Published on January 9th, 2012 | by Charu Suri11
2012 Destinations (PHOTOS): Reasons to Visit Motor City (Detroit, MI)
There are some places that I am hesitant to visit initially, but end up falling in love with. Travel is like a kaleidoscope in that aspect — you don’t really know what you’ll get until you get there.
Detroit is one visit I will always remember from 2011. There’s so much to Motor City beyond the silver GM Building, the indefatigable assembly line pioneered by Ford, and the dreary thought of worker layoffs and stringent Unions. Detroit is for the foodie, the adventurer, the architect lover in all of us.
Beyond the Willy Wonka Car Production Factory: Detroit, a City for Serious Foodies
I visited Detroit in April, 2011 and drank in everything: from the developed, ethnic fabric in Dearborn, Michigan to the more run down outskirts like Corktown. Corktown is not pretty, by any stretch of the overactive imagination, but the area is a cultural melting pot and a fabric of Irish immigrant settlers and a now more hip, young urban crowd. Detroit is a place for foodies, and one iconic dining option –Slow’s BBQ on Michigan Avenue — has reinvented the culinary vernacular.
As I discovered, Detroit has surprisingly polished and diverse food choices. It would take a very uncreative person to starve here. One of my favorite places to eat was Pizzeria Biga which boasts Neapalitano-style brick oven pizzas with chewy, flavorful crust. Getting a slice of pizza these days is akin to sipping a generously warm latte from Dunkin Donuts — genuine, quality, but expected. Pizzeria Biga ups the ante and really gives you a flavorful experience.
For restaurants that have that “fun factor” woven into their aura and decor, there is plenty of action in Greektown, considered the most famous neighborhood in Downtown Detroit. At Pegasus Taverna,with its unassuming exterior, there is much gaiety, action and familial laughter. Savvy servers bring flaming plates of Greek Kasseri cheese lit ablaze with brandy to your table (the dish is called Saganaki Opa and the servers really and do shout Opa –a word which is often used to describe a joyful occasion or emotion). The patrons clap, as though at a concert. The restaurant makes one relive scenes from My Big Fat Greek Wedding – minus the tacky.
A misty morning in Dearborn, Michigan
The Creme de la Creme of Museums
A visit to the Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village alone will inspire to you to appreciate the amount of American innovation that occurred at the turn of the century. Ford’s vision and motto was that “ordinary Americans can do extraordinary things” and he was a vast collector of iconic inventions (from Edison’s Menlo Park home reproduction to the actual bicycle where the Wright Brothers worked in Dayton, Ohio), you can truly see the innovations that shaped America.
At a popular places like Greenfield village, you can see school buses filled with children on field trips, tourists eager to inhale the spirit of turn of the century America, and museum curators eager to show off their vast knowledge. Detroit is full of passionate people, eager to recount legends, pass on their knowledge to those keen to soak it up, and features the creme de la cream of automobile and American innovation museums.
The sacred, iconic Piquette Plant Assembly, where Henry Ford and his team assembled the first Model T and several other models, is a museum pilgrimage that no automobile connoisseur could afford to miss. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002, this unassuming mill-style building was home to the realization of Ford’s singular, stubborn dream of providing every American with an affordable car.
Creaky stairs, original wooden floors, even Ford’s old office corner — everything is preserved, loved, cherished. Each year, volunteers work on preserving the antique cars to make sure all parts are intact, polished, functional, and every second of their labor of love is a donation. What a testament to the vision of Ford, I thought, and what level of respect. Visitors can sit in a small room with benches and watch a documentary on Ford’s vision and realization.
The Only Place in North America Where You Can Look South Toward Canada
In Detroit, I discovered what it felt like to be in the only place in North America where you can gaze South toward Canada (I remember being in the General Motors building, a tall, silvery cylindrical skyscraper that looked a futuristic lighthouse), towards Windsor.
A City of Architectural Masterpieces
From the unmistakeable Guardian Building that lights up the city skyline, to the distinctly Detroit Pewabic pottery (the eponymous school still operates today and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1991), there is so much square footage of Detroit devoted to architecture and the arts. Pewabic pottery is known for its distinct, almost phantasmagoric quality of glazing with rich and deep colors.
A newly renovated bedroom at The Henry, an Autograph Collection Hotel in Dearborn, MI
The outskirts of Detroit, en route to Corktown
Corktown may not be a place to linger or sit in a cafe, but it has spots that are being renovated.
In Corktown, at the intersection of Wabash & Michigan Avenues. You’re not in Kansas anymore.
An iconic restaurant in Corktown and Detroit itself, Slow’s BBQ has brought tourists, celebrities, locals together in pursuit of a
new revitalized cuisine. Surprisingly, there are a lot of vegetarian and vegan options on the menu.
A Brush Motor Company car stands on the original wooden floor at the Piquette Assembly Plant in Detroit. Volunteers painstakingly restore each and every car to perfection on an annual basis
Inside the iconic Guardian Building, considered to be one of Detroit’s architectural masterpieces
The rich glazed Pewabic Pottery Tiles that are distinctly Detroit
Stately servers put on a show of “Saganaki Opa” (flaming Greek Kasseri cheese and brandy) at Pegasus Restaurant in Greektown
A city that is never on autopilot: Detroit at night