The Spirit of Detroit
Looking for a unique place to visit? Consider Detroit.
Recently, I had the opportunity to spend 24 hours in Detroit as a guest of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council.
The city has seen better times, but there’s a pride and feistiness in the Motor City that has to be admired. The people of Detroit understandably want to show off the good side of their city, but they recognize it’s a little scruffy in places. If you like sarcastic humor, the kind that’s mixed with a fair amount of humility, Detroiters will not disappoint.
The Motor City Brew Tour is worth the price, even if you’re not a beer lover. Our first beer tour stop was Traffic Jam and Snug, a combination urban road house and brewery that is as non-corporate as home-made sneakers. If it ferments, these guys make it sing; cheese, beer and real ice cream are all made on site and there’s a restaurant too.
In the same neighborhood, The Motor City Brewing works has fantastic pizza (as a lifelong Chicagoan, I do not tolerate bad pizza) and a large pie is only about $10. The beer was not quite my taste, but you have to admire any beverage called “Ghettoblaster.” The tagline is “The Beer You Can Hear” and the packaging depicts a giant 80’s style boom box with drag pipes coming out the side.
After sampling the beer and pizza at Motor Works, the tour guide ushered our group out the back door to make a group presentation in the alley. Generally, I try to avoid standing in alleys in Detroit at night, but this time I’m glad that I did. The tour guide how the neighborhood residents have cleaned up this block of trash filled alley by installing water permeable pavers and native plants. Getting choked up about an alley renovation is weird, but there is something truly moving about the pride and determination of Detroiters to bring their city back.
Next stop was downtown Motown and the Detroit Beer Company. With it’s mainly empty vintage architectural buildings, present day Detroit reminds me of downtown St. Louis twenty years ago. In St. Louis, once dilapidated gems are now bars and restaurants full of young people and the same thing will eventually happen in Detroit I believe.
The Detroit Beer Company has great Prohibition era black and white photos on the walls. There were a lot of successful brewers in Detroit when Prohibition was implemented and they did not go away quietly.
Another thing to like about Detroit: People go out drinking on Sunday night.
If you want a real urban adventure to put on your Facebook page, Motor City Brew Tours also has bicycle brewery tours.
The Detroit Riverfront area just north of downtown is a pleasing combination of early 20th century industrial grit and pedestrian friendly urban planning. The food at the RattleSnake Club on the Detroit River is excellent and the decor is as vibrant as anything one would find in Miami.
I did not have time on this trip to look for local wine, but our hosts say the Local Roots wine dinners at Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn are fantastic. There’s one coming up on May 2nd.
Detroit is a city that reminds us that we should never write anyone or anything off. A couple of years ago, punk rock icon Patti Smith said creative people would be better off in Detroit than New York. “The idea of redemption is always good news, even if it means sacrifice or some difficult times,” Smith said.