Tag Archives: Riverwalk

DETROIT: Something New, Something New……..

23 Jun

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Coffee and (____) began life as a pop-up in the West Village neighborhood, it popped-up again last June on Jefferson in the up-and-coming Jeff Chalmers district; the popular coffee shop and bakery has returned to its charming space on Jefferson as a permanent fixture, hooray!  Conferring with Angela, the space was built out last year by the Detroit division of the AIA, she has added her own personal touches such as colorful pillows, potted plants and fresh flowers on the table daily, walls are covered with colorful artwork by local artists. The stars of the coffee shop are, of course, the pastries. Angela is a formally trained pastry chef who knows her way around Key Lime Pie, heavenly scones, gooey chocolate brownies and the best banana bread you’ve ever tasted. Each day a variety of pastries from the full flour, sugar, butter variety to vegan and gluten-free sit under glass domes, tempting all who enter. Let’s not forget the coffee; regular and decaf, drip, espresso or our favorite cold-brew in town, you can have it made to drink in-house or to-go.

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We pull up in front of the shop; the patio has sprung back to life with bright red umbrellas, plants, tables and chairs. Inside, there are open seats at the counter, our favorite place to sit; while Kris takes a seat I eyeball the pastries, it’s no secret I love chocolate—a brownie it is! The atmosphere here is very laid back; customers often engage in conversation with one another about this and that. As I devour my chocolately brownie and sip on cold-brew coffee I take in the large paintings that hang on the walls; Kris and I each pick a favorite. When we have finished, we check out the courtyard in back; benches are made from reclaimed wood, colorful cactus, a money tree and potted palm add color, miniature white lights are strung overhead, it’s truly an oasis. Hello Records second location is taking over the space adjoining Coffee and (____), currently open on weekends, more on that later.

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The transformation of the Detroit riverfront over the last few years has been amazing! There are now 3 miles of completed pathways, parks and green space making the river accessible to all. We are visiting the east riverfront; Mt Elliott Park has been completely renovated by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy to include a plaza, water features, restrooms and a cafe—today is opening day. We follow the freshly poured concrete pathway toward the river, the grass is green and lush, benches are arranged here and there, LED light poles flank the path. The tented park pavilion is off to the right, but what really grabs our attention is the water feature to the left; a life-size replica of a great lakes schooner appears to have sunk into the plaza, masts poke out from the ground spraying water into the air. As we approach we notice stacks of crates, the ship’s wheel, treasure chests and barrels, all with the ability to give you a soaker. Here a layer of soft material in shades of blue cover the ground, making it user-friendly, I spot a few yellow disks marked with a blue footprint that activate the water flow, it’s really cool! Further on kids are spraying one another with water cannons,  jets of water shoot up from the ground intermittently drawing screams and laughter from those who are now wet. A trio of children hang on to a giant cattail and spin around, further on, wind chimes are ringing in the gentle breeze. As we head to the silver railing that lines the water a small boy bangs on drums, another bangs on pipe-organ-style hollow tubes, the sight of all of this activity brings a smile to my face. The MacArthur bridge connecting Detroit to Bell Isle is picturesque from this spot. The pathway continues to the right, colorful concrete circles add whimsy to the route, where there is no railing rocks are piled high, where the pathway ends we find ourselves overlooking a Coast Guard boat. Turning around I am able to take in the entire park; the scene is picturesque, even nicer than I had anticipated, seating is plentiful, flowers spill from large planters, multiple generations are enjoying a little fun in the sun at this most welcomed park.

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There’s an old 4-story, red-brick building near the park entrance. Kris notices the new awning and balloons over an open door, I fall into step behind him to check it out. The name on the awning says “Fun Shop“, let’s see what it’s all about. The shop is a combination art gallery, cultural gifts store, snack shop and overall ‘fun’ place. Near the door you can purchase sunscreen, bottles of water and towels, snacks are sold by the register. The walls are covered with old posters of names like Iggy Pop and MC5, works by Gary Grimshaw, Carl Lundgren and Leni Sinclair can be purchased here along with t-shirts, bags and jewelry by local artists, indeed, lots of fun stuff. I pay for my really cool Detroit watch and we are off to get some lunch.

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Southwest Detroit  seems to be calling us; traveling a little off the beaten path we end up on Springwells at El Asador. A brown brick building with red trim, it’s sits across the street from Vince’s, a well-known Italian restaurant that has been around forever. Inside, the walls are painted a golden-yellow, black chairs are pulled up to white tablecloth covered square tables. As usual, we take a table near a window; our server greets us with menus and returns quickly with chips, salsa and glasses of ice water. Along with traditional Mexican favorites, the menu concentrates on steak and seafood dishes, it all sounds good. After taking our order, our server returns with a cart which holds a large stone bowl, avocados, tomatoes, cilantro, salt, onions, lime juice and chopped jalapeno’s—-they make the guacamole tableside, awesome! As ingredients are added and softly smashed together we are asked how spicy we like our guac, she continues to add items from small bowls, mixing them in until, voila’, it’s done. The dip is garnished with freshly made flour tortilla chips and placed on our table; immediately we  scoop up the flavorful green mixture, wow, it is outstanding! We have never had guacamole so fresh and delicious, you have got to try this. Everything is made fresh to order so dishes do not arrive rapid-fire from the kitchen, but don’t worry, it’s worth the wait. This time we have a chorizo taco, tasty and different from any other chorizo we have had, a lobster taco, delish, served with its own sauce and veggies and chicken enchiladas verde. The enchiladas are moist and flavorful, topped with sour cream and diced fried potatoes, they come with yummy rice and refried beans that are an orange-ish hue, also excellent. The food here is wonderful and unique to the area, service is excellent; next time you have a hankering for Mexican food, you know where to go…….. you’re welcome…….

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Detroit Riverwalk, Slows BBQ, Astro Coffee

19 Jul

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Water, water, everywhere! Did you know that a person in the state of Michigan is never more than 6 miles from a natural water source, or more than 85 miles from a Great Lakes shoreline? It’s true!  I am not a water sports person at all, Boating, not my thing, I don’t fish either, but I just love the water. Living in southeast Michigan, I am a bit spoiled by the easy access I have to many  beautiful lakes and rivers. The Detroit River is situated between Lake Erie to the south and Lake St Clair to the north, it also divides the international border between Canada and the US. Ships travel this waterway to the St Lawrence Seaway and the Erie Canal, making it one of the busiest waterways in the world.

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I have a great fondness for the Detroit Riverfront and River Walk. There are now 3.5 miles of the River Walk completed and open to the public; What do you like to do? There’s Yoga and Tai Chi, a Canine Club and River walking on the riverfront. Biking more your style? Wheelhouse Detroit is a bicycle shop at Rivard Plaza that offers rentals and tours. Have a soft spot for carousels? Take a ride on the Cullen Family Carousel, only a dollar a ride for kids of any age. I have two favorite places I like to hang out; the first is Rivard Plaza, I love to sit under the huge white canvas canopy and watch all of the action. This is where River Walk Cafe is located; you can grab a snack or beverage, maybe an ice cream, and sit at one of the numerous tables and watch all the boats go by, everything from fisherman and pleasure boats to the CoastGuard and ocean bound freighters. The carousel is also located here; I have taken rides myself, but find it’s just as much fun to sit and watch the faces of the riders. It’s a hub of energy and activity, gorgeous landscaping of stunning annuals, huge flowerpots overflowing with fragrant blossoms, raised pools of water flowing into waterfalls, groups of families and friends posing for pictures. On the ground is a map of the area carved into the concrete walkway, can you find your city? 

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Steps away from Rivard Plaza is the William G Milliken State Park and Harbor, encompassing thirty one acres of wetlands, it is the first urban state park in Michigan and is a little more laid back than other areas. Follow the pathway along the riverfront to the new 63 foot light tower that marks the entrance to the 52-slip harbor. This is actually a scaled down replica of the Tawas Point lighthouse. For a change of scenery on your way back, choose the wetland pathway. There are plenty of benches and even some covered seating for you to sit and enjoy the spectacular views.

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Just a short walk away is my other favorite spot, GM Plaza and Promenade.  As you approach this area you will first notice the high pitched screams of small children, not the ow I’m hurt, type scream, but the one of sheer joy and exhilaration.You see, this is where the fountain is located; it is actually a series of water jets sunk in the ground in a triangular pattern that shoots individual streams of water up into the air. Children and adults run in and out of the water, some race from end to end trying to make it all the way before the level rises, others are content to stand in the middle letting the cool water refresh them. The streams of water constantly change levels, there’s nothing more fun that watching someone who has never been before take a walk through the water jets at their low or medium height only to be caught in the middle when it shoots up full height….surprise! Again, there is plentiful seating here to take in the panorama, from this vantage point you will discover outstanding cityscapes of both Detroit and Windsor.

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All that walking built up an appetite, our plan was to have lunch at Slows Bar-B-Q on Michigan Ave over in Corktown, but getting in can be difficult. You see, Slows has this amazing reputation for out-of-this-world Bar B Q. They have been on every Food Network show, movies stars in town filming eat there and then tell about it on the late night talk shows, USA Today and Bon Appetit have written about them,  the hype is enormous. Ordinarily I find when I eat at any of the in vogue restaurants they don’t live up to my built up expectations. That is NOT the case with Slows. Whatever you have heard is TRUE, it’s that good!  At 2:45 on a Friday afternoon the place was still packed, but we were fortunate enough to snag a table.  We ordered the Longhorn sandwich on Texas toast, this is a sandwich to die for; the most tender beef brisket you will ever have the pleasure of eating, sliced and piled high on toast, smothered with homemade onion marmalade, and topped off with smoked gouda and spicy sauce. We are also partial to the House Salad with their Honey Jalapeno Vinaigrette, what makes this salad stand out from the usual green salad to me is the sliced green olives, the Split Pea and Okra Fritters are something everybody should try, I know what you’re thinking, but I’m telling you; taste them. They slice up the okra dip it in a split pea batter and fry them up, served with a sassy dipping sauce and sliced dill pickle, delicious. The place is busy from open to close, once you eat here you can see why.

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This area of Michigan Avenue is currently experiencing a great resurgence, thanks mostly to Slows. Just a couple doors down is a brand new coffee shop called Astro Coffee, which opened on July 12. We wanted to check it out and see what it was all about. The space is wide open, dark wood floors, and exposed brick walls give it an urban look and feel. A large american flag hangs on the wall near the door, a nice touch, the ceiling and light fixtures are bright white, large front windows give the place an airy feeling. The menu is written on an oversized chalk board sitting above a white subway-tile backsplash. On the counter in glass covered dishes are house made baked goods inviting you to partake. We had espresso and a cookie and both were excellent. It didn’t take long for the public to discover Astro and they are giving it a warm welcome. It’s a great addition to the neighborhood.

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