DETROIT: Baseball, Hot Dogs and a Nutella Latte……

23 Sep

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For better or for worse, Detroiters love their sports teams; over the last decade the Detroit Tigers have been both. The Detroit Tigers are one of eight franchises that originally made up the American League; they are the oldest, continuous one-name, one-city franchise in the league. The Tigers have won four World Championships. Comerica Park opened in April 2000 to mixed emotions; it was hard to let go of the old stadium. Fortunately, the Ilitch family was thoughtful of the past and included it in the present building. We have been lucky enough to get down to Comerica park to see a few games this season, the last time we were there we thought it would be a lot of fun to come back and get a tour, so that’s exactly what we did!  If you have ever seen Comerica Park there is no mistaking  what goes on there; a huge Tiger sits outside the main gate, gigantic baseball bats flank the entrances and tiger heads with baseballs held in their teeth stud exterior walls, handcrafted Pewabic tiles with the Old English D decorate the brick walls. If you pass by the stadium day or night, summer or winter, you are sure to see folks having their picture taken with the big cat out front.

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We purchased our tour tickets at the box office on Witherell St, I was surprised by the number of people waiting for a tour on a Friday at noon. Our guide met us in the Tiger Club Lobby and we were off. We were not more than a few feet into the building when our guide broke the news that we would not get to see the clubhouse, dugouts, batting tunnels or suites, as workers were preparing for a fantasy camp taking place over the weekend; major bummer. My advice to you would be to call ahead and ask if the full tour is available before you make the trip; when I purchased the tickets I was not told it would be an abbreviated tour… Off we go! We walked along the concourse, there in the distance was the field; manicured, lush, green grass, a diamond shape in the middle outlined by a dirt track with white bases at the corners, it’s beautiful. The scoreboard is one of the largest in baseball; the large tigers on each end are painted life-like, stalks of stadium lighting bookend the Tigers team name. We walk the wide concourses passing the tunnels we will not see, we arrive at centerfield and the Statue Gallery. The sculptures represent six of the Tigers all-time great players; Ty Cobb, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Willie Horton, Al Kaline and Hal Newhouser. Cast in stainless steel, each stands on a granite pedestal and is about 13 ft. high; the past connecting with the present. Next we entered the space where the TV cameras are set up during a game, not a lot of room, but what a view! What we didn’t know is that one of the couples on the tour was about to become engaged, the man had arranged the whole scene; Tiger jerseys bearing his last name hung on chairs, the rest of us gathered on one side as he got down on one knee and proposed….luckily she said ‘yes’, tears fell, hugs and kisses were exchanged. Once the ring and jersey’s were in place, we were ready to move on; next stop, the Walk of Fame.

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Along the circumference of the lower level is a series of towers that are decorated with historical elements from Detroit baseball history,they are  referred to as decade monuments. Anybody who goes to a game can check these out, so next time you’re there have a look. The bottom of the monument is made up of tires that would have been seen on cars of that era, this is the motor city after all. Looking up from there are photos of players, uniforms, tickets, and a radio from that time period, very interesting; a little further on a statue of Ernie Harwell stands alone. We head up the ramp, disappointed we cannot get into a suite today, we continue on to the press box, known here as the Ernie Harwell Media Center. We each take a seat and for a second get to see what it feels like, again the green of the field getting our attention. To the right above the centerfield wall is the Chevrolet Fountain; referred to as liquid fireworks the fountain celebrates home runs during a game. Behind the fountain, in the city itself, the Detroit Athletic Club keeps watch over the park, the top of the renaissance center glows in the distance. Fan sight lines were one of the top priorities in the design of the park, you really feel you are part of the city when you attend a game; the sides of the park are open enough for passer-bys to stop and watch an inning or two. We walked down aisles noticing the different styles of seating available, the closest we got to the field was the first row of seats next to the Tiger dug out, we all leaned over to have a look at the dug out itself; the tour ended here.

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About two blocks from Comerica Park is a little place called the Bucharest Grill, it is actually located inside Park Bar on Park Ave. We took a seat at a high top table by a window facing Park; I grabbed a menu and we took a look. Bucharest Grill is probably best known for their Shawarma, and for good reason; it’s outstanding, but they also serve amazing hot dogs. Since baseball and hot dogs got hand in hand that’s what we were in the mood for. I went over to the register at the Bucharest counter to place my order and Kris went to the bar to get our drinks, I returned with a red plastic number, he with a New Holland Oatmeal Stout and a whiskey and coke. Our food arrived quickly in cardboard containers with paper wrappers and plastic utensils; it’s what’s inside that counts! Everything here is handmade from original recipes, we’ve never had anything we didn’t like. Today we ordered the House Salad; vine ripe tomatoes, chunks of red onion and cucumbers with lots of Feta cheese crumbled on top, so simple, but so good. We had a Hamtramck dog that is a polish type sausage topped with braised red cabbage and a brown mustard, absolutely delicious! The Detroit Dog is a handmade hot dog with an outstanding chunky type chili with yellow mustard, my mouth is watering just thinking about the food, it is so flavorful.

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We didn’t really have room for dessert, but we always have room for coffee. We wanted to check out Chez Zara’s new space in the M@dison Building on Broadway, so that was our next stop. We lucked out with a parking space right in front, and went inside. The coffee bar has a modern, contemporary feel to it; concrete floors, white ceiling, globe lights, a pop of color in the red chairs and some personality with the wood covered wall and giant street map of downtown. I love Chez Zara for their Nutella Latte, what can I say? A warm espresso drink with creamy chocolate and hazelnut, I can’t resist; Kris has been on an iced coffee kick for a while, it was that kind of summer. We ordered our drinks and had a seat at the counter, as always the coffee was excellent. Chez Zara serves espresso drinks, organic teas and petite pastries; we did splurge and split a caramel meringue, also very good…..It’s a great space with a great view, they should do well in their new home.

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