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The Shores: What a View !

12 Oct

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We’re in the exceptionally scenic Village of Grosse Pointe Shores.  The Shores is the smallest of the Pointes taking up 1.1 sq. miles of land with gorgeous views of Lake St. Clair, making it a very attractive place to live. Friends have invited us to the residents-only Osius Municipal Park for a classic car show, the public is welcome. A rare opportunity to see something we normally couldn’t, let’s check it out.

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As we pass through the park gate and take in the scene; classic cars are parked single file, weeping willows hug the shoreline, stately boats fill slips in the marina, Lake St. Clair sparkles as if someone has thrown buckets of diamonds across its surface–what a beautiful location for a car show! We start at the point, towering trees provide shade for over-heated visitors, participants eat coney dogs on park picnic tables. Vintage Chrysler’s seem to outnumber every other brand; it’s only fitting since most of them were built a stone’s throw away in Detroit at Lynch Rd, Jefferson or Dodge Main in Hamtramck. A trio of Roadrunners come in Vitamin C Orange with the Dust Trail stripe, the white one with a cool air-grabber hood is still wearing its Wayne State decal from its days as a test car and a silver sleeper with a blue interior powered by a monstrous Hemi engine; they all look great. 

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The South African Valiant is interesting; hey, the steering wheel is on the wrong side… Vintage drag racing enthusiasts will recognize the
Motown Missile; it’s getting a fair share of attention. The 1965 New Yorker and 1967 Imperial (built at Jefferson) remind us what a luxury car
really is. A bright red Mangusta sits low to the ground, this sleek Italian sports car is powered by a Ford drive train. Speaking of Ford, a yellow Model A from 1930 and a green 1926 Model T represent the early era of cars. I take in red-line tires, raised white letters, racing stripes, hood scoops and vinyl tops, there are convertibles and a station wagon; the silver 1969 GTX looks awesome with a red interior. A deep red Corvette has a funky custom paint job–very 1970’s style with stripes in orange, yellow and blue, the interior even matches!

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Our walk through the park leads us to the marina; a long dock takes us past fancy boats and elegant yachts. The warmth of the sun has built up during the day, a breeze coming off the lake refreshes us. On one side we see the backs of stately homes that reside on Lakeshore Dr, dozens of boats have dropped anchor just off shore while passengers take a swim or enjoy the view with a cold beverage. To our right a steady stream of boaters come and go from the marina, Scarab, Formula and Fountain are all represented, the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club can be seen in the distance.  Suddenly our attention is focused on an Intrepid Center Console, as it makes its turn toward the open water we catch a glimpse of the quadruple motors with American flag decals; at 627 hp each these are the most powerful outboards made today–that’s one serious boat. Sitting on a bench we hang out a while longer, a freighter passes in the distance as more boats come out to play. We walk back through the park past scenic overlooks and take in the exceptional vehicles one last time before we go.

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Here in Michigan we know how to appreciate beautiful days like today; one way is to dine al fresco with a commanding water view. Brownie’s On The Lake, up the road on Jefferson provides just that. We take the long driveway all the way to the water, there is ample parking today. The restaurant itself is actually a vintage Quonset hut; today we’re eating outside. The large patio welcomes patrons, umbrellas shelter diners from the harsh sun. Servers hustle from table to table serving ice-cold beer, Bloody Mary’s, Fish and Chips and the famous Brownie Burger. We’re having the Rustica Flatbread; basil pesto, bacon, blue cheese, caramelized onions drizzled with a cherry balsamic reduction, a great combination of flavors. The sweet potato waffle fries are addicting, crispy outside, moist inside–yum! We take our time savoring the flavors and the scenery; boaters continue their trek to and from Lake St. Clair, you have to make the most of a day like today.

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We’re extending our day with one more stop, Baffin Brewing Company on Jefferson in St. Clair Shores has been open about a year now and already has a large contingent of loyal customers. Today the brewery is decked out in Autumn decor; cornstalks and haystacks join Hops across the front of the building. The interior is an open space, beer-making is taking place in large kettles on the left, the bar is sort of zig-zag shaped to the right. I choose a spot with a straight-on view of the chalkboard beer list, today there are 10 to choose from. After a few samples and a lot of questions I choose the Backcrossing Brown-a nitrogen poured chestnut honey brown made with local chestnuts; mellow and tasty its smoothness really won me over. Kris is having the Don’t Tell Scotty, a Scotch Ale, which he enjoys. As we sip our beer and munch on popcorn we have light conversation with one of the owners and the bartender, I ask about the wall of mugs, turns out each one of those mugs belongs to a customer who drank 150 beers in a year; we’d better get drinking… 

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Eastern Market: More to Come…

28 Sep

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 It’s 85 degrees on a Thursday evening, artists from Detroit, the nation and around the world hit the streets September 15, armed with brushes, rollers, spray cans and gallons; their visions will transform building walls around the Eastern Market District. Their goal: to expand Detroit’s legacy of public art by adding 35 new murals by 50 artists in 9 days! Events throughout the year in Detroit focus on the city’s art, culture, designers and new business. Murals in the Market and Detroit Design Festival overlap in mid-September, Eastern Market After Dark gives us a chance to see the best of both events and affords us a sneak peek of to come in the Market. We start on Gratiot, New York artist Kevin Lyons is perched high in the bucket of a lift putting the finishing touches on his mural.  Round-eyed, goofy creatures in shades of turquoise and coral smile at us revealing names of Detroit Jazz giants in their teeth, Aretha Franklin, Dilla, T3, and Ron Carter are just a few represented. A block down Dalek has created a study in perspective using shades of red, black and blue; a pair of hands reach out from around the corner of the building.

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Further down Gratiot we park near the Maple Substation, Hueman has finished her piece; a mix of warm colors on the right, cool on the left, joined by a face, a hand seems to be brushing away a tear, images are layered one upon another. Nearby, a character rides his bike carrying water to those in need; it’s a magnificent scene. Around the corner a trio of artists are in the process of completing the word “Detroit” on an old Honey Bee Hardware warehouse. Black and white letters are splashed across the brick wall, pastel colors take over on the roll-up door. A few yards over NNII works his roller into gray paint blocking in large sections of his design. Everywhere I look something is happening, murals seem to be growing among the weeds and vines that have claimed the long-vacated area. Pixel Pancho’s old-fashioned portrait high upon a corner looks like it could have been here a century ago.

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We walk down alleys and streets not wanting to miss a thing. Two women sit on the ground filling in the final section on a wall that puts me in the mind of a kaleidoscope; blue, yellow, green and purple designs cover one area; red, pink, yellow, orange and lilac fill the other. We stop and talk, Kristin Farr is based in CA, her fellow artist formerly from Toronto lives here now. So far we’ve chatted with artists from NY, CA, NC and Canada; everybody is having a good time.

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An attractive group of Art Deco style buildings on the east side of Gratiot are slowly being restored; Inner State Gallery, a sponsor of Murals in the Market, has been one of the anchors as other businesses slowly open. The gallery is buzzing with activity tonight, the current exhibition features the art of the muralists working in the district. Outside, white lights are strung under an awning, Cyberoptix is hosting a soft opening of their retail space set to open in November. Inside, the tie lab displays original designs on neck ties, bow ties and scarves; Well Done Goods is also selling jewelry in the space, their retail space in the same building is currently in the works.

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SMPLFD, a Detroit-themed apparel manufacturer is the most recent shop to open. Selling unique designs focused on Detroit sports teams and cultural icons, items include t-shirts, tank tops and super-soft sweatshirts; everything I looked at was Made In The USA. They also sell headwear, sunglasses and tote bags. The building is beautiful, the space is beautiful, clothing is high quality, attractive and clever; a great addition to the neighborhood.

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We drop in at People’s Records, this is one of those shops that’s always fun to have a peek; I love the old black and white portraits that fill the wall, boxes and crates are maxed out with old vinyl. The next building is a fabulous example of Art Nouveau, the former TransLove Energies space is now Detroit Life; same owner, same great art, music and design. We traverse the building from top to bottom taking in photos by famed Detroit photographer Leni Sinclair, posters by Gary Grimshaw, both share an interesting history with the space. The second floor has a fantastic view of Gratiot, the city and the market district; darkness has fallen, traffic lights and headlights fill the lanes, buildings are dresses up in special lighting, storefronts are awash in light; I think to myself, this is so cool… The venue is constantly hosting live music and art exhibitions, we’ll be back.

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We cross Gratiot, it’s got to be 80 degrees still, the night is humid. Murals from 2015 cover several walls, tonight a gorgeous piece with 2 Native Americans is being finished, the artist working by spotlight up on a lift. We watch in amazement as he works. Walking on gravel between buildings we think we’ve covered everything new in this area. Now it’s time to head into the belly of the beast, events are going on all over the main market area; I’ll tell you all about it in the next post.

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Wandering Through Wyandotte

18 Aug

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We’re in the historic waterfront community of Wyandotte, about 11 miles downriver from Detroit. We begin our visit with a scenic stroll along the water; the sun is blazing overhead causing cicadas to break into song, seagulls glide above, boats zoom past as we gaze across the river at Canada. It’s quite beautiful here, in Michigan we’re spoiled by the abundance of blue water surrounding our state. Out on the fishing pier we stare at Grassy Island, a Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, further out is Fighting Island, a Canadian Island that looks equally uninhabited. Freighters pass on their way to or from Lake Erie. 

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Over on Biddle Ave we arrive at the Ford-MacNichol Home Museum. Built in 1896 the home is a wonderful example of Queen Anne Architecture, it also serves as history museum for the city of Wyandotte. The 2 1/2 story house features a lovely wrap-around porch, Tuscan columns and a corner turret. First let me tell you a story. In the late 1880’s while drilling for natural gas, huge salt deposits were discovered under the city. Over in Pittsburgh John B Ford, founder of Pittsburgh Plate Glass, got word of this, you see, salt is critical in the creation of soda ash, which is used to make glass. JB Ford established the Michigan Alkali Co. to manufacture soda ash for his factory. His son, Edward Ford, founded Ford Plate Glass Co. in Toledo, which eventually became Libbey Owens Ford. This house was built for Edward’s daughter Laura and her husband George P MacNichol. Let’s go inside.

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As you can imagine, money was no object, the interior is stunning. Occupying 6,600 sq. ft. are 32 rooms, 6 fireplaces, 65 windows and 53 doors. They had indoor plumbing, a coal furnace, and both gas and electric lights; furnished with period pieces, the home is quite elegant. The large living room is decorated in olive-green, the carpet was reproduced from an old piece of the original, curved glass fills the windows in the turret area. Throughout the house walls are covered in boldly patterned wallpaper, the textured style in the foyer is still original, framed portraits and hair art hang on the walls. Each fireplace has a different color tile, the antique Delft Blue tiles are gorgeous, each one unique.

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The huge mirror in the dining room was rescued from a house being demolished down the block, volunteers carried it down the sidewalk, right into this house, the Limoges china is incredible. The music room is home to antique instruments, another splendid fireplace and an early phonograph. Past the butler’s pantry is the kitchen, used only by the domestic help the room is quite plain. An old toaster and waffle iron rest on burners, large pots, an iron and washboard remind us how much work simple tasks used to be. Vintage bottles and tins from the Michigan Alkali Co. rest on shelves.

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The basement contains exhibits and items that tell the early history of Wyandotte; from the 1700’s when the Native American tribe known as the Wyandot roamed the land to the beginning of industry and manufacturing. Placards tell us stories, show us photographs, items are displayed under glass. Eureka Iron Works was the first company in America to use the Bessemer process which created steel rails. Michigan Alakli Co manufactured chemicals and salt based cleaning products such as baking soda and lye. In the 1930’s it merged with J B Ford, becoming the Wyandotte chemical company, which operates today as BASF and remains in the city. Over 300 steamers, tugs and ferries were built between 1870 and 1930, the hulls were made here, tugged to Detroit, then outfitted in the shipyards.

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On the second floor we peek into the grand master bedroom complete with fireplace. The tower room contains the Attic Gallery, filled with items representing Wyandotte history, sports, recreation and prominent businesses, I don’t know what to look at first. The room itself is cozy, lots of wood, team photographs, architectural elements, paintings, memorabilia. My favorite is the Wyandotte Plays exhibit; toys from All Metal Products company, better known as Wyandotte Toys, fill a case with trucks, cars, planes, animals–all painted red, yellow and blue. The company operated here from 1921-1957, it seems plastic became the favored material from that point on. The Melhouse Ice Cream pieces are pretty sweet too, the actual building has been restored and is now an architectural firm in town. Wyandotte has a pretty amazing past! We take the main stairway down past stained glass windows and stop for one last look around, the Victorian grandeur has been well-preserved, as has the history of this city.

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Time for lunch. Just down the street is Dangerously Delicious Pie’s Wyandotte location. The Detroit location inside Third Street Saloon closed August 1, we can get our Pie fix here until the new Detroit shop opens in the fall. The walls of the modest space are bright red, seating is available at the counter or tables scattered about the room. The same delicious varieties are available with a few seasonal choices thrown in. We order at the counter, take our seat and in about 10 minutes our food is delivered. I’m trying out the Crab & Cheddar, that unmistakable flaky crust holds a filling of crab meat and cheddar cheese in a quiche-like base, yum! Kris barely says a word as he digs into the Hot Rod Potato, tender potatoes, peppers and a spicy sauce make this one of our favorites. Large slices are served with a generous heap of salad greens with house dressing, the price for all of this is still just 7 bucks.

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We saunter up and down Biddle Ave wandering in and out of boutiques, galleries and shops. Both Sanders and Stroh’s are tempting, it’s Whiskeys on the Water that draws us in. This bar/restaurant has only been open since March but has already developed a loyal following. The original 1924 stone bank building is now an industrial-modern space decorated in brick, metal and reclaimed wood; huge windows bring sunlight into the large space. We sit at the bar and order cocktails, an Old Fashioned for Kris and the house version of a Moscow Mule for me. The after-work crowd begins to drift in, we sip our tasty cocktails as the Olympics are broadcast on flat-screen televisions.  Relaxed and refreshed, it’s time to go home. Good things are happening in Wyandotte, come see for yourself! 

 

 

DETROIT: Cabin Fever…

29 Jun

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Thomas Palmer, a Detroit resident, U.S. Senator, American ambassador to Spain and land owner—farming 640 acres of land that included orchards, cattle and Percheron horses, in what is now Palmer Park, married Elizabeth (Lizzie) Pitts Merrill in 1855. By 1885 Lizzie was looking for a place to escape the traffic, noise and crowds of Detroit. Her husband presented her with plans for a rustic cabin, built to her specifications, on land he owned along Woodward Ave, which at that time was considered out in the country; the cabin would be used  for entertaining and as a summer retreat. The team of George Mason (Masonic Temple) and Zachariah Rice (The Grand Hotel and DYC) designed the cabin which was completed in 1887.

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Nearly 130 years later the cabin still stands on its original spot. Eventually Palmer gifted the land and cabin to the City of Detroit, in 1897 the area was officially designated Palmer Park. Once a year the People for Palmer Park and the City of Detroit open the cabin to the public, today is Log Cabin Day. We follow the sidewalk along Lake Frances, a young girl expertly riding a Penny-farthing (or High Wheeler) passes by. We approach the cabin, volunteers are dressed up in 1880’s clothing, we hear musket blasts coming from the Civil War camp in the distance, the 102nd USCT  history group is putting on a demonstration. A policeman sits atop a beautiful horse, visitors have gathered waiting for their chance to pet the majestic animal. Behind the cabin the Saline Fiddlers Philharmonic play American folk, fiddle and bluegrass tunes as Appalachian step dancers perform on a makeshift stage, these high-schoolers are impressive.

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Walking around the cabin we pause to look at the building, it was constructed with trees harvested from the surrounding forest, awnings are made from split logs. The structure is in need of repair, the fireplace exteriors are shrouded in tarps that have seen better days. Cheery flowers have recently been planted in front, flowering shrubs are in full bloom, members of PFPP have been hard at work on the cabin. Inside, historians dressed in period attire speak about the Palmer family, they tell us about the cabin with its stone fireplaces, pocket doors, wooden floors and the indoor toilette–something that was unheard of in those days. The stairway is central in the house, the woodwork is in remarkably good shape, pretty fancy for a cabin. The home had 21 lovely stained glass windows, volunteers demonstrate the expensive restoration process, the remaining windows are protected by metal screens, a donation jar nearby is stuffed with 1 and 5 dollar bills. In another room the Detroit Unity African-American Quilters show off their handiwork, photographs and postcards cover the walls sharing Detroit history and memories. The American Jewel stove is the highlight of the kitchen, from where I’m standing I can feel cold air seep from under the cellar door. A continuous stream of visitors make their way from the front to the back door.

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Outside, a cast of 7 from Project Daydream is performing Cinderella, Guernsey Dairy is handing out scoops of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, kids and grown-ups are hard at work creating hats out of paper bags, scraps of material, ribbons, feathers and beads for the Mad Hatter contest. We see more members of The Wheelman group wearing vintage clothing and riding antique bikes. CJ Forge Blacksmithing demonstrates the craft of creating hand-forged items. We check out the bright yellow International pick-up truck, cool. The Detroit Mounted Police Unit moved to Palmer Park in 2010, we visit the horses, they seem to appreciate the company, leaning their heads against the fence hoping for a pet. Palmer Park is truly an urban oasis with 296 acres of lawns, historic woodlands, Lake Frances, hiking and biking trails. Be sure and check out all of the activities PFPP offers throughout the year.

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Kuzzo’s Chicken &Waffles is just minutes away, we’ve written about them before, but you can never have too much chicken & waffles. We slip in just as a number of tables leave, good timing. Today’s special is Motor City Blues; a blueberry Belgian waffle served with 3 chicken wings or tenders, we love the tenders. The waffle is delicious, beyond delicious if that’s possible; studded with sweet, juicy blueberries, dusted with powdered sugar and a scoop of butter, drizzled with maple syrup, YUM! The biscuits and gravy are a must; flaky, moist biscuits served with a bowl of creamy sausage gravy……enough said. We still have yet to try one of those fancy layered Kool-aid drinks served up in Mason jars–next time.

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Driving down 8 Mile Rd we notice the sandwich board on the sidewalk for Detroit Vintage, we drive around the block, park in back and stop in for a coffee. The building has been in the owners family since 1956 when it was the Paris Inn restaurant, the current incarnation is a whimsical, eclectic, coffee shop/tea room/espresso bar/gallery/boutique. Attractive displays fill the space; antique, vintage, interesting items are stacked, layered and hung. Seating areas are tucked in among the whimsy. Glass-domed dishes contain Italian creme, lemon pound and triple chocolate cakes, cookies and cupcakes look equally tasty. We make ourselves comfy, drinking iced coffee as we take in strings of white lights, large red stars, clocks, sconces and a bicycle that hangs from the rafters. What an absolutely delightful place.

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A Little North…..

2 Jun

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We are in the Village of Romeo, there’s an estate sale at the former Prospect Hill Bed and Breakfast at 439 Prospect Street. We’ve always wanted to see the inside of this 6,000 sq. ft. beauty, today’s our chance. We park on the street and approach the hill-top property, curiosity-seekers and shoppers enter and exit through the front doors. The imposing structure is quite lovely, immediately in the entry way a staircase leads us up, we make our way from room to room noticing antique light fixtures, wide moldings  surrounding the ceiling and doorways and the unique feature of inset sinks in the bedrooms. Fireplaces are marble, floors are wood, medallions grace a few of the ceilings. Everything is for sale. 

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Having satisfied our curiosity we decide to take a stroll through the neighborhood. The area now known as Romeo was originally inhabited by Chippewa Indians and called Indian Village, as more and more people moved into the village homes were put up, businesses began to grow; the town was re-named Romeo in 1838. Much of the architecture you see today dates to the 19th and 20th centuries, most of it Victorian in style, including the picturesque downtown. The entire Village of Romeo is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We stroll up and down Main Street, beautiful Queen Anne homes sport lattice, spindles, fish-scale and shake siding. Elaborate paint schemes make the most of architectural details, porches are large and inviting, baskets of flowers hang above. 

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Throughout the neighborhood homes have leaded glass windows, graceful columns, stone is a popular feature whether used for a chimney or the lower level of a house, I like the way it looks. Flowering trees are still in bloom, lawns are deep green and lush. Greek Revival and Italianate styles join the Queen Anne’s with their colorful exteriors. We spy a pale yellow home with the fanciest trim I think I’ve ever seen, from the distinctive columns and window pediments to the third-story dormers and decoration under the eaves, it’s spectacular. The green Second Empire at 240 Sisson is gorgeous, as are so many of these well cared for homes. Romeo still maintains its agricultural history with farms and orchards throughout the city. 

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A short drive and we’re at Blake’s Ciderhouse and Winery in Armada for lunch. Gerald and Elisabeth Blake along with their 13 children started the historic farm back in 1846, they now have over 500 acres of orchards and farmland. The business has passed down through the generations and is one of the most popular cider mills in the area. With the addition of hard cider, wine and beer a whole new clientele is being introduced to the Blake’s family. The Ciderhouse and Winery is housed in a charming, rustic-looking building. The interior is an attractive mix of wood, wrought iron and decorative concrete, a large open fireplace rests in the center of the room. Wood shelves and cabinets hold craft ciders in glass bottles and aluminum cans, wine is sold by the bottle in several varieties.We have a seat at the bar, check out the latest ciders and place our order. I am having the Cransylvania Cider, a mix of blood orange and cranberry, it’s refreshing and delicious. Kris is drinking the Flannel Mouth, a nice, sweet apple-y hard cider. Our bbq chicken flatbread arrives; a sweet tangy bbq sauce is layered with chicken, smoked gouda cheese and sliced red onion, yum! Have to leave room for dessert…..

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Achatz Handmade Pie Company has been making pies using recipes passed down through the generations since 1993, we are at the North Ave location in Armada. If you have seen the name but aren’t sure how its pronounced, it rhymes with jackets. The space is homey, comfortable, shabby chic, vintage items are re-purposed as shelving and displays. You can purchase salsa’s, salad dressing, jam, honey, popcorn and of course pie! The length of the room is one long string of tasty offerings from homemade soups to desserts. There’s a lot to choose from so we have to give this some serious consideration, we finally agree on the Turtle Cheesecake. We order a slice at the counter along with espresso for Kris and tea for me. We take our tray to a seat by the roll-up door. The caramel cheesecake rests on a chocolate crust then is topped with a chocolate ganache and pecans, rich and delicious. We take our time enjoying our sweet treat, the afternoon sun and the breeze coming in through the door. Life is Good.

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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!

DETROIT: Bank On It

30 Mar

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By the 1890’s Detroit was becoming an important industrial and manufacturing city producing consumer goods such as shoes, bicycles, beer, packaged seeds and pharmaceuticals. The city manufactured railroad cars, ships and stoves; in 1890 Detroit was the nations 14th largest city with a population of 205,876, all of those people needed to put their money somewhere…The Financial District was born. In 1899 22 of 23 banks in Detroit’s financial district were on Griswold, the economic boom of the auto industry brought new banks that swallowed up the old, mergers and closures. Of the 36 buildings within the historically designated Financial District, 33 are historic buildings, 18 of these originally housed banks or financial institutions. Today we are visiting Chrysler House f.k.a the Dime Savings Bank Building.

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The Neoclassical building designed by Daniel Burnham opened in 1912, the steel-framed structure is covered in white glazed brick with white terra-cotta trim. Built and paid for by the Dime Savings Bank of Detroit, you could open an account there for as little as 10 cents. The banks vaults and tellers were on the first floor, offices were above that. In 2002 $40 million was spent on upgrades and renovations making it into Class A office space. Bedrock Detroit purchased the building in 2011, in 2012 Chrysler Group LLC leased 33,000 sq ft; after nearly 100 years the name was changed to Chrysler House. The light-filled lobby is striking; stylish seating areas, large potted plants, polished marble floors and elegant columns surround the central light court. 

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The ground floor houses restaurants and retail shops, passing through the lobby, lanyard-laden employees come and go during the lunch hour, we walk towards the bank of elevators, make a left and find ourselves in a short corridor. Drought, founded by four James sisters from Plymouth MI, produces organic cold-pressed raw juice. They operate 6 locations in Metro Detroit including the small retail space in Chrysler House, selling glass bottles of juice, cold-brew coffee and candles. The stark white space overlooks Fort St, foot traffic is heavy today, now and again pedestrians pause to look in the windows. A single 3-door cooler holds bottles of colorful juices, customers come in, grab a bottle or two, pay at the counter and they’re off.

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Across the hall Bon Bon Bon has opened a second location. It’s Good Friday, with Easter only a couple of days away, the demand for chocolate is high, there is no shortage of variety or quantity today. I count at least 25 flavors from Bunny Butt and Hazel-What? to Cherry Lux and Boston Cooler, wait, does that one say Bacon & Eggs…..yup. The shop is cheery with bright orange walls, sunlight spills in from large windows, a steady stream of chocoholics make their way to the front of the line. When our turn comes I choose Bunny Butt, chocolate cake cream in a dark chocolate shell with a squirt of buttercream. Kris goes with the Swimming Turtle, toasted pecan and sea salt in a pool of caramel, it’s as good as your thinking it is right now.

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Now that we’ve had dessert I guess we should have some lunch! Dime Store opened on the ground floor facing Griswold in 2014. Funky vintage lights hang above the counters, an over-sized mercury head from dimes minted between 1916-1945 is painted on the far wall, old kitchen items rest on shelves. They call themselves an American Brunch Bar specializing in breakfast, lunch and booze; they do all of it well. It’s nearly 3 pm and the only available space is two counter seats, we make ourselves comfy as we read over the menu. Once we place our order we’re mesmerized by all of the activity in the open kitchen, staff members hustle among a sea of stainless steel preparing french toast, omelettes, benny’s, hash, salads and sandwiches.  

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Our server delivers a bowl of classic Mac & Cheese, topped with bread crumbs and chives the sauce is thick and smooth, the noodles are the perfect texture. Todays special is the Hercules Omelette, 2 eggs packed with house-made chorizo, roasted eggplant, spinach and smoked Gouda topped with tzatziki sauce and pickled onions. Filling out the plate is a side of breakfast potatoes and toast, every bite is delicious. 

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Now that we’ve eaten we take a little time to explore the building further. White walls are accented with embossed plaster panels painted in red, teal and gold, elevator doors wear decorative trim and elegant wreaths. The second floor is the mezzanine level, here we get an up-close look at the Corinthian capitols, plaster rosettes and designs. The old fireplace from the bank presidents office has been moved to create a cozy seating area, workers sit at small tables overlooking the lobby while on their break. Looking up through the skylight I notice the building becomes a U-shape on the upper floors, what a cool view of the building and sky. At 104 years old the Dime building, errrr…I mean Chrysler House is still looking good!

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A short walk away we stop in at Cornerstone Barrel House on Woodward for Happy Hour. Open for about a year now in the old Oslo space, the decor features reclaimed wood and exposed brick walls lending a rustic feel to the space. We pull up a seat at the bar, scan the menu along with the collection of bottles behind the counter and make our decision. I sip on a Left Hand Brewing Co. Nitro Milk Stout, Kris enjoys a Crown on the rocks. The vibe is mellow, patrons represent city and suburbs, visitors and locals in all age ranges. The restaurant serves lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, the lower level, called The Whiskey Disco, hosts international and local electronic music artists Wednesday through Saturday.

 

 

METRO: War is Hell

2 Mar

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We’ve heard the stories, learned the historical facts in school and have watched Hollywood’s version of the wars involving the United States. Still many people feel disconnected to this part of our history. My parents were very young children during WWII, they had no memories or personal stories to share with me. You may not know it but if you live in Michigan, specifically the metropolitan Detroit area, you are surrounded by the historic Arsenal Of Democracy, it’s extremely impressive. Michigan-made items for the military were made here from 1900 to the present. A visit to the Michigan Military Technical & Historical Society Museum in Eastpointe really provides insight and perspective on the impact Michigan industry has made in civil defense. Let’s check out the museum….

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We enter the single-story building on Stephens, the lobby area doubles as a gift shop, a woman welcomes us, we pay our admission fee then begin to wander the museum. The 11,000 sq ft space is packed with machinery, vehicles, showcases and wall cases filled with artifacts. It has an old-fashioned feel to me, there are no buttons to push, no flashing lights or multi-media displays. What you will find is an amazing collection of equipment, weapons, uniforms, posters and photographs all carefully curated and detailed by placards. Exhibits begin during WWI, the US was only involved in the conflict from 1917-1919, at that time most airplane propellers were made of wood,  15 Grand Rapids furniture companies were involved in manufacturing aircraft parts. The Fisher Body plant on Fort St built the DeHavilland DH-4, the only American-manufactured aircraft to see combat in France.

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Right away I notice items from aircraft to artillery bear names like Packard, Ford, Dodge, Fisher Body. I follow the timeline along the left wall going from exhibit to exhibit, several cases display Michigan products built for WWII, it’s strange to see a manual for a Oldsmobile 37mm M4 automatic gun or an ammunition can made by Cadillac. The auto manufacturers were huge contributors; Ford made gliders, Packard built marine engines, Fisher Boat Works made the PT3 and 4, GM was the largest producer of the M1919 .30 caliber machine gun during WWII. De foe shipbuilding in Bay City built Navy and Coast Guard ships, Chris Craft built landing craft, Borg Warner made the LVT Bushmaster, Clark Equipment (Buchanan MI) built the Airborne Bulldozer. Canvas goods came from Alpena, Wolverine provided boots, magnifiers were made in Lansing, see what I mean? It’s astounding.

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Throughout the space wartime posters hang on walls (check out the one featuring Joe Louis), engines and machinery sit out in the open, vignettes give us an idea of how campsites and bunkers were set up, complete with actual weapons. There’s a tent with a wood floor and a low wood wall that sort of pops out of a crate, we see bedrolls, footlockers and actual telegrams informing loved ones there soldier will not be coming home. The items are all real, donated to the museum, I have mixed emotions seeing everything, I can’t imagine what it was like being so far from home under such dire circumstances. The steering wheel of a Jeep has “flower power” carved into it reminding us of the real people who drove it.

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It’s just a short drive to Dragonmead Microbrewery in Warren, time for lunch. The entrance takes us directly into the bar area, a left turn leads us to dining tables. It’s a Saturday, the place is busy but we are greeted quickly by our server. The beer menu is huge, overwhelming, extensive. Styles include American, English, German, Belgian, Czech, Norwegian, Scottish and Russian, each using the grain from the country in which the style originated. We selected a flatbread in a minute, the beer took longer…. I decide on the Woody’s Perfect Porter, an English-style Ale, it’s good. Kris picks Under The Kilt Wee Heavy, a Scottish-style Ale he really enjoyed. The Wizard flatbread pizza comes with BBQ pizza sauce, BBQ chicken, bacon, caramelized onions, 3 kinds of cheese, drizzled with ranch dressing, yum! It’s the perfect size for two of us to share. 

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Keeping with the theme, we drive to St. Clair Shores to the Detroit Arsenal of Democracy Museum, open since May 2014, this is our first visit. The museum specializes in military vehicles and equipment from WWII to the current War on Terror. Here, again, the emphasis is on the Detroit automakers and suppliers. The 10,000 sq. ft. industrial building  display’s about 50% of the vehicle collection at a time, encouraging visitors to return. Showcases hold Italian editions of the Stars and Stripes newspaper, the Detroit Times, telegrams, medals and patches. We see and officers field dining set, a percolator, trays used by soldiers, rations and Colgate toothpaste. Black and white photos hang on the walls, there’s one of the 10,000th Chrysler-built tank from July 20, 1943. 

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A large tent looks as though it’s set up for a strategy session, a projector faces a screen, a typewriter waits to write a message, an army green bicycle rests nearby. Mannequins are dressed in uniform; a paratrooper hangs from the ceiling, oversize military vehicles are at rest, engines are on display as well as a massive 1942 Sperry searchlight. We check out the 1942 Cadillac limo that transported General Dwight D Eisenhower, the 1941 M2 Halftrack and the 1953 Dodge M37 . Vehicles are not roped off, a young boy eagerly climbs up into the Jeep. Both the Chrysler Corp. tank arsenal in Warren and the Willow Run Bomber Plant in Ypsilanti were built specifically to increase production; here men and women assembled planes, tanks, Jeeps, trucks and weaponry. It really is a reminder of what a powerhouse of manufacturing this area used to be.

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Be proud of our state, without Michigan’s Arsenal of Democracy many of us would likely not be here today reading this, and be thankful for all of those that have and continue to serve our country, land of the free because of the brave…

GROSSE POINTE: Dinner And A Movie…

23 Feb

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I love movies. While today’s modern theaters offer perks like reclining seats, cup holders and surround sound, I still prefer watching films in old theaters and unique venues. This evening we are at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial for their Movies on Sunday series, tonight they are showing Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest. First lets talk a little bit about the venue. The Russell A Alger Jr house, also known as The Moorings was built as the family home in 1910. The Italian Renaissance beauty perched above Lake St. Clair was donated to the community in 1949 to serve as a perpetual memorial to the 3,500 Grosse Pointers who served and the 126 who died in WWII. It is also used as a center for educational and charitable activities of the community. Oh and it’s an incredible location for a wedding or party. 

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The addition of the Fries Auditorium and Crystal Ballroom came along in 1962, the ballroom is stunning! From the parking lot we take the portico past the formal garden to the Crystal Ballroom entrance; the large space decorated in grey and silver feels opulent with dazzling crystal chandeliers, highly polished floor, statues and a shiny black baby grand piano. The main ballroom has floor to ceiling windows trimmed in white, Lake St. Clair provides a fantastic backdrop, the parquet floor is perfect for dancing. A stairway leads us down to Fries Auditorium where they are getting ready to start the movie, popcorn scents the air. Patrons are grabbing snacks and beverages before the lights dim, when everyone is seated Travis Wright from WDET’s Culture City introduces the film; there will be a talk-back after the film for anybody who’s interested.

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We sit in darkness as Hitchcock himself appears on the screen, a North By Northwest poster hangs prominently on the wall behind him; the music has the usual intensity of his films; Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason star. The film begins, Hitchcock makes his candid appearance and we’re off on a wild adventure of kidnapping, mystery, romance and chases. The most famous scenes, the crop dusting and the chase on Mount Rushmore, are just as intense today as they were in 1959. 136 minutes later the lights come back up, time for dinner.

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The Whiskey Six on St. Clair Street in The Village of Grosse Pointe opened last December to much fanfare. The restaurant/bar serves Michigan-made beer and spirits, fine whiskey’s and a full menu of food from appetizers and sandwiches to entrees—and they’re open till midnight on Sunday! The decor is what I would call rustic industrial; the large space is open floor to black ceiling, leaving ducting and wiring exposed. The centerpiece, of course, is the 1928 Studebaker parked on a platform above the bar–it’s sorta the bar’s namesake. Here’s a little bit of the history printed on the drink menu: “It is estimated that 75% of all of the alcohol imported into the US between 1920 and 1933 came through Detroit, mostly by boat. When the lake and river froze, the ‘importers’ turned to mostly six-cylinder Buicks and Studebakers to make the dangerous trek across the frozen or partially frozen river and lake. These vehicles came to be called ‘Whiskey Sixes’.”

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The drink menu is huge, I mean pages and pages of whiskey, gin, vodka, rum cordials and cocktails. While Kris studies his whiskey options I check out the food choices. We place our order, we are one of the few tables at this time of night, our window-side table overlooks the now vacant village. First to arrive is the Blanton’s Kris was happy to find on the list of whiskey. Shortly thereafter the crispy rice balls made with Fontina cheese, mushrooms, red pepper and asparagus topped with a dollop of lemon-lime aioli (think  Italian arancini) arrive along with the Prohibition Burger. The burger made with certified Piedmontese beef, cooked to a perfectly pink medium, is topped with creamy blue cheese, caramelized onion and black pepper mayo, it’s delicious. This is the perfect place to stop and grab a late dinner after the Sunday Movie. There’s always something going on in Detroit and the Metro; what a great way to end the weekend!

 

DETROIT: Deco Delights

16 Dec

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As more and more businesses set up shop in Detroit, buildings that have sat vacant for years, even decades, become more desirable. Sometimes these forgotten structures become the spark that ignites interest in an area, other times they are the lone hold-out in an otherwise redeveloping district. DTE Energy has been hard at work improving the area surrounding their headquarters; they added a glass atrium at the base of their main building a few years ago and have since continued to improve the campus. Across the street from DTE is the gorgeous, Art Deco, Salvation Army headquarters building; after sitting vacant for years DTE bought it in 2012, renovated it and renamed it Navitas House–Navitas means ‘energy’ in Latin. This evening we are touring the building with the Detroit Area Art Deco Society (DAADS).

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We arrive at One Energy Plaza, a 25-floor, dark brown skyscraper constructed in 1971 of steel and glass  in the International style of architecture; DAADS is hosting their Holiday Mixer in the lobby.  This is our first time in this building; glass walls soar skyward, city lights glow in the distance, marble floors gleam, appetizer stations are set up for tonight’s event. First we eat, then we mingle, afterwards we have a seat in the carpeted lounge area, DAADS is presenting their Preservation award to DTE in honor of the restoration of Navitas House– visible from the lobby in which we are seated. The presentation is finished, photos taken, we head out to 601 Bagley for the tour.

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It’s dark outside, LED lights trimming the building illuminate it in a changing wash of pink, purple, blue, green and yellow; indirect lighting accents architectural features. We enter through the front doors, a few steps up and we’re in the lobby, we all stop, look around and smile. It’s beautiful; from the terrazzo floors,terracotta block walls, floral patterned grills to the exceptional Art Deco railings, trim and molding–all original. This 3-story, 32,000 sq ft building was constructed in 1938 as the Detroit headquarters for the Salvation Army, which closed the building in 2004. Hamilton Anderson Associates was the architectural firm on the project, they were able to preserve much of the interior elements while making the building energy-efficient for the 140 employees in DTE’s IT department that work here.

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The old auditorium has been converted to work space, offices sit on what was once a stage, decorative panels above the door have been preserved as well as recessed corner columns. We spend the next hour traversing stairways, hallways and work spaces viewing a clever mix of old and new. Lounge areas feature modern furnishings and a great view of the city. In the stairway it’s still 1938, then we pop through a door and enter 2015. Black and white photographs pay homage to old Detroit, authentic building plans are framed and hang on the wall. Original radiators, railings, marble walls and grills intermix with energy-efficient lighting, colorful conference rooms and modern technology, very cool. It seems no expense was spared, this is DTE’s first LEED certified building, we’re so glad to see it alive with purpose again.

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Over on Park Ave. Centaur Bar is tucked into two floors of the Iodent Building. Built in 1923, the Iodent company went from renting a floor to purchasing the structure sometime after WWII–this is where Iodent toothpaste was made, in addition to other toiletries. The Iodent is now home to Centaur, Hot Taco and 11 luxury lofts. The exterior of the building has a few Art Deco elements, it’s the large Centaur (part human, part equine) jutting out near the corner of Park Ave and Montcalm that grabs your eye. The elegant interior has a definite Deco feel, lighting is dramatic; the grand chandelier dips down through a hole from the second floor to just above the bar. Tall narrow windows look out onto the city, in the summer the windows open out onto the sidewalk. High-top tables dot the perimeter of the main floor, liquor bottles rest on shelves of a mirrored wall behind the bar.

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The mezzanine level is home to a pair of billiard tables and several cozy seating areas, here again, you have a great view of the city. We sit on ground level sipping cocktails and chatting with the bartender. There’s a flat screen TV off to the side, they show nothing but old movies; tonight’s feature stars Elizabeth Taylor, the volume is kept off , making conversation easy. The bar and kitchen are open 7 days a week from 4 pm to 2 am, convenient both before and after a show or anytime you feel like chilling out in lovely surroundings.