Tag Archives: Detroit Blog

DETROIT: Library After Dark

20 Dec

dpl 044 (1)

Detroit is extremely fortunate that many of its outstanding 20th Century buildings still exist; the Detroit Public Library on Woodward is one such place. In 1912 Cass Gilbert was commissioned to construct the building; WWI and other delays slowed the completion, finally, in 1921 the amazing Italian Renaissance library opened its doors. This is the 4th largest library in the United States, it welcomes 222,000 visitors a year. 

dpl 062 (1)

dpl 073 (1)dpl 066 (1)

dpl 063 (1)

Tonight the Detroit Public Library Friends Foundation is hosting “The Library At Night” tour. For over 70 years the Friends Foundation has provided funds, books, materials, and special programs to the library community through gifts, grants, general contributions and event fees. Tonight’s tour will highlight the architecture of Cass Gilbert, craftsmen and artists, followed by appetizers, wine, craft beer and live music in the Fine Arts room. Using the Cass Ave entrance we walk the long hall toward the front of the building, we pause at the front entrance, majestic bronze doors have been permanently folded to the sides. Wreaths, garlands, red bows and strings of white lights decorate railings, columns and stairways. We meet up with our tour group in the original Children’s Library, we’re ready to begin…

dpl 135 (1)

dpl 019 (1)dpl 020 (1)

dpl 021 (1)

The large room is an eclectic mix of old and new, funky lighting hangs from the ceiling, benches are upholstered in olive-green, cinnamon and navy. Original architectural elements have held their ground for over 150 years. Our guide points out the Pewabic Tile fireplace surround; done in shades of blue, tan, yellow and gold it depicts scenes from favorite childhood stories, it’s gorgeous. Above it a pictoral map of Michigan by Frederick Wiley shows the arrival of the French to the wilderness of the territory. I never noticed the little door hidden in the bookshelves, we get a peek inside the secret room. In the hall, I’m once again reminded of how much I love this building. Tonight between the holiday lighting and the darkness beyond the windows it looks extraordinary. 

dpl 015 (1)

dpl 014 (1)dpl 134 (2)

Walking from the original building to the 1963 addition we find ourselves surrounded by mid-century design. The transition between old and new is thoughtful and seamless. We enter the new Children’s Library, here stuffed animals, picture books and rhyming stories entertain youngsters; be sure to check out the mosaics hanging on the wall, kids from Detroit Public schools had a hand in making them. The library is also an art museum of sorts, beautiful art can be found everywhere and it’s all out in the open. The hall leading to the Burton Historical Collection is lined with rows and rows of card catalogs, they’re over 100 years old and span the history of Michigan and Detroit from the 1700’s to the present– there’s no plan to modernize or get rid of them, some things should stay the same. The 2-story room that holds the collection is very 1960’s in style, the tall narrow windows allow natural daylight to saturate the space. One of the highlights is Stalin’s Gift, a lovely jewel chest commissioned for the Russian Royal Family in 1883. Joseph Stalin gave it to Charles Sorensen of Ford Motor Company for Sorensen’s help establishing Russian auto plants during WWII; his widow donated it to the library.

dpl 045 (1)

dpl 053 (1)

dpl 058 (1)

We’re on the move again, we pause at Frank Varga’s mosaic of Nicolaus Copernicus, a Polish mathematician and astronomer, it was donated to the library in 1974. The Friends Foundation used tour proceeds to purchase the spotlight that illuminates it tonight. The Grand Staircase is made entirely of marble, it’s exquisite, as we ascend the stairs we get glimpses of the spectacular Italian Renaissance ceiling. Throughout the building you will find gold leaf, symbols, figures, Greek and Roman motifs and themes of books, knowledge and wisdom. Every room on the 3rd floor features a ceiling designed by Frederick Wiley, most are reproductions of ones found in European palaces, all are stunning.

dpl 247 (1)

dpl 188 (1)

dpl 089 (1)

The 3rd floor is my favorite, the view of the ceilings and murals is fantastic; then there’s Adam Strohm Hall… Adam Strohm was the first library director to work in the building, there’s so much beauty in one place it’s mind-blowing. Check out the bronze entrances around the doors before you step in. Immediately our attention is directed to John Stephens Coppin’s “Man’s Mobility”, the painting features three era’s of transportation from horse and buggy to rocket ships. The mural on the opposite wall is Detroit’s early history by Gary Melchers. The windows you see are not stained glass but painted, the idea was stained glass was too dark, painted windows would let in more light for reading. Then there’s the ceiling, I’d like to just lay on the floor and stare at it for a while, take in the whole room…The ceiling in the Art and Music room was a new design, it’s very simple compared to the others; Cass Gilbert liked it so much he used it again in the US Supreme Court Building.

dpl 226 (1)

dpl 122 (1)dpl 220 (1)

dpl 177 (1)

The tour ends in the Fine Arts Room, another gorgeous space. Tonight we’re in for a special treat, they have opened a window and allowed us access to the loggia. There are 7 mosaics underneath the loggia windows, each depicts quotes from Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages of Man” monologue from As You Like It. The mosaics were created by Mary Chase Stratton (Pewabic Pottery founder), Horace Caulkins and Frederick Wiley; you can see their names affixed in gold leaf at one end, Cass Gilbert’s at the other. Just being out here is amazing! We have a picturesque view of the DIA lit in red and green for the holidays. Most people don’t even know the loggia exists, it’s a special privilege to be standing outside, under the stars on a Friday night. One of the volunteers has removed a colored gel from the spotlight so we can see the mosaics in their true colors–awesome. We climb back in the window; a woman sings as I stand in line for appetizers and wine. Kris ducks out into the hall for pictures, he has the floor to himself. It’s been wonderful to revisit this treasure and extra special to do the tour at night.

dpl 208 (1)

dpl 154 (1)dpl 201 (1)

dpl 161 (1)

We’re grabbing a bite to eat at The Peterboro in Detroit’s historic Chinatown. We were here for the soft opening and keep meaning to come back, tonight’s the night. Serving contemporary Chinese American cuisine they offer both small and large plates.  I find the space really attractive, large red lanterns cast a warm glow over the otherwise dark room, red and white lights wrap black-painted ducts, a large canvas features a fierce looking tiger. We decide on several small plates, each arrives at the table as it’s prepared. The Seaweed salad is the first to arrive, crispy quinoa and pickled mushrooms add crunch and unique flavor. The Market Veggie Rolls are nice, I like the sweet chili sauce. Mom’s Roast Pork is boneless rib tips marinated in hoisin and honey, nice flavor, odd texture. The Crab Rangoons are our favorite dish, crabmeat and cream cheese deep fried in a crunchy shell, what’s not to like? 

dpl 268 (1)

dpl 260 (1)dpl 265 (1)

DETROIT: Wanderin’ Around Midtown…

15 Sep

3rd 046 (1)

Detroit is buzzing with economic activity; every week there’s news of a new boutique, bar or restaurant opening. It’s hard to keep up but we’re happy to do our part! Today we’re on Third Street, Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken is open for business in a modest brick building that seemed to pop up out of nowhere. Gus’s came from humble beginnings over 60 years ago in Mason TN, today we can enjoy that same family recipe right here in Detroit. The menu is simple and straightforward: fried chicken and side dishes. We order the 3-piece plate and add sides of fried okra and mac and cheese. The fried chicken is mildly spicy, the skin is crispy, it’s the juiciest chicken I’ve ever had–how do they do that? ‘Plates’ come with baked beans and slaw, both are delicious, there’s a slice of white bread too. We enjoyed the mac and cheese, the okra was good though I thought it could use a dipping sauce. Meals are served on paper plates with plastic silverware and cups. Service is fast and friendly.

3rd 004 (1)

3rd 003 (1)

3rd 007 (1)

Across the street is the fabulous 1949 Art Moderne building that was once home to the Willis Show Bar. The neighborhood fell into decline, drugs and prostitution became prevalent; the building was boarded up in the 1970’s. Today the sleek exterior of burgundy, peach and green enameled-steel panels is visible once again.  The bar and a small retail space are still undergoing renovations, Blossoms (same owners as the Birmingham location) a florist, is open for business, let’s take a look.

3rd 035 (1)

3rd 022 (1)3rd 020 (1)

3rd 029 (1)

Extra large planters decorate the sidewalk, leafy plants cascade to the ground, tall grasses and ornamental shrubs add eye appeal. Inside it’s like walking into secret space, a garden room where flowers bloom, topiary share space with statues, branches and columns. It’s organic, earthy, charming, beautiful; the space is much deeper that I expected. I take my time looking at everything, items are carefully chosen and artfully displayed. Speaking of art there’s a small gallery of art for sale at the back of the shop. Canvases hang on chain-link fence draped over olive-green walls. Today there are landscapes, cityscapes and portraits, all amazing.

3rd 027 (1)

3rd 016 (1)

3rd 017 (1)

One of our favorite neighborhood streets in Detroit is West Canfield, it’s just a couple of blocks away, let’s take a stroll. The property that is now the West Canfield Historic District once belonged to Lewis Cass, Governor of Michigan from 1813-1831. His daughters subdivided and sold the land, in the 1870’s it became an upper middle class neighborhood of mostly Queen Anne’s with some Gothic Revival, Italianate and Second Empire added to the mix. The neighborhood suffered during the Great Depression, in the 1960’s concerned residents formed the Canfield-West Wayne Preservation Association. The neighborhood was awarded the first Historic designation in Detroit; it became a Michigan Historic Site in 1970 and was placed on the National Register in 1971. Having said all of that, this is one gorgeous street!

3rd 052 (1)

3rd 041 (1)3rd 055 (1)

3rd 040 (1)

The road is granite pavers, reproduction street lamps light Canfield at night. Large homes rise 3-stories with ornamental chimneys, pinnacles and turrets. Constructed of high-quality brick they feature ornately carved wood, stone trim, roomy porches and leaded glass windows. Intricate paint jobs in pretty pallets of green, brown, orange and gold  adorn pendant trim, pointed head windows, balusters and balustrade. Slate roofs resemble fish scales, some have simple patterns. Recent rains have returned the lawn to a lush green, hydrangea wear large blooms. Homes are meticulously maintained, a labor of love I’m guessing. The picturesque street (minus the cars) looks much like it did in the 1890’s. Embracing the past for the future. A small group of red-brick buildings are clustered on Third Street, the Calvary Love Mission Station; photos in the windows show Third Street at various points in time.

3rd 068 (1)

3rd 059 (1)3rd 067 (1)

3rd 077 (1)

Not far away on the corner of W Alexandrine and the Lodge Service Dr is City Sculpture, a sculpture park featuring the large-scale work of Cass Corridor artist Robert Sestok. This is one of those really cool things you drive by and say “what was that?” So you have to park the car and check it out. The sculptures are laid out in a grid pattern, the tallest one comes in at 12 feet and weighs 4,000 lbs. Made up of welded steel, bronze and stainless steel, the recycled materials give each piece its own personality. Each sculpture stands on a concrete base, a small placard gives the name and year it was created. 

3rd 092 (1)

3rd 119 (1)

3rd 096 (1)

I enjoy walking through the park, Kris and I point out different elements we like in each. Time and the elements have rusted the metal, it makes a nice substitute for paint. The art feels perfectly at home in the fenced off lot, homes on one side a busy freeway on the other. Take your time and really look at the pieces, you may recognize items from their intended use incorporated into the art. There are intricate cut-outs, metal is coiled and twirled, some have pieces that stick out like quills. Sestok is dedicated to exposing the public to his experimental sculpture work in Detroit, we thank him for that. Check out City Sculpture Jamboree September 30, 2016.

3rd 095 (1)3rd 104 (1)

3rd 121 (3)
3rd 115 (1)3rd 109 (1)

Ethni-cities….

31 Aug

ethni-cities 067 (1)

Today we’re in the mood for something exotic; a trip to China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, or Madison Heights… People from all over the world call Metro Detroit home. Arab Americans are the third largest ethnic population in Michigan, Asian population makes up 13.25% of Troy, 6% of Sterling Heights, 5% of Madison Heights. With such a variety of nationalities businesses such as markets and restaurants offer products that span the globe. We’re close to home, but it feels like we’re somewhere far away…

ethni-cities 004 (1)

ethni-cities 032 (1)

ethni-cities 035 (1)

H Mart on Big Beaver and Dequindre is an Asian grocery store specializing in Korean food; this is like no other grocery store I’ve ever been to. The market has wide aisles filled with brightly colored packaging, cartoon characters or photos help me identify the contents. Glass jars hold unique Asian specialties like pickled mango, pickled garlic and bamboo shoots with chili. Refrigerated items include rows of prepared kimchi, fresh udon and soba noodles, heat and eat specialties. Beverages come in colorful cans; grape cider, orange cider and cream soda.

ethni-cities 005 (1)

ethni-cities 027 (1)

ethni-cities 009 (1)

ethni-cities 023 (1)

Seafood is available live or frozen in the fish market, live lobsters and dozens of crabs have no idea what’s in store for them… The produce section is really cool, everything is colorful and attractive; dragon fruit are bright pink with green scales, another fruit is yellow with white stripes, Jack fruit come whole or cut into chunks-the inside looks like a pineapple with pumpkin seeds. Items represent Japan, Korea, China and Thailand. Cucumbers are long and ribbed, I’ve never seen so many kinds of peppers. There are greens galore; bok choy, mustard leaf, leaf lettuce. 

ethni-cities 042 (1)

ethni-cities 044 (1)

ethni-cities 066 (1)

Next is 168 Asian Mart on John R in Madison Heights, it claims to be Michigan’s largest Asian market. Floors, ceiling, shelves are painted white, aisles are wide, the store goes on as far as I can see. Stacks of beautifully decorated metal tins hold Moon Cakes, customers compare one to another. We find ourselves in the produce section, I like the chartreuse color of the spiny durian. There’s a line to order in the food court, menu boards include color photos, metal trays hold freshly prepared items including dim sum and noodle dishes; it looks delicious. Roast ducks hang from chains, you can even buy a whole roast pig for $168.88; tables in the cafe area are full.

ethni-cities 080 (1)

ethni-cities 069 (1)ethni-cities 072 (1)

ethni-cities 073 (1)

Fresh seafood includes fish swimming in aquariums, lobster, squid shrimp and turtles; all are available frozen too. There are aisles of rice and noodles; Geisha grace the packages of Jasmine rice, Kung Fu is a brand of instant noodles….Awesome. Chinese tea comes in ornate tins, Sake is packaged in pretty bottles, animal crackers feature ox and camels and are seaweed flavored. We see Ding Dong’s, La-la’s and green tea mochi, Kit Kat comes in raspberry, green tea and sweet potato varieties. The frozen section is home to popsicles in flavors like durian, black bean, lychee, mung bean, sour sop and guava. Wouldn’t it be great to take a bite of each?

ethni-cities 086 (1)

ethni-cities 090 (1)

ethni-cities 097 (1)

All of this shopping has made us hungry, we’re off to our favorite Indian restaurant Phulkari Punjabi Kitchen on Dequindre. The eatery has been in business for over 20 years serving up some of the tastiest food we’ve ever eaten. Located in a strip mall the interior walls are bright pink and orange, very cheerful looking, menu boards hang on the wall, so much to choose from. Their Samosa’s are the best, we get the samosa chaat: 2 potato and pea turnovers topped with yogurt, onions, sweet and spicy chutneys. Along with that we order the Thali, a traditional Indian meal consisting of rice, bread, various dishes and dessert. Selections vary from day-to-day, we choose vegetarian options, paneer makhani: homemade Indian cheese in a thick tomato gravy, mah ki dal: very tasty lentils, yogurt and cholay: curried chick peas; rice pudding is for dessert. When served, a steel tray with multiple compartments is filled with little bowls containing the flavorful dishes, the food is outstanding.

ethni-cities 137 (1)

ethni-cities 104 (1)

ethni-cities 107 (1)

We are now in the Middle East, Dream Market sells groceries, produce and prepared foods representing that part of the world. We walk through an area with bulk bins, tins of candy rest on high shelves. In the produce section  we see the familiar and the not-so-familiar, cucumbers come in a variety of lengths and textures. Throughout the market murals cover the top portion of the walls, most are of smiling women pushing shopping carts, holding up canned goods or packaged items; I wish grocery shopping was as much fun as they make it look! The store sells a huge variety of tea, grains such as barley, harina and bulgur are sold in bulk, lentils come in an array of colors. 

ethni-cities 111 (1)

ethni-cities 119 (1)

ethni-cities 128 (1)

Sweets include cookies, cakes and candy, dates are popular and can be purchased covered in milk or dark chocolate, coffee is sold in colorful bags. Our nose leads us to the in-store brick oven, flat pieces of dough have just been placed inside, in seconds it begins to rise into individual loaves. When properly browned it’s removed to a basket where anxious customers wait until it is cool enough to handle. If I wasn’t so full I’d eat some right now! The deli counter holds dish after dish of prepared food: grape leaves, chick peas, salads with olives, falafel, everything looks so good. 

ethni-cities 145 (1)

ethni-cities 143 (1)

ethni-cities 139 (1)

Across the parking lot we see Palm Sweets, let’s check it out. Kris and I love Middle Eastern pastries; this bakery has everything from baklava, birds nest and fingers to burma, moshebek and asabe zainab. The middle display cases hold fancy layer cakes, tarts and bars. The section closest to the door features coffee and ice cream, they offer the usual chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, but we want something different, something like baklava or white pistachio ice cream. The friendly woman behind the counter helps with our decision, white pistachio it is, just one scoop, we’ll share. We take a seat at a high-top table, the interior is lovely; booths, tables, a fireplace surrounded by couches and chairs rest among attractive decor. The ice cream is scrumptious. We have plenty of souvenirs from our adventure: Laksa noodle soup from Singapore, sweet potato Kit Kat from Japan, pistachio baklava; best of all is how much fun we had seeing, tasting and experiencing something totally different.  

 

 

West Side Memories

17 May

west side 041 (1)

Once upon a time, uniformed men driving delivery trucks went door to door through neighborhoods offering goods and services such as milk, vegetables, coffee, knife sharpening and baked goods. Though he was just a young boy at the time, Kris has vivid memories of the Awrey’s Bakery man coming to their house on Coplin, carrying his treasure chest of sweet treats. In 1910 the Awrey family began selling baked goods in their Detroit neighborhood, their first store was on Tireman. The family business continued to grow through the decades becoming one of the largest privately owned bakeries in the United States. The company was sold in 2005 with family members still working for the company. Financial troubles arose in 2012, Awrey’s was headed for the auction block when Jim McColgan of Minnie Marie Bakers stepped in and purchased the company. Today Awrey’s Bakery is alive and well, America’s Hometown Bakery lives on.

west side 004 (1)

plymouth 015 (1)

plymouth 003 (2)plymouth 002 (1)

We are in Livonia at the Bakery/Outlet, Awrey’s moved production here in 1967. A cool, vintage, neon windmill marks the location, today Tulips in full bloom surround the sign. The building is not fancy to look at, you’d never know the deliciousness stored inside. Tables, rolling shelves and racks hold popular items such as coffee cakes, danish, muffin tops and brownies. In the center, a table of ‘seconds’ awaits sweet-toothed consumers; 8-inch square French Buttercream Ripple Cake (think “bumpy cake”), Carrot Cake and Kris’s favorite, Caramel Ripple Cake sell for $2.49 each, a perfect one will cost you $4.99. Two old-fashioned, green and stainless steel conveyors wait to check out shoppers. You can find old favorites like Windmill cookies, along with sheet cakes, new items, Bill Knapps 6″ chocolate cakes and Sanders candy here at the outlet. Of course, we couldn’t leave without the caramel cake, it’s just as good as he remembers…maybe even better…

plymouth 011 (1)

plymouth 007 (1)

plymouth 005 (1)

Next stop, Nankin Mills in Westland. This is one of those historic places that has undergone many incarnations over the years. The 2 1/2 story Greek Revival building was constructed as a gristmill in 1863. In 1918 Henry Ford came along and purchased the mill as part of his Village Industries. He converted the building to a small factory, employing 12 workers, producing screws for Ford. In 1927 the mill employed 70 people as they changed over to produce dies that cast the infamous Ford logo that appeared on hub caps, instrument panels, horn buttons and gear-shift knobs. The factory closed after WWII. In 1948 Ford donated the site to the Wayne County Road Commission, which remodeled the mill and opened as a nature center in 1956.

west side 048 (1)

west side 037 (1)

west side 033 (1)

In 2001 the original mill opened as an interpretive center demonstrating the changing face of the mill and the area’s cultural and natural history. Exhibits follow tribes of Native Americans that canoed the Rouge River, aquariums hold turtles and tortoises as placards explain the area’s eco-system. We follow the mill through its gristmill days spanning 1819-1918, equipment takes us through the steps of taking wheat, corn, rye and buckwheat from grain to flour. Antique machinery and samples of items made for Ford accompany videos of workers sharing their memories. Its small, but still a fascinating place.

west side 009 (1)

west side 023 (1)west side 014 (1)

west side 042 (1)

For lunch we stop at the Daly Drive-In on Plymouth Road, it’s been here since 1959, the original drive-in is still in operation. The yellow corrugated roof extends in waves over parking places complete with speakers. Inside we’re seated in a booth, a red and white checkered cloth covers the table, the menu still sports the retro blue and orange boomerang-shaped logo. We get the Dalyburger Plate: a 1/4 lb burger smothered in Daly sauce, with fries and slaw. The DalyDog is a 1/4 lb footlong drenched in spicy coney island sauce, mustard and diced onions, served in the same cardboard sleeve they’ve been using since 1948. Simple food served with a side of nostalgia.

west side 066 (1)

west side 062 (1)

west side 057 (1)

west side 051 (1)
The Custard Hut has been on W Warren in Dearborn Hts since 1979, this is our first visit. This frozen custard and ice cream shop is known for one particular item, the Famous Hot Waffle Sandwich. We step inside, the only decision we need to make is what flavor frozen custard we want, the two flavors of the day are toasted coconut and pistachio (chocolate and vanilla are always available), easy, make it a twist. The girl behind the counter disappears, she reappears holding 2 steaming chocolate chip waffles, she carefully swirls the coconut/pistachio custard on one waffle, tops it off with the other, sandwich style, wraps it in foil and hands it over. The waffle is warm and tender, easy to bite through getting a satisfying mix of custard and waffle, yum! A steady stream of patrons come and go as we eat, it seems the waffle sandwich has a loyal following, I can totally see why. It’s been another great day visiting businesses and places that have stood the test of time. 

west side 085 (1)west side 076 (1)

west side 075 (1)

west side 081 (1)

DETROIT: Y-not ??

27 Apr

y 056 (1)

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.

y 051 (1)

y 036 (2)

y 047 (1)

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.

y 050 (2)

y 015 (1)

y 018 (1)

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. 

y 005 (1)

y 008 (1)y 026 (1)

y 023 (2)

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.

y 031 (1)

y 029 (1)

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.

y 025 (1)
y 020 (1)

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.

y 048 (1)

y 038 (1)

y 036 (1)

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.

y 050 (1)

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: Historic Sainte Anne’s

16 Feb

st anne 096 (1)

July 24, 1701, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac arrives on the banks of the Detroit River establishing Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit, a French settlement in ‘New France’ which later would become Detroit. Two days later the Sainte Anne de Detroit Catholic Parish was established; on July 26, 1701 the Feast of Sainte Anne was celebrated in a modest thatched log structure that sat near the present intersection of Griswold and W Jefferson, this was the first of 8 subsequent buildings that would house the parish of Sainte Anne. Think of it, in 1701 Detroit was part of the French colony, in 1763 Detroit passed from French to British rule, after the Revolutionary War the territory came under United States rule. Ste Anne is the second oldest continuously operating Roman Catholic Parish in the country, it was the only church in Detroit for more than a century, it has continuous records going back to 1704 (earlier records were destroyed by fire), it has borne witness to Detroit’s entire existence, I find that incredible!

st anne 001 (2)

st anne 045 (1)

st anne 014 (1)

It’s Sunday and Mass is about to begin, we park across the street from the church, the wind is strong, the temperature in the teens and yet we stand in the brick-paved plaza staring at this beautiful orange-brick Gothic Revival structure built in 1886. Twin-spired octagonal towers soar to the sky, large crosses are mounted to the peaks, a large Rose window takes up much of the lower facade, a limestone first-story is decorated with gargoyles above the main entry doors. Architectural details such as flying buttresses, pointed arches, slate roof, stained glass and steep pitches flatter the structure. The 5-building complex is made up of the church, rectory, school, social hall and convent. Inside, we pause in the vestibule to take in the sight of the stunning interior as a whole, cream-colored walls rise 85 feet to a pale blue ceiling decorated with gold-leaf stars. A Gothic arcade is supported by decorative iron columns, this separates the nave and side aisles.

st anne 012 (1)st anne 029 (1)

st anne 034 (1)

st anne 060 (1)

Oak pews embellished with pinnacles at each end cap hold worshipers, stained glass windows are aglow in red, blue, pink, purple and lime green, I don’t think I’ve seen such a wide variety of colors before–Ste Anne’s has the oldest stained glass in the city of Detroit. A 26 rank pipe organ rests in a loft at the back of the church, the large Rose window above is gorgeous. The beautiful, unusual clock that hangs near the vestibule doors was a gift, wrought iron and opaque glass chandeliers hang evenly spaced from long chains. The centerpiece of it all is the apse, here stained glass surrounds the upper portion while metallic gold paint covers the lower, in the center sits the magnificent altar piece with its statues, carvings, spires, pinnacles and more flying buttresses. The wood altar where Fr. Gabriel Richard celebrated mass, communion rail carved by Julius Melcher in 1851, statue of Ste Anne and church bell all came from the previous church. Several small altars fill corners and long walls, they are exquisite.

st anne 038 (1)st anne 051 (1)

st anne 020 (1)

st anne 044 (1)st anne 070 (1)

Buried below the steps of the main altar is the tomb of Father Gabriel Richard, a prominent figure in the history of both Detroit and Ste Anne. Born in France, Fr. Richard made many contributions to Detroit; he founded churches, schools, he co-founded U of M, he helped initiate a road-building project that connected Detroit and Chicago. He brought the first printing press to Detroit and started The Observer, Michigan territory’s first newspaper, he was the first priest to serve in congress. He imported spinning wheels and looms so women could learn a trade. Fr. Richard died of cholera in 1932  leaving behind a rich legacy. The church has changed as the city has changed, the once french-speaking parish came to serve Irish-Americans then Hispanics as immigrants from Mexico and Puerto Rico moved into the neighborhood. The last sermon in French was given in 1942, the first Spanish sermon was given in 1940, the Spanish tradition continues today. At the end of Mass announcements are made of a bake sale and dance performance at a luncheon taking place today.

st anne 099 (1)

st anne 086 (1)

st anne 088 (1)

We head over to the social hall, Hispanic music plays in the background, long tables offer a buffet of Mexican dishes for only $5. We sit at a large round table near the back, the room is large, thin columns offer the only decoration to the space. A deep red curtain hangs above the stage, visitors await the performance. When the curtain opens 2 couples wearing traditional Mexican dress begin their dance; the men are all in white, the ladies wear a colorful sash. As they move the ladies twirl a lacy skirt overlay, the dance is lovely. A solo number is next, a man dances upon a wooden box, his steps strong and loud, the room is still as we all watch and listen. The troupe continues performing time-honored dances. Such an unexpected pleasure to watch.

st anne 125 (1)

st anne 107 (1)

st anne 111 (1)

We’re having lunch in Mexicantown at the Huron Room, a fish-centric restaurant among the many Mexican restaurants on Bagley. The single-story white brick building is also home to Our/Detroit, a vodka distillery and tasting room. The restaurant is easy to spot, the head and tail of a big fish stick out from the top corner of the space. Inside it’s all about Lake Huron, the owners fondness of the great lake is apparent; the deep blue wall behind the bar is a map of the lake complete with city names, on the back wall a painting of the lightship Huron consumes the wall. Light blue glazed brick, a neon fish and fishing line put us in a lake state-of-mind. Though Great Lakes fish is the main attraction here, there are choices for every kind of diner. We are having the fish sandwich, we choose the beer-battered walleye, served on bolillo bread and topped with the house slaw it’s quite a mouthful. The sandwich is served with the same skinny fries they serve at Green Dot Stables (same owners), I douse them with the spritz bottle of malt vinegar that sits on each table. The walleye is delicious, light, and crispy–don’t forget to add the house made tartar sauce. We also ordered the U.P. pierogi, three little dumplings stuffed with up-north beef pasty filling, served with a sour cream gravy, I could eat about 6 of these! The price point is on the high side, but the food is fresh and delicious.

 

DETROIT: Holiday Style

9 Dec

down 037 (1)

It’s the holiday season; trees are wrapped in lights, Christmas music fills the airwaves, cities and towns celebrate with events and activities. In Detroit, Campus Martius Park has been transformed into Winter Magic. Each weekend the park is filled with music, entertainment, ice skating, tents to keep you warm, food and cocktails. Shoppers can head over to City Loft in the First National Building where stores from the Somerset Collection will take up residence until December 23.

down 023 (1)

down 026 (1)down 079 (1)

It’s a crisp Friday evening, we park the Jeep and fill the meter with quarters. First stop, 1515 Broadway for a warm cup of coffee, as we approach the counter a woman asks us if we’re here for Unsilent Night……well, maybe, what’s that? Turns out we have stumbled into something oddly cool. Here’s how it works: participants record one of four tracks on a cassette, cd or mp3 player, the group gathers together, then walks through the streets of the city, when all four tracks are joined it creates an “ethereal, electronic soundscape”. A crowd has formed inside 1515, I haven’t seen so many boomboxes since the 90’s, anything that amplifies music will do. Coffee’s in hand we wait on the sidewalk as the mass moves outdoors, a few brief instructions and the music begins. We join the promenade through the streets of Detroit (one of 33 cities in the world to participate), at times it sounds like bells or chimes, folks on sidewalks pause to look and listen, as the group nears Campus Martius we branch off in our own direction; that was delightful!

down 103 (1)

down 099 (1)

down 058 (1)

There it is, Detroit’s Christmas tree, placed prominently atop the fountain; thousands of lights wrap the branches, packages are adorned with big red bows, water flows and sprays below; dozens of cameras at a time record the beautiful image. Surrounding trees join in the festivities with their own lights, buildings are specially lit, rosy-cheeked skaters fill the ice rink, freezing cold hands are warmed by fires blazing in barrels throughout the park. As we amble, a stilt walker dressed up as a snow queen pauses for photos, a street performer practices his fire-eating skills, next thing you know we stumble upon an igloo on Cadillac Square. Inside, the light phases from purple to blue to green then white, 25 designer snowmen are decked out in fashions by Somerset retailers; top hats, beautiful scarves, capes,  I can’t decide which one I like best.

down 066 (1)

down 049 (1)down 042 (1)

down 053 (1)

Well past our dinner time we make our way to the Showcase D’ Holidays tent, ooh, it’s warm in here. Every Friday and Saturday they have live music in this space; Bermuda Mohawk is just finishing up, Dennis Coffey comes on at 8:45. Big snowflakes hang from the ceiling supports, lights glow in green and red, the ping-pong table is vacant at the moment. Food and beverages are on the left, seating on the right, the stage is all the way in the back. Restaurant vendors vary from week to week, today some of our favorites are represented, we get vegetarian chili from Mudgies and a Southwest bowl from Johnny Noodle King, yum! Sitting at a high-top table we notice the crowd increasing steadily, it’s nice to get off your feet and enjoy a little music.

down 123 (1)

down 116 (1)

down 069 (1)

Outside we wander around a bit, the streets are busy with bundled up pedestrians, horses’ hooves sparkle with glitter as they pull carriages through the the maze of streets—- what a fun way to see the city, the Zamboni is hard at work refreshing the ice at the rink. Stopping in at the Compuware Building, we relax at the sound of water falling in the fountain, it’s quite lovely; Santa packed up at 7 pm, but he’ll be back tomorrow for pictures and wish lists. Outdoors, the line to rent ice skates zigs and zags, all seem in good spirits as they await their turn. At the other end of the rink stands a temporary bar, a table empties just as we enter, immediately we claim it. You couldn’t ask for a better view; tables are set up along clear plastic windows of the tent, the decor is straight from Ikea, the beer from Atwater, there’s also a full bar, too bad it’s only here until the end of the month….. Kris grabs us a couple of drinks at the bar, the space is cozy, tablecloths look like their made from logs, each table is decorated with a candle and centerpiece. It feels as if we’re part of the group out on the ice, expert skaters fly by as the inexperienced grasp the side rail, refusing to let go; someone is always stopping to take a photo. The holiday spirit has arrived in Detroit, come out and get some for yourself!

 

DETROIT: Southwest Sunday

26 Nov

swish 061 (1)

With so many new things in Detroit grabbing the spotlight, it’s nice to go back and visit things and places that made Detroit the architecturally rich, diverse, amazing city it is today. A good place to start is one of the many historic churches that have stood the test of time; today we are visiting St Hedwig Roman Catholic Church on Junction in SW Detroit. St Hedwig was the third Polish parish established on Detroit’s west side, the first service held in this building was November 30, 1916, Thanksgiving Day. Here’s a little history.

swish 103 (1)

swish 108 (1)swish 107 (1)

swish 109 (1)

 St Hedwig was founded in 1903, From 1910 to 1914 increasing numbers of Polish immigrants settled in Detroit, the parish quickly outgrew their building, in 1911 Architect Harry J Rill designed the church we are standing in today. In 1917 the Vorrler-Holtkamp Sparling Organ Co. of Cleveland completed the installation of the pipe organ, in 1918 Daprato Statuary Co, installed the stained glass windows. In 1928, for the Silver Jubilee, 3 bells were purchased and hung in the south tower, at the same time five clocks were installed in both towers. Hispanic population grew three-fold from 1993 to 2003 in southwest Detroit, the first Spanish mass was added in 2003. In 2013 St Hedwig and St Francis D’Assisi merged into one new parish.

swish 101 (1)

swish 098 (1)

swish 074 (1)

swish 056 (1)

The exterior is a combination of red brick and stone; arches, columns and windows are grouped into three’s, statues stand near the main stairs, wood doors grant us access to the interior, a tile medallion on the vestibule floor reads A.D. 1916. It is nearly 30 minutes before mass begins, all of the lights are not on yet, our attention is immediately drawn to the stunning high altar, aisles leading to the front are made of tiny tiles grouped into fanciful patterns. Dark colored wood pews rest upon a wood floor, light seeps through the stained glass windows. As we near the sanctuary we see the baptismal font, a work of art in itself, the pulpit was installed in 1978 along with the main altar to comply with Vatican II, there it is, the High Altar! The High Scagliola Altar is an original work of the Daprato Statuary Co of Detroit, they also made the other statues and the stations of the cross. On the upper tier, St Hedwig is at the high, St Peter and St Paul, on her sides, the Evangelists occupy the middle tier while the lower tier contains the Tabernacle. Large-winged angels flank the lower tier holding elaborate gilded lights, at the base of the altar rests a rendition of the last supper. Here the ceiling soars into a high Gothic arch, murals surround it, sanctuary lamps hang from delicate, ornate chains.

swish 087 (1)

swish 053 (1)swish 058 (1)

swish 048 (1)

To the right and left of the main altar are the Blessed Virgin Mary Altar and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Altar, the St Therese Altar is enclosed by a wrought iron gate as is the St Francis Altar on the south side, all are lovely. Facing the back of the church the first thing we notice are the pipes in the organ loft, there are over 2900 pipes in the organ that imitate instruments such as tubas, clarinets, oboes and trumpets. Columned arches line the nave, capitals are highly decorated in gold leaf, the ceiling is solid ivory in color, making details such as murals and windows stand out. Stations of the cross are mounted to side walls, each one tells a story; the lights have been turned on, it is clear these are not the original fixtures. Filled with light, the church has come to life, parishioners are filing in through front and side doors, today’s mass is in Spanish.

swish 100 (1)

swish 062 (1)swish 086 (1)

swish 085 (1)

We drive over to Vernor and park in front of the familiar yellow awning belonging to Taqueria Nuestra Familia. For over 11 years they have been serving up family recipes handed down through generations, the restaurant is packed! We are seated at a table near the front and close to the picture of the Holy Family; the menu offers the usual tacos, tostadas, tortas etc. What brings people in is the variety of fillings: Beef Head, Beef Tongue, Beef Tripe, Chorizo, Lomo, Carne al Pastor, Carne Asada and of course, chicken. Our server arrives with a basket of tortilla chips and 3 homemade salsas; a creamy green one, the standard fresh tomato and a golden one I suspect is made from roasted tomatillo’s, it has a nice spice to it. We place our order and try not to finish off the chips.

swish 125 (1)

swish 124 (1)

swish 118 (1)

The space is filled with families out for a Sunday meal, it’s not unusual to see three generations sitting together at a table, infants are passed from one family member to the next. The mood is light and cheerful as is the decor; tables and chairs are finished in bright pink, yellow, blue, orange and lavender. Chair backs are decorated with scenes of birds, flowers, fruit and Mexican themes. Before we know it our meal arrives, we are having the combination plate of a taco, tostada, burrito and two enchiladas, we were hoping to try a few different fillings, but the same meat comes in each, today we ordered the carne asada. I used a different salsa on each to give it some variety, all was good.

swish 144 (1)

swish 141 (1)

swish 133 (1)

Heading east on Vernor we stop in at Neveria La Michoacana for dessert. Serving up homemade Mexican popsicles (Paletas), aguas frescas, chocolate dipped bananas, fresa y crema and ice cream, the shop does a good business. Walls are magenta and green, ceiling tiles are blue and white, coolers and chest freezers with pictures on the front line the counter. There’s a short line so we have time to look around. They offer snack items like nachos made with Doritos, or hot Cheetos and Cheese, fresa y crema (strawberries and cream). After studying the menu I order a mango aguas frescas, the owner reaches into a cooler packed with clear square bins filled with icy, colorful liquids and fills my cup, tasty and refreshing it reminds me of punch. Be sure and ask for a sample of the Cajeta, it’s pink and made with a combination of fruit and milk, nice and sweet! After much debate Kris orders the mango paleta de chile, a housemade mango popsicle sprinkled with Tajin, placed stick up, in a cup of Chamoy– a tart sauce made from fruit pulp, lime and spices; the result a sweet, spicy, tart, frozen treat.

DETROIT: Something Old Something New….

21 Apr

 

wayne 089

We start our fourth year by going back to where we began (more or less) with a visit to Historic Fort Wayne.  Twice a year they host a Flea Market in the Visitors Center gym, the grounds are also open to the public and tours are available, it’s a fascinating way to spend the day. You never know what you might find at a flea market, that’s part of the excitement of going. The gym is transformed into a bargain hunters paradise, rows of folding tables create aisle ways the length of the room, items are stacked on the floor and tabletops, an American flag is draped from the rafters. Crates of vintage record albums, children’s games, dishes and glassware are among the many items for sale. Antique trunks and suitcases have been re-purposed into tables, vintage insulated ice cream carriers are out of the ordinary. Through an open doorway we find ourselves in another room, clothing, doilies and jewelry are plentiful, I am taken with jewelry boxes that open from a simple rectangle into an elaborate display with tops that go up, drawers that open and compartments that unfold. We take one more walk through to be sure we haven’t missed anything then make our way outdoors. 

wayne 011

wayne 015wayne 006

wayne 008

The original 96 acres where the star fort and many buildings remain is steeped in history going back to about 1000 AD when 19 Native American burial mounds were present in the area. One burial mound remains, when it was excavated in the early 20th century, human remains dating back over 900 years were discovered, today the area is fenced off but you can still have a look at it. In the War of 1812 Detroit had been captured by the British Army and held for over a year–the only major American city to have this distinction. The US government realized Detroit had no counterpart to British Fort Malden down river at Amherstburg Ontario to resist a British attack on American soil, the Army chose this site, the narrowest point of the Detroit River to build Fort Wayne. Construction began in 1842 and was completed in 1848, it was named in honor of Gen. “Mad Anthony Wayne”, a hero of the American Revolution. In 1861, after the attack on Fort Sumter, President Abraham Lincoln asked for 75,000 troops from the northern Union states, two weeks later the Michigan 1st Volunteer Infantry Regiment was mustered into federal service at Fort Wayne.

wayne 023

wayne 029

wayne 040

wayne 047

wayne 066

We begin to walk the grounds, starting with the section closest to Jefferson, we pass the Post Theatre built in 1939, a guard-house and a giant bell. On the left is the Tuskegee Airmen Museum housed in a former residence, the door is locked so we move on. A row of non-commissioned officers houses still stands, single residences and duplexes built from 1904 to 1939, houses are on a slight rise from the sidewalk, it must have been lovely. Further on, huge storage buildings seem to have been maintained and are still in use, army green tanks are parked off to one side. The door to the guard-house is open, the floor is wood, a stove was used for heat, jail cells are tiny, cots for the sick fill a small space. A row of Victorian houses line the next street over, a the Post Commanders residence has been restored to its original wood exterior.  The trees are still bare, the grass just beginning to turn green, the abandonment is unnerving; random panes of glass are missing, I imagine the inside to be laden with spider webs, roofs have deteriorated to a weave like pattern of shingles and rafters, I feel as if we have stumbled into a ghost town. Climbing a large hill we have a panoramic view of the grounds and the Detroit River, the riverfront parade ground is now used for soccer games, nets are in place the grass is well maintained. Making our way to the river we have a spectacular view of downtown and the Ambassador Bridge, the river sparkles in the spring sunlight, old concrete is piled along the shoreline, Canada is just a stone’s throw away. Retracing our steps we circle an old storage building on the other side of the hill, it seems it is still in use as a storage facility, everything around her looks really, really old. 

wayne 070

wayne 060

wayne 057wayne 055

wayne 100

wayne 078

The barracks were constructed between 1842-49 and are said to be one of the best examples of Federal-style architecture outside the seaboard states. Exterior walls are rough-hewn blocks of limestone that came from Kelly’s Island in Ohio. The interior is set up with tables and chairs today for some type of meeting, upstairs we find the sleeping area complete with bunks, comfortable is NOT a word I would use to describe the sleeping arrangements. Just outside to the right is the Powder Magazine building, it has an arched ceiling and displays showing us what it looked like back in the day. A dry moat surrounds the star fort itself, originally constructed of earth and wood, the fortifications were rebuilt in masonry during the Civil War. We enter a long brick hall through an open doorway, this leads us to the fort itself, we walk up a couple of stairs into darkness, it feels really damp, water is puddled on the concrete floor. Light sneaks through narrow slits intended for attack on the enemy, the fort has never mounted cannons. We feel our way around, larger windows allow us a better view of which way to walk, we travel down another walkway and enter another area of the fort, once again we traverse the few steps into the building. Wrought iron hardware hangs on unbelievably thick wood doors, they did  everything they could to keep the bad guys out. It’s hard to believe this building still exists, thankfully it was dedicated as a military museum in 1950, otherwise it may not be here.

wayne 129

wayne 114

wayne 120

wayne 126

Of the original 96 acres, 83 still belong to Fort Wayne, the rest belongs to the Army Core of Engineers as a boatyard. The fort was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1971, it served as an Army base for 125 years. Most people probably do not think of Detroit as a military city, that just goes to show you what an amazing place it has always been.

wayne 019wayne 150

wayne 137

wayne 157

I check my watch and am glad to see we still have time to catch brunch at Detroit’s newest restaurant, Zenith. Robert and Melissa Jasper moved to Detroit from the East Coast to open their unique, quirky restaurant on the main floor of the Fisher Building. We walk through the Fisher to the restaurant entrance, one foot in the door we know we are going to love this place! To the left is a small city-scape rising from the floor, the space is huge, 8,ooo sq ft, there’s another 8,000 sq ft on the basement level too, along with the original safe from the bank that originally occupied the space in 1928 and a small banquet room. We are greeted at the door and told we can sit wherever we want, that’s a tough decision in a place this cool. We settle on a table central to everything and begin checking out the menu, the selections all sound incredible. After we place our order we are free to roam around; the pieces they have amassed through the years are awesome; statues of jungle animals, beer displays, original funky artwork, advertisements for household items, food and auto-related products. There’s a fabulous lounge area in the back that puts me in the mind of the 50’s era Cuban style; rattan furniture, exotic lamps, tropical flowers–it’s fantastic! The tiki bar itself is just waiting for the liquor license to arrive to get into full swing, it will be a great place to come and have a cocktail. The original integrity of the building remains, columns have been boxed in, walls and surfaces are painted in bright green and blue, everywhere you look, there’s something to look at.

zenith 027

zenith 001

zenith 019

Our food arrives, we dig in with enthusiasm, we are splitting the Passion Fruit Pound Cake French Toast (I kid you not!) and the Poutine Deluxe, my mouth is watering as I write this….The french toast is utterly delicious, served with a buttermilk cream sauce it is just the right amount of sweetness. On the other hand the poutine is a savory mix of french fries, scrambled eggs, cotija cheese, hollandaise sauce, 4-pepper gravy and crumbled bacon, alright, so it’s not low in fat, for something this good I’m willing to put in a little extra work-out time.  As we savor our brunch I continue to notice things, like the planters playing host to doll heads, the giant Calypso sign above the kitchen, the Lone Ranger and fun window displays featuring great items from the 40’s and 50’s. The food is a fusion of Southern and Mexican style, with so many interesting things on the menu to try, we’ll definitely be back. So there you have it, from one of Detroit’s oldest places to one of its newest, its been another great day in the city !!

zenith 013

zenith 005

wayne 168

Clawson: Let’s Go Shopping!!

14 Apr

clawson 017

All around Metro Detroit you will find quaint little villages, historic cities and hip downtowns. Each  one a little different from the other, it’s fun to check them out and see what they have to offer.Today we are visiting Clawson, just 2.2 square miles in size, downtown can be found at the intersection of 14 Mile Rd and Main (aka Livernois). 

clawson 011

clawson 005 (1)

clawson 009 (1)

We begin our visit with a stop on Rochester Rd, this is where Michigan’s largest retail candy store, Doc’s Sweets resides. Nothing fancy on the outside, the inside is a virtual wonderland of candy, they have everything here, it even smells sweet! Easter displays are front and center, chocolate bunnies, candy eggs and Peeps in every color of the rainbow await their place in your Easter basket. Plywood shelving units divide the space into wide aisles, Jelly Belly and M&M’s have huge display cases that dispense the flavor and color candy of your choice. Old-fashioned treats like those pastel colored candy buttons stuck to strips of paper bring back childhood memories as do Slo Poke, Now & Later, Zots and Laffy Taffy. Do you like Gummi Bears? How about a gummi worm, frog, shark or turtle? Licorice comes in strings, wheels and snaps, Scooby Doo, Mickey Mouse and Star Wars figures are filled with candy; for fans of chewing gum they sell Razzles, Chiclets and Fruit Stripe. Do you remember Sixlets? Not only are they available individually, like many of the items here, they can also be purchased in bulk. Employees are friendly and helpful, you can’t help feeling happy yourself surrounded by all this sweetness.

clawson 045

clawson 044

clawson 050 (1) (1)

Magic anyone? Wunderground Magic Shop on Main St is a fun place to visit even if you can’t pull a rabbit out of a hat. Wall to wall and floor to tin ceiling the space is filled with books, card tricks, magic wands, supplies and accessories for magicians of every skill level. Looking around we notice playing cards clinging to the ceiling overhead, ventriloquist puppets look ready for conversation, novelties, pranks and gag gifts make us laugh out loud. Chatting with the man behind the counter we learn the ceiling is original, the second floor of the building was originally the Ambassador Ballroom. Wednesday nights were rolling skating nights at the Ballroom, it was so popular the owner built a separate roller rink across the street in 1941.

clawson 034

clawson 020clawson 019

clawson 037

Across 14 Mile Rd is what used to be the Ambassador Roller Rink, a Clawson landmark for over 60 years, the building still retains the original wood floor, hockey scoreboard and over 300 pairs of roller skates. In 2006, husband and wife team Stephen and Mary Liz, opened one of the coolest stores around, Leon & Lulu in the 15,000 sq ft space. Referred to as a ‘lifestyle store’, to me it is shopping heaven. Old and new, quirky and classy, unique and classic, the variety of items and styles seems endless. Easter decor items greet us at the front of the store, vintage roller skates are dressed up with sequins on a nearby shelf, antique glass bottles from Detroit sit atop a table. Freshly popped popcorn is being kept warm in a red cart, a young woman wearing skates offers us a beverage then rolls off. Many things vie for my attention at the same time; the open ceiling shows off its wood beams, unique light fixtures glow from above, funky artwork hangs on walls. Kris and I begin roaming the store together but soon we have split off in different directions, I always have an idea of where he’s at from the sound of the camera as he snaps pictures. I take my time browsing, I am a sucker for handbags and kitchen do-dads. Kris spies an awesome vintage score keeping machine out of a bowling alley–sweet!

clawson 028

clawson 029

clawson 026clawson 042

Vignettes of couches, chairs and tables are beautifully laid out, I cannot resist trying a few of the pieces. Discarded items like metal doorplates, teacups and spoons have been reused to create light fixtures. I meet up with Kris and we walk around again showing each other the pieces we like best. I have been here on several occasions for special events, usually charity fundraisers, there’s always food and drink and you’re guaranteed a good time. The owners are extremely generous, last year alone they hosted 64 events, 51 of them benefiting local charities. Every time I come, the store has different merchandise, making it fun to explore. I recently learned Leon & Lulu will soon have a neighbor, the owners have acquired the old Clawson Theatre to be used as additional retail space and a bakery/cafe. Like the roller rink the theatre was built in 1941, movies were shown until 1962; like most small town theatres the building was used for other purposes and then sat vacant. To me the most exciting part of the deal is the plan to replace the original marquee to make it look like a classic downtown movie theatre again, it will add so much charm to the streetscape.

clawson 039

clawson 033clawson 021

clawson 024

Walking east down 14 Mile Rd we notice and old record shop, Flipside Records. Doing business here since 1983 the store sells new and used vinyl, CD’s, DVD’s, video game systems, vintage stereo equipment, posters and t-shirts. We love to browse shops that sell vintage anything, record stores always have great things to look at and listen to. T-shirts hang from the drop ceiling, like items are grouped into sections, I see my first Iggy Pop bobblehead, Kris is leafing through old albums, some of them have awesome cover art. It has been a while since I have seen stacks of 45’s, of course Elvis takes up a fair amount of space. Vintage record players make me yearn for the days when things were simple and real; you actually held the arm on the record player and placed the needle on the vinyl, sound came out of speakers instead of tiny little earbuds attached to an iPhone, ahhh, the good old days! 

clawson 062

clawson 058

clawson 056

clawson 054 (1)

We come to a Japanese grocery store called Noble Fish, having heard only good things about their sushi we decide to give it a try. The small store has a huge selection of grocery items such as sauces, oils, rice, Sake, beer and snacks along with Japanese gifts and kitchen goods. Both of us enjoy looking at the brightly colored packages, sometimes wondering what it is, or what one does with Gingko nuts or a can of Quail eggs. Now, Pocky we know, but here in addition to chocolate and strawberry we can try almond crush. Coolers along the side of the store hold pre-made sushi boxes, fresh fish and multi-color rice cakes. All the way to the back we find the sushi counter; we fill out the order sheet, take a seat and wait for our food. 5 stools are pulled up to a counter, there are probably another 5 tables in the restaurant space, each seating two people, to say it is small is an understatement. Sushi specials are handwritten on sheets of paper and taped to the walls, be sure and look them over before placing your order. A cart holds a thermos of hot green tea and pitchers of cold water, cups and glasses are available for you to help yourself. Our sushi is delivered to our table, it looks and tastes delicious, prices are reasonable and the rolls are nice sized. A line of people has formed to place orders, as soon as we are finished we leave to make room for someone else. We take one more walk down the rows of items, certain there is nothing we need for home we head over to the register. Even Japanese grocery stores have impulse items at the check-out counter, Kris has his eye on a chocolate cookie-looking thing, the clerk tells us it is mochi filled with red bean paste, the things we thought were chocolate sprinkles are actually roasted sesame seeds, what the heck……You know, it wasn’t bad.

clawson 092

clawson 075

clawson 090clawson 081

clawson 085