Tour the Regions and Neighborhoods of Detroit
Discover the hidden, and not-so hidden communities and places of our city on this round up of six regional areas in the Motor City that every Detroiter should know
Here in Detroit, it's so easy to get caught up in our immediate surroundings. We get used to going to that one Coney Island for breakfast right around the corner, or the grocery store a few blocks away from our regular staples. The neighborhood bar becomes our only bar, and when we consider a move, we look in our own ZIP codes.
There's no specific rhyme or reason why this is, but recent trends offer a few suggestions. One, more residents prefer walkable neighborhoods as they ditch the high costs of owning an automobile, making neighborhoods like Midtown and Corktown increasingly desirable. Second, shortcomings in public transportation prevent Detroiters from exploring the city as they wish. Lastly, maybe we just don't have time; whether you're commuting in and out of the suburbs for work, juggling activities at home or already committed to causes in your own community, we still pass up a lot of things outside our own bubble.
Other cities across Michigan have enacted "be a tourist in your own town" initiatives, where residents are encouraged to get to know areas beyond their own homes. Detroit, however, isn't like every other city in Michigan; we're the biggest, and it's impossible to cover every square inch because there's so much here. But we think this is a good place to start.
Restaurants and businesses on Detroit's far east side
The not-so-hidden gem of the eastside, but still an unsung tradition, Cadieux Cafe is purportedly the only place in the United States to offer "feather bowling," a sport similar to curling, a favorite of our neighbors in Canada. The gig is this: You roll these large, wooden wheels down a sandy lane toward a feather, but you have to get the wheel as close to the feather as possible without touching it. When playing competitively, you can knock your opponent's wheel out of the way.
While over on the far east side, you'll want to try another often-overlooked spot, Capers Steakhouse, which has some of the finest cuts around, along with their loaded potatoes; the original Buddy's Pizza, full of four-corner deep-dish deliciousness; and the Food Exchange, a burger joint recently made popular by rapper Danny Brown, who sings the praises of the "Big Baby"—a burger loaded with a corned beef topping. You can run off all those calories at Balduck Park in the East English Village neighborhood; or, if you want to channel some creative energy instead, try Arts & Scraps, where you can make art with salvaged goods donated by your fellow Detroiters.
Bars and farmer's markets on Detroit's east side
You know Eastern Market inside and out by now, we hope. There's no introduction needed for one of the country's largest outdoor farmers markets. But thanks to the increasing traffic to market, the area around it has given way to more residences and businesses sprouting up, including Trinosophes, a quiet coffee and tea station just a few blocks away. Trinosophes, like so many places cropping up around town, also hosts performance space and spotlights up-and-coming hometown artists.
Say you want something heartier than a cup of joe? Everything at the recently remodeled They Say will fill you up, especially the smothered ribs and bread pudding for dessert. Head down the street to Atwater Brewery to witness the homemade beer revolution—and have some brew of your own.
Belle Isle is such an old favorite, but its wear and tear over recent years has been undeniable. Now that "the Isle" is a state park, we should see some immediate improvement. Remember, there's a new entry fee of $11, but it's an annual cost that grants you access to any state park year round.
The east side is home to all things old and new, but for both sides of the spectrum, head to Detroit's oldest bar, the Two Way Inn, for a one-of-a-kind experience in a structure more than a century old, or check out Craft Work, a new eatery in the resurgent West Village.
Neighborhood shops in central Detroit
Feeling crafty? If you really want to get your hands dirty, buy a house on the fringes of the Boston-Edison neighborhood. All right, hear me out: Much like how interest increased in North Corktown after Corktown, West Village after Indian Village and the North End after Midtown, the next neighborhoods to watch are those immediately surrounding this historic central Detroit neighborhood. Everywhere here could use a handyman's touch, from the larger mansions along Virginia Park Street to the dozens of 1920s-era family flats. Even more of a bargain? The city of Highland Park has a list of available homes and plats for sale for $1,500 each if you can swing it.
Central Detroit is where you can get your fix for local Black history and Black authors, all available at the Shrine of the Black Madonna bookstore and Nandi's Knowledge Cafe, both of which offer art and performance space, as well. While in Highland Park, stop by Victor Red Hots for some of the original, old-fashioned Coneys Detroit knows and loves.
Then, head north to the Avenue of Fashion. Livernois Avenue has seen its ups and downs, but finally things seem to be permanently on the up and up. With sneaker stores, boutiques and nearly never-ending art galleries and stores on top of old favorites like Fred's Unique Furniture & Antiques and Baker's Keyboard Lounge, Livernois is back in vogue.
The culture of Southwest Detroit
The melting pot that is Southwest Detroit continues to thrive as more new residents bring with them a wealth of culture, making for one of the most diverse experiences in the metropolitan area. If you're feeling adventurous, try exploring Southwest by bike—and start with the gorgeous homes on Vinewood and Hubbard streets and West Grand Boulevard between West Vernor Highway and West Lafayette Boulevard. But first, fuel up at Cafe Con Leche, one of the newer community gathering places in the area.
West Vernor offers an array of new and old businesses, from old-school taquerias to boutiques for the style-conscious. There aren't any shortages of bakeries for your sweet tooth, but you've got to head farther south for some of the best tastes at Peoples Brothers Bakery, a longtime favorite for everyone in the area. Some other down-south must-tries include Historic Fort Wayne, the massive Patton Park for all of your exercise needs, and Giovanni's Ristorante, a traditional Italian restaurant where every single menu item is homemade, down to the tomato sauce.
No trip to Southwest is complete without a stop at Green Dot Stables, though. The sliders are nationally recognized and one could even argue it's too popular at this point, but you can't beat their under-$5 cocktails—including the fine mint juleps.
Detroit's creative corridor on the west side
You know what's fun to do in the summer? Walk up to Dairy Queen for a cold milkshake or sundae. You can't really do that so much anymore; most walk-up versions are closed, or others are sit-down. Still, one of the more simple and cheap pleasures can be had right here on the west side. Some may take it for granted, but there's just something about handing over a few bucks for something cool and fresh. This particular Dairy Queen also has some of the best Polish sausage around, even though that's not the traditional DQ's calling. To add to a simple experience, why not take a drive down Oakman Boulevard, or peek through the winding streets of the Aviation Subdivision? I'd consider it one of Detroit's "hidden" neighborhoods—sturdy brick houses not too far from major freeways or the more active thoroughfares in Dearborn.
Sundaes aside, the west side shouldn't be defined by a tiny ice cream joint on the corner. Heritage lives at the MBAD African Bead Museum, where artifacts from the motherland can be had thanks to careful curation by the museum's staff. Industrialism lives at Architectural Salvage Warehouse of Detroit, a must-visit for your next home-improvement project if you're looking to replace a door, a window, your bar, your doorknobs, your heat register, your anything. All of Architectural Salvage's materials are donated or recovered from older homes.
And creativity lives in the Grand River Creative Corridor, an always-buzzing strip of artists' collectives—including the 4731 Gallery and Studios—where you can see the next great visionaries from Detroit display their work. If you're hungry after a full day of art, Vicki's Barbecue & Shrimp on West Warren Avenue has the ribs to stick to your ribs.
The history in Detroit's far west side
Proof that Detroit is one of the epicenters of gospel music in the United States—if not the epicenter—God's World Superstore has maintained its brick-and-mortar location as a music destination even as traditional music stores have withered.
Rather read your faith? Head a bit southeast to Baker's Bible and Bookstore, one of Detroit's oldest religious bookstores, and feed your well-being with collections from national and local authors.
For a night out on this side of town, visit the Redford Theatre. It's an old fave for northwestern residents, but Detroiters near and far still have yet to enjoy the 1928-built theater, which still shows vintage movies and has preserved the architecture that makes it memorable. While not as old, but still original, the "original" Starter's Grill and Bar—which spun off a more popular location in Midtown—is a west-side favorite, with burgers and steaks fresh off the fires daily.