Downtown Detroit gems
Newcomers to downtown are sure to learn what Detroit insiders already know: Thereâ€™s much more to the D than meets the eye. Sure, itâ€™s got the soaring RenCen and sprawling RiverWalk. But those who venture off the beaten path will discover the hidden gems â€” little-known sites, works of art, eateries and more â€” that make this city unique. Here are some of our top picks:
1. Beecher House: The 1894 Italianate yellow brick and limestone mansion, now Wayne State Universityâ€™s development office, holds a treasure â€” the massive stained glass window â€śMuse of Music,â€ť an amazing six-panel Tiffany creation that looms over the grand staircase. Itâ€™s just one place in the city you can see great Tiffany stained glass. Free. Hours: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays. 5475 Woodward Ave. 313-577-2275.
2. Marinersâ€™ Church of Detroit: In the 1976 ballad â€śThe Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,â€ť Canadian troubadour Gordon Lightfoot describes how the rector of Detroit Marinersâ€™ Church tolled the bell for each life lost in Lake Superior after the 1975 sinking of the Great Lakes freighter. Anchored between the Renaissance Center and Hart Plaza, the limestone church holds services in the Anglican tradition at 8:30 and 11 a.m. Sundays, with a lunchtime service 12:10-12:30 p.m. Thursdays. To visit between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays, call ahead to 313-259-2206 or ring the doorbell on the doors facing the Detroit River. 170 E. Jefferson.; www.marinerschurchofdetroit.org.
3. Greenroom Salads: Youâ€™d never know about the Greenroom unless you happened to be walking along crowded lower Congress Street or you asked veteran downtown workers where to find a fresh, healthy lunch. Youâ€™ll want to visit this takeout-only spot on foot because of the scarce parking. But once inside this pint-size building, youâ€™ll line up for a terrific assemble-your-own salad bar with more than 50 ingredients, ranging from various kinds of greens and vegetables to meats, nuts, cheeses and more. Pricing is by the pound, currently $5.98. Also available are several kinds of soups and wrapped sandwiches. Open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays. 120 W. Congress.; 313-963-9565.
4. Guardian Building: Notable for its stunning architecture, glistening Pewabic tiles and bold colors and patterns, the Guardian is one of Detroitâ€™s must-see landmarks â€” inside and out. Architect Wirt Rowland designed the 40-story skyscraper in the late 1920s for the Union Trust Co., which was one of the cityâ€™s largest financial institutions at the time. This majestic building â€” purchased by Wayne County in 2007 â€” includes shops and eateries on the ground floor. Free tours of the building are available 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays. 500 Griswold.; 313-963-4567.
5. Josephine F. Ford Sculpture Garden: In the shadow of the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Josephine F. Ford Sculpture Garden at the College for Creative Studies features about a dozen works amidst the lush greenery of a campus courtyard. Itâ€™s an intimate space, with the modestly scaled works, owned by the DIA, and provides a diversity of delights by A-list artists. Thereâ€™s Alexander Calderâ€™s playful â€śThe X and its Tailsâ€ť (1967); Reuben Nakianâ€™s sexy â€śGoddess of the Golden Thighsâ€ť (1964-66); Richard Serraâ€™s aggressively minimalist â€śMozaraâ€ť (1971) and more. Itâ€™s at the corner of John R and Kirby in Midtown, behind the DIA.
6. Lafayette Greens: Tucked in the corner of concrete sidewalks and skyscrapers is an urban oasis. This lush green space gives office workers a sweet retreat from the workday hustle and bustle. The downtown garden, run by Compuware, is blooming with herbs, vegetables and flowers to please the eyes of passersby and feed people in need by donating the proceeds to food banks. Pack your lunch and dine under the golden yellow umbrellas while enjoying the scent of lavender and basil. Occasionally, special events are offered. 9 a.m.-7 p.m. weekdays. 142 W. Lafayette at the intersection with Shelby and Michigan Avenue. 313-227-5555.www.compuware.com/about/lafayette-greens/home.html.
7. Lunchtime Global: This is one of those places that you almost have to know where youâ€™re going to get there. The address is on Woodward, but the place is really on Congress. Once you find it, youâ€™ll be glad you did. Thereâ€™s nothing fancy about this cafeteria-style setup that makes service quick and easy; just good food that focuses on fresh ingredients for soups, sandwiches, salads and entrĂ©es made on the premises. Every day thereâ€™s a choice of at least eight soups, including vegetarian and vegan options. And why Global in its name? Because every day thereâ€™s a special that celebrates cuisine from a different part of the world. 8 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays. 660 Woodward at Congress (inside the First National Building; enter off Congress). 313-963-4871.
8. Northern Lights Lounge: Thereâ€™s an inviting old- school vibe to this comfortable bar in the New Center on Baltimore, one block south of the former General Motors headquarters. Itâ€™s not just the vintage sign out front or the red banquettes, but itâ€™s also the fact that the bar has become an important early week home for jazz, with former Motown guitarist Dennis Coffey performing Tuesdays and pianist Mike Jellick leading a terrific post-bop trio Wednesdays. (For the second set, Jellick leads a jam session with players invited to sit -in.) Thereâ€™s blues on Thursdays, techno or dance music on Friday and live rock or techno on Saturday. Throw in the solid bar food and youâ€™ve got a winner. 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Friday; 7 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday-Sunday. 660 W. Baltimore St. 313-873-1739.
9. Sugar House: Designed to be a pre-Prohibition-era craft cocktail bar, the Sugar House in Corktown is a unique drinking experience where history matters. The saloon features freshly made drinks, recipes and mixers, and, most of the time, they come with a story behind them. Open 6 p.m.-midnight Sunday-Monday; 6 p.m.-2 a.m. Thursday, and 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday. 2130 Michigan Ave. 313-962-0123. www.sugarhousedetroit.com.
10. UDetroit Media CafĂ©: Itâ€™s a classic neighborhood establishment with a 21st-Century twist: The UDetroit CafĂ© hosts online TV and radio broadcasts (UDetroit.com) that often feature live music and local celebrities. UDetroit features a full dinner menu â€” soon to take on a barbecue emphasis â€” and extensive bar selection. The cafĂ© is situated in downtownâ€™s Paradise Valley area (formerly Harmonie Park). Open 4 p.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday, and 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday. Closed Sun. 1427 Randolph. 313-962-0660
Photos: Patricia Beck, Ellen Creager, Ese Esan, Jarrad Henderson, Jessica J. Trevino/Detroit Free Press, Graphic: David Pierce/Detroit Free Press