Art | Bars & Restaurants | Music

My Detroit Bucket List – part I

As I prepare to leave Detroit, I’m trying to work out things I still have time to do – or that I’ll have to do when next I return

Moving on

The eighteenth century English writer Samuel Johnson once said that “when a man is tired of London he is tired of life”. He might have said the same of Detroit had he been around today. I’m not tired of Detroit but I do have to leave – for work reasons. My wife and I will shortly be loading up the wagon and heading back east (to D.C.).

We’re not helping the city’s repopulation stats but it’s not the end of our interest in the place – I plan to write much more on it in future and will return to watch the continued comeback. I also want to ride on the Midtown railcar which, incidentally, I hope gets called D-Rail – Detroit, Dan Gilbert and Mayor Duggan can then all say that it’s named after them!

But there’s still some things I can do in the few weeks I have left here – here they are (under some ever-so-slightly ironic headings).

Man of Culture….

I’ve seen movies at the excellent Detroit Cinema and Detroit Film Theatre whilst, in the burbs, the Main Art and Maple Theatres are both impressive. At the Emagine Royal Oak I had my first encounter with electronically-controlled seats (it took all of my limited powers of self-control to stop playing with them and settle down to watch the film). I’ll have to wait another time for the Alger Theater to be fully restored but that still leaves me with the Redford Theatre, which has been rejuvenated.

The DIA is out of this World – a genuinely World-Class asset for the city. But I’ve yet to make it to the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art or the Pewabic Pottery which is, by all accounts, an amazing example of the arts and crafts movement.

I’ve marveled at the books in John King’s vast downtown store – you really can take a reading list in there and find what you’re after. But I’ve yet to grace Pages Bookshop (North Rosedale Park) with my custom. So that can go in the bucket too.

The entrance to MOCAD (or is it McOad’s?). source: artinfo blog.

Bon Vivant…

Since outlining my best dining experiences in my first blog, I’ve been lucky enough to have had café con leche at Café Con Leche (and the West Village Red Hook and at Motor City Java and Tea House). But I’ve not dropped by the interesting-looking Nandis Knowledge Cafe (with its bookstore and gallery).

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit several Mexican eateries with the good folks from Urban Neighborhoods Initiative down there in Springwells Village. And I’ve made it to the excellent 1917 American Bistro on Livernois and sat in the same corner of La Dolce Vita that the pitcher-supermodel combo that is ‘JusKate’ (© me) had sat in only the previous evening (I suspect that, unlike us, JusKate might not have been there for the Restaurant Week special offers!).

What I have not yet done is to have broken bread at Avalon International Breads, enjoyed a post-work snifter at Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy, chilled out to blues at The Raven Lounge or supped at Detroit SOUP, a local ‘social event meets micro-grant-raising initiative’.

It’s not really for coffee and it’s not a Speakeasy – it can only be … Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy. source: The Detroit News.


I absolutely loved the Charles Wright Museum of African-American History’s central and permanent exhibition – And Still We Rise (the slave ship reproduction was especially powerful). I loved it so much I left after two hours to top up the parking meter and then jogged back through the whole multi-room experience until I got to where I’d left (the 1940s I think). My retracing my steps was met with bemused glances of other visitors who have probably never seen anyone jog through a museum.

But I’ve yet to see the Arab-American Museum, the Detroit Historical Museum (despite it having the British flag flying outside) and the Hellenic Museum of Michigan (which I hope is avoiding nineteenth century Britain’s example by not plundering Greek cultural treasures).

I also want to see the Rouge Factory Tour put on by the Henry Ford Museum and to visit Fort Wayne.


Can someone live in Detroit and not see a car being made? The Henry Ford Museum’s Rouge Factory Tour is on hand to help. source:  YouTube still

In the next blog I reflect, with even greater urgency, on yet more things I want to do before I kick my (Detroit) bucket … Click here to read part 2.

Gareth is currently looking to establish an organization to exchange international best practice around ways to sustain community and civic assets such as parks, libraries and museums. Prior to arriving in Detroit he undertook a German Marshall Fund international Urban and Regional Policy Fellowship (in the Twin Cities, Detroit and Baltimore) looking at these same issues. Before coming to the US Gareth worked in central government as a policy advisor in the Cabinet Office (Office for Civil Society and Strategy Unit). He holds a Ph.D. in economic geography (the role of universities in regional economic development), as well as a first degree in social policy and administration and a Masters in civic design (urban planning). Follow him on Twitter @garethpotts1.