The Detroit Guide
Detroit is not unfamiliar with change and reinvention, and yet for all its complexity, the Motor City is often primarily thought of as the land of automobiles. While this is undeniably a piece of Detroit’s fascinating narrative, the city has a great deal more to offer, particularly in the creative arts, which have long played a prominent role in Detroit’s past (from original urban murals to an iconic record label), and in continuing to shape the ever-changing city today. Museums like MOCAD share the work of brilliant Detroit artists with natives and visitors alike, while also making the case that Detroit is a destination for a diverse, international range of art. Throughout the city, there are extraordinary examples of storied architecture. In rare record shops, music from earlier decades lives on, while contemporary indie bands play in a mix of new venues and old (outrageously awesome) dive bars. Neighborhoods like Midtown (museum district, home to DIA and a transformed retail experience), Downtown (encompasses all of the city’s major stages from economic to operatic and athletic), and Corktown (a hipster dream) have seen waves of new chefs and restaurants come onto the scene. Several new boutique hotels are promised to debut in the next year or two. So, while what in part makes Detroit cool is that it doesn’t have all the familiar amenities and trends of frequently touristed cities, it is undeniably a city of reinvention, and we expect this guide to evolve with it.
American & Lafayette Coney Islands114 & 118 W. Lafayette Blvd., Downtown
A true-blue Detroit classic, these two Coney Island diners are open all day and share a wall—and a long-standing rivalry pertaining to the city’s best hot dogs. Basically, everyone in Detroit likes either American or Lafayette—it’s down-and-dirty food, but a quintessential Motor City experience.
Anthology Coffee1401 Vermont St., Corktown | 313.355.4040
Known as the café for discerning coffee drinkers, Anthology is located in the dead-end parking lot where Porter and Vermont Street meet. (The low, grey brick building tatted in murals is easy to miss on a first drive-by.) Drinks are served from a central island coffee bar that's flanked by a row of small tables in the clean, industrial-hip space. Note that Anthology is not opened on Wednesday or Thursday.
Astro Coffee2124 Michigan Ave., Corktown | 313.808.0351
Astro is the picture definition of a local indie coffee shop: chalkboard menu, painted floral backdrop, vintage globe atop a small wood table, antique-y turquoise kitchen cabinet, lingering locals, on-point egg sandwiches (with rosemary aioli), and of course beloved coffee drinks. Combine your stop here with a visit to the Detroit Artifactry store across the street.
Avalon International Breads422 W. Willis, Midtown | 313.832.0008
Started by two women in 1997, Avalon was more than a pioneer of the small business and café scene in Detroit. For a long time, it was essentially the whole of the coffee scene in Detroit, and it's remained a beating pulse of the community. All of Avalon's breads, including the signature sourdoughs, are made with organic flours. Some loaves go into Avalon's sandwiches; they also have already-made salads, and the coffee is locally-roasted by Great Lakes Coffee and Roasting (with the almond milk latte being the standout). The café is a popular meeting spot (purposeful and accidental) but you can also set up shop here for a couple hours with a laptop. (For afterward, there's Shinola around the corner and the accompanying stores that now populate the Cass Corridor/Midtown area.)
Dilla’s Delights242 John R St., Downtown | 313.346.3771
Run by Herman Hayes, known in Detroit as Uncle Herm, Dilla's Delights honors the memory of his late nephew, the influential hip hop producer J Dilla. When it opened in 2016, the highly anticipated shop quickly—by 8 a.m.—sold out. Hayes uses organic ingredients to make his oft-inventive, sought after flavors. While there are no seats at Dilla's, fans make use of the narrow counter space looking out onto Downtown Detroit.
Drought Juice719 Griswold St., Downtown | 313.888.9950
Juice shops are not ubiquitous in Detroit as they've become in many cities. For your juice-fix here, go to Drought. Opened by four sisters, the company makes organic, cold-pressed juices, often using produce grown in Michigan, each one glass-bottled. Green #1 (chard, cabbage, apple, celery, kale, lemon) is a favorite. Drought also has oat and chia shakes, cold brew coffee, and packaged one-day cleanses. The new "Biocean" seawater shots at the checkout are said to be effective boosters, too. There are four Michigan locations; the Detroit storefront is located inside the Chrysler House, and is just meant for grabbing a juice on the go. (Fair warning: A quality chocolate shop with gift-worthy packaging, called Bon Bon Bon, sits directly across the way. Also inside building: the Dime Store restaurant.)
Eastern Market1445 Adelaide St., Downtown
The Eastern Market sits just east of Midtown and is home to Detroit's well known, sprawling farmers market scene. There is always a reason to visit but the Saturday market is the largest, with more than 200 vendors, year round. June through September, there is also a crafts-focused Sunday market, and a smaller grocery market on Tuesdays. Outside of the market sheds, people also come to Eastern Market to see the surrounding murals; many are new although some original street art remains in the area. (More can be found in Southwest Detroit.) Other beloved Eastern Market spots include Trinosophes cafe and gallery, Red Bull House of Art, Detroit Distillery, and Italian eatery La Rondinella.
Golden Fleece525 Monroe St., Greektown | 313.962.7093
A hole-in-the-wall in the Greektown district of Downtown Detroit, Golden Fleece has been around since the beginning of the 1970's. It specializes in super-clutch, late-night food: gyros, souvlaki, shish kebabs, saganaki, and so on.
Johnny Noodle King2601 W. Fort St., Corktown | 313.309.7946
The owners of the sliders spot, Green Dot, opened a nearby ramen venture in 2014 that has proved to be wildly popular—as in, entire house (maybe 60 seats) packed at 9pm on a weekday. This is not a place concerned with cooking the most authentic dishes, but rather the most satisfying. Many of the bowls draw from classic Japanese menus but there's also combos like the Philly (shaved ribeye, scallions, poblano) and the Southwest (shredded chicken and cheese, tomato, house made créma) that keep things interesting.
Le Petit Zinc1055 Trumbull St., Corktown | 313.963.2805
Le Petit Zinc is a sweet, unexpected French escape in an otherwise fairly quiet stretch of Corktown. The fenced-in back patio is arranged with wrought iron outdoor furniture and colorful lounge chairs, made for hanging in warmer months. Behind the zinc metal bar inside, you can watch the crepes being made in the open kitchen space. The savory selections—like fromage de chevre et epinards (goat cheese marinated in olive oil and rosemary, with spinach and pine nuts)—are memorable.
New Palace Bakery9833 Joseph Campau St., Hamtramck | 313.875.1334
Although technically its own (tiny) city, Hamtramck (pronounced Ham-tram-ik) is just four or so miles from Downtown and it's essentially surrounded by the city of Detroit. It's historically been home to many families who emigrated from Poland, and more recently from the Middle East. Not surprisingly, there is some amazing authentic food in Hamtramck's few-mile radius, which we won't pretend to do full justice to here. If you do have a chance to get to Hamtramck, stop in New Palace Bakery. Loyalties are divided when it comes to the best Polish bakery and paczki debate, but you won't go wrong here. Order extra Chrusciki, the "angel wing" dough pastry that's sprinkled in powdered sugar and equal parts crisp and airy.
Sister Pie8066 Kercheval St., West Village | 313.447.5550
Sister Pie is everything you want it to be upon simply hearing its name. Housed in an adorable corner spot in West Village, the bakery makes an-ever changing line-up of pies based on what's in season, from salted maple, to apple sage gouda, to cranberry crumble. Pies are available for order two days in advance for pick-up at Sister Pie's L-shaped counter bar. And in-house spots are available around the cozy communal table.
The Farmer’s Hand1701 Trumbull Ave., Corktown | 313.377.8262
There really isn't any place similar to The Farmer's Hand in the neighborhood of Corktown, and perhaps not any where else in the city. The combined market and cafe, opened by two women (one a Detroit native and the other an Australian transplant) in Fall 2016, sells produce and groceries from local growers, along with a thoughtful edit of homeware and beauty products, plus coffee and a rotating line-up of sandwiches. The shop is tiny but that feels like a benefit in this case: You can pick up a latte or take a seat for breakfast, buy organic ingredients for that night's meal, and find a gift in one fell swoop.
The Red Hook8025 Agnes St., West Village | 313.458.8761
Named after the neighborhood in Brooklyn, The Red Hook was started by a couple who met there before moving to Detroit together. The brand is now two Michigan locations strong: One is in Ferndale and the second Detroit, about four miles outside of Downtown, and on the same West Village street as the excellent happy hour spot Craft Work. On one side of the café is the coffee bar and pastry display case and on the other side a fairly zen space (at least in the early morning hours) for reading or catching up on work. Potentially also handy: The Red Hook keeps a box of toys and little kid entertainment by its door. While you're in the area, with coffee in hand, take a walk a few blocks east to Iroquois and then north to wander through historic Indian Village. Many of the picturesque homes in this residential neighborhood date back to the early 20th-century, and were built by major architects—Albert Kahn, Louis Kamper and William Stratton—for Detroiters like Edsel Ford (son of Henry Ford).
Trinosophes1464 Gratiot Ave., Eastern Market | 313.737.6606
This Eastern Market café is much more than a coffee shop—although locals do love the food here (a mix of breakfast and lunch sandwiches, pastries, and salads), and Trinosophes does make an all-star almond chai latte. The owners previously ran the esteemed Bohemian National Home programming, which went underground for a few years before finding a permanent home at Trinosophes, which functions as both a performance venue and art gallery. Trinosophes is responsible, for example, for the first solo exhibition in fifteen years of prominent Detroit artist Jim Crawford from the Cass Corridor movement, which includes some of his sculpture, mixed media, and photography. Still, you don't need a particular exhibition or show to bring you here. The long communal wood tables are a good excuse for an Eastern Market pit stop; plus Peoples Records is right next door.