Dally In The Alley, Vicente’s Cuban Cuisine

21 Sep

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The Dally In The Alley street fair is a celebration of life in the Cass Corridor. It takes place annually the Saturday following Labor Day and is the longest running neighborhood festival in Detroit, once you attend you will see why!  The Dally is a bit quirky and eclectic, it has an energy all its own as it spreads out through the streets and alleys sandwiched between Second and Third and Forest and Hancock. There’s a little bit of everything; Politics and religion, artists and makers of handcrafted items, food from local restaurants, beer, vintage goods, and merchandise from local vendors. If you are in the market for a Detroit t-shirt, look no further, there are dozens of different styles.You can talk to a Master Gardener, or take your children to the kids space in a grassy backyard where they can create their own works of art. The environment itself is cool and unusual; I find the alleyways just as interesting as the street side of the neighborhood, an old brick garage rests behind the homes looking much like it did in the late 1800’s.

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The main focus is music; with 183 submissions this year and only 43 slots to fill the bands were amazing! Four stages featuring local musicians play everything from Electronic to Folk with the emphasis on Rock, music runs  from noon until 11pm. Balconies of surrounding historic buildings are packed with people hanging out listening to the music, groups of friends catch up with each other standing in an alley way drinking ice-cold beer out of clear plastic cups,tiny dogs poke their heads out of shoulder bags looking to see what all the excitement is about, I just love this festival. Organized by North Cass Community Union, a non-profit group working to prevent urban removal of gracious historic buildings;there are no corporate sponsors, the cultural diversity is dynamic, the mix of attendees wide ranging.The later you arrive the more crowded it becomes, we try to get their when it opens and by the time we leave it’s packed. Dally does a great job showcasing what makes Detroit unique, one of my favorite t-shirts there said: “Detroit is the next Detroit”

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The city was alive; Dally in the Alley draws a good crowd and the Detroit Tigers were playing at home, we needed to eat somewhere that parking wouldn’t be too difficult. Vicente’s  over on Library was our best bet, we hadn’t been in a while so it was a good choice all around. The interior has a great Havana feeling to it; light-colored walls with large paintings, wood plank flooring, and a dance floor in the middle. Every Friday and Saturday night they offer Salsa lessons, afterward you can practice your new moves right there on the dance floor. This family owned restaurant opened in 2005 and was one of the first places in the metro area to offer authentic Cuban cuisine. The menu is extensive; Tapas, Entrees, Sandwiches, and a killer Sangria, it’s hard to decide. The Chilean chef does a wonderful job capturing the flavors of Cuba. We had the Cubano Grande Sandwich, so, good; pressed perfectly the meat was warm, the cheese gooey, the pickles crisp and all the flavors were melded together. The Cuban pepper salad was delicious, the vegetables were fresh with a nice crunch and it is topped with a tasty vinaigrette. The fried sweet plantains were some of the best we’ve had. 

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The warm temperatures beckoned us to take a jaunt around the neighborhood. Just a short distance away in what is referred to as Harmonie Park is a cozy little park that pays tribute to Detroit’s own Paradise Valley. Trees line the length of the park on both sides, a few stairs lead you down to the seating area where you can relax to the sound of a waterfall passing over a stone wall. Photos are inlaid on the concrete depicting the notable people and buildings that populated the area. We were sitting a relaxing when a traveling BBQ arrived! Yes, a man riding a full size black tricycle mounted a small drum-style bbq to the back of his bike, with a shelf for a cooler below. He was joined by a friend with a portable stereo mounted on his bicycle, and a few more friends came along to enjoy the food and music. It was really cool, a party-in-the-making on 3 wheels.

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We wandered a little further and stopped off at Spectacles, a funky little boutique on Grand River. Selling up-to-the-minute styles of T-shirts, hats, and accessories along with CD’s and books it’s a fun place to do a little shopping. Within walking distance you will find a few other shops and restaurants, along with the Harmonie Building. Built in 1895 the buff colored Harmonie Building is home to an art gallery on the first floor. Take a peek inside; the rich dark-colored wood and ornate plaster welcome you.The gallery rotates exhibits so there is always something new to see. Located about half-way between Greektown and the stadiums it’s a great area to explore.

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