I love Detroit. As someone who no longer has the pleasure of living in the area, people are sometimes surprised to hear that -- how much I love the region, that is; but it’s one of those “IYKYK” things. Anyone who has spent substantial time in the Detroit area knows, this city and its surrounding ‘burbs are such gems.
There’s truly something for everyone in Detroit.
Anyway, regardless of whether or not I live in the area, I still have some favorites to share!
Sometimes I offer these up to people who will be in town visiting for work, who might be in need of some recommendations, and other times, my friends who still live in the Detroit area and I just like to swap picks.
I love to hear about the new trendy brunch spot or the hole-in-the-wall bar that we absolutely must try next time I’m in town.
People who live in Detroit currently, is it possible that you’ll have some more recent or popular faves? It’s very possible.
But for now, and in the interest of spreading love for the city, let’s review some of the places I often rave about. You can tell me in the comments, at the end, how off-base I was, or if there are any others you’d add to this list. Ready? Let’s go.
Grab a bite for breakfast at Fly Trap (Ferndale), or Dime Store or Parc (both Detroit).
I know, I know, the headline says, “EXACTLY how I’d spend 24 hours in Metro Detroit,” but I did want to present you with some options. For example, how much do you want to spend on breakfast? Fly Trap is more of a diner, and a lot of dishes are around $15 -- or well under. Meanwhile, I ordered grilled filet tips and eggs, paired with a decked-out Bloody Mary at Parc, and I believe my bill was closer to $50, but it was truly delicious ... and that’s not to say you’re skimping on the quality at Fly Trap, either! It just depends what you want the vibe to be, who you’re with, or how much you’ve budgeted for the first meal of the day.
If you opted to stay in Detroit proper, stroll downtown for a bit, if the weather’s nice.
I feel like every time I’m downtown, I’m impressed by the growth, and all the new stores, coffee shops and restaurants that are popping up.
I love wandering through Shinola, Eastern Market, if it’s open, and Campus Martius Park.
You could grab a drink at one of the many breweries -- I like Batch and Atwater! -- and then hop in an Uber for our next stop.
Belle Isle is a 982-acre island park in the city with historic, environmental and cultural offerings.
You can choose between Belle Isle Aquarium, the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory for all the flowers and flora, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, a nature center, the Instagram-worthy memorial fountain and more.
I like the conservatory and the aquarium, although you should know, neither is huge. Still, they’re great to stroll through and snap some pics.
Honestly, you could stay AWHILE on Belle Isle, but we’re just going to assume you got an early start on the day, you did breakfast from 8 to 9 a.m., you wandered downtown till 11 a.m. or so, and you spent two hours at Belle Isle.
How about a late lunch next, shall we?
We’re heading north, to Noble Fish.
As someone who lived in California for nearly five years, I balked at the idea of Midwest sushi, when I first returned to my home state.
But Noble Fish is just the BEST.
It’s so fresh, so tasty; so perfect every time. I typically order online, snag it and go, as Noble is more of a grocery store in the suburb of Clawson than a true sit-down restaurant, but I do believe there are some tables if you’d rather dine-in. If you opted for one of the more pricy breakfast/brunch options, then you’ll be saving money on this meal -- Noble Fish is super reasonably priced, with rolls running about $5-$10 apiece. This is some of my favorite sushi ever, and that includes spots I used to frequent in the Golden State. Noble is just so unpretentious and delish.
When you’re done, snag an Uber or hop in the car, just about three miles, over to one of my favorite stores in this area, Poesy, on Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak.
Poesy represents more than 300 artists, and carries the absolute coolest stuff in its store. Start chatting with the owner for just a few minutes, and she’ll help you find something super unique for yourself, or, if you have a gift to buy, this is also your spot. The store even gift-wraps, and does a gorgeous job. It’s a small shop, but I could spend at least an hour or so in there.
Tired yet? I’m not sure just HOW much you’d like to cram into one day, but I think we should do one more bigger type of excursion next.
What do you feel like? The Detroit Zoo, or the DIA?
If you’re already at Poesy, just head about 4 1/2 more miles down Woodward, and you’re at the zoo. Or if you’re ready to return downtown, you could do that now, and stop in at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Both are really great -- it just depends on what you’re looking for. And both are super family-friendly, which is great if you have kids in tow for the day, or family you’re visiting. I remember as a kid, the first time I saw the Diego Rivera industry murals, being so impressed and taken aback by all the beauty and detail.
And I’ve been to the zoo too many times to count (which is what happens when you grow up in Royal Oak, just miles from the zoo), but I can confirm, even as an adult, it’s a fantastic spot. Not all zoos have polar bears, and the Polk Penguin Conservation Center is pretty next-level, too. Full disclosure, I don’t even think I’ve seen it since last summer, and it looks like there have been some exciting updates. It’s a big place, as is the DIA, so make sure you have some comfortable walking shoes! But really, you can’t go wrong with either destination.
Take a minute to breathe, and then let’s do dinner.
I do realize this has been a jam-packed day. Were we a little ambitious? Could we have spread some of these activities out over a weekend? Absolutely. So, you do with this list what you’d like!
Again, I know mealtime can come down to personal preferences, dietary restrictions and budget, but I’ll give you the names of four places I absolutely adore in the Detroit area:
- If you’re leaving the zoo and you’re starving, head up Woodward once again to Red Coat Tavern for one of the best burgers of your life. There might be a wait, and it is really dark in there for some reason, lol, but you should be able to get in without too much delay. For what it’s worth, I’ve had other menu items, too: Salad, fries; one of my best friends says the tenderloin tips are incredible, and my hard-to-please husband even enjoyed the English prime rib dinner. Still, I’m unable to break away from those burgers. Even now, I live out of state, and think about them regularly. Get the burger!
- SheWolf is probably the newest place I’ve tried in Detroit (yes, we’re downtown again), and my meal was to-die for. My friend and I split a beet salad, a pasta and a steak, along with a few cocktails, and every bite was perfect.
- Grey Ghost -- this is great for a small group! You’ll definitely want to make a reservation here, and the menu is known to change, so I’m not even sure what to recommend, but the two or three times I’ve visited, the restaurant was a real crowd-pleaser. We were all raving about our food, and I loved the vibes.
- Selden Standard is probably my all-time favorite Detroit restaurant. I hate the term “foodie,” but you do have to keep a bit of an open mind here, as the food goes well beyond your basic offerings like burgers and chicken tenders. But man, I can’t say this enough: Selden is GOLD. Trust your server, ask for recommendations, you’ll be splitting things with whoever you’re with, as it’s small-plate style, and even if there’s something on the menu you’re not sure about, just trust it. Just think, “the chef put this ingredient with the dish for a reason.” It’s all about balance. I’m not even that much of a vegetable person, but these are some of the best veggie dishes I’ve ever tried. There’s just so much flavor in every bite. I could rave about this place forever. Try everything! You’ll love it.
Once you’re nice and full ...
What’s going on in town? A Tigers game? A concert at Little Caesars Arena? A show at one of the smaller (but still amazing) venues?
Go hit the town!
Some places I’ve enjoyed for cocktails lately include Sid Gold’s (live piano karaoke!), Tin Roof, The Beer Exchange and Apparatus Room (so chic, located inside the Foundation Hotel!).
And once it’s bar-close time and you’re nice and exhausted, do yourself a favor: Swing by American or Lafayette, and eat a coney dog or two late -- if you didn’t go TOO hard and you’re not still full from Selden Standard, that is. 🙂 Then cozy up in bed, because that was a long day, wasn’t it? Be sure to sleep in tomorrow!
OK, Detroit-area residents and people who’ve visited the city: What did I miss?