Intrigued in Detroit - a City of Hope and Renewal
Intrigued in Detroit
Who travels to Detroit? I don’t know who else, but I did. So many had negative comments, but the more comments were made, the more curious I became. I am already curious by nature, so this was serious curiosity.
Why so many pictures of churches? I don't know, but there are so many, most of them with a Goth architecture, and a few other types, I was inspired to start photographing them and never stopped.
I had heard and knew of Detroit, understood some of what I read about the automotive history, how it impacted it when it grew and how it left a scar so deep when everything changed for the worse.
It is hard to describe Detroit in any simple way; however, this is what I kept telling myself as the days spent there became many. “Nothing is what it seems.”
Detroit is a city of opposite extremes, it lies on the beautiful shores of the Detroit River, close to lake St. Clair and flanked by lake Erie. The downtown core is the perfect size, you can walk everywhere, there are chairs and tables and food trucks to enjoy. There are a few lovely restaurants, and it feels like a space reclaimed to make it alive and new again. I went as often I could walking from the area I was staying in, Corktown. Corktown, where the people are friendly, the restaurants wonderful and I never felt unsafe, contrary to what I was told. Corktown is the oldest district of Detroit and its history resonates in all the buildings and streets.
I know this blog strays from the usual food blog, but just like I have a blog on what to do in Val David, Qc. From last year, I would like to share what to do when visiting Detroit. I will not tell you to not be wary, it is a city with many problems, but one with a vibe I truly enjoyed, I did not walk around after dark, I did not do anything unsafe. So, I think it is a cautionary remark from me to you. After this, here is everything I found awesome about this intriguing city.
About the graffiti. In Detroit, graffiti is art, and I approve: Enjoy the images!
1. Corktown – I stayed in a city loft, lots of large windows and perfectly situated. Look for a place to stay using VRBO, HomeAway or Airbnb. Corktown is packed with history and fun to walk about, the neighborhood is one is full repair from what I observed, you have houses being renovated while others are in sad disrepair, there is something about a house in disrepair that makes me sad, so I was always encouraged when seeing so many properties getting a second or third chance at a being lived in and cared for. The architecture of most of these houses is bar none, it's pure craftsmanship, not something I have seen so constantly in any other area or city. Restaurant wise, here are several I went to and loved:
a. Lady of the House: Plates to share, half open kitchen, amazing chef and owner, I really enjoyed the friendliness of the bar people, thanks Marc! The food was very different, but totally delicious, surprisingly, things I had never eaten, became my favorite foods on the menu.
b. Folk: A crazy fun breakfast and lunch place with a local market and shop right next door, their food is so homemade, you cannot invent this deliciousness and not be the top of your category. Their yogurt bowl bowled me over! I could not stop having it, never thought I liked chia seed pudding nor turmeric in my yogurt.
c. Ottava Via: The best of Italian dishes, served by a fun staff. Their pizzas and pasta dishes are all made from scratch, salads perfectly dressed and, all that without breaking the bank! But most important is their tiramisu dessert. I cannot even begin to explain how wonderful it was, just have it, and take a few extra for when you get home! Reservations recommended.
d. The Bagel Institute: What a fun place to go, for breakfast or lunch, fresh bagels served in interesting ways, but even with just the traditional cream cheese, it is a bagel to be revered. Its location on Michigan Avenue is fun, with easy access. The staff is friendly, the coffee great and I loved the outside area with free wifi.
e. Nemo: Well known for its hamburgers and they have a large parking where you go in for drinks and food, and they will bring you to the baseball games downtown so you need not have to deal with downtown parking!
f. Mudgies: OMG! What a dive, how fun it is to go there and make instant friends, the food is delicious, they now have a fun Tiki bar outside with a great Happy Hour menu for drinks and snack foods. They do take-away which is really fun and the staff is awesome once again. It is a must go to if staying in Corktown. Always packed with locals, they have a great choice of wine by the glass and fun drinks.
Also to try restaurant wise in Corktown:
I. Batch Brewing Company: Not many nanobreweries offer this type of elevated bar food — all food is made-to-order and selections include braised short rib pasties, butternut squash arancinis, and toffee bread pudding.
II. Takoi: Inventive Thai cuisine on the outskirts of Corktown. The staff lovingly refer to the joint as “the mothership” and the experience is as immersive as it is delicious.
III. Bobcat Bonnies: Great Brunch! Known for crafting inventive gastropub cuisine and serving it up in a fun, eclectic environment. Their menu includes burgers, sandwiches, mac and a vegetarian shepherd's pie. Great service.
IV. McShane's: A holdover from the days before Corktown’s hipster revolution, McShane’s is an Irish sports bar that won’t intimidate you with a gastropub-style menu. Their food is simple bar fare, but it’s delicious and the bar is fully stocked.
Downtown Restaurants I went to:
Parc Restaurant: It was one of the last nights in Detroit and we had stuck to Corktown for restaurants as there are so many. But I had heard about Parc Restaurant and had seen it when I went downtown to the Food Truck assembly. A reservations a must. The staff is friendly and that is nice. The only small fail is when the waiter saw we weren’t having wine or an appetizer, I felt him lose interest in our table. I understand that tip works on percentage and the more we spend, the higher their tip, but we cannot always drink and eat more than we want to please the servers!
Anyhow, the appetizer were appealing, I didn't want to ruin my appetite for the main meal, which was Roasted Giant Prawns, they are giant, they are perfectly cooked and really yummy. I felt the plate was a bit small, and though the menu says polenta which I love, there is only a smear on the plate. Since the plate was on the small side having more polenta would have been more filling. My companion enjoyed the Otto Farms Half Chicken, chicken is rarely my thing in any restaurants, but that chicken was so juicy and tender, it was hard to believe it was chicken, the accompanying mashed potatoes were delicious and other sides as well.
Still hungry, I went for a dessert, the Honey Rosemary Pot de Crème, I thought it would be served in a small jar, or cup or container, no, this dessert came on a plate, a large rectangular plate. I was awed by it to start with, but then I tasted it and I fell in love, every bite was perfect from taste to texture. From the pear to the honey brown butter crumble to the pear gel, I would have licked the plate clean in a minute and not been ashamed at all except to embarrass my dining companion!
The Fountain Detroit: I would not go back, the service was spotty, the salads served in togo containers and what I ate left me perplexed at the price I paid, I have to hope they were having a bad day. Other clients around me seemed more upset than myself, but the location itself is superb.
Things to do:
Now on to things I did, Michigan State is a mecca for second hand stores, thrift shops, antique malls and fairs. What fun I had making so many discoveries from the shores of Lake Erie, Ontario to the shores of Lake Michigan, I did as many as I could and filled my car to the max, the $800.00 limit for passing through customs was in fact a pain in the butt.
In South Haven, I particularly enjoyed Eagle St. Market, it was clean, airy and what they had was not overpriced, many treasures to be found at great cost.
I also enjoyed Blue Star Antique Pavillion, so much to find there, so little time!
On the last Sunday of every month there is the Allegan Antique Market. Wear comfy shoes, bring water and go. The vendors come from many states to sell their wares. There are deals to be made and deals to be had, bring a trailer, a car is not big enough I can tell you.
Murphy’s Antique Mall, facing Eagle St Market is very large, a few hours can be spent in there for sure. I suggest bargaining though as their prices are at times 30% more than other antique markets.
I am sure there are a few I am forgetting, but Google is your friend, wherever you stop, you will find well-priced treasures to bring home with you.
John K. King Used & Rare Books: From their website: John K. King started in the book business when he was just a teenager in 1965. Since then, he has continually advanced in the field; starting out selling books out of the trunk of his 1954 Packard to present day, offering over a million titles that can only be housed within four expansive floors of seemingly endless shelves. Previous to the current location of the store at 901 West Lafayette, Mr. King occupied a storefront in the Michigan Theatre Building, which now serves as an ornate parking structure in Downtown Detroit. The West Lafayette location was formerly the Advance Glove Factory, which operated from the 1940s to the 1970s. After the factory was shut down, it sat vacant until Mr. King purchased it in 1983. The original Advance Glove floor mat can still be found at the entrance to the store, as well as the giant red glove that still remains painted on the side of the building. A few years later, John King purchased the former Otis Elevator building next door to the store. Today, that building contains our offices, Art Annex, and the Rare Book Room, which houses some of the more fragile or scarce items in his collection. Recently, Mr. King has stubbornly agreed to bring at least part of the store experience into the digital age, cataloging the Rare Book collection on www.rarebooklink.com for easy online browsing, as well as introducing a social media presence. You can read a more detailed account of John King’s story on our About Us page.
I went there every 2 days as it was walking distance and it gave me a reason to walk about the neighborhood. It is so fun to go there, for any book lover in the world, if there is something that needs to go on your bucket list it is this place. I must have bought 50 books and completed many series I had been wanting to. The place is old and special and I felt awed by just walking down aisle upon aisle of books, stacked, lined and piled in every nick and cranny, and surprisingly enough, there is a method to their madness and books are not hard to find, also the staff there is amazing. A must go-to if you are heading through or to Detroit.
The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation: I went there more than one time. The Museum is set in more than one area, a steam train linking all the different spaces. I could go on and on about my time spent there. The history of the automotive business, from start to today is well documented, in a fun way, with so much to see, so much to gawk at, cars that I did not know existed, never mind were used to carry people, they have the first Winnebago, bus and electric car, a rare Bugatti and the first race cars. Even better than that, they have trains, planes and furniture too! The museum is beautifully set for kids, plenty of places to eat and run about.
From the website: The second part of the museum is the Greenfield Village. Experience firsthand the sights, sounds and sensations of America’s fascinating formation, where over 80 acres brim with resourcefulness and ingenuity. Here, 300 years of American perseverance serve as a living reminder that anything is possible. Step foot in the lab where Thomas Edison had his lightbulb moment or the workshop where the Wright brothers taught us to reach for the sky. Take a ride in a real Model T, or a walk through four working farms. Rub shoulders with world-class artisans, and explore the place where America’s can-do spirit inspires you to go out and get it done.
Looking for inspiring things to do? Along the way, you can catch a ride on a Model T, jump on a real steam-powered locomotive, and visit farm animals. Or “pull” glass with world-class artisans, watch 1867 baseball, and enjoy lunch from an 1830s menu. Journey into America’s past to discover inspiration for bringing innovation and imagination into your life today.
Add to that the Ford Rouge Factory Tour and the Giant Screen Experience and suffice it to say, 1 day to visit the Museum is not enough. It was one of my favorite things to do, do not leave there without having a meal at the Eagle Tavern where the menu is inspired by historic recipes, they cook with what is available in season and locally, very good and interesting with a wonderful ambiance. Look at their menu here: Eagle Tavern Menu
While I was there I experienced a day of Civil War re-enactments with many visitors coming for the weekend to live back in time in full dress and more, so much fun! Pictures below:
There is a lot more I could chat about regarding Detroit, from the amazing people I met to the time spent speaking to the locals of different neighborhoods, there is a definate vibe of renewal and rebirth in Detroit and that is what I choose to remember from my time there.