Tag Archives: Union Joints

CLARKSTON: Touring..

11 Jul

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We’re in the Village of Clarkston MI for the annual Home Tour benefiting Clarkston SCAMP. You’re probably wondering, what is SCAMP? It’s a five-week, summer day camp that provides daily activities such as music, art, games, crafts, swimming, hiking, fishing, puppet shows and dances for special kids with special needs such as physical disabilities, autism, spectrum disorders, cognitive and emotional impairment. Since 1976 the Clarkston community has provided a unique day camp for kids who otherwise would not have to opportunity to enjoy such recreational activities. The event begins at Depot Park, this is where we purchase tickets; we are given a tour booklet and tote bag complete with those stylish blue booties that fit over your shoes that we are all so fond of…

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We begin in a lush, secluded neighborhood just outside of downtown; mature trees, rolling hills, and unique architecture make this a lovely place to call home. Our first stop is a multi-level home tucked into a hilltop, the current owners purchased the home in 2009 from a Dallas Cowboy football player. The front of the home has a grand stairway flanked by concrete lions that leads to the main entry door.  I can tell you the interior is gorgeous; the fireplace in the great room is amazing. We walk through all of the rooms feeling like we’re in an episode on HGTV. This home has two basement levels both with access to the outdoors;  patios, a stunning pool, waterfall, fantastic landscape and a putting green! The home next door is also on tour, we take the pathway the neighbors put in specifically to get to each others houses. This family bought their quaint, storybook-looking house sight-unseen in 2011. The interior looks like it should be in a magazine. The room that stands out the most (to us) is the boy’s bedroom; custom painted and decorated to look like a stable there are even two horses that share the room! The basement is pretty fabulous too, old barn wood imported from Bois Blanc Island adorns the ceilings, picture frames and other details. They have a custom bar, wine cellar, cigar room. Stone columns, cool light fixtures, cozy seating areas make this one great place to hang out. The yard is pretty sensational too; pretty gardens, a waterfall and a huge brick fireplace. The family is moving back to California, so if you’re in the market for a house, check this one out.

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A distinctly modern, 3-story, wood and stone home rests high on a hill at the end of the street. We climb the (extremely) steep driveway, which, by the way, is heated so they can actually drive up it in the winter, to get to the front doors. You enter on the lower level, one short flight of stairs takes us to the main floor. This house is very different from its neighbors; very contemporary, lots of glass, magnificent views and a pretty snazzy theatre room. There are two decks in the back yard each with its own fire pit. This is the home this Clarkston couple has always dreamed of. Back on Main Street we are touring the Dubeck Home, a large white Colonial-style home with dark green shutters.  This home was originally owned by JR Vilet who sold it to Edwin Jefferson in 1896, it became a duplex in the 1920’s and in the 1980’s it was converted back to a single family home. The current owners have lived here since 2011. There’s a big, open kitchen and dining room, the substantial back porch is perfect for entertaining. The last home on the tour is over on Clarkston Rd, built in 1864 it sits on two acres of land. The current owner has completely rebuilt the house opening up the floor plan, installing new electrical, plumbing, roof–you name it, he’s done it. Today the house is staged to attract potential buyers, Harrison’s of downtown Clarkston did a great job. The rooms are all white and grey with dark floors, appliances are all high-end, I love the white marble counter tops. Anybody looking for a beautifully renovated farm-house?

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It’s time to eat. Clarkston has become a bit of a foodie paradise, Union Joints now has 3 restaurants in town: Clarkston Union Bar and Kitchen, Union Woodshop and their newest venture Honcho, which is where we’re going. Housed in a former gas station and adjoining car dealership, Honcho serves up Latin street food with a twist. The decor is a blend of Southwest meets industrial mingling with mid-century modern, it’s pretty great. We’re sitting in the coffee shop area surrounded by roll-up doors and patio seating. We start out with the Chop salad: romaine, quinoa, black beans, grilled red onions, radish, avocado, tomatoes, sweet corn, carrot and spiced pumpkin seeds tossed in a delightful cilantro-lime vinaigrette, perfect on a hot day like today. The Sweet Potato Enchilada Pie is roasted sweet potatoes, onion and poblano peppers layered between house-made tortillas topped with a cheese blend and salsa verde, very tasty; it comes with a side of Jasmine rice and miso black beans. The menu has a great mix of flavors. Looks like Union Joints has another hit on their hands!

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It’s a beautiful day for a drive in the country. Kris takes curvy scenic roads until we end up on Rose Center Road in Highland Twp. Back in the 1830’s the Doty family ran a farm that spanned about 300 acres here. Sometime around 1970 Susan Briggs Fisher bought the property. Susan has some pretty famous last names, her father was Walter O Briggs, the guy who owned the Detroit Tigers and Briggs Stadium, he made his fortune as the largest automobile body manufacturer in the country back in the day. Susan married into the Fisher family, it does seem like a natural fit right? In 1993 Bob Hoffman purchased the farm from the Fisher family, it is now the largest equestrian facility in Oakland County offering large indoor and outdoor arenas, stabling in multiple barns, large pastures and hunter jumper riding lessons. Most importantly (to us) it is also home to Hoffman Farms Winery and Tasting Room.

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Hoffman Farms winery opened quietly to the public in October of 2016. The large white building with grand portico is surrounded by pastoral farmland, it puts me in the mind of Kentucky. Umbrella’d tables rest on a recently laid patio, the landscaping went in just in time for the June grand opening. The tasting room is attached to the front of the indoor riding arena, a large window allows you to sip your wine or hard cider while watching riders work out their horses. The wine is produced in northern Michigan from Michigan-grown grapes, currently they have 6 varieties; Rose Center Cherry is our favorite. We are sitting at the bar having easy conversation with Bob, his daughter and fellow wine-drinkers. The vibe is always laid-back and friendly. When our glasses are empty we take a leisurely drive on the narrow dirt road that runs through the property; horses are eating freshly delivered hay and grass as the breeze rustles their tails. Goats mill around in their pen, one pair sits up high soaking in the sunshine, black and white cows lazily roam about, one is taking a nap. Hoffman Farms is the perfect place to relax, unwind, de-stress; from the picturesque farm to the wine and hard cider, you’ll be glad you came.

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Exploring Clarkston

4 May

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About halfway between Detroit and Flint off I-75 is the tiny Village of Clarkston. Roughly a half square mile in size the picturesque village is home to a thriving downtown, over 100 historic structures, Parke Lake and the Mill Pond. Early settlers include brothers Jeremiah and Nelson Clark, for whom the village was named in 1842. The pilot for the HBO series HUNG was shot at Clarkston Jr. High School. Recently Clarkston Union Bar & Kitchen and Union Woodshop were featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives as part of Kid Rock’s Detroit tour with Guy Fieri. Oh and Valerie Bertinelli lived here as a child.

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We park the Jeep by the Mill Pond, a placard tells us it was created by the Clark brothers to harness water power. The original dam held Clinton River water to a depth of 22 feet producing the power to run the (then) nearby gristmill. The Mill Pond became a central feature in the village, it was used for boating, swimming and ice harvesting. Henry Ford came along in 1941 and built an enhanced dam to provide more power for his Village Industry at Clarkston Mill. Elegant homes rise up on the banks of the tranquil pond. We head out on foot through the charming neighborhood surrounding the pond.

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Walking along the sidewalk, modest homes represent many styles of architecture, no two houses are the same. Cozy bungalows and Tudor revivals are some of the few homes made of brick, Saltbox and Victorians are colorful. Heading back to Main Street we watch a family of geese go for a leisurely swim in the pond. The grandest homes reside on Main Street (M-15); Queen Anne’s, Greek Revivals and an eye-catching Mansard in blue, take up loads of square footage. Porches are large, columns are a common feature and come in many lengths and diameters.  The massive, white, Greek Revival is impressive, wide Ionic columns and black wrought iron balcony give the structure and important feel.

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Lawns are deep green and lush, weeping cherry and Redbud trees bloom along with golden-yellow forsythia, multi-colored Tulips and dandelions. The homes are just lovely, white Colonial Revivals share the real estate with a grey Queen Anne donning pink accents; fish scale siding accompanies highly detailed trim, fancy window pediments and American Flags rustling in the breeze. The building at 90 N Main started out in 1910 as Clarkston High School, Henry Ford bought the property in 1940 and used it as a factory to manufacture vehicle straps and seat cushions for military and other vehicles during WWII. He added a smokestack and power plant at the back of the building using the water from Parke Lake to create steam power.

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We dip in and out of side streets perpendicular to Main, more lovely homes are colored in deep blue, earth tones, lavender and pink; each is unique. Urns have already been filled with spring flowers, azaleas are a blaze of purple. Over on Buffalo we see what was originally the Methodist Episcopal Church built in 1873, it’s now a private residence, it’s gorgeous with fancy brickwork surrounding elegant wooden doors. Homeowners are creative with their decorating style, many of the houses look recently restored.

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Back on Main St. flowering pear trees are in full bloom, Rudy’s Grocery has a large selection of hanging flower baskets for sale; the store is charming with its stone exterior. Essence On Main sells specialty foods, select wines, locally roasted coffee, housemade soups, sandwiches and treats in addition to housewares. I love the Detroit Jewel Stove used in one of the displays. All of this food is making us hungry! Further down the street we have arrived at our destination, Union Woodshop. The place is jam-packed, 2 empty bar stools have our names written all over them. We like sitting at the bar, the conversation and interaction with the staff is always interesting. A quick look at the menu and we place our order.

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Union Woodshop is part of the Union Joints family which includes Clarkston Union, Vinsetta Garage, Fenton Fire Hall, Pumphouse Custard and Union General Store. Kris and I love that they put their businesses in such interesting, old buildings. We eat our Cherry Pork Salad of house-smoked pulled pork, piles of romaine lettuce, dried Michigan cherries and crispy friend onions dressed in honey mustard and the Pretender sandwich: House-made vegan patty, coal-fired tomatoes, arugula, broccoli sprouts, goat cheese, shiitake bacon dressed with roasted garlic balsamic mayo; nary a word is uttered—everything is top-notch delicious! The restaurant has an eclectic decor of funky light fixtures, tin ceiling, sawed-log-covered walls and knotty pine beams. 

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Further down Main St. we stop in at the sister store Union General a boutique and cupcakery housed in a 1850 parsonage. After all that savory food we could use a sweet little something. The self-description of the store is purposeful goods and lovely whimsies, yep, I’ll go with that. And then there’s the cafe; ice cream, coffee drinks, hot chocolate made with Sanders Hot Fudge (I know!) and an assortment of baked goods, cupcakes are the specialty. After much thought we choose the PBJ and a Baby Cake, a cup of coffee completes our order. We sit at the only table and dig in, both are wonderful; moist, dense cake, creamy frosting, just the right amount of sweet, perfect.

Clarkston is an ideal destination for a day trip. The pretty little village has destination-worth dining, walkable neighborhoods and plenty of surrounding water, check it out.