After a brutal Michigan winter, spring is finally on the horizon.
Every year, I think I’m not going to make it; I’m never going to see the sun again — then, slowly, the days begin to turn from 10 degree mornings to 30, then 40, and so on. The birds can be heard chirping. The frozen earth begins to turn to mush, preparing itself for growing green grass. And all the highways in the Metro are nastily coated with dried salt and grime; a reminder of the brutal winter from which we have just emerged. Everybody just keeps their heads down, slunk into seasonal depression, and hopes a time will soon come again when they can step outside without a coat.
This is the time of year I was born.
Not in the heat of summer, like I had wished when I was younger and attending birthday parties at the local pool. But in the time when the mist rises from the cold earth. A time of in-between. (It’s fitting, really, being a Pisces — O twelfth sign of the zodiac.)
This year my husband spoiled me rotten. To celebrate my birthday, he planned an entire day out for us, and I want to share it with you because we had so much fun! Take notes for your next date, celebration, outing, or vacation in Detroit.
Read on to find out which five stops made our must-visit list.
Stop #1: GreenSpace Cafe for Brunch
While Inn Season Cafe is my most favorite vegan restaurant, especially for brunch, it was time to change things up a bit. GreenSpace Cafe in Ferndale is a 100 percent vegan restaurant owned by world-renowned cardiologist, Dr. Joel Kahn.
Starting at 11 a.m. on Saturdays, brunch is served at GreenSpace, which is the perfect time to start your day out in Detroit. And what says “birthday” better than brunch?
I ordered their lentil burger topped with avocado on a gluten-free bun and a side of coleslaw. I also got a G. T.’s Synergy Kombucha in Raspberry Rush to drink. It was a decadent way to start the day and kept me full until dinnertime.
My husband ordered the Superfood Salad (pictured), which is his staple whenever we come to GreenSpace. It is a kale based topped with beet shavings, edamame, quinoa, goji berries, tempeh, cucumber, and avocado drizzled with ginger dressing. He also ordered the house Bloody Mary, which was a base of kimchi and McClure’s mixed with organic vodka. It was pretty tasty.
Stop #2: The Detroit Institute of Arts
If you’re looking for a leisurely and inspired way to spend your day, a visit to the DIA is a great choice.
We went for the Monet exhibit, which sadly ends March 4, 2018. But the DIA always has something special going on, so it is a fantastic museum to visit any time of year. Plus, if you live in Oakland County, general museum admission is free!
I’ve been to the DIA many times, but it never gets old. It is one of my favorite museums in the world. As far as the Monet exhibit went, here are my thoughts:
Monet is really special. His paintings are so profound; I’ve never seen them up close before, but his brush strokes create such movement.
You can really see the warm summer wind making the gladioli dance in the garden.
Or the way the clouds move languidly across the sky over the French countryside.
Or waves lapping gently against the sides of the boats docked at the harbor.
There is a sense of tranquility; a lack of urgency. As if he is saying, “this is how life should be always. It should move slowly. Live in the moment.”
His paintings are what you see when you close your eyes. He has truly found a way to capture a moment in time, and it was a great way to spend my birthday.
Stop #3: Ottava Via in Corktown for Appetizers
Ottava Via is one of my favorite restaurants in Detroit because of the atmosphere. And I just adore Italian cuisine in general. Though I wish they had more vegan options, it was a great place to stop after the DIA for an ice cold glass of celebratory prosecco and an appetizer of fresh bruschetta.
Ottava Via is a hidden gem for several reasons, but especially for their bocce ball courtyard in the back. It was a beautiful sunny February day when we were there and despite the cold, we huddled around the wood-burning fireplaces whilst enjoying our drinks.
If you’re going to stay for dinner, just ask your server about their vegan options. They have always been extremely accommodating when I have dined there in the past and, apparently, their pizza dough is already vegan.
Stop #4: TAKOI for Dinner
If you’re looking for a badass “underground” feeling foodie haven, TAKOI is your best bet. On the outside, it sort of looks like you’re about to walk in to a crazy artist’s garage (never a bad thing) and on the inside, it looks like you’ve just arrived at the hippest joint in one of NYC’s many boroughs. (Detroit is kind of like the Brooklyn of the Midwest, so I guess that’s fitting.)
With a frequently changing food and cocktail menu, and a James Beard award to boot, there is always something new and exciting to order at TAKOI. Executive Chef Brad Greenhill really knows his stuff, and dining here felt more like I was a part of an art installation than a restaurant.
You can see a picture of my super amazing ‘Som Tum Thai’ spicy salad below. It consisted of green papaya noodles, topped with long bean, cherry tomatoes, peanuts, thai chili, lime, palm sugar with a side of sticky rice. It was so spicy I downed almost an entire glass bottle of water whilst enjoying this meal. But I LOVE spicy food, so I wasn’t bothered.
I will 100 percent be coming back to TAKOI. Even though the menu is not exclusively vegan, there were enough options for me and I really was able to indulge the five senses. Dining here was truly an “experience.”
I 10/10 recommend trying out TAKOI on your next Detroit outing. But, come prepared as it’s quite small. Though we arrived early, we still had a one-hour wait, but I guess that adds to the ‘exclusive’ vibe.
Stop #5: Cliff Bell’s for Late Night Jazz and a Nightcap
If you’re still raring to go after you emerge from TAKOI, head over to Cliff Bell’s on Park Ave to end your evening with some late night jazz. Cliff Bell’s is open until 1:30 a.m. on Saturdays, so enjoy a nightcap and toast to a fabulous evening.
What are your favorite things to do in Detroit? Let me know in a comment below!