|Credit: Jeffrey Sauger for The New York Times|
By Jennifer Conlin
New York Times
DESPITE recent news stories of a population exodus from Detroit, there are many reasons to make a pilgrimage to this struggling city right now — and not just because Eminem’s slick Super Bowl commercial showcased the inner strength of the Motor City. No video can portray the passion one finds on the streets of Detroit these days, where everyone from the doorman to the D.J. will tell you they believe in this city’s future. While certain areas are indeed eerily empty, other neighborhoods — including midtown, downtown and Corktown — are bustling with new businesses that range from creperies and barbecue joints catering to the young artists and entrepreneurs migrating to Motown, to a just-opened hostel that invites tourists to explore Detroit with the aid of local volunteer guides. In the historic Brush Park district, architecture buffs will find some lovely refurbished houses, and along Woodward Avenue, restored film palaces are a wonderful reminder that this city’s storied past includes not just automobiles, but also the entertainment industry. No urban enthusiast will want to miss the recovery that Detroit is now attempting.
1) GROOVE TIME
Get into the beat with a visit to the Motown Historical Museum (2648 West Grand Boulevard; 313-875-2264; motownmuseum.com), where the tour guides are nearly as entertaining as the artists who recorded their songs here at Berry Gordy Jr.’s studio, Hitsville U.S.A., in the early 1960s. Packed with memorabilia — from the Marvelettes’ album covers to the Jackson Five’s psychedelic bell bottoms — you can’t help but hum the tunes of Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder, as you wander into Studio A, where it all began.
2) FRENCH FLAVOR
Detroit’s French colonial roots are easily recalled at the rouge-walled Good Girls Go to Paris Crepes (15 East Kirby, Suite 115; 877-727-4727; goodgirlsgotopariscrepes.com) — the city was called Le Detroit at its founding in 1701. Try the Celeste sandwich (Brie, cranberries and roast beef, $8.50), and an ooh-la-la dessert called the Fay (banana, caramel, pecans and brown sugar, $7).
3) MURALS AND MUSIC
The Detroit Institute of Arts (5200 Woodward Avenue; 313-833-7900; dia.org) stays open until 10 p.m. on Fridays and houses works by Picasso, Matisse, van Gogh and Warhol. But it is the Rivera Court, decorated with Diego Rivera’s “Detroit Industry” fresco, where visitors should head, not just for the magnificent murals but also free concerts every Friday at 7 and 8:30 p.m. Admission: $8.
4) COOL CAT CAFE
Don’t let the strip joint across the street stop you from entering Café d’Mongo’s (1439 Griswold Street; cafedmongos.com), a wonderfully eccentric speakeasy that feels more like a private party than a bar. With live jazz and country music on alternating weeks, the atmosphere is as retro as the orange leather banquettes, vintage Detroit photographs and scuffed instruments hanging on the walls. With a well-priced bar (drinks start at $4) and a straightforward menu (the owner, Larry Mongo, prepares barbecued ribs and chicken on a smoker outside), the popular Café d’Mongo is only open Friday nights and occasionally the last Saturday of each month.
5) TO MARKET WE GO
At the six-block Saturday Eastern Market (2934 Russell Street; Detroiteasternmarket.com; 313-833-9300) some 250 vendors sell everything from fruits and vegetables to local cheeses and artisanal breads. Stop in at nearby R. Hirt Jr. Co. (2468 Market Street; 313-567-1173), a specialty goods store founded in 1887, and the Marketplace Antiques Gallery (2047 Gratiot Avenue; 313-567-8250) , where a turn-of-the-century Chinese Rosewood vanity was recently selling for $250. Stop in at the Russell St. Deli (2465 Russell Street; 313-567-2900; russellstreetdeli.com), where breakfast is served all day on Saturdays, and includes raisin bread French toast, slathered with toasted pecans or fresh fruit ($7.75).
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