Tag Archives: What to do in Detroit

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.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

New Center Park, Hot Club of Detroit, The Bronx Bar

6 Sep


Detroit’s newest entertainment venue is New Center Park, located across from the fabulous Fisher Building on West Grand Blvd and Second Ave, this outdoor urban space is delightful! We went down for the Thursday Jazz & Blues; arriving about 10 minutes before the 6pm start time, street parking was plentiful, and there was no lack of wide open lawn seating. Orange folding chairs are available for your use, many bring their own or simply spread out a blanket. The amphitheater like park can easily accommodate hundreds on the gently sloping lawn. Tall trees provide needed shade while planters filled with flowers add color to the landscape, historic buildings make an eye catching backdrop for it all. Activity surrounds the park, cars drive up and down the boulevard, dogs are being walked by owners curious to see what the all the activity is about, nurses from nearby Henry Ford Hospital have a listen and a snack before heading home.

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Hot Club of Detroit was the evenings entertainment, they are incredible! Their music is pure pleasure for your ears, to watch them play a thrill for your eyes, the guitarists play with amazing speed. They had a female vocalist join them for this performance; she sang in french as her crystal clear voice got carried away in the gentle wind of the summer evening. It was one of those blistering hot days that transforms into a perfect night; cool grass beneath your feet, intoxicating music filling the air, time passes easily.

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Opposite the stage is a bar; enclosed on all sides by glass doors this paprika colored room offers bar and table seating, restrooms are found here too. The alfresco cafe menu is perfect for the venue; appetizers like chips and salsa, crudites and dip or hummus with pita wedges, also available are four sandwiches, salads and nachos, and of course a full bar. Food and beverage purchases are what support the facility and allow all the entertainment to be FREE, no coolers here. New Center Park hosts a variety of events such as the Wednesday Lunch Series, Wednesday Night At The Movies, and Thursday Jazz and Blues, check the website for details.

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The Bronx Bar is a Midtown mainstay, located on Second Ave, word is they have great burgers. It was still kind of early for the bar crowd to file in, so we thought we’d drop in. Walking in your  immediate observation will be that it is dark, very dark, but once your eyes adjust you notice the personality of the place; vintage ceramic tile covers the walls, the wood is stained dark and varnished in high gloss. Posters of Jean Harlow and Raquel Welch compete for every males attention. Tiffany lamps hang from the ceiling providing only dim light. The side by side jukeboxes are legendary for the wide variety of music selections.  Order at the bar and then have a seat, wanting to soak up as much of the pleasant evening as possible we sat outside. Before long our food arrived; a club sandwich with turkey shaved thin and piled high, crispy bacon, mayo, lettuce and tomato served on a delicious bun. The blackbean burger was out of this world; a slice of pepperjack cheese to give it a kick, next a stack of spinach then topped off with sliced ripe tomato, a wonderful mix of flavors. Unable to decide between fries and onion rings we got a half order of each; the fries were fresh cut, crispy and delicious, the onion rings were the small rings fried to a perfect crunch. Definitely a step above your average “bar food”, many items are homemade. Bronx is within walking distance to Wayne State and seems to be a popular hang out for students and hipsters alike. Most weekends you can’t even get in the place, if it seems like someplace you’d like to try I’d say the earlier the better. Prices are fair, portions are good and the bartender was helpful and friendly. 

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