Tag Archives: Greektown

DETROIT: Science Fun!

2 Mar

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It’s a snowy Sunday afternoon and we are looking for some indoor fun, we’ve been meaning to check out the recently re-opened Science Center; no time like the present. We found parking on the street, which can be hard to come by in this busy museum district, just a short walk across the street and we’re there. Formerly known as the Detroit Science Center, the Michigan Science Center has reopened much to the delight of parents and children in southeastern Michigan. The museum is a playground of hands-on exhibits, live presentations and interactive activities.  I was a little surprised to find a such a long line to get in, obviously word has gotten out that science is back in Detroit. There is one price for general admission, you may also choose to purchase tickets for the IMAX and planetarium; “two for the museum please”. Once inside the exhibit area the volume level rises, the sound of fun fills the air. To the right is a familiar sight from my childhood, the escalator that passes through the neon rainbow tunnel that brings you up from the IMAX, wasn’t that in an old commercial? On the left is a special exhibit about diabetes, as we travel through the display we find ourselves inside a blood vessel, signs describe what we are looking at and the effect diet and exercise have on blood sugar levels; the most popular area has a moving floor that requires a bit of balance to walk across. 

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Next we are in an area of large bright yellow objects that move, shake and spin; simulating how concrete and asphalt are mixed, so this is what it’s like to be aggregate. First we pass over a ramp that moves back and forth as it takes us forward, next up, the tumbler; this part is tricky, you have to walk through the cylinder as it rotates, hey, we did it without injury….  As we exit we make our way past long tubes that hang and swing from above, one more conveyor belt-type ramp down, we jump to the floor, whew, we made it! The floor ahead is divided into two lanes, like a road, wait…is that the Mackinac Bridge? Yes, sort of….This is the mini-mac, an 80 ft long pedestrian bridge that teaches the engineering process, I just think it’s cool. From the bridge we overlook the lower floor; there’s a demonstration just finishing up on the Chrysler Science Stage. There is so much going on we don’t know what to do next. We spend the next hour wandering around; check out the inside of an Apollo space capsule or one of the large scale rockets; the largest one 36 ft tall spanning from the first floor to the roof. In the Motion area we play a laser harp on beams of invisible light. The “Jam Room” is filled to capacity with youngsters rocking out. There’s a huge area dedicated to the manufacturing process, the United States Steel Fun Factory is 2,800 sq. ft of fun that details how an idea becomes a reality; you even get to pass through a blast furnace, it really is hot in there! Want to take a family photo? Have a seat on the couch between two over-sized “couch potatoes” then learn about nutrition so you won’t become one! Exhibits cover all areas of science; health, engineering, space and physical science, and they make it fun! If you have the time, catch a live show in the planetarium, MI-SCI is home to one of the finest digital planetarium projection systems; fly past 9,000 stars, planets and galaxies in a 3-story high dome. Speaking of Domes, the Chrysler IMAX Dome Theater is Michigan’s only IMAX dome.

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We played until our hunger got the best of us, then it was off to Greektown for a late lunch. I think Plaka Cafe is the only one of the old school restaurants that we’d never been to, until today that is. Open 24 hours, the neon signs in the windows inform us they serve Gyros and Coney’s and they offer Bfast 24 hrs. Inside we seat ourselves in a booth by the front window, our waitress greets us with menus and water. As I read the menu I realize this is not your typical Greek restaurant, but instead, a Greek Diner. The food coming out of the kitchen begins to sway our decision of what to eat; coney dog, no, huge fluffy omelette with a side of golden hash browns…maybe, we hear the strawberry pancakes are delicious,the folks next to us went for the gyro, that looks good. Finally we make up our mind; of course we get the flaming cheese, throw in a bowl of lemon rice soup, a falafel sandwich and a fatoosh salad and you get two people who enjoyed a tasty lunch and couldn’t eat another bite. 

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DETROIT: Gallery Hopping Eastern Market

16 Nov

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Things are moving quickly in Detroit these days; Pop-up businesses are popping up all over. Temporary shops open in a building or space that has been vacant or forgotten; the lease is short-term anywhere from a day to a month; restaurants, bakeries and retail all give it a go. Today we are checking out Cafe Con Leche del Este in the Lafayette Park neighborhood. Being regular patrons of Cafe con Leche in southwest Detroit, we were anxious to see what Jordi’s new space had to offer. We are big fans of the architecture of the neighborhood; designed by Mies van der Rohe in the early 1960’s, it was an urban renewal project consisting of townhouses, highrises and a shopping center adjacent to a 19 acre public park. Some storefronts in the shopping center have been vacant for years; densely populated, area residents have been longing for a local coffee shop where they could grab their morning cup of joe, or hang out with friends over a cubano. The project came together with a combined effort from the community; the furniture was donated by neighbors and friends, the bold yellow curtain dividing the space was made by the local knitting club, someone even loaned the large fluorescent MIES sign that hangs in the front window. The space is fabulous; the front wall, all glass. Inside the walls are painted charcoal grey, bursts of color in orange and yellow bring the place to life. The coffee menu has something for everyone from a basic pour-over to specialty drinks. We ordered at the counter and then took a look around. The furniture is ultra cool modern, the artwork Spanish-influenced, the coffee, delicious! Kris was feeling daring so he chose La Lumbre del Diablo (the devil’s fire), made with espresso, Habanero, cinnamon, honey and milk it is excellent, not too much heat, and an excellent combination of flavors. I had the Don Bigote, espresso, chipolte, chocolate and milk, I can’t wait to have another! The shop is only here till December 8th, so stop by soon.

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In the mood to do a little browsing, we drove north and landed in Eastern Market. Our first stop was Red Bull House of Art on Winder street, we were there for the Detroit Design Fest, but wanted to have another look without the crowds. A chalkboard on the sidewalk informs us the gallery is open, a low metal sign introduces us to the House of Art, the windowless steel door is imposing. Inside, the main floor is studio space for the next eight artists who will be featured in the upcoming exhibit. We walk around the studios, turpentine scents the air. The work of each artist is vastly different, incomplete pieces are intriguing. We descend the stairs to the gallery, the artwork a stark contrast to the bright white walls.  I remember many of the pieces, others I am seeing for the first time; panels featuring the name and background of each artist hang on the wall, benches encourage you to sit and ponder. We took one more look around before heading out, looking forward to the next exhibit.

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Over on the service drive of the Fisher Freeway is a collective of arts designers and musicians called Michigan-Artisans. You may recognize the building, it was the home of Germack for many, many years before they moved to Russell St. The gallery features high quality products from Michigan artists; photography, jewelry, clothing, glass, you name it, music too. The boutique was busy with shoppers, though I hate to admit it, the holidays will be here before we know it. The selection of items is huge, prices are good and range from a few dollars to a few hundred. Displays are eye-pleasing and draw you from one to the other. Many objects feature the mitten state; bags and purses are decorated with the upper and lower peninsulas, T-shirts feature local sayings, the Detroit skyline graces multiple pieces. 

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Deeper into the market district is Signal-Return Press on Division Street, make it a point to stop in. The store is a combination retail store and workshop featuring traditional (old-fashioned) forms of printing. We used to come to this building when it was the Johanson-Charles Gallery, it has undergone an extensive renovation leaving the space bright and airy; structural beams are a sunny yellow, giving the white ceiling and walls a warm glow. House printed posters hang everywhere, they are gorgeous, there is no mistaking this for some laser-printed image. Antique-looking hand-crank presses rest in the open workshop area, we ask permission to get a closer look, they remind us of something we have seen in Greenfield Village or other historical museums. Yet, here they are rolling out beautiful modern images created with letterpress and typesetting techniques, all done by young people! Posters and cards are  for sale, or take a workshop and make your own. 

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We seem to be meandering from district to district, we find ourselves in Greektown with growling stomachs. We heard a new restaurant was opening; we’re in luck, a front row parking space and an open sign. Somehow, over the years, Greek restaurants have become the minority in what was once an entirely Grecian area, Santorini  is bringing  Greece back in a beautiful way. The former Mosiac has undergone a complete make-over; a pair of statues flank the entrance, once inside we find ourselves on what appears to be the deck of a yacht. The floors are polished hardwood, brick walls are white-washed, scenes straight out of Santorini make us feel we are sailing past enchanted villages on the island, it’s so pretty. The menu stretches from traditional to more daring Greek dishes, if you can’t pronounce it, just point. We went the appetizer route and ordered several dishes; yes, we had the flaming cheese, and you know what? It was excellent. In fact, everything we had was, from the bread to the vegetarian grape leaves. It’s good to see some Greek back in Greektown.

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DETROIT: Elmwood Cemetery, Red Smoke & Astoria Bakery

6 Oct

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Detroit is home to some magnificent cemeteries; we have spent time in them walking around the beautiful grounds, looking at monuments with incredible details, and reading the names of people whom so many streets are named after. Today we were joined by friends to take a guided tour.

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Elmwood Cemetery was established in 1846, it is the oldest non-denominational cemetery in Michigan; Mount Auburn cemetery in Cambridge MA was it’s inspiration. When Frederick Law Olmsted was in Detroit working on Belle Isle, he was asked to come in and give his ideas on how to improve the design and layout of the park; we have him to thank for the many scenic vistas in Elmwood. The cemeteries main buildings are the Gatehouse, built in 1870 in the Victorian Gothic style, and the Chapel built in 1856 in the Norman Gothic style, both are made of limestone and are stunning. The grounds themselves are gentle rolling hills with some unusual and rare fauna enhancing the scenery, it’s really quite lovely. Olmsted said “Elmwood is the kind of place we call peaceful, it invites rest and contemplation”, I couldn’t agree more.

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Elmwood has a great deal of historical significance; There are 6 governors, 30 mayors, judges, doctors, and businessmen entombed here. Some names you may recognize: Lewis Cass, Russell Alger, Elijah Brush, Edwin Denby, Mother Waddles, and Coleman Young. A special lot was designated for those who fought in the Civil War. A creek runs through the valley, originally called “Parents Creek”, it was renamed “Bloody Run” when the Indians led by Pontiac rebelled against British troops. They say Parent Creek ran red from all of the British blood that flowed into it, thus giving it the name The Battle of Bloody Run. The trustees of Elmwood have preserved this historic section of the cemetery. Mausoleum Row is a series of 5 private mausoleums built into a hillside standing side by side ; Prominent family names are etched into the gray granite, ornate doors and windows decorate the structures adding architectural interest. Here monuments come in all shapes and sizes; Celtic crosses, obelisks of varying heights reach up to the sky, female statues grieve loved ones as they are perched upon a bases bearing the name of the deceased, and enchanting angels adorn family memorials. From simple elegance to extremely ornate I could walk for hours taking them all in. Tour guides are filled with fascinating stories, I love being able to connect the dots between the people and the places, it enriches my experience even more. CLICK HERE for slideshow of Elmwood.

October is Cemetery Tour Month with Preservation Wayne, I highly encourage you to check their website and see what tours are available. They are also doing a Haunted Fort Wayne Tour towards the end of the month.

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Lunch was next on the agenda, the tour ran a little long so we were extra hungry. We had made up our minds to eat at Red Smoke in Greektown, and because we were sort of in between lunch and dinner we had no problem getting in. The restaurant is housed in a 2-story historic building on Monroe, the floor plan is open, you can see right up to the second level where an over-sized mobile dangles red and pink cut-outs of pigs. The decor is contemporary; stained concrete floors, light colored wood, black chairs and indirect lighting, very nice. The menu offers a nice variety of BBQ fare, it all sounds so good! There were four of us at our table, all together we ordered the Rib Tips with homemade spicy potato chips, a brisket and pulled pork combo, the Bar B Q Beef Brisket sandwich on Texas Toast, the cole slaw, corn relish and Macaroni and cheese. It was all delicious, my favorite side was the Mac & Cheese; the noodles were cooked perfectly, the sauce creamy, and the topping had a little crunch to it, one of the best I’ve had. We had the Jalapeno Cheddar Corn Bread Skillet for an appetizer, scrumptious, I definitely recommend trying it. The two favorite sauces at our table were the Roasted Poblano and the Michigan Cherry Molasses.

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If you’ve ever been to Greektown chances are you’ve been to Astoria Bakery. Established in 1971 Astoria’s is famous for its splendid baked goods; it has been featured on the Food Network, and is the go-to place for out-of town visitors and locals alike. Come through the door, the left wall of the store is a long glass case filled with mouthwatering items. What are you in the mood for? There are the traditional Greek pastries; Baklava, Birds Nest, Pistachio Baskets, and Walnut Rolls. Maybe you’d prefer a napoleon, macaroon, cannoli, rumball, cookie, slice of cheesecake or torte. We had a pecan pie brownie, fabulous! They also serve ice cream and coffee drinks, you can have a seat and eat in, or fill a white cardboard box to go. The place is always buzzing with activity; don’t be put off if there is a line, these guys are pros, you’ll have your order in no time.