Stay, Eat, Do: Detroit
- The city’s newest boutique hotel is located in two restored buildings in downtown, one of which is an elaborate red-tiled building designed by the famous Detroit architect Wirt Rowland.
- Owned by Shinola, a Detroit-based luxe design brand, this boutique hotel reflects the timeless style and sophistication of the company’s watches and leather goods.
- The hotel’s “living room” is a gathering place for guests to sip cocktails and coffee and peruse the curated coffee table books. Designer couches and eclectic works of art make the space inviting.
- With loft-style windows, the 129 rooms and suites are light and airy. Features include mid-century modern furniture, handcrafted millwork, striped alpaca throws and wallpaper inspired by original designs found during renovations.
- Reasons to stay here: The hotel’s restaurant, San Morello, an urban Italian eatery, is already receiving accolades, as is Parker’s Alley, a discerning group of local and global shops behind the hotel.
- Originally built in 1929, the hotel building housed the Detroit Fire Department 2013. From the colorful oil painting of a fireman behind the lobby desk to the exhibits of uniforms and paraphernalia on the fourth floor, homage is paid to this storied past.
- The 100 design-forward rooms have brick walls, blue velvet couches, dark-wood working desks, and appointments like iron-welded door handles that have been crafted by Detroit companies. Do investigate the minibar, which is stocked with local goodies like McClure’s potato chips and Journeyman Distillery whiskey.
- The Apparatus Room, the hotel’s bar and restaurant, is located where the fire engines once were (you can still see the old firepole). Innovative cocktails mixed with spirits from Detroit distillers and Chef Thomas Lents’s new take on Midwestern cuisine keep the place packed.
Detroit has always been a culinary Midwestern melting pot. There are soul food restaurants, working class diners and an ever-evolving array of ethnic eateries—Polish, Greek and more recently Yemeni—many of which are located in Hamtramck. The Lebanese restaurant Al-Ameer was a favorite of Anthony Bourdain and is a James Beard Foundation America’s Classics Winner. Over the last few years, urban farms have cropped up in Detroit’s food deserts, supplying the fresh ingredients that have fueled a crop of new restaurants serving New American cuisine.
- Natural wood planks and dark gray bricks have added an urban cool to this small-plates restaurant—arguably Detroit’s best—in a former dry cleaner’s space in Midtown. You can dine at the cedar bar, in the dining room or on the patio, but the best seat is the chef’s bar, where you can watch the open fire and wood oven cooking in action.
- Chef Andy Hollyday sources from 30 local purveyors. The menu changes with the season. Pastas and sausages are made in-house, and fresh fish is delivered whole and cut in the kitchen.
- The food is delectable. Recent stars on the menu include lumache, a snail-shaped noodle tossed with thin slices of squash in spicy pancetta, tomato and almond pesto; Szechuan Lamb Sausage served with smoky bits of wood-fired eggplant laced with chili oil and yogurt; and wood-fired broccoli smothered in Caesar dressing and topped with Pecorino and breadcrumbs.
- Located on the second floor of a historic townhouse in downtown, many of the architectural features—brick walls, pressed tin ceilings, a turret—have been preserved at this New American restaurant showcasing small plates and inventive cocktails.
- Like the loaded potato chips, many dishes may sound typical, but they are bursting with flavor and nuance. Roasted beets are plated by type—red (robust), yellow (sweet), candy stripe (subtle) and tossed in light vinaigrette. The lamb kebabs served with flatbread, cucumber salad and cilantro yogurt have become a favorite.
- Like the food, cocktails are seasonal—fruity in summer, spiced in fall, hot in winter, and herbal in spring. Many have head-scratching ingredients like the butterfly pea in the tequila-based offering called This Is Not a Mirage, but the concoctions of spirits, herbs, syrups and juices seem to fuse.
- With green booths and mismatched china, dining at this charming restaurant in a historic building in Corktown is like being transported to an upscale Irish pub.
- Chef Kate Williams’s rustic yet refined cooking mainly relies on whatever produce, poultry, meats and other ingredients she can obtain from nearby farmers. You’ll find a $70 roasted chicken on the dinner menu (feeds four) when the Amish farmers can supply them, but there’s always a selection of oysters and artisan cheeses.
- From the Bloody Mary mix to shrimp butter on sourdough rye to Parisian ham brined in-house, everything is freshly prepared, so come early, because once they’re out, they’re out.
- Cult Favorite: Carrot steak. Longitudinal slices of rainbow carrots are bunched together, roasted and topped with a Hollandaise sauce.
- Brunch is not a second thought here. The star dish is pancakes laced with house-smoked maple syrup. Feeds two.
- See the Guardian Building. Nicknamed the Cathedral of Finance, the interior of this 1929 art deco masterpiece designed by Wirt Rowland will blow your mind. Pure Detroit, a shop on the first floor offers tours of the building. It is also the perfect place to pick up a souvenir. From the Detroit City T-shirts to seatbelt handbags and letterpress postcards, everything is locally made.
- Visit the Detroit Institute of Arts. In a “grand bargain,” the state and private companies and individuals banded together to save DIA and its world-class paintings and sculptures from being auctioned off to help pay the city’s debt after bankruptcy. Permanent collections of African American, American, Asian, Islamic and medieval works of art are housed in the neoclassical building.
- Stroll the Belt. Located between Gratiot Avenue and Grand River Avenue, the outdoor, contemporary, public art space is also a great place to have drinks.
- Tour the Motown Museum. Among the exhibits, you can view the Supremes’ sequined gowns, gold and platinum records, and black-and-white photos of Motown greats like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and many more. The tour guides are highly entertaining, especially when leading the group in an a cappella rendition of The Temptations’ “My Girl” in Studio A at the end of the tour. Reservations are a must.
- Explore Eastern Market. Head straight for this farmers market on Saturdays, where you can grab a cup of coffee from The Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Co. to fuel up for exploring the stalls overflowing with bountiful and beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables. Along the way, you’ll find an array of savory and sweet treats. Be sure to stop at the Holy Cannolis for a couple of the pastries, which are made from a Sicilian recipe passed down five generations and filled by order.