Colorful murals line The Belt alleyway, a public art space in downtown Detroit. 
Photo: Katie Hammel

Residents of Detroit — plagued with crime and blight for decades — have been waiting for it to become the “Renaissance City” that one of its nicknames heralds it to be since the 1980s

But it seems Detroit’s time has finally come, or at least, it’s on its way.

In recent years, the Michigan city’s been called “the new Brooklyn” enough to annoy residents of both areas, but with an influx of restaurants and creative cocktail bars that rival any in the U.S., and an art and design scene finally getting the attention it deserves, the comparison isn’t so far off.

For a look at the “new Detroit,” start in the city’s oldest neighborhood, Corktown. Once the home of the Detroit Tigers baseball stadium (it closed in 1999), the historic area is one of a growing number of hip micro-neighborhoods. Along cobblestoned Michigan Ave., within view of the city’s most iconic symbol of decay, the hulking remains of the Michigan Central Station, there are more than a half-dozen culinary hotspots where less than a decade ago, nearly all the buildings were boarded up.

Stop for a handcrafted cocktail at Two James (, the city’s first post-Prohibition distillery, or at the speakeasy-style Sugar House (, or get your caffeine fix at Astro Coffee (, which serves organic baked goods and coffee sourced from roasters around the country. Try Gold Cash Gold (, where Southern and Midwest dishes meet a farm-to-table sensibiity (think: keilbasa with apple and fennel saurekraut; pickle brine fried chicken with pepper gravy) housed in a former pawnshop. Or, head to the restaurant that kicked off the revitalization of the block, the always-packed Slows Bar BQ ( for slow-cooked pulled pork and St. Louis-style spareribs. Named the country’s best new restaurant by Bon Appetit in 2009, its quality and popularity haven’t diminished since. Slows has since opened a carryout location in the nearby Midtown area.

Midtown, once known as the Cass Corridor (and still designated that way by most Detroiters) is another neighborhood on the rise. While some boarded up buildings remain, the streets around the intersection of Cass Ave. and W. Canfield St. have been given a major facelift. Alongside old favorites like Motor City Brewing Works (, and Avalon International Breads (, there’s a new crop of restaurants, bars and boutiques making the area a walkable enteraintment district.

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