Tag Archives: Hamtramck MI

HAMTRAMCK: Out For The Evening..

26 Apr

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We’re in Hamtramck for a night on the town. First order of business, dinner. Sushi may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of eating in this ethnically diverse city but thanks to Fat Salmon Sushi it’s one more option to the wide variety of cuisines available. Fat Salmon has taken over the Joseph Campau space most recently occupied by Rock City Eatery and Maria’s Comida before that. Fresh paint, new furniture and a flat screen TV that continuously shows K-Pop music videos add a unique charm to the space.

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Servers are friendly, we are greeted immediately, seated and offered water and menus. The tables are full, there’s a steady stream of carry-out orders, still our food arrives in a timely manner. We start with vegetable gyoza, very tasty, followed by an excellent sweet potato roll. The Bibimbap arrives sizzling in its hot stone bowl, flavorful toppings sitting atop a bed of rice, a sunny-side-up egg the centerpiece. I gently mix it all together being sure to scrape the crunchy rice bits from the bottom of the bowl. I scoop the mixture onto plates, we each add desired amounts of deliciously spicy chili pepper paste–this is so good! We’re already looking forward to our next visit.

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Over on Caniff, Planet Ant Hall is celebrating its grand opening with The Detroit Musical. There’s about a half hour before showtime, Ghost Light Bar, Ant Hall’s adjoining bar is open, let’s grab a pre-show cocktail. The former Indian restaurant has been transformed into a dimly lit, funky space serving cocktails and food. The lengthy bar can easily accommodate a dozen or more patrons, liquor bottles rest on lighted shelves, the bartender is busy making an Old Fashioned for Kris. A few minutes before showtime we walk through the interior door over to the theater space. This new venue will allow for additional improv comedy, theatrical productions needing more space than the intimate theater across the street, live music and movie nights.

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For tonight’s performance of The Detroit Musical roomy chairs are arranged into rows and aisles, lights are low, scenery consists of a couple of flats; one is Detroit 1701 the other Detroit 2017.The show opens with cast members paddling their canoe down the Detroit River circa 1701, we meet Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, Native Indians and The British. The talented cast of 5 sing and dance their way through Detroit history; from the days of fur trading to Marvin Gaye, the exodus to the suburbs and the arrival of hipsters. The timeline moves swiftly, songs are hilarious and clever, it’s so Detroit! Audience members laugh out loud, nudge one another and nod in agreement; they’re telling our story–and what a story it is!

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The night is young, we’re in the mood for a cocktail, I bet we can find a bar somewhere in Hamtramck… We drive around the city a little, over on Yemans St Polka Dot Bar is open, let’s check it out. Some of you may know the place from when it was Atlas, it’s come a long way from its days as a dive bar. A fire on the second floor made renovating a must. Burgundy walls, the original bar and tin ceiling make up the quaint interior, colored lights and stars strung from the ceiling are charming. Round tables wear checkered cloths, a pair of flat screen TV’s flank the bar. Kris orders drinks at the bar and brings them back to the table. We spot a familiar face, Carolyn owns the bar and also runs Polish Village Cafe. The bar is only open on weekends; tonight the crowd is chill, the pool table sits unused. This is a great spot to come when you just want to have a drink and relax, I’m glad we did!

 

 

HAMTRAMCK: Poletown Pleasures

11 Aug

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Today we are in Hamtramck, the tiny city inside the city of Detroit. There has been a lot of buzz surrounding a new chocolate shop that opened just off Jos Campau on Evaline; c’mon, let’s check it out. Parking on the residential streets of Hamtramck can be challenging, this afternoon we fall right into a space within feet of our destination: Bon Bon Bon (which translates to Good Goodie). Alexandra Clark is the woman behind the chocolate, she has created quite a stir with her unique goodies.

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A black sandwich board on the sidewalk announces the shop; at only 650 sq ft, most of which is taken up by production, the customer area is quaint and snug. We find ourselves face to face with a row of display cases featuring the much celebrated chocolates; each has a name and a number; #37 Sticky Bun, #16 Bacon & Egg, #34 Smores; you get the idea. Though these rectangle-shaped chocolates come in 45 flavors, the shop features 24 flavors considered the “Detroit Collection”. Better Made potato chips and bread crumbs from Avalon Bakery are used to create flavors such as Better Butter Crunch and pain au chocolate, they even have a Paczki bon bon! Hand-written tags offer descriptions of each flavor, a single piece of each is displayed on one of their clever, open, boxes. The ladies behind the counter each wear a coral-colored bandanna—–Rosie The Riveter style; to say they are cheerful is an understatement………..could have something to do with being surrounded by chocolate all day!  The shop is well thought out; black bands are wrapped around t-shirts and boxes, declaring the item ‘Produce of Detroit’ or simply Bon Bon Bon; packaging is cute and clever, everything has a hand-stamped, blue-collar work ethic look; pretty cool. Decision making is tough, we manage to narrow it down to five; each one decadent, delicious! Here’s our insiders tip……no matter what else you choose, you must have the #1 Hot Mess. A chocolate bon-bon shell is filled with a warm chocolate concoction from a squeeze bottle; you have about 30 seconds before the whole thing melts, so put it in your mouth quickly and embrace the heavenly chocolate deliciousness. Bon bons run $3 each, the shop is only open to the public on Saturdays……… you’re welcome.

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There’s a gorgeous church over on McDougall that we’d like to visit, being a Saturday we’re hoping to find it open. As we arrive, a wedding party is finishing up picture-taking in front of the Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church; carefully, we dash behind the festivities and go inside. First words that come to mind: fantastic, beautiful, sacred, holy, gold. A long red carpet leads from the back of the church to the front intersecting rows of wood pews on each side. There’s so much to look at; arches, columns, patterns, scenes, all aglow in sunlight. The priest has begun removing white bows from pews, I ask if it’s ok to look around, he welcomes us. Our eyes are drawn to the ornate gates on the altar, we each take a side aisle to the front; along the way are paintings of the Stations of the Cross. Every surface of the arches bear decoration, a zig-zag design rings columns, capitals wear intricate designs. Shiny marble steps lead to the altar, an up-close look of the magnificent gates leave us mesmerized. Angels and Saints cover the walls and ceiling, the large dome is reserved for Christ, the teacher. Along the back wall Mary looks out on all who visit, her arms are open, she is surrounded by gold. Speaking of gold….. it’s everywhere, halos, crosses, trim, it adds a sense of richness and importance to the messages of the church. Delicate chandeliers hang from long chains, window glass is clear, stars cover the barreled ceiling.

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I read the first Ukrainians arrived in Detroit around 1910, they founded their first parish, St John’s, on Detroit’s west side shortly after that. As more and more Ukrainians moved to the east side, near Hamtramck, there was a need to construct another church; the Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church. The parish continued to grow; in 1936 a committee was formed for the building of a new, larger church on Mc Dougall, that is the church we are standing in today. Remarkably, this was not the way the interior looked when it was built in the 1940’s; it was redone in 1962 to resemble a Byzantine Rite Ukrainian Catholic Church. Mychailo Dmytrenko, who did the original paintings, was also commissioned to re-decorate the entire church in icons depicting the life of Mary; his work includes the frescoes and paintings above the sanctuary and ceiling, the church is a work of art, a jewel. Kris tries to capture it all in photos, but it just isn’t possible.

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Above the center aisle, diamond shapes contain representations of original sin, Noah’s Ark and the Burning Bush; the more I look, the more I see. We take the stairs to the basement, large black and white photos capture the Ukrainian culture. The space looks like it is used for social gatherings. When we are satisfied we exit the church, we didn’t have a chance to look around the outside when we arrived, but now we can. The building is a massive, gold brick and stone structure, beautiful paintings cover the space above the entry doors. Intricate designs are carved into the stone, a large cross hangs in the palladium window. The building is surrounded by gardens, pink roses and red gladiola are blooming. 

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Over on Caniff we stop at Delite Cafe & Deli for lunch. Up a few steps refrigerated cases hold Boar’s Head products used to create a multitude of tasty sandwiches. We scan the chalkboard menu, order at the counter then take our seats at a small table near the door. The deli has its own coffee bar, tall stools are lined up against the counter; there’s a wonderful space in back for lounging and eating too. Our sandwiches arrive in the traditional wax paper-lined red baskets; the Pastrami Reuben is served on marble rye with coleslaw and Russian dressing. It’s really good, a nice proportion of meat to toppings. I have to admit the #14 was my favorite; Mesquite smoked turkey breast, banana peppers, Muenster cheese, onions, lettuce, tomato and a Pepper House dressing all pressed on a sandwich press tucked inside a ciabatta roll—-very tasty! As we looked around, the owner of the shop told us the building used to be a music store, it hit me, this used to be Carlow’s Music Center. The former owner, Al Carlow, was a good friend of my dads; the two of us would stop in the store and visit on Saturday’s now and then, it’s where we bought my clarinet for 5th grade band class. Walking down the few steps to the door, I took notice of the entry way; it still looks the same as it did back then; it’s nice to know some things never change.

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Hamtramck is loaded with art, culture and interesting sights as diverse as the the folks who call the city home. Kris drives around neighborhood streets scouting out graffiti; sides of buildings and garden walls are enriched with the abstract, alluring and the avant-garde. Lovely faces of young women donned in cultural dress fill a huge wall, the eyes are so life-like, the piece is gorgeous! Across the side street a powerful eagle resides under a Hamtramck banner, cartoon-like characters look busy on the side of New Dodge. Just down the road is the city border; a bear on a low wall cordially welcomes visitors. Indeed, Hamtramck is welcoming to all who live and visit here.

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