Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Brooklyn Corktown (photo by Nicole Rupersburg)
The natives got their feather hair extensions ruffled over that one, then continued to make it true. The Tashmoo Biergarten was probably the most-lauded example of this, and then there were all the DIY artisan food producers like Detroit Institute of Bagels, Suddenly Sauer, Pete's Chocolate Co., so on and so forth. Also pop-up uhhhhhhhh...restaurants? I guess? Well, anyway, restaurant owners let other would-be chefs, food producers and restaurateurs use their kitchens, as was the case with Neighborhood Noodle popping up at Supino Pizzeria once-monthly on Mondays, Pie-Sci working out of Woodbridge Pub on Sundays, and Traffic Jam and Snug being the commercial kitchen home of Perkins Pickles.

But who started the meme? ME. ME. I DID. IT WAS ME.

Er, sort of.

In a Twitter post dated June 9, 2011, I wrote: "Corktown is to Detroit what Brooklyn was to New York in the '90s." (With a link to this story in the New York Post, written by moi.)

To which Dave Gasparovich (who hails from, predictably, Chicago) was all, "WAAAAAAAAAAAH, I hate you, you're stupid."


Let's follow the meme a bit, shall we?

June 13, 2011: New York Post: The new Detroit cool 
Note: Actually it ran on June 8; not sure why the discrepancy but this is relevant when referencing my Twitter post on June 9.
Hostel Detroit, Pink FlaminGO!, Slows, Astro, Sugar House, Le Petit Zinc, Detroit Institute of Bagels, Mercury Burger Bar, Roosevelt Park ... all the bases were covered and "Brooklyn" was alluded to (especially obvious to a New York audience). This piece was followed shortly after by this in the New York Times, which many attribute as being the origin point of the "Detroit is the new Brooklyn" meme. But in reality, nowhere in this story is the Detroit/Brooklyn comparison made, or even hinted at; they actually went with the vastly less popular "Detroit is the new Berlin" meme. (Also true; not the point.) Also TriBeCa, in a quote. Please note, TriBeCa is not in Brooklyn. Nor was TriBeCa ever in its very worst days even a tenth as dumpy as Detroit. And if we're being really real here, if Corktown is Detroit's Brooklyn the rest of Detroit is not Manhattan, it's the Bronx.

July 1, 2011: New York Times: Detroit Pushes Back with Young Muscles
Detroit is lifted in parties, pictures and positive discourse. (Also see above.)

Then, a meme is born:

July 7, 2011: PBS: Is Detroit the new Brooklyn?
There, now it's out there, in no uncertain terms. Stated in the form of a question lessons the authority of the claim a bit, but that didn't stop this meme-train from reaching epic proportions.

The self-appointed guardians of the city's image then chimed in on the subject:

July 12, July 26 and August 9, Model D (and here, and here).
July 21, NPR.
August, 7STOPS (A navel-gazey blog by a blank-slater who insists it's about more than just the blank-slating, and the origin point of "Detroit is the new Detroit." Cute.)
August 15, MLive.
September 26, Curbed Detroit.

Now this was mostly a summer thing, and any remnant of its relevance was pretty much lost with that whole HuffPo hullabaloo. (In which half a dozen bloggers argued via multiple back-and-forth huffy-puffy blog posts over the right of anyone's claim to the city if they don't actually live there, and whether or not the city needs the suburbanites anyway. Seriously. This is a conversation that actually happened.) Except that .... nyooooope, still going strong well into November:

November 11, Crain's Detroit Business.

And finally:

November 21, 2011: MLive: Detroit Cliche Watchdog: Let's just go ahead and change the name of the city to Brooklyn
Could we? Brooklyn sounds nicer. A tree grows, and all.

Now we just need our very own hot hipster butchers, like what they have in Brooklyn. (But but but ... can ours be hot plz?) Then the circle will be complete.


Red Hook (photo by David Landsel)
Heh ... it's funny 'cuz it's true. Curbed Detroit mentioned this in their Corktown versus Ferndale Curbed Cup neighborhood showdown, but we can even look at this on a larger scale. After some particularly Cooley-centric coverage in 2010, Slows stopped "hogging" the media spotlight (get it?) in 2011, though Corktown continued to do so.

Old-timey craft cocktail bar the Sugar House opened in Corktown. Ferndale answered directly with the Oakland Art Novelty Company, and a little less directly with the Valentine Vodka cocktail bar and the Italian-themed Torino Espresso + Bar. Astro Coffee also opened on that same block of Michigan Ave. that is home to Slows and Sugar House (question: WHERE THE FUCK DO YOU PARK). Ferndale fired back with Red Hook, which also resuscitated our favorite fallen bakery, Pinwheel Bakery. And, again, Torino Espresso + Bar.  Detroit had a whole bunch of pop-up retail happenings; Ferndale opened the Rust Belt Market.

And the competition continues as we barrel into the new year with Sean Harrington's Hot Taco (on Park Ave., next to Centaur) in a neck-and-neck race with Woodward Imperial (another taco joint with a fancy sign). What Ferndale did NOT get, however, was a hostel or a B+B. (*fingers tapping*)

Mussels Provencale at Joe Muer Seafood.
Last year at about this time I wrote about the London Chop House reopening soon. Well, it still hasn't opened yet, but perhaps we'll see it before the Mayan apocalypse of 2012. Whether or not that corpse is worth digging up, spritzing with perfume and making it dance around like Bernie on a bender, only time (and probably a lot more of it, knowing how things tend to work in Detroit) will tell.

But 2011 did see another storied Detroit establishment revived: Joe Muer Seafood opened in the former Seldom Blues spot in the Renaissance Center as a partnership between Joe Muer, grandson of Joseph Muer Jr. who opened the original location in Eastern Market in 1929 (it closed in 1988 after nearly 60 years in business), and Joe Vicari of the Andiamo Restaurant Group (which have been opening Rojo Mexican Bistros like Taco Bells lately), after what was rumored to be a high-profile bidding war between the Vicaris and Matt Prentice for that primo locale. And after much restructuring over the last two years, the Matt Prentice Restaurant Group is poised for a huge comeback of its own next year with Gastronomy.

In a seemingly endless stream of clips that aired on the Food Network this year featuring metro Detroit restaurants (because when WE say "Detroit," we mean metro Detroit and so should you THE END ... seriously, it went on for days), the loud, frosted-tipped Guy Fieri visited Union Woodshop and Clarkston Union, Traffic Jam and Snug, Supino Pizzeria ... and possibly more? Or no? Idk, I felt like there was a new episode premiering every damn week LONG after the point that I thought they had all aired already. Also, the short bald-headed one came into town and loved Supino too.

6,955 monthly active users as of Dec. 6. Aww, I wuv u 2!
Really shoulda been #1, I know, but I'm super-modest. Dining in Detroit was re-named and re-branded with a whole new focus and a facelift (hey, I know I'm no spring chicken anymore), resulting in the in-your-face Eat It Detroit. And you like it; you really like it!

Bella Piatti (photo by Nicole Rupersburg)

First Commonwealth opened and it was LAFS. Sure, it's only open for breakfast and (late) lunch, but they roast all their beans in-house and serve chef-prepared foods and all of their products are ethically-sourced. Truth be told, it feels a little out of place in Birmingham for all its emphasis on quality and sustainability, but it's about damned time.

Then Tallulah Wine Bar and Bistro hired on Executive Chef Daniel Campbell who gave the menu a much-needed revamping, then Tallulah owner Mindy Vanhellemont opened a second restaurant in Birmingham called Bella Piatti which Campbell also oversees. You know how restaurants tend to need a couple of months to gain their footing before you can really give them a fair assessment? Bella Piatti was firing hard on all cylinders only a month into their opening, and is more than a welcome addition to Birmingham's dining scene: it is a welcome addition to the dining scene of the whole of metro Detroit, a farm-to-table restaurant using Michigan products with an Italian emphasis (basically, it's SW MI's answer to Trattoria Stella).

Not all new openings showed as much promise, but at the very least, in the swamp that is Birmingham's overpriced and underwhelming dining scene populated by flashy restaurants with mediocre food, these little bright points of light give hope to the city that has been alternatively known as "Boringham."