In mid-April our MD Mike headed off to the Specialty Coffee Expo in Seattle. On the way he stopped by LA, Detroit & Vancouver to check out their local coffee and hospitality scenes. This is his second blog post in a series on coffee in the US and Vancouver.
I’ve had a fascination with Detroit for over 10 years and have always wanted to visit. Many years ago I read this TIME Magazine photo essay by two French photographers who documented the decay of once grand Detroit buildings. Having studied social geography at university and having an interest in urbanisation I always wondered how such a thriving metropolis could end up with a depleted population and eventual bankruptcy. Recently I had heard positive stories of regeneration and new investment in the city and I wanted to see what it was about – I was not disappointed. The contrast with LA could not have been more vivid, gone were the prevalence of Teslas and relative excess and in its place I observed a resilient city of opportunity and defiance.
I witnessed the vast swathes of urban communities on the fringe of downtown Detroit where derelict and mostly abandoned buildings still sit untouched (much like that photo essay that piqued my interest in the first place), but more positively I could feel the energy of a city that is rebuilding on its original identity as a manufacturing city and where entrepreneurs and free thinkers will thrive. The architecture is incredible and almost every architectural era is on display; I was like a kid in a candy shop doing a walking tour of the Mies Van der Roe residential work in LaFayette park.
I stayed in the oldest residential suburb of Detroit, Corktown, which was originally inhabited by Irish Immigrants. It’s an easy 20 minute walk into Downtown Detroit but before you leave there are a number of hidden gems to check out in Corktown. I was fortunate to come across Folk Detroit, a small community café that had only been open a few days. This cosy and warm café was a great place to start for breakfast after a walk in the snow showers; the food and the coffee (Hyperion) was exceptionally good. They also own the popular Farmers Hand foodstore which is next door.
Anthology Coffee is in a part of Corktown that is mostly industrial buildings – there is no signage so you have to be quite inquisitive, but it’s worth it. Josh the owner is super passionate and uses the first generation Mod Bar, but I opted for a Panama Geisha Pour-over from Hacienda La Esmeralda. Soon he will be moving to a larger 3000 square foot space in the Eastern Market, so if you are heading to Detroit he is worth going to visit.
Astro Coffee is on the main Michigan Ave and in a block of shops with excellent dining options. They will happily serve you a flat white from their 3 group Synesso machine or a wide range of single origin coffees from their dedicated pour over bar. They have a large selection of quality Colombian coffees and roast their own offsite as well as carrying guest coffees from George Howell Coffee.
One of the best bagel shops I have been to is the Detroit Institute of Bagels, also on Michigan Ave. Their coffee is from Zingermans and brewed fresh on a large batch brewer. A simple peanut butter sesame bagel paired with a filter coffee was the perfect start to a day of exploring Detroit.
Midtown & Downtown Detroit
There is some real interesting stuff happening in this part of Detroit; Wholefoods have recently opened a brand new store on Mack Ave (named after the Mack trucks!), showing how much confidence there is in the retail market here now. Shinola not only have a flagship retail store in Midtown which sells their stylish and utilitarian watches, leather goods and bikes, but they also have their full watch manufacturing operation located a few blocks away and you can arrange a factory tour too.
Not far away visit Coffee Haus which is located inside the retail store The New Black, but time it right as they are only brewing coffee there on weekends. If you miss out their cold brew and coffee is stocked at the Shinola store which also has its own café.
The Eastern Market & Eastern suburbs of Detroit
The East Village has really good energy and is anchored by the Eastern Market which operates every Saturday (but they also have a Thursday night market on selected dates).
For coffee and lunch the most beautiful room in Detroit can be found at Trinosophes, but I’d also recommend you stop by Cairo Coffee who serve specialty coffee from Counter Culture. I had an excellent Pour over from Baroida in PNG.
In the West Village you’ll find cosy community café Red Hook; they serve brews from Stumptown (I had the PNG Bebe via a Pourover) and if you are there later in the day check out Vegan Soul a few doors down.
Head further East and there is a continual treasure trove of discoveries, namely the iconic Roses Fine Foods and the historic Pewabic Pottery House where you can explore the workshop and participate in pottery workshops; they’ve only been going since 1903!
So next time you are planning a trip to the USA I can highly recommend a visit to Detroit, Michigan. You might just see me back there very soon…