225 Gratiot Ave., Downtown
The Belt is a short alley downtown (in a former garment district) decorated with wall art, graffiti, and hanging, glimmering lights that connects Grand River to Gratiot Avenue. (It's in part a project of adjacent gallery, Library Street Collective.) Tucked into the Gratiot end of the Belt, is a speakeasy-like bar called Standby that serves flowery craft cocktails and elevated bar snacks (confit duck salad, whisky mushroom pierogi, beets and ricotta with watercress and mint). Spots at the intimate bar are date-worthy, while the tables opposite, framed by a wrap-around booth draw groups.
The Westin Book Cadillac
1114 Washington Blvd., Downtown
"The Book," as it's been known, was designed by prolific Detroit architect Louis Kamper, and first opened in 1924. At the time it was the tallest hotel in the world—33 stories and more than 1,000 guest rooms. Its famed visitors over the years have included Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. Like other Detroit icons, the Book closed in the 80's; in the mid-2000's a plan was put into place to redevelop the hotel, and ground broke in 2007. Today, the building itself is worth seeing as you're touring around Downtown regardless of where you're staying in the city. For families, and for quick business trips, though, the Book Cadillac makes a really convenient, central hub.
Detroit Athletic Club
241 Madison St., Downtown
To get into this private social/athletic club you’ll need to be a member, or the guest of a member—in either scenario, it’s well worth a stop for some mental/physical rehab and a healthy dose of exercise. (Another thing: Come dressed to impress, and save the gym clothes for the locker room; otherwise, you might have to enter through the side entrance instead of the well-heeled main lobby.) Right across from Detroit's historic Music Hall, DAC (as it’s known about town) covers all your needs: luxurious food and accommodations, personal trainers available by appointment, plenty of fun things to do (there’s a bowling alley on the bottom floor); plus, it’s centrally located, with a rooftop bar that’s got extraordinary panoramic views.
Parks & Rec Diner
1942 Grand River Ave., Downtown
This spot gets its name from its castle-like residence, the Grand Army of the Republic Building, which was home to the City of Detroit Parks and Recreation Department for 40 years. The all-day, every day breakfast menu is full of elevated classics, like cornbread waffles served with Detroit-style chili and cider-donut French toast. The giant house-made cinnamon roll—filled with walnuts and doused in an orange chevre icing—is legend enough to deserve its own category on the menu. Parks & Rec shares executive chef Sarah Welch with the adjacent (and equally wonderful) Republic Tavern.
Wright & Company
1500 Woodward Ave., Downtown
Wright & Company occupies the second floor of one of Detroit's oldest buildings, Wright-Kay, at Woodward Ave. and John R. Street—brought to you by the same team behind other popular Detroit spots like Sugar House (the cocktails at Wright & Co. are excellent, too), and Chinese-inspired Peterboro. The Wright & Company space is brilliant: exposed industrial piping, tin ceiling, vintage light fixtures, long marble bar with steel chairs, curved booths, and light flooding in from the surrounding floor-to-ceiling windows. It's generally busy and they don't take dinner reservations (although you need one for Sunday brunch), so come early or plan to hang at the bar (no arm twisting required) while you wait for a table.
500 Woodward Ave., Downtown
Unlike its smaller original outpost in Birmingham, Townhouse’s 314-seat downtown location is an expansive, beautiful space with an all-glass atrium, wraparound patio, and a huge open kitchen. The classic American menu takes comfort food to the next level with creamy herbed mac 'n' cheese, large, bright salads, and cornflake-crusted walleye with buttermilk grits. A great cocktail list and an extensive whiskey selection ensure that there’s rarely a free seat at the bar.
719 Griswold St., Downtown
Part of downtown’s emerging restaurant scene, Dime Store calls itself an “American Brunch Bar”—a dining category we can certainly get behind. A full bar serves Michigan craft beer, wine, and cocktails, which are all welcome complements to the restaurant’s extensive list of sandwiches. Duck-confit hash, build-your-own omelets, and inventive eggs benedicts lend a modern twist to an otherwise retro breakfast menu. Located on the lobby level of the century-old Chrysler House skyscraper, the casual spot has an inviting vibe that defies its industrial setting.
Library Street Collective
1260 Library St., Downtown
Library Street Collective has taken a major role in bringing internationally known artists (particularly street artists) to the city, representing the likes of Shepard Fairey, Ryan McGinness, and How & Nosm. Recently, they've paired up with a local real estate firm, Bedrock, for public art projects like the Z, a parking garage filled with murals that create a museum best experienced from behind the wheel of a vehicle. They're also behind The BELT, a redeveloped alley in the former garment district where Library Street hosts rotating outdoor exhibitions.
Joe Muer Seafood
400 Renaissance Center, Downtown
Fancy eateries are not what makes Detroit a cool city. That said, if you're looking for a white tablecloth meal while you're here, go to Joe Muer Seafood—which still isn't strictly formal. The restaurant has a long history with the city: An original Detroit destination, the first iteration of Joe Muer opened in 1929 and remained opened until the late 80's. In 2011, the original concept returned, with some updates of course. The restaurant is now in the admittedly maze-like GM Renaissance Center, but in a prime corner spot with a view of the Detroit River just beyond its glass windows, or outdoor patio, depending on the month/where you're sitting. A lot of people come for the raw bar/seafood tower situation; lunch at the central sushi bar is a smart move. Off of the main dining space, there are a few rooms available for private dining, too.
Detroit Institute of Arts
5200 Woodward Ave., Downtown
Found in 1885 and with more than 600,000 square feet of space right across from the public library, the Detroit Institute of Arts is one of the city's most valuable treasures. The city famously considered selling off some of the collection during the bankruptcy in 2014, to great uproar; it was saved thanks to an $800 million-dollar campaign called "the grand bargain," which rescued many notable works by incorporating the museum under an independent charitable trust. The Beaux Arts building is a work of art in its own right, but you'll also find permanent exhibitions of American and European art, plus a GM-sponsored center for African American art, and rotating temporary exhibitions of photography and installations. Have lunch at Kresge Court, a cute little coffee shop in the middle that makes for a great resting point if you're hoping to cover a lot of ground.
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