Forget the Focus on the Bad & the Ugly, There’s Plenty of Good to be Found in Detroit

There’s been much conversation of late concerning the decline of Detroit.  From Time magazine’s Assignment Detroit to the recent (Relatively-speaking; the start of this post has been in my ‘drafts’ box since November. Hey, I’ve been busy!) NYT Op-Ed, titled “An American Catastrophe,” everywhere you look it appears that it’s time to turn out the lights and hope the proverbial door doesn’t hit the last to leave in the ass. But speaking as a proud Detroiter and one who spent some time downtown over the Thanksgiving (Repeat: been busy!) holiday, I know there’s plenty of good. Detroit’s a Northwest (Delta?) hub, so it’s easy to get a good rate flying direct from Boston. Take a weekend and check it out for yourself…you’ll see some bad, no doubt, but follow my suggestions below and I guarantee you’ll also see so much good.

Roast
Iron Chef Michael Symon’s newest venture brings sophisticated city dining smack in the middle of downtown. Located in the recently reopened Westin Book Cadillac Hotel (more to come), Roast is a carnivore’s paradise in the kind of sophisticated restaurant setting you’d expect to find in any bustling metropolis. All of their meats are dry-aged for a minimum of 21 days and grilled over hardwood. Favorite menu description: “Roasted Beast of the Day.”

Motor Bar at the Westin Book Cadillac Detroit
Reopened after a $200M renovation, one of Detroit’s landmarks is now restored to its original grandeur. Built by Detroit’s famous Book brothers in 1924, it was the tallest building in Detroit and the tallest hotel in the world at the time. To be honest, I never knew of the hotel growing up, but Grandma sure did. Apparently, drinks at the hotel’s Motor Bar followed by dancing in the hotel’s nightclub while snacking on a bottle of wine and bowl of potato chips was the chic evening out in 1940s Detroit.

Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes
One of my favorite ways to pass a few hours is at the Detroit Institute of Arts.  It has a few great cafés that I love to chill out at after my senses need a rest from all of the visual stimulation, but knowing my Francophilian leanings, this time my brother suggested I check out a crepe shop located right next door.  The crepe I had was fine (not Parisian-quality, unfortunately) but the service was so damn nice, there’s no doubt I’ll be back.

Detroit Institute of Arts
I love this museum. It’s as simple as that. I’ve been going, often solo, since I was a teenager. Not only do I love the breadth and depth of the collections, but what truly makes it unique is the backdrop for the art itself. Far from the traditional vanilla galleries designed to take a back seat to the collections, walk through the DIA and you feel like you’re walking through time and place. From the awe-inspiring Rivera Court to the Gothic Chapel to the Egyptian Collection, the context in which they display the collections is as interesting as the collections themselves.

R. Hirt Jr. Co.
A trip to Detroit is never complete for me without a visit to the Eastern Market. The largest historic public market district in the US, one of my favorite stops is R. Hirt Jr Co. Three floors jam-packed with everything from specialty foods to a ginormous cheese selection to baskets for make your own gift baskets to unique home décor items, I never walk out empty-handed and am always disappointed that what I can buy is limited by the space available in my suitcase!

Eastern Market Antiques
This trip I wandered into a new spot for me; it’s now a “must do” for future visits. This multi-level shop is an antique browser’s wet dream. It’s huge.  I purchased a set of 6 gorgeous cordial glasses and a unique thimble-sized shot glass/mixing cup set for a friend. Can’t wait to go back and see what I’ll find next.

Pure Detroit
A mecca for all things Detroit, I remember the days when there was just one shop in the Fisher Building. Their expanding bricks ‘n mortar empire, combined with their online shop, now makes it easy for anyone wanting to show Detroit pride.  From accessories made with old car parts (belts and bags made from seatbelts) to Pewabic pottery to cool tees to specialty foods (if you haven’t had Sanders Bittersweet Fudge topping on Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla ice cream, you haven’t lived), it’s all here. I recommend that once you’ve fallen in love with what you’ve experienced during your visit to Detroit, show your support for the city and its hopeful rebirth with a “I Love Detroit” tee — and then encourage others to do the same!

Posted by Marlo

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