Tag Archives: corktown

Detroit: Corktown Bound..

22 May

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Detroit is a city known around the world for its past. We were a manufacturing mecca; we built ships, stoves, war planes, we put the world on wheels. The city gave birth to Motown, Techno. We are known for Coney Island hot dogs, cocktails such as the Hummer and the Last Word. Detroit was a city of inventors, artists and beauty. For a while the lights went out in our bright city but the spirit of Detroit never dimmed. Here we are, reinventing ourselves, again. The world has taken notice, Detroit is on the lips of people across the country and across the oceans. Urban farms, amazing architecture, an international waterfront, award-winning chefs, builders, makers and artists; the past and the future colliding. Downtown is lively again, people crowd the sidewalks on Woodward, something new opens in Midtown every week, restaurants are lined up out the door; it’s hard to keep up. Join us today as we explore some of Corktown’s latest offerings.

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A couple of charming brick buildings reside at the corner of Trumbull and Bagley, it doesn’t seem that long ago an aging market occupied some of the space, the buildings in need of some TLC. Now the buildings have been restored and repurposed, patios host diners, flower boxes mark off the perimeter, pedestrians are a common sight. The Farmer’s Hand is a compact, gourmet grocery store with a busy take-out counter. Fresh food and artisan products are all sourced from Michigan. The space is quaint, like an old-time corner store, here you can purchase fresh produce, regional cheese, wine, healthy snacks, specialty products like Gus & Grey‘s Sweet Jesus Jam or My Funny Clementine Marmalade. Fresh flower bouquets are beautiful, the pastries look delicious, dairy, juice, water and a variety of sodas fill the fridge. I like the old tin ceiling and the way everything mixes together creating a distinct aroma. They serve Hyperion Coffee, grab a latte and sit inside or head to the patio.

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Next door is Mama Coo’s Boutique, I love this shop. It’s kind of hard to describe; vintage, handmade, new, resale, art, themed pieces, all nestled together in one tiny space. Owner Lana Rodriguez was born and raised in southwest Detroit, she’s done a fabulous job hand-picking items and arranging them into eye-catching displays. An antique trunk, old tables and shelves are filled with interesting things; roller skates, canisters, ceramic ash trays, handbags. I’m a fan of old jewelry boxes, I remember when I was growing up how much I liked opening my mom’s jewelry boxes, taking out the pieces and putting them back, arranging them by color or size–costume jewelry of course. Racks of clothing, shoes, hats, knick-knacks, macrame, walls wear for-sale art. Southwest Detroit’s influence shows in Frida Kahlo charms, loteria and Mexican skull art. Every year Lana hosts a Prom dress drive and giveaway for local girls who otherwise would not have access to fancy, special occasion dress. If you have a prom dress, or two or three just sitting in the closet, consider donating them, there are so many girls who would love to have them. Did I mention I bought the cutest pair of hamburger earrings?

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Time to eat. FOLK is an artisanal cafe serving seasonal, made from scratch comfort foods. The restaurant is an extension of The Farmer’s Hand and owned by the same ladies. The restaurant is open until 3:00 pm and serves breakfast and lunch dishes. The corner space is light and airy, lots of white tile, live plants, communal tables, islands and a counter that overlooks the kitchen. We sit in a sunny window and decide quickly what we want to eat. The restaurant is paperless so we are given a number held in a tall metal stand. The yogurt bowl arrives first, turmeric tints the yogurt a pale yellow, a scoop of fruit compote and a helping of chia seeds complete the dish; it’s pretty tasty. The Big Guy is a breakfast sandwich with two eggs, cheese and a thick sausage patty, drizzled with sriracha sauce, served on a soft roll. A little pricey, but good. We are sharing a table with 2 women, one is having the daily special the other some sort of ‘bowl’, everything looks good. When we are finished we take our number to the counter where we are given a total and pay. 

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Over on Michigan Ave we pop into Metropolis Cycles, a full service bike shop. I really like this single-story building, the exterior brick is painted black and surrounds a large expanse of windows. Inside, bikes hang from exposed rafters, walls and stand in neat rows on the wood floor.  Exposed brick, antique wooden doors and potted plants make the shop cozy. Customers browse the selection of bicycles by Bianchi, Surly, Raleigh and Fairdale, lots to choose from.  Accessories are plentiful along with bike shorts, pants and shirts. A guy drops off his bike for a spring tune-up, everybody is anxious to get riding after the long winter. George Gregory is a men’s shop offering clothing and lifestyle goods. The shop is super-attractive, we are greeted by a sign that reads Hello Detroit, a bourbon-something-or-other candle burns on the counter and smells wonderful. Items are laid out in a way that encourages you to wander, pieces range a variety of price points. Khaki’s, casual shirts, swanky hats, shorts, t-shirts and belts share space with evening clothes, ties, shaving accessories and gym bags. The owner has a great eye. Definitely a place to keep in mind next time Kris updates his closet.

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The Happier Camper has an indoor showroom tucked away on Beech Street, a block or so off of Michigan Ave. We don’t camp but curiosity has gotten the best of us and we want to check out the trailers. We receive a warm welcome when we walk in the door, a campground scene is set up before us. A cute little trailer in white and fern green is on display, doors are open for easy access, modular pieces from the camper are laid out on a floor cloth. Happier Camper makes vintage-looking trailers with a modern, modular design. You can configure and reconfigure the modular interior system to suit your needs from camping to hauling to guest quarters; it’s not only cute it’s extremely clever. There’s a large rear hatch that makes loading and unloading a breeze, it can sleep 5 people. You can even upgrade your trailer with a stove top, shower, toilet, awning and 100 watt solar panel.All of the camper parts are made in the US–nice. Out in the loading area we take a peek at a Detroit Tiger’s themed unit, orange and navy blue with a Tiger’s logo. The colorful mural on the wall is pretty cool too. Click on the link above and watch the video on their website, looks like fun doesn’t it?

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Motor City Wine isn’t exactly a new business but it is a nice way to end the day. Part wine shop, part wine bar, live Jazz, DJ’s and a patio make MCW a popular place to hang out. The unassuming exterior gives way to a long bar, surprisingly busy; corks decorate the wall behind the back bar. A hand-written menu tells you today’s selections. In addition to wine they have a pretty good beer list and spirits. Hungry? Snack on Marcona almonds, potato chips, olives or how about a cheese or charcuterie plate? Kris and I order sangria’s at the bar, tables are laid out near the u-shaped retail section, we have this area to ourselves. I sip my sangria as I browse the wine selection from all over the world. You can purchase a bottle and drink it here for an $8 corkage fee. Our glasses are empty, must be time to go home. 

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DETROIT: Corktown Vintage

3 Mar

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With temperatures firmly in the double digits we leave the confines of the indoors to see what’s happening in Corktown. New businesses are opening at a rapid rate in Detroit, many of them in Detroit’s oldest neighborhood. Located west of downtown, Corktown was best known as the home of old Tiger Stadium, many predicted the neighborhood wouldn’t survive the loss of the ball park; the results are quite the opposite. Slow’s Bar B Q was the catalyst followed by Astro, Sugar House, Mudgies, Detroit Institute of Bagels, Motor City Wine, Two James, well, you get the idea….. Historic streets are lined with Victorian era buildings and homes; it’s the hot spot to grab a meal, craft cocktail, beer or a cup of coffee and do a little shopping.  

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Eldorado General Store is tucked into an attractive red brick building on Michigan Ave. A sandwich board out front alerts potential customers of the shops location. Inside a virtual smorgasbord of vintage goods awaits. A fantastic crystal chandelier clings to the tin ceiling; sunlight sparkles off the facets, a large American flag is draped behind the counter, a deer head mount guards the front door.  Beautiful clothing, jewelry and accessories are artfully arranged in the space, today there’s a lovely display of fur hats and muffs straight out of an Audrey Hepburn movie. Mod-patterned coffee cups and glass pieces from the 70’s are among the many home goods, trinkets and handcrafted items fill tabletops. Each time we come the shop is filled with different merchandise—one of the things I love about vintage stores. Owner, Erin is a pleasure to talk with, be sure and say hello when you stop in.

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Xavier’s 20th Century Furniture is a bit further down Michigan Ave, we’ve been coming to the shop for many years now and always look forward to seeing his latest finds. As soon as we step in Kris points out a gorgeous wood room divider along the left wall, a variety of tables, chairs and a desk bear the name of famous designers such as McCobb, Knoll, Eames, Herman Miller and George Nelson. Mid-Century design is as fresh and appealing today as it was then. Throughout the shop we see an assortment of pieces from machine-age Art Deco  to vintage lunchboxes, American pottery and glassware from Italy and Scandinavia. Coffee servers, tureens, waffle irons and toasters are crowded into the kitchen area, the old glass Pyrex percolator reminds me of my childhood.  Nothing we have to bring home today, but there’s always next time!

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Hello Records occupies a tiny space in a building on the corner of Bagley and Trumbull, it you’re into vinyl, check it out. It’s Saturday and it seems record collectors are out in full force, well-organized bins, boxes, crates and drawers are stuffed with vintage recordings. Records spin on the house turntable, tunes from the 60’s and 70’s fill the air as we browse through albums. We are not collectors but really enjoy the cover art, album names, and groups we’ve never heard of, Bagpipe Blues anyone? Cool old record cases are available for purchase, great photos cover the walls, the staff is extremely knowledgeable and friendly. Genres include soul, funk, jazz and rock, new arrivals have a section to themselves. Over in Jazz the cover of Bob James “H” features a hot dog topped with mustard, reminding us it’s time for lunch.

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St CeCe’s is right across Bagley, we cross the street and duck inside. The former home of Baile Coraigh, all of the beautiful wood paneling, stained glass, lamps and huge stone fireplace remain. The from-scratch kitchen has developed a loyal following as is evident today by the crowd that fills booths and tables. The restaurant features rotating artwork, the pieces currently on display are great. On Tuesday’s guest chefs come in and take over the kitchen, it’s always something new and different. Today we order off the house menu, we get our order in before another big group arrives, there’s something for everyone, meat eaters and vegetarians alike. We start with a house salad, a nice variety of greens and a tasty dressing, the Glazed Tempeh Wrap is stuffed with cucumber, carrot, sunflower sprouts, kim chi and cilantro, really tasty. The Shitake Sliders are yummy; shitake mushrooms topped with gooey melted Gruyere and a nice sauce. Since we ate so healthy we decide to treat ourselves to a beer, and we know just the place!

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Batch Brewing Company, winner of the 2013 Hatch Detroit contest, opened to rave reviews in February. It’s just before 4 pm, we are one of three or four other cars in the parking lot, we reach the door as it is unlocked, communal tables are empty at this early hour, we head straight to the bar. Taking the end two stools we are greeted immediately by one of the owners, we chat a little bit, he asks us what we like, then hands us a couple of samples. Each is unique, flavorful, refreshing, after little debate we make our selections: Way 2 Biggie (a Barleywine IPA) and the Obscure Reference Imperial Stout. Goblets are filled and slid across to us, though completely different, both are excellent. The building has a modern industrial feel to it, it’s a wide open space, strings of clear, round lights follow metal ceiling beams, with picnic table-like seating it almost feels like a patio. Behind the counter, large stainless steel vats contain the small batch brews, chalk boards announce the days selections.

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Orders are placed up at the bar, we have the best seat in the house, goblets and mason jars are filled with beer, colors range from gold to red to nearly black. Food orders are placed, numbers are handed out and food is brought directly to the customer, everything looks delicious. We spy Bread Pudding with Rum sauce on the menu and can’t resist. It arrives steaming hot, moist and smothered in sauce, it’s fantastic! By now the place is near capacity, with no available seating we relinquish ours to a couple standing nearby. Great service, exceptional beer and wonderful food, I can see what all the fuss is about!

Corktown Home Tour, Mudgie’s Deli

10 Jun

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Every June we look forward to the Historic Corktown Home Tour. Unlike a lot of the other historic neighborhoods in Detroit, Corktown is mostly made up of workers homes but don’t be fooled by their modest exteriors , you will be surprised if not stunned by what awaits inside! The interiors are not elaborate, this is not an area you find crystal chandeliers, marble floors, pewabic tile or third floor ballrooms, which in my opinion makes it all the more interesting!

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The original settlers here were Irish immigrants who largely came from County Cork, which of course is how it got its name. As a matter of fact, by the mid 19th century the Irish were the largest ethnic group in Detroit. Corktown is Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, established in 1834, it was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

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Homes here can be very deceiving, from the front many of them look quite small, but look down the side and you will see  that they are also very long. There is a mixture of architectural styles here, some two stories with Queen Ann influences, tiny worker cottages reflecting a bit of the federalist style are also a common sight. Since there are not a lot of interior details each owner can make it their own. Being able to walk through the houses is a real treat, you never know what you will find behind the front door. There are Victorian treasures with lovely tiled fireplaces, the very contemporary with bright red walls, vintage with great 50’s glass works and furniture, and modern with exposed wooden beams and free form counters. It’s an eclectic array of styles and personalities.  VIEW PHOTOS HERE

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Conveniently located on the corner of Porter and Brooklyn is Mudgie’s Deli, the perfect place for us to have lunch. We have known the owner Greg for many years, he does a great job with the place from its cheery orange walls and vintage tin ceiling to the artisan sandwiches, homemade soups and salads. The menu features many local products and vegan selections as well. Our “usual” is the Ivey; a delicious vegetarian sandwich with Greg’s house-made spinach spread, avocado, and an assortment of veggies, topped off with cheese and sunflower sprouts, along with a house salad it’s enough for two. The house specialty desserts are waffles, either the Fudgie Mudgie, or the Sweet Ruth, we went with Ruth. A warm bread pudding waffle, Calder Dairy Butter pecan ice cream melting into the indentations, and decadent caramel sauce, all topped off with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon, lip-smacking good!

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We had finished touring the homes, but had one last stop on the tour; Most Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church. Most Holy Trinity parish was established in 1834 for the large Irish influx of the 1830’s, the current, larger building was built in 1855.  The interior comprises a nave and two side aisles divided by rows of Gothic arches. The rear balcony was added in 1890 and is where the 1867 tracker organ rests, it is the oldest existing organ built in the US, and the oldest still in it’s original location. We were lucky enough to have the pleasure of hearing the organist play as we walked the aisles of the church taking in the stained glass windows and magnificent architecture. Kris even got to go up in the tower and ring the church bells.

Corktown is a vital and stable community, residents are close knit and take pride in their property. In addition to the wonderful homes there are a number of restaurants and bars in this neck of the woods, with more to come in the near future, we’ll let you know !