Eat, shop, stay, play – and start over again. That sums up our recent visit to the “Motor City,” otherwise known as Metro Detroit.
The downtown renewal continues with many new restaurants and bars, “pop-up” shops, hotels, three glitzy casinos and the streets decorated for the “festive” season. This weekend it’s all about shopping in the midst of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday when Canadians join in with their U.S. neighbours.
Stay, shop, save
There’s a special incentive to visit this season, said Renee Monforton, public relations director at the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Ontario residents can book a room at a Metro Detroit hotel before Dec. 31, register online and get a $50 VISA gift card in return.
Other incentives are that Detroit is nearby with border crossings at Sarnia and Windsor, there’s a stronger Canadian dollar and lower sales tax at 6% in Michigan (8.5% in Buffalo, N.Y.).
“We believe that once they experience the plentiful shopping options, variety of hotel accommodations and world-class attractions and restaurants greater Detroit has to offer, they’ll return again and again,” said Larry Alexander, bureau president and CEO.
For the overnight stay, Canadians can return with $200 in duty-free goods and $800 each for 48 hours and longer (but there’s no “official” exemption of duty or taxes on same-day trips).
Shop ‘til you drop
Christmas shopping has returned to downtown Detroit for the first time in years with “pop-up” shops, while the metro area is a huge shopping mall mecca.
The temporary stores on Woodward Avenue include 40 from the upscale Somerset Collection in Troy and there are children’s activities and ice skating. There is also outdoor clothing retailer Moosejaw, the Detroit Shoppe, Detroit Art Shoppe, fitness studio Spinergy and Papa Joe’s Snack Rack.
We dined at a new eatery, Texas de Brazil Churrascaria on Woodward, where you should bring a hearty appetite and credit card ($42.95 for dinner). Flip over a card by your plate and servers appear with spears of meat to carve and serve tableside and there’s an extravagant seasonal salad bar.
A grand experience
We stayed and played at the MGM Grand Detroit hotel with its golden lion mascot standing guard outside. This opulent $800-million casino resort has Michigan’s only Four Diamond hotel with 400 “chic and stylish guest rooms,” including nine rooftop VIP suites and 56 luxury corner suites.
Its Immerse Spa is the only resort-style one in southeast Michigan and includes the top-of-the-line workout facilities, huge indoor pool and saunas.
The casino has more than 4,000 slots and video poker, 90 table games, meeting and convention space, and celebrity chef restaurants.
Chef Wolfgang Puck has returned with his Pizzeria and Cucina to be followed next month by a steakhouse. Dining at TAP, “Detroit’s newest old sports pub” at MGM, we tried the flavourful house brew, Roulette Red ale.
“TAP pays homage to Detroit sports and architecture,” said Zac Gallo, our tour guide.
It has a curated collection of more than 50 draught and bottled beers, including Michigan craft favourites. The features are comfort food and pub classics such as the Classic Burger, savoury wings, fish and chips and fried mac-n-cheese. www.mgmgranddetroit.com; 1-888-646-3387
You’ve got to eat here!
It’s been here for 66 years but we finally discovered a Detroit original – Buddy’s Restaurant Pizzeria with nine busy locations.
“We are the originator of the Detroit-style pizza, a Sicilian square deep dish pie,” said Larry Simone, operations manager.
The family-run operation has been named one of the “five best pizza places” in the U.S. by the Food Network.
Mark Prakken, general manager in Warren, said everything is made fresh daily including the soups, such as minestrone, sauces, salad dressings and the signature antipasto, chicken tenders, wedge-cut fries, home-style pastas and specialty pizzas. Server Dawn Kiekbusch said it’s a tough job “but somebody has to do it” as the staff members have to taste-test the food before opening every day to ensure quality control.
For dessert, try the cream puff with ice cream that’s covered with Sanders hot fudge, another Detroit original. www.buddyspizza.com; (586) 574-9200
If you go