Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tommy's Detroit Bar & Grill attracting attention in quiet corner of Detroit

Rule No. 1 in attracting customers: make sure they know you're there.

Tommy's Detroit Bar & Grill, tucked in a low-traffic corner of downtown Detroit that sees little action when the Red Wings aren't in-season, is turning to the basics as it tries to gain traction in the space long occupied by Mac's on Third.

Leading the changes are the additions of a black and orange awning and building signage, both visible to Fort Street travelers who happen to glance toward the Joe down Third Street.

So far, it's working.

It's fair to question whether those changes alone will be enough to give Tommy's a better fate than Mac's, which is why the current owner isn't relying solely on an external facelift to keep the place afloat. For example, in an attempt to warm up to the student crowd from neighboring WCCCU, Tommy's will soon tweak its backroom to feature lounge-style seating, coffee tables and WiFi service. They're good folks at Tommy's; here's hoping they survive the relative quiet of summer to enjoy the swarms of customers that come almost automatically with 40-plus Wings home games.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Detroit adds bike lanes on Michigan Ave in Corktown

Peddling through Corktown the other day, I was pleasantly surprised to see that one recently announced plan in Detroit was actually finding its way beyond the drawing board.

The addition of designated bike lanes to certain streets downtown – a plan announced sometime last year – is already becoming a reality, led by lanes on both sides of Michigan Avenue on the western edge of Corktown. (I was told that bike lanes have been added on West Fort Street too, but haven't made my way over there yet.)

As of last week, the Corktown stretch began near Slow's BBQ and went west, but I'm assuming the plan is to extend the lanes past the old Tiger Stadium site and Nemo's, over the Lodge, and eventually onto the currently-being-paved stretch of Michigan Avenue that leads to the heart of the downtown at Campus Martius. Time will tell.

As for the existing lanes, I only rode for a few blocks, but it was pretty cool having a designated lane on which to ride. Granted, Michigan Avenue in Corktown doesn't carry a particularly heavy load of automobile traffic, but the bike lane did provide a sense of safety.

I don't remember which roads downtown were included in the original plan, but we'll keep our eyes peeled for newly added lanes. In the meantime, we applaud the fact that another plan in Detroit panned out to become more than just a plan.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dining in the D: Sliders at the Big City Grill

When I was a kid, "sliders" were those occasionally edible mini-burgers from White Castle. Times change. Swing through the Big City Grill in downtown Detroit sometime and order up a three-sandwich platter of the Angus Sliders. I wouldn't even put them in the same food group as the White Castle version. Oddly, I'm no fan of onions and these babies are loaded with 'em, but they're so sweet I don't even think about getting them onion-free. They cost about $7 or $8 and come with fries. Nice.

(Downtown Detroit is loaded with great bars and restaurants, and nearly all of them feature a menu item I've come to love. You'll find my top dishes here. I'll steer clear of calling this a "Best Of" list. Just click on the "Detroit Food" label for a list of sweet eats to sample the next time you're downtown and hungry.)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lafayette Greens taking shape in downtown Detroit

I have no idea what you expected when news broke of Compuware's plans to develop the site of the old Lafayette Building into an urban garden. Heck, I'm not sure what I expected.

But it wasn't this.

As plans become reality, the Lafayette Greens development is blossoming into an impressive site that far exceeds the rows of cabbage and corn that may have popped to mind with initial word of the project. Surrounded by a wrought-iron black gate, the triangular-chunk of land between Lafayette Boulevard and Michigan Avenue is already an enormous scenic enhancement to a neighborhood anchored by the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel.

Rows of vegetables in raised beds do line the parcel's interior, but saplings and other landscape features stand more prominently. Facing Lafayette is a series of three oddly shaped but not unattractive wooden buildings. And the tattered red-brick wall of the old (and soon returning?) Arcade Bar is a pretty cool contrast to the newly planted greens in front of it.

The urban garden idea was much-maligned when Compuware's projects were initially announced, and with regards to their food-production, maybe that criticism was warranted. I have no idea how much food this thing will produce.

But the corner where the Lafayette Building once stood is no longer an eyesore. By some measure, that has to be considered progress.   

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Heidelberg Project Light: Unusual street decor in downtown Detroit

I don't think they're authentic Chuckie T's, but they are Pure Detroit.

The fact that these black canvas sneaks have been dangling from a light post at the corner of Second and Lafayette for weeks – maybe even months – presents some pretty interesting questions, and perhaps a few ideas as to how city officials might approach future streetscaping projects.

Our first thought goes across town to the famous Heidelberg Project, the street-art sanctuary that's become known around the world by many,  but remains foreign to many locals – Kage included. We'll get there eventually.

In the meantime, we continue to keep our eyes peeled while wandering downtown, always on the look out for stuff you never expect to see – like a pair of black flat-soles strung to a traffic light. Click here to browse some of the other stuff we've come across.