DETROIT: Y-not ??

27 Apr

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We’re in downtown Detroit today at the Boll Family YMCA for the Our Detroit photography exhibit; the show features 3 Detroit photographers: Amy Sacka, Bruce Giffin and Donita Simpson. We step into the light-drenched lobby, framed photographs, grouped by artist, temporarily hang on metal racks and wire partitions. Curious visitors meander the space; the photographs, taken in Detroit, feature faces of everyday people who call the city home. Kris and I met Amy shortly after she moved back to Detroit, we truly admire her work, she really has a way of capturing the true essence of her subjects; it makes her pictures come to life. Each of the artists has their own unique style. The photos reach out to the viewer, making us pause to consider the subject, the surroundings, before moving on to the next.

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While we’re here we might as well check the place out. Walking to the far end of the main floor a large window affords us a look at the indoor pools, one for swimming, one for laps; bathing suit-clad members are having a good time splashing about. We take the stairway up to the top, a 40′ climbing wall with a seamless rock face has climbing routes for both the beginner and advanced climber; we watch as athletes young and old practice their skills. We take a peek in the conditioning room, floor to ceiling windows give people on treadmills and ellipticals a wonderful view of downtown. The indoor track makes us feel as if we are floating among surrounding buildings, a pick-up game of basketball is going on one side of the gym, a volleyball game on the other.

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Much of the building is glass, making one feel connected to downtown, colorful artwork hangs on walls. Renderings follow the Detroit YMCA from its beginning in 1887 on Grand River and Griswold to the 1909 building on Witherall and Adams to today’s Y. Prominent Detroit families like the Fords, Dodges, Kresges, Fishers and Hannans all supported the Y through the years. This building is named after philanthropists John A and Marlene L Boll, their foundation supports education, the arts and health services, all of which can be found here on Broadway. 

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The evening is mild, we decide to walk the couple blocks to Vertical for dinner. Located below street level  in the 1913 flatiron shaped building, originally the Henry Clay Hotel, then the Milner Hotel, now The Ashley, it’s home to 67 one and two bedroom apartments, Vertical wine bar and restaurant and the soon-to-open Dilla’s Delights donut shop. We enter on Centre Street, the lobby is quite lovely in white with black accents; some of the original stained glass windows remain as does the tile floor. The restaurant is quite attractive, eclectic decor includes interesting chandeliers, partially restored tin ceiling, patterned soffets and bright red columns. Wine bottles are everywhere.

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We are seated at a small table in the main dining area, the menu is filled with a variety of tasty appetizers, composed small plates, salads and desserts–the wine list is expansive….We each choose two items to share. Flash-fried Spanish Queen olives are stuffed with Roquefort and served in a martini glass with curried honey, the focaccia of the day is a wonderful dense, tender bread brushed with chipotle honey and served with chive butter. The spinach salad is a combination of Mission fig, candied walnuts, tomato, red onion, Roquefort, tossed with a red-wine vinaigrette. The scallops (probably the most delicious we’ve ever had) are served with a corn coulis, bacon lardens, bacon powder, pea tendrils and a fig gastrique, this dish was exceptional. I have to say everything was excellent, flavorful and unique.

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When we’ve finished we head out on foot again to a little hideaway in an alley. The Belt is the alley between Broadway and Library Street, linking Gratiot and Grand River. Home to fabulous public art including murals and installations, it’s also the only way to enter the newest craft cocktail bar Standby. Strings of lights criss-cross overhead, a lantern lights an open doorway cut into the brick wall, the entrance is through an old elevator shaft. Inside, the space is dimly lit, the decor clean and simple; dark wood, dark colors, soothing. Two large, circular paintings hang on the left wall, small tables and blue banquette seating fill the room.

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Earlier this month the Detroit Free Press named Standby one of the Top 10 Best New Restaurants in Metro Detroit, tonight we’re here for cocktails only. We are seated at a cozy corner table and given cocktail menus; drinks are organized by spirits; Gin, Whiskey, Rum, Beer, etc. Ingredients for each drink are listed as well as flavor profiles–floral, tart, minty, woodsy, you get the idea. If you’re not sure, your server will help you out. Kris is having an Old Fashioned, I am giving The Last Straw a try; it’s, tart, botanical and fresh tasting—all the flavors I like.

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We sit back and relax as we enjoy our drinks in this (not so) secret (anymore) spot. The city is changing quickly. It’s hard to keep up with all of the new restaurants and bars opening their doors. Detroit is an exciting place to be these days, c’mon down and be a part of it!

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