A New Michigan Avenue
Diners will find big changes on Michigan Avenue in Corktown. A wave of creative drinking and dining establishments is sweeping away the gray and giving the stretch of road between the Lodge and 14th Street a new sheen.
It all started in 2005, of course, with Slows Bar-B-Q, which has become such a hot destination for diners that waits can be as long as two hours. And in the ensuing years, about a dozen new spots have opened, while other establishments have added dining to the mix, such as P.J.’s Lager House. As of now, there are plans for a few more to open.
Don’t cry “gentrification” just yet, though. The first wave of investment is the fun part. As residents of other cities know, only later do the Urban Outfitter shops open and the vinyl vodka ads take over the sides of buildings. Enjoy it while it lasts, since every new spot has a little bit of “hipster bait” to keep things interesting. We present the most recent additions here in order of address.
Detroit Institute of Bagels 1236 Michigan Ave.; detroitinstituteofbagels.com: Not open yet, but with no strategic fresh bagel source in Corktown, this idea seems like a winner. Hipster bait: Swirling rumors of bocce court to be built in back.
The Brooklyn Street Local 1266 Michigan Ave.; 313-262-6547; brooklynstreetlocal.com: Opened in 2012 by Torontonians Deveri Gifford and Jason Yates, who moved to Detroit after visiting only a few times. The two are advocates of urban farming and local food, and the menu shows it. Hipster bait: poutine.
Ottava Via 1400 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-962-5500: Opened in 2013, Corktown’s new Italian restaurant and bar is the brainchild of co-owners Tim Springstead and David Steinke. Occupying a former pawn shop and bank, the menu is gloriously Italian, carrying pasta, pizza and panini to their heights, joined by inspired charcuterie, side dishes and the featured entrée, porchetta. Hipster bait: bocce courts in back.
Bucharest Grill 1623 Michigan Ave.; bucharestgrill.com: Not open yet, but this former Great Wall restaurant seems a good fit for the humble but nourishing fare Bucharest Grill has served out of its space in the Park Bar for years now. Hipster bait: former Chinese takeout joint.
Motor City Wine 1949 Michigan Ave.; motorcitywine.com: Taking up residence in its new Corktown home just last month, in the former Express Bar, Motor City Wine now has room to spread out, with live music, an outdoor fire pit, plentiful parking across the alley, and, of course, wines that are always values. Best of all, the owners, David and Melissa Armin-Parcells, love to see neighborhood folks rub elbows. Hipster bait: bocce court.
Rubbed 2015 Michigan Ave.; 248-219-4879; rubbedindetroit.com. The continental-style Corktown deli has been hosting dinners around town, but owners Jason Frenkel and Abbey Markell say they look to be open at the beginning of 2014. Hipster bait: former experimental art space.
Astro Coffee 2124 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-638-2989; astrodetroit.com: Opened in 2011, this small cafe quickly developed a reputation for doing everything right. Known for its superb coffee, the food and the community spirit are every bit as important in making it what it is — an excellent, comfortable neighborhood café. Seasonal menu hits all the right notes, and in-house baked goods don’t hurt. Hipster bait: exposed brick.
Sugar House Bar 2130 Michigan Ave.; 313-962-0123; sugarhousedetroit.com: Opened in 2011, Dave Kwiatkowski’s craft cocktail bar stepped in at just the right time to satisfy a thirst for sophisticated, pre-Prohibition-style drinks. Combining seasonal menus, daily drink and weekly punch specials, and always-exceptional service. Hipster bait: taxidermy, sleeve garters.
Mercury Burger Bar 2163 Michigan Ave.; 313-964-5000; mercuryburgerbar.com: Opened in 2012, this burger spot was an instant success, drawing hungry diners with its hearty menu and quirky, historically influenced décor. Hipster bait: Enclosed outdoor patio with view of Michigan Central Station for oh-so-real selfies.
Two James Spirits 2445 Michigan Ave.; 313-964-4800; twojames.com: Touted as Detroit’s first new distillery since Prohibition, this space is the obvious work of people dedicated to creative small-batch brewing. In the joint’s tasting room, expect high-quality, handmade spirits made with local agricultural products. Expect gin, bourbon and vodka all made on-site, with maybe some peanuts or pretzels to go with. Hipster bait: bearded owners.