Detroit Riverwalk, Slows BBQ, Astro Coffee

19 Jul

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Water, water, everywhere! Did you know that a person in the state of Michigan is never more than 6 miles from a natural water source, or more than 85 miles from a Great Lakes shoreline? It’s true!  I am not a water sports person at all, Boating, not my thing, I don’t fish either, but I just love the water. Living in southeast Michigan, I am a bit spoiled by the easy access I have to many  beautiful lakes and rivers. The Detroit River is situated between Lake Erie to the south and Lake St Clair to the north, it also divides the international border between Canada and the US. Ships travel this waterway to the St Lawrence Seaway and the Erie Canal, making it one of the busiest waterways in the world.

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I have a great fondness for the Detroit Riverfront and River Walk. There are now 3.5 miles of the River Walk completed and open to the public; What do you like to do? There’s Yoga and Tai Chi, a Canine Club and River walking on the riverfront. Biking more your style? Wheelhouse Detroit is a bicycle shop at Rivard Plaza that offers rentals and tours. Have a soft spot for carousels? Take a ride on the Cullen Family Carousel, only a dollar a ride for kids of any age. I have two favorite places I like to hang out; the first is Rivard Plaza, I love to sit under the huge white canvas canopy and watch all of the action. This is where River Walk Cafe is located; you can grab a snack or beverage, maybe an ice cream, and sit at one of the numerous tables and watch all the boats go by, everything from fisherman and pleasure boats to the CoastGuard and ocean bound freighters. The carousel is also located here; I have taken rides myself, but find it’s just as much fun to sit and watch the faces of the riders. It’s a hub of energy and activity, gorgeous landscaping of stunning annuals, huge flowerpots overflowing with fragrant blossoms, raised pools of water flowing into waterfalls, groups of families and friends posing for pictures. On the ground is a map of the area carved into the concrete walkway, can you find your city? 

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Steps away from Rivard Plaza is the William G Milliken State Park and Harbor, encompassing thirty one acres of wetlands, it is the first urban state park in Michigan and is a little more laid back than other areas. Follow the pathway along the riverfront to the new 63 foot light tower that marks the entrance to the 52-slip harbor. This is actually a scaled down replica of the Tawas Point lighthouse. For a change of scenery on your way back, choose the wetland pathway. There are plenty of benches and even some covered seating for you to sit and enjoy the spectacular views.

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Just a short walk away is my other favorite spot, GM Plaza and Promenade.  As you approach this area you will first notice the high pitched screams of small children, not the ow I’m hurt, type scream, but the one of sheer joy and exhilaration.You see, this is where the fountain is located; it is actually a series of water jets sunk in the ground in a triangular pattern that shoots individual streams of water up into the air. Children and adults run in and out of the water, some race from end to end trying to make it all the way before the level rises, others are content to stand in the middle letting the cool water refresh them. The streams of water constantly change levels, there’s nothing more fun that watching someone who has never been before take a walk through the water jets at their low or medium height only to be caught in the middle when it shoots up full height….surprise! Again, there is plentiful seating here to take in the panorama, from this vantage point you will discover outstanding cityscapes of both Detroit and Windsor.

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All that walking built up an appetite, our plan was to have lunch at Slows Bar-B-Q on Michigan Ave over in Corktown, but getting in can be difficult. You see, Slows has this amazing reputation for out-of-this-world Bar B Q. They have been on every Food Network show, movies stars in town filming eat there and then tell about it on the late night talk shows, USA Today and Bon Appetit have written about them,  the hype is enormous. Ordinarily I find when I eat at any of the in vogue restaurants they don’t live up to my built up expectations. That is NOT the case with Slows. Whatever you have heard is TRUE, it’s that good!  At 2:45 on a Friday afternoon the place was still packed, but we were fortunate enough to snag a table.  We ordered the Longhorn sandwich on Texas toast, this is a sandwich to die for; the most tender beef brisket you will ever have the pleasure of eating, sliced and piled high on toast, smothered with homemade onion marmalade, and topped off with smoked gouda and spicy sauce. We are also partial to the House Salad with their Honey Jalapeno Vinaigrette, what makes this salad stand out from the usual green salad to me is the sliced green olives, the Split Pea and Okra Fritters are something everybody should try, I know what you’re thinking, but I’m telling you; taste them. They slice up the okra dip it in a split pea batter and fry them up, served with a sassy dipping sauce and sliced dill pickle, delicious. The place is busy from open to close, once you eat here you can see why.

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This area of Michigan Avenue is currently experiencing a great resurgence, thanks mostly to Slows. Just a couple doors down is a brand new coffee shop called Astro Coffee, which opened on July 12. We wanted to check it out and see what it was all about. The space is wide open, dark wood floors, and exposed brick walls give it an urban look and feel. A large american flag hangs on the wall near the door, a nice touch, the ceiling and light fixtures are bright white, large front windows give the place an airy feeling. The menu is written on an oversized chalk board sitting above a white subway-tile backsplash. On the counter in glass covered dishes are house made baked goods inviting you to partake. We had espresso and a cookie and both were excellent. It didn’t take long for the public to discover Astro and they are giving it a warm welcome. It’s a great addition to the neighborhood.

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