here's a straightforward guide to our favorite city, so that you can be a detroiter too.
In our below guide I've made a few distinctions becuase old and new detroit are very different places, as is suburb detroit and detroit proper. You'll see that this guide leans toward the old, where I feel most other guides tend to fall short, which is why this was made. It's also worth noting that detroit is a sprawling city (think midwestern cousin of LA), with many of its gems falling outside of downtown city limits and reach into suburb territory, but are definitely worth the drive.
LOCATION | (d) are spots located in detroit proper, (s) are spots located in surrounding "suburb" areas
TIMELINE | (o) are older detroit classics with local culture (pre- 2000s), (n) are newer, hipper happenings representing rebirth culture (2000's - present)
worth it for: hole-in-the-wall 30+ year old greasy bites + newwave hip experimental plates
LEO'S CONEY ISLAND | (d)(o) $5 - $10 per person. Go for a greasy lunch. Simple a detroit classic. You could compare it on paper to a NYC greek deli, but it really is far superior. Take our word on it. Ordering the original coney is a must, the sagnaki is a surprise to remember, and we've actually driven cross country for the greek salad.
THE ORIGINAL BUDDY'S PIZZA | (d)(o)$10 per person. Go for carbolicious dinner. Apparently detroit pizza is now a thing around the country, and buddy's pizzeria is responsible for this.
KATOI | (d) (n) $30 - $40 per person. Originally a food truck, Katoi's food spoke for itself and catapulted the concept into a full blown restaurant. Katoi went thru a tragic arson incident in spring of 2017, but I'm keeping it here since they're on the mend and detroit's best new restaurant of 2017 serving up fusion thai with an exciting fresh approach.
SISTER PIE | (d) (n) $5 - $10 per person. Get a sweet treat any time of day.
THE TOWNSEND HOTEL FOR TEA| (s) (o) $30 - $40 per person. Go for a classy high tea.
TOAST BIRMINGHAM | (s) (n) $15 - $20 per person. A bit out of the way if you're in detorit, but go for [an actually worthwhile] brunch.
VERNORS | (d) (s) (o) $1 a can. Detroit's famous pop (whatever you do, do NOT call it soda or you will probably not be served). It's the drink your mom gives you when you're sick (who knows why) and it's what we used to call "vownows" well before we could say our "r's". Go into a grocery store or order it a diner. If you don't cough after your first sip you've been served an imposter.
A&W DRIVE THRU | (s) (o) $2 - $5 per person. Eat in your car and order the XL rootbeer and curly fries to refuel after your Council Thrift experience.
MILLER's BAR | (s) (o) $10 - $15. Go for the ground round (burger) and a beer. This is arguably the best burger with the locals. No gentrification here, just good burgers and a pint since 1941.
AVALON BAKERY | (d) (o) $7 a loaf. A detroit classic that popped up in the 90's making sustainable, tasty bread using local ingredients.
ART + DESIGN
worth it for: hidden gem killer collections
CRANBROOK | (s) (o) I just recently found out that this is where Ray and Charles Eames met and fell in love while at art school. Makes sense. It's also where we had many a violin recital, soccer game, and museum field trip growing up. Cranbrook is a not so hidden gem in the suburb of Bloomingfield Hills.
THE DETROIT INSTITUTE OF ARTS| (d) (o) The DIA is an obvious but unmissable treat. It's permanent collection hosts greats from Diego Rivera, Frank Stella, Vincent Van Gogh,
LIBRARY STREET COLLECTIVE | (d) (n) Check out what the young art scene is up to at this hip
THE HEIDELBERG PROJECT | (d) (n) We won't spoil this one with any words at all. Just put it into your googlemaps and drive.
worth it for: a plethora of hard to find vintage at prices that make you blink. Thank the influx of auto industry wealth from 1940 - 1990s, and its mass exodus in early 2000's for its relevance and abundance.
CHI-CHI AND THE GREEK | (s) (o) Worth the drive. Kelly, the shop's owner, is an artist in her own right and the most talented vintage curator I've ever seen. Lots of gemela 1.0 vintage came from some of Kelly's finds. My favorite score here is a pheasant feathered headband.
DETROIT IS THE NEW BLACK | (d) (n)
COUNCIL THRIFT | (s) (o) This is our secret best of the best that I was hesitant to add to this list out of selfishness. Got my favorite moschino belt here for $5 and the perfectly tailored french-made sunday single breasted coat for $8.
LINDA DRESNER | (s) (o) This is one of the most avant garde designer fashion boutiques in the United States, and is hidden in Birmingham, Michigan (suburb where we went to high school). Linda curates a surprising collection of Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garcons, and Dries van Noten to name a few. If you're too intimidated to go in (like we were growing up) at least do drive by of her windows, they are truly art.
SHINOLA FLAGSHIP | (d) (n)
EASTERN MARKET | (d) (o)
ROCKY PEANUT CO | (d) (o)
worth it for: some of the best hidden record stores in the country and is worth the trip for the collections and prices alone. Best for jazz, soul, funk, electronic, middle eastern traditional.
PEOPLE's RECORDS | (d) (s) (o)
THIRD MAN RECORDS | (d) (n)
HELLO RECORDS | (d) (n)
CHECK OUT A SHOW AT
TRINOSOPHE's | (d) (n)
ST ANDREW's | (d) (o)
THE FOX | (d) (o)
ORCHESTRA HALL | (d) (o)
DETROIT OPERA HOUSE | (d) (o)
TRINOSOPHES | (d) (n) cafe, gallery space, bar, place you want to check out and stay for a while. The last time we came here was for a live art noise performance featuring taxidermy, pantyhose, and a tape player. One of those SURPRISE! moments you don't find in big cities anymore. Designed with a good dose of that genius modular Floyd Detroit furniture.
ANTHOLOGY COFFEE | (d) (n) This beautifully simple spot is located around a parking lot of an industrial park makes this spot feel like a hidden gem. It's not really a secret at all for locals, and it's worth the hype.
GREAT LAKES COFFEE ROASTING CO | (d) (n)
ASTRO COFFEE | (d) (n) Delicious coffee in corktown also serving tasty cafe bites.
...at our mom's ? Sorry I don't have any personal recs here, but have heard airbnb is the best way to go.
TRAIN STATION | (d) (o)
SCULPTURE GARDEN | (d) (n)
WOODWARD AVENUE | (d) (s) (o)
CAMPUS MARTIUS | (d) (o) (n)
SPILLED PAINT WALL | (d) (n)
PRINCE CONCEPTS SPACE | (d) (n)
HAVE A CAR | Due to the economic complexities of being branded as the motor city, detroit has essentially zero public transportation, and is generally a sprawling kind of city. You will miss out big time if you don't have a car. So roadtrip here or rent one from DTW.
BE NICE | Detroiters are nice, so go ahead and be nice right back. Don't be that guy/gal who came for the disaster tourism and is outwardly oohing and ahhing over abandoned buildings. Your city apartment could most likely be in better shape so imagine how you might feel if you looked out your window and found someone photographing your peeling paint and 1992 dangling AC window unit.
BE AWARE | Detroit is a melting pot of cultures, races, and socioeconomic levels who all coexist in relatively close quarters (imagine one of our most opulent theaters shares a parking lot with abandoned crack house). Don't take safety for granted but don't freak out about it either.
BE INFORMED | There are many a detroit documentary and think piece on what's happening in this period of growth/change/rennaisance. Many are opinion pieces (not all fully informed - we won't name names) and the result of one person's experience. Be sure to reference a range of content before you go, and regardless of what you read/watch do go with an open mind. If you want to learn about the latest in art in design, we highly recommend picking up a Grand Circus.