The epitome of Americana, this gritty town is experiencing a revival.
By Kelly DiNardo, Photos by Bill Bowen, Joe Vaughn and Vito Palmasino
The phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes tale of Detroit has been the overarching narrative in Motor City for the last several years. And while the renaissance continues, the city is quickly moving past comeback kid to cool cat. Both Forbes and Lonely Planet named the city a must-visit destination for 2018. With new boutique hotels, creative restaurants, funky boutiques, and vibrant art and music scenes, we’re not surprised. Here, we offer up a suggested itinerary for a fun-filled weekend in this increasingly attractive city.
In a row of modest houses, Berry Gordy built the Motown empire and kick-started the careers of Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, among other stellar acts. Today, the Motown Museum, aka Hitsville U.S.A., showcases the label’s early years, and visitors can tour Studio A, where legends like The Supremes recorded their first hits.
Check into the Detroit Foundation Hotel, a 100-room boutique hotel in the former Detroit Fire Department headquarters. From the tall red doors on the exterior to the cleaned and repaired tiling on the lobby walls and the marble flooring in the atrium, much of the historic building has been kept intact. Overall, the conversion is a siren song to the city. Guest rooms feature custom wallpaper with printed photos of historic Detroit architecture, minibars are stocked with local treats and the halls are lined with works created by local artists. After you get settled, stop into the Apparatus Room, the hotel’s New American-style restaurant run by two-Michelin-starred Chef Thomas Lents, for a light nosh in the magnificently adorned lounge.
Best known for the spectacular series of Diego Rivera frescoes, the Detroit Institute of Arts is worthy of a visit and stays open late Fridays, when it features live-music performances, special workshops and drinks.
Grab dinner at the food truck turned brick-and-mortar location of Thai restaurant Takoi. The lauded restaurant is small and doesn’t take reservations for parties of fewer than five people, so put your name on the list and head across the street to Two James Spirits, the city’s first licensed distillery since Prohibition, for a cocktail while you wait.
Meander past the impressive Monument to Joe Louis, an 8,000-pound, fist-shaped sculpture that honors the heavyweight champ, and The Spirit of Detroit, an iconic bronze monument, to Avalon Cafe and Bakery. The small café from local favorite Avalon International Breads features crave-worthy pastries, muffins and universally loved fresh breads, as well as quiches, a frittata sandwich and heartier breakfast fare.
Wander through Eastern Market, the largest historic public market district in the country. Every Saturday, flower, fruit, veggie and cheese vendors fill the halls of the six-block open-air market. Pro tip: Check out the streets adjacent to the market, which are lined with specialty shops and cafes.
Take an afternoon stroll through Corktown, the oldest surviving neighborhood in the city. Today, it’s dotted with funky boutiques, craft-cocktail bars and restaurants with a focus on locally sourced ingredients. For lunch, Bobcat Bonnie’s, a gastropub serving New American fare and Ima, a cozy Japanese joint specializing in noodles and rice bowls, are strong contenders. Follow up lunch with a latte from Astro Coffee, the perfect mid afternoon pick-me-up.
With a sleek interior, romantic terrace and inventive New American fare, Selden Standard is a buzzed-about dining addition to the booming food scene in the city. The bar serves craft cocktails, specialty beers and rare whiskeys, as well as varied wine options. The seasonal menu changes regularly, but might include specialties such as grilled romaine, charred octopus with white beans and grilled whole trout.
Head to Baker’s Keyboard Lounge for a nightcap and some live music. One of the oldest jazz clubs in the country, the cozy club has featured Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway and other musical greats.
Tucked inside the Chrysler House skyscraper, you’ll find Dime Store. From omelets to Korean-inspired french fries to a duck Reuben and spicy pork-belly eggs Benedict, brunch is a delicious mélange.
Just outside Detroit in Dearborn, Mich., is The Henry Ford, a 250-acre complex that includes the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Greenfield Village and Ford Rouge Factory Tour. It would be daunting to tackle it all in one visit, so start with the museum, which is chock-full of Americana, from the monumental (the presidential limo in which President John F. Kennedy was killed and the bus on which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat) to the whimsical (the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile).