THE COMEBACK CITY Detroit USA
About Detroit, Michigan
THE COMEBACK CITY Detroit USA
If you think of Detroit as down in the dumps, think again. Their current slogan, “America’s Great Comeback City” truthfully tells it all. Motor City is on a roll and it’s not just sports, cars and new casinos that draw the people to the inner city.
My recent visit was quite the opposite of my last when the downtown was a scary place. At that time the drivers of the taxis I took to check out restaurants and the nightlife advised me under no circumstances to even consider a short stroll. This time the streets were bustling day and night with people. And the most welcome surprise? The city is fast becoming a food mecca.
Almost a hundred new restaurants, breweries, distilleries and coffee shops have opened since 2013 all within the downtown area. Renee Monforton, director of marketing and communications at the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau told me that this raises the total to 325 restaurants all within the small central core.
I stayed at the MGM Grand Casino, not because I’m a gambler, but because of its chic rooms and convenient access to the city and sports venues.
The icing on this location was Wolfgang Puck Steak and its one-of-a-kind cocktail experience. The restaurant partnered with Two James Spirits, Detroit’s first distillery since Prohibition and just over a mile down the road, to bring in new whiskey and aged it in-house in barrels of different sizes. The whiskey is poured right out of the barrel from a tableside cart created by Taru Lahti, a Detroit-based designer. www.mgmgranddetroit.com
This is a “Spirit of Detroit” experience through and through as the whiskey is produced on-site in at Two James from Michigan rye grain grown on local farms throughout the state. It’s good hooch. Shaun Page, Beverage Development Manager for the Casino and Wine Director for Wolfgang Puck told me many customers have declared it the best whiskey they’ve tried. I can attest the whiskey also makes a mean Manhattan and Old Fashioned in the skilled hands of Page.
Page, named sommelier of the year in 2016, has pulled together the largest wine list in the State of Michigan worth over $11 million for the Puck restaurant with close to 2,500 selections. He seemed the perfect guy to ask for restaurant recommendations while in Detroit. Among his top picks were Wright and Co, Chartreuse, Selden Standard and Katoi. Time to explore.
First stop was Two James Distillery in Corktown, Detroit’s oldest neighbourhood. They hand craft and sell premium spirits here including Catcher’s Rye Whiskey (distilled from 100 percent Michigan rye), Grass Widow Bourbon (60% corn, 36% rye, 4% barley finished in Madeira barrels), Rye Dog (un-aged 100% Michigan rye grown on Wing Farms in Ann Arbor), Old Cockney Gin (winter wheat base with strong juniper notes along with floral, citrus and spice) and a Barrel Reserve Old Cockney Gin (oak aged).
There’s also a popular bar on location. My party ordered tasting flights to get familiar with the spirits and then selected from among the 40 cocktails for a real high. The cocktails here are terrific and inventive with fun names such as High Noon and Rye Dog Millionaire. Open at noon every day and into the night, this is a must visit for cocktail and spirits lovers. www.twojames.com
While we were inside drinking, we saw thousands and thousands of bicyclers ride by. Turns out it was “Slow Roll Mondays”. Slow Roll is a group bicycle ride that meets every Monday night in Detroit and has expanded into a national network of community rides. Now in its 6th Season, Slow Roll is operated by Detroit Bike City and is Michigan's largest weekly bike ride (and may become the largest in the world).
My three travelling companions and I were more into golf and we found plenty of play all within an hour of downtown. During our stay we golfed Shepherd’s Hollow which features 27 holes tucked into a forest of pines and oak trees. It’s a beautiful spot on 350 rolling acres at one of the highest elevations in Oakland County. Also a good place to dine, throughout the season it offers special Twilight events such as Par Three Wine and Dine, Martini Madness and the Annual Champagne Shoot Out. www.shepherdshollow.com
We also played the tough University of Michigan golf course which was designed in the late 1920s by Alister MacKenzie, one of golf's all-time great architects. U-M is in the midst of building an impressive new $15 million, 23,000-square-foot golf facility which will include new dining and banquet space. You don’t have to be affiliated with U-M to play here – you just pay a bit more than students and grads.
The final course we played was TPC Michigan in Dearborn, a challenging Jack Nicklaus signature course on land donated by Ford Motor Company, located two miles from Ford World Headquarters. This gave us the opportunity after the game to stop for lunch at the Michigan Café at the Henry Ford Museum and have a light local inspired meal. The museum which has 26 million artefacts is all about American innovations – yes cars but much more including railcars, airplanes and furniture.
One evening we checked out Greektown – a historic commercial and entertainment district first settled in the 1830s by German immigrants. Today it’s packed with Greek restaurants and you can hear Greek music played on Monroe Street throughout the day and night. PizzaPapalis famous for its deep dish pizza loaded with Wisconsin cheese has been called the best in the city for pizza (not exactly a Greek dish!).
On Page’s recommended list, Wright and Company which opened July 2014 is a contemporary American small plates and craft cocktails place. Chef Marc Djozlija who worked for the Wolfgang Puck Group for 20 years creates delicious plays on tuna tartar, Thai shrimp, Maine crab toast and the like. Located in the historic Schwankovsky building, it’s a trendy and cool spot.
Fuelling up in the Comeback City is full of possibilities. www.visitdetroit.com www.puremichigan.com