A local’s guide to Detroit

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In interviewing Amy Haimerl, author of Detroit Hustle, I asked her to name a few things I should absolutely do if I was visiting Detroit for the weekend. “The Detroit Hustle tour of Detroit? So many, many options,” she emailed back. “But I’ll give you my favorites. Of course, there’s probably too much for a weekend.”

There is probably too much here to cram in during one visit. Just bookmark her recommendations, and do the best you can.

Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry mural at the DIA. (Courtesy the Detroit Institute of Arts)

Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry mural at the DIA. (Courtesy the Detroit Institute of Arts)

If you love museums/art:

Detroit Institute of Arts: This, of course, is the home of the famous Diego Rivera industry mural. The Rockefellers tore yours down, but we still have his amazing frescoes. Plus, take a glass of wine in the Kresge Court and enjoy the late afternoon sunlight in this amazing courtyard.

Charles H. Wright Museum: Most people make the DIA pilgrimage, but the Charles H. Wright Museum is breathtaking. There are rotating exhibits, but the permanent collect is the world’s largest exhibit of African American culture. I love the genealogy wheel.

Motown Museum: Stand in the studio where the Supremes, Temptations and so many others recorded. It’s like you’re on hallowed ground.

Detroit Techno Museum: Did you know Detroit is also the birthplace of techno? We took the sound and made it all our own. The museum is by-appointment only, but you want to make that appointment. And both this and the Motown Museum are on Grand Boulevard, at opposite ends, so you can make an afternoon of it.

Murals in the Market: Head over to the Eastern Market district – think Union Square Farmer’s Market but bigger and better – for a truly spectacular canvas of street art. Thanks to the Murals in the Market project hosted last year by local gallery Inner State Gallery, the walls of the old warehouses are covered in murals by local and international stars. I love the Shark Toof that seems to shimmer with iridescence, but also am fond of anything Fel3000ft does.

Eastern Market. Photo: Eastern Market

More than 45,000 Detroiters come to shop at Eastern Market on Saturday mornings. Photo: Eastern Market

If you’re a foodie:

Revolver: This restaurant is only open on Friday and Saturday nights and has rotating chefs from around the region. Sometimes it’s a well-known chef who is trying out something new; other times it’s a local getting their start. Either way, it’s a fun experience. It’s BYOB; so stop by Motor City Wine or House of Pure Vin for a great bottle of wine.

Eastern Market: This is one of the country’s oldest public markets, and on Saturday mornings more than 45,000 people come to shop. New Yorkers will be astounded by the selection, quality and prices on everything from plants to tomatoes. Ringing the market (which is only open Tuesdays and Saturdays during the summer), are a number of shops and restaurants. Grab a slice at Supino Pizzeria, pop into Savvy Chic for everything from decanters to men’s accessories, and hit Signal Return for a great selection of letter-pressed gifts. One of the best burgers in the city can be found at Cutter’s, an old meat-cutters bar. And if you want a Detroit memento, you can pick up a “Detroit Hustles Harder” or a “Detroit Vs. Everybody” t-shirt here, too.

Don’t miss the donuts: Just weeks ago, Dilla’s Delight Donuts opened in downtown. They are To. Die. For. I’m particularly fond of the éclair and the chocolate glaze. But for a more old-school Detroit experience, head up to Dutch Girl Donuts. It’s cash only and you order through bulletproof glass, but these are the real deal.

The Golden Hour at Belle Isle. Photo: @agnes_c_fischer

The “golden hour” at Belle Isle. Photo: @agnes_c_fischer

If you like outdoors-y stuff:

Belle Isle: This is a 985-acre island park sitting in the middle of the Detroit River. To the north you look on to the Art Deco skyline of Detroit. To the south you look onto Canada. During the summer you can rent bikes and kayaks, but walking the island is gorgeous any time of year. There are manicured areas, but I prefer the wild grasses on the eastern end of the island, where I can watch the freighters pass and the waters of Lake St. Clair crash onto the shoreline.

Walk the Detroit Riverfront: Start behind the giant towers of the Renaissance Center, home of GM, and walk the riverfront east toward Belle Isle. There are parks, splash pads, boat docks, quiet meditation spaces, a carousel and more along the way. Pack a picnic and plan a leisurely afternoon here.

Photo: PJ's Lager House

Amy Haimerl’s local, and a stop on many musicians’ tours. Photo: PJ’s Lager House

If you want to see some music:

PJ’s Lager House: This is my home bar and it has a helluva rock-and-roll pedigree. It has hosted Detroit musical royalty from the White Stripes to Melvin Davis. You can see anything from straight rock to Americana to soul-wrenching blues here.

Cliff Bell’s: Put on a nice dress and lose yourself in the art deco luxury of Cliff Bell’s. You can pretend to be another person, from another era, here. You want a reservation for both dinner and to get in to see the outstanding musical acts, such as local act Britney Stoney.

Baker’s Keyboard Lounge: This is supposed to be the world’s oldest jazz club. I haven’t been up here yet – I’m not much of a live music person (don’t stone me!) – but everyone says this is not to be missed

Food is a competitive sport here in Detroit. There are so many options I could never fit them all. But here are a few of my favorites for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Chicken and red velvet waffles, it's a thing. Photo: @metrodetroitfoodie

Chicken and red velvet waffles, it’s a thing. Photo: @metrodetroitfoodie

Breakfast options:

Le Clique: You won’t find a website for this old school Detroit diner, but it’s basically perfect. I love the chicken scrambler.

Kuzzo’s Chicken & Waffles: Chicken. And. Waffles. Need I say more?

Trinosophes: Great brunch on the weekends and a lovely spot for coffee and reading during the week. You can also catch a show here in the evenings, and there is a used record store adjoining.

Brooklyn Street Local: Don’t miss the poutine or the scones.

Red Hook Detroit: Started by former friends of mine from Red Hook. Good coffee, wide variety of pastries.

Selden

If you can’t get into the Selden Standard for dinner, go there for lunch (and order these soft shell crabs). Photo: Selden Standard

Lunch options:

Nemo’s: Just a classic Irish bar with a great burger. Not too busy, not too fussy. Just perfect for a bar lunch.

Taqueria El Ray: These are my preferred tacos in Detroit. Perfect. Open for dinner, too.

El Asador: A Mexican steakhouse. Don’t miss the tableside guacamole preparation or the sirloin with three chile butter sauce. Open for dinner, too.

Selden Standard: Selden has some of the very best food in town, and it can be hard to get a reservation for dinner. So one of the tricks is to slip in for lunch. Sit at the bar, enjoy a glass of wine and the porchetta sandwich.

Craft Work is one of Haimerl's go-to dinner spots. Photo: Craft Work

Craft Work is one of Haimerl’s go-to dinner spots. Photo: Craft Work

Dinner options:

Craft Work: This is my staple, where I send everyone, because the food is good and the atmosphere is convivial. The steak is always great, and I order the braised greens as a side no matter my main. The bar staff is also delightful and makes a perfect old fashioned.

PJs Lager House: And you thought they just had music. No. PJs has some of the most unexpectedly good food you’ll find in a bar. Plus, they have a wide selection of vegan and vegetarian options. I love po boy and the rock-and-roll burrito with chorizo. Karl loves the vegetarian bahn mi.

Detroit Vegan Soul: Four words: Southern Fried Tofu Bites. I crave these and go back for them every time even though the whole menu is fabulous.

Katoi: This newly opened restaurant is serving some of the most interesting and innovative food in Detroit. It’s coming to us was like when Pok Pok opened in Brooklyn. Not the same food … but the Thai was a welcome addition to the New American fare that’s everywhere. The menu rotates, so I don’t know what my favorite might be when you arrive.

One Response

  1. David -

    I’ve lived in Metro Detroit for over 20 years and this is a nice resource to have as I’m always looking for new places to try.

    Reply

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