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An Insider’s Guide to Detroit

Where to eat, sleep, shop and explore in the Motor City, with expert advice from fashion designer Tracy Reese, impresario Wayne Brown, ‘Rehab Addict’ host Nicole Curtis and chef and restaurateur Dave Kwiatkowski.

Wall Street Journal “Off Duty” • June 19, 2015

FRESH OUT OF BANKRUPTCY and angling toward boomtown, Detroit is attracting an influx of creative young professionals and entrepreneurs to its middle- and working-class mix.Businesses leased some 2 million square feet of office space last year in buildings that had been largely abandoned. More than a dozen new restaurants have recently opened, and both designer John Varvatos and Whole Foods have brought upscale retail to this sprawling—and very affordable—city of 700,000.

Fun and funky shops including national sensation Shinola are opening in the rapidly changing Midtown district, where the Michigan Science Center and several other of the city’s fine museums are located.

Riverfront parks are filled with strollers and cyclists, while the restaurants and bars on the city’s northwest and southwest sides offer a glimpse of the Detroit longtime residents know and love: friendly, with a touch of gallows humor.

It’s too early to say whether Detroit is making a comeback or not, but its dynamism combined with great food, shopping and culture make it a happening place to visit either way.

The Designer | Tracy Reese

Fashion designer born and raised in Detroit

HOPPINESS IS… // HopCat. This popular new beer emporium, restaurant and club has 130 different taps and introduces a new beer every day. Their beer-battered “crack fries” are really good. 4265 Woodward Ave., hopcat.com/food/detroit

BACK STORY // Detroit Historical Museum. There’s an entire “old Detroit” with cobblestone streets and antique cars in the basement that tells the history of the city. I grew up spending Saturdays there. The main library across the street has beautiful murals on the second floor. 5401 Woodward Ave., detroithistorical.org

REEL FUN // Detroit Institute of Arts. Shows a mix of contemporary and classic films. Tickets are cheap, there’s a cafe that serves wine upstairs and you can see the museum’s Diego Rivera murals before the show. 5200 Woodward Ave., dia.org

CITY CENTERPIECE // Campus Martius. This plaza always has something going on. In the winter, it’s ice-skating; in summer, there’s a fountain and outdoor movies and theater performances. 800 Woodward Ave., campusmartiuspark.org

HOT TABLE // Selden Standard. A regional James Beard semifinalist, this restaurant is at the top of my list of places to try. I’m intrigued by the duck sausage and Brussels sprouts and the pork shoulder confit. 3921 Second Ave., seldenstandard.com

The Impresario | Wayne Brown

President and CEO, Michigan Opera Theatre, located in the city

HAUTE MEXICAN // El Barzón. Norberto Garita takes his food seriously: All his moles—sauces with dozens of spices and ingredients—are made from scratch. 3710 Junction St., http://198.171.52.19

BURGER BAR // Roast. This stylish bar in the Westin Book Cadillac hotel draws an after-work and weekend crowd. For $6 you can get the Roast Burger with bacon, cheddar, egg and pickled onion. 1128 Washington Blvd., roastdetroit.com

HISTORIC ‘HOOD // Northwest Side. People are amazed at the beautiful homes in Palmer Woods. Tour the neighborhood, grab chicken and waffles at Kuzzo’s, and catch live jazz at the landmark Baker’s Keyboard Lounge—the cover is still just $5 most nights. Palmer Woods, palmerwoods.org / Kuzzo’s, 19345 Livernois Ave., 313-861-0229 / Baker’s, 20510 Livernois Ave., theofficialbakerskeyboardlounge.com

WEENIE SCENE // American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island. These diners, next door to each other, serve Coney Dogs—hot dogs topped with ground beef, onion and mustard. Come late at night for great people watching. 114-118 W. Lafayette St. at Griswold, americanconeyisland.com

HIGH LIFE // Coach Insignia. The view of Detroit’s riverfront from this steak house on top of the Renaissance Center can’t be beat. Jefferson Avenue between Randolph and Beaubien, coachinsigniadetroit.com

The Renovator | Nicole Curtis

Detroit-area native; host of ‘Rehab Addict’ on HGTV

MUSIC MECCA // Garden Bowl. The city has so many places now with a New York vibe; this is a Detroit rocker club, where a drink won’t cost you $25. 4140 Woodward Ave., majesticdetroit.com

BLENDED BAZAAR // Eastern Market District. I’ve liked this place since I was a kid. On Saturdays, there are blocks of farm stands, alongside old-school wholesalers, mixed in with new restaurants, galleries and antique shops. Russell St. from Gratiot to Mack Aves., detroiteasternmarket.com

GREEN GETAWAY // Belle Isle. My favorite spot in the city is this 980-acre island park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. You can rent a bike and ride all around it. Jefferson Ave. at East Grand Blvd., belleisleconservancy.org

MEAT AND GREET // Small Plates. I love the low-key atmosphere here, and in the summer you can sit outside. It’s within walking distance of everything: Comerica Park for ballgames and Detroit Music Hall Center for concerts. Next door is a jeweler with a funky old neon sign that’s been there forever. 1521 Broadway St., smallplates.com

GRAND HOTEL // Westin Book Cadillac. The renovation of this 1924 hotel is great, and the location is fantastic. They’ll give guests running shoes so they can just go out of the hotel and down to the riverfront, where every kind of Detroiter hangs out. 1114 Washington Blvd., bookcadillacwestin.com

The Chef | Dave Kwiatkowski

Owner of Detroit’s the Sugar House cocktail bar and co-owner of its Wright & Company Restaurant

INTIMATE INN // Honor and Folly. This gorgeous two-bedroom inn is near the center of Detroit’s two extremes: the abandoned, beaux-arts Michigan Central Station and hip new places to eat and drink. Get an egg sandwich at Astro Coffee next door. 2132 Michigan Ave., honorandfolly.com

A DEUX DINING // Craft Work. This dimly lit, romantic restaurant in historic West Village serves excellent New American food and is a nice break from busy downtown. Check out the mansions in nearby Indian Village while you’re there. 8047 Agnes St., craftworkdetroit.com

OUTSIDER ART // Heidelberg Project. I take visitors to this art project by Tyree Guyton, who covered abandoned homes with crazy things: shoes, stuffed animals, polka dots. It’s really wild—and really Detroit. 3600 Heidelberg St., heidelberg.org

RETAIL THERAPY // Midtown. There’s a block on Canfield with some great shops: Shinola for bikes and watches; Willys for American-made clothes; City Bird for Detroit-themed housewares and accessories. Canfield St. Between Cass and Second Aves., shinola.com; willysdetroit.com; ilovecitybird.com

NO NACHOS // El Asador Steakhouse. Chef Luis Garza was classically trained in Italian food; now he’s elevated Mexican in this tiny place. It’s awesome. 1312 Springwells St., (313) 297-2360

Plus Don’t Miss…

Dueling Pizzas: For thin crust, try Supino in the Eastern Market District. 2457 Russell Street, supinopizzeria.com. The Detroit-style deep-dish at Buddy’s is legendary. 17125 Conant St., buddyspizza.com

D-Town Farms In a city with more than 1,400 food gardens, this 7-acre working farm is one of the largest—and because it’s a national model of an urban farm, the farmers are used to visitors. 3800 Puritan Ave., detroitblackfoodsecurity.org

John King Books A four-floor warehouse stocked with a mind-boggling selection of used and rare books is great for browsing. 901 West Lafayette Blvd., kingbooksdetroit.com

Motown Museum Berry Gordy’s basement studio, in the original house that launched the Supremes, is the centerpiece of this monument to the birth of Motown sound. 2648 W. Grand Blvd., motownmuseum.org

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