DETROIT: Something Old Is Something New….

28 Aug

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It was a gorgeous Saturday in August, it had been too long since we’d been to Eastern Market; consistently a bevy of activity, there is always something new to see. As we approached  from Gratiot we were greeted by vibrant, amazing new graffiti; time to stop and get some pics. While we were warmed up, why not take a stroll and see what else we can find… The artwork is fabulous, cool, clever and comical; I love the bright colors and attention to detail.  The Detroit Beautification Project brings in artists from around the world; word is Flying Fortress and Nychos are responsible for these beauties. There’s even a marriage proposal to Tizzie from Tommy; looks like she said yes (x 1000) !!

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We hadn’t been to DeVries & Co (formerly R Hirt) since the ownership change within the family. This three-story building has been standing on Market Street since 1893, I have to say it has never looked better; front windows have been opened up, the inside spruced up. Gone is the clutter; shelves are well-organized, lighting is bright, aisles easy to walk through, the traditionally long line for cheese remains. You can purchase oatmeal from Ireland and pasta from Italy, vinegar, sauces, cutting boards, spatulas, you name it.  Browsing the main floor I was happy to discover a Michigan products section; Faygo, McClures, BetterMade, and an unexpected surprise: Great Lakes Tea and Spice. The shop has always been known as a retail cheese store; the extensive variety attracting shoppers from all over. We stood and watched as connoisseurs made their selections, tasting each before deciding which to take home. Next time I need to bring a cooler so I too can partake in the fun.  

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A couple of doors down is the Eastern Market Seafood Co; walk in the door, the aroma of cooked sausage permeates the air. Benches sit front and center; hungry shoppers sit elbow to elbow noshing on 3 sausage pita sandwiches. Don’t be confused by the large number of folks consuming the infamous Old World Sandwich. Yep, this is a seafood place that is known as much for its sausage as its seafood. Cold cases run down one length of the store and across the back; they contain a wide variety of fresh and frozen seafood. 3 lb bags of  frozen shrimp in an array of sizes, crab legs, and lobster are offered at low prices, salmon fillets and whole trout are packed on ice. Packages of dried pasta, BBQ sauce, large containers of oil and hot sauce are also available.

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Next door you will find the Cost Plus Wine shop. Tall categorized shelves line the walls; reds, whites and rose’s have made their way from Canada, Spain, France and Italy. I like looking at the bottles themselves; labels vary from traditional to clever, as do names. Staff members are helpful, friendly and knowledgeable; tell them what you like and they will choose the perfect bottle for you. Prices are reasonable, below retail I’m guessing. Beer drinkers have their own special area near the front window; ales, wheats, lagers and stouts both local and imported. Bottles come in six packs or larger individual sizes. Planning a special dinner? You could stop in at DeVries for some amazing cheese, pick up a couple of lobster tails at the seafood shop, then add a wonderful bottle of wine. You can even add a nice bunch of grapes or fresh strawberries and how about a crusty baguette from Avalon, all available right there in the market.Speaking of the market, we walked back up the street to take a walk through ourselves; we passed an artist displaying colorful paintings, a selection of Detroit themed T-shirts and a live statue who was silver from head to toe. I love coming here, you never know what you’re gonna see, but you can be assured it’s gonna be good!

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Looking at food always makes me hungry, besides, it was time for lunch. Back in late spring The Brooklyn Street Local opened on Michigan Ave in Corktown. This breakfast and lunch only diner uses local, organic ingredients and whole foods. The owners are two Toronto residents who decided to open a restaurant in Detroit and introduce us to poutine. The decor is simple; tile floor, black tables, wooden chairs and diner style lighting. The menu is typical breakfast and lunch fare: eggs, Quiche, pancakes, soup, sandwiches and burgers; the preparation is special. Items are house made whenever possible, high quality ingredients are always used. We went for the scrambled eggs, bacon, wheat toast and of course, the poutine. What is poutine you ask? A large serving of french fries are placed in a bowl, covered in gravy and topped off with cheese curds….. seriously, It’s good! We also had the scones, served with a side of jam and lemon curd they were delicious. The restaurant is becoming popular, I can see why.

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Our last stop for the day was a little out of the ordinary; a new novelty coffee-house in mid-town called Chou Anime. It’s kind of hard to describe, but I’ll give it a go. Now keep an open mind as you read and think fun. The cafe is modeled after the “maid cafes” that operate in Japan, sort of a silly modern twist on geisha. There are bunches of people who are into Japanese Manga (Manga are comic books) and anime (cartoons based on manga) and know all of the characters.  At such cafes you have maids (instead of ‘waitresses’); they dress in cutesy costumes with aprons, ruffles and bows, maybe a magic wand, and go by character names. Your maid will address you as ‘master’ or ‘my princess’; she will take your order, serve your food and beverages, and for a small fee ($2.00) she will sit at your table and play board games, cards or video games with you, really! The girls (oops, maids) are sweet, and seem to be having a great time. Tables are long and meant to be shared, there is a limited but decent menu; salads, sushi, wraps and instant udon, along with tea and Great Lakes Coffee, they even have desserts. So there we sat, taking it all in, fellow patrons having a bite to eat and enjoying the experience, some drink sugary concoctions out of bottles with a silver ball in the opening (much like my hamsters water bottle), and promising to come back soon. Our cupcakes arrived; one chocolate, one red velvet, both sporting strawberry pocky protruding from the top. Cakes were moist, excellent frosting piled high; our maid had decorated the plates with pictures and greetings using flavored syrups, all very cute. The retail part of the shop sells Hello Kitty items, Japanese imports, including pocky, and a selection of maid costumes, kimonos and anime posters. Walls are painted and decorated cheerful characters such as smiling cupcakes and happy cake slices. The whole point of the theme is to create a warm, fuzzy, happy feeling. So, if you’re in the mood for a treat that comes with a happy magic spell, you know where to find it!

UPDATE: I am sorry to report that as of October 2012 Chou Anime is no longer open.

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