Corktown

458. Cork and Gabel – January 17, 2020 – Detroit, MI

January2020CorkandGabel1 (2)January2020CorkandGabel3 (2)January2020CorkandGabel4 (2)Detroit jaunts warm my heart, even on the coldest of days. And a jaunt to Corktown’s Cork and Gabel on a Friday night in mid-January was no exception to this rule.

On ambiance alone, I was captivated with this place from the get-go. Opening Cork and Gabel’s big metal door (which is made from a recycled oil tank, BTW; the whole of the tank makes up a lobby area) and stepping over the threshold, I was greeted by a vibrant display of super-cool graffiti art – and THAT was just in the lobby!

The interior of Cork and Gabel is warm and inviting, a mash-up of industrial-chic and antique vibes with its minimalist light fixtures, brick walls, distressed-wood bar front, and repurposed elements such as the aforementioned oil tank.

According to a FAQ sheet put on the tables at Cork and Gabel, several of the elements that comprise the restaurant are recycled ones getting a new lease on life (which I LOVE). There’s a bell hanging above the bar from around the turn of the 20th century that used to belong to a Detroit business called Fulton Engine and Iron Works that is rung any time a round of at least twelve drinks is bought at the bar. We got to hear it rung while we were there! There’s fencing from Mt. Elliott Cemetery, and brick pavers that used to line the streets of Detroit now line the Cork and Gabel patio. There are former gas carriage lights from the mid-1800s that have been converted to electric lights. History reinvigorated!

The creativity and ingenuity doesn’t end with Cork and Gabel’s ambiance. The restaurant practices a type of repurposing with its food menu, too, melding Irish, Italian, and German cooking to form its cuisine, which is heavy on comfort fare (making it especially ideal at this time of year). Its dinner menu offers hearty salads, appetizers, and meat-centric dishes such as the Bangers and Mash, Schnitzel BLT, and Prosciutto Tortellini. A brunch menu is also offered on Saturday and Sundays and includes a most gargantuan Bloody Mary (the Ultimate Bloody Mary), a quart-sized portion loaded with foodstuffs (including meat, cheese, and a full-blown breakfast sandwich) that makes me wish I liked Bloody Marys (I love the whimsy of these loaded ones!).

But it’s not all meat-and-dairy-laden goodness at Cork and Gabel: vegetarian and vegan options such as the Mushroom Risotto (made with vegetable stock) and Meatless Sausage Pasta are available, too. It’s always good to be able to support veg friends!

After perusing Cork and Gabel’s craft cocktail menu and ordering a drink from our awesome server (the fantastic The Southwest, which was right up my alley with its ancho-jalapeño-infused tequila, lime juice, and honey-habanero simple syrup), I studied that food menu and opted for the dish that I’d kept coming back to: the C&G Burger. Based off of the ingredients listed on the menu – lettuce, tomato, bacon, Guinness-caramelized onions, and TWO kinds of cheese: a black pepper-infused mozzarella and what was described as a “crispy Dubliner cheese” – I suspected this was going to be one hefty burger.

I wasn’t mistaken in that assumption. The C&G Burger was indeed a hulking display of comfort-food decadence, comprised as it was of a big beef patty on a toasted brioche bun and loaded with that glut of toppings, accompanied by a slew of French fries.

The meal did not disappoint: it was rich, satisfying tastiness! My favorite part of the C&G Burger was that crispy Dubliner cheese, which turned out to be wedges of cheese that were breaded and deep-fried into extreme YUM-ness.

From ambiance to service, from food to drink, the whole of my visit to Cork and Gabel was a super satisfying one – one that warmed my heart on that chilly winter’s night, for sure.

2415 Michigan Ave.

Detroit, MI 48216

(Closed Tuesdays)

www.corkandgabel.com

452. Lucky Coffee – December 15, 2019 – Detroit, MI

December2019LuckyDetroitCoffee2 (2)On a Sunday afternoon back in mid-December, I visited (without consciously planning it) two establishments with the word “lucky” in their monikers: Pho Lucky and Lucky Coffee.

Probably I should have bought a lottery ticket that day, with all that coincidental emphasis on the word lucky hailing from the Universe. Well, I missed that opportunity, but I still feel like I hit the jackpot that day, because I discovered how lovely Lucky Coffee is!

The Corktown-based coffee shop is on the second floor of Detroit Barber Co. To get to Lucky Coffee, you enter the barber shop and go up a flight of stairs near the front door, then navigate through a suite of barber chairs on the second floor. The coffee house is beyond them, in its own room.

Once there, you feel like you are in another world, a cozy, bygone world. Lucky Coffee has an antique-saloon feel to it – except that coffee, tea, and espresso drinks are being slung instead of vodka, scotch, and whiskey. (Baked goodies are available, too.)

Speaking of booze, Lucky Coffee does offer a vanilla bourbon latte, which I ordered during my visit. It was rich and sweet, a delight to savor; it reminded me of toasted marshmallows. According to the barista on duty when I remarked on that to him, I was the only one to have theretofore made that flavor-profile comparison (I hope he knows I meant it as a compliment; it was tasty!). If you visit Lucky Coffee and get that vanilla bourbon latte, you’ll have to share in the comments section below whether you agree with my assessment!

Because I enjoyed hanging out so much at Lucky Coffee, soaking in its brick walls and plank floors and grand wood-fronted counter and crystal chandeliers and strings of bare lightbulbs and old-timey memorabilia (a mounted moose head; a striped barber’s pole; a rusted tin sign advertising prescriptions) and the sunshine streaming in from the window I perched near, I opted for another drink after I finished that vanilla bourbon latte. Consulting with the barista over tea lattes, I ordered the Earl Grey latte that he recommended; he said he’d concocted the syrup himself.

What beautifully nuanced flavor that latte had! I love Earl Grey tea, but I’ve noticed how the flavor profile varies from brand to brand; the bergamot flavor isn’t consistent, and sometimes I find it to be too weak. This latte had the perfect amount of bergamot flavor, in my opinion, as well as a nice sweetness.

My visit to Lucky Coffee left me buoyed by caffeine and contentment – and certainly feeling fortunate that I’d discovered another awesome indie coffee shop in the area (no lottery win required for those good vibes!).

2000 Michigan Ave., 2nd Fl.

Detroit, MI 48216

www.luckydetroit.com

402. Grandma Bob’s – March 28, 2019 – Detroit, MI

March2019GrandmaBobs2 (3)March2019GrandmaBobs1 (3)Grandma Bob’s is serving up some delicious pizza in the D!

This I discovered on a Thursday night in late March, after happy-hour drinks with a friend at beloved 100 Places in the D alumni member Two James Spirits. Starving after our adult-beverage imbibing, we continued the revelry at the then newly-opened Corktown-based pizzeria.

Is there any food that tastes better after you’ve had a few drinks than pizza? Of course, pizza tastes just as amazing stone-cold-sober as it does when you’re tipsy, but you know what I mean. We had worked up an appetite and were excited to taste-test Grandma Bob’s wares.

Walking into Grandma Bob’s, I admired its fun, funky vibe. Bare lightbulbs hung amidst a tangle of cording from the ceiling. The walls were dark, and the prominent artwork they showcased was a striking ceramic-tile mural of a piece of pizza. A bar along one wall provided seat options, as did long communal tables.

At the time of our visit, the pizzeria had some intriguing choices on its menu, including a Coney pizza loaded with all of the fixings of the iconic hot dog (the chili, the mustard, the onions, the hot dog itself – you name it!) and the Pear + Fig pie with its slices of pear, dried figs, honey, walnuts, blue cheese, and basil.

Usually I love to try a pizza loaded with intriguing topping options. Why wasn’t I going for Grandma Bob’s Taco pie with its roasted corn, jalapeños, onion, chorizo, radish, crushed corn chips, cilantro, and lime? For whatever reason, I was in a no-frills mood, and the classic Cheese pizza with its mozzarella, red sauce, and shredded basil was calling my name, so I heeded the call.

My friend went simple, too, opting for the Pepperoni pizza. We ordered at the counter at the front of Grandma Bob’s, procuring a round of drinks, as well; I enjoyed one of the bar’s tasty craft cocktails – though 4.5 months later, I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called or what it contained (here’s to taking real notes going forward instead of mental notes – and to catching up on the blog so I’m posting in real time!).

Our food came out promptly, and THESE PIZZAS, you guys. They were paragons of fresh, cheesy goodness!

Grandma Bob’s cheese pizza was a reminder of what cheese pizza should taste like: so richly flavorful, making my taste buds go “WOW!!!” Who needs all of the extra toppings when you’ve got cheese pizza like that to eat? It was seriously phenomenal.

My friend felt the same way about the pizza she ordered, that it was more flavorfully nuanced than your typical pepperoni pie. It had honey drizzled over it, giving it a subtle sweetness that she enjoyed.

I ate every slice of the twelve-inch round I ordered but one, opting to take it home so I could savor it later. I left Grandma Bob’s feeling full and satisfied, excited to have discovered yet another awesome locally-owned establishment in Detroit (the city is positively brimming with ’em!).

2135 Michigan Ave.

Detroit, MI 48216

www.grandmabobs.com

388. The Farmer’s Hand – February 3, 2019 – Detroit, MI

February2019Farmer'sHand2 (2)February2019Farmer'sHand3 (2)After lunch at Folk and shopping at Mama Coo’s Boutique on a sunny Sunday in early February, I stepped into The Farmer’s Hand, the Corktown grocer adjacent to the restaurant and vintage clothing store.

The tiny shop showcases a thoughtful curation of locally-produced fruits, veggies, cheeses, and other grocery goods, such as Mindo Chocolates (produced in Dexter) and my perennial obsession, Gus and Grey jams (one of Detroit’s finest exports, in my opinion!). Baked goods, salads, sandwiches, and other ready-made items are also available for purchase, as are coffee and tea. A window-facing counter allows patrons to eat, drink, and relax in-shop before heading out to face the rest of their day, foodie fuel in hand.

1701 Trumbull Ave.

Detroit, MI 48216

www.thefarmershand.com

387. Mama Coo’s Boutique – February 3, 2019 – Detroit, MI

February2019MamaCoo's2 (2)Mama Coo’s! I visited this cute shop back in early February and have lately been pondering a return jaunt. Considering that five months have elapsed since my first visit (!), I’m due!

The Corktown-based store is one of those thoughtfully-curated spaces around which you can rotate multiple times and find new items catching your eye with each revolution. It sells jewelry, magnets, candles, crystals, buttons, handmade greeting cards, vintage clothing, and other striking goodies.

Multiple items intrigued me, and I went for all four of them: a packet of soothing-scented incense sticks; a polished nugget of rose quartz; a magnet emblazoned with “The Patriarchy Isn’t Going to Smash Itself” and drawings of female historical figures and superheroes; and the best candle I have ever smelled, a concoction that included scents of peppermint and lavender – and was it eucalyptus? I burned it up long ago and don’t remember what it was called or who produced it, but it was AMAZING, the kind of candle you take a big whiff of before you head out the door for the day to give you a boost – and now I’m legit penning into my planner a return visit to Mama Coo’s at the remembrance of it!

The employee working the counter at Mama Coo’s that day was so friendly and lovely, too, chatting with me about the history of the shop and the building it is housed within (which she said the owner’s grandparents had lived in at one point years ago).

In short: Mama Coo’s Boutique is a gem, one worth a first visit, a return visit, and many more beyond that!

1701 Trumbull Ave.

Detroit, MI 48216

www. mamacoosboutique.com

386. Folk – February 3, 2019 – Detroit, MI

February2019Folk1 (3)February2019Folk2 (2)February2019Folk3 (2)As outlined in my “100 Places in the D’s Year Four Review!” post that debuted alllll the way back in February 2018, my goal for Blog Year Five (which ran from February 8, 2018 through February 7, 2019) was to visit 50 locally-owned, new-to-me places in the city of Detroit alone.

This was a daunting goal for me. I live in general proximity to Detroit but not right next door to it, and as much as I adore the city (and I very much do!), navigating its oft-labyrinth streets and various parking scenarios can be a nerve-jangling experience for me – one that often entails self-directed pep talks and psyching up. But I quietly chugged away toward the milestone, and as of January 2019, I only had five more places to visit to achieve that goal. Huzzah!

Flash-forward to February 3, 2019, when I had achieved exactly [INSERT DRUM ROLL] . . . zero of those five remaining visits. A two-week trip to Thailand, with all its pre- and post-trip preparations, had derailed me from my eye-on-the-prize mentality around my 50-visit goal. And now it was crunch time.

So in a crap-why-did-I-procrastinate-this last-minute sprint, I established a game plan to achieve my remaining five visits and headed down to the D on this fortuitously warm February Sunday to make my goal happen.

Folk was my opening visit of the day. I’d been wanting to visit the Corktown restaurant for months and was fortunate to score a seat at a communal table within its tiny interior. Seating was at a premium that afternoon, but because I was down to enjoy my lunch between two couples who were strangers to me, I got seated immediately in the bright, beautiful café with its modern white-tiled walls, blonde wood floors, and cascading plant collection.

Sitting at the communal table was an interesting endeavor, as I attempted to balance my purse, scarf, and heavy winter coat within my personal bubble of space while also attempting to read a novel and politely tune out my tablemates’ conversations. This was some advanced-level solo dining here!

But I must say, I handled it gracefully – even when my scarf slipped on the ground near the feet of the guy next to me and I unsuccessfully attempted to catch his attention before giving up and invading his personal bubble to grab it myself, all whilst under the sympathetic gaze of the couple across from me.

The periodic awkwardness of the shared table experience at Folk was well worth it, because my meal was INCREDIBLE. The Aussie Pie I ordered arrived quickly and was SO wonderful with its meaty chunks of tender steak and bacon, creamy white cheddar and mashed potato, and perfectly crispy, flaky, buttery crust. MMMM MMMM!

I also enjoyed sipping Folk’s Rose Milk, which is a warming, delicious blend of cinnamon, cardamom, chili, ginger, vanilla, beetroot, rose simple syrup, and steamed milk. Folk’s drink menu included several infused milks at the time of my visit, as well as a selection of teas, juices, and espresso-infused beverages.

Besides proffering the most delectable Aussie Pie, Folk’s food menu contained a variety of breakfast dishes (including a yogurt bowl, seasonal quiche, and an avocado toast blinged up with additions of pea shoots, toasted benne seeds, and beet hummus) and a few lunch items such as the Warm Rice Bowl with vegetables, kimchi, and edamame. Several vegan and/or gluten-free options were available.

Another aspect of my visit to Folk worth shouting-out is the service I received. The staff was prompt and friendly; they were fantastic.

The overall lunching experience was fantastic! This one is definitely worth a visit.

1701 Trumbull Ave.

Detroit, MI 48216

(Closed Tuesdays)

www.folkdetroit.com

303. Red Dunn Kitchen – January 15, 2018 – Detroit, MI

January2018rRedDunn2 (2)January2018RedDunn1 (2)January2018RedDunn5 (2)January2018ReddDunn6 (3)

Happy Friday, and Happy Snow Day to those of my friends in the Metro-Detroit area! The white stuff is currently coming down hard over here, and I’m safely ensconced at home with no intention to burrow out until the a.m. You know I love me some exploring – but I’m wholly content in this case to put that on pause until the blizzard’s roaring ceases and the roadways’ surfaces are cleared.

Brave souls, if you live around here and are itching to get out of the house despite the snow and before your cabin fever consumes you, may I suggest a downtown adventure? The last time I ventured to Detroit, on snowy Martin Luther King Day, I had a most delightful lunch at Red Dunn Kitchen in Corktown.

The restaurant is connected to the Trumball and Porter Hotel, a recently renovated, chic-and-modern boutique accommodation. I didn’t scope out its interior during my visit, but in photos on its website, the hotel looks AWESOME – very fresh and fun.

And, I discovered, the restaurant it’s adjacent to is top-notch! The Red Dunn Kitchen is certainly worth a visit and gives me another reason to declare Corktown as my favorite of the Detroit neighborhoods (I can SO see myself living there someday – especially if the parking situation stays as relatively easeful as it is. Easeful parking is one way to my heart, for sure.).

I hardcore dug the restaurant’s clean, contemporary décor and prevalence of blues and whites. It was amazing to indulge in the whole lady-who-lunches thing there, sipping a Spanish coffee while I gazed out at the snow drifting across the hotel courtyard and felt grateful to be inside, cozy and warm.

Red Dunn’s lunch menu consists of an eclectic collection of appetizers, salads, and sandwiches. Jonesing for some “Green Eggs and Ham”? They’re a starter on Red Dunn’s menu, in the form of deviled eggs topped with chives, bacon, and paprika.

Is a Cuban sammie more your thing? Red Dunn’s got it. How about corned beef, blackened shrimp, or Red Wine Braised Short Rib sandwiches? Check, check, and check: Red Dunn’s got ya covered on the cured cow, spicy seafood, and boozy rib-meat fronts.

After much deliberation around all of this gastronomical goodness, I got the Two Crispy Pork Belly Tacos with their caramelized shredded pork, carrot, daikon radishes, greens, cashews, and kimchi mayo. I paired the flavorful Asian-fusion tacos with a side version of the Simple Salad – which with its fresh, unboring greens, tomato, cucumber, scallions, and zesty Green Goddess dressing was a total pleasure to eat; I wasn’t pining for the French fries I’d passed up (Win!).

The Red Dunn dinner menu features more refined, supper-esque fare: Marinated-Grilled Strip Steak, Fried Chicken Roulade, and House-Made Cuttlefish Ink Fettuccini, for instance. The breakfast menu offers fancy versions of a.m. favorites, such as Almond-Ricotta Pancakes (YUM!) and Smoked Salmon Benedict.

While Red Dunn Kitchen would be a total slam-dunk to visit at any time of the year, now that I think about it, it’s the PERFECT place to hang out during a snowstorm, what with it being connected to a gorgeous boutique hotel and all. There’s respite right there should you not want to engage in the familiar wintertime post-meal rituals of shoveling out your car and skidding about the icy roads.

1331 Trumbull St., Suite 100

Detroit, MI 48216

(Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, starting at 7 a.m. daily)

www.reddunnkitchen.com

236. Nancy Whiskey – March 12, 2017 – Detroit, MI

20170312_114523 (2)20170312_114645 (2)20170312_120512 (3)Happy St. Patrick’s Day, all!!!

If you are looking to cut out of work early and indulge in some crazy St. Paddy’s Day non-adulting shenanigans, Nancy Whiskey is the place for you. Cuz you know this Corktown Irish bar is going crazy right about now with half-gone celebrants decked out in green knee socks and tophats and shamrock-themed face paint.

I’m not planning to go out and revel with the revelers today, but I am feeling mighty nostalgic right now for my early-to-mid-20s, when taking off work to start drinking green beer at 9 a.m. was a given. ~Sigh.~ Those were the days!

If I’m being honest with myself, though, I’ll admit I got my fill of the St. Paddy’s Day party vibes last Sunday after running in the Corktown 5K associated with the parade held annually in that historically Irish part of town.

If you’ve never been to the Corktown St. Patrick’s Day parade – held annually on the Sunday prior to the holiday – it’s definitely something you should consider experiencing at least once. It’s quite a spectacle! Just aim for a year when it’s not 40 degrees and downpouring (2016) or with temps in the teens and a bitter wind chill (this year). Crossing my fingers for a balmy 50-degrees-and-sunny experience next year!

But I digress – back to Nancy Whiskey! It’s one of the D’s oldest bars. According to its website, it’s been around since 1902! And the corned beef it served up on parade day was excellent. I’d heard good things about it from a former coworker and Corktown-parade diehard who was obsessed with getting a corned-beef sandwich from Nancy Whiskey every year, and man, it lived up to her hype. I only got one corned-beef slider, but it was loaded with an ample amount of tender, thinly-sliced meat – Mmmmmm. It was a much-needed beacon of comfort as I tried to ignore the fact that I was walking around in frigid temps in sweat-dampened race clothes (the unglamorous side of running in the Corktown 5K).

2644 Harrison St.

Detroit, MI 48216

www.nancywhiskeydetroit.com

164. Detroit Institute of Bagels – February 14, 2016 – Detroit, MI

20160214_10382320160214_11052520160214_104832Love is . . . taking yourself on a drive to Corktown on a brisk, sunny Valentine’s Day morning and gorging yourself with the most delicious bagel sandwich you’ve ever had in your life. Seriously – go. to. Detroit. Institute. of. Bagels. Tomorrow morning. Get the mind-blowing #9 (the Turkey, Bacon & Avocado sandwich with gouda and spicy mayo) on a toasted whole-wheat Everything bagel, or try one of the other amazing-sounding bagel sandwiches. Soak up the rustic hipster ambiance and the cheery vibes from the happy, friendly staff. And fall in love with this charming bagel shop!

1236 Michigan Ave.

Detroit, MI 48226

 

www.detroitinstituteofbagels.com

162. Two James Spirits – January 24, 2016 – Detroit, MI

20160124_13531420160124_13083620160124_130909

In my next lifetime, I am going to come back as one of those pretty, tattooed female bartenders you see everywhere around Detroit, and I am going to tend bar at an establishment just like Two James. A bright, beautiful bar, the perfect mix of gritty (set in an obviously former industrial building) and elegant (featuring vivid floral-themed artwork and metallic orb light fixtures with delicate cutout design work floating around the bar). Small and intimate. And crafting with care a deliciously stiff drink. Damn, was the drink I had there amazing! It was a White Russian, and I think it had a name other than White Russian on the menu – but of course, I can’t recall that name (I need to start taking notes in my travels – this is critical info!).

While I was prompted by the menu description to order this, I’ve heretofore never been much of a White Russian girl – and it’s probably because, I am realizing now, I never had one that was made properly! Two James’ is perfection – due in large part, I am sure, to the fact that it contains its own distilled vodka. The distillery also produces various whiskies, two kinds of gin, a bourbon, a mezcal, and absinthe. So yes! It is the perfect establishment for some chill Sunday afternoon spirits-imbibing.

The day I visited Two James and also Mercury Burger and Bar, January 24, also happened to be the one-year anniversary of me hitting the landmark of 100 local places visited since starting this blog (with my visit to Grand Trunk Pub in Detroit on January 24, 2015)! That I had planned this visit to Detroit on this day was a happy accident – but one that I was pleased to discover.

2445 Michigan Ave.
Detroit, MI 48216

www.twojames.com