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Great Restaurants and The Arts In Detroit

Updated on May 15, 2014

The Detroit Ice House Art Project

This house on Detroit's East Side is covered in ice by two artists every winter as an arts attraction. A related film has been completed with help from Kickstarter crowdfunding.
This house on Detroit's East Side is covered in ice by two artists every winter as an arts attraction. A related film has been completed with help from Kickstarter crowdfunding. | Source

Reclaiming the City of Detroit

At least 700,000 people still live in Detroit, including singer Aretha Franklin, Chef Craig Liekfelt, and actor/author/producer Sean H. Robertson. Robertson went from small parts and a role on Detroit 187, to producing TV episodes of Great Lake State on MyTV20. A single father, he hires local talent and makes progress in the city for others as well as himself.

Blocks upon desolate blocks of banned houses populated parts of the East Side of Detroit, but the human spirit shines energy on them, despite city services cuts. Some abandoned buildings are being reclaimed as art projects and one art gallery boasts a pop up restaurant that offers a fine dining menu served among its particle board walls.

A group of volunteers called the The Detroit Mowing Gang improves the local neighborhoods by using personal riding mowers to maintain the parks in the city. Local artists paint murals around town and even on abandoned industrial buildings.

One of these is the old Packard Plant that closed for business in the 1950s. Colored lights shine on the skeleton structure at night as an attraction for visitors and residents. Anthony Bourdain of the Travel Channel and CNN states that the former luxury car plant is a historic ruins, much like Roman structures and Machu Picchu.

A frozen house is the project of architect Matthew Radune and photography Gregory Holm. Begun as an art project that illustrates the frozen, stalled nature of many parts of the city, it became a tourist attraction known internationally.

Ice House Detroit Art Installation

Central Cultural District, Detroit

A
Eastern Market, Detroit:
Eastern Market, Detroit, MI, USA

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B
Detroit Institute of the Arts:
Detroit Institute of Arts, Wayne State University, 5200 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48202, USA

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C
Shinola Detroit, 485 West Milwaukee Avenue, Detroit MI:
485 West Milwaukee Street, College for Creative Studies - Taubman Center, Detroit, MI 48202, USA

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Located in a National Historic Place: The Argonaut Building, 5th Floor.

Art Gallery and Fine Dining

Chef Craig Lieckfelt is a native Detroiter who worked in the New York culinary culture and returned to Detroit to create a pop up restaurant called Guns + Butter. One of his pop up events was featured on an Anthony Bourdain telecast on CNN and was intriguing.

The pop up has operated in a warehouse art space called Pony Ride in Downtown Detroit. In the back room, fine dining was enjoyed by a number of Detroit residents who were impressed with the menu and food quality, as was Bourdain in his telecast of Parts Unknown. Many of the ingredients for the menu are purchases at the nearby Eastern Market, east of I-75.

The blog Trendland praises Guns + Butter and mentions that the chef has taken his pop up to India as well as to other cities in America. Lieckfelt has promised to stay in Detroit with a permanent location, however, and continues up up events at art spaces, hotels, and other venues around the city. One interesting venue was Shinola Detroit, the old shoe polish factory that now manufactures high end watches, bicycles, and leather goods.

As often the case with fine dining, each of the chef's plates looks like a masterpiece of art,appropriate since the pop up holds its events around the Detroit Institute of the Arts and the Art Center Community Garden.

East Side: Heidelberg Street Arts

The Heidelberg Project of Wayne State University, of which the arts institute is a part, transforms abandoned houses into public art that attracts tourists.
The Heidelberg Project of Wayne State University, of which the arts institute is a part, transforms abandoned houses into public art that attracts tourists. | Source

The above photo is of the studio gallery (Detroit Industrial Gallery) of Mr. Tim Burke. It is located at 3647 Heidelberg St. Detroit, Michigan. The artist of at least 14 years has presented six sculptures the Heidelberg Project from 1992 - 1998. His website and compelling resume are found at Detroit Industrial Gallery (http://www.detroitindustrialgallery.com).

Detroit Industrial Gallery

A
3647 Heidelberg St. Detroit, Michigan:
3647 Heidelberg Street, Detroit, MI 48207, USA

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Opened as a sandwich shop in 1933 and began booking jazz groups.
Opened as a sandwich shop in 1933 and began booking jazz groups. | Source

313 The Live Experience, at Baker's and Elsewhere Downtown

Baker’s Keyboard Lounge

A Michigan State Historic Site, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge is the oldest jazz supper club in America. Live music from the club is streamed online at livedetroit.tv, if you'd like to listen.

With a piano-shaped bar and Art Deco décor, the club is not fancy on the outside, but it is clean and it is entertaining, attractive, and friendly inside. The exterior reminds me of the high end Top Steak House n Columbus, Ohio; but unfortunately, that great place closed down. Bakers is still operating, even beating bankruptcy in a troubled but elegant city.

The lounge has showcased acts like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, Miles, Davis, Gene Krupa, and dozens of other famous names.Live music happens every day but Monday, including offerings from local performers and national acts.

The food on the menu is the kind that draws attention and has been enjoyed over the years by folks like my father on business trips to Michigan, as well as by residents. Their smothered pork chops are some of the best in the country and several fish selections are popular. Chicken wings, catfish nuggets, turkey, salads, sandwiches, and prime rib are also always good here. Nearly two dozen side dishes and a lie of dessert pies and cobblers are difficult to top.

Baker's Keyboard Lounge

A
Bakers Keyboard Lounge, 20510 Livernois Ave, Detroit, MI ‎:
20510 Livernois Avenue, Detroit, MI 48221, USA

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Best Coney Island Restaurants In Detroit

Coneys in Detroit are a genre unto themselves. They are smothered in chili sauce and yellow onions, with mustard. One usually fills an entire luncheon plate, there is so much on the bun. Some of the best coney places in Detroit include:

  • American Coney Island is located at 114 Lafayette Blvd. This is one of my favorite places in the city. The friendly staff serves up Greek foods as well as great coneys. Open early and late.
  • Lafayette Coney Island is next door at 118 Lafayette Blvd. It's open early and late and has a wide variety of foods on the menu besides coneys, including Greek favorites.
  • Duly's Coney Island is at 5458 W Vernor Highway and open 24 hours every day. it's not fancy, but the food is good. It is a long, narrow building with a long lunch counter where you can see all the foods prepared. Their coney fills up the plate and they provide a fork, because it will fall out of your hands. It was under $2.00 the last time I was there.
  • Leo's Coney Island is inside Comerica Park at 2100 Woodward Avenue, the most famous street in Detroit. It can be reached on the fun People Mover. Each mover station is decked out with fine arts as well. Detroit Tigers fans love to eat here and service is faster than at the concessions stands. The menu is Greek and American, with unique Greek salad dressing made by the company. The coneys and salads are delicious, but a favorite is a spinach and cheese pie that is like a lasagna. The menu is a huge tri-fold affair.

Mid-Downtown Coney Restaurants

A
American Coney Island, 114 Lafayette Blvd., Detroit MI:
118 West Lafayette Boulevard, Detroit, MI 48226, USA

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Lafeyette Coney Island is right next door.

B
Leo's Coney Island, 2100 Woodward Ave., Detroit MI:
2100 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201, USA

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      4 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      @MsDora -- Thanks for posting your comment. Art projects in the abandoned housing areas are interesting, but I think a long term solution will need be to demolish at least the worst ones. The Ice House is stunning, though.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thank you for this positive look at Detroit and its restaurants. The Ice House project is interesting.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      4 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks to both of you for adding comments to this thread!

      I hope that the Detroit mayor begins to have the worst abandoned houses demolished - the Cols OH mayor has done that and helped facilitate building new housing and businesses. It takes a long time here to gain the deed to an abnadoned house, but the Cols mayor has patience, and it's worked out well. Detroit could have a lot more urban farms.

    • juneaukid profile image

      Richard Francis Fleck 

      4 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      A very uplifting and informative piece on good old Detroit. I wish everyone the best holiday season ever in Detroit.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      4 years ago from USA

      I haven't been to Detroit in a long time, but it is good to see that people are still working to keep up the arts and creative restaurants there.

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