You think you know Detroit. But you don’t know the half of it.
Whether you’ve watched TV reports or read the stories about its decline, you probably think the motor city has been abandoned and forgotten.
Look closer and other stories come to surface. Talented chefs are opening restaurants in Corktown and sleek downtown hotels are opening their door to guests.
While a weekend isn’t enough time to explore everything you should in Magic City, it’s enough to introduce yourself to it. Here are a few suggestions on how to get acquainted with Detroit:
Where to Stay
Detroit is home to some truly #goalsworthy homes, and some are even available to rent for your stay via Airbnb. You can pay top dollar for a bachelor pad that looks like an alternate set for Christian Grey’s apartment or post up in a 2-bedroom “inn” above a famous barbecue joint in the city’s oldest neighborhood.
Despite its gritty reputation, luxury abounds in the Paris of the Midwest. Detroit Foundation Hotel has a variety of modern rooms and suites available, local art on the walls and great in-house dining and drinking options.
A 501(c)(3) educational non-profit, Hostel Detroit is an inexpensive and immersive homebase for your short getaway. A quick walk from the restaurants, bars, and shops in Downtown and the Corktown Business District, the property boasts a large backyard, three kitchens, free wifi throughout and computer access in one of the many common areas, a communal back deck, fire pit, and cheap onsite parking. The lodge’s volunteer Ambassadors hold weekly tours and individualized extended discussion for curious visitors.
Where to Eat and Drink
If you’re a believer in brunch (as you should be), here’s some great news: Detroit is home to Dime Store, an “American brunch bar.” There are three types of Benedicts (cheesesteak tho), the same number of hashes (duck confit and bulgolgi in the same dish), and much more. For lighter fare that you can also grab-and-go, Avalon Bakery serves rave-worthy brioche, scones, muffins, monkey bread and other sweet and savory delights. If you you’re a “shut up and give me my coffee” morning type (we see you) or need a revitalizing afternoon nap in a glass, head Downtown or to Rivertown to ASHE Supply Co. for some locally roasted beans, or to The Red Hook in Midtown.
For a quintessential Detroit lunch, you have to hunt down a coney dog. For those that are woefully ignorant of this gastronomic masterpiece, one is made up of a grilled beef hotdog, beef chili that’s closer in consistency to chunky soup and often counts minced beef heart as an ingredient, chopped raw white onion, and a generous squirt of mustard on a regular hotdog bun. There’s a long-standing rivalry between American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island about who invented the glorious foodstuff, so you should probably try one of each (#WhyNotBoth).
There’s also Supino Pizzeria’s thin-crust pies near Eastern Market—get the Bismark with prosciutto and egg and the City Wing Thing with local City Wing’s smoked turkey, smoked Gouda, and cherry peppers. And you have to make it to the original Slows Bar-B-Q location in Corktown and get yourself a Yardbird: mustard-marinated pulled chicken breast, mushrooms, Cheddar and applewood bacon, sandwiched between two halves of a poppy-seed bun.
Whether you’re staying at the Detroit Foundation hotel as a guest or not, stop in for dinner—or at least a round of Old Foundation cocktails—in the hotel’s Apparatus Room. Two Michelin-starred Executive Chef Thomas Lents (who was the first American chef de cuisine at the three Michelin-starred Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas) serves New American fare with many regionally-sourced ingredients; for a special occasion, reserve a spot at his communal Chef’s Table above the restaurant and bask in eight-twelve courses from this justly decorated chef.
Like the sound of that, but want to steer clear of hotels? You’ve got Wright & Co in the same neighborhood, where James Beard Award-nominated Executive Chef Marc Dzojlija serves seasonal shared plates like wild mushroom arancini and a duck and chicken liver parfait. Be sure to partake in their dark spirits-focused cocktails, and we’ve heard good things about their brunch. The Standby also has one heck of a drink menu with bartenders so skilled, they’re known for concocting a bespoke recipe based on a guest’s usual preferences. This cozy date spot also has good burgers and other plates, but we suggest you go early for dinner on the weekends as it fills up quick.
To sample some of the outrageously good ethnic food from some of the most important communities in Detroit, check out traditional Polish and other Eastern European dishes at Polonia in Hamtramck; you should also make a reservation at Phoenicia Restaurant in very nearby Birmingham because their traditional Lebanese dishes as well as their dry rubbed ribs (trust us) draw crowds every night.
Finally, get a nightcap at Cafe d’Mongo’s Speakeasy: originally opened in the 1980’s, shuttered and reopened in 2007, it’s a bar with a great vibe where locals and celebrities like to hang out and get loose together. Who can say no to that?
What to Do
America’s largest public market and originally opened in 1841, Eastern Market is a must-see when exploring the city—especially if you’re in town for their weekly Saturday Market. There’s well over 200 local growers and makers in the market itself, and galleries showing locally produced art, shops selling locally made goods, and restaurants serving regionally grown food have popped up throughout the surrounding area over the past few years, so allot a few hours to explore if you decide to wander over.
Why it Matters
If you have to choose a weekend destination, why Detroit? Besides all the inviting, delicious, and mind-expanding options we’ve detailed, it’s because America’s Comeback City is doing just that: coming back. And visiting Detroit, getting to know its people and history, can make you a part of its exciting future. Also, we mentioned the coney dogs, right?