I’m excited to welcome Amy of the amazing food blog Club Narwhal with a gorgeous Detroit travel guide today!
When I first moved to metro Detroit four years ago, the nicest thing anyone could say (after a very pregnant pause) was, “Well… at least you can buy a cheap house there.” And it’s true — sometimes houses go on sale for one whole dollar!
As I get to know Detroit better and better, I can see definitely why people are nervous to explore — there are huge swathes of blighted land pretty much everywhere you go that look downright depressing — but if you look closer, there is a thriving community of creatives and entrepreneurs who are working hard to make Detroit better and stronger. And they’re doing that right now — imagining, creating, rebuilding.
Check out Amy’s full Detroit travel guide!
EAT + DRINK
- Avalon Bakery– I love that this bakery is all about sustainability and community. It is teensy and often packed with people, but the breads and treats are worth it. Try the carrot cake or scallion dill bread–you won’t be disappointed!
- Brooklyn St. Local — Any place that has a dedicated poutine section is okay in my book. This is a Corktown brunch staple for a reason–their banana walnut pancakes are the bee’s knees and you’ll want to smother everything in poutine gravy.
- Cliff Bells – Be still my beating heart, I love this jazz club with all its classy Prohibition-era throwback decor and delicious menu. This is the perfect date night spot.
- Green Dot Stables — Sliders and more sliders are Green Dot’s specialty. With crazy fun combos varying from peanut butter and kimchi to buffalo chicken to veggie, there is something for everyone here.
- Polish Village Cafe — Located in the heart of Hamtramck, Detroit’s Polish neighborhood, you can eat your weight in peirogi and kielbasa. It is totally old school when it comes to decor–dim, strung with lights and accordions–which makes it ultra cozy.
- Pupuseria Y Restaurante Salvadoreno — This is one of my favorite places because it serves pupusas the size of my head. Plus it’s cheap and very delicious. The Revuelta is my favorite pupusa and definitely order a side of plantains and cream!
- Slow’s BBQ — A Detroit institution, this BBQ joint usually has a line well out the door. And for good reason–the meat here is no joke. My go-to is the brisket smothered in any (and sometimes all) of their house made sauces. And the mac and cheese? Heaven.
- Shatila — Located in Dearborn, Shatila is the best combination of Middle Eastern and French bakeries. Yes, my friends, they serve infinite varieties of baklava alongside the loveliest, puffiest eclairs and berry tarts. You’ll want to eat everything in sight–and please don’t forget a scoop or two of their rose pistachio ice cream!
- Sister Pie Detroit — This darling shop recently opened to the delight of all pie lovers in the area. While you should probably just buy one of each flavor, I hold a special place in my heart for the Chocolate Coconut (but don’t tell any of the diehard Salted Caramel fans).
- Taqueria Lupita’s — As a Los Angeles lady, I am pretty much obsessed with Lupita’s, especially when I’m feeling particularly homesick. I go here more often than is probably sane and order the al pastor taco dinner every single time. Keep the horchata coming.
- Supino Pizzeria — When the Eastern Market summer crowds are raging, this joint gets packed. I don’t blame anyone because when a craving for El Greco (a white pizza decked with spinach, feta, and olives) hits, you can’t ignore it. Supino serves Naples style pizza with the some serious and delicious char going on.
- Vinsetta Garage — Not technically in Detroit proper, but totally of the spirit. This restaurant embraced the oldest garage east of the Mississippi and turned it into one glorious eatery–the 3 AM Burger with a side of mac and cheese is enough to put anyone into the best kind of food coma.
- Dabl’s Bead Museum — I love folk and urban art so Dabl’s is one of my favorite places to visit. Dabl has spent over a decade curating and creating urban installations–his most famous being the house of mirrors that glitters in the sun. If you get a chance to chat with Dabl, take it. You can often see him scaling ladders around the property or manning the register inside the small African bead store.
- Guardian Building — I have a huge soft spot for art deco buildings and the Guardian is a prime example. The grand hall is an absolute explosion of gorgeous mosaics.
- Grand River Creative Corridor — While there are large sections of Detroit covered in graffiti of all kinds, Grand River Corridor is special because it is a protected area for graffiti artists to show their skills. If you’re a fan of street art, you can’t go wrong driving down this open air art gallery.
- Hamtramck Disneyland — This has got to be one of the most cheerful folk art installations in town. Created by incorrigible putterer Dmytro Szylak (who passed away earlier this year), the City of Hamtramck has given it historic status so it will be preserved for generations to come.
- Heidleberg Project — This urban art installation is a Detroit institution–and it inspires a lot of strong feelings from all sides. Granted, some of it is pretty darn creepy (I mean, rotting stuffed animals hammered to houses…?), it stands for community art in every way. As Tyree Guyton, the artist behind the Project, says, “I strive to be part of the solution.”
- Mexicantown — Whether you’re looking for your next luchador mask or sugar skulls, Mexicantown will deliver. You can’t miss the delightful Pepto Bismol pink La Gloria bakery–more churros, please!
- People Mover — This is basically a monorail that circles downtown–kind of useless overall, but fun to ride nonetheless. Plus, it only costs seventy-five cents and will give you a killer view of Detroit. You’ll pass icons like The Spirit of Detroit and catch lovely views of the Detroit River.
- Urban Exploring — To be clear: it is fully illegal to explore buildings like the famed Michigan Central Station (and pretty much any abandoned building), but if you have the gumption, I would highly recommend hooking up with Motor City Photo for its urban exploring tour. I explored the hulking, crumbling Fisher Body Plant and was totally amazed.
- Eastern Market — Eastern Market is a sprawling farmer’s market that you can spend hours browsing. I love the cheerful murals of things like dancing hams and exploring the little shops that surround the market. You can also find a few stands dedicated to Detroit’s urban farms.
- City Bird — Founded by lifelong Detroiters, this shop is a Detroit lovers haven (where else can you buy Michigan cork coasters, pint glasses, and necklaces?). They also put out a wonderful guidebook, Belle Isle to 8 Mile.
- Devries & Co. — Located in a gorgeous building by Eastern Market, Devries has a killer cheese selection and very informed cheese mongers. A great place to stock up on local olive oil, honey, and McClure’s famous pickles.
- Henry the Hatter — While I don’t wear hats, ever, this charming shop had me wanting to buy up the whole place.
- John K. King Bookstore — I spend many hours browsing this epic used bookstore. It goes up many levels and each story is its own genre. My particular favorite is the teen/YA section because I love browsing all the vintage titles.
- Signal Return Press — You can take a bevy of letterpress workshops here–everything from making your own business cards, bookbinding, and experimental letterpress. Plus, they hold tons of community arts events that are worth checking out.
- The Detroit Mercantile Co. — A great mix of new and vintage Made in the USA products–and another Eastern Market standard.
- Willys Detroit — Shinola Watch’s sister store, Willys stocks lovely American-made brands and hosts workshops that vary from weaving to floral design.
- Sleeping Bear Dunes — Sleeping Bear is a few hours away from Detroit but well worth the drive. Gorgeous white sand dunes tower over crystal clear Lake Michigan. You can spend a long day or long weekend hiking around this Michigan marvel.
- Ann Arbor — I work in Ann Arbor so I take any excuse to tell people to visit this lovely, collegiate town. Beyond the beautiful University of Michigan campus, there are tons of great places to eat and shop.
- Lake St. Clair — This little lake wants to be someday grow up and become a Great Lake but until then, this is a lovely place to drive around–especailly during leaf peeping season. Head out to the beautiful Edsel Ford House for a tour, or brave the ferry to Harsen’s Island and dine at Schoolhouse Grille, a tasty joint in an old school.
Amy Lee Scott is the food-loving writer behind Club Narwhal. She lives in metro Detroit and has an insatiable vagabond heart. She loves exploring Detroit, imagining and creating new recipes, and crocheting everything under the sun.