Google “Things to do in Detroit”—you’ll get the usual suspects: The DIA, The Science Center, The Henry, The North American International Auto Show, The Motown Museum. These staples are certainly noteworthy, but you’ve already seen them. Now what? Give five of these lesser-known city gems a shot. If you’re at Marygrove College, you can get to all of them in 10 minutes.
Detroit Film Theatre
When I was still wet behind the ears, an art history professor of mine asked the class if we’d ever been to the Detroit Film Theatre (DFT). Not a single hand went up. He scoffed, balked, scolded. Then he told the guys in the room that this was not only unacceptable, but that we, and I’m quoting, “had no swag.” Now that I’m a little older, I’m dishing out the same advice: Take your guy or gal to the DFT.
The theatre, built in 1927 and a part of the Detroit Institute of Arts building, is a gorgeous 1200 seat auditorium, which means that you never have to worry about finding a seat. But I’d suggest you get there early for a glass of wine or soda and cheese.
Seniors and DIA Members $6.50
Students (with ID) $6.50
After you go to the DFT, go south on Woodward, pass the Fillmore Theatre and turn right on Elizabeth Street—the 1st street after the Fillmore. Then make a quick left on Park.
Welcome to Cliff Bells, a bar/restaurant/jazz joint/time machine that’ll transport you to the early part of the last century. The 1930s charm and the opulent, art-deco design—I’m particularly amused by the authentic, hand-tilt 1930s soap dispensers—will woo any date.
The Fly Trap
They’ve been featured in Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, on NBC and in publications like The Food Network Magazine—and for good reason. First of all, Ferndale’s The Fly Trap has the most efficient wait staff I’ve ever encountered. They’re not falling over themselves to joke around with their patrons and they don’t say irritating things like, “How are we doing?” and “How does that omelet taste for us?”
Second, they make their own jelly and it’s different every day. Third, the portions are ridiculously large. Lastly, they offer diners a choice of two house-made hot sauces—or as they call them, Swat Sauce.
Ernie knows his customers—all of them. So when my wife and I walked in for the first time, we were initiated.
“Baby, put your hand on the counter, palm up.”
He reached under the counter and before I could reflexively move my hand, he slapped two heaping handfuls of Hershey Kisses onto each of our palms.
“Bam! Bam! It’s the mallet of love, baby!”
This doesn’t even begin to explain Ernie or his sandwich artistry. He’s heavy on the meat, cheese and the toppings—all of which he slices before your very eyes—and light on the wallet. For $5 you get the special: three meats, three cheeses and what he calls “love,” Ernie’s own house-made seasoning. If you don’t eat meat, it may bring a shimmering tear to his eye, but he’ll still make you a “heckuva vegetarian, baby.” The market is only ten minutes from campus (it’s in Oak Park, on the edge of Ferndale), but make sure you bring cash. He doesn’t accept credit cards, baby.
The Belle Isle Aquarium
Most of us know that there was an aquarium, but now you know that there is an aquarium. After closing in 2005, the Belle Isle Aquarium reopened on a limited basis on September 14th.
The Aquarium is now open to the public every Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Admission and parking are free.