Tag Archives: Woodward Ave

DETROIT: Woodward…Under Construction

5 Sep

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Detroit’s Main Street, The All American Road, a Pure Michigan Byway, the first mile of concrete roadway in the country, M-1, all of these descriptions refer to our very own Woodward Ave. If you’ve been downtown the last several months you’ve experienced first hand the major changes taking place along the thoroughfare. First we have track construction for the M-1 Rail Streetcar line; the 3.3 mile circulating streetcar route will travel along Woodward Ave from the Central Business District (Congress), through Midtown, New Center and up to the North End neighborhoods (W Grand Blvd). There will be 20 serving stations serving 12 locations when completed. I can hardly wait. The second thing you’ll notice on Woodward is the ongoing rehab/restoration/reconstruction of historic buildings lining the avenue. 

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Today we’re taking a walk to see what’s new, what’s happening, in the rapidly changing-for-the-better district. We park the Jeep using one of those new fancy parking meters (ugh!), here’s a tip: memorize your license plate number….We start our walk just north of The Spirit of Detroit Statue, looks like the Vinton building is in line for renovation, the number of structures under construction on this block alone is mind-blowing. Scaffolding, paving equipment and orange traffic cones dictate where we can go. Office workers on break watch the progress as they relax in funky seating areas surrounding the Chase Tower–(now known as the Qube); there are so many people milling about.

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Several buildings on the west side of the street near Gratiot are in the process of being renovated; a peek through the telephoto lens of our camera reveals existing staircases with decorative wrought iron. Orange-striped barrels, chain link fence and men in hard hats make up the streetscape. We stand on the sidewalk trying to take in all the changes, luckily many buildings retain their original architectural splendor. On the next block we are amazed at the progress that has been made; just a few short weeks ago the corner building was faceless and minus windows, today it is nearly finished, stainless steel trim frames the windows and facade. A map of the new M-1 Rail line is displayed in an empty storefront.

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The Wright-Kay Building has always been one of our favorites; designed in the Queen Anne style by Gordon W Lloyd, it was completed in 1891 as the Schwankovsky Temple of Music. When the music store closed the Wright-Kay jewelry firm took over the building from 1920-1978. Six stories tall, constructed of brick and brownstone, I have always been fascinated by the corner turret reaching from the second to the fifth floor; at one time there was a ballroom on the second floor.Today the street level is home to John Varvatos, a high-end men’s clothing store–everybody should check this place out!

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The first thing you’ll notice is the huge chandelier, well, it’s actually many chandeliers wired together, creating a very dramatic effect. Everything revolves around the color black, it works fabulously; the space has a masculine, industrial, elegance, there’s so much eye candy we don’t even know where to look. Vintage accents are everywhere; display cases, tables, frames and light fixtures. Photographs of Rock-n-Roll stars hang on dark walls, they are available for purchase. Of course there’s the clothing, I don’t want to undersell that; t-shirts, jeans (made in USA), jackets, scarves and shoes are all attractively displayed, I could pick out at least a dozen items for Kris. Music is a big part of the store; a drum set, guitars and amps stacked two-high rest on a riser. We take the fancy stairway to the second floor, immediately we are greeted by guitars waiting to be played by customers. Further back a seating area surrounded by new and vintage guitars, amps, receivers, turntables, speakers and headphones welcomes us, Kris is mesmerized; I page through coffee table books about music and fashion. 

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 We pop into the David Whitney building, now the 126 room Aloft Hotel and 105 premium residences. Built in 1915 this 19-story building epitomizes America’s Golden Age. A 2-year, $92 million historical renovation has brought the original grandeur back to the building. The main attraction is the 4-story, gold-leafed atrium; lit by skylight, adorned with a fanciful clock, marble and terracotta, it truly is stunning. We exit the building and cross over to Grand Circus Park, the Russell Alger Memorial Fountain is lovely, umbrella’d tables with chairs are available on surrounding concrete. Across Woodward the Thomas Edison Memorial Fountain looks inviting; water spills over into a large basin, the sound is relaxing. Crossing back to the Whitney building our attention is diverted by a giant pink layer cake blocking Washington Ave; a crew is in the process of filming a commercial for Ford Motor Co celebrating the 10th birthday of the Fusion. We watch and we watch some more waiting for the big moment when the Fusion blasts through the cake, alas our hunger gets the best of us–guess we’ll have to wait to see it on TV.

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Central Kitchen + Bar located in the Michigan National Building has only been open a few weeks, we’re giving it a try. The lobby of the building is done in that mix of modern decor and original architectural elements that Dan Gilbert’s buildings have become known for, the lighting is super-cool, we’re fond of the whole effect. The restaurant continues with the same theme of new and old, concrete columns are left as-is, the unrepaired embossed ceiling is painted white, there’s a great black and white photo of old Detroit on one wall. We sit at a table just inside the roll-up door panels, casual seating areas reach out onto the sidewalk along with additional dining space. The lunch crowd is gone, the vibe is chill.

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Lunch arrives without delay, both of us grab a slice of the flatbread; thin crust smothered in fig jam, covered with crispy-roasted brussel sprouts, sprinkled with goat cheese crumbles and drizzled with a balsamic reduction, it’s delicious! The Chickpea burger is a thick vegetarian patty topped with tomato, feta, arugula, capped with Greek yogurt and served on a grain bun, tasty. While eating we look out over Cadillac Square, individuals peer inside the restaurant as they pass, there’s more foot traffic than vehicle traffic; something that hasn’t occurred in a very long time. Before exiting the building we drop into Roasting Plant for a post-lunch coffee. Smack dab in the center of the narrow space is the Javabot, this is where the beans are roasted, stored and blown through a series of custom-designed pneumatic tubes to be sold by the pound or the cup; you can help but be fascinated watching the process.

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Going back toward the car we dodge more barricades, stop for an up-close look at rail construction and admire the new mural on the former Compuware building before heading into Detroit Water Ice Factory .The brainchild of Free Press columnist Mitch Albom, the icy dessert shop recently opened to great fanfare, get this: every penny of profit goes back to fellow Detroiter’s through Goodwill and S.A.Y. Detroit. The menu board hangs behind the counter, eager young servers offer us samples, we comply. Flavors have catchy Detroit-ish names like Woodward Watermelon, (not Chet) Lemon, Honolulu Blue raspberry, you get the idea. I decide on the orange with a swirl of soft-serve vanilla ice cream through the middle; a delicious, refreshing treat! 

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Folks soak in the late afternoon sun on the patio of Townhouse; built out from One Detroit Center the glass enclosed space is pretty spectacular–it even has a retractable roof, you can literally dine under the stars! The decor is very modern, urban, chic. We sit at the bar, Kris has a cocktail while we people watch. We’ve seen a lot today and it all looks great, in two weeks Woodward will look different and again two weeks after that. It’s been a blast catching up on the progress, c’mon down and see it for yourself.

DETROIT: Cultural Center Tour

28 Sep

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Now and again we like to be ‘tourists’ in our own city; these days tours of Detroit can be taken daily, choices vary from walking and bicycle to segways and buses, today our feet will take us through Detroit’s Cultural Center. We begin our tour at the McKenzie House, a lovely 1895 Queen Ann style residence that is now Preservation Detroit’s (f.k.a. Preservation Wayne) headquarters. As Detroit’s largest and oldest historic preservation organization, members have worked tirelessly since 1975 to preserve, promote and protect the city’s rich architectural heritage. Over the years we have trekked through the streets of the city, gone inside private homes and seen amazing buildings on tours led by this all volunteer organization. We meet inside the house, a large group has gathered for this Saturday morning tour, we pay our $10 and head out the door, gathering on the Cass Ave sidewalk.

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As we make our way over to Woodward, our guide Kathleen, shares interesting stories and histories of buildings we pass, her assistant Susan adds to the conversation. On Woodward we see large historic homes, reminding us that this once was a residential neighborhood, many are currently owned by Wayne State University and used for storage and administrative purposes. We pause in front of the Maccabees Building, built in 1927 for the fraternal organization Knights of the Maccabees, the elaborately carved limestone facade is incredible. The main entryway deserves a few moments of our time, we stop and study  intricate patterns and series of solemn knights that surround  the elongated arch, I see columns and faces, two knights stand atop the door frame, above them a fanciful clock is anchored to the building.

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Just down the street we enter the Detroit Public Library Main Branch, designed by Cass Gilbert in the Italian Renaissance style, it was built in 1921 of Vermont marble and serpentine Italian marble trim. If you have never been inside the library, you need to see it. To the right is the Children’s library, I love the fireplace. Mary Chase Perry Stratton created the tiles, large ones represent fairy tales, others shimmer in her signature luster glaze. We ascend a staircase, an ornate coffered ceiling comes into view. At the top of the stairs a barrel-vaulted ceiling is illuminated by lantern style lights hanging from a single chain. Adam Strom Hall is spectacular, a mural is painted in three sections, a man fills the center space, he holds the past in one hand and the present in the other, Kathleen has much to tell us in this room. We exit the building through the back, this is the 1963 addition to the building, do not miss the magnificent mosiac fascade.  

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The Detroit Historical Museum is our next stop, out front is Legends Plaza, a collection of hand prints set in concrete of men and women who have called Detroit home. As I listen I walk around placing my hands inside the hand prints of Al Kaline, Elmore Leonard, Lily Tomlin, Gordie Howe and Alice Cooper. Further up Woodward the George L Beecher House is being refurbished, this 3-story yellow brick and limestone home was designed by HJ Maxwell Grylls and built in 1894, one of the most outstanding features is the original Tiffany stained glass window on the east Ferry side of the home. Across the street stands the  Hecker-Smiley mansion, you have probably seen this castle-like structure as you have driven down Woodward. The once private home is marvelous, designed by Louis Kamper it is 20,988 sq ft of French Renaissance Chateauesque design, Kris and I have previously been inside, the interior is spectacular. Around the corner on Ferry Street is the former home of Charles Lang Freer, he was a Detroit industrialist with a passion for collecting art, at one time he purchased Whistler’s Peacock Room and had it installed in his home; it is now housed at The Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.  Across the street a series of four restored Victorian homes and two carriage houses make up the Inn on Ferry, a lovely alternative to staying in a hotel when visiting the city. The East Ferry Avenue Historic District was originally part of the Ferry Seed Company, the neighborhood was developed in the late 1800’s into an upper-class neighborhood. The street is gorgeous, great architecture, mature trees and today, a flawless blue sky. 

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The College for Creative Studies Ford Campus is located on Kirby, buildings represent many different time periods and architectural styles, large sculptures dot the campus. Further down Kirby we arrive at the Scarab Club, the brown brick building is rich in details, home to artists studios and galleries it’s a fascinating place. We round the corner at the DIA and walk up Farnsworth, The Rackham Education Memorial Building rests here, built in 1941 for the Engineering Society of Detroit it is made of Georgia marble, black granite and features cast bronze windows. The building houses a 1000 seat auditorium on the main level and a ballroom on the lower level, darn, we can’t go in! Our attention is diverted by the sound of music and stomping feet, as we near the front of the DIA we find an outdoor stage playing host to Flamenco dancers and a guitarist, passersby marvel at the sight, some take a seat and stay awhile. Our tour group moves to the front of the Detroit Institute of Arts, a wedding party poses for photos on the front stairs, you couldn’t ask for a more perfect day, the bridal party is quite elegant, the building entrance providing the backdrop. Rodin’s Thinker looks as if he has a lot on his mind today, bankruptcy can do that to a guy. Our tour ends here. Preservation Detroit’s tour season continues through the month of October, guides are friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about Detroit. If you’d like to get a closer look at many of the places we visited today, come downtown on December 7th for Detroit’s 41st Annual Noel Night; music, art, historic buildings, authentic Christmas spirit–don’t miss it!

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My stomach rumbles as a reminder that it is lunchtime, we are heading over to the Jefferson House inside the Pontchartrain Hotel. Named after the legendary ‘Pontch’ hotel that once stood on the corner of Woodward and Cadillac Square, this hotel opened in 1965. Recently re-opened as a Crown Plaza, we are anxious to have a look. The front wall of the Jefferson House restaurant is all windows, sunlight seeps in, our table overlooks Jefferson and the reconstruction of Cobo Arena turned ballroom and convention space. The room is done up in cream and taupe with rich wood accents, the ceiling is decorated in a metallic finish and lit from the edges,adjacent to the space is the Urban Cellars Bar.  Our server is cheerful and informative, if you were visiting from out-of-town she could make great suggestions of things to see and do while in the city–a great asset to the hotel. The menu is creative, a nice variety of ingredients, we quickly decide and place our order. First to arrive is the salad; tender spinach leaves are tossed in house made dressing along with goat cheese, bacon, julienne apples and poached pears. The presentation is gorgeous, piled attractively on a rectangular plate that reminds me of slate. The veggie sandwich is a spinach wrap stuffed with sautéed vegetables then grilled, the flavors are melded together perfectly. Both items were delicious and reasonably priced, portion sizes are good too. When we are finished we walk through the lobby area; very attractive in white, long fringe type curtains divide the spaces, a cool circular inset in the ceiling has an iridescent finish, very modern, striking. The hotel is already sold out for the Auto Show in January!

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Cruisin’ Woodward…..

8 Feb

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If you appreciate fine architecture, Detroit and the Metro area have a plentiful compilation of lavish buildings. When you think of a super ornate structure, most likely the first thing that comes to mind is a church…….and with good reason. Today we are in Royal Oak, we are visiting an amazing Art Deco structure that just so happens to be a church; The National Shrine of the Little Flower. Located on Woodward and 12 Mile Rd, the first thing you notice from the street is the 104 ft Charity Crucifixion Tower, which then causes you to take notice of the rest of the building, which then makes you think, “I’d like to see the inside of that place”, at least that’s what we said; so here we are. We timed it just right; mass was over and it was several hours until the next one.We parked on a side street; the day was cold but sunny, good for taking pictures. We started by walking over to the tower, a 28 ft. high figure of Christ on the cross is carved into the upper portion, additional figures are carved into the sides. Until you are actually standing up close you can’t even imagine the array of symbols, figures and designs that adorn this Art Deco building. The roof is a combination of copper and nickel-steel details; we walk around all sides taking in the different views. The church is built with Massachusetts granite and Indiana limestone, stone blocks representing the states and territories of America bear the state name and flower. We pass several exterior doors, made of brass they are exquisite; each pair embellished with a different design.

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At the main entrance we go inside, it takes a moment for my eyes to adjust to the darkness, it is quiet, peaceful. I find the interior unusual for a church of the 1930’s, it feels more modern. The sanctuary is circular; the altar, a solid block of Carrara marble from Italy, rests at the center of the church. My eyes are adjusting, I focus on a large lit piece that hangs from the center of the ceiling, the Baldacchino. Made of oak and colorful stained glass, it is trimmed in gold leaf, roses are carved into the wood, a reminder of St. Therese, the patron saint of the church. While the overall style of the church is considered Zig Zag Art Deco, there are a multitude of materials used throughout the space.  Every surface has some type of decoration; the ceiling is painted with deco designs around the edges and in the center, wood moldings are carved and painted, windows wear intricate metal coverings. Stations of the cross line the walls, be sure and see the lecturn; Corrado Parducci was hard at work here, the interior sculptural works are fine examples of his exceptional talents. Hand painted angels over the doorways are the work of artist Beatrice Wilczynski, they are lovely, as are all of her paintings, most notably the mural depicting the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

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A series of side altars are visible through octagonal shaped openings along the sides of the chapel; each represent a different saint and are unique in their design. A number of different colored marbles make up floors and walls, brass candle holders are very tall and look Art Nouveau in style, the glass a deep red, blue or green. Another small room off to the side is dedicated to baptisms; the white granite Baptismal Font, new to the church in 2001, is gorgeous, water flows gently from an upper basin into a large 8-sided pool. I’d say this room is the most Art Deco space in the interior. The church was built in two phases, the tower went up first, completed in 1931. The priest, Father Charles Coughlin has a bit of a controversial (to say the least) reputation both as a priest and radio talk show host. Thanks to his radio show, his fund-raising efforts brought in enough money to complete the church in 1936. Designed by Henry J McGill, I would say it is one of a kind.

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Further south on Woodward, in the town of Berkley is another unique building, the Vinsetta Garage.  Called the “oldest garage east of the Mississippi” it has been turned into a cool restaurant serving up great food and drinks. It’s a pretty popular place, but being Sunday, we thought we’d take our chances and see if we could get in; as luck would have it a table for two was available. What we love about this place is, there is no mistaking the fact that this was once a car repair shop; the theme is reinforced with items like a vintage dragster perched near the ceiling, a lamp made from a vintage carburetor, a metal cabinet  plastered with stickers bearing names like Cragar, Mr Gasket and TRW, photos of  funky old cars hang on the walls. Booths are vinyl button-and-tuck, the place has sort of an industrial meets 1960’s feel to it, servers are super friendly and wear Detroit themed T-shirts. The menu is filled with tempting choices, this is the same team that runs the Clarkston Union and Woodshop, so you know whatever you get it’s going to be good. We ordered the Pesto Pizza, it was out before we knew it. Coal fired chicken, lots of rocket pesto sauce, goat cheese, roasted red peppers, shallots and the house cheese blend, topping a tender thin crust, absolutely delicious!

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A bit further down Woodward in the city of Ferndale is an independent shop called Treat Dreams. Known for their innovative, or crazy, as I like to call them, flavor combinations, this is a fun place that will satisfy your sweet tooth. Serving homemade desserts like cupcakes, brownies and cookies, their house made ice cream is the star attraction. Flavors change regularly; there are usually a few flavors with a wide appeal featuring things like Oreos, M&M’s, cookie dough and the like, then there are flavors like Thanksgiving Dinner (complete with turkey & stuffing), Pistachio Wasabi, Honey Lavendar and Bananas Foster. Lots of good stuff on the menu today, I get a scoop of Chocolate Red Velvet; creamy chocolate ice cream with chunks of red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting mixed in, it is fabulous! Kris orders something with chocolate and coconut packed into a waffle cone and eats with delight. Not even the cold temperatures keep folks from coming in and getting a scoop of Salty Caramel or the vegan flavor of the day. Next time you  get an ice cream craving come check this place out.

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DETROIT: Dlectricity

31 Oct

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The buzz had begun months earlier; articles in local publications, postcards on counters, something new was coming to Detroit. We were about to find out what happens when you combine 35 local, national and international artists with the historic architecture of Midtown Detroit; throw in a few projectors, lots of extension cords, and there you have it: Dlectricity!  Billed as Detroit’s nighttime exhibition of Art and Light we couldn’t wait to see what it was all about.

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As soon as we approached Midtown we could feel the excitement; none of our usual parking spaces were available, the sidewalks were packed with people all headed towards Woodward; word had gotten out. Finally parked, we joined the crowds walking towards the light; it was everywhere! Coming up Hancock we encountered our first group of displays; Frontier Town created a camp of illuminated tents, children flocked inside playing with the effects of light, a little further up a small park of glowing amber light flowers sprouted from the ground. We were drawn closer to Woodward by the maze of thin light sticks that resembled glowing blue cattails. We paused on the sidewalk for a moment to decide what direction to walk; I was astounded by the number of human beings walking around the streets of Detroit on a crisp fall evening, and in the dark no less… I have to say I was totally impressed by the attendance at this inaugural exhibition. Further North on Woodward we stopped to check out a cool installation; a string structure located inside Wayne States Welcome Center reacts to motions made by passers-by through interactive light projection, just around the corner in a series of windows, screens displaying classic films are the backdrop to live performances. Something big was going on at the Detroit Public Library, we were about to see for ourselves.

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As we walked along the lively avenue we could hear music in the distance, bunches of people were gathered in front of the Detroit Public Library watching what appeared to be a movie projected onto the facade. In a technique known as Projection-Mapped 3D Animation, the artists are able to create a film that actually ‘fits’ an individual building, it’s incredible! “Knowledge Is Power” tells the human story of knowledge from cave painting to the invention of books, the age of electricity all the way to the rise of the internet. We stood at the library gates as images of fire crept up the building, suddenly it was a sea and a boat sailed by, the building was transformed into an ancient greek structure, then a library stacked with huge volumes of books, all the while music played creating the mood, it was fantastic. The DIA was simply lit and elegant as pedestrians flocked to her steps and stood on the porch. In front of the Rackham Building on Farnsworth a series of lit up bicycles tell the story of a bike ride gone terribly wrong, the Michigan Science Center was turned into a canvas for a video projection called Whale; taking up three panels on the exterior you feel as if you are underwater viewing an enormous whale. 

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Turning south on Woodward there was much more to see. The top three floors of the Garfield building were illuminated with random images and multi-color designs while word messages travel across the top edge. Earlier in the evening a Light Bike Workshop was held, followed by a bike parade, many of the participants could be spotted riding around Midtown. The former Agave restaurant, vacant for years, was brought to life with images of people going about their business projected onto the windows. Everywhere you looked there was light, movement and activity. An astronaut wearing a Red Wings jersey floated up high on a structure, the entire side of a steam plant was aglow in text messages generated by attendees. Orchestra Hall and the Max Fisher Music Center building was glowing in red, pink, blue and yellow; architectural details that may be overlooked were now distinctly apparent. One of the coolest exhibits took place on the side of Orchestra Hall; in what was called “Max Cast” the south wall of the building was turned into a giant screen streaming the live performance going on inside, a show titled “Cirque de la Symphonie”. There we were, sitting on a curb in Detroit,watching and listening as the DSO played enchanting tunes and world-famous cirque acrobats bend and twist into seemingly impossible poses, those assembled around us gasped and applauded in unison. The night was a magical one, made up of sights straight out of artist’s imaginations and shared by thousands of folks eager to take part in what Detroit has to offer; I can hardly wait for the next Dlectricity…..

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It was late and we had yet to have our dinner, we had been meaning to get back to Small Plates since the ownership change and interior make-over, so that was the plan. We were lucky enough to score a table near the expansive front windows; greeted immediately by our waitress, we quickly scanned the menu. The premise of the restaurant is to promote communal dining by offering a wide selection of small sharable dishes or “plates”.  After we placed our order we had a chance to look around; the walls are painted black, several graffiti pieces by Shades decorate the walls along with work by other local artists. The bar extends further now and was busy with patrons both eating and drinking, the place has a great vibe. Our small plates began arriving, first to hit the table was the hand-cut fries, served with sides of malt vinegar and a spicy aioli, they were really good. Thankfully the Pretzel Sliders and Hudson’s Maurice salad followed quickly along with the skillet cornbread. The sliders were wonderful, I especially like the pretzel buns. The salad was unique in that the greens were dressed and the other items were cut in chunks and lined the side of the good-sized bowl. The cornbread had just the right amount of crunch on the outside and was still moist inside, served with a side of black beans it made for a tasty combination. We ate and we drank, our waitress was a delightful mix of friendliness and great service. I couldn’t help but inquire about dessert; while I was longing for the Key Lime pie, I just couldn’t do it. We’ll have to come back soon and give the desserts a try!

DETROIT: Lunch, Library & Leisure

2 Feb

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The first thing on our Friday agenda  was lunch at Supino Pizzeria in Eastern Market. We easily found street parking, and were relieved to find open seats available. This tiny space has a big reputation for excellent real Italian-style pizza. Order at the counter; selections are written on chalk boards. There are two varieties: Red, which comes with sauce and white which has no sauce. Choose from one of the many tempting selections such as The Supino with roasted garlic, black olives, chili oil, ricotta and mozzarella or the Bismark, it has fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, and egg. There’s the always delicious Margherita: fresh basil, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and Parmigiano  or our choice Primavera: tomatoes, artichoke, eggplant, onion, spinach and mozzarella.  Or create your own, pies come in two sizes, 12″ or 18″.

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We took a seat at a small table in the window and waited for our food to arrive. The space is set up in community fashion; long wooden tables encourage strangers to sit side by side and engage in conversation. It has a laid back, funky, market feel to it; black and white checkered floor, upside down wash tubs serve as light fixtures, large pieces of art work hang on the walls. The clientele runs the gamut from suburbanite and business professional to locals. Our salad arrived quickly, topped with homemade Lemon-Basil Citroneette, it was very tasty. The pizza followed shortly, the hand stretched dough took on more of a free form shape as opposed to the typical circle. Cut into four large slices, the crust has an initial crunch followed by a chewy deliciousness that only comes from great dough. The toppings are proportioned nicely, just enough of everything. It was mid afternoon and although the dining area had cleared out, there was still a steady stream of folks picking up a slice or a whole pizza to go. It can be crazy busy on market days, but they are open during the week too. Next time you’re in the mood for some really good pizza think Supino!

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The Main branch of the Detroit Public Library was built in 1921. Designed by Cass Gilbert in the early Italian Renaissance Style, this place is gorgeous!  The original entrance of this large stone building rests below beautiful archways that overlook Woodward Avenue. Once inside you will notice the richly painted ornate ceiling, tall columns  and stairways, this lets you know that it is an important building. To the right is the HYPE Teen Center, individuals sit at available computers, as groups of youngsters gather together to play a video game or just catch up on the days events. Many areas of the library have been updated such as this space, without disturbing the original integrity of the architecture. In this room you’ll find a fireplace with a stunning tile surround and above that the Pictoral Map Of Michigan by Frederick J Wiley completed in 1923. Within the mural you will find the two Latin Mottoes: Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam Circumspice and Tamen Fit Surculus Arbor, which translate into “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you” the present motto of Michigan, and “The shoot at length becomes a tree” the motto of Michigan when still a territory.

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Next walk up to the third floor, pay attention to the detail in the ceiling on your way up; look carefully and you can find the seals of the City of Detroit, the state of Michigan, the United States and the University of Michigan, it’s absolutely amazing! On the third floor is Adam Strom Hall, here you will find another series of murals along the East and West walls. Whenever we come up here we like to take a seat on one of the benches to sit and stare for a while. Grand light fixtures strung from chains hang from the ceiling, stained glass windows are embellished with colorful scenes, ceiling panels glisten as light reflects off  gold-painted rosettes. It’s all very intricate and awe-inspiring. The murals tell the story from the days of Cadillac’s landing to the evolution of man’s mobility. Walk around the third floor hallways and take it all in, get a good look at the grand staircase murals. When your neck has had enough it’s time to move on and forward in time to the North and South wings that were added in 1963.

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Immediately you will recognize the clean lines and signature accents of Modern architecture. Here you will find large glass windows, brass railings in straight lines or circular patterns, wood panels and lush green plants. The space becomes bright, light and airy. In this section you will find the Burton Historical Collection. The emphasis here is placed on the history of Detroit and Michigan from the time of settlement in the 17th Century to the present. It also includes the Great Lakes area, New England, New France, the US and Canada.  The Burton collection is mind-boggling; from the Ernie Harwell Collection to the original manuscript of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer Among The Indians to original pictures, drawings and manuscripts donated to the library from Laura Ingalls Wilder, you could spend an entire day right here. If you’re researching your family tree chances are you’ll find information here they house church records of baptisms, marriages, deaths, records from the military, immigration, obituaries and land records. All materials are reference and cannot leave the reading room, so plan on spending some time here when you visit. If you’re looking for rare books, first editions, vintage postcards, maps or photographs, they have it all.  Be sure and step outside to view the incredible mosaics above the Cass entrance.

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Time for a little coffee break. We did a post earlier in the year on Chez Zara located on Woodward near Campus Martius, since that time they have closed that location and opened a kiosk’s in the lobby of the Chase Tower.  I have always liked the looks of this building; designed by Albert Kahn and built in 1959 it is definitely a great example of Modern Design. Purchased by Dan Gilbert in April of 2011 the building has undergone some sprucing up.  We came in through the Woodward entrance, the contrast between the white of the walls and bright paint colors is really eye-catching, it works with all the natural sunlight streaming in the windows. The first floor is being transformed into a bit of a public space; casual seating areas are arranged around the perimeter, funky modern furniture invites you to sit and relax. A wonderful collection of automotive themed artwork from paintings to sculptures was on display. We went straight to Chez Zara to order our drinks, I stuck with their signature Nutella Latte; you just can’t go wrong with that choice, rich espresso with a hint of hazelnut and chocolate, creamy, warm and sweet goodness from first sip to last. Kris had straight espresso. We took our beverages over to a nearby seating area with a table and chairs overlooking the street scene. What a nice way to kick back and enjoy a little leisure time.  Chez Zara is open Monday thru Friday for your coffee drinking pleasure.

UPDATE: Chez Zara has closed permanently.