Category Archives: Detroit

Plum Market, Zingerman’s, Papa Joes and now…Leo’s Coney Island – fine dining at the Detroit airport

With four hours to kill between puddle jump flights (Des Moines to Detroit, Detroit to Ithaca) we discovered all kinds of dining options to make a former a Michigan native and her Kansan happy. Leo’s was the latest discovery, a favorite in Royal Oak Michigan. During our outbound four hour layover, we tried both Papa Joes (perhaps the smaller of two outposts) and Plum Market/Zingerman’s (which had a much bigger but pricey selection, compared to Papa Joes).

The gift shop was also full of Michigan goodies from Cherry Republic to Sanders to Made in Detroit tees.

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Dequindre Cut Greenway, Riverwalk, Shinola Hotel, Avalon Bakery – discovering my hometown Detroit

I never thought I would be riding my bike along Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit, stopping at a trendy new hotel (Shinola) and eating a tuna melt outside from a trendy bakery (Avalon) overlooking the old Hudson’s department store (now a construction site) but it all happened today. This is not the Detroit of my childhood and amen to that. We brought our bikes down to the famous Eastern Market, east of downtown, on a quiet Tuesday and glided onto the Dequindre Cut greenway, an urban trail that was once a sunken railroad line. It’s a straight shot two miles to the Detroit River, past urban decay turned urban cool, with murals painted onto worn overpasses and hulking remnants of industrial buildings now looking sculptural Instead of menacing. It reminded me of a more urban version of the Greenway in Minneapolis.

Dequindre Cut

We ended up biking west along the scenic riverwalk past RenCen to joe Louis Arena, then back past Hart Plaza to RenCen where we got off the trail and hit the downtown streets. Although there were maps suggesting a trail, we couldn’t find any bike lanes but the traffic was manageable and we rode from Beaubien over to Woodward, passing though greektown (one of the few places we used to go downtown in the 1970s) to near commerica park where the Tigers play and then to Woodward. As always, you see so much more when biking. For the first time I saw how places connect to each other and where they are in relation to each other.

We ate a sandwich outside overlooking Woodward and marveling at how it has changed. It’s not bustling with people, which may be due to the pandemic, and it being a Tuesday. But it wasn’t desolate either and there were enough people around that we felt comfortable. A light rail train glided soundlessly past us.

Woodward Ave near the old Hudson’s

Hopping back on the riverwalk we rode east almost to the bridge to Belle Isle. The trail appears to be a work in progress. We passed some beautifully restored hulking red brick buildings along the water and then rode past some battered and deserted industrial buildings, a few that seemed to be inhabited by young artists. There are also some new waterfront apartments. What a fascinating area. Can’t wait to explore it again. And so happy for Detroit and detroiters.

Biking along the Riverfront

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Beautiful day along the Detroit River

Spectacular weather so we drove downtown to see how Detroit is doing. Pretty well, especially given the pandemic. We found pockets of entrepreneurial activity and rehabbed houses here and there downtown especially around Wayne State, the Riverfont, and around Union Station. We ended up near what turned out to be the Aretha Franklin Amphitheater overlooking the Detroit River, watching huge barges slowly glide across the River with the RenCen towers rising like some shiny oz in the distance and a bridge to Canada that we cannot cross, due to Covid restrictions, although we did see trucks crossing it. Strange to think we cannot go there.

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Next visit to Detroit — Ochre Bakeryp

Just read that Ochre Bakery in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood has landed on Bon Appetite’s 10 best new restaurants in the U.S. (Details below). So hope to visit. It appears to be not far from Woodward Ave. (my main reference point), west of the Shinola Detroit Store and the Wayne State U. campus. Now if I can only figure out a way to hear the Detroit Youth Choir, which recently took America’s Got Talent by storm!

 

8:43 a.m. I’m at Ochre Bakery, and the first thing I’m eating today is a danish, the crumbly, deep-golden pastry barely holding on to the squiggles of still-juicy rhubarb in the center.

8:46 a.m. Watching the guy behind the counter make a cortado, I realize that this is as much a Serious Coffee Shop as it is a bakery, which makes sense given that it’s owned by Jessica Hicks and Daisuke Hughes, the same people behind Detroit’s much-loved Astro Coffee. I’m getting lost in the idea that I could live in Detroit and this could be my coffee shop and I could eat this Danish every morning when…

8:57 a.m. My plate of scrambled eggs shows up, but to call it a plate of scrambled eggs is kind of rude given that it’s eggs softly scrambled with turmeric; tzatziki with slivers of kohlrabi; a big pile of bitter greens; a very generous serving of very good butter; two holey slices of country bread; and a tiny handmade ceramic bowl of cumin seeds, Aleppo-style pepper, and flaky salt that I can sprinkle over whatever I like.

8:58 a.m. Can we talk about this bread? I was so fixated on the pastry case, I didn’t notice the room behind the counter where cult local baker Max Leonard babysits the sourdoughs. So not only does this place turn out pastries and coffee and savory food at the highest level, but there’s also a high-key bread program?

9:18 a.m. I’m the person taking pictures of the blue and ochre (duh) tiles hand-painted by Hicks.

9:28 a.m. Yeah, I’m going to need a slice of the lemon-pistachio loaf cake, a piece of the chocolate banana bread, and one of every cookie (espresso shortbread, chocolate-hazelnut, oaty Anzac) to go. Or maybe I’ll just never leave. —J.K.

Wanna try Ochre Bakery’s food? Get tickets to the Hot 10 party.

THE PLAYERS: Chef-owners Jessica Hicks and Daisuke Hughes

THE SETUP: The dream of a sun-soaked bakery/café

THE ORDER: Spiced scrambled eggs with tzatziki, a seasonal Danish, and an Anzac cookie

THE MOVE: Grab one of everything from the pastry case to go—and a loaf of bread too.

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Mi Pueblo, Bella Piatti, Stage Deli — Detroit ish dining

Some new and old dining in the Detroit area this trip. New included a very lively ( for a Monday night) Mexican Restaurant in a humble, post-industrial neighborhood of downtown Detroit near the Ambassador Bridge (to Canada) called Mi Pueblo. I had good steak and shrimp Fajitas and a cheap margarita.

The next night we celebrated my birthday ( yes, the one in April, again) at Bella Piatti in snazzy Birmingham near the Townsend Hotel . I had excellent Scaloppine Saltimbocca (veal medallions, Parma prosciutto, fresh sage, white wine, lemon crushed potatoes). We shared a delicious Involtini Di Melanzane (Grilled eggplant rolls, seasoned ricotta cheese, tomato sauce.)

The old favorite was The Stage Deli in West Bloomfield, where I had a delicious “small” Mark beltaire salad ( with strips, on request, of corned beef, turkey and Swiss cheese with a creamy white ranch dressing and a bowl of kreplach soup. Yum!

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New Waterworks Park amphitheater for outdoor concerts – Des Moines

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I have such fond memories of warm summer nights on the lawn of Meadowbrook Hall in suburban Detroit, listening to live music performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Flash forward to Des Moines , which has a new outdoor stage in Waterworks Park for concerts by, among others, the Des Moines Symphony. Last night’s weather was not ideal – light intermittent rain – but what a treat to sit on a lawn chair on the green grass, watching clouds drift by in the sky, eating ice cream served from The Outer Scoop’s truck and listening to John Williams’ movie scores played by the Des Moines symphony. Oh, and did I mention that the concert was free? there were two free symphony concerts this year. Next up, performances by Ben Folds and Maren Morris …neither free.

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Detroit airport dining- zingermans/plum market and papa joe’s

Haven’t been to my hometown airport in awhile and the dining options are much improved from what I remember when I was a kid. (That could be said of the airport beyond the food. Barely recognized.) Outposts of 3 well-known Michigan foodie Meccas are here. I couldn’t resist zingerman’s, the famous Ann Arbor deli empire, which has teamed up with Plum market (which I know only about from Chicago). I got the “skinny” classic corned beef sandwich which is hefty enough. The meat was fattier than I like (note to self: maybe ask for lean next time. I so seldom get corned beef that I have forgotten some basics.) but the rye bread was thick chewy and superb.

Hope I won’t be here longer than planned. The sky looks testy and it just started pouring. My Des Moines flight landed one gate away from my Ithaca flight.

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Detroit architecture walking tour!

For our next trip to Detroit, this info sent by a friend about an architecture walking tour of downtown Detroit will come in handy: https://detroit.curbed.com/maps/detroit-buildings-architecture-tour

Downtown Detroit’s essential architecture: A walking tour

Downtown Detroit from above | Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

Lace up your walking shoes or hop aboard the People Mover. It’s time to take a tour of the major buildings in Downtown Detroit. We did a similar map a few years ago, and we’re happy to say that some of the buildings people feared would be demolished are either renovated or in the process of renovation. We included the major buildings from the riverfront to Grand Circus Park.

We didn’t include all of our favorites, just the most recognizable. The Penobscot stands tall in the skyline, as does the Ren Center and One Detroit (or Ally Detroit). While others, like the Guardian Building and the David Whitney, have some of the most beautiful lobbies in the city.

If you find yourself in Capitol Park or Harmonie Park, we have separate maps for those areas, which are both seeing a surge in renovations.

Time to head out and explore the city! Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments or the tip line.

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Vegwater community Garden, Metropolis coffee – Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood 

August is prime harvest season for the Peterson Garden Project, which has community gardens scattered across Chicago’s North Side. Fresh tomatoes grown in the small plot tended by our son-in-law Rocket in the Project’s Vegwater garden in the Edgewater neighborhood were a highlight of a late Sunday lunch that Emma whipped up for us.

Then we went over to check out the garden. The place is bursting with colorful veg and flowers, in over 100 small individually tended plots. Tomatoes, peppers, cubes, herbs, zinnias, gotta love seeing this in the heart of a big city.

We stopped for cold brew and oolong coconut iced tea and a killer brownie at Metropolis, near the Glendale El station before wandering over to Hollywood beach where we could see that the crazy stunt planes we watched on our drive into the city  along lake shore drive were done entertaining as part of the annual air and water show. Dinner was with wonderful aunt MAT at L. May, the ode to Midwestern supper clubs in Lincolnwoid. Excellent fish (trout with capers, grilled white fish and walleye), potatoes (twice-baked, garlic mashed) and bbq ribs. Great service and of course company.

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Al-Ameer – dining in Dearborn 

If you want to eat middle eastern food in the Detroit area, why not go to the community with the largest Muslim population in the USA? Which is how we ended up at Al-Ameer in Dearborn, an area I have long wanted to explore.

Some of our party were skeptical but within minutes of sitting down in a booth inside the modern, diner-like restaurant we knew we had found a winner. It didn’t hurt that there was a plaque on the wall suggesting the place was a James beard foundation winner (not sure what for specifically).

The food was fantastic- best tabbouli  I’ve ever had. Very green, Just parsley and chopped tomatoes, no bulgar. Lots of lemon and I’m not sure what else. The babaganouj was also the best I’ve had (I usually don’t like it much). The hummus was rich and creamy, slight tang. Fresh little pita pockets. My dad’s entree was my favorite— sautéed chicken livers, which I’ve never seen at a middle eastern restaurant. Barbara’s garlic chicken shiskabob was also excellent. The service was quick and cheerful. Yes we were Jews in an Arab family restaurant but we felt welcome.

Other options from friend Sarah:  still think the Local places (grape leaves and pita cafe) have great food and on the more costly end, love Phoenicia. Hands down Best lamb chops, Best steamed cabbage, Best merguez, Best rice pudding and on and on. Eli’s is somewhere in between but like it there too

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