Friday, November 27, 2015

48 Hours in Detroit

Appear, Appease, Applaud by Xavier Simmons
from the Exhibit 30 Americans
     Where to go for a little cultural getaway?  This time our road trip was based around three exhibitions at three midwest art museums—Detroit, Toledo, and Cleveland.  Beginning with Detroit, we arrived   in time for a late lunch at El Barzon, a combination of Mexican and Itlaiian cuisines in Mexicantown west of downtown.  For those that are squeamish (i.e. afraid of exploring downtown CIncinnati), driving around Detroit neighborhoods may prove to be anxiety-ridden.  For us, it was sad and hopeful.  Covering complete neighborhoods that have been deserted for years was a bit like a bombed European city after World War II that we've only seen on the news.  Our questions were numerous with few answers, but we were there to celebrate their determination to make a great city great again.

Motown's Studio A
     Our second stop was Motown Museum in New Center district, a row of early 20th century homes purchased by Barry Gordy as offices for his music empire from 1959 to 1972.  After hearing about how most of the artists grew up in the same neighborhood, we were on a mission to find Diana Ross' family home.  A fast google research came up with a street, but not a house number.  Photos showed the home we were looking for, but we never found it.  In the process, we did pass Florence Ballard's home.  Later, after digging deeper into google, we found the addresses for all three Supremes
Florence Ballard's Home
discovering that Diana Ross' house was right across the street from Florence's and Mary Well's was a mere four blocks away.  It took us through some startling neighborhoods, but theirs was amazingly left untouched.  

The Henry Lobby
     Our "home" was The Henry located in Dearborn.  It's a lovely oversized boutique hotel with artwork lining the corridor, all for sale to guests.  Our dinner that night was at TRIA adjacent to the lobby.  We opted to share the Duck Cassoulet since our lunch had been quite hearty.  Eric started with the Pumpkin Soup and I had the Arugula Salad.  However, the main reason we were there was for the
Soufflé with Grand Marnier Sauce
Soufflé served with a Grand Marnier Sauce and vanilla Ice cream.  We were hoping for a Commander's Palace/New Orleans experience and that is exactly what we had.

     I had checked out the website for dining options.  It's a great idea with 38 restaurants that are briefly reviewed and updated quarterly.  Our stop for lunch was Rose's Fine Foods, a small diner committed to totally local food that even these foodies found amazing.  A short drive
Pewabic Pottery
down Jefferson Avenue was Pewabic Pottery known locally and beyond.  We found it akin to Rookwood. The quaint tudor
Pewabic Potteryware
cottage looked out of place in the neighborhood, but contained some pieces that we just couldn't resist for ourselves and as gifts.  

Detroit Institute of Arts. 2007 addition
     Next on our itinerary was the reason for our visit, the Detroit Institute of Arts.  Located on a city block just north of downtown, the original 1885 building was surrounded in the back by a contemporary addition from 2007.  What looked like a modest museum on the outside proved to be enormous once inside.  The collection was stellar and the Diego Rivera murals in the courtyard are not to be missed.  Walking through what
Diega Rivera Murals
became a history of art, it was hard to imagine that such a collection was actually proposed to be sold a few years ago to bail out the city.  From the surprisingly generous attendance on a Friday afternoon and into the evening, it would have been an unbelievable blow to a city already struggling for stability.  We were there four hours and only made it through one of three floors.

Shinola Store in Midtown
     Shinola (of shoe shine fame) has become a bright light to the Detroit creative class in the past couple of years.  Taking a mundane product, the new owners decided to turn it into a model for "made in America" with handmade leather products and gift items that epitomize quality with price tags to match.
City Bird
We visited their store in Midtown, an obviously trending area for young millennials.  We particularly liked  our visit to City Bird across the street.  Its prices and offerings were more in line with our style.

Fox Theatre
     A trip further downtown toward the river brought us into more congestion that was actually a pleasure to confront.  Everyone seemed to be drawn to Ford Field, and for good reason.  Luke Bryan was performing at the outdoor stadium, which seemed to be a risky premise for the end of October.  Finally, we had found the heart of the city and it was beating heavily.

Dinner at Polish VIllage Cafe in Hamtramck
     From our trusty dining guide, we found the Polish area of the city—Hamtramck.  Virtually a city within a city, it was a working class area with a vibe.  Following the crowd to the downstairs Polish Village Cafe, we joined the line forming for a table.  The wait was much longer than indicated, but the experience was purely cultural with locals speaking Polish and Hungarian.  We were definitely not in a tourist spot.

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