are many here’s some of our favorites:


Yum Village
Chef and proprietor Godwin Ihentuge made a remarkable shift in 2019 when he transformed his food truck business into a brick-and-mortar establishment situated on Woodward Avenue in the New Center neighborhood of Detroit. With Nigerian and African American heritage, Yum Village, Ihentuge's brainchild, boasts a unique Afro-Caribbean cuisine with dishes such as Jerk chicken, jollof rice, maafe peanut stew, and Suya pepper-seasoned fried chicken. According to the website, Ihentuge's focus is on sourcing 15% of his ingredients from Haiti, the Caribbean, and West Africa, while also procuring most of the ingredients from the Detroit area. As a Detroit native who grew up and attended school in the city, Ihentuge has made it his mission to champion the local community. Yum Village was recently named the No. 2 Best New Restaurant in 2020 by the Detroit Free Press. In December of the same year, Ihentuge appeared on an episode of the Food Network's "Beat Bobby Flay," where he advanced to the second round but was ultimately defeated by the celebrity chef. Yum Village recently expanded to a second Detroit location on Agnes Street in the West Village, taking over the former Detroit Vegan Soul spot, and has also opened a Cleveland location.


Petty Cash

Petty Cash, Detroit's newest restaurant located on the west side, features black walls, gold accents, stylish light fixtures, and portraits of musical legends that permeate the dining area. Described as "moody, elevated, and soulful," the restaurant is owned by Art Hicks, Kelly McBride, Rufus Bartell, and former NFL player Ron Bartell Jr., who also owns nearby Kuzzo's Chicken & Waffles. Opening its doors on Thursday, the restaurant is situated on the historic Avenue of Fashion and offers both indoor and outdoor dining options, with a locally sourced menu that caters to various dietary needs.


The Kitchen by Cooking with Que, Detroit

More than three years ago, Quiana Broden, a chef and owner, launched this demo kitchen and collaborative culinary hub on Woodward Avenue in New Center. The Kitchen offers a diverse menu of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, soups, and desserts. Every Saturday, there is an exclusive brunch featuring tantalizing dishes such as Vegan chick’n and waffles, carrot lox toast, and kimchi hash. Broden's goal was to create an inclusive environment where both vegans and meat-eaters could share a meal while also learning about healthy food choices.

The Kitchen boasts of two kitchens, one of which is used for cooking demonstrations and lunch service. Broden has generously opened the other kitchen as a shared rental space for other culinary professionals, fostering a collaborative community.


Imaginate, Royal Oak
Omar Mitchell, both chef and proprietor, has crafted a one-of-a-kind fine-dining adventure with a dramatic flair, featuring locally sourced ingredients from farmers markets. With dishes such as Bangkok popcorn shrimp, presented in a miniature popcorn maker, and Caesar salad served in a Roman bust sculpture, patrons can anticipate an imaginative and inventive meal. For $150 per guest at the exclusive Chef's Table, visitors can indulge in a 3D culinary experience, complete with a captivating narrative and delectable cuisine, accompanied by a night of live entertainment.


SavannahBlue, Detroit

Located at 4015 Lafayette Ave. in Royal Oak, the restaurant can be contacted at 248-633-8899, and more information can be found on their website at

Located on the second floor of a walk-up building, SavannahBlue offers an exquisite dining experience to patrons while they enjoy a bustling view of downtown Detroit. Co-owned by J.D. Simpson and Roger Yopp, along with Yopp's late wife Tanya Heidelberg-Yopp, the restaurant enlisted the expertise of Chef Christopher McClendon to curate a menu of Southern-inspired dishes with a sophisticated twist. Among the standout items are the Georgian Hummus made with black-eyed peas, the shrimp and grits infused with sharp parmesan cheese and shitake mushrooms, and a delicious snapper served whole in a tomato broth with a hint of white wine.

In addition to the restaurant, the team has recently opened Willow, a craft cocktail bar on the ground floor, providing a unique and dimly lit speakeasy experience for guests. The bar is anchored by an impressive willow tree, paying homage to its namesake.

Others we love are:
We’ve Got Brunch

Haute Wine Bar

Ivy Kitchen + Cocktails