EllenAG and others with similar experience in the great food-cities of NA, I have to agree with you. I am here by way of Seattle after spending most of my life in Vancouver and I have come to the conclusion that "pretty good" is as good as Tree Town dining gets. There are occasional 'finds' here & there; for example, Monaghan's chowders (in the Kerrytown market) are VERY good, just make sure you get there in time to eat (lunch ends at 2pm) and they will cook up anything you see in their display for you to eat there. The Taqueria on Carpenter & Packard (looks like a hole in the wall) makes good Mexican-style tacos (simple, but cheap & tasty) -- nothing to compare with SoCal, but consider the distance. I have almost given up on finding anything but pedestrian sushi -- sorry but Yotsuba falls in the 'acceptable' category only -- although I haven't tried Yamato yet, but I'm not really expecting much. So sad, but looks like I will be doing my sushi eating in Chicago. I have enjoyed the Middle Eastern cuisine around here & recognize that I am eating far more authentic dishes than I could get anywhere else, but can't recommend a specific place.
Do consider making a trip to Forest Grill in Birmingham. Brian Polcyn, a true nose-to-tail guy, is Chef/owner and the reviews here on chowhound have been quite favorable. I also recommend Matsuchan in Canton for the only ramen in the area (in Michigan I suspect) that has anything approaching the real deal. Family-run, cheap & tasty, it's a good answer for lunch.